Christmas Song Advent Calendar 2017: Day 16

  • ARTIST: Olly Murs
  • SONG: I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday
  • ALBUM: Right Place Right Time: Special Edition (2013, Sony/Epic)

We will continue to beg Olly for a Christmas album every year – this year included – until we are blue in the face. And why? Because on the basis of his take on seasonal standards like Wizzard’s 70s classic that he recorded for (yep, that again) BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge back in 2012, he was born to be the British Bublé (in the making a Christmas album sense, that is. And possibly more besides).

Don’t forget to follow our Spotify playlist to ensure you’re getting all the songs each day in the run up to Christmas!

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#CrazyStupidPlaylist: My Ultimate Christmas Number Ones

So today marks the start of what is by common consent in the UK, the one time of year when the entire nation suddenly takes a vested interest in its singles chart. Because as of midnight last night, the race to be 2017’s official UK Christmas number one is under way.

If you’re a betting person, the favourite at the moment is the man who started the year at the top, and looks set to end it at number one, if he can hang on there for this week and next – that man of course, being Ed Sheeran with ‘Perfect‘. Legendary chart commentator James Masterton’s live blog on this year’s race will be the essential reading for the coming week to see if he does indeed hold off all his competitors to achieve this.

In the meantime though, today we are bringing you our favourite Christmas number ones from years past – with a handy playlist to accompany them all!

1978: BONEY M – Mary’s Boy Child

If anyone ever asks you in a pub quiz over this festive season what song has managed to top the chart at Christmas in two different versions, the answer is this one. First at the top for Christmas 1957 via Harry Belafonte, the German disco doyennes Boney M took their dazzling version of ‘Mary’s Boy Child’ all the way to the top 31 years later, selling 1.8 million copies in the process.

1994: EAST 17 – Stay Another Day

If Take That were the early 90s equivalent of The Beatles, then Walthamstow’s finest, East 17, were their grittier, rugged Rolling Stones-esque counterpart. But they were capable of showing their softer side from time to time – as they brilliantly did on 1994’s Yuletide chart victor. Although written by the band’s chief songwriter Tony Mortimer about the passing of his brother, Ollie, ‘Stay Another Day’ has remained a traditional December soundtrack ever since.

1996: SPICE GIRLS – 2 Become 1

And from one 90s pop classic that’s become as traditional as crackers and sprouts at Christmas, to another. The first of three back to back festive chart toppers for Ginger, Posh, Baby, Sporty and Scary (‘Too Much’ in 1997, and ‘Goodbye’ in 1998 were the other two), this gentle, guitar flecked ballad is unquestionably amongst most people’s top 5 Spice Girls songs. It even has a deer in its wintry, New York set video – and what could be more festive than that?

2000: BOB THE BUILDER – Can We Fix It?

Yes, I know what you’re thinking. Really Alex? But, I argue, that this festive chart topper is all about context, if for nothing else than proving that the tastes of the British public are quite unlike any other in throwing up some quirky surprises – and more so at Christmas. Who can forget the infamous Rage Against the Machine vs. Joe McElderry-gate from 2009?

Essentially an extended, two step styled version of the theme from the popular BBC children’s animation series, voiced by Men Behaving Badly star Neil Morrissey, it was nothing short of brilliant to see this throttle Irish boyband/stool sitters Westlife – then smugly on a run of seven consecutive chart toppers – in the first Christmas chart of this century, shifting under a million copies in just four weeks to become the best seller of that year to boot.

2002: GIRLS ALOUD – Sound of the Underground

When Popstars: The Rivals aired on ITV in the autumn of 2002, anyone who was anyone seemed to be backing the winning boyband, One True Voice (remember them? Thought not) to take top honours that Christmas with their lame-o Bee Gees cover that Westlife could have recorded in their sleep.

But they did so, without reckoning on Cheryl, Nicola, Nadine, Kimberley and Sarah – aka the show’s winning girl group, Girls Aloud – coming out the blocks with their career starting, Xenomania helmed disco pop/drum’n’bass/surf guitar fed banger ‘Sound of the Underground’ – proof if needed, that sometimes pop reality shows bring us some brilliant artists in the process.

What have been your favourite Christmas number ones of years past? Who do you think will take it this year? Comment below or Tweet me and let me know your thoughts!

Christmas Song Advent Calendar 2017: Day 15

  • ARTIST: Blue
  • SONG: Lonely This Christmas
  • ALBUM: Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word (2002, Innocent/Virgin)

Originally recorded for one of the first ever BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge sessions all the way back at the start of their career in 2001, Antony, Duncan, Lee and Simon gave a soulful, stripped back take on Mud’s 1975 festive chart topper with consummate ease. For a song that was originally written by Mud as a bit of a joke, this tale of December set heartbreak has remained a Christmas classic ever since.

