Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Who will get the 2011 Christmas number one?

It's almost time for the yearly tradition that is the battle for the UK xmas number one single. For five of the last six years the winner of X Factor has taken the title with only Joe McElderry's The Climb failing to do so in 2009 due to a successful anti X Factor campaign that saw Rage Against The Machine's Killing In The Name top the charts, selling half a million copies in a week in the process. This year it's all looking very different - nowhere near as much a foregone conclusion as usual. In my mind there are three genuine contenders but before I get to those, I'll list some of the other outsiders.

Amongst the bookies tips for the top are the Cast of The Only Way is Essex with their cover of Wham!'s Last Christmas and X Factor 2009 finalist and I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! winner Stacey Solomon's long awaited debut single, a cover of Chris Rea's Driving Home For Christmas. I very much doubt that either of these will go anywhere near the top, and will probably be lucky to be more than a one or two week wonder in the top 40. Highly tipped singles from Arianna Morgan, The Smiths, The Wombles and Chas 'N' Dave will also go nowhere. And you have to wonder why these acts have such short odds when acts and songs that are currently in the iTunes top five as I write - Coldplay's Paradise, Leona Lewis' cover of Nine Inch Nails' Hurt and Olly Murs' Dance With Me Tonight all have odds as long as 100/1. They're long shots up against the three main contenders but all three surely have more of a chance than The Wombles and Stacey Solomon...

But three contenders have come to the front of the pack in the race to claim the 2011 Xmas #1;

Nirvana - Smells Like Teen Spirit

Nirvana's iconic grunge anthem Smells Like Teen Spirit, which thus far shockingly only has a UK peak position of #7, has been chosen as the front running anti X Factor campaign this year. The Rage Against The Machine group worked in 2009 because it was the first time that the idea had been tried, there was a media frenzy which led to huge sales and almost a million members of the Facebook group, of which it was estimated less than 50% ended up ultimately downloading the song. Nevertheless it managed to top Joe McElderry by around 50,000 sales - many of these thought to be the same people buying multiple versions of the song. The idea was tried again last year with Surfin' Bird by The Trashmen. That went to #3 with around 60,000 sales with X Factor's 2010 winner Matt Cardle absolutely thrashing them with When We Collide.

The Nirvana group has so far got 130,000 or so 'fans', assuming a conversion rate of 50% at absolute best then this should translate to a sale of around 60,000-70,000 copies, which won't be anywhere near enough to get it the Christmas #1. An idea that's been tried, tested and achieved before, to attempt it for a third year on the trot rather dilutes the impact of the successful 2009 campaign. It will do well but I don't see it being a realistic contender for the top and I expect Smells Like Teen Spirit to be #3 at best in the Christmas chart. Kudos for whoever chose the charity that proceeds raised will go to though - Rhythmix, the children's charity that battled to get the X Factor girl group to successfully change their name to Little Mix...

Little Mix - Cannonball

...And so then to Little Mix, who were crowned winner's of X Factor at the weekend, the first ever group to win the competition. Put together by the judges in boot camp and mentored by N-Dubz singer Tulisa, the group - consisting of Perrie, Jesy, Leigh-Anne and Jade - has built up a fanbase that has grown througout the competition until they eventually became the most popular act, winning both the semi final and obviously the final. It was in fact Irish singer Janet Devlin that had led the voting for the majority of the series, until a dire performance of Hanson's Mmmbop put her into the bottom two for the first time with the judges wasting no time to send her home. You suspect that Cannonball, the winner's single and thus Little Mix's debut release, was in fact chosen for the winner when Janet was comprehensively leading and expected to win the competition. The Damien Rice song would have suited her vocals and persona a lot more than a girl group who were becoming known for their more contemporary edge.

Nevertheless, they won and were lumbered with this as their debut single (it's a pleasant version of a pleasant song but it's no Sound of the Underground is it!). It went on sale late on Sunday night and has so far managed to shift over 60,000 copies. This is way below the opening sale that Matt Cardle's When We Collide managed last year and even with CD sales in the mix (no pun intended!), it looks as if Cannonball will open with a sale of under 300,000 copies, a direct reflection of the fact that the girls were never absolute favourites from the start in the way that Matt was twinned with the fact that the show has had far lower ratings this year. For the first time, the winner's single has been released a week earlier than usual which means that Cannonball could be on course for a Christmas/second week sale of around 150,000 copies at best - which is easily beatable, perhaps not by Nirvana but certainly by another unknown quantity...

Military Wives with Gareth Malone - Wherever You Are

And to my tip for Christmas #1 - a choir brought together for a BBC2 TV show by choirmaster and presenter Gareth Malone. The choir consists of around 100 women whose husbands are out serving their country in Afghanistan and next week they will be releasing a song called Wherever You Are, an original composition by Welsh composer Paul Mealor with lyrics taken from some of the letters sent between the wives and their husbands. The collective have already performed the song live on Strictly Come Dancing and the CD single has become online retailer Amazon's biggest ever pre-ordered music item. Whether it will be downloaded in such quantities remains to be seen but huge demand very much seems to be present for this song and I expect that it will do big business both digitially and physically.

