Christmas Song Advent Calendar 2017: Day 14

  • ARTIST: Mike Oldfield
  • SONG: In Dulci Jubilo
  • ALBUM: Elements – The Best of Mike Oldfield (1975, Virgin)

Yes, I do realise that festive snow-y town image isn’t one of Mike Oldfield, but that’s partly because I couldn’t find a flattering one of him. His instrumental, nay almost Celtic take on the classic carol that dates back to the 14th century is nothing short of joyous. And also, in our household, made for a thoroughly entertaining air-panpipe rendition of this. Yes, there is such a thing, and no you are not allowed to question it readers.

Don’t forget to follow our Spotify playlist to ensure you’re getting all the songs each day in the run up to Christmas!

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Christmas Song Advent Calendar 2017: Day 13

  • ARTIST: Steps
  • SONG: Dear Santa
  • ALBUM: Tears on the Dancefloor: Crying at the Disco Deluxe Edition (2017, Steps Music/Fascination)

The closest Steps ever got to a Christmas single – again on virtue of video alone – was their million selling ‘Heartbeat’ in 1998. 19 years later, and as they near the end of their 20th anniversary celebrations this year, they’ve finally bought out a gorgeously winter warming festive single, co-written by no less personage than The Saturdays’ Una Healy. One listen to this with a Mexican hot chocolate, and the world will seem a better place.

Don’t forget to follow our Spotify playlist to ensure you’re getting all the songs each day in the run up to Christmas!

Christmas Song Advent Calendar 2017: Day 12

  • ARTIST: McFly
  • SONG: Rockin’ Robin
  • ALBUM: Sorry’s Not Good Enough/Friday Night (2006, Universal Island)

OK. So the Michael Jackson classic isn’t strictly a Christmas song. But because there is a robin in it – and one that I imagine is perched on a wintry branch, sporting an Elvis quiff and leather jacket with a tiny electric guitar busking – then by common consent it is a Christmas song. McFly’s version gives it a lively punk-pop kick and is a perfect for a jig around the kitchen after a sherry (or two)!

Don’t forget to follow our Spotify playlist to ensure you’re getting all the songs each day in the run up to Christmas!

Christmas Song Advent Calendar 2017: Day 11

  • ARTIST: The Shins
  • SONG: Wonderful Christmastime
  • ALBUM: Christmas Rules (2012, MPL Communications)

It’s not often you get a cover version of a song from British pop and rock royalty that’s just as good as the original. But when Sir Paul McCartney himself approves, you know it’s got to be a blinder. 

Recorded for this Christmas compilation on Macca’s MPL label in 2012, American indie rockers The Shins brought his 1979 classic bang up to date but whilst retaining snow encrusted sleigh bells and merriment throughout. And you can’t ask more than that.

Don’t forget to follow our Spotify playlist to ensure you’re getting all the songs each day in the run up to Christmas!

#StrictlyLiveBlogging Week 13: Semi Final Review

Hello one, hello all! Those of you who came a-scampering here on Saturday and Sunday night for this week’s #StrictlyLiveBlogging may have been left a little disappointed – it was, after all, the semi final of the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing – which means it is now Final-T1.

Alas, having felt quite ill all week with a cold and then chest infection which I am only just now recovering from, I was a bit low on energy to do the live blog this week. I did however, promise a review of this weekend’s semi final action for completeness’ sake once I felt better, to get us all up to speed before the grand final next week.

So let’s get dissecting this weekend’s dancefloor smashes, shall we?

THE DANCES

Well with it being the semi final, the stakes were raised once again as the five remaining couples performed not one but TWO dances to try and secure their place in next week’s final and edge one step closer to lifting the glitterball.

I think it’s safe to say everyone really upped their game this week, and it was almost too close to call who’d be close but no cigar to getting through to the final. But what of the dances themselves?

With a total of 79 – 39 for their Viennese Waltz, and then the first perfect 40 of the series for their Salsa – it’s little surprise Alexandra and Gorka came top of the leaderboard. 

Certainly on the latter dance alone, it seemed, after the week she’d had at the hands of certain Antipodean tabloid hacks (that we won’t go into here), that her and Gorka came in all guns blazing to prove they were worthy of a place in the final – and with their routine to Cece Peniston’s club classic ‘Finally’, they delivered in spades.

Close behind her in second place with 35 a piece – and a score of 70 overall – for their American Smooth and sizzling Argentine Tango were Joe and Katya. I say it many a time on this blog, but the Argentine Tango is my absolute favourite of all the dances on Strictly

There’s been some awfully average ones on this series, but when Joe and Katya did theirs – and this particular move (below) – on the semi final last night. I. Was Blown. Away. I am starting to sway towards them pulling off an unexpected win a la fellow Holby City graduate Tom Chambers in 2008 next week.

That left Debbie and Giovanni to finish the top 3 with 34 and 36 for their Jive and Foxtrot respectively. Dances of two halves to be honest – the Foxtrot to Stevie Wonder’s ‘Isn’t She Lovely’ was well, lovely, light, life affirming and just better. 

And so this all then left a certain Ms Atkinson and Ms King to be in the position no one wanted to be in this weekend…

THE DANCE OFF

After finishing in the bottom two of the leaderboard, it was perhaps no surprise that Mollie and AJ and Gemma and Aljâz found themselves in the final dance off of this series of Strictly.

