A season for being with friends and family can be hard on those who are lonely; a season of giving can be hard on those who go without. All the tinsel and lights can also make people blink, shudder and wonder about which of life’s gifts they’ll never find under the tree — or which they’ll unwrap and find fleeting and fragile.
The mixed blessings of the holiday season aren’t lost on Tracey Thorn. The new album by the English singer and songwriter, formerly of the dance-pop duo Everything but the Girl, is called Tinsel and Lights, and it confronts that ambivalence head on. She discusses it here with NPR’s Scott Simon.
On deciding to make a holiday album
“The reason we need to celebrate is because of the other stuff that happens throughout the year. … It’s quite a heightened, intense time, and precisely because of the expectations that are put upon it, that creates a lot of stress for people. When you’re coming to make music and put together a record, that’s a gift, really, to a songwriter. Anything that’s got the potential for stress and tension and conflict — I think that’s quite inspiring.”
On her version of ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’
“To me, it is a real tearjerker of a Christmas song. I find it hard to hear, especially Judy Garland’s version, without crying; it’s just gorgeous. It’s the one that I knew I had to do when I decided to make this record, so then it was just a question of trying to do it justice. I don’t think its one of those songs that you can shy away from and do an ironic version; I think you have to just, literally, sort of walk right into all that sentiment and enjoy it.”
On being a parent at Christmas
“As a parent, you have this responsibility to make Christmas happen in the house. You’re the one who puts the tree up, and who sort of makes the house feel Christmas-y and cooks the right food at the right time. And I quite liked the sense that, to children, it’s very magical and intangible, and yet as an adult you’re quite aware that there’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes, people actually making it all happen. It’s slightly Wizard of Oz: Behind the curtain there’s a lot of frantic effort going on. But I quite like that. I think, with children, you enjoy putting in the effort because the reward you get from their enjoyment of it is enormous.”