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The swinging track and heartwarming video serve as the perfect coda to 2020: We can get through this together
For the world at large, 2020 hasn’t been the best of times. Still, there is light in the darkness, and what better way to celebrate better days ahead than with a fun and frolicking holiday song? That’s just what internationally acclaimed singer-songwriter Jennifer Saran has done with her smashing single, “(Don’t Let It Be) a Sad Ol’ Christmas.”
Saran’s irresistibly hooky jingle-jangle gem, co-written and produced by superstar producer Narada Michael Walden (Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey), is accompanied by an exuberant and heartwarming video – complete with cozy holiday revelers, a smiling pooch and even a piano-playing cat – produced by filmmaker Andrew Thomas. For “ring out the old (thank goodness) and ring in the new” holiday cheer, it hits all the marks.
“We can be honest – it’s been a terribly exhausting year in many ways,” says Saran. “We’re all feeling a level of PTSD, but I also think we have a lot of positives to close the 2020 on, and that really comes through in the video. We’ve gone through hardships and struggles remain, but we’ve already overcome so much. Millions of people are looking forward to a fresh start in 2021. We’ve been tested tremendously, but there’s a feeling of relief – we’re going to get through this.”
Director Thomas agrees, saying, “Americans have a remarkable ability to embrace joy in even the darkest times – not as a denial of pain, but as reassurance that love is stronger than suffering. In that sense, ‘(Don’t Let It Be) a Sad Ol’ Christmas’ is a declaration of common cheer in a landscape of loss. Especially in 2020, this resilience has never been more critical to the nation’s emotional health.”
For Saran, the hopeful message of the song and video carries particular resonance. A North American artist who lives in Hong Kong, she came down with COVID earlier this year and spent a month in hospital isolation. “It was a while before I could get my double negative test – they’re very strict about that in Hong Kong,” she says. “What’s amazing is how you appreciate the little things in life once you go through something like that. Everything you took for granted feels better and more meaningful.”
“(Don’t Let It Be) a Sad Ol’ Christmas” isn’t Saran’s first trip down holiday lane. In 2015 she turned critics’ heads with Merry Christmas, You Are Loved, also produced by Walden, and two years later she re-teamed with the veteran hitmaker for Souful Christmas, a delightful set of gems which saw her joined by the Temptations on the single, “Christmas Lover.”
Saran and Walden wrote “(Don’t Let It Be a) Sad Ol’ Christmas” right after the two finished Saran’s breakthrough jazz EP Smoky Nights. “There was a fair share of melancholy tunes on that record, so when I talked to Narada about doing a Christmas song, I said, ‘I don’t want anything sad, not this year.’ Narada recalled how his grandmother, whenever something went wrong, used to say, ‘It’s going to be a sad ol’ Christmas.’ The two of us laughed and said, ‘Well, that’s it then. We’re not going to have a sad ol’ Christmas.’ We had our title.”
Saran also notes that the song was written in the days following her mother’s passing. “I felt it was important to say, ‘Let’s try to be happy’ for the rest of my family, because we still had one another,” she says. “Tragically, many families are experiencing their own losses because of COVID. I would never minimize their pain; I fully acknowledge it. At the same time, it’s vital that we try to look for joy wherever we can and be grateful for what we do have.”
Musically, “(Don’t Let It Be) a Sad Ol’ Christmas” is a masterstroke – it’s kitschy, tongue-in-cheek jazz set in a smoke-filled nightspot, full of swanky horn pizzazz and the familiar jingling bells befitting any holiday standard. Saran’s performance is bravura stuff. Singing in a rich and radiant style, she draws listeners in: “Now we all wanna celebrate/ though we can’t always get a break/ but we all have to try and make – Christmas a Thing.”
“I think it’s a great message for any year, but it’s especially important this year,” Saran says. “The video speaks to that notion: We’ve been through so much together and we do have troubled times ahead, but we have the ability to choose to be positive, and that’s always what works.”
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