George Michael "Last Christmas:" Lyrics and meaning behind Wham!'s holiday song

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George Michael, lead singer of the 80s band Wham!, died at age 53 over the holidays. As his popular 1984 song, "Last Christmas," aired on stations across the country, listeners soon learned of his untimely death. Daily Beast writer Kevin Fallon describes the timing as "a morbid way to learn of the British pop star and gay icon's death." He added, "Then again, maybe it was poetic, even beautiful."

According to the Guardian, Michael's partner, Fadi Fawaz, found the singer dead in his home in Oxfordshire, United Kingdom on Christmas morning. Michael's manager, Michael Lippman, said that the singer is thought to have died from heart failure.

Michael's "Last Christmas," which remains the biggest-selling Christmas song not to reach the top spot on UK charts, is a more nuanced pop single than it may appear. Here's a brief look at the heartbreaking narrative.

George Michael was found dead on Christmas Day, 2016.Source: DP/AAD/STAR MAX/IPx/AP
George Michael was found dead on Christmas Day, 2016.  DP/AAD/STAR MAX/IPx/AP

The lyrics

Here are the full lyrics to "Last Christmas" according to Lyrics Freak:

Last Christmas, I gave you my heart
But the very next day you gave it away
This year, to save me from tears
I'll give it to someone special

Last Christmas, I gave you my heart
But the very next day you gave it away
This year, to save me from tears
I'll give it to someone special

Once bitten and twice shy
I keep my distance
But you still catch my eye
Tell me baby
Do you recognize me?
Well, it's been a year
It doesn't surprise me

I wrapped it up and sent it
With a note saying "I love you" — I meant it
Now I know what a fool I've been
But if you kissed me again
I know you'd fool me again

Last Christmas, I gave you my heart
But the very next day you gave it away
This year, to save me from tears
I'll give it to someone special

Last Christmas, I gave you my heart
But the very next day you gave it away
This year, to save me from tears
I'll give it to someone special

A crowded room, friends with tired eyes
I'm hiding from you and your soul of ice
My god I thought you were someone to rely on
Me? I guess I was a shoulder to cry on

A face on a lover with a fire in his heart
A man under cover but you tore me apart
Now I've found a real love you'll never fool me again

Last Christmas, I gave you my heart
But the very next day you gave it away
This year, to save me from tears
I'll give it to someone special

Last Christmas, I gave you my heart
But the very next day you gave it away
This year, to save me from tears
I'll give it to someone special

A face on a lover with a fire in his heart
A man under cover but you tore him apart
Maybe next year I'll give it to someone
I'll give it to someone special

The meaning

"Last Christmas" is not a jolly number — BuzzFeed's Tracy Clayton ranked it as one of the saddest Christmas songs of all time in 2013 — and it's not even really about Christmas, at least as it's traditionally viewed. It's a song about a relationship that didn't make it and the sadness that the holidays trigger because of it. But that acknowledgment of loss and longing is probably the reason for the song's popularity. Unlike most tunes that air this time of year, "Last Christmas" pays tribute to just how miserable the holidays can be for some people. Not every Christmas ends with a kiss under the mistletoe. 

Fallon writes, "It's unafraid to address the melancholy feeling of even the most joyous holidays. Lost lovers, loved ones, and memories haunt even the happiest of Christmases."

And in case you were thinking it, Jenny Hollander of Bustle writes quite plainly that George Michael "Last Christmas" jokes are definitely in poor taste: "There's a time and a place, and this isn't it."

Here is the official Wham! music video for "Last Christmas."

Source: WhamVEVO/YouTube