The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

The Heartbreaking Genius of Wham!: Dissecting Last Christmas

Written by: Zach Subar, Special to CC2K

Image It might seem like I’m beating a dead horse by even writing about “Last Christmas.” Everyone and their mother has covered it. The original version, by the always karaoke-worthy Wham!, has been bastardized by the likes of ­­­­­Hillary Duff and Ashley Tisdale, who I’m pretty sure I could sing better than were I given lots of money and fancy recording equipment.

But if you have a chance this holiday season, give the original version another listen. You might have some sort of epiphany upon hearing it again.

First off, there’s the beat. It doesn’t quite make me want to dance, but it definitely makes me want to gyrate. It’s bouncy, and reminds me of all the good 80s songs. If Donnie Darko weren’t so damn creepy and portentous, it would have easily fit in alongside classics such as INXS’s “Never Tear Us Apart” and ­­­Echo and the Bunnymen’s “The Killing Moon.”

Then there’s the lyrics. Pay close attention; you don’t want to miss anything. “Last Christmas/I gave you my heart/But the very next day/You gave it away.” Wow. Let’s consider.

When I first heard these words I shook my head. Who would do such a thing? Who would give away someone’s heart, the day after the ostensible love of their life dedicated it to them? On Christmas, no less? Only the scum of the earth would do that. I quickly shrugged off the song’s message, telling myself that I would never do such a thing, so I didn’t even need to worry about it.

You probably feel the same way. Listen to it again, though, and this time, really listen. Hear the singer’s voice. It sounds like he’s begging, pleading with his former lover to do something for him, even though she’s already rejected him and he’s telling us that he’s moved on. There is a sense of urgency in that song that just makes my heart stop for a moment. I almost feel like he’s accusing me of giving away his heart, even though the 80s were before my time. I feel like his friends should be roundly cursing me out to him because I was so bad to him for giving away his heart at Christmastime, while assuring him that everything is going to be alright.

That said, I’m not quite sure why I can’t stop listening to this song, and why I constantly bring it up on YouTube not to watch the video, but just to listen to the audio so that I can hear the sweet sounds of Wham! If I’m being accused of breaking someone’s heart, why am I so drawn to hearing about it over and over? I don’t think I’m a masochist, but that certainly sounds like a masochistic tendency.

After much thought and consideration, I think I’ve figured it out. “Last Christmas,” despite its title, sounds nothing like a Christmas song. There are no bells and whistles, no Santa references, no bounciness, no aching vocals about gift giving. It could be a song about any lover anywhere. It just so happens that the singer got his heart broken on Christmas, but that really has nothing to do with the rest of the song’s message. It seems more like a coincidence than anything else. I respect any band that can make a song about Christmas, and communicate the passionate emotions surrounding the holiday, without making me want throw up. Wham! has certainly done that.

Ashley Tisdale—well, that’s another story.