Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter Sharon Van Etten is anticipating the holidays with two new singles, “Silent Night” and “Blue Christmas.” She officially released the covers to streaming today in advance of the holiday season.
Her rendition of “Silent Night” was originally recorded for Eric Paschal Johnson’s 2018 short film, The Letter, appearing during the credits. “Blue Christmas” initially debuted on a charity compilation called Do You EAR What I Ear, in 2009. The compilation served as a fundraiser for the Association to Benefit Children, a New York organization that works to help disadvantaged children escape patterns of abuse, sickness, neglect and homelessness.
The original version of “Silent Night” was a German Christmas carol written by Franz Xaver Gruber in 1818. It has been covered countless times and is recognized as an enduring holiday classic. Van Etten’s rendition keeps the vocal harmonies low over the rhythm of a pulsating bass line and low-key drums, with church-ready synth organ chords growing as the cover continues.
On the B-side, Van Etten stripped back Elvis Presley’s 1964 “Blue Christmas” to just her guitar and vocals. Instead of the iconic backing vocals, she arpeggiated the guitar in general imitation. It’s a much mellower version of the classic, and her singing, guitar playing and the original lyrics all give it a particularly melancholic tone.
“Silent Night” wasn’t the most recent time Sharon Van Etten contributed to a soundtrack. This past March, she released a song called “Staring at a Mountain” from the feature film Never Rarely Sometimes Always, which she also acted in. Just last month, she released a new song called “Let Go,” from the documentary Feels Good Man.
These songs aren’t the only covers she has released recently, either. In March, she covered Lucinda Williams’ “If My Love Could Kill” to benefit The Alzheimer’s Association. In May, she and Josh Homme, the frontman for Queens of the Stone Age, shared a cover of Elvis Costello’s “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding?” In September, she debuted a cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt” for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Sound of Saving’s “Song That Found Me at the Right Time” series.
Most recently, she appeared on a new Local Natives song called “Lemon” from their upcoming EP, Sour Lemon. Other collaborations from this year include “Hackensack” with Fountains of Wayne and a rework of her latest hit, Seventeen, featuring Norah Jones.
Photo credit: Kalyn Oyer