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ChristmasEve201
post Dec 16 2014, 01:03 PM
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What happened to the Christmas hit single?
By Simon Hattenstone
The Guardian, Tuesday 16 December 2014



Seasonal pop songs were hits throughout the 70s. Did capitalism kill them off? Or was it Simon Cowell

A poignant moment on Monday’s Today programme as Justin Webb interviewed Britain’s greatest Brummie, Roy Wood – writer and producer of I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday – about the decline of the Christmas single. They were old-man-ing it together – about how times aren’t what they were, how you don’t get a decent Christmas record these days, about the fact that pop stars often don’t profit from downloads – when Webb suggested that you do still occasionally get a decent Christmas record. “There are some recent ones, I suppose Mariah Carey was more recent,” he said. If 20 years is recent, fair enough: All I Want For Christmas Is You qualifies as a recent Christmas hit.

Pop songs defined Christmas when I was growing up. The first I heard was John and Yoko’s Happy Christmas War Is Over. I taped it, and played it forever. It wasn’t just the bells and the Harlem Community Choir and Lennon’s lingering voice, it was the sentiment – as a nine-year-old I thought those simple five words were the most beautiful ever. People didn’t really do irony back then. Idealism was A-OK.

Christmas hits go back to 1952 and White Christmas (the best-selling single of all time). In the 1960s Elvis gave us yuletide joy in the form of Blue Christmas and If Every Day Was Like Christmas, while the recently departed Dora Bryan made the top 20 in 1963 with All I Want For Christmas Is a Beatle.

But the Christmas hit single peaked in the 1970s, when virtually every year had a defining song. In 1973, it was Slade’s Merry Christmas Everybody; 1974 saw Mud’s Lonely This Christmas; 1975, let’s hear it for Greg Lake’s I Believe In Father Christmas; 1976, well, hello there Johnny Mathis and When a Child Is Born; 1978 had Boney M’s Mary’s Boy Child; and wrapping up the decade was Paul McCartney’s Wonderful Christmas Time – and the first festive rap, Kurtis Blow’s Christmas Rappin’ (“Now I’m the guy named Kurtis Blow / and Christmas is one thing I know / so every year just about this time / I celebrate it with a rhyme”).

In my view, the greatest Christmas hit of all was 1987’s Fairytale of New York by The Pogues with Kirsty McColl. Neither cheesy nor inane, it defied every naff stereotype – a riot of drunken loucheness, dodgy policing, foul-mouthed insults, thwarted hopes and botched love.

There were other monster hits, of course – Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas being the most monstrous of all. But despite the best efforts of Cliff Richard, Andy Abraham and Mr Blobby, the traditional Christmas hit has become the exception rather than the rule.

These days, the Christmas songs piped through shops and malls are the familiar classics of yesteryear. Indeed one radio station gives itself over entirely to Christmas songs at this time of year. It’s one long wallow in the past – a kind of Groundhog Christmas Day.

What has changed? Follow the money. Roy Wood told Today that even in their heyday, Christmas songs had a touch of the Samuel Becketts about them – born astride the grave, they were rung out once the new year was rung in. There were exceptions, but record companies decided they were too ephemeral to justify the investment.

And perhaps there has been a bigger cultural change. Though Christianity itself has waned, we celebrate Christmas as excessively as we used to. But maybe there has been a collective loss of innocence. Perhaps pop stars are simply too arch or self-conscious to write from the heart about their dreams of a white Christmas; with everybody having fun and Santa bringing that sleigh all along the Milky Way. Or about war being over.

Maybe it is capitalism that has killed off the Christmas single – in the shape of Simon Cowell. For the svengali of mediocrity decreed that every year would culminate in the release of a single from the winner of his X Factor, and that this contribution to the lexicon would dutifully top the charts. And so it has come to pass that we have been blessed with Shayne Ward, Leon Jackson, Matt Cardle, Sam Bailey, and doubtless this year’s X Factor winner Ben Haenow.

