As surely as silent night follows day, YouTuber and social media personality LadBaby has announced his fifth consecutive Christmas song, hoping to win the coveted number one slot again this year, for a record fifth time running.
Mark Hoyle, the man behind the strangely named creation, is quoted as saying “we haven’t got any more planned. We don’t want to get to a point where people boycott it” and that he’d only come out of retirement to duet with Mariah Carey. This was reported in 2020, two singles ago.
Time, and a desperate need for self-publicity, makes fools of us all. Mariah’s involvement has yet to be confirmed.
Criticism is frowned upon because all profits from LadBaby’s singles go to the food bank charity The Trussell Trust. But charity singles, whatever the cause, do seem a distasteful way to get famous.
Similar accusations were levelled against musicians who appeared on the interminable Band Aid tracks, another franchise that refuses to die, but they were already famous for something more than life hacks on YouTube.
Charities stepping up to plug holes in threadbare government funding are needed now more than ever thanks to, well, politics. LadBaby either has a smart appeal-to-all marketing strategy or ridiculous cognitive dissonance in that he remains apolitical in the face of this ongoing national crisis.
His feigning surprise that the situation hasn’t changed is feeble. Surely, he can’t hide behind “raising awareness” of the plight of those in need, a truly loathsome phrase. Grift is a strong word, but it is levelled at him on social media.
In an ideal world a LadBaby single wouldn’t exist. I’m glad The Trussell Trust see the value in their continued partnership, but culturally all we have to show for it is a tiresome half-decade of songs that won’t get the Christmas party started.
We thought the worst of times was the bland uniformity of The X-Factor winners’ reign of terror and Simon Cowell’s domination of the charts. Between 2005 and 2014 The X-Factor took the number one spot on seven occasions. The career-savvy X-Factor winners were certainly more committed to writing a tune than people churning out tedious guff about sausage rolls.
One of the most dramatic reactions to this dominance was a decidedly unfestive hijacking of the Christmas charts by Jon and Tracy Morter, whose social media campaign made ‘Killing in the Name’ by Rage Against the Machine number one in 2009.
Godspeed to whoever decides to lead the fightback against LadBaby.
Was there ever a golden age of Christmas number ones? As a nation we do seem stuck in the past, suckers for Wham, Wizzard, The Pogues, Mud, Shakin’ Stevens, and Whitney Houston.
The essential ingredients are sleigh bells (see Robbie Williams’ ‘Angels’, which, shockingly, only reached number 4 in the festive chart), angelic choirs of children (or NHS choirs and military wives thanks to Gareth Malone), a smart balance of major chords for merriment and minor chords for a touch of heartbreak, and bright asbestos white snow in the video.
Novelty songs are fine, but better that you write a perennial hit that’ll be your pension. Slade of course wrote ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’ in 1973, a winter remembered for a terrible cost of living crisis, political ineptitude and strikes. Sounds familiar? The song now earns them £1m in royalties each year. Bostin’.
Is nostalgia the essential ingredient? Are we listening out for the warmth of a carefree childhood when the financial and emotional cost of Christmas was shouldered by someone who just wanted the best for you? Someone who didn’t mind you circling all the things in the Argos catalogue in mid-September or excitedly waking them up at 5am on Christmas morning.
Novelty acts, even those talking up their charity credentials, are never going to be anyone’s favourite because those songs are not written with longevity in mind. They’re supposed to be disposable.
30 years too late Basil Brush has a single out, a shameless nostalgia fest featuring as many furry faces from the CBBC Broom Cupboard as you can shake a candy cane at. The time-travelling tune features Mr Blobby, clearly the wily fox’s mentor, whose famously chaotic single of his own achieved Christmas number one in 1993. Given Basil’s famous catchphrase, the fact the song isn’t a cover of ‘Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom!!’ by the Vengaboys feels like a lamentable missed opportunity.
Christmas singles are always going to be divisive. The one I love you think is too slow, the one you love I don’t think is Christmassy enough. It’s a tragedy when ‘real’ music is kept off the top of the chart by something silly, or it’s just a bit of fun and Christmas is all about fun.
It’s a safe proxy to have a petty argument about music at Christmas, steering family and friends away from more serious squabbling, and more contentious topics. Remember, politics at the dinner table will give you indigestion.
But, like the Boxing Day buffet, variety is the key. Christmas number ones can be many things, but they shouldn’t be boring.
Make a donation to The Trussell Trust direct and help keep food bank stocked this winter. They’ll get more money out of this than if you bought the single.