It should easily get past the 150,000 or so second week tally expected of Little Mix and will almost certainly be the first Christmas #1 since 2004's Band Aid 20 that isn't X Factor related in any way, be it the winner's of the show or a campaign against it. It's a wintery sounding, haunting and touching song which is delivered beautifully by the lead vocalist, shy Scottish 28 year old Samantha Stevenson. Perhaps not an obvious contender for Christmas chart topper considering some of the songs that have topped the festive listings in the past but this does look like the one to beat at the moment. Anybody keen to see X Factor miss out this year might as well move their attention from Nirvana over to this, as it's definitely the one to beat.


  1. mate no disrespect to you ,,,military wives choir will do it on sentiment which we all support ,,But on singing your having a laugh,nirvana is a rage again against x-factor and not somthing you would not listen to on x-mas day,please tell us who out there right now in the top 10 in the betting can actually carry a tune and sing?id really love to hear your views,its not about singing or great vocalists anymore ,christmas num1 has become britains got talent of the radio and theres only a few artists there that can actually carry a tune and that includes a 10 yr old,

  2. Xmas #1 has always been more about whipping up hype than 'carrying a tune', it's silly season in the charts and a time for novelty songs and OTT wintery sounding songs - Mr Blobby, Bob The Builder, Westlife, Cliff Richard, Robbie and Nicole etc...

    The bookies odds beneath the top three are ridiculous anyway, aside from Little Mix, Nirvana and Military Wives none of the tipped acts will be anywhere near the top ten, let alone #1. The xmas #1 is more often than not about the most hype, the best promo campaign and the best media coverage, rarely is it ever about the quality of the song and/or vocalist.

    Smells Like Teen Spirit is also a strange choice for anti X Factor song as it's pretty much one of the most popular and recognisable songs of all time, and actually quite accessible to mainstream audiences, whereas Rage was the absolute polar opposite and therefore perfect antidote to Joe.

    A death metal record would have been more effective, Smells Like Teen Spirit has become a product of mass consumption over the past 20 years, it's iconic, it's adored by the masses and it's used just about everywhere, it was even sung by a contestant on X Factor Australia live finals earlier in the year! I can't imagine that Killing In The Name would ever make it past the producers!

  3. Hi Richard, I'm Griff from Buzzjack :D

    Completely agree with almost everything you say - TOWIE and Stacy Solomon will definitely make the Top 20 imo though - Coldplay and Olly Murs will probably be the other two records that will make up the Xmas 2011 Top 5 - Smells Like Teen Spirit is a stupid choice for the campaign - too well known and no one gives a shit about these campaigns anymore!

  4. Hi Griff

    Oh yeah I'm sure they will, top 20 peaks for those two probabaly but I also think that they'll drop out after a week or two - well they obviously will as they're both xmas songs which only have a limited shelf life - should have both been released earlier!

    I agree completely about Smells Like Teen Spirit, it's nothing more than a glorified 'get Nirvana a higher chart peak' campaign in my opinion. It's been successfully proven that the public can overcome X Factor if they want to so why bother trying to prove it again and again? The impact of the winner's single is getting less and less with each passing year and they'll fade out naturally eventually...an artificial chart spike for a randomly chosen song isn't going to change anything in the grand scheme of things.

  5. The Nirvana campaign was born out of the disgraceful way that Syco treated the vulnerable young person's charity Rhythmix and Smells Like Teen Spirit was chosen for a number of valid reasons. The first being that it is a relevant song choice given that the charity helps a great many teenagers and secondly Kurt Cobain was himself a vulnerable young adult due to his metal health problems. I hardly think 'Rape Me' would have been given much airtime do you? The campaign aims to help raise as much money for the charity as possible and maybe it won't make number 1 given the huge MWC pre order sales but it is doing a damn good job raising awareness for the charity don't you think?

    As for your the prediction that Nirvana will sell maybe only 60000, I seriously suggest that you times that by 7 as there may only be circa 132000 likes on the Facebook page but that is gaining momentum and is actually in a far better position numbers wise than the RAGE campaign was at the same time of year in 2009. Feel free to check that with Jon Morter the man behind the RAGE campaign who has come on board and is driving the campaign forward in the media. Expect those figures to shoot up dramatically :)

    I do wonder though what the Official chart will do about all the multibuying of copies of the one only MWC version that is available for download or cd purchase? Technically if you buy 6 copies only one of those purchases counts unless you gift the others. Having viewed the MWC FB page it looks like all those fans buying 6 at a time are breaking the rules and that should affect chart placings. On the upside it's fantastic in that it will raise lots more money for the charity.

    Personally I would be happy to see either a MWC or a Nirvana entry knocking Crap Factor off the top spot as both are very worthwhile causes.

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  7. I can see many of your points, and I hadn't read the whole reasoning behind Rhythmix being chosen so that's fair enough. It does give more of a message and reasoning for the campaign.

