Instead of making it the biggest party night of the year, go your own way and have a chill and introspective one with our New Year’s Eve playlist.
Apparently there’s more to New Year’s Eve than dancing on the furniture and skinny dipping. Looking to the ancients, we learn it’s actually a time for retrospection, giving thanks and setting intentions for the year ahead (enter New Year’s resolutions, ugh, YOU again). Suitably chastened, I’ve put aside the “Vic’s Dancefloor Mayhem” playlist and have instead meditated on the more wholesome aspects of New Year’s Eve celebrations.
Casting our minds back 4000 years we learn that our Babylonian grandmothers made their resolutions in late March, promising all kinds of good behaviour to placate the gods during the festival of Akitu. Fast-forward to 46 BC, when Julius Caesar decided that January should be the official start of the year to honour Janus, the two-faced god (one looking forward, one looking back). With a small tweak in the 16th century to fix a pesky drift against the solar calendar, the start of the year remains as Caesar intended. So, on the cusp of January we do as Janus does – look forward and back at the same time. Whether your annus was horribilis or mirabilis or somewhere in medio, charge your glass and enjoy the first playlist of 2023 (feel free to give 2022 the digitus impudicus, if that’s required).
In the modern way we have subverted a perfectly good ancient festival into a frantic night of excess and spectacle. We blast the night sky with fireworks (will no one think of the animals?), a sparkly time ball gets dropped in New York’s Times Square and somewhere at Rhythm and Vines your kid is not missing you the way that you are missing them. New Year’s Eve changes as we grow up – in his song Time, Californian Angelo de Augustine sings “time keeps on coming”, and our own Nadia Reid gives thanks for time’s duality: “Life has given me just what I needed, time is cruel, time is a healer” in Other Side Of The Wheel. I have happy memories of babies being rocked by grandmothers in the middle of parties, little kids roaring around in the dark with sparklers while someone bangs the silverfish out of the Trivial Pursuit box in preparation for that long haul between dinner and midnight. These days it’s just us and the neighbours dancing barefoot in the living room until the speakers give out and everyone lurches home in the wrong Birkenstocks. I love that.
Womack & Womack have put some cool shades on The Beatles’ Here Comes The Sun, which you’ll appreciate as the blinding light of January 1 (Janus, you absolute bastard) finds you clutching your metaphorical clean slate, swearing this year you’ll get it right with God – or your waistline, or the ciggies or the drink… All the most pleasing vices are easily disavowed in the dusty aftermath of a Big One, when the only way is up! That’s Life, observes O.C Smith, showing the style that stopped Frank Sinatra in his tracks – “everytime I find myself flat on my face, I pick myself up and get back in the race”. Still, the New Year dangles the hope of manifesting something worthy and to find that better self we just need to try harder. Personally, I’d suggest that we stop trying so hard – just don’t be a dick and eat more green vegetables. The impulse to plot one’s reinvention is strong at this juncture, especially if the previous year left you sad. Pōneke’s Deva Mahal knows about these things, Take a Giant Step being a soul-deep invitation to change. (Keep your eyes out for Ms Mahal in 2023, she’ll be touring a new album and headlining WOMAD).
Although unlikely roommates, Odyssey’s Back To My Roots shares the DNA of agency and change with Peggy Lee’s rendering of There’ll Be Some Changes Made. Let’s Get Out of This Country finds those Scottish pop-imps Camera Obscura imagining a geographical awakening, as does Madeleine Peyroux’s loungey version of Fred Neil’s Everybody’s Talkin’ and Peter Gabriel’s arresting Solsbury Hill. Taking a more direct approach in New Year, UK Black feminist punk rockers Big Joanie are all about getting what you want, “It’s a new year, feel no fear, It’s a new time, now where’s mine?” In Knees Deep The Beths’ Liz Stokes gives voice to a laundry list of wishes for bravery. It’s the catchiest song of 2022 and has become something of a talisman to remind me that everyone feels uncertain, everyone wants to be brave. One of the most significant years of my life resulted from a New Year’s resolution to say yes to (nearly) everything – a few highlights were bungee jumping in the dark, getting tattooed and starting a radio show. Oh, and having a baby. It was a long time ago, but as Lou Rawls sings, it was A Very Good Year.
Lucky Aotearoa – we get to celebrate two New Year cycles, at the end of the year and again at mid-year with Matariki (exact times depend on your iwi and geography). Hear Maisey Rika pay tribute to the Māori New Year on Matariki te pō and imagine that cluster of stars in the early morning sky. Like the Gregorian calendar New Year, Matariki’s focus is on both remembrance and the future, while gathering to celebrate the present.
As you hold 2022 up to the light and try to see what the hell happened, you’re in good company. Tilt your glass and join the chorus of “thank God that’s over” – until we do it all again next year. If you need me, I’ll be at the kitchen table jotting down my resolutions, then I’m going to dance on it.