Away from the world of sport, the betting for Christmas number one is one of the most exciting and unpredictable markets in the UK gambling industry. Every year, the race to be top of the charts on 25 December is hotly contested, with the battle for supremacy often going down to the wire.
A wide cross-section of bands, artists and genres contest the race, with Christmas-themed songs often beaten by the latest pop or rock hit. However, country music rarely contributes a serious candidate.
In this article, we will explore this year’s favorites to be UK Christmas number one and try to understand why country struggles to gain a foothold in UK music, whether that’s during the festive period or throughout the rest of the year.
This year’s favorites
The latest Christmas number 1 odds in the UK feature a crowded field of artists, musicians and bands, although there appears to be one overwhelming front-runner. Blogger and YouTuber Mark Hoyle, better known as LadBaby, has hit top spot in each of the last two years.
His 2018 and 2019 efforts were both novelty covers of classic rock hits ‘We Built This City’ and ‘I Love Rock and Roll’ respectively, with each version recorded themed around the traditional British savory snack, the sausage roll.
That novelty tracks could be interpreted as a sad reflection on the British music scene, although the act’s momentum shows no signs of stopping, with his latest effort ‘Don’t Stop Me Eating’ – a cover of ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ – the heavy favorite for 2020 at 2/9.
Other artists in the frame to challenge LadBaby are Ed Sheeran, at 11/4, and Justin Bieber, at 12/1, who has collaborated on a track with a choir made up of UK health service workers.
Of those acts, Sheeran has perhaps the biggest link to the country music genre, having worked alongside UK country act The Shires on their album in 2018. The tracks were recorded in Nashville and Sheeran contributed by writing a song entitled Stay The Night.
Bieber, meanwhile, collaborated with country pop act Dan + Shay on 2019 track 10,000 Hours, which placed number one for a full 21 weeks on the Hot Country Songs chart and sold more than 250,000 copies.
Country’s broader UK appeal
Though far from invisible in the UK, country music has struggled to gain a mainstream foothold in the music scene across the Atlantic. Last year, BBC Radio 2 listed six UK acts “making country music cool”, and the genre does enjoy a sizeable following, while Shania Twain also enjoyed major success in Britain around the turn of the century.
But the likes of Garth Brooks, George Strait, Kenny Rogers and Alabama, who make up the rest of the top five best-selling country artists of all time, have struggled to garner widespread attention.
Many have pondered the factors behind country music’s struggles to compete at the top of UK hit lists, though the truth may be relatively simple. The lack of cultural ties to the genre ‘across the pond’ simply makes it harder for the genre to develop a fanbase in a marketplace dominated by pop, rock, dance and rap.
Though cherished by millions worldwide, it seems country music may never become a regular feature of the British charts – whether at Christmas or any other time.