Dear Santa… seasonably profitable music ????
Posted on: Wednesday 19th of December 2018
A plea for a refresh of the Yuletide playlist from Tim Oliver @RealWorldStudio www.timoliver.co.uk
Dear Santa, please can I have a new classic Christmas single, or ideally several, to bring me some relief from the annual monotony of recycled joy. As much as I love Fairytale of New York, and get a warm feeling when I hear it for the first time at the beginning of December, or even late November, by Christmas I’ve even had enough of that one. So you can imagine how I feel by the time Wizzard, Slade, Wham et al have been over-aired. Certainly in no mood for Christmas, that’s for sure. I imagine for you it’s even worse because so many Christmas records announce themselves with sleigh bells. That must be like a siren to a factory worker or a dog bark to a postman and unlikely to get you buzzed up for the miracle that is your Christmas Eve delivery run.
Anyway, about the Christmas single problem Santa… Where have they all gone to? Not that I’m a fan, there’s only one I would regard as coming anywhere near joining the ranks of the ‘classic’ made since 2000: Leona Lewis’ One More Sleep from 2013. And this is only #14 in the UK Radio Christmas Top 20 Airplay chart 2012 – 2016. There aren’t any others from the 21st Century in it. Surely if we’re going to be subjected to festive tunes every year don’t you think someone should shoulder the responsibility of creating something fresh and new?
What about you? It’s not as if it isn’t well rewarded financially if you did – reportedly, Slade’s Merry Xmas Everybody earns them £500,000 each year, and the Pogues slightly less at £400,000. OK, the integrity might suffer a bit but look at Shane McGowan, he’s survived it and you’re not that different from him with your love of sherry.
If you ask me it all seemed to start going wrong in the early 90s when any old novelty record was seen as a bona fide Christmas record, you remember Mr Blobby (1992)? And then the girl-band/boy-band takeover – Spice Girls, Westlife, East 17 – although at least the latter had the courtesy of dressing up in Santa outfits to sing their love ballad that had nothing to do with Christmas (Stay Another Day, 1994)
Then in the mid 2000s people blamed TV for hijacking any festive importance of the Christmas No. 1 as it became the focus of their tedious talent contests. Firstly in 2002 with Popstars: The Rivals which created a phony chart battle between two phony bands, one of which, Girls Aloud Sound of the Underground, 2002) got the prize. That was soon followed by X-Factor with four years of back-to-back Christmas No.1s before the record-buying public collectively rebelled through social media and managed to get Rage Against The Machine to the top spot in 2005. But since then it’s been a sorry old sight.
Big sellers don’t have to be #1
Anyway, I digress Santa because a classic Christmas record doesn’t have to have reached No. 1 to become such, it’s all about longevity and – of anyone – you’ve got what it takes. The Pogues Fairytale of New York only got to No. 2 when it was released in 1987, criminally kept out by The Spice Girls (Too Much). However, since 2005 it’s got into the Christmas Top 20 every year and has racked up over 150 days continuous UK radio play since its release. Wizzard’s I Wish it Could Be Christmas Every Day unfortunately came up against Slade’s classic in 1973 and although it only managed No. 4 that year it has over 120 continuous days of UK radio play since. Also poor old Wham with Last Christmas came up against Band Aid in 1984 and lost out, but it now has more UK radio play than its nemesis. And there’s a similar story for Mariah Carey All I Want For Christmas Is You beaten by East 17 in 1994 but now wins on radio play.
But is radio play the best yard-stick now streaming is ubiquitous? Streaming is confusing matters or rather playlists are. Streaming and the widespread adoption of playlists is so important that Spotify’s Christmas playlist virtually mirrors the official chart, so you have Brenda Lee Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree, Shakin’ Stevens Merry Christmas Everyone and Chris Rea Driving Home For Christmas all appearing in the Official 2017 Christmas Top 20 simply because so many people have it on rotation. And if you need more proof, Slade weren’t on the Spotify playlist (tragically) and only got to 29.
Back to the idea of you doing a Christmas record yourself Santa; according to PRS For Music the majority of successful Christmas singles are written by at least two people so you should find someone to work with. How about your head elf Bernard? After all, Elton worked with his long-time partner Bernard on Step Into Christmas in 1973. A ballad seems to be the most successful formula and you’d look good crooning in the video. Then maybe you can get Dancer and Prancer from the reindeer team to do some up-tempo club mixes.
If you do decide to write a Christmas tune can I urge you to make it an original composition. The default approach seems to be to do a cover because it’s familiar – and boy are there a lot of covers about – particularly over-familiar ones: did you know that the most-covered Christmas tune is Silent Night with a staggering 26,496 versions as of 2015. So please, please, do something new. Then get it onto the Spotify Christmas playlist and you might finally be able to retire. You could easily get Amazon Prime to take the weight of the Christmas Eve job. Perhaps you could do one called Santa Claus Isn’t Coming to Town.