There has been the odd refreshing exception to this distressing trend – notably the anti-X Factor Killing In the Name by Rage Against The Machine in 2009. And this year there is hope that Cowell may be knocked off his Christmas perch by a song both traditional and festive. Well, sort of traditional. Hammer Horror hero Christopher Lee, now 92, has released his heavy metal version of Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. Darkest Carols, Faithful Sing, is 66-1 for number one this Christmas. Haenow is the 1-7 odds-on favourite. Still, Christmas is a time of miracles.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2...0s-simon-cowell
Reason for edit: Added full article
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fiesta
post Dec 16 2014, 01:23 PM
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Leona Lewis had a xmas single out last year, however it wasnt as good as Mariah Carey, Slade, Wizzard etc
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dancember
post Dec 16 2014, 01:27 PM
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yeah, unfortunately the Christmas chart isn't that exciting because it's always either a charity record or X Factor winners single that goes to #1, and has been for the last 10 years (2009 aside). Ben Haenow will be the 7th X Factor related Xmas #1, that is some serious domination. I do wonder if there'll ever be a time when an XF winning single doesn't go to #1, could potentially happen if we get another Sam Bailey type winner along with poor ratings for the show.
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ChristmasEve201
post Dec 16 2014, 01:47 PM
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The Military Wives went to No1 too ahead of a 2nd week LM i think. But yeh XF does dominate although i think the XF No1 are plateuing(spelling) now and eventually record companies will start to release on xmas week more seriously again esp as album sales fall and stremaing takes over downloads.

This post has been edited by steve201: Dec 16 2014, 01:48 PM
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zenon
post Dec 16 2014, 01:50 PM
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I sense another serious campaign tune within a couple of years if X Factor continues to dominate the festive summit.
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ChristmasEve201
post Dec 16 2014, 01:52 PM
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I think the era of campaigns is over now unless they find pne to capture the publics imagination.

The Rage year was my fav xmas No1 race ever - the itunes thread broke 50 pages laugh.gif
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April
post Dec 16 2014, 02:08 PM
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It's a shame Leona didn't make Christmas #1 last year, it would've been a nice change to have a Christmas song at #1 on Christmas week. Hopefully "Uptown Funk" manages to overcome X Factor this year - it's time for a change from the X Factor #1s.
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N-S
post Dec 16 2014, 04:31 PM
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James Masterton covered the issue in his blog last year:

http://www.masterton.co.uk/2013/12/top-of-the-new-year-pops/
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t=SpunderfulXmas
post Dec 16 2014, 04:52 PM
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I agree the closest proper xmas 'classic' modern has to be Leona. I'm talking about re-entering songs every year which XF etc. doesn't do.
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Paramore
post Dec 16 2014, 06:49 PM
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It was ruined when it became a talent show victory parade, he couldn't set the final back to the Saturday before Christmas and get the slot after Christmas?

No one bothers to release because of it. 15 years ago we'd have 6-8 new entries, you'd have joke entries, you'd have the biggest bands releasing something. Not anymore.


This post has been edited by Paramore: Dec 16 2014, 06:50 PM
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James1987
post Dec 16 2014, 07:07 PM
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The last great Xmas chart battle I remember was back in 2003 where we had 6 new entries in the top 10 and it was between The Darkness and Gary Jules...even though one of those new entries was a Pop Idol single that thankfully flopped after the sacrilege that was covering Happy Xmas (War Is Over)!

I guess the main reason big artists don't release Christmas singles anymore is down to the fact that they'd only be in the charts for 4-5 weeks and then crash out of the charts so limiting the amount of money record companies could make.

And let's not forget, Cowell might have had 6 (7 on Sunday rolleyes.gif ) but there were 2 years where he was defeated so it proves its possible but it needs to happen more often! I'd rather see a charity single get to number one over X Factor which is why I'm gutted that The Peace Collective track isn't doing better sad.gif
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Suedehead2
post Dec 16 2014, 09:01 PM
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QUOTE(Paramore @ Dec 16 2014, 06:49 PM) *
It was ruined when it became a talent show victory parade, he couldn't set the final back to the Saturday before Christmas and get the slot after Christmas?

No one bothers to release because of it. 15 years ago we'd have 6-8 new entries, you'd have joke entries, you'd have the biggest bands releasing something. Not anymore.


I can't see that happening unless physical sales fall significantly. At the moment, having the final on the Saturday before Christmas could mean there are only two or three days' worth of physical sales in the first week.

QUOTE(James1987 @ Dec 16 2014, 07:07 PM) *
The last great Xmas chart battle I remember was back in 2003 where we had 6 new entries in the top 10 and it was between The Darkness and Gary Jules...even though one of those new entries was a Pop Idol single that thankfully flopped after the sacrilege that was covering Happy Xmas (War Is Over)!

I guess the main reason big artists don't release Christmas singles anymore is down to the fact that they'd only be in the charts for 4-5 weeks and then crash out of the charts so limiting the amount of money record companies could make.

