Who will be the Christmas No.1?
Words: Carl Loben
There often doesnât seem to be much âjusticeâ for âreal musicâ fans when it comes to the pop charts â and especially with the Christmas No.1. Invariably the refuge of novelty songs (Mr Blobby, âBob The Builderâ), charity numbers (Band Aid etc) or songs with a Christmas theme by Cliff Richard, notions of quality and taste tend to go out the window completely at Christmas.
In recent years, pop svengali Simon Cowell has dominated the Christmas No.1 slot. The X-Factor winner was given virtually a free run at the top slot from 2005 onwards, with first Shayne Ward, Leona Lewis (2006), and then Leon Jackson (remember him?) and Alexandra Burke scooping poll position with increasingly syrupy schmaltzy ditties until a momentous Facebook campaign in 2009 sent a gigantic âFuck youâ to Cowell, via Rage Against The Machine.
The groundswell of support for âKilling In The Nameâ did puncture Cowellâs assumed invincibility and natural right to claim the Christmas No.1 â especially after he criticised the campaign as âstupidâ and cynicalâ at first. Of course, Joe McElderry claimed No.1 the week after Christmas, and 2010 X-Factor winner Matt Cardle shot straight to the top of the charts again the following year â but something had changed.
Simon Cowell was no longer untouchable, and last year it was the Military Wives with conductor Gareth Malone who claimed the crown. The X-Factor winnerâs single, by girl group Little Mix, had been released the week before the last week before Christmas, and this was the case with James Arthurâs X-Factor single âImpossibleâ this year too.
James Arthur is undoubtedly one of the best contestants to emerge from the popular singing contest, and he reached No.1 last Sunday by selling 490,000 copies of the cover of Shontelleâs 2010 track âImpossibleâ â the fastest selling single of the year. Just to add to reasons to buy it, canny Cowell made the winnerâs single a charity single for the first time as well â with proceeds going to Together For Short Lives, a charity that helps disabled children with life-threatening or life-limiting conditions.
Previously, a selection of X-Factor finalists had recorded a charity single a few weeks before Christmas, with monies going to Help For Heroes or Great Ormond Street Hospital â but the winnerâs single wasnât for charity. Prime Minister David Cameron, a friend of Cowell, signalled that VAT would be waived on this single as a gesture of charitable good will from his Coalition government.
However, with so many pop fans having bought the X-Factor record last week, the road is now clear for a new Christmas No.1. As usual there are a multitude of candidates, with odds rapidly shortening on whatâs being dubbed âthe UKâs âGangnam Styleâ â âOne Pound Fishâ by One Pound Fish Man – taking the crown for kitsch novelty factor. But there should only be one winner.
After members of Liverpool baggy band The Farm, Mick Jones from The Clash and Pete Wylie from The Mighty Wah! played a benefit gig last year, Londoner Jones had the idea of taking the Justice Collective out on tour to raise awareness and funds for the Justice For The 96 Hillsborough campaign. The unifying Justice Tonight benefit gigs claimed the scalp of the first Stone Roses reunion gig â despite the Roses being from Manchester â and other bands like Primal Scream and the Manics played shows, with momentum building in the lead-up to the Hillsborough Inquiry verdict.
When the extent of the cover-up emerged in September, and all 96 Hillsborough dead were exonerated from blame â bringing relief to their campaigning families after 23 years â the whole of football got behind the Justice campaign. At Everton, city rivals to Liverpool, they played âHe Ainât Heavy, Heâs My Brotherâ by The Hollies to mark the occasionâ¦
â¦and this spontaneous non-partisan act forged the basis for the Justice Collectiveâs charity single.
With music figures like Paul McCartney, Holly Johnson from Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Robbie Williams, Shane McGowan from The Pogues, John Power from Cast, Spice Girl Mel C, former X-Factor entrant and proud Liverpudlian Rebecca Ferguson â and even footballers Kenny Dalglish and Alan Hansen â joining the recording process, the record has covered most bases musically. Last weekend, the single was played at most football grounds around the country, with fans of all teams pledging support. After all, it could easily have been their supporters and families caught up in the Hillsborough disaster.
So who will win this Christmas? Charity/awareness, novelty, or the X-Factor again? Will Justice prevail?