The Christmas Number One single has become something of an institution in the UK and Ireland, and each year various musicians release songs just in time to try and grab the coveted number one slot in the week of Christmas. It is also a hugely popular novelty betting market, and one which has been dominated in recent years by the X Factor. The popular TV show reaches its climax just in time for the winner to release a Christmas single, as they launch a career with Simon Cowell’s record company. The bookies are quoting the ‘X Factor Winner’ at odds-on to take top spot again this year, but that opens up the market for anyone who fancies taking them on, and there is good reason to do so with the Peace Collective.
Reality TV influence
Reality TV in general has had a huge influence over the Christmas Number One since 2002, when Popstars: The Rivals released three singles in an assault on the top spot, which resulted in Girls Allowed winning with ‘Sound of the Underground‘. From 2005 to 2010 the X Factor winner was responsible for five of the six winners, interrupted only by Rage Against the Machine’s ‘Killing in the Name‘ in 2009. That was the result of a fierce online campaign to oust X Factor from the number one spot, and saw the track gain the most download sales in a single week in UK music history. Similar campaigns for Biffy Clyro, John Cage, and the Trashmen were unsuccessful the following year and normal service was resumed with Matt Cardle winning it for X Factor again with ‘When we Collide’.
Charity singles were all the rage in the following two years, with Military Wives and Gareth Gates claiming the number one in 2011, with ‘Wherever You Are’. The Justice Collective took top spot in 2012 with ‘He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother’, in support of various charities associated with the Hillborough disaster. X Factor reigned again last year as the 2013 winner, Sam Bailey, took the Christmas number one with ‘Skyscraper’. Novelty songs, such as Mr. Blobby and Bob the Builder, seem to have been a ’90’s phenomenon, and thankfully, have drifted into the abyss.
This Year’s Tracks
X Factor Winner – -225 with Bwin
Such has been the dominance of X Factor over recent years, the bookies go odds-on that this year’s winning act will successfully take the Christmas Number One. It’s an understandable stance to take – X Factor is geared towards giving the winner a shot at the top spot, and the publicity that surrounds the show gives them an excellent chance. It doesn’t really even matter who wins or what the song is, as there will be hordes of people ready to go out and buy it after following the show for so many months.
There are currently five acts left in the competition – Fleur East, Andrea Faustini, Ben Haenow, Lauren Platt, and the group Stereo Kicks. Fleur East is now odds-on favourite to win the show, so if you fancy the X Factor winner to get Christmas number one, another angle is to back Fleur East for the festive top spot with Ladbrokes who go +163 on the female soloist.
This is the fourth official version of Band Aid’s ‘Do they Know its Christmas’, and each of the other three have been Christmas Number One (in 1984, 1989, and 2004), so it has to be a serious contender this time around. Bob Geldof’s festive track draws on the singing talents and popular appeal of Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith, One Direction, and many other huge popstars to raise money to help with the Ebola crisis in West Africa. Clearly in the past this has been a hugely successful fund-raiser, but in today’s social media-driven world it has been on the end of some highly public criticism, for the way the lyrics and the song represent Africa. Without getting too political, some high-profile people have pointed out that by reinforcing the ‘western image’ of Africa with hard-hitting footage, it can have a negative effect on growing African economies – the economies that are seeking investment and tourism from the West. Whatever your stance on that particular argument, it may be that the Band Aid model for charity is outdated, and that could affect sales this time around.
The other charity single in contention this year is Peace Collective’s version of The Farm’s ‘Altogether Now’. The single draws together musicians such as The Proclaimers, John Power, and The Farm, to re-record the song for the 100-year anniversary of the Christmas Day Truce, when soldiers on both sides in the First World War took to no-mans land for an impromptu game of football. All profits will go to the British Red Cross and the Shorncliffe Trust, and with military-related releases always receiving plenty of public support, it is a lively outsider. The 2011 Christmas Number One was ‘Wherever You Are’ by the Military Wives, while the Justice Collective won in 2012 in support of the Hillsborough campaign.
Beyond those front three in the betting, it’s +2500 and upwards on a number of different stars, such as Pharrell Williams, Katy Perry, Bruno Mars, and One Direction, but if recent history is anything to go by, the number one will come from the X Factor or one of the charity songs. After dominating in the late 2000’s X Factor has only given us the winner of two of the last 5 Christmas Number One’s, and with two high-profile charity singles in opposition, the odds look far too short to consider. Band Aid has been Number One each of the three times it has been released previously, and would probably be an excellent bet, were it not to be for the Peace Collective. At such large odds, on the 100-year anniversary of the Christmas Day Truce, and with the backing of the military demographic, it has every chance at a much better price.
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