Christmas Jukebox: Number 1’s

The year 2003
The film Love Actually
The song ‘Christmas is All Around’

Bill Nighy’s character, Billy Mack, is a washed up rock star who is recording a Christmas themed song to try and get the Christmas number one spot. He bleeds cynicism about the whole endeavour, and with good reason. But it turns out well and eventually he learns about the love of a friend. D’aww.

In reality, Christmas number ones rarely mention Christmas in their title, and don’t often even have a Christmas theme. Only seven mentioned Christmas in the title and three of those were ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ in different years. They also aren’t a great way to make money, not for artists anyway. Many of them are for charity. Maybe the good publicity is worth it, plus the fact classic tunes get a lot of airtime every year. That being said, 6 of the last 10 were X-Factor contestants, and those probably never get played more than once.(Source for all that here). However, sometimes there are some real surprises.

Today’s entry in the series is on Christmas number ones. It should be informative for people from other countries, but for those from the UK it’s also a nice nostalgic trip back through the years. This is a story about two of the competitions for number 1 and what they meant. Let’s begin!

Eminem vs. Bob the Builder

What, what, what?! I hear you exclaim through the screen. And do you know what? It turns out I remembered this one incorrectly, but here is my memory…

The year was 2000. The theme tune of a British children’s television character came up against Slim Shady in the battle for number 1. At this point, Eminem was unassailable. He had just released his third album, The Marshall Mathers LP. The song was ‘Stan’, a song critics have said is among his best. Could Bob the Builder rank near such a titan?

Can we fix it? In words later plagiarised by Obama, Yes We Can.

It was an astonishing victory. I can remember my brother wasn’t very happy at the time as he was a big Eminem fan. That part could be wrong too.

It turns out that Eminem wasn’t a very close contender that week. I have no idea if the record label released it too early, a cursory search reveals it came out in late November so it’s quite likely, but apparently the Christmas number 2 was Westlife. Ah well, the story matters more.

This wasn’t nearly the upset I thought it was. Nothing compared to 2009!

Rage Against the Machine vs. Joe McElderry

I was first told about this campaign by my high school friend, Roman. The idea was that the X-Factor had dominated the Christmas number one slot for four years and it was time to knock them down a peg. I was instantly dismissive. To me, it just seemed like a waste of effort for a few people to buy a song they already had in order to try and make a point, a point I didn’t believe they could make since I figured the charts were a bit rigged anyway. But Roman was adamant.

I remained skeptical, but when I saw it was being taken seriously, I bought a download. What’s the worst that could happen? I’d waste 79p on a song that I liked anyway.

Lo and behold, the Christmas number one of 2009.

Roman was right.

It turns out, everyone and their mum was fed up of being told what to get people for Christmas. They wanted to inject a bit of anarchy into the charts!

I didn’t dare to hope it could do it. I’m very glad I was wrong.

Catch me tomorrow for something different!

And in case you are behind:
Christmas Tree
Don’t Let the Bell’s End

The writer of this piece got a fancy new haircut.


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