Sounds of the season



With over 12 million copies sold around the world, Mariah Carey's 1994 release Merry Christmas is the best-selling seasonal album of all time. Even for a singer who has shifted 175 million albums throughout her career, that'll buy an awful lot of tinsel. Its success has also turned Carey into a sort of secular spokesperson for the most important festival in the Christian calendar: American pop's First Lady of Christmas.

Despite having released 11 phenomenally successful non-Christmas albums over her 20-year career, she remains most recognisable in a skimpy red Santa Claus outfit. So, it is no surprise that this year Carey should offer a second festive collection. Titled Merry Christmas II You, it is not an attempt to reinvent the wheel and neither does it pretend to be. Instead it reflects a basic principle of the consumer capitalism that underscores the western holiday season: "Everyone bought the first one, so let's make another".

Then again, Carey's first Christmas album was far from mould-breaking. But it did identify the exact level of contemporary musical oomph needed to update - and replicate - a hugely successful formula already established in the 1940s and 1950s: take a pop star, surround them with fake snow, candy canes and gifts adorned with bows; make them sing about reindeer; maybe stick them in a red and white outfit, and watch the money roll in.

This post-war paradigm, mapped out in albums from Bing Crosby, Johnny Mathis and Elvis Presley, not only helped establish the modern soundtrack to the archetypal Anglo-American Christmas. It also distilled the dominant cultural atmosphere of the period: the nuclear family as source of homely solace, buffer against the godless threat of the outside world. Christmas music has long been used to build a warming fire in the American hearth, and never more so than when it was being buffeted by the chill winds of the Cold War.

The post-war festive aesthetic can also be seen in American cinema and TV, both past and present, in movies from It's A Wonderful Life to the Home Alone series. On Merry Christmas II You, the era is reflected in nostalgic sonic signifiers, from children's choirs to classic carols, to the pristine jingling of sleigh bells. The Cold War era is evoked entirely directly, in fact, in a medley of Charlie Brown Christmas and Christmas Time Is Here, both taken from a famous seasonal staple of American family TV. First screened in 1965, the animated version of Charles M Shulz's popular Peanuts cartoon strip is a kind of morality tale. Shulz's hapless protagonist Charlie Brown fights - successfully, for once - to keep a Christmas nativity play from being ruined by modern affectations, secular fads, and commercialism, defending tradition against baubles both metaphorical and literal. In Carey's cover of the two songs, comforting evocations of bygone sentimentality ring out in the familiar jaunty melody, while the sound of children innocently playing is audible in the background. Listen to what we've lost, it seems to say.

In the doublethink of the modern Christmas, conspicuous consumption is both ally and enemy. The holiday season is about family and sincerity, and cherishing that which cannot be bought. How better to celebrate this spirit than with unbridled materialism? Given her reputation for extravagance, Carey has been shrewd to keep Merry Christmas II You free of references to consumerism - at least in the songs, which comprise eight Christmas standards and five compositions of her own. Outside the album's musical borders, the red and white dollars continue to stack up. The $99.99 Collectors Edition CD comes in "a beautiful golden box", along with a 40-page hardcover photo album ("Mariah's Personal Holiday Photo Album - See how Mimi and her family spend the holidays!"), a sheet of Mariah Carey Holiday Gift Tags, and an Exclusive "MC" Butterfly Christmas Ornament.

The video to Oh, Santa, the album's stand-out track and lead single, tells its own story. Set in New York's Radio City Music Hall, the video begins with an avuncular voiceover saying that the song is "brought to you by Lollipop Bling, from the Mariah Carey Fragrance Collection". (This perfume actually exists.) Like the rest of the video, the ad is a 1970s homage - a pastiche, really - invoking American TV Christmas Specials of yore (and childhoods of yours, more importantly). Most striking is the fact that the ad for Lollipop Bling is woven into the fabric of the video, the footage of the bottle flickering as if weathered with age. Even branding is allowed sepia-tinted moments.

The phenomenal success of Carey's first Christmas album precipitated a wave of similar cash-ins from the mainstream of R&B and pop. In the late 1990s, albums by Hanson and Celine Dion replicated the formula to great success, but the trend reached its apogee with Destiny's Child's 8 Days Of Christmas, an album released in 2001 at the height of the group's powers.

The video for the title track, a souped-up version of the traditional carol, follows the trio as they gleefully shop for presents in a store that is closed to the public. They are, of course, wearing tight-fitting Santa outfits. The song begins with the immortal line: "On the eighth day of Christmas my baby gave to me / a pair of Chloe shades and a diamond belly ring". Outside the shop, children press their faces against the glass, gazing longingly at the shelves inside, before finally being allowed in to raid the shelves and stack their arms to toppling-point with toys. Over the eight days of Christmas, Beyoncé's baby furnishes her with "the keys to a CLK Mercedes" and "a gift certificate to get my favourite CDs", but also "a poem that he wrote for me", "a candlelit dinner just me and my honey", and finally, "quality T-I-M-E".

