A GROUP of NHS staff from London are among the surprise contenders for this year’s Christmas No1. But who else is in the running? Chris McCall reviews the singles
THE LEWISHAM AND GREENWICH NHS CHOIR - A BRIDGE OVER YOU
It started out as a group activity in support of the NHS and has unexpectedly turned into a frontrunner in the race to land the Christmas No1. A staff choir based in London recorded a mashup of Coldplay’s Fix You and Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water in response to on-going negotiations south of the border to doctors’ working hours. It has since proved a hit with the public and was until yesterday out-selling every other top 10 contender. The campaign to propel the song up the charts was started in October by Harriet Nerva, 26, a junior doctor at Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire. “We want to celebrate everything that is great about our NHS by getting it to Christmas No1 this year,” said a message on the campaign’s Facebook page. “We are now second favourites for top spot, ahead of the X Factor winner, and with your support we can really do this.” All proceeds from the song will be shared between healthcare charities, including Carers UK and Mind – with a percentage also being distributed to Samh (Scotland) and Niamh (Northern Ireland).
The 17-year-old singer from Essex may have won the most recent series of The X-Factor, but her cover of Bob Dylan’s Forever Young has failed to set the charts alight. It reached No9 last week with combined sales of 39,000 - a rather pitiful amount when compared to previous festive efforts by X-Factor victors. While there is no doubting Johnson’s vocal talents, it seems the public has finally tired of Simon Cowell’s long-running reality show. A better choice of song may have helped her chances, but as it stands Johnson is unlikely to be bothering the top spot come Friday.
The Canadian has attempted to reposition himself as a serious pop star in 2015, thanks in part to the success of his August single What Do You Mean? His latest effort, Love Yourself, is cut from slightly different cloth - think downbeat R&B rather than summer EDM floor-filler - and is all the poorer for it. Bieber remains the bookies’ favourite to claim No1 thanks to the vast numbers of fans streaming his single - one of the many factors other than sales that are now considered when allocating chart positions. Bieber, to his credit, has encouraged his fans “to do the right thing” and buy the NHS choir single to help it to No1 for at least one week.
Michael Omari, aka Stormzy, has been known to aficionados of the London grime scene since his breakthrough in 2014, but it’s fair to say he remains an unknown quantity to most. The 22-year-old MC from Thornton Heath became a surprise Christmas No1 contender following his ringside performance at the British Heavyweight title fight between Anthony Joshua and Dilian Whyte on December 14. Shut Up was first released in May as a response to critics of Stormzy’s decision to appear on stage - along with a number of other rappers - with Kanye West at the Brit Awards in February.
The public shift away from buying physical copies of singles to downloading or streaming individual songs has radically altered the charts in recent years. One example is the sudden reappearance each December of songs first released 20 or 30 years ago. No less than six festive standards are currently bothering the top 40, including Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is You, Fairytale of New York by the Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl and Wham’s Last Christmas. Their enduring popularity means a guaranteed pay-out each year for those fortunate enough to have a writing credit and woe for those working in retail, forced to hear the same songs on repeat throughout December.