KEXP Premiere: Sera Cahoone covers Wham!'s Last Christmas

Local Music, KEXP Premiere
Dusty Henry
Photo by Kyle Johnson

It takes a lot for a song to enter the Christmas canon. Most of the songs we sing every year have survived generations, outlasting our memory and seemingly always existing. It's not that new holiday songs aren't still being written -- good ones still emerge constantly, but very few can reach the ubiquity of say "Jingle Bells." In recent memory (and I use that term liberally), only two songs immediately come to mind for breaking that barrier: Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas" and Wham!'s "Last Christmas."

"Last Christmas" is transcendent in its own right. Not only has it lasted as an enduring Christmas song, it sounds unlike any of its peers. Despite its peppy, poppy melody, it's one of the more melancholic season tunes. It's about love and loss, giving yourself up to someone only to be rejected. It's also oddly romantic in a way that faithful standards like "I'll Be Home For Christmas" and "Baby It's Cold Outside" don't really touch on. "Last Christmas" shows the complexities of love through all its ups and downs, not to mention addresses the lingering sadness the holidays bring for some. Yet there's hope as well, in that iconic line, "This year to save me from tears, I'll give it to someone special."

Many artists have taken their shot at covering the modern classic, but Seattle songwriter Sera Cahoone's rendition really seems to grasp to complexities of the song. As we near the anniversary of Wham!'s George Michael's death, the song takes on a new light. Cahoone doesn't so much sing the song as she does reverberate its underlying longing over acoustic guitars, a simple drum pattern, and lush string arrangements. It's a tasteful arrangement, leaving room for the words to sound out. In a quote provided to KEXP, Cahoone reveals a bit about what inspired her to take on this classic:

"Last Christmas" has always been one of my favorite Christmas songs and music video. My best friends, who I spend a lot of the holidays with, play this song on repeat so I wanted to cover it for them! Also, the fact that George Michael is a gay icon and died on Christmas Day last year made me want to honor him. I have always been a big fan."
Cahoone's cover appears on Amazon Music's upcoming holiday playlist Acoustic Christmas, out December 1, but KEXP is pleased to present an exclusive stream of the song below, before its official release. And KEXP Presents a special show with Sera Cahoone on Friday, December 1st at St. Mark's Cathedral, performing with a string trio arranged by Alex Guy of Led to Sea. Get a sneak peek of Sera's new arrangements when she's LIVE on KEXP on Thursday, November 30th at Noon PT.

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