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Every year in the UK Singles Chart, there is a highly publicised race for the top slot on the chart immediately prior to Christmas, an honour known as the Christmas Number One. The UK public take a particular interest in chart performance and sales of singles are especially high in the two weeks before Christmas. The race for first position at Christmas has become a British institution and people will speculate, comment and bet upon the outcome.
The following is a list of UK Singles Chart Christmas number twos, songs that came in second place on the chart.
Although the Christmas number one is a highly coveted prize in the United Kingdom, the second-place finisher on the Christmas singles chart has also earned a certain degree of popularity, especially since the 1980s. On PRS for Music's 2010 list of the most popular Christmas songs of the year, the top three songs were all songs that had finished second on the chart: 1987's "Fairytale of New York" by The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl (beaten by the Pet Shop Boys' cover of "Always on My Mind"), 1984's "Last Christmas" by Wham! (second to Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas?," which also appears on the top-10 of the PRS chart), and 1994's "All I Want for Christmas Is You", now considered a Christmas standard both in the UK and in performer Mariah Carey's native United States but one that lost the Christmas number-one to East 17's "Stay Another Day". In some cases, the Christmas number-one is a novelty song that has little shelf life after the Christmas season, whereas the number-two has a greater life in recurrent rotation. An example of this was 1980's "There's No One Quite Like Grandma" by St Winifred's School Choir, a song that forced "(Just Like) Starting Over" by the recently deceased John Lennon out of the number-one spot (Lennon returned to number-one the week after Christmas).
The only group to have both Christmas numbers one and two in the same year is The Beatles, a feat they achieved twice, in 1963 and 1967. George Michael and Ed Sheeran have been Christmas number one and number two the same year in different groups (Michael with Band Aid at number 1 and Wham! at number 2 in 1984, Sheeran as a solo artist at number 1 and as a featured artist under Eminem at number 2 in 2017). Cliff Richard has finished second on the Christmas charts four times, the most of any act. The highest selling Christmas number-two is "She Loves You" by The Beatles followed by "Happy" by Pharrell Williams.
Another factor in the greater interest in the Christmas number two is the growing influence of reality television programmes on the chart. Popstars: The Rivals (2002) produced all of the top three singles on the Christmas UK Singles Chart. The Choir produced the number-one single in 2011 and, indirectly, 2015. The most sustained reality-orientated run at the top of the Christmas charts was The X Factor, whose winner has charted number one or number two on the chart every year from the second series from 2005 to 2014. Bookmakers began to notice the X Factor trends in 2007, when, assuming the X Factor single would be a certainty for the number one, they started taking bets on who Christmas number two would be instead. The X Factor's dominance has also led to numerous novelty campaigns to attempt to prevent the show's winner from reaching the top of the chart, although only "Killing in the Name" by Rage Against the Machine was successful in 2009. Charity records have pushed the X-Factor winners down to number-two in 2011 and 2012, while in 2013 and 2014 the X-Factor winners pushed two records that would eventually sell over a million copies down to number two. The X Factor winning single plummeted dramatically in popularity beginning with the 2015 single ("Forever Young" by Louisa Johnson), the sales for which fell over 80% year-over-year.
List of Christmas number two singles
Tracks marked * did top the chart either in the run-up to, or shortly after, Christmas.
- Christmas music
- List of UK Singles Chart Christmas number ones
- List of Irish Singles Chart Christmas number ones
- Have a chart-topping Christmas, BBC, 23 December 2001
- "Sound of silence vies to be Christmas number one". The Daily Telegraph. 16 October 2010. Retrieved 7 March 2012.
- Hewett, Emily (12 December 2011). "X Factor's Little Mix eye Christmas No.1 as bookies tip Perrie to go solo". Metro. Retrieved 7 March 2012.
- "Shhh! It could REALLY be a silent night this Christmas... if Facebook has anything to do with it". Daily Mail. 15 October 2010. Retrieved 7 March 2012.
- "Survey Reveals White Christmas As Most Memorable Christmas Song: But Mariah Carey's Hit Most Played", PRS for Music, 14 December 2010, press release. See also the 2009 and 2008 lists, which also feature all three of the mentioned songs. PRS did not publish a chart in 2011.
- Johnson, Andrew; Cooper, Claire; Richards, Victoria (20 December 2009), "Not quite Top of the Pops: Stuck at Number Two for Christmas", The Independent on Sunday
- Coleman, Maureen (18 December 2007), "X Factor has taken shine off seasonal number one", The Belfast Telegraph, retrieved 3 October 2012
- Kilkelly, Daniel (6 October 2007), "Bookies encourage Xmas number two betting", Digital Spy, Hearst Magazines UK, retrieved 17 August 2012,
William Hill is encouraging punters to bet on who will reach this year's Christmas number two spot. ... A William Hill spokesman explained: 'The annual X Factor single has wiped out a national institution. There's little real competition for the top single on Christmas Day, so we've opened a book to open the race up again.'
- "The demise of the X Factor Christmas Number 1". The Independent. 21 December 2015. Retrieved 3 April 2016.
- Dingwall, John (22 December 2006), "Just a Second", Daily Record
- Thomas, David (29 December 2012), "Classic hits that only got to No. 2", Daily Mail
- "Christmas No.1s that should have been", ShortList
- Lynskey, Dorian (7 May 2004), "Near hits", The Guardian, London
- Pidd, Helen (20 December 2009). "Rage Against the Machine beats X Factor's Joe to Christmas No 1". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 January 2014.
- Bull, Sarah (20 December 2010). "X Factor winner Matt Cardle is Christmas Number One with debut single When We Collide". Daily Mail. DMG Media. Retrieved 23 January 2014.
- Potter, Alistair (26 December 2011), "Military Wives Choir outsold Little Mix five-to-one in Christmas No.1 race", Metro
- Rigby, Sam (23 December 2012). "James Arthur: 'Justice Collective deserve Christmas number one'". Digital Spy. Hearst Magazines UK. Retrieved 23 January 2014.
- Molloy, Antonia (22 December 2013). "Christmas number one 2013: X Factor winner Sam Bailey beats Pharrell Williams with 'Skyscraper'". The Independent. Independent Print Limited. Retrieved 23 January 2014.
- "Ben Haenow beats Mark Ronson to claim Christmas number one". BBC. 22 December 2014. Retrieved 26 December 2014.
- "NHS Choir beat Bieber to UK Christmas number one". BBC News. 25 December 2015. Retrieved 25 December 2015.
- "Clean Bandit land Christmas number one with Rockabye". BBC. 23 December 2016. Retrieved 23 December 2016.