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Tuesday, 14 December, 1999, 13:54 GMT
Are the music charts a joke?

Christmas is coming and what do the UK music charts have to offer - Sir Cliff Richard singing the Millennium Prayer up against a group of singing hamsters.

Nowadays, sales as low as 60,000 can make a major impact on the singles chart, with slick marketing or cult interest enough to guarantee a rip-roaring show in the weekly pop list.

But does it mean anything? Are the charts relevant or rubbish? Have your say now. Are the music charts a joke?

Your Reaction

I can't help but respect Cliff's dire record for bucking the whims of the dull and dreary media.
Victor Houghton, England
The record companies control the charts, no matter what people say, if you have money and the power you can make anything get to number 1. With the A+R and marketing people, musicians are no longer people who sing, they are businessmen in suits in big towers. It's sad but it's true.
John Chinnick, UK

Maybe it is not the chart that's a joke, but the music itself. This is certainly the case with the contenders for our 'prestigious' Christmas No1 slot. Has anyone else noticed that the hamster dance has ripped off a Disney video (Robin Hood)? And Cliff Richard's Millennium Prayer video is an insult to the technology available to us at the turn of the Millennium. Maybe he filmed it at one of those video booths at Butlins.
Paul Lainchbury, UK

I think it's great that bands are still competing to get the top spot at Christmas. The likes of the hamster dance and South Park make the charts more interesting in that they beat the top bands.
Dean, England
You can always expect a few strange songs at Christmas, because that's when people who wouldn't normally buy them, pick up one or two whilst out on their Christmas shopping spree.
Stewart, England

Only sad people would take the charts seriously. They are a good way of getting weak minded idiots to buy music through some misguided notion that it's good music because its in the charts.
R. Ball, UK

If you really want to know what the General Public are listening to then you should look at the Album charts. Who buys singles these days? I think it is mostly teenie-boppers.
Sean Murphy, Belgium

What's all the fuss about? As far as I'm concerned, I don't care what's topping the chart at which time as long as I still have access to the type of music I like. And for anyone to say any form of music is 'rubbish' is just plain snobbery!
Akin Akinsoto, UK

Only the naive would think that the charts are a true reflection of taste - a few years ago Roger Cook exposed mass buying of their own records by all the big record companies.
A Jackson, UK

If the UK charts really are a true depiction of the British public's taste in popular music, then the British public need to have their ears (and brains) removed. Every era has had it's share of cringingly bad 'music', however the late nineties seems to be concerned only with the most shallow, talentless media-driven pantomime acts, paid for by schoolchildren. It is a reflection about our society today, where image is everything. Shame on the corporate music big-wigs for their relentless greed.
Andy, UK

"Serious" music lovers have their own charts - "Indie" charts, "R&B charts" etc, and we look to those to get an idea of how the music we love is doing
Scott Ogier, Netherlands
The UK charts are driven by sales; they are a true reflection of public spending patterns. However, we should remember that by definition half the members of the public are not "serious" about music. This is what happens when you give too much baby sitting money. "Serious" music lovers have their own charts - "Indie" charts, "R&B charts" etc, and we look to those to get an idea of how the music we love is doing. The "UK Charts" are just a reflection of what the public is buying and "serious" music lovers are not really interested in what the public are buying.
Scott Ogier, Netherlands

Charts have been a joke for more than 10 years now! Its just a shame that there are hundreds of great musicians, vocalists and bands in all areas of music (from jazz to hip-hop, indie to heavy metal) that will never get the recognition (or sales) that their skills and dedication deserve. Nowadays it's rare to see any kind of "good music" reach the top 10.
Chris, UK

I don't think we could get by Christmas without a cheesy Christmas hit although I don't think my ears would agree with me! It seems as if all of the music taste in Britain goes out the window as soon as we see a Christmas tree!
J. Norman, UK
I'm 20 and for a long time now have enjoyed rock and indie music. These are sorely under-represented in the charts. It really annoys me that talented bands like Idlewild, who write their own material and play their own instruments, are relegated to the backbenches, whilst the limelight is stolen by talentless pap like S Club 7 and Steps.
Dave Harrison, England

