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And they’re off! The race has begun for what was once a prestigious battle for that all important Christmas number one! Previous years have seen all and sundry make their bid for the most important pop accolade of the year, not only for the kudos of having the year’s festive favourite, but it’s traditionally the week with the highest record sales. The Christmas chart topper will often be one of the year’s best sellers. In fact, three Christmas number ones this century sold enough copies in that week alone to go on to become the biggest hit of that entire year, Bob The Builder’s ‘Can We Fix It?’ in 2000, Band Aid 20’s ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’ in 2004 and Alexandra Burke’s ‘Hallelujah’ in 2008.
However, over the last ten years the battle to be the Christmas ace has become quite an uninspiring anti-climax thanks to the X Factor winner generally conquering the list. This had lead to a fierce battle in 2009 when internet campaigners succeeded in stopping Joe McElderry from giving us a 5th ‘winner’s song’ in a row by pushing an unlikely festive favourite, ‘Killing In The Name’ by metal band, Rage Against The Machine to the top. Rather predictably this inspired further internet campaigns over the past couple of years with less success, such as 2010’s Family Guy favourite ‘Surfin’ Bird’ by The Trashmen making #3 and last year’s ‘Dominick The Donkey’ by Lou Monte, backed by Chris Moyles, also taking the bronze.
One thing it has achieved though is a movement of the release date for the annual X Factor paint-by-numbers cover song. As with last year’s reality show champions, Little Mix, this year, grumpy sloth, James Arthur has hit #1 a week premature of the Christmas rush with his take on Shontelle’s ‘Impossible’, enabling him to have his chart topper without troubling the favourite, which like last year (notice a pattern) is a charity release, ‘He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother’ by The Justice Collective. The Hollies classic from 1969 has been covered in aid of various charities relating to the Hillsborough disaster and features a massive selection of artists from Liverpool and beyond, including Robbie Williams, Paul McCartney, Melanie C, Paloma Faith, Beverley Knight and even comedian John Bishop. While I don’t think we’re exactly listening to the latest reincarnation of Band Aid, the track itself is far easier on the ears than last year’s Military Wives single. With pre-orders already mounting up, it’s pretty much a one horse race.
If James Arthur is unsuccessful in challenging this year, well there are a few others that bookies have got their eye on, such as former Fame Academy contestant, Alistair Griffin with his Olympic inspired release, ‘I Wish For You The World’. The track features a group of volunteers from the event who go by the name, ‘The Games Maker Choir’. Coming in somewhere behind the Charity race should be this year’s novelty favourite, £1 Fish Man’s ‘One Pound Fish’, already climbing up the UK Chart, this is the guy who rose to internet fame after auditioning for the X Factor this year, which although unsuccessful has allowed him a single release with a track that could rival PSY’s ‘Gangnam Style’ for most annoyingly catchy track of the year.
Unlike previous years, the good news is that a whole bunch of other favourites are releasing songs this week, including Kylie Minogue, Girls Aloud, Robbie Williams, JLS, Ellie Goulding and Paloma Faith, though sadly most will get lost somewhere in the rush. Besides, this the bad news is that none of them are really giving us what we need, a fantastic Christmas themed #1. Perhaps something about Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph’s red nose, or any excuse for Mariah Carey to roll around with Santa in the snow. Other than the Band Aid remake, the last time a brand new Christmas song went to #1 was in 1994 as ‘Stay Another Day’ topped the list for East 17, and even that is only very loosely related (ok there are some sleigh bells and the video had snow and furry coats). Prior to that was Cliff’s ‘Saviour’s Day’ in 1990, though must we really rely on Cliff next year for a return to a real traditional, festive Christmas #1? On second thoughts, I’ll do without.