PLAYLIST: Christmas Number Twos of the Last 30 Years

Every Christmas number TWO of the past 30 years…the one’s that didn’t quite make it!

by Christopher Smith

Imagine you release your single two weeks before Christmas and you’re tipped for the top for the festive season, but someone else beats you to it! Well all of these artists know just how that feels. Amongst their many and numerous achievements, they can all lay claim to having a UK Christmas week singles chart number two hit. Some had already been number one, others would ascent to the top the following week but many just couldn’t progress any further and would sink and disappear soon after.

And they are here in one playlist! So get a box of tissues and commiserate with them all for not being able to say they actually had a UK Christmas number one, but a number two instead (and who remembers them?!).

1988 – Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan – “Especially For You”

Kylie’s 1988 was crowned with FOUR top two hits and the biggest selling album of the year, together with her on-screen wedding in Neighbours that attracted 20 million viewers, so a duet with her Neighbours co-star Jason Donovan was everybody’s bet for the Christmas number one. Wrong. Sir Cliff Richard would steal that prize with his four week chart topper “Mistletoe And Wine”. But with Christmas over, no one was interested in him anymore and the following week Kylie and Jason took the top spot.

1989 – Jason Donovan – “When You Come Back To Me”

A year later and Jason, this time on his own, tried again, only to be thwarted by the second Band Aid recording of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, not only a song produced by his own team of Stock Aitken Waterman, but a song HE himself sings on! Can anyone else lay claim to Christmas No.1 AND No.2?…over to you.

1990 – Vanilla Ice – “Ice, Ice Baby”

Cliff does it again! Having held the top spot for the first three weeks of December, Vanilla Ice was toppled by Sir Cliff of Cliffmas with his call to all, “Saviours Day”.

1991 – Diana Ross – “When You Tell Me That You Love Me”

Diana made a triumphant return to music with this epic ballad and got her biggest chart hit for over six years, but she was kept from the top by Queen and their re-issued “Bohemian Rhapsody” following the death of singer Freddie Mercury a few weeks earlier.

1992 – Michael Jackson – “Heal The World”

A year later, her friend Michael Jackson made his bid for the top slot but was stopped in his tracks by fellow American Whitney and the lead single from her movie debut ‘The Bodyguard’.

1993 – Take That – “Babe”

Take That racked up three consecutive number one singles in 1993 and were surefire for the Christmas top spot, only to be beaten by Noel Edmonds’ best mate Mr. Blobby and his ode to himself!

1994 – Mariah Carey – “All I Want For Christmas Is You”

How could Mariah not get the top spot with this infectious slice of seasonal fare, the year in which she scored her first UK No.1, “Without You”. Instead, the boys from Walthamstow gained more support from their fanbase and the music buying public to get the first No.1 of their career and a Christmas one to boot!

1995 – Mike Flowers Pops – “Wonderwall”

Real name Mike Roberts, this quirky tongue-in-cheek cover of Oasis’ UK No.2 hit mirrored that group’s chart high just two months after it’s own release and being kept off the top, this time by MJ who finally made it with “Earth Song”.

1996 – Dunblane – “Knockin’ On Heavens Door”

Following the horrific gun massacre in the Scottish town that killed a teacher, 16 pupils and ultimately the perpetrator, Bob Dylan’s 1973 hit was recorded with children from the school with the blessing of Dylan himself. It hit number one in the second week of December, but come the Christmas chart a new phenomenon called The Spice Girls claimed top spot with “2 Become 1”.

1997 – Teletubbies – “Say Eh Oh”

The Children’s BBC show had take the country by storm in 1997 and it was hardly surprising that the catchy theme tune wasn’t released as a single. It topped the chart at the beginning of the month, but once again those Spice Girls claimed their second UK Christmas number one, this time with “Too Much”.

1998 – Chef – “Chocolate Salty Balls”

Chef (Issac Hayes) from animated American series South Park dished up his festive party food and topped the chart in early December. But guess who. Yup, The Spice Girls were back, this time with “Goodbye” and got their third Christmas number one in a row!

1999 – Cliff Richard – “The Millennium Prayer”

Sir Cliff of Cliffmas had the first Christmas number one of the decade and had been trying every year to get his third and in 1999 it seemed it would happen. But after three weeks on top, along came boy band Westlife with their version of ABBA’s “I Have A Dream” and got their fourth number one of the year!

2000 – Westlife – “What Makes A Man?”

The boys from Ireland tried again the following year but was children’s favourite Bob The Builder with his “Can We Fix It?” that won it for the first Christmas number one of the new millennium.