And let's not forget, Cowell might have had 6 (7 on Sunday rolleyes.gif ) but there were 2 years where he was defeated so it proves its possible but it needs to happen more often! I'd rather see a charity single get to number one over X Factor which is why I'm gutted that The Peace Collective track isn't doing better sad.gif


The point about the limited chart life is raised in the article. However, if a Christmas song is good enough, it could continue to pick up sales in subsequent years.
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slowdown73
post Dec 16 2014, 09:30 PM
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I'm convinced the x factor will come to an end in the next few years. Ratings are falling every year and I think a lot of people are getting fed up with it. However, there haven't been many good Christmas singles out in the past 10 years. The exceptions would Leona Lewis and the Darkness.
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Paramore
post Dec 16 2014, 10:53 PM
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QUOTE(slowdown73 @ Dec 16 2014, 09:30 PM) *
I'm convinced the x factor will come to an end in the next few years. Ratings are falling every year and I think a lot of people are getting fed up with it. However, there haven't been many good Christmas singles out in the past 10 years. The exceptions would Leona Lewis and the Darkness.


That is a chicken/egg scenario. Christmas songs are beaten by x factor covers constantly, why put money into great christmas tracks? No great christmas tracks, no chance at beating Cowell.

Its not just christmas songs either its big ballads like Stay another Day, Heartbeat and The Power of Love, put some bells on it, some snow and presents in the vid and put it out Christmas week. You get media exposure as a contender in the battle for the big number 1 and big play in the 4 weeks previous.Its a marketing move in the short term.
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post Dec 16 2014, 11:22 PM
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QUOTE(slowdown73 @ Dec 16 2014, 09:30 PM) *
there haven't been many good Christmas singles out in the past 10 years. The exceptions would Leona Lewis and the Darkness.


That's certainly debatable. drama.gif
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ChristmasEve201
post Dec 16 2014, 11:23 PM
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QUOTE(N-S @ Dec 16 2014, 04:31 PM) *
James Masterton covered the issue in his blog last year:

http://www.masterton.co.uk/2013/12/top-of-the-new-year-pops/


Thanks for the link I thoroughly enjoyed reading a few articles on there - ESP the bit about Band Aid being the fav at the bookies as XMas No1 in 1985 as well.
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slowdown73
post Dec 17 2014, 01:08 AM
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QUOTE(Paramore @ Dec 16 2014, 10:53 PM) *
That is a chicken/egg scenario. Christmas songs are beaten by x factor covers constantly, why put money into great christmas tracks? No great christmas tracks, no chance at beating Cowell.

Its not just christmas songs either its big ballads like Stay another Day, Heartbeat and The Power of Love, put some bells on it, some snow and presents in the vid and put it out Christmas week. You get media exposure as a contender in the battle for the big number 1 and big play in the 4 weeks previous.Its a marketing move in the short term.


There haven't excatly been many 'great' Christmas songs to give Cowell and his crappy x factor cover versions a run for their money. And its not just about coming first place in the charts. Some of the best Christmas songs haven't made no1. X factor continues to dominate the charts (although to a lesser extent than a few years ago) because people keep supporting it but if there was a decent alternative then it might be different.


This post has been edited by slowdown73: Dec 17 2014, 01:10 AM
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fchd
post Dec 17 2014, 07:11 AM
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QUOTE(Suedehead2 @ Dec 16 2014, 09:01 PM) *
The point about the limited chart life is raised in the article. However, if a Christmas song is good enough, it could continue to pick up sales in subsequent years.


Perhaps Union J ought to do one next year, they're used to songs with limited chart lifes.
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andibob
post Dec 17 2014, 07:40 AM
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I think One More Sleep is an excellent example of a good modern Christmas song which she will hopefully embrace and we will see return year on year. It didn't get to number one but I don't feel we need the number one to be Christmassy - just that they are present in the chart. A few have tried previously like The Feeling and The Killers but none seem to be lasting is the issue.

For me, I miss the race to the top. It was exciting. There were always big releases around Christmas that, whilst not Christmas songs, tried to capture the spirit of the season. Unfortunately the last race was Joe vs. Rage with what I think is actually the worse Christmas number one in recent times. I'm sorry but the song doesn't scream festive and happy does it?!
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ChristmasEve201
post Dec 17 2014, 12:35 PM
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The Feeling Feels Like Christmas sounds so good this year after not hearing it in a while!
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