THE run up to Christmas used to be characterised as a time of peace and goodwill to all men. For most of us, turkey-inspired domestics aside, it still is. However, for pop stars at the cheesier end of the spectrum the festive season is like a month-long fight night for the ultimate prize of the Christmas Number One.
Over the past couple of weeks, there has been a series of handbags-at-dawn encounters as various front-runners for the top pop slot have verbally scratched and pulled their way into the gossip columns. Shooting their bolt somewhat early, the Busted boys celebrated their recent Number One by bitching that Britney, whom they had just pipped to pole position, was pretentious and had ignored the trio at her own album launch party.
"Maybe Britney will talk to me next time now that we have beaten her to Number One," Busted’s Charlie Simpson is reported as saying in the Sun.
Demonstrating his lack of experience in pop star catfights, Simpson then neglected to land the killer blow by pointing out that ‘Me Against the Music’ sounded more like a description of Britney’s single rather than its title.
Not slow to get in on the act, the Mirror weighed in with the earth-shattering news that Pop Idol contestants Michelle McManus and Susanne Manning were not getting on. According to the paper, Manning viewed McManus as her main threat to winning the competition. What is much more likely is that in the run up to Christmas, the Pop Idol moguls decided that a manufactured spat was the best way to get the programme on the front pages.
The reason for all the flying fur among pop stars is the increased number of novelty acts vying for Christmas supremacy. At any time of year, getting a Number One has less to do with the quality of the song than it has to do with marketing manipulation. Come Christmas time, however, the market becomes more uncertain than usual as the public jettison what little buying discernment it has in favour of picking up on horrific novelty records. Step forward Mr Blobby in ’93 and St Winifred’s School Choir, who unleashed ‘There’s No One Quite Like Grandma’ on a gob-smacked nation in 1980.
This year, ‘real’ musicians are facing danger from Noddy, Basil Brush, actor Bill Nighy on the back of his appearance in Love Actually and stalker/presenter Avid Merrion of Bo’ Selecta.
As if that was not enough to deprive proper pop stars of their sleep, it seems that James Hewitt’s learning curve has flatlined when it comes to winning the public’s affection. Rather than courting popularity by staying under a rock for the rest of his life, Britain’s best-known love rat has announced that he plans to woo the nation by teaming up with MC Harvey of So Solid Crew (his new best buddy from The Games). The song is entitled ‘Ding Dong’; not, as might be expected, a reference to Christmas bells but a line Hewitt uses when trying to seduce women.
Faced with that little bundle of laughs it is no surprise that the nation’s pop stars are resorting to wars of words in order to keep in the public eye.
While both parties would probably prefer to just forget about the whole thing, the Blur v Oasis spat of ’95 did wonders for the record sales of both camps. Similarly the so-called battle of the divas between Sophie Ellis Bextor and Victoria Beckham polarised punters into buying one or the other’s single where previously they may not have bothered to buy either.
It can all backfire. Rappers and former friends Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur both gained huge sales from falling out and dissing each other on record. Unfortunately, most of the sales were posthumous as both were gunned down in incidents that many commentators thought were a direct result of their "beefs".
Unless things take a very strange twist, it seems unlikely that Christmas Number One contenders such as The Darkness will opt to ensure Noel supremacy by shooting up, say, Cliff Richard but we can expect a lot more noising up of rivals before the dust settles.
It would be really interesting were the novelty acts were to turn on one another. If Noddy came out in favour of fox-hunting Basil Brush would have to counter by leaking rumours about the toy’s relationship with Big Ears. Now that’s what I call a real battle for the Christmas Number One.
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Saturday 25 May 2013
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