A Christmas No. 1 has the capacity to become ingrained in popular festive culture, even if the song itself has nothing to do with Christmas. In recent years, the December charts have been dominated by reality show winners rather than songs brimming with Christmas spirit. Almost all of the Christmas classics were released decades ago, so you could be forgiven for wondering if there will ever be another great festive song to add to the Christmas collection.
With Ariana Grande’s powerhouse single ‘thank u, next’ expected to continue its domination of the Official Charts this Christmas, people will have to wait a little bit longer for another chart-topping festive single. Betway undertook the considerable task of analysing every UK Christmas No.1 in chart history, uncovering that just 18% of those chart-toppers have actually been about Christmas.
Band Aid the last to carry the festive torch
The most recent UK Christmas No. 1 to have a Christmas theme was Band Aid 20’s 2004 cover of ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’, with the original 1984 version the best-selling Christmas No. 1 of all time having sold 3.8 million copies. Only Cliff Richard’s ‘Saviour’s Day’ brought festivities to the top of the charts in the 90s, as not even Mariah Carey’s 1994 hit ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ reached number 1.
The Independent have even called it the last great Christmas song to be written, yet Carey’s Christmas-themed classic was pipped by East 17’s ‘Stay Another Day’ in the charts. The latter has been adopted as a Christmas anthem, despite tackling the general theme of heartbreak. ‘Stay Another Day’ has become far more synonymous with Christmas than ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, despite the Queen classic achieving the accolade of Christmas No. 1 in both 1975 and 1991.
Bohemian Rhapsody an unlikely festive favourite
With 2.5 million sales, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is the second best-selling Christmas No. 1. Its success has been further boosted by the release of the film of the same name, with NBC reporting how the song has amassed over 1.6 billion streams to become the most popular song this century. Yet, it hardly evokes feelings of Christmas.
It is remarkable to consider that ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ reached No. 1 twice when some of the most popular Christmas tunes failed to reach the summit once. The Pogues and Kirsty McColl’s ‘Fairytale of New York’ has reached the top 20 on 15 occasions, while Wham’s ‘Last Christmas’ had the misfortune of being released in the same year as the original Band Aid.
Perhaps it is wiser to aim for Christmas No. 1 by aiming to simply produce a good song rather than anything overtly festive. That was certainly the intention of reality stars this century, securing 8 out of 13 No. 1s between 2002 and 2014. However, few of those live long in the memory. Maybe all of the best Christmas songs have already been written and repeatedly covered; it would seemingly take a Christmas miracle for a new festive hit to top the charts this year.