This is the modern spirit of hyper-Christmas, formed in Mariah's image. And it's not always as simple as its anti-materialist malcontents would have you believe: in the world of 21st-century pop, the festive experience may privilege indulgence, but it also celebrates a genuine sense of affection. There is even a certain spiritual tenor to proceedings - or at least, to the nativity story. Christmas is "very precious, sacred and special to me, on a spiritual level," Carey explains on a special Merry Christmas II You DVD, available only when you buy the album from American TV's Home Shopping Network.

Of the standards, O' Holy Night stands out. Recorded live in Los Angeles - the arrangement builds like a 1980s power-ballad, a litany of keyboard splurges, thundering drums, vocal support from a gospel choir, and Carey's voice soaring to its highest reaches. Then there are a number of carol medleys: O Little Town of Bethlehem/Little Drummer Boy, for instance. The songs are woven seamlessly together, much like Carey's festive messages: love your family, yourself, baby Jesus, shiny presents, the poor, the past, the snowmen, elves and grinches alike. Just love, okay?

One Child, another new song also co-written by Carey, is the nativity story told with a gathering storm of strings, slowly joined by a children's choir. It's an unapologetically bombastic, Michael Jackson-style epic - and that's no criticism. When all the voices come together to sing "one child can change the world" at the song's climax, it's the epiphanic moment where our misguided protagonist finally realises the true spirit of Christmas.

By Carey's own admission, virtually nothing has changed on the new "Extra Festive" version of All I Want For Christmas Is You. But why change perfection? The track's big-band opening, happily lovesick chorus and irresistible sense of momentum still make it, as The New Yorker's Sasha Frere-Jones declared in 2006, "one of the few worthy modern additions to the holiday canon". Like it or not, since 1994 we have had a new Platonic ideal of late-Christian festivity, and it is Mariah Carey in a Santa suit.

Dan Hancox is a regular contributor to The Review. His work can be found in The Guardian, Prospect and New Statesman.

Our legal consultant

Name: Hassan Mohsen Elhais

Position: legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants.

Q&A with Dash Berlin

Welcome back. What was it like to return to RAK and to play for fans out here again?
It’s an amazing feeling to be back in the passionate UAE again. Seeing the fans having a great time that is what it’s all about.

You're currently touring the globe as part of your Legends of the Feels Tour. How important is it to you to include the Middle East in the schedule?
The tour is doing really well and is extensive and intensive at the same time travelling all over the globe. My Middle Eastern fans are very dear to me, it’s good to be back.

You mix tracks that people know and love, but you also have a visually impressive set too (graphics etc). Is that the secret recipe to Dash Berlin's live gigs?
People enjoying the combination of the music and visuals are the key factor in the success of the Legends Of The Feel tour 2018.

Have you had some time to explore Ras al Khaimah too? If so, what have you been up to?
Coming fresh out of Las Vegas where I continue my 7th annual year DJ residency at Marquee, I decided it was a perfect moment to catch some sun rays and enjoy the warm hospitality of Bab Al Bahr.

 

How will Gen Alpha invest?

Mark Chahwan, co-founder and chief executive of robo-advisory firm Sarwa, forecasts that Generation Alpha (born between 2010 and 2024) will start investing in their teenage years and therefore benefit from compound interest.

“Technology and education should be the main drivers to make this happen, whether it’s investing in a few clicks or their schools/parents stepping up their personal finance education skills,” he adds.

Mr Chahwan says younger generations have a higher capacity to take on risk, but for some their appetite can be more cautious because they are investing for the first time. “Schools still do not teach personal finance and stock market investing, so a lot of the learning journey can feel daunting and intimidating,” he says.

He advises millennials to not always start with an aggressive portfolio even if they can afford to take risks. “We always advise to work your way up to your risk capacity, that way you experience volatility and get used to it. Given the higher risk capacity for the younger generations, stocks are a favourite,” says Mr Chahwan.

Highlighting the role technology has played in encouraging millennials and Gen Z to invest, he says: “They were often excluded, but with lower account minimums ... a customer with $1,000 [Dh3,672] in their account has their money working for them just as hard as the portfolio of a high get-worth individual.”

Our legal consultant

Name: Hassan Mohsen Elhais

Position: legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants.

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Clinicy
Started: 2017
Founders: Prince Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman, Abdullah bin Sulaiman Alobaid and Saud bin Sulaiman Alobaid
Based: Riyadh
Number of staff: 25
Sector: HealthTech
Total funding raised: More than $10 million
Investors: Middle East Venture Partners, Gate Capital, Kafou Group and Fadeed Investment

Other acts on the Jazz Garden bill

Sharrie Williams
The American singer is hugely respected in blues circles due to her passionate vocals and songwriting. Born and raised in Michigan, Williams began recording and touring as a teenage gospel singer. Her career took off with the blues band The Wiseguys. Such was the acclaim of their live shows that they toured throughout Europe and in Africa. As a solo artist, Williams has also collaborated with the likes of the late Dizzy Gillespie, Van Morrison and Mavis Staples.
Lin Rountree
An accomplished smooth jazz artist who blends his chilled approach with R‘n’B. Trained at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, DC, Rountree formed his own band in 2004. He has also recorded with the likes of Kem, Dwele and Conya Doss. He comes to Dubai on the back of his new single Pass The Groove, from his forthcoming 2018 album Stronger Still, which may follow his five previous solo albums in cracking the top 10 of the US jazz charts.
Anita Williams
Dubai-based singer Anita Williams will open the night with a set of covers and swing, jazz and blues standards that made her an in-demand singer across the emirate. The Irish singer has been performing in Dubai since 2008 at venues such as MusicHall and Voda Bar. Her Jazz Garden appearance is career highlight as she will use the event to perform the original song Big Blue Eyes, the single from her debut solo album, due for release soon.

