It’s impossible to categorize Charles on TV! His music is so organic and genre defying that to attempt to do so would be one stress you really don’t need at this wonderful, but sometimes, hectic time of the year. To celebrate his song ‘This Xmas’, the artist has released an official video for his alternative but in some ways beautifully traditional Christmas ballad. After all, it’s a song about spending Christmas alone but also a song about infatuation and romance, even though in this case he can see that both emotions could be misplaced as they reminisce about a one-night stand, about empty love, about something that really held no meaning. And yet, and in a very ironic way, the very presence of a Christmas theme imbues all of those things with a nostalgia, an introspection that wouldn’t exist at any other time of the year. Anyone that has shed a tear at a kitschy Christmas movie will completely understand how this time of the year plays with those usual anchor points of our emotions. Everything is just a little closer to the surface, everything just a little rawer.
With his usual wonderful style, Charles on TV has made his own version of a Christmas movie for these weird pandemic ridden times. The fears of spending Christmas alone are visually represented by a post-apocalyptic world where Christmas can only be spent alone, the yearning for love is represented by the constant expectation of good news drawn by the constant presence of a telephone. Is the need for an old-fashioned kind of love illustrated by the fact the phone is an old style rotary one but is the danger and risk to our emotions from a meaningless love hinted at by the fact the phone is red? So many questions, so many layers….and doesn’t that sum up the intricacy of this artist. Charles on TV has a musical style that draws on his heroes The Beach Boys but always reminds me of Groove Armada and once again the artist’s voice becomes an instrument as the constant refrain of “This Christmas” is as much a part of the music as the instrumentalisation which owes a little to Wham! classic ‘Last Christmas’ with its use of keyboards.
Charles on TV says of the track:
“I wrote this entire song in the studio. For some reason, I was thinking about Christmas that day, and I had been listening to one of my all-time favourite bands The Beach Boys. Then emerged the skeleton of a satirical beachy ballad. Releasing a song with Christmas in the title in September #felt on brand, and besides, it wasn’t really about Christmas anyways!”
Written on a warm day in September in New York City, this song really does highlight the satire and tongue in cheek quality of the artist’s lyricism and there is more than a nod to The Beach Boys who were innovators of sound and style that went way beyond the perception of them. A listen to ‘Good Vibrations’ and how ahead of its time that track and that album were, will give you an idea of where Charles on TV draws inspiration for himself as an artist. His music manages to merge a wonderful pop sensitivity with something that is lyrically much deeper and it is this layering that will keep me, as a fan, coming back for more. Listening to this music is just like unwrapping a Christmas gift and the nuances of today’s brilliant video are reminiscent of a traditional Victorian ghost story as we are drawn into the mystery of the visuals.
Charles on TV sheds light on his inspirations as he says:
“’This Xmas (I Want You)’ started as a stupid love song. Like, a deliberately kitschy, cringe worthy love song. The romantic Christmas cliché felt right so I ran with that, using a recent, not so great one night stand as inspiration. I can’t pretend I don’t hide pain behind humour. I probably did that here too. This is a song romanticizing empty love- a ballad that shouldn’t be, given the meaningless of one evening.”
For me, the humour in the video, the juxta-positioning of the post-apocalyptic setting and the jaunty melody. The hiding of the pain, the loneliness, the longing behind the humour of the visuals set in such a bleak setting convey a really important message; a message all the more important at this time of the year. Never are the broken hearted, the lonely more alone than at Christmas, however much they hide behind a smile or high spirited Christmas parties. Watch the video, absorb the lyrics and take the time to pick up the phone and make sure the people you have in your life are ok. Make that red telephone ring!