Originally published on Getintothis
As the race for the Christmas number one gets closer to the finish line, Shaun Ponsonby looks at this year’s favourites.
Here we go, people!
It is that time of year that used to be vaguely fun when we were kids, but now is just kind of sad and depressing. Yes! It’s Christmas number one time!
There is so much speculation around the Christmas number one that it is easy to forget that the vast majority of them have been shockingly bad. I don’t even mean over the last few years. Look at the list of the pre-X Factor era; Mr. Blobby, Bob The Builder, Cliff Richard, St. Winifred’s School Choir, Westlife, Band Aid II (the one that Stock Aiken and Waterman did that somehow managed to be worse than the original). It’s just a list of songs that nobody listened to the day after they bought them.
I mean, it is almost as if the industry has tricked us into thinking this in some way matters, so that more people will go out and buy the records. Perish the thought!
Since, like everybody else in the business, we pretend to give a shit about the Mercury Prize and does a pretentious annual predictometer, I decided to pretend I give a shit about the Christmas number one and do a trashy predictometer for it.
Of course, it is harder to predict now. Streaming counting for sales means that pretty much everything is up in the air. Novelty singles get bought once and hardly ever played. “How does that figure with streaming?” I hear you ask. I don’t have an answer, I was just pointing out that you are probably asking that.
We can break down this year’s favourites into some easily defined categories. We don’t have to, but it’s a handy framing device. At the end of each category, I’ll give you my opinion on who will come out best in said category (not, I repeat NOT, my favourite track in the list).
There is going to be no summary at the end either, so when it’s over, just click “back” like a good little sycophant.
And with that…
The Crappy Novelty Songs
This is nothing new. You could probably call the first novelty Christmas number one 1955’s Christmas Alphabet by Dickie Valentine. It is basically Krusty The Clown’s Little Miss Springfield song, but sung about Christmas. Regardless, it is always fascinating to see what commercial tie-in will be battling it out for supremacy every year.
Speaking of which, the Supreme Dark Lord of Light Entertainment – known to mere mortals in his human form, Simon Cowell – will no doubt be hoping for a better showing for whatever shitweasel wins his glorified karaoke contest this year than whoever the fuck won last year.
In a moment that had sane people crying with laughter, some woman butchering Bob Dylan’s classic Forever Young as last year’s X Factor winner’s single only just scraped into the Top 10 after over a decade of each and every one reaching number one at some point. It’s almost as if the British public are fed up of his vapid bullshit. Apparently more young people have been watching David Attenborough’s Planet Earth than The X Factor. The next generation are going to be awesome.
Anyhow, these absolutely count as novelty songs because they serve the same function; they are primarily tie-ins to a TV show and people don’t buy them because they like the song, so much as because they saw it on TV.
But very few people have been seen on TV these days quite as often as James Corden. And, between Carpool Karaoke and Coldplay inviting him to on stage to piss all over Prince’s grave a few months ago, he seems to think that the world wants him to be a singer too. Not just any singer; a smug, obnoxious, faux emotional, overwrought singer.
His song is called The Greatest Gift For Christmas Is Me, which I imagine is what Corden actually believes. Apparently it’s from the Sainsbury’s advert, which means the song itself gets a wankload of free advertising space and guarantees to get stuck in people’s heads, no matter how much they resist. But, please, can we stop encouraging Corden?
The last of the main contenders is also a charity single, so could have gone in another category (see below). Shinny James Davenport is a Salford native. I neither know nor care about him. But he has recorded a song imaginatively titled Christmas No. 1 to support MacMillan Hospital. It is pretty jaunty, and actually Christmassy, which has become kind of novel around this time of year. But it is obviously tongue-in-cheek, so I put it in this section.
I get the idea that his heart is in the right place with this one, even if it does sound like he’s done a cheap knock off of Olly Murs’ Dance With Me Tonight (which, in itself, is a cheap knock off of music itself). So I’m finding it hard to totally dislike it. The video has a DIY charm to it too.
Ponsonby’s Pick: X Factor is over, Shinny ain’t going to sell outside of Manchester. Ultimately, James Corden will probably come out on top here. For some reason, people seem to like him.
The Inevitable Campaigns
Remember in 2009, when Rage Against The Machine beat Simon Cowell to a pulp by successfully blocking Joe McWhatshisface from the Christmas number one slot? Good times.
