(November 18, 2023). I’m willing to bet that no two NFL Super Bowl opponents have ever teamed up for a music duet — then have that song top iTunes every day since its release — and do so just days before they’re due to battle in a key rematch between their teams on Monday Night Football (November 20).
But then no two NFL players have ever been the Kelces — brothers and 2023 media superstars Jason and Travis — who happen to play center for the Philadelphia Eagles and tight end for the Kansas City Chiefs, respectively.
In a year where it seemed that even they couldn’t top the phenomenal media presence they’ve shared — the Kelce Bowl last February), a No. 1 podcast on YouTube (New Heights launched in March), a critically acclaimed No. 1 Amazon Prime documentary titled Kelce (Jason in September), hosting and appearing on SNL (both in March), a finalist in People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive issue (Jason, November), becoming a father for a third time (Jason, February) and, hmmm, I feel like I’m forgetting something else major about a whirlwind relationship (Travis maybe?) — the two somehow managed to cap the year with their ultimate team-up.
Together, they’ve recorded a new Christmas tune (released Nov. 15) that pretty much encapsulates the Kelces phenomenal year — as well as their obviously close relationship — in a style that likely only they could pull off so convincingly.
The song is “Fairytale of Philadelphia,” a remake of the 1987 classic “Fairytale of New York” by the Pogues that has been one of the most beloved Christmas songs in U.K. music history.
The British folk-punk band’s original “Fairytale of New York” was sung as a love-hate back-and-forth duet between Pogues member Shane MacGowan and the late British singer Kirsty MacColl, with MacGowan playing the role of a gruff, hungover immigrant who awakens from the previous night’s binge in a New York City drunk tank and begins recalling Christmases past, while MacColl takes on the role of his bitter former lover.
The original tune, which begins solemnly enough as a piano-driven ballad, ascends to a fast-paced waltz and, almost simultaneously, descends into a raw, profane argument with the two ex/current lovers bickering and hurling increasingly vitriolic insults at one another (amazingly, some of those slurs survived final production edits in the 1980s).
Those insults — including uses of the word “slut” and a homophobic slur — were considered offensive enough back then (and still today) to get the song banned or heavily censored in many European countries. Nonetheless, the folk tune has been a huge perennial hit that’s no doubt soundtracked many drunken singalongs at Irish and English pubs for decades.
Fast forward to 2023 and the Brothers Kelce updated version, in which the two men reprise the bickering roles of those toxic lovers, except not as lovers but as the name-calling, insult-hurling — yet clearly loving — brothers they are.
For big brother Jason, this singing thing is old hat. He’s already recorded a full Christmas album (the charity LP A Philly Special Christmas) with teammates Lane Johnson and Jordan Mailata, under the moniker The Philly Specials in December 2022.
Plus, he played in symphonic and jazz bands at his University of Cincinnati alma mater in the late 2000s, where he clearly needed to know his way around a musical note or two in order to participate.
For Travis, this was by his own account his first time behind the singing mic, professionally at least.
The result of this pairing though — billed as The Philly Specials with Jason and Travis Kelce — suggests that they’ve both been at this for much longer than their high-flying, Super Bowl Championship NFL careers might suggest.
Jason, in growling baritone, kicks off the tune in the persona of the original song’s gruff, drunken immigrant, beginning the song’s first verse as MacGowan had 36 years earlier (released when Jason was just two weeks old and Travis wasn’t even a thought).
But a tweaking of that opening verse’s lyrics offers the first clue that this version will be a classic ode to the Kelce brotherhood. In It, Jason sings: “I’ve got a feeling this year’s for me and you. So Happy Christmas, I love you brother. I can see a better time when all our dreams come true.”
Beyond being dead-on with his assessment of the year the brothers have had, the declaration of love from Jason to Travis is bound to tug a few heartstrings, especially for those of us who’ve shared with our own brothers the kind of relationship these two apparently have.
The next verse introduces Travis, whose opening lines are true to the original except for a few changes to account for the change in setting (Broad Street vs. Broadway; King of South Philly vs. Queen of NYC, etc.).
The brothers sing in unison — and very well I might add — as the verse concludes, with one key word change (“we fought on a corner” vs. “we kissed…”) that signals the love between these two is about to devolve into the kind of ribbing that only brothers this close can perfect (fortunately, I know this from personal experience).
The song’s third verse packs in the brotherly insults, with some very historical pop culture references — old and new — fueling Jason and Travis’ personal jabs.
Jason starts: “You’s a lush, you’re a crumb bum, you smell like some old scum washed up from the Schuylkill and rotting away.”
Aside from his reference to Philly’s most famously derided river, the older Kelce invokes a famous retort from the city’s ex-Mayor Frank Rizzo who referred to an interviewer as a “lush” and “crumb bum.”
Then Travis responds: “You dirtbag, you phony, you lousy jabroni,” the last word reprising an insult he levied at a different city’s (Cincinnati’s) mayor during the Chiefs’ run-up to last season’s Super Bowl Championship.
But it’s big brother Jason who gets the last word in that verse: “Happy Christmas, you ass, I pray God it’s our last.” Ouch!
The song’s bridge is what brings the brothers’ — actually most brothers’ — unique bond and relationship dynamic into focus.
Jason begins “I could have been someone,” followed by Travis quickly retorting “Well, so could anyone.”
But the next lines sum it all up perfectly.
“You took my dreams from me when Mom first had you,” sings Jason to his little bro. How many of us haven’t uttered some variation of that accusation to our younger brothers over the entirety of our 50-plus-year relationships!? (Oops, sorry, I kinda got carried away with my own situation there.)
But Travis’ reply is perfect: “I kept them with me, Jas’. I put them with my own; can’t make it all alone.”
Then the brothers finish with “I’ve built my dreams around you!”
If your heartstrings weren’t tugged already, they were sure to be by the time that line was delivered.
Aside from those verses and bridge, the song’s three choruses remain mostly true to the original Pogues tune, except for swapping out the NYPD Choir reference with one more suitable for Philly (the Silver Ages Choir).
But the Kelce brothers sing the choruses perfectly in unison — and even harmonize during the “Galway Bay” parts — reminding folks that there is perhaps no better blending of voices than that between siblings, even tough grid-iron guys like these two.
It’ll leave you asking, “who knew these two had this hidden talent on top of everything else they’ve done?!”
The 4:46-long song closes with a nearly minute-and-a-half instrumental coda featuring a melancholy horn section and sax solo befitting the old Supertramp tunes from the 1970s or early ‘80s. It adds depth and a jazzy element to a song that otherwise doubles as drunken novelty and teary-eyed sentiment.
Although issued on an off-cycle Wednesday, “Fairytale of Philadelphia,” which has dominated iTunes since its Nov. 15 release, has a chance to debut on the next Billboard Hot 100 (or the one after that when a full sales and airplay week is registered), further adding to the incredible list of accomplishments the Brothers Kelce have achieved this year.
While a No. 1 placement on that chart is not expected this year, maybe we should focus on longer term goals, like making this the future holiday classic that replaces a certain Christmas perennial by Mariah Carey as the season’s recurring chart-topper.
C’mon Swifties, you can make that happen, right?
Whether it does or not, on behalf of brothers everywhere, thank you Jason and Travis for reminding us what it’s like to share these unique bonds with our own siblings.
DJRob (he/him/his) is a freelance music blogger from the East Coast who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop, rock and (sometimes) country genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff! You can follow him on X (formerly Twitter) at @djrobblog and on Meta’s Threads.
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