Don’t forget to follow our Spotify playlist to ensure you’re getting all the songs each day in the run up to Christmas!

Christmas Song Advent Calendar 2017: Day 14

  • ARTIST: Mike Oldfield
  • SONG: In Dulci Jubilo
  • ALBUM: Elements – The Best of Mike Oldfield (1975, Virgin)

Yes, I do realise that festive snow-y town image isn’t one of Mike Oldfield, but that’s partly because I couldn’t find a flattering one of him. His instrumental, nay almost Celtic take on the classic carol that dates back to the 14th century is nothing short of joyous. And also, in our household, made for a thoroughly entertaining air-panpipe rendition of this. Yes, there is such a thing, and no you are not allowed to question it readers.

Don’t forget to follow our Spotify playlist to ensure you’re getting all the songs each day in the run up to Christmas!

Christmas Song Advent Calendar 2017: Day 13

  • ARTIST: Steps
  • SONG: Dear Santa
  • ALBUM: Tears on the Dancefloor: Crying at the Disco Deluxe Edition (2017, Steps Music/Fascination)

The closest Steps ever got to a Christmas single – again on virtue of video alone – was their million selling ‘Heartbeat’ in 1998. 19 years later, and as they near the end of their 20th anniversary celebrations this year, they’ve finally bought out a gorgeously winter warming festive single, co-written by no less personage than The Saturdays’ Una Healy. One listen to this with a Mexican hot chocolate, and the world will seem a better place.

Don’t forget to follow our Spotify playlist to ensure you’re getting all the songs each day in the run up to Christmas!

Christmas Song Advent Calendar 2017: Day 12

  • ARTIST: McFly
  • SONG: Rockin’ Robin
  • ALBUM: Sorry’s Not Good Enough/Friday Night (2006, Universal Island)

OK. So the Michael Jackson classic isn’t strictly a Christmas song. But because there is a robin in it – and one that I imagine is perched on a wintry branch, sporting an Elvis quiff and leather jacket with a tiny electric guitar busking – then by common consent it is a Christmas song. McFly’s version gives it a lively punk-pop kick and is a perfect for a jig around the kitchen after a sherry (or two)!

Don’t forget to follow our Spotify playlist to ensure you’re getting all the songs each day in the run up to Christmas!

Tweet Hee Hee: Episode 14

Welcome one and all to a brand new episode of Tweet Hee Hee! This, if you don’t already know, is our weekly round up of all the funny bits on social media that we’ve rounded up that are guaranteed to make you smile on your Monday morning.

So don’t go trekking out into that snow and ice just yet – pour yourself another cup of tea and get ready to warm up with some brand new LOLs for a brand new week…

CATS IN SNOW ON THE INTERNET, PART THE 173

Well done, Sophie Ellis-Bextor. The trophy is yours this week…

MOVE OVER, KIRSTIE ALLSOPP

There’s a new name in the home crafting world – and it’s Olaf Falafel…

SACK THE MARKETING TEAM, PART THE 548

Unless that was the aim, Noel Gallagher, you really probably should…

MIND YOU, IT COULD BE WORSE

Maybe the same person behind Noel’s botched press reviews was also responsible for this Cambridge News headline this week…

BREAKFAST BUFFET PROTOCOL

Our End of Year Prizes nominee Richard Osman and pals discuss the perils of this…

FINDING A NEW PHIL COLLINS CD – AGAINST ALL ODDS

Don’t look in Sainsbury’s for it. Just saying.

Christmas Song Advent Calendar 2017: Day 11

  • ARTIST: The Shins
  • SONG: Wonderful Christmastime
  • ALBUM: Christmas Rules (2012, MPL Communications)

It’s not often you get a cover version of a song from British pop and rock royalty that’s just as good as the original. But when Sir Paul McCartney himself approves, you know it’s got to be a blinder. 

Recorded for this Christmas compilation on Macca’s MPL label in 2012, American indie rockers The Shins brought his 1979 classic bang up to date but whilst retaining snow encrusted sleigh bells and merriment throughout. And you can’t ask more than that.

Don’t forget to follow our Spotify playlist to ensure you’re getting all the songs each day in the run up to Christmas!

#StrictlyLiveBlogging Week 13: Semi Final Review

Hello one, hello all! Those of you who came a-scampering here on Saturday and Sunday night for this week’s #StrictlyLiveBlogging may have been left a little disappointed – it was, after all, the semi final of the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing – which means it is now Final-T1.

Alas, having felt quite ill all week with a cold and then chest infection which I am only just now recovering from, I was a bit low on energy to do the live blog this week. I did however, promise a review of this weekend’s semi final action for completeness’ sake once I felt better, to get us all up to speed before the grand final next week.

