The gladiatorial arena in which music industry heavies butt heads in aid of earning the Christmas number one spot is one that has continuously evolved over the last 60 years, often being a direct reflection of the changes in formation that have taken place over the decades. Alternative Christmas singles have taken a huge rise in stake over the last few years, totally flipping the conventional yuletide affair on its head with bids for the spot from Eminem, Rage Against The Machine and Nirvana. At the same time the music machine known as the Syco has also continuously exerted its own stamp featuring a slew of number ones from Leona Lewis, Matt Cardle and Girls Aloud. It seems to be indicative of a society and a time of year that is becoming evermore polarized as time moves along; Christmas is a time of year that whilst unifying also brings out these very characteristics in the nation - ie. some of us love Xmas, some of us hate it.
Seizing the top spot on Christmas day is seen as a position of prestige for many, but it seems that this may have changed at some point during the last twenty years. In the 60's the Beatles won the race an impressive four times, whilst in the seventies Pink Floyd, Queen and Slade won with their ability to release utter classics, in the 80's Band Aid, Shakin' Stevens and The Human League featured as victors. Each of the songs and bands in questions were without a doubt absolute figurative in the evolution of musical classics, backed by incredible songwriting capabilities founded upon credibility of hugely important musicians. Essentially the battle was fought by musicians of a calibre suitable for the prestige by which the crown was associated and the timeless classics we recieved were abundant, set point and match being Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody blowing the competition out of the water in 1975:
Get to the nineties and things start well with the aforementioned Queen classic winning once again due to a re-release, however succeeding that in 1993 the world said hello to the Mr. Blobby song, followed by East 17 in 1994. The comparison in decades is one that bears no bounds in how catastrophic the downfall in quality is.
But why did the competition change? Well the short answer would be that the invention and introduction of the compact disc was one that changed the nature of how music was bought. By making music much more accessible it was now a fact that the purchase of a Christmas single by and large was now aimed firmly at children, or at young teens/tweens who prior to the '90s were in many regards left out of the charts by the simple nature of the vinyl format being one that a young child couldn't be trusted with. Fast forward to the '80s and the invention of cheaper physical media in tapes through to cd's in the nineties meant that a younger and younger generation now had sway over the charts.
In accordance the game changed drastically, reflected by the vast increase in novelty and manufactured pop records aimed firmly at the demographic now firmly cultivated by 'Smash Hits' magazine. An example of the dominance seen here is exemplified by the fact the Spice Girls succeeded in landing as the victor three times in a row, followed the year after by Bob The Builder. Whilst this change is by no means a bad thing as it exposes a generation to music at a younger age (and let's be honest who didn't like the Spice Girls) it nevertheless has diminished what before was seen as a position of prestige throughout the record industry. The erosion of viability is one created by families purchasing these novelty/manufactured records as presents for the younger members of their family, as opposed to the 30 years prior where they would have bought a record for themselves.
Now we've passed through the '00s a perhaps more disturbing trend has cropped up in the form of the X Factor putting out what by all means can only be defined as the "disposable pop star". In ten years alone Syco have been responsible for a huge six Christmas number ones, albeit each with a different figure of pop. Out of those, two have disappeared pretty much of the face of the earth - anyone remember Leon Jackson? No thought not. Whilst in the past we've seen decades pretty much dominated by certain big figures and rightly so, the latest developement has seen music evolve like fast food: quickly devoured and just as easily shat out.
Accommodating the reality that the X Factor is squarely aimed at the Christmas number one through its date of closing, alongside the winning acts differing drastically each year, two things become abundantly clear: one that the spot is dominated by an increasingly fickle market and two that the spot is no longer as prestigious as it once was.
But funnily enough people are far from not caring about who wins, instead we have seen a wealth of campaigns born out of frustration and in some ways a desire to change the loss of face suffered by having Bob The Builder at number one. The Rage Against The Machine campaign was one that tore through the interwebs like wildfire and the results were amazing, resulting ultimately in the Nirvana campaign this year and all in the name of charity.
So the question would be: is the prestige associated with the spot being revived by the downfall of X Factor and the various campaigns seeking to evoke a passion to reserve the Christmas number one for credible and influential music?