Sadly, ever since then people have been trying to repeat it. Because, you know, it worked once seven years ago, so why won’t it work again? Except it hasn’t worked again and the whole thing has become as annoying as The X Factor.
The campaigns now seem to be more nostalgic rather than have any deeper point. We’ve gone back in time with the Spice Girls as frontrunners in this category with 2 Become 1, which was Christmas number one exactly 20 years ago. Nostalgia tends to run in 20 year cycles, so that makes sense.
Given the amount of celebrity deaths in 2016, it was inevitable that this would make its way into the proceedings. One that raised my eyebrows was Prince, because the song chosen by campaign is The Cross, an album track from 1987’s Sign “O” The Times that is a fair choice in terms of a tribute to Prince and who he was, but a terrible choice for something to get people excited to go download. Besides, didn’t everyone who might have wanted Prince’s music after his death already go and buy it in the weeks after?
The other main contender appears to be Terry Wogan, whose 1978 non-Top 20 single The Floral Dance is gaining fair momentum.
Ponsonby’s Pick: As much as I love Prince, I can’t see The Cross doing very well. For general audiences, they might as well have gone with something from his instrumental jazz albums. So, the most likely one here is the Spice Girls.
The Charity Singles
Taking advantage of people’s Christmas cheer has been commonplace since Band Aid in 1984. Following that unrivalled success, we’ve had a diverse series of releases, including Band Aid II, Bad Aid 20, Band Aid 30 and Fred and Rose West’s memorable cover of Islands In The Stream.
One of the mooted charity contenders this year has already had a Christmas number one. Gareth Malone, the greedy bastard. Not content with raising money for veterans, now it’s expected that he will do it all over again. Though, to be fair, this hasn’t been confirmed and it is merely speculation. That might change by the time of publication. We’ll see what happens there. But, Christ. It’s all “me, me, me” with some people.
The King Lot ft. The Jolly Boys? Never heard of them? Me neither, but they have written a by-the-numbers rock song that would fit in perfectly with some compilation of driving songs that you pick up for £3 in Asda. It sounds like a song Tom Scholtz from Boston rejected for not being edgy enough. It is in aid of the MS Society, so I feel bad for making too much fun. But, objectively, it is like X Factor does rock & roll.
The main contender then is The London Hospices Choir and Paul Carrack. Sure, why not. A choir is a choir, innit?
Ponsonby’s Pick: The Carrack song is actually the Bookies’ favourite, and they have had the time to build a substantial campaign. So, yeah, I’ll go with that. These campaigns have been very popular recently, no matter how terrible the songs are.
The “Proper” Songs
This is by far the toughest category to compete in. Not because all of the songs are incredible (bitch, please!), but because there hasn’t been a winner in this category since 2003, when Gary Jules pipped The Darkness with that shit version of Tears For Fears’ Mad World.
So, what have we got this year? Vaults, whatever the frig that is. Its the song from that John Lewis Christmas advert, which looks like the parody of a John Lewis Christmas advert. This fact automatically makes it a snoozefest. Just, like, by default.
In fact, this is an irritating trend in general. Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick recorded a version of Cyndi Lauper’s True Colours – because apparently we’ve not reached a point where LGBT artists can record hit LGBT anthems yet – for Trolls, a film I have no intention of ever watching. But still, even if it is a rubbish cover, from a (probably) shit film and sung by two straight people, it’s a nice message to have over the airwaves as we enter an era where a man who believes in conversion therapy is about to be Vice President of the USA of America.
Because nothing can be successful at Christmas anymore without being a tie-in of some kind, Kylie Minogue has joined forces with Boots (?) for her single, which comes from a repackaged edition of last year’s Christmas album. The song is Everybody’s Free (To Feel Good) and honestly? Probably the best of a bad bunch. It starts slow but ends up upbeat and fun with a 70s disco feel towards the end. And, like Timberlake and Kendrick, it is at least an empowering message at the end of a bad year.
Elsewhere, Cruz Beckham, the 11-year old son of David and Victoria, announced his Christmas single called If Every Day Was Christmas, which I’m fully expecting to crash and burn in a mire of deserved failure.
Ponsonby’s Pick: Let’s be honest, none of these are going to win. They are all as unlikely as each other. Personally, I’d go for Kylie just to lift us out of the enforced dirge. At least she’s likely to wear a fabulous costume.