Of course the charts aren't a joke - they're a reflection of the music-buying public. The charts aren't a joke at all. It's just that the British public is a joke.
Simon Jones, UK

If the charts reflect sales, as I believe they do, then the charts are not a joke. What they are is a reflection of what people are buying. I reckon GOOD LUCK! to Sir Cliff Richard for getting to number one against the odds. No other singer has had to endure the totally unwarranted criticism that Cliff has had over the years.
John Pugsley, Australia

It's amazing that George Michael has said that this single is "vile" and taking advantage of the Christmas celebrations. Has he forgotten his "Last Christmas" single released at the same period some years ago? C'mon George, live and let live will ya?
Rafliz Ridzuan, Malaysia

ANOTHER Cliff Xmas Number One? Haven't we had more than enough of them? How about Kylie and Natalie singing God Save The Queen?!
Ed Gibbs, Sydney, Australia

Sir Cliffs Millennium Prayer is designed to tuck on the nations heartstrings. People seem to have a urge, as if it's their Christian duty to buy the record. It's not the first time sentimentality has been used to sell records, Candle in the Wind was only successful because of Diana's death. It is in fact a dull song, but that doesn't stop the public. Is it right or wrong? That's down to the individual. The charts on a whole however, everybody knows that they're a waste of time, all year so what's new? A thought however what is better to go into the new millennium with, a spiritual song which should signify a nation and it's hopes for the future or some cunningly marketed rubbish?
Paul Billington, Wales

Once and for all... would all those people who keep saying Cliff is making money out of the Christmas single, get it right! All the money made by the single are going to The Children's Promise Charity! And hey all of you who don't like it. Fine... there are so many of us out there who do, so get over it. It's just a song! And the charts being a joke... well yeah I have always thought that some charts were a bit suspect, but then knowing that the UK charts are done from sales only, then they are bound to be more trustworthy than other countries who use other methods! I do think it typical though that people start to ask "are the charts a joke" only now because Cliff got to the top spot again! All I can say is that is really petty, just because they don't like something, they have to put it down. We are all different, and so like different things. Oh and he did it again! 3rd week running at No.1!!!!
Beth Mannin, New Zealand

I think calling the charts a joke this year, is just another way to get to Cliff. This question wasn't posed in previous years, but because he has proven all the critics wrong, they now have to invent something new. Maybe the reason for the success of Millennium Prayer is that most people want to believe in the best of man-kind, especially right now entering the new millennium. I am a very big fan of Cliff and I am very proud to say that I love the Millennium Prayer; it is so appropriate for the celebrations this year.
Hanne Bech-Jensen, Denmark

The charts indeed are a joke. I'm 19 and between my mates and I, we probably cover the entire spectrum of music tastes - however it never ceases to amaze me how songs that none of us like get to number one. I can see how Cliff got to number one - he got the religous vote and the "older" peoples vote and with stations banning it, the only way for these factions to hear it was to buy it. My mother bought it for this very reason - because it was the only way she could decide whether she liked it or not. I must say that weird songs like the Hampster Dance are just so ridiculously cool that I'd like to see them get a Crimble No. 1, but not at any other time of the year!
Iain Buchanan, UK

The point about the Christmas charts is that many more records are sold at this time of year, so the charts are less likely to be a joke now than at anyother time of year. The reason Cliff Richard is number 1 now is not because his hard core fans have all bought the single, but because about half a million people across the country have liked the song enough to buy it. It's as simple as that!
John Cairncross, London UK

Yes, the Christmas number one is becoming a joke. I have to agree with what George Michael said about Cliff taking advantage of Christians. Trying to gloss over this by saying money raised from sales goes to charity makes no diference - Cliff still gets a big fat percentage of the sales doesn't he? And the fact the song isn't even original makes it even more of an insult.
Richard, Scotland

Having spent several years living in the UK, I have to say that the UK Christmas charts are a complete joke. For some reason, come mid December, the entire nation enters some kind of bizarre third dimension where taste makes way for novelty and people feel compelled to purchase music sung by perversly odd characters (be they big blobby pink things or Cliff Richard). Christmas no 1 is something to be ignored and certainly not revered!
Peter Action, Australia

