A song about the lost and the lonely

All good things must end, and that includes me blogging about our Christmas EP. I hope you’ve found it interesting; I like reading other people’s explanations of how they come up with stuff because we’re all so different in how we work, how we approach things and how we end up with a finished product.

This is the final track from Didn’t Kiss You This Christmas, and it’s called A Christmas Prayer.

As I’ve written previously, I like to set myself challenges and our Christmas songs are examples of that. With this one, I wanted to write something that nodded towards religion but wasn’t religious (I’m not a person of faith), a prayer that was secular and crucially, not shite.

That’s harder than it sounds. Just ask Cliff Richard, who got bored halfway through writing The Millennium Prayer,  chucked The Lord’s Prayer in there and successfully created a song so awful that it killed Santa.

So I decided to try two things in the song: to genuinely wish people well – because Christmas can be brilliant – and to sing about the other side of it too.

The run-up to Christmas can be oppressive if you aren’t happy, partnered, a proud parent or the child of proud parents, every advert apparently showing a nuclear, cisgender, heterosexual  family laughing in expensive knitwear, every supermarket tannoy playing It’ll Be Lonely This Christmas. I wanted to reflect that too.

I hope you have a good one, I hope your Christmas is fun
I hope you’re with your family and there’s something for you under the tree
And I hope you thank your lucky stars

I’m not trying to be Moaning-Faced Mandy here, spoiling everybody’s Christmas fun by pointing out that not everybody is having a good time out there. I’m channelling Kurt Vonnegut, who quoted a family member that’d say “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is” to make himself mindful of happy occasions. There’s a lot of sadness in the world, which is why we should celebrate and take joy from the good times when we can.

But I think we should also recognise our privilege, and try to do our bit to leave the world in slightly better shape than we left it. I worry that we live in increasingly hateful times, times when it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that – Vonnegut again – we are all here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is.

Say a prayer for the lost and lonely
Pray for the battered and the bruised
Raise your glasses and remember
The ones who didn’t make it through

I’m not going to go into specifics here but many people I care about have had to deal with loss this year, as I’m sure you may have had to do too. I think part of the Christmas season involves thinking on that, remembering those we’ve lost and recognising when the circumstances that contributed to those losses are within our collective power to change. Many of us know too well how thin the line between waving and drowning can be, and how little support there can be for people who find themselves struggling to stay afloat.

I find this kind of thing difficult to articulate. Empathy’s a hard thing to do in a lyric. Take Band Aid for example: while it’s clear what they were getting at with the line “Tonight thank God it’s them instead of you”, it does sound rather like gloating rather than empathy. Not a great look at any time, but particularly bad when you’re singing about dying children.

I know, I know, it’s not like me to go off on an opinionated tangent. Back to the song. The final part of the lyric is my secular equivalent of a prayer:

I don’t believe in a god up there
but i offer up a Christmas prayer
fill every aching heart with love
fill every hateful heart with love
fill every broken heart with love
fill every empty heart with love

The song fades out over the same line repeated in multiple melodies:

fill our hearts with love

It’s hard to write this kind of thing without getting stuck in a trite “love is all you need” trap, but it strikes me that the common denominator in so much pain and sadness and hate is love: the lack of it or the love of the wrong things.

I’ve mentioned Kurt Vonnegut twice already so I’ll finish this with another quote that sums up 99% of my lyrics these days.

There is love enough in this world for everybody, if people will just look.