21 December 2017 | Live

What happened to the Christmas number one?

A nostalgic look back at the once revered title


Written by Rosie Dodds

It’s Christmas 2017! That means mince pies, that means presents, and of course, that means a new Christmas number one. This week has seen the two favourites - Ed Sheeran and yes you guessed it, Ed Sheeran (as featured in Eminem’s River) - slip and slide around the charts with the thrilling uncertainty of a speeding unicycle while the rest of us look on with bated breath. But on a more serious note, does anyone actually really care about the Christmas number one anymore?

Once upon a time, when artists gave us tracks like Slade’s Merry Christmas Everybody and Mud’s Lonely This Christmas, maybe the Christmas number one did matter. There was the infamous battle between Band Aid and Wham!, the nail-biting skirmish between John Lennon and St. Winifred’s School Choir, and the exhilarating usurpation of Joe McElderry by Rage Against the Machine. But now, what used to be an anticipated tradition has been watered down to dreary pop and recycled hits.

"What used to be an anticipated tradition has been watered down to dreary pop and recycled hits."

On a brighter note, Last Christmas is also in the running this year, and it wouldn’t be awful if it won considering the fact that it’s the biggest selling Christmas single that hasn’t made it to number one, and it’s resurgence is in honour of the late George Michael. But then Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas is also in the mix which, in all honesty, is just a bit lazy really. Where’s the protest vote when you need it? Where are all the new Christmas songs?

Arguably the Christmas number one hasn’t been the same since the population became obsessed with reality TV shows in 2002, the year that Sound of the Underground took the crown after Girls Aloud won ITV’s Popstars: The Rivals, and the charts were subsequently dominated by the annual serving of pop infused drivel courtesy of The X Factor (which coincidentally has suffered a similar decline recently). The outlook is bleak and the evidence is blinding; have we even had a decent Christmas number one in the new millennium?

Perhaps we can’t make Christmas songs like we used to, or perhaps pop has just gone in a different direction in recent years. I mean, you can give Sia’s new album, Everyday is Christmas, a go, but that’s not exactly a crowd pleaser is it? And don’t even bother mentioning Ariana Grande’s Wit It This Christmas.

Maybe Wham! will end up nabbing the top spot, and I really hope they do. But even if Last Christmas manages to knock Ed off his festive pedestal, there’s no diverting anyone’s attention away from the fact that the Christmas number one doesn’t really hold any weight anymore. Odds on Mans Not Hot anyone?