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Has a gameshow stolen our Christmas cheer? And our Patience?

It’s coming to that time of year when Simon Cowell’s latest exports vie for the Christmas Number 1 slot, only to disappear in a week or so, destined for university fresher week performances and slots on “celebrity” antique shows. The winners’ music and careers, however promising at first fading faster than solar powered LED lights, show just how fickle we can be.

We vote for these contestants and choose their fate in the same way we make decisions at a supermarket, laugh and cry with them during their short time on our screens, and by all accounts toss them aside once the next television programme comes along to take our attention away. The X Factor Number 1 has now slowly but surely become synonymous with Christmas for most families, with the winning singles worming their way under our trees and into our party playlists, if only for a short time. Christmas viewing was once about sitting around watching Disney films and holiday themed shows, but for many has become a time of competitive watching – so has it taken the sheen of our Christmas break? Does the fact our favourite contestant gets voted out ruin our Christmas?

It’s hard to say but one thing is for sure – our attention spans for their presence on our screens are as short when it comes to listening to their music based on when we look at chart performances for the past 50 plus years.

When the winners get rolled out we’ll gladly purchase the track when the time comes, and now our Christmas playlists are full of novelty iTunes purchases that we’ll probably never listen to in a years’ time. With this in mind, we decided to take a closer look and see just how far our musical patience will stretch when it comes to X Factor Number 1’s compared to some of the more “classic” songs that you can still actually hear on the radio.

With the help of officialcharts.com we delved into the past to try and see whether this “chew em’ up and spit em’ out” attitude is a new thing, or whether we were more inclined to support songs for longer periods of time over Christmas.

Below we look at 1952 to 1972. The first official Christmas number one was Al Martino with “Here In My Heart” which lasted a total of 9 weeks at Number 1 – an impressive feat and one that no other artist or group could match until Queen came along with “Bohemian Rhapsody” over 20 years later. Within this time, artists would regularly last at least 2 weeks at number one after Christmas, with some artists enjoying nearly 2 months at the top of the charts. It seemed when the public picked their favourites, they stood by them well after the quality street had dried up and the Christmas decorations had been taken down!
chart number 1's 52-72

From the years 1973 to 1993, the public were still very much in favour of supporting artists well past the Christmas period… with one exception. Cliff Richard’s ‘Saviour’s Day’ did not go down as well as his song ‘Mistletoe and Wine’ two years previous. The latter stayed at number 1 for four weeks with ‘Saviours Day’ falling out of the top spot immediately after Christmas was over. As previously mentioned, Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ was a firm favourite lasting 9 weeks, with Wings’ ‘Mull of Kintyre’/ ‘Girls’ School’ matching the feat. However, it was Whitney Houston’s cover of the Dolly Parton song ‘I Will Always Love You’ that lasted a whopping 10 weeks at the top spot after claiming number 1 at Christmas.

Interestingly, the absolute classic ‘Mr Blobby’ by Mr Blobby, lasted 2 weeks, possibly hinting that the more ‘novelty’ songs were starting to lose favour with the public.
chart number 1's 73 - 93

Listeners patience was starting to show signs of waning between the years 1994 and 2003. Michael Jackson’s ‘Earth Song’ did well in 1995 lasting 6 weeks at the top spot, and would be the last time an artist would reach higher than 4 weeks at number one after Christmas peak. Funnily enough, 2004 would be when X Factor reached our screens…
chart number 1s 94 - 03

Although Simon Cowell and his team were gearing up to try and take the Christmas number one spot, good will prevailed as Band Aid 20’s ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas‘ ended up hitting the right notes and lasting 4 weeks at the top of the charts and raising money for charity… all was as it should be until Shayne Ward’s voice changed everything. The X-Factor winner took top spot in 2005 with his song ‘That’s My Goal’. The immensely talented Leona Lewis was the last contestant to hold the number one position for 4 weeks after Christmas with her song ‘A Moment Like This’. It would seem the public would fall out of love with the X-Factor money making machine as 2007 sparked a steady decline in the need for a gameshow winner’s hit single. In fact, there was a revolution underway…

chart number 1's 04 2015

The campaign to get Rage Against the Machine’s ‘Killing in the Name’ at top spot was a firm swipe at Cowell and his cohorts, it was the public’s attempt at taking the power back and it worked. Knocking poor Joe McElderry off the top spot was a sweet victory for those who enjoyed music put together by real musicians rather than a team of writers and producers – it was a sweet victory, made all the more sweeter considering some explicit lyrics made their way on to mainstream radio. Although it only lasted 1 week at the top, it sparked a return of a band currently on hiatus, and caused a stir in the industry and was the public shouting that we were fed up with being spoon fed what to listen to.

Sure, Matt Cardle’s version of Biffy Clyro’s ‘Many of Horror’ the title of which was changed to ‘When We Collide’ lasted 3 weeks, but that was surely because it was a song that had already garnered an already impressive following thanks to Biffy’s fanbase, it just took that main stream push to get it noticed. Right?

2010 would spell the last time an artist remained at the top spot for more than 1 week after Christmas. Sadly, not even noble causes such as the Justice Collective, Military Wives with Gareth Malone and Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Choir, could not last longer than a week at number one. But is X-Factor to blame for this shift in patience? Has our penchant for searching for the newest thing spread to our music choices, the immediacy of the show seeping in to our lives, constantly searching for the newest song to buy and forget about? It’s hard to say, but one thing is for sure, not one X-Factor contestant would stay at number one for more than the average 4.1 weeks. At least giving weight to the thought that the show itself may be losing the public favour.

So has X Factor ruined Christmas? Maybe not, but it has certainly become a talking/arguing point in our holiday season, where some try and get a hard-working hopeful into the mainstream and others desperately try and thwart the efforts – either way. It’s something to talk about over the Christmas turkey.

Happy holidays from everyone at Dawsons music.