Personally, on the two dances they delivered this weekend, I did think Mollie and AJ were the more consistent of the two and gravely undermarked again. Their Samba to Shakira’s ‘Whenever, Wherever’ was a real party starter, spicy, saucy and plenty of hip action, and their Waltz to Sarah McLachlan’s ‘Angel’ was beautiful, moving and graceful throughout.

Gemma and Aljâz’s Rumba wasn’t much to write home about – functional but otherwise uninteresting. But I think they won that dance off on their Tango to The Knacks’ punk pop classic ‘My Sharona’ alone – it was undisputedly a show stopper, with brilliant choreography and costumes. Whether they win next weekend? That remains to be seen.

But we are sad to see Mollie and AJ go, although they did amazingly to even get this far. Without doubt, they have been one of our favourite couples this series – such wonderful chemistry throughout all their dances – and we did love their Tango and Charleston especially.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS OF SEMI FINAL WEEKEND

1. Our End of Year Prizes nominee and – for this week anyway – the current reigining Strictly champ, Ore Oduba, returning to do the T&Cs – along with Danny Mac, Judge Rinder and Melvin Odoom. We love you Ore!

2. The Lindyhop inspired group dance on the results show. Those breakdancing kids were incredible!

3. Craig David and Bastille’s performance of their (brilliant) new single ‘I Know You’. We love Craig anyway here on this blog but his performance was made even better by Aljâz and Janette’s stunning routine to the song!

So that’s it. The finalists are in place. The glitterball awaits to be lifted – and we are priming ourselves up for one last weekend of dance magic this year. 

As it’s the final next weekend, we have an extra long warm up, starting at 5:30pm, before we go live for the very last time this year at 6:30pm with the BBC One show. So bring your drinks and snacks, buckle in and get ready to keeeep live blogging and dancing once more. We’ll see you all then!

Alex 💃📺🎉 📝🏆🌟👍

Christmas Song Advent Calendar 2017: Day 10

  • ARTIST: Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton
  • SONG: You Make It Feel Like Christmas
  • ALBUM: You Make It Feel Like Christmas (2017, Interscope)

There’s a general rule of thumb to modern Christmas albums: if you’re releasing one, you’re either an artist catering to a hardcore fanbase, or you can’t shift records at the rate you did at your peak. To that, we say: POPPYCOCK.

When they’re as joyous and life affirming as Gwen Stefani’s new Christmas album, and contain future festive, Tamla Motown-esque classics like this title track featuring her The Voice co-judge and partner Blake Shelton, it matters little when she’s decided to release it. We’re just glad she has.

Don’t forget to follow our Spotify playlist to ensure you’re getting all the songs each day in the run up to Christmas!

Christmas Song Advent Calendar 2017: Day 9

  • ARTIST: *NSYNC
  • SONG: Under My Tree
  • ALBUM: Home for Christmas (1998, BMG)

I didn’t learn that *NSYNC had released a Christmas album until about six years ago, and I duly imported a copy of it from eBay in the States. Needless to say, it has now been at the heart of my festive pop listening every year ever since. Hearing this whilst in Selfridges on Oxford Street last year was nothing short of magical (even if I did proceed to burst into my own rendition of it. Mit JC Chasez’s ad libs and all).

Don’t forget to follow our Spotify playlist to ensure you’re getting all the songs each day in the run up to Christmas!

Christmas Song Advent Calendar 2017: Day 8

  • ARTIST: Girls Aloud
  • SONG: I Wanna Kiss You So (Christmas in a Nutshell)
  • ALBUM: Chemistry – Bonus Christmas Version (2005, Polydor)

From the mini album of festive covers and original Xenomania helmed winter warmers that accompanied the deluxe version of their much acclaimed third studio album ‘Chemistry’ in 2005, the girls’ ode to clubbing on Christmas Eve and making angels in the snow (because, Sarah Harding sings, she ‘likes the funny feeling when my bum gets cold’. Each to their own) is like the cheekiest office Christmas card ever in pop song form. Bish, bash, bong, woo!

Don’t forget to follow our Spotify playlist to ensure you’re getting all the songs each day in the run up to Christmas!

Christmas Song Advent Calendar 2017: Day 7

  • ARTIST: S Club 7
  • SONG: Perfect Christmas
  • ALBUM: Never Had a Dream Come True (2000, 19/Polydor)

Nice bit of numeric synchronicity for today’s Christmas song. The B-side to their chart topping ‘Never Had a Dream Come True’, this was penned – as many of the S Club hits were – by the legendary Cathy Dennis, and you’re almost sad Polydor didn’t go the whole hog and make it a double-a-side at the time. They were halfway there with the wintery video for the main song anyway!

Don’t forget to follow our Spotify playlist to ensure you’re getting all the songs each day in the run up to Christmas!

Christmas Song Advent Calendar 2017: Day 6

  • ARTIST: The Feeling
  • SONG: Feels Like Christmas
  • ALBUM: Feels Like Christmas (2008, Universal Island)

Having just announced that they are returning after a year’s hiatus with some live dates next year, it’s one of our favourite 00s guitar bands The Feeling. This single came out with the full intention of being 2008’s Christmas number one, but for the small flaw that their wider popularity had dropped like the proverbial hot potato that year. A shame, when this is one of the cosiest sounding songs in my most recent festive playlists.

Don’t forget to follow our Spotify playlist to ensure you’re getting all the songs each day in the run up to Christmas!