Ever since the United Kingdom Singles Chart began in 1952, the race to be ranked number one, by sales of singles, during Christmas week has always been hotly contested. Music sales traditionally peak during the festive period as people by singles for their friends, family and loved ones and it is often the case that the single that is given the title of Christmas number one is the best-selling single of the year. It took until 1973 until a real battle for the Christmas number one spot broke out. Glam rock bands Slade and Wizzard purposely released festive songs at the same time in an effort to be crowned kings of Christmas. When the sales were tallied, Slade’s “Merry Xmas Everybody” beat Wizzard’s “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday.”
More recently, since the year 2002 onwards, the winner of the Christmas number one title has been dominated by the winner of reality television shows, such as Popstars: The Rivals and The X Factor. Girls Aloud, winners of Popstars: The Rivals in 2002, released “Sound of the Underground” which went straight in at number one at Christmas. Winners of The X Factor, however, have dominated in recent times.
From 2005 to 2008, 2010 and 2013 to 2014, the winners of The X Factor claimed the coveted number one spot. When Leon Jackson released “When You Believe” in 2007, British bookmakers stopped taking bets on it becoming number one and instead took wagers from punters on the Christmas number two. In 2009, a campaign to stop winners of The X Factor dominating the Christmas number one was run in an attempt to get Rage Against the Machine to number one. The group re-released their 1992 single “Killing in the Name” as a download-only single. Not only did it outsell Joe McElderry, it became the most downloaded single in UK chart history, much to the annoyance of Simon Cowell, the lead judge of The X Factor.
The current holder of the Christmas number one title is Clean Bandit featuring Sean Paul and Anne-Marie with the single “Rockabye.” It spent six weeks at number one, including the week that Christmas Day fell on, and became the first song that was not from a reality TV star or a charity to top the Christmas charts since 2003. The Beatles hold the record for Christmas number ones with four. They topped the festive charts in 1963 (I Want to Hold Your Hand), 1964 (I Feel Fine), 1965 (Day Tripper / We Can Work It Out) and 1967 (Hello, Goodbye). Liverpool’s “Fab Four” have also enjoyed being Christmas number one and two twice, in 1963 and 1967; they are the only act to have achieved this. The late George Michael was number one and number two in 1984 as he was part of Wham! And Band Aid, with the latter reaching number one.
Other records include Cliff Richard being Christmas number one four times; twice as a solo act, once part of Band Aid II and one with The Shadows. The Spice Girls equalled The Beatles’ record of three consecutive Christmas number ones in 1996 through to 1998, with Spice Girls member Melanie C reaching number one for a fourth time in 2012 as a member of The Justice Collective. Who do you think will be Christmas number one in the United Kingdom for 2017?