I hope that everyone reading this is enjoying the holiday season and that you all had a magical Christmas day. Today, I am continuing this small kind of mini-series On U2’s Christmas videos within the larger series on the band’s promotional videos in general. We are discussing the promo video for “I Believe in Father Christmas,” which I thought would be appropriate since this will be going online to be read just three days after the holiday.
Last week, I wrote about “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home,) and I mentioned how that song is much more upbeat and energetic than this song, which was released for the holiday season of 2008, about 21 years after the band’s first Christmas song. The video for this song, which accompanied the song’s non-traditional release as part of a digital “magazine,l” was sent out to Project (RED) subscribers for $5.00. The song came as a surprise on World AIDS day of that year, and I personally view it as the beginning of the promotional cycle for No Line On the Horizon. In this video, we get our first glance at what the band would be wearing for the push of their 2009 album, including Bono’s short hair, continuing from the end of the Vertigo Tour, and the lead singer’s short-lived habit of wearing eye-liner. The video matches the song’s somber-yet-hopeful mood, with white Christmas lights strewn all over the floor and a somewhat sedated color scheme, although this video is in color, unlike the more celebratory video for “Baby Please Come Home.” This video was filmed in the studio as the band was recording the song in question. There was also a behind-the-scenes video made for U2’s video, with commentary from director Ned O’Hanlon, who had worked on multiple projects with the band in the past. In the making-of video, O’Hanlon explains how it only took about 90 minutes to go from the four members of the band never having heard the original version of the song they were covering to having a completed song and video. That is clearly remarkable, but it makes me wonder how the band chose to cover the song when they were so unfamiliar with the original. Someone must have recommended the song to the band unless O’Hanlon was speaking loosely when he said that the band had never heard the song before. It also serves to bring attention to the fact that this is a relatively simple video, with no special effects or other gimmickry. The video consists of just the four men playing the song in the studio. The real magic here comes from the performances themselves. That chiming guitar, sounding like Edge and no one else, is the backbone of the song, with Larry’s pounding drum and Bono’s heartfelt wailing, especially when he takes it to the next level in the song’s third verse, serving to remind us why U2 is the greatest band in the world.
Invariably, every holiday season, someone asks the question “Which U2 Christmas song is your favorite?” I never know how to answer that question, because the answer depends so much on my mood when I am listening. “Baby, Please Come Home” is fun and rockin’ but “Father Christmas” is moving and spiritual. Together, the two songs tell the whole story of U2’s music, and my holiday season isn’t complete without both of them.
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