ICC Awards for 2021+

MEN

Cricketer of the Year+– Shaheen Afridi+(Pakistan)

T20 Cricketer of the Year+– Mohammad Rizwan+(Pakistan)

ODI Cricketer of the Year+– Babar Azam+(Pakistan)

Test Cricketer of the Year+– Joe Root+(England)

WOMEN

Cricketer of the Year+– Smriti Mandhana+(India)

ODI Cricketer of the Year+– Lizelle Lee+(South Africa)

T20 Cricketer of the Year+– Tammy Beaumont+(England)

Quick facts on cancer
  • Cancer is the second-leading cause of death worldwide, after cardiovascular diseases 
  • About one in five men and one in six women will develop cancer in their lifetime 
  • By 2040, global cancer cases are on track to reach 30 million 
  • 70 per cent of cancer deaths occur in low and middle-income countries 
  • This rate is expected to increase to 75 per cent by 2030 
  • At least one third of common cancers are preventable 
  • Genetic mutations play a role in 5 per cent to 10 per cent of cancers 
  • Up to 3.7 million lives could be saved annually by implementing the right health
    strategies 
  • The total annual economic cost of cancer is $1.16 trillion

 

ENGLAND SQUAD

For Euro 2024 qualifers away to Malta on June 16 and at home to North Macedonia on June 19:

Goalkeepers Johnstone, Pickford, Ramsdale.

Defenders Alexander-Arnold, Dunk, Guehi, Maguire, Mings, Shaw, Stones, Trippier, Walker.

Midfielders Bellingham, Eze, Gallagher, Henderson, Maddison, Phillips, Rice.

Forwards Foden, Grealish, Kane, Rashford, Saka, Wilson.

Day 2, stumps

Pakistan 482

Australia 30/0 (13 ov)

Australia trail by 452 runs with 10 wickets remaining in the innings

Honeymoonish

Director: Elie El Samaan

Starring: Nour Al Ghandour, Mahmoud Boushahri

Rating: 3/5

The specs: 2018 Kia Picanto

Price: From Dh39,500

Engine: 1.2L inline four-cylinder

Transmission: Four-speed auto

Power: 86hp @ 6,000rpm

Torque: 122Nm @ 4,000rpm

Fuel economy, combined: 6.0L / 100km

Tips for taking the metro

- set out well ahead of time

- make sure you have at least Dh15 on you Nol card, as there could be big queues for top-up machines

- enter the right cabin. The train may be too busy to move between carriages once you're on

- don't carry too much luggage and tuck it under a seat to make room for fellow passengers

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Almouneer
Started: 2017
Founders: Dr Noha Khater and Rania Kadry
Based: Egypt
Number of staff: 120
Investment: Bootstrapped, with support from Insead and Egyptian government, seed round of
$3.6 million led by Global Ventures

ROUTE TO TITLE

Round 1: Beat Leolia Jeanjean 6-1, 6-2
Round 2: Beat Naomi Osaka 7-6, 1-6, 7-5
Round 3: Beat Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-2
Round 4: Beat Anastasia Potapova 6-0, 6-0
Quarter-final: Beat Marketa Vondrousova 6-0, 6-2
Semi-final: Beat Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-4
Final: Beat Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 6-2

Sweet Tooth

Creator: Jim Mickle
Starring: Christian Convery, Nonso Anozie, Adeel Akhtar, Stefania LaVie Owen
Rating: 2.5/5

INDIA'S TOP INFLUENCERS

Bhuvan Bam
Instagram followers: 16.1 million
Bhuvan Bam is a 29-year-old comedian and actor from Delhi, who started out with YouTube channel, “BB Ki Vines” in 2015, which propelled the social media star into the limelight and made him sought-after among brands.
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Instagram followers: 3.1 million
Kusha Kapila is a fashion editor and actress, who has collaborated with brands including Google. She focuses on sharing light-hearted content and insights into her life as a rising celebrity.
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Source: Hireinfluence, various

Company name: Farmin

Date started: March 2019

Founder: Dr Ali Al Hammadi 

Based: Abu Dhabi

Sector: AgriTech

Initial investment: None to date

Partners/Incubators: UAE Space Agency/Krypto Labs 

The specs

Engine: 3.8-litre twin-turbo flat-six

Power: 650hp at 6,750rpm

Torque: 800Nm from 2,500-4,000rpm

Transmission: 8-speed dual-clutch auto

Fuel consumption: 11.12L/100km

Price: From Dh796,600

On sale: now

The years Ramadan fell in May

1987

1954

1921

1888


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