A joke? Any business that can effectively brainwash a group of people into regularly spending money is not a joke.
Mike, England

As a Christian I am of course delighted that Cliff's Lord's Prayer is No1; but apart from that it shows a great lack of creativity that the No 1 should be original neither in words nor in melody.
Philip, UK

Music comes in many and varied forms. The charts champion the lowest common denominator. It is time that the UK had a lot more music stations to represent these tastes.
Gareth, Canada

The music charts are a joke 90% of the time as they only reveal a minority demographic (i.e. teens and twenties in record buying mode). It is only at times like this when true music tastes of the majority are revealed - and only then do this minority call the charts a joke!
Fendall Hill, New Zealand

The charts are the best indicators we have of the popularity of a single at this time. Marketing didn't help in the case of Cliff's Christmas effort as he was almost universally snubbed by the radio stations. Clearly he shot to number one almost entirely on the strength of the loyalty of his fans. A rare quality these days. As to singing hamsters, why not? It's original and amusing. Anything to break the monotony of the air waves.
Simon Cameron, United Kingdom

The UK music chart is still based completely on sales unlike the US and most European charts that are based on airplay. If the charts are " a joke" then it is the consumer that is the joke for buying things like Cliff Richard and those bunny's!
Ciaran, Dublin, Ireland

Where is the talent? Can we really take yet more new girl or boy bands in the new Millennium? Christmas used to be the time of year you did not take the charts too seriously, you were bound to have a complete load of trash at the's like that all year round now! HELP!
Daniel James, UK

Yes the charts are a total joke. With groups (not bands) who can only sing launching campaigns on vulnerable ten year olds e.g. Boyzone, the Spice Girls, Backstreet Boys what do we expect. Why do people not support real songwriters like Radiohead, The Manic Street Preachers and U2?
Ciaran Daly, Ireland

Music charts are not a joke, they are simply a chart of what music people buy. The hype around them is the joke. It is however perhaps ironic that the reason why charts become some important is that in post-Christian Britain we do not have absolutes, just popularity to base our values on. Cliff Richard's song is not half as bad as many other number ones, and Hamster Dance has a good tune. It's strange to see how the world has changed, Cliff has become the anti-establishment rebel, and a liberal society dictates that we cannot listen to Christianity - it's too dangerous. It might make us into responsible caring people who give money to the less well off and do no harm to anyone - the breakdown of society as we know it!!!!
Ed Manning, UK

Of course the charts are a joke. Marketing is all. You cannot place bets on the no.1 most of the time, because the bookies don't think it's worth the risk. I think that says a lot. Besides: the impact of artistically credible music on the charts is minimal at best.
Chris Stokes, Britain

Music Charts for the most part are a joke yes. Since there are so many charts these days it's hard to get a handle on what is the real public reaction and what isn't. The Singles Charts are probably the biggest joke of them all since that's where the hype really goes for the one off singles etc. I tend to allow the Album Charts much more leeway since I mostly buy albums myself, and it's usually a grand mixture of musical tastes from pop to classical. I find myself more caring about if my favourite groups album has went to Number 1 than their latest Promo Single.
Paul, Scotland

The singles charts are no more or less a joke than they ever were. They're a reflection of what people buy in any given week. Novelty records, such as the singing hamsters, have been around forever. I remember Pinky and Perky back in the late 50s. As for Cliff, he's been making hits for more than 40 years. His current single has sold 450,000 copies in its first 3 weeks. That's hardly a cult following and easily comparable to the sales of many number ones over the years. I suspect we really have a sour grapes question here. Those who dismissed The Millennium Prayer when it was first released can't come to terms with the fact that they totally misread public opinion. So now they try to dismiss the chart as being a joke. Tough! You were wrong. Get used to it!
Pat Murphy, Canada

The music charts simply indicate which 'artist' has been the most cleverly marketed. There's a reason we call it the 'Music Industry.' It simply has no soul and has been, like nearly all other industries, designed to turn a profit and very little else matters.
Roger Hall, USA

