Just like unpaid internships, Miley Cyrus, and international soccer friendlies, the 1990’s have attracted a lot of flack recently. Cynics say the decade was just full of laddish, lager swilling louts, of repetitive music, of broken promises and fractured politics.
I say no. I say it was a decade of progress and inspiration. My birth. Tony Blair’s rise to power. Britpop. TFI Friday. Adidas Sambas being the most popular trainers in the land. Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels, I’m Alan Partridge, Game On, Gail Porter’s arse being beamed onto the House of Parliament.
What other decade would you see Morrissey hit a bulls-eye first time?
One act that defined the 90’s were The Spice Girls, whose role in musical history has been understated in recent years, which is a shame as they were a genuine phenomenon in their time. Their debut album Spice sold 28 million copies, they’re the best selling female band of all time, nine number one hits and Wannabee is the best selling debut single of all time.
Three of those number one’s were Christmas chart toppers, something they achieved in three consecutive years, with 2 Become 1 in 1996, Too Much in 1997, and Goodbye in 1998. Popular Merseyside beat quartet The Beatles are the only other band to have achieved three straight Christmas number ones in the sixties.
Chosen for the countdown was 2 Become 1, which was their third number one, sold a million copies, and hit number four in America.
Just looking at all those numbers made me feel more intelligent, so I decided to investigate more stats and figures from Christmas number one folklore.
As mentioned, The Spice Girls had three consecutive top Christmas hits, but in the 60 years of the Christmas charts they were joined by only two other chart toppers from all female groups, Girls Aloud with Sound Of The Underground in 2002, and the Military Wives in 2011. Just 8% of Christmas number ones have been from all female groups.
It’s not great news for female solo singers either. Only four women have ever topped the Christmas charts solo, with two – Leona Lewis in 2006, and Alexandra Burke in 2008 practically gift handed the win with their X Factor connections. The other two involved were Whitney Houston who was number one for ten weeks in 1992 with I Will Always Love you, and all the way back in 1954, Let’s Have Another Party by Winifred Atwell was number one.
Atwell was not only the first female to have a Christmas number one, but also the first black woman to have a number one in the UK music charts, and to this day is the only female instrumentalist to do so as well. Here’s the song if you fancy a listen – it’s just begging to be sampled by another generic and lazy rapper.
A surprising amount of ‘collective groups’ as I have coined them have had Christmas number ones, with eight out of 60, around 13.3%. This obviously includes three versions of Do They Know It’s Christmas (of which we’ve all tried to forget Dizzee Rascal’s rap in the most recent version) as well as 2012’s #1 The Justice Collection, The Human League, St Winifred’s School Choir, and Boney M.
Three duets have hit the top spot, Michael Andrews and Gary Jules with the second most depressing number one Mad World in 2003, which came two years after perhaps the most depressing and the worst number one, Robbie Williams and Nicole Kidman’s massacring of Something’ Stupid. The third was Save Your Love in 1982 by Renee and Renato.
Sadly for the female population, Christmas number one has been a male dominated phenomenon, and there have been 17 male groups who have hit the top, starting with Emile Ford and the Checkmates in 1959, and most recently with Rage Against The Machine in 2009.
It is the solo men though who have crushed through this countdown like Floyd Mayweather on steroids. 24 out of the 60 number ones, or 40% have come via solo male artists, although I have to mention that does include Mr Blobby and Bob The Builder.
Despite the proliferation of the men in the Christmas charts, only three since 2000 have his the top spot solo, and all three – Shayne Ward, Leon Jackson and Matt Cardle were from X Factor.
In addition to all this stattage, only seven Christmas number ones have had the word “Christmas” or “Xmas” in the title, and the last real Christmas related number one was the third installment of Do They Know It’s Christmas back in 2004. The last non Band Aid related Christmas themed number one was number 25 in my own countdown, Saviour’s Day by Cliff Richard.
What do all these numbers and trends mean for 2 Become 1 by Spice Girls? Not a lot really, it’s just there really isn’t that much to say about a song whose sole existence seems to be to get people to wear condoms.
“Be a little bit wiser
Baby, put it on, put it on
‘Cause tonight is the night when 2 become 1”
Or as Billy Bragg sang on Sexuality
“Safe sex doesn’t mean no sex
It just means use your imagination”
2 Become 1 is actually one of my favourite Spice Girls song, and I used to be a big fan of the video until I read that it was all shot on green screen, so Emma Bunton seductively singing “put it on, put it on” standing in New York..
Was actually Emma Bunton on her 15th take miming it in front of a camera in London.
Another thing to note from watching the video, as progressive and good for girls the Spice Girls were, in terms of both Girl Power, and in dance routines, they were dressed absolutely awfully.
They look like they have just been released from an episode of Bad Girls there, but perhaps that was part of their charm – in a decade that wasn’t known for taking itself seriously, The Spice Girls were the ultimate example of that. They were the sort of girls you went to school with, they weren’t part of the popular clique like All Saints were, nor were they the moody art students like Alisha’s Attic, they were just the quintessential girls next door with barbed wire arm tattoos and Union Jack dresses.
And really, isn’t that the whole point of Christmas? Unity between family, a time to reconvene with your friends, to wear bad clothes, and to almost become one, from being two.
Remember to check out the Spotify playlist which is updated daily with each song from the countdown,
And as ever, here are two pearls of YouTube wisdom to see us home.
To catch up on the rest of the countdown CLICK HERE