I was all ready to give this a pasting before seeing the video on TMF’s Ultimate 40 Christmas Songs melted my Scroogeian heart. Or perhaps froze it still further, as what the video did was make me appreciate what a marvellously cynical record this is. Not just the basic cynicism of releasing a Christmas song, rushing in to fill the gap Slade had punched the year before (anyway, releasing Christmas songs is such a basic part of pop it barely qualifies as cynical: if you refuse a grab at this particular brass ring you should probably have your pop license revoked) – “Lonely This Christmas” is one of pop’s most brazenly manipulative guilt trips.

It’s all there in the video – the members of Mud, looking like they’re fighting to choke back sobs as their pitiful tale unfolds; their leader’s face a mask of wounded dignity, only his colossal spectacles hiding his utmost grief. The template for “Lonely This Christmas” is transparently Elvis, specifically “Are You Lonesome Tonight”, but the sentiment in that song is but a light dusting of snowflakes compared to the full-on blizzard of passive-aggressive mopery Mud unleash. To be honest the chorus isn’t all that, but the verses ramp things up nicely (“an UNLIT CHRISTMAS TREE!”) and then the spoken word section is a triumph of the very ripest corn, shovelling on the heartbreak – “this is the time of year when you really…you really NEED love” – in defiance of firstly shame and secondly the very terrible acting skills on display. The payoff line is but the star on top of the tree.

If you’re coming back to Popular after Christmas and reading this, I hope you’ll forgive my indulgence of its festive sentiment – and I hope you had a very good time. If you’re reading this on Christmas Eve, then all I can say is, Merry Christmas Readers … *choke* … wherever you are.

Score: 7

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