Sam Smith recently released a soulful version of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” which, at first blush, seems at odds with the lyrics of the song. The video is set with a starkly utilitarian stage, muted color scheme and has a quiet, a cappella opening. As the piano joins in, the song remains hauntingly beautiful but still doesn’t seem to evoke friends gathering near to us while our troubles are far away and we make the Yule-tide gay.
So why the apparently melancholy in a song that encourages our hearts to be light? I think the answer lies within the other lyrics: “From now on, our troubles will be out of sight” suggests our circumstances don’t change in the midst of the holiday season, but we can choose to celebrate rather than focus on our difficulties. Later, we see something similar in the lines “Through the years/We all will be together/If the Fates allow/Hang a shining start up the highest bough/And have yourself a merry little Christmas now.” Many of the events in our lives are not in our control, our response to them is. Christmas is a time that we set aside to focus on those joyful aspects of life and relationships, to set aside our troubles and to celebrate.
Mr. Smith brings it out so well with his clear and beautiful voice that, while all may not be well, we may celebrate nonetheless. It suggests a step-back from the hustle and bustle of parties, shopping and preparations for family. It reminds us to pause and celebrate friends and family more than worry if all the preparations are ready. Celebrate in the midst of the challenges and celebrate what matters most, family and friends. For some, it is a time to remember that God came among us, shared His lot with us and showed us His love at Easter. For all of us, it is a time celebrate the life that we have together.
However you take the meaning of the song and this rendition, Mr. Smith remains at the top of his game as he hits a beautiful, lyrical tone, nuanced emphasis within the song while keeping clear, consistent vocal dynamics. It also speaks to his artistic integrity to take a song with a storied history and remake it into such a touching song.