The UK Official Charts has announced that for the holiday season, Wham!'s 1984 single "Last Christmas" has been crowned the Christmas No. 1 for 2023.
Long considered a tradition in Britain during the yuletide season, the race for the Christmas No. 1 single this year has had a bittersweet ring. Written by the late George Michael (who passed on Christmas Day, 2016) who had the intention of making it a holiday hit, the song was kept off the top spot by Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas?" in 1984. The ensemble piece (with a Michael solo) is the second best-selling single in UK history, behind Wings' "Mull of Kintyre."
Michael's Wham! bandmate Andrew Ridgeley accepted the award, knowing that Michael would be "beside himself" and that the goal of attaining the No. 1 spot had finally been achieved. While acknowledging the importance of Band Aid, Ridgeley also noted "Last Christmas" has been the "perennial bridesmaid" in the intervening years, despite it being one of the best-selling singles not to reach No.1. However, that honor was nicked in January 2021 when "Last Christmas" landed at the No. 1 slot for the first time. But it was the challenge of being at the uppermost tier for the Christmastide that Ridgeley recognized was significant not only for Wham! but for their legions of fans as well.
"Yog [George] set lofty ambitions for himself as a songwriter. Our fans will have a real sense of achievement and pride in the fact it's become Christmas No.1."
2023 has been a fortuitous year in recognizing and commemorating the group's popularity. The documentarytime capsule Wham! was released in June on Netflix to commercial and critical praise, as it marked the 40th anniversary of their debut album Fantastic. November saw the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induct Michael with Ridgeley as the presenter.
"George was one of the greatest singers of our time," he stated from the podium. "His voice was sublime. It expressed both strength and vulnerability, qualities that resonate throughout his outstanding songwriting." Michael's voice resonated at the conclusion of his selection, "I want to leave songs. I believe I can leave songs that will mean something to other generations."
"Last Christmas" beat out competition from the likes of Sam Ryder and Mariah Carey's perennial "All I Want for Christmas Is You" to take the top slot. It also outdid the Pogues "Fairytale of New York," which landed at No. 6. The 1987 song has reached No. 2 on the UK chart multiple times, but this year saw a fresh campaign to lift it to No. 1 in honor of the death of songwriter and Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan, who died on Nov. 30 of this year. The single was even reissued earlier this month, as part of a vinyl package to benefit nonprofit the Dublin Simon Community.
Asked if MacGowan would have approved of the Christmas No. 1 campaign in her first interview since his death, the singer's widow Victoria Mary Clarke said, "I think he probably would."