Kevin Mazur/Getty20th-century seasonal classics from various Rat Pack crooners, The Pogues and Mariah Carey may still reign supreme on the radio come December. But there are plenty of more recent festive hits that are worthy of joining them in the all-time Christmas hits canon. Here's a look at six of the best from the past 13 years.Leona Lewis - "One More Sleep"A refreshing departure from Lewis' usual heart-breaking ballads, "One More Sleep" perfectly recaptures the excitement of the Christmas countdown with an uplifting blend of Motown pop beats, sleigh bells and bursts of brass inspired by Phil Spector's classic Wall of Sound.Coldplay – "Christmas Lights"Released in between the Viva La Vida and Mylo Xyloto albums in 2010, "Christmas Lights" saw the 21st century’s biggest guitar band get in on the holiday action with a typically melancholic tale of a relationship that's turned sour at the worst possible time of year.George Michael – "December Song (I Dreamed Of Christmas)"Originally intended for the Spice Girls and then Michael Buble, George Michael's 2008 wintry ballad might not have caught on in the same way as Wham!'s festive classic, but with its Frank Sinatra sample and gorgeous orchestral production, it's unarguably just as timeless.Sugababes – "New Year"The 2000 second single from the original line-up of the ever-changing Sugababes established Mutya, Keisha and Siobhan as the coolest girlband around as they reflected on a past Christmas Day break-up over an understated blend of sparse acoustics and subtle R&B beats.The Killers – "A Great Big Sled"The first and indeed the greatest of The Killers' eight attempts to establish themselves as the four wise men of indie rock, 2006's "A Great Big Sled" combined shimmering synths, galloping guitars and of course some obligatory sleigh bells to produce an instant Phil Spector-esque classic.Hurts – "All I Want For Christmas Is New Year’s Day"Beginning as a slightly morbid ballad, this anti-Christmas anthem then builds up into a strangely euphoric crescendo of tubular bells, emphatic drums and soaring melodies, recapturing the magic of the holidays in a way which many more cheery yuletide songs failed to do.
Ferdaus Shamim/GettyWith original member Charlie Simpson still refusing to go back to his boyband-with-guitars days now that he's a semi-credible singer-songwriter, Matt Willis and James Bourne, aka the remaining members of mid-'00s UK chart-toppers Busted, have now instead hooked up with the group they undoubtedly paved the way for, McFly, for the latest big pop reunion tour. But which other pop acts could realistically join forces to form in the wake of the newest 'supergroup' McBusted. Here's a look at five potential ideas.Destiny's Child/TLCIt's unlikely that Beyoncé will ever wish to share the limelight with her former Destiny's Child bandmates for more than a few minutes, a la the Super Bowl, ever again. But there's nothing to stop Kelly and Michelle hooking up with T-Boz and Chilli to create the ultimate 90s R&B girlband crossover.Sugababes Versions 1-4The recent reunion of Mutya Keisha Siobhan, the original line-up of the ever-revolving Sugababes, hasn't exactly been a roaring success, while the latest line-up of Jade, Heidi and Amelle has been missing in action ever since 2011. But with a decade of hook-laden hits between them, a show featuring the four various line-ups would undoubtedly reignite both parties' careers.BSBNSYNCBackstreet Boys have already embraced the supergroup concept having toured and recorded with New Kids On The Block. And while Justin Timberlake is too much of a superstar to revisit his teen-pop past for more than a quick MTV VMA medley, the other four members would surely be open to hooking up with their old rivals for a feast of late '90s/early '00s boyband pop.S Club 15The term 'supergroup' might be pushing it here but it would certainly be interesting to see one of the biggest pop groups of the early '00s, S Club 7, team up with the eight members of their mini-me spin-off S Club Juniors – two of which are now in The Saturdays – for a massive S Club Party.Boyzone/WestlifeThey would possibly be the dreariest pop 'supergroup' of all time, but fans of karaoke covers and 'stand up for the key change' ballads would be in pop heaven if Irish boyband Boyzone and their recently-defunct successors Westlife decided to pool their coma-inducing resources together.