So let’s get dissecting this weekend’s dancefloor smashes, shall we?

THE DANCES

Well with it being the semi final, the stakes were raised once again as the five remaining couples performed not one but TWO dances to try and secure their place in next week’s final and edge one step closer to lifting the glitterball.

I think it’s safe to say everyone really upped their game this week, and it was almost too close to call who’d be close but no cigar to getting through to the final. But what of the dances themselves?

With a total of 79 – 39 for their Viennese Waltz, and then the first perfect 40 of the series for their Salsa – it’s little surprise Alexandra and Gorka came top of the leaderboard. 

Certainly on the latter dance alone, it seemed, after the week she’d had at the hands of certain Antipodean tabloid hacks (that we won’t go into here), that her and Gorka came in all guns blazing to prove they were worthy of a place in the final – and with their routine to Cece Peniston’s club classic ‘Finally’, they delivered in spades.

Close behind her in second place with 35 a piece – and a score of 70 overall – for their American Smooth and sizzling Argentine Tango were Joe and Katya. I say it many a time on this blog, but the Argentine Tango is my absolute favourite of all the dances on Strictly

There’s been some awfully average ones on this series, but when Joe and Katya did theirs – and this particular move (below) – on the semi final last night. I. Was Blown. Away. I am starting to sway towards them pulling off an unexpected win a la fellow Holby City graduate Tom Chambers in 2008 next week.

That left Debbie and Giovanni to finish the top 3 with 34 and 36 for their Jive and Foxtrot respectively. Dances of two halves to be honest – the Foxtrot to Stevie Wonder’s ‘Isn’t She Lovely’ was well, lovely, light, life affirming and just better. 

And so this all then left a certain Ms Atkinson and Ms King to be in the position no one wanted to be in this weekend…

THE DANCE OFF

After finishing in the bottom two of the leaderboard, it was perhaps no surprise that Mollie and AJ and Gemma and Aljâz found themselves in the final dance off of this series of Strictly.

Personally, on the two dances they delivered this weekend, I did think Mollie and AJ were the more consistent of the two and gravely undermarked again. Their Samba to Shakira’s ‘Whenever, Wherever’ was a real party starter, spicy, saucy and plenty of hip action, and their Waltz to Sarah McLachlan’s ‘Angel’ was beautiful, moving and graceful throughout.

Gemma and Aljâz’s Rumba wasn’t much to write home about – functional but otherwise uninteresting. But I think they won that dance off on their Tango to The Knacks’ punk pop classic ‘My Sharona’ alone – it was undisputedly a show stopper, with brilliant choreography and costumes. Whether they win next weekend? That remains to be seen.

But we are sad to see Mollie and AJ go, although they did amazingly to even get this far. Without doubt, they have been one of our favourite couples this series – such wonderful chemistry throughout all their dances – and we did love their Tango and Charleston especially.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS OF SEMI FINAL WEEKEND

1. Our End of Year Prizes nominee and – for this week anyway – the current reigining Strictly champ, Ore Oduba, returning to do the T&Cs – along with Danny Mac, Judge Rinder and Melvin Odoom. We love you Ore!

2. The Lindyhop inspired group dance on the results show. Those breakdancing kids were incredible!

3. Craig David and Bastille’s performance of their (brilliant) new single ‘I Know You’. We love Craig anyway here on this blog but his performance was made even better by Aljâz and Janette’s stunning routine to the song!

So that’s it. The finalists are in place. The glitterball awaits to be lifted – and we are priming ourselves up for one last weekend of dance magic this year. 

As it’s the final next weekend, we have an extra long warm up, starting at 5:30pm, before we go live for the very last time this year at 6:30pm with the BBC One show. So bring your drinks and snacks, buckle in and get ready to keeeep live blogging and dancing once more. We’ll see you all then!

Alex 💃📺🎉 📝🏆🌟👍

Christmas Song Advent Calendar 2017: Day 10

  • ARTIST: Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton
  • SONG: You Make It Feel Like Christmas
  • ALBUM: You Make It Feel Like Christmas (2017, Interscope)

There’s a general rule of thumb to modern Christmas albums: if you’re releasing one, you’re either an artist catering to a hardcore fanbase, or you can’t shift records at the rate you did at your peak. To that, we say: POPPYCOCK.

When they’re as joyous and life affirming as Gwen Stefani’s new Christmas album, and contain future festive, Tamla Motown-esque classics like this title track featuring her The Voice co-judge and partner Blake Shelton, it matters little when she’s decided to release it. We’re just glad she has.

Don’t forget to follow our Spotify playlist to ensure you’re getting all the songs each day in the run up to Christmas!