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Ed Sheeran and Elton John review, Merry Christmas: Gooey as a wheel of old camembert

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  • Ed Sheeran
    Ed Sheeran
    English singer-songwriter
  • Elton John
    Elton John
    Singer-songwriter

Ed Sheeran’s got his list and he’s checking it twice. “Wait, what’s that Santa? There’s never been a hit song simply called ‘Merry Christmas’? Ho ho ho! Let me fix that. Elton, mate, you free?” At least, that’s how I imagine the conversation went, as the singer-songwriter spied yet another opportunity to top the charts.

Just as Sam Smith was wrong to boast of writing a Bond theme in just a few hours, so was Sheeran to admit he bashed out the first ideas for this Elton John collaboration in a single day. You can tell – there are enough clichés here to fill a family-sized stocking. Mistletoe? Check. Sleigh-bells? Check. A roaring fire? Check!

Of course, the duo’s track has nothing on John’s perky perennial favourite, “Step into Christmas”. But it does celebrate themes of cautious hope and optimism, recalling in that sense John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s “Happy Xmas (War is Over)”.

Sure, it’s as gooey as a wheel of old camembert, but what else should a Christmas song be? Going into specifics of exactly why this has been a difficult year only brings the mood down, and we all know what Sheeran’s getting at when he sings: “There’s been pain this year but it’s time to let it go/ Next year you never know.”

Wrapped up with the lyrical clichés is the music itself, including those cursed sleigh-bells, a plinky-plonky piano and bells that roll around like your drunk uncle looking for another tot of brandy.

Sheeran’s voice is unfortunately reedy when followed by John’s rich rumble, like drowning a lovely Christmas pudding in watery custard, but together they harmonise quite nicely. “Merry Christmas” is not brilliant. Nor is it offensively bad. It’s just fine, and honestly, after the year we’ve had, “fine” is good enough.

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