Nick Pickles/WENNHaving only reunited late last year, former Disney Channel tween idols Jonas Brothers appear to have become the latest group to call it a day over 'musical differences' after cancelling their U.S. tour at the last minute last week. However, not all bands cite such a cliché as their reason for going their separate ways. Here's a look at five bands who broke up in much more bizarre circumstances.EPMDNew York hip-hop duo EPMD have since reunited, broke up and reunited again since their first split in 1996, which was unsurprisingly caused by tensions over rumours that Erick Sermon had masterminded the burglary of his bandmate Parrish J Smith's house.SugababesSugababes would of course famously continue as a three-piece in many different forms. But V1.0 came to an abrupt end in 2001 when Siobhan Donaghy escaped through a toilet window during a Japanese promo campaign after Mutya and Keisha wrongly claimed in an interview that she didn't care about Aaliyah's tragic death.Rage Against The MachineAfter suffering the indignity of losing out to Limp Bizkit for Best Rock Video at the 2000 MTV Video Music Awards, Rage Against The Machine bassist Tim Commerford decided that gatecrashing the stage was the ideal protest. However, frontman Zack de la Rocha failed to see the funny side and a month later disbanded the group because of the failure of their 'decision-making process.'The Everly BrothersAfter years of in-fighting, The Everly Brothers' tempestuous relationship finally came to a head in 1973 when a drunk Don kept on forgetting the lyrics to a show in Hollywood, prompting Phil to smash his head with a guitar and walk off stage. The pair didn't speak to each other for the next ten years.Oasis36 years later, another constantly warring set of siblings also ended their volatile relationship in a similar manner when a physical altercation ended in either Liam or Noel, depending on who you believe, smashing up a guitar in anger before a gig in Paris. Renowned for their punch-ups, most people thought they'd soon bury the hatchet but four years on and the pair still haven't kissed and made up.
InterscopeFrom a cover of the current US chart-topper to a comeback by R&B's greatest ever girlband, here's a look at five of the best tracks to have been released over the past seven days.Cut Copy – "Free Your Mind"Accompanied by a striking video which sees True Blood's Alexander Skarsgard as the long-haired leader of a blue Puma tracksuit-wearing cult, Cut Copy cement their status as Australia's premier synth-pop act with this house-tinged 'summer of love' taster from their upcoming fourth LP.TLC – "Meant To Be"The first and only new track recorded for TLC's forthcoming 20 retrospective, T-Boz and Chilli prove that they can cut it as a duo with this sweetly-sung Ne-Yo-penned mid-tempo which perfectly fits in with the current '90s R&B revival.Mutya Keisha Siobhan – "Royals"With Lorde's surprise breakthrough hit still refusing to budge from the top of the US Hot 100, expect plenty of cover versions to emerge over the next few weeks. Recorded for Google +'s Reload Sessions, this typically elegant rendition from the original Sugababes is likely to be the most soulful.Lady Gaga – "Aura"Finally given its official premiere this week, the second track from the long-awaited ARTPOP begins as one of Lady Gaga's most intriguing tracks with its cinematic blend of Ennio Morricone-esque guitars and military beats. Shame about the generic dubstep-pop which then follows.Gorillaz – "Whirlwind"A year after announcing Gorillaz's hiatus, Damon Albarn treated fans to a previously unreleased cut from third album Plastic Beach this week, a mysterious widescreen instrumental featuring the Lebanese National Symphony Orchestra.
Daniel Deme / WENN
Renowned for changing their line-ups quicker than most groups change their underwear, UK girlband Sugababes have almost made Fleetwood Mac look like the picture of stability since bursting onto the pop scene with the brilliant "Overload" back in 2000. In the week that the original trio finally released their comeback single and the last all but admitting that the game is over, here's a look at each of their five incarnations from worst to best.
Jade, Amelle & Heidi (2009-2013)
After drafting in former Eurovision entrant Jade Ewen to replace the only founding member, Keisha Buchanan, the final Sugababes line-up became the complete antithesis to everything that the first stood for. Jumping aboard the 'fun in the club' Europop bandwagon, their one and only dismal studio effort, the anything but Sweet 7, saw them transform into shameless hit-chasers. While they spent their last three years focusing more on appearing in tacky reality shows (Dancing On Ice, Splash) than getting their act together. The recent news of their split comes as a relief.
Mutya, Keisha & Siobhan (2012-??)
Having left the band through a toilet window in 2001, Siobhan Donaghy and the rest of the original line-up decided to put their differences aside and join forces again last year. Only a handful of tracks from their unexpected reunion have emerged so far. But if they can keep their squabbling to a minimum, the triumphant Dev Hynes-produced hipster pop of "Flatline" and their classy take on Kendrick Lamar's "Swimming Pools (Drank)" suggests that MKS are more than capable of surpassing their former glories.
Heidi, Amelle & Keisha (2006-2009)
An era of two halves, the third Sugababes line-up picked up where the second left off with a string of brilliant pop singles ("Red Dress," "Easy," "About You Now"), a Greatest Hits collection which confirmed their girlband superiority and a second UK number one album with Change. But they hopelessly lost their way towards the end with a lazy cover of "Here Come The Girls," its dull retro-soul parent album, Catfights & Spotlights, and arguably the death knell for the group, "Get Sexy," a jaw-droppingly bad slice of trash pop which for reasons unknown sampled Right Said Fred's "I'm Too Sexy."