2001 – Gordon Haskell – “How Wonderful You Are”

The Dorset R&B vocalist had been recording music since the late 1960’s but forty years later, got his first UK chart hit EVER with this heartfelt song, but it was the team of Robbie Williams and actress Nicole Kidman with their version of “Something Stupid” that claimed first prize that festive season.

2002 – One True Voice – “Sacred Trust”

This boy band created from the 2002 series of Popstars: The Rivals went up against a girl band from the same show called Girls Aloud. The boys lost. “Sound of The Underground” took pole position.

2003 – The Darkness – “Christmas Time”

The group from Lowestoft, Suffolk had peaked at No.2 with “I Believe In A Thing Called Love” but wanted to go one further with their next release, only to be stopped in their tracks by musician Michael Andrews and Gary Jules with their version of Tears For Fears 1982 classic “Mad World”.

2004 – Steve Brookstein – “Against All Odds”

By 2004 PopIdol had been replaced by X Factor and the winner of the first series was this former lorry drive with his version of Phil Collins 1984 hit but it was the 20th anniversary release of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” that took the top spot, claiming three chart toppers out of three releases.

2005 – Nizlopi – “JCB Song”

This English folk duo had already topped the chart with their quirky ode to a mechanical digger but X Factor reigned that year and it was winner Shayne Ward who claimed the show’s first Christmas number one with “That’s My Goal”.

2006 – Take That – “Patience”

Take That made a triumphant return to music after ten years of solo projects in 2006 and had been number one since late November with this song, but were prevented from getting a Christmas number one AGAIN, this time by X Factor winner Leona Lewis with “A Moment Like This”.

2007 – Eva Cassidy and Katie Melua – “What A Wonderful World”

Katie Melua joined the late Eva Cassidy on this 1995 recording and went for the coveted prize of Christmas No.1 but X Factor continued to dominate this time with Leon Jackson’s version of Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston’s “When You Believe”.

2008 – Jeff Buckley – “Hallelujah”

Two version’s of this song vied for Christmas number one in 2008, X Factor winner Alexandra Burke and the late Jeff Buckley’s 1994 version of Leonard Cohen’s 1984 recording. X Factor won. Again.

2009 – Joe McElderry – “The Climb”

2009 X Factor winner Joe McElderry released his version of this Miley Cyrus song from earlier that same year but in protest at X Factor chart dominance, grunge rock group Rage Against The Machine released “Killing In The Name” and gained the support of the majority. McElderry would ascend to the top the following week!

2010 – Rihanna – “What’s My Name?”

X Factor were back on the scene the following year with winner Matt Cardle taking “When We Collide” to the Christmas peak and depriving Rihanna of her first UK Christmas number one. Should of brought her umbrella!

2011 – Little Mix – “Cannonball”

Girl group Little Mix tried for the top in 2011 but it was the Military Wives singing “Wherever You Are”, in aid of The Royal British Legion and for the families of soldiers, sailors and airmen in British forces, that gained more public support that year.

2012 – James Arthur – “Impossible”

This young man won the 2012 series of X Factor but he failed to join Shayne, Leona and Matt in getting a Christmas number one. That honour went to The Justice Collective with their version of The Hollies “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”.

2013 – Pharrell Williams – Happy”

Pharrell would of been so happy to of been number one on December 25th, but it wasn’t to be. He had to give way to X Factor winner Sam Bailey with her version of Demi Lovato’s 2011 hit “Skyscraper”.

2014 – Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars – “Uptown Funk”

X Factor won again in 2014 with Ben Haenow topping the Christmas chart with his version of Onerepublic’s 2013 hit “Something I Need”, depriving Mark and Bruno (who had been number one for a few weeks anyway) of one more week on top.

2015 – Justin Bieber – “Love Yourself”

X Factor was out of the equation in 2015 when Justin Bieber put his bid in for the UK Christmas number one. He was prevented from doing so by Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Chior with the charity single “A Bridge Over You”, that mixed up “A Bridge Over Troubled Water” and Coldplay’s “Fix You”.

2016 – Rag’n’Bone Man – “Human”

Rory Charles Graham aka The Rag’n’bone Man released his fourth single just in time for Christmas and got his first UK chart hit. Alas, he was beaten to the top by Clean Bandit and Sean Paul with their nine week chart topper “Rockabye”.

2017 – Eminem feat. Ed Sheeran – “River”
Ed Sheeran got the top spot this year but guest vocaled on this Eminem track as well. The song went to the top eventually but was denied the Christmas week top spot by his English collaborator!

So here they are, and here’s the playlist of Christmas past. Just not the famous chart toppers most people remember for the festive season!

Christmas Number Twos

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