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Sunday, 17 December, 2000, 15:23 GMT
Pick of the Christmas singles
Westlife
Westlife: All they want for Christmas is...
As the fight for Christmas number one gets serious, BBC News Online reviews the contenders.

WESTLIFE - WHAT MAKES A MAN (RCA)

This is getting silly. With seven UK number one singles to their name already, the all-conquering quintet are expected to make it eight in a row with this identikit ballad.

Sticking to a winning formula is one thing, but sticking to a winning song is surely taking things too far. And such a lifeless one, too.

Even the great Val Doonican summoned up the energy to climb off his stool now and then.


EMINEM - STAN (Interscope)

You can ban him, slam him, nail him and jail him, but you can't keep the genius of Slim Shady down for long.

Eminem
Eminem: BBC News Online users' tip for the top
Eminem blows away the competition with this tragic tale, which deserves to be Christmas number one until the next millennium.

Backed by the haunting cries of Dido, Stan tells of an obsessive fan who kills himself and his pregnant girlfriend out of love for Slim.

Controversial it may be, but to hell with the snipers. This is one record you simply must own.


BOB THE BUILDER - CAN WE FIX IT? (BBC)

You know the music industry's in trouble when the novelty records are better than most of the serious ones. Bob, voiced by Neil Morrissey, is the 21st Century's answer to Postman Pat - but with an edgier musical style.

Bob the Builder
Bob the Builder: Can he fix the competition?
Produced by one Grant Mitchell (surely not?) it boasts a furious dance beat, slabs of metallic guitar and an opening lifted from Twist and Shout/Let's Dance.

After a year dominated by boy bands, it's good to see a puppet with some talent in the charts for a change.


ROBBIE WILLIAMS - SUPREME (Chrysalis)

The Ego/Boy Wonder continues to reign supreme with this majestic, but bittersweet slice of pop. Robbie might have wanted Kylie to stay but she and the Kids have gone, and it's time for another solo outing.

The third - and best - track from Sing When You're Winning, Supreme borrows heavily from the Gloria Gaynor classic, "I Will Survive". Mournful strings meander through a haze of cynical, questioning lyrics.

Oh the woe, Robbie, the woe.


KYLIE MINOGUE - PLEASE STAY (EMI)

At one time, you could admit to liking Kylie as long as you didn't tell too many people about it.

Kylie
Kylie: Like the poster
The single Confide in Me and her dalliance with Nick Cave hinted that she may have actually grown up.

Sadly this insipid song tries to muscle in on the already crowded middle-of-the-road ground occupied by girl bands, boy bands and girl-boy bands and the like.

Please Stay? Please Go more like it. Nice freebie poster though.


CRAIG - AT THIS TIME OF YEAR (Warner Music)

Big Brother winner Craig Phillips looks to extend his 15 minutes of fame by moving into the world of pop. But the Jacuzzi-hopping, wind-breaking Craig of popular legend is nowhere in sight on this alarmingly slushy ballad.

"Let's close the door and lie together," he sings - in a line which recalls his flickering on-screen dalliance with the silicone-enhanced Claire.

Still, it's all in aid of charity, thus making any kind of critical carping sound positively Scrooge-like.


SUGABABES - NEW YEAR (London)

They're being touted as the teen band with a difference - the difference being that they're actually quite good.

Sure enough, the new single lives up to the hype - with a melodic swagger reminiscent of early All Saints and lots of inventive harmonies. The classy arrangement is boosted by an infectiously splashy drumbeat and stabs of acoustic guitar.

And what's more they manage to throw the word "Christmas" into the lyrics without sounding remotely contrived.


THE WOMBLES WITH ROY WOOD - I WISH IT COULD BE A WOMBLING CHRISTMAS EVERY DAY (RCA)

Classic 70s pairing which probably sounded a much better idea in theory than in practice.

The Wombles
Wombling free, but how far up the charts?
As the less-than-snappy title implies, it's a rather laboured blending of the old Wizzard favourite with Wombling Merry Christmas.

Not surprisingly, Tobermory and chums sound a little rusty after the 25-year gap in their career, but then again it can't be easy performing underneath all that fur.

And that's just Roy Wood, of course.


TEXAS - INNER SMILE (Mercury)

The song itself has been somewhat overshadowed by the video - featuring Sharleen's vaguely eerie Elvis impression.

As Texas singles go it's one of their livelier offerings, with a solid chorus underpinning Sharleen's efforts to be the first voice in space.


MAHIR - I KISS YOU (EMI)

His website attracts 100,000 visitors a day - now the Turkish phenomenon sets out to turn his popularity into record sales.

"My eyes are green/I have a car/I like music/I watch the stars" he intones like a lonely hearts ad come to life - which is basically what his website is.

It's all done with a pulsating dance beat and a hint of irony - sounding just the sort of thing which might turn up on cult TV show Eurotrash. As a matter of fact, it already has.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Westlife
What Makes A Man
Eminem
Stan
Bob the Builder
Can We Fix It?
Robbie Williams
Supreme
Craig
At This Time of Year
Sugababes
New Year
The Wombles with Roy Wood
I Wish It Could Be A Wombling Merry Christmas Every Day
Texas
Inner Smile
See also:

17 Dec 00 | Entertainment
Bob the Builder makes number one
14 Dec 00 | Entertainment
Eminem voted Christmas favourite
12 Dec 00 | Entertainment
Westlife lead Christmas chart race
11 Dec 00 | Entertainment
Eminem trounces Bob in chart battle
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