Mutya, Keisha & Siobhan (1998-2001)
Arriving at a time when the charts were flooded with girlbands hoping to fill the Spice Girls-shaped hole in the market, Sugababes managed to emerge as one of the most distinctive thanks to an intriguingly aloof image and an effortlessly cool urban pop sound produced by former Massive Attack and Neneh Cherry cohort Cameron McVey. But despite a wave of critical acclaim, 2000 debut One Touch didn’t exactly set the world alight and following Donaghy’s departure, the group were dropped from their London Records label.
Heidi, Mutya & Keisha (2001-2006)
One of the most remarkable career turnarounds in girlband history, Sugababes Version 2.0 went from the verge of extinction to the top of the UK charts in the space of six months. Comeback single "Freak Like Me," an inspired mash-up of Gary Numan’s "Are 'Friends' Electric" and Adina Howard’s '90s R&B classic, signalled their pop world-conquering ambitions immediately. But despite their new-found commercial success, the trio remained one of the most exciting and inventive acts around, forging a successful partnership with Xenomania before Girls Aloud had even formed and toying with everything from crunk to trip-hop to ambient electronica on their subsequent three albums.
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Downton Abbey fans rejoyce! It looks like the Dowagager Contess (Maggie Smith) will finally have her verbal sparring partner back because Shirley Maclaine is coming back into our lives.
After a two-episode part in season three of Downton Abbey, MacLaine will return for the new season. The longtime actress will reprise her role as Martha Levinson — mother of Lady Cora — in the season four finale.
According to Deadline, six new chracters will also be joining MacLaine in the highly-anticipated fourth season. Let's take a look at the royal new characters:
RELATED: Downton Abbey' Loses Another Character, Evil Maid O'brien
-An old family friend of the Crawleys, Lord Gillingham (played by Tom Cullen)-The Duchess of Yeovil (played by Joanna David)-An aristocrat, Charles Blake (played by Julian Ovenden)-A valet, Green (played by Nigel Harman)-A friend of the Dowager Countess, Lady Shackleton (played by Dame Harriett Walter)-And an unnamed singing guest at the house (to be played by Dame Kiri Te Kanawa)
Executive producer Rebecca Eaton told the Today show, “The addition of these characters can only mean more delicious drama — which is what Downton Abbey is all about.” Fingers crossed these fresh faces can help fill the void from losing the character we love to hate, Maid O'Brien (Siobhan Finneran)
Are you excited for the return of Martha Levinson? Tell us in the comments section below.
[Photo Credit: PBS]
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Downton Abbey, a Victorian dollhouse where no member of the family is safe, has lost another cast member who won't be returning for the show's upcoming fourth season. This time it's O'Brien, Lady Grantham's evil maid and one of the best love-to-hate characters on all of TV. With all of the deaths from last season, does anyone even live in this house anymore?
Siobhan Finneran, who plays the scheming character, announced, "I’m not doing any more. O’Brien is a thoroughly despicable human being - that was great to play." ITV, which airs the show in the UK, confirmed that she would not be back for Season 4, which started filming this week (but PBS has not set a date for its return State-side). Finneran did not give a reason for wanting to leave the show, but it probably wasn't money, especially considering reports that some stars were offered double their salary for this upcoming season of the English-speaking world's most popular telenovela. It's not like Finneran is going to be out of work. She also stars on the ITV sitcom Benidorm and will co-star on the next season of the BBC hit The Syndicate. This lady is certainly not going to retire on just a maid's salary.
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The good news for O'Brien is that the character won't be killed off, so she's welcome back to the fading manor house in the future — unlike Lady Sybil and Future Lord Matthew, both of whom were surprisingly killed off during Season 3 because the actors, Jessica Brown Findlay and Dan Matthews, wanted off the show. Julian Fellowes, the Oscar-winning writer and creator of the show, said he had no choice but to kill off the members of the family when the actors wanted out. "“If he [Stevens] had been prepared to come back for maybe two or three episodes in a series, that would be different. Then we could have had a foreign posting or invented a career that would have made it possible for him to be away," Fellowes told the Telegraph. “Otherwise we would have had to make this tremendously successful love affair between Mary and Matthew unhappy, which I didn’t feel would be believable. For them to then separate and Matthew never set eyes on his son again would not be believable either. So we didn’t really have any option.”
At least O'Brien lives to snark another day, but who are we ever going to get to give a side-eye as icily perfect as hers?
Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan
[Photo Credit: PBS]
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