    You think Smells Like Teen Spirit will sell 420,000 copies next week? I'll happily be proven wrong and perhaps 60,000-70,000 is too low an estimate but I think that's ridiculously high. We'll see what happens next week though. I might revise my estimate to 100k. The thing with the Rage 'like' numbers shooting up in the final week is that it was a do or die situation - it was support Rage or X Factor will get it again. This time, if you don't support Nirvana then X Factor probably won't get it anyway, so this campaign won't see anywhere NEAR the xmas week surge in supporters that Rage got.

    The OCC found a way around the multibuying of the Rage single - I bought it about 8 times in 2009 although 5 of those were from some free loophole download site that was apparently chart eligible. I expect all of those sales were disqualified and only the paid ones from iTunes/Amazon etc... counted. Rage would have sold closer to a million copies that week I reckon had every single 'purchase' been counted.

    People will mulitbuy MWC just as they did Elton John's Candle In The Wind in 1997, and indeed give it to people as a gift but if they buy more than one per transaction then only one will count towards the chart. As far as people downloading it five times, as long as they do it from alternative platforms then they'll count - likewise Nirvana though, I'm pretty sure that there'll be a hefty amount of multibuying going on there too, but as long as people wise up about the loopholes around the chart rules then they'll have all of their sales counted.

    But yes, the bottom line is that a lot of money will be raised for two worthy causes and that should be commended.

  8. Very interesting read. Can someone clarify what Cowell/X-factor did to Rhythmix (charity) that was so disgraceful?

    Don't get me wrong, I'm no Cowell fan - just interested to know the full story. As far as I was aware the facts were:

    X-factor names group Rhythmix. (probably completely unaware of charity)
    Rhythmix charity challenges infringement of its trademark successfully.
    Group changes name to Little Mix.
    Cowell donates undisclosed sum to Rhythmix.
    Loads of people now know about Rhythmix charity who have gained excellent publicity.

    Not sure why we are supposed to think the charity has suffered from this at all?

    Again - not having a go or in any way a fan of Cowell but just trying to understand the facts here as there must be something I am missing.

  9. Cowell told the band to 'Get a lawyer' You missed that.

    As for military wives? I doubt it. Yeah the cause is good, but actually donate to Help The Heroes if you must!

    Nirvana all the way!

  10. I live in Brighton and Rhythmix is a Brighton based charity and even I had never heard of it, so I highly doubt that X Factor would have, although granted it wouldn't have hurt them to do some research and the way they went about it was a little heartless initially having read up on it fully now. Still, as mentioned above - they have benefitted hugely from the publicity and Simon Cowell's donation and are continuing to do so, good has come from a bad situation for them. I wonder if a spokesperson from the charity has commented on the Nirvana campaign? I expect it would be in bad taste to do so as it might look like they're holding a grudge against Cowell/X Factor, and god knows they don't need any bad press at this stage.

    People could donate to Help The Heroes just as they could donate to Rhythmix. I seriously think that the majority of people buying 'charity singles' are buying them because of the sentiment and/or star power behind them as opposed to the actual matter of money going to charity, as it often isn't much at all when everything is taken into account. Even if the proceeds of the Military Wives song weren't being donated to charity (which granted would be unlikely considering the lyrics/origin of the song), I still think that it would be huge as the public have connected with the wives through the TV show The Voice, just as Little Mix's fans connected to them through X Factor.

    I'll be buying Military Wives song next week and would have done regardless of whether proceeds were going to charity or not as I like the song personally. I'm guessing a lot of its buyers will be in the same boat - the money going to charity is the icing on the cake but I would never buy a charity single that I don't like - and I donate plenty to charity in other ways be it collection boxes or giving goods to charity shops so don't feel the need to do so through buying music where a tiny proportion of the sale price goes to the charity!

  11. In my opinion the Nirvana campaign has completely missed a trick....

    If they had targeted people to download the track THIS week (i.e. release week for Little Mix) rather than next then:

    a) the campaign would probably have generated more publicity and sales instead of being drowned out by the Military Wives who are getting all the attention leading to Christmas week

    b) between Nirvana and Military Wives they could have prevented X-factor getting to number one AT ALL this year as they could have sewn up the two key sales weeks. Not even Rage managed that as Joe McM got to number one the week after Christmas

    They could have made this decision about a month ago when it became clear Military Wives were building up a head of steam.

    But as it is the news etc will show little/no interest in Nirvana next week as Military Wives will be 'the story'. I would therefore guess sales around:

    400k for Military Wives
    150-200k for Little Mix
    80-120k for Nirvana

  12. MWC notably made an appearence on Strictly Come Dancing, the talent show that derailed X-Factor this year.

    This exposure on Strictly seems to have been the one trick up MWC's sleeve

  13. r.e. anonymous who posted;

    "As for your the prediction that Nirvana will sell maybe only 60000, I seriously suggest that you times that by 7 as there may only be circa 132000 likes on the Facebook page but that is gaining momentum and is actually in a far better position numbers wise than the RAGE campaign was at the same time of year in 2009. Feel free to check that with Jon Morter the man behind the RAGE campaign who has come on board and is driving the campaign forward in the media. Expect those figures to shoot up dramatically :)"

    Looks like 60k was far too generous a figure, seems set for more like 35k at most :o