The charts ARE a joke. Cliff has a nice song and a good song for the end of the Millennium. He has had to work his butt of trying to get his song even played never mind on the charts. Good marketing (and a lot of money) can get a bunch of cartoon characters to the top of the charts. These days so many of the songs in the charts are very bad remakes of hits from the 70's and 80's. I wish people like Cliff all the best and I personally hope that HIS song IS the final No 1 of this Millennium - he deserves it for the career that he has had and for the fact that it IS a good song. How sad would it be if a song like the Hamsters was always remembered as the last No 1.
Margaret de Boer, Australia

In my opinion the British charts are a complete waste of time. They purely exist for record companies to make more money by releasing "novelty" pop songs. Many of the entries are by people who have no talent whatsoever, and perhaps only have the one big song, which they didn't even write! The charts take attention away from bands that actually have talent and can produce quality music, e.g. Radiohead, U2 etc. The music on the charts is aimed at children and so is not even remotely representative of the range of music that British people listen to.
Richard Shannon, Scotland

I'll have to agree with the guy from Brazil. (I left England in '69). The "Sir" in front of Cliff Richard is pretty hard to take in itself! I know when I was last in the U.K. I couldn't believe how infantile the Pop music sounded on BBC. Even the radio show people all sounded like they had just been released from a mental institution. I couldn't understand what they were talking about. It was just nonsense!
Michael Barton, Canada

As a Sir Cliff fan I am delighted to see him at the top of the charts again. Everybody seems to have forgotten that this single is raising a lot of money for children's charities and even if you're not a Cliff fan isn't this something to be applauded?
Anne Cain, UK

So the U.S. has The Backstreet Boys, the U.K. has The Singing Hamsters. I'm glad to see the Brits still have a sense of humour.
Jeremy, Canada

Compared to 10 years ago the UK Singles charts now have no meaning whatsoever...Remember when a song would be #1 for five or six weeks? Singles have become too expensive to buy frequently for most people. You must look at the Album chart to realise that the UK still makes some fantastic music, probably some of the best in the world.
Rainman, Japan.

Hampster Dance happens to be one of my very favourite web sites. Regardless of what kind of day I am having, the hamsters can always bring a smile to my face. I can't say the same for Cliff Richard.
Karen, Canada

We live in a society where instant gratification and 15 minutes of fame for all seem to be the norm. The charts simply reflect how superficial our life is today, but that doesn't mean that is a good or a bad thing; it is merely the way it is - if you get upset over it, you're falling prey to the very thing you're criticizing.
Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK

I just love the way the media is pouting at Sir Cliff's recent success. He is reviled for not singing about sex, drugs, alcohol or whatever he may or may not have been caught doing in a public toilet in LA. The media is upset, other singers are upset, presenters are upset. And so, because they can't accept that he is at number one, they say "well, there's no such thing as a real number one anyway". How pathetic this attitude of "it's, y ball and I'm taking it away" is.
Richard Hodges, Wales, UK

The charts are a reflection of what we buy. The low number of sales required to achieve the top spot is a reflection of the quality of the music. If you want high quantity sales then someone needs to produce quality music. However, this does not explain the St Winifred's Choir or Clive Dunn...
John Ryves, Banbury, UK

The really funny thing about the charts is to see the way that 'stars' such as George Michael can't take the thought of anyone liking different music. Hamsters, Cliff or Policemen in toilets who cares. What sad people!
Pete Cook, U.K.

When you're a young kid and your favourite artists climb up the charts and are on 'Top of the Pops' it's always exciting. Now I'm older, I don't listen to anything in the charts anymore but I now recognise that the charts are just a music business yardstick and reflect what has been marketed most successfully or what is in fashion at the time. To people like me it is meaningless.
Darren J.Thurman, England

Give me Fear Factory, Metallica, Slayer any day over any chart rubbish.
Gene, England

Unfortunately, the music charts dictate to a large extent exactly what the majority of the British public listen too. There is a tremendous amount of excellent music out there which isn't given airplay simply because the vast majority of DJ's haven't heard it before (or like it themselves) or because it is produced on a small record labels who simply can't provide the funds to promote their product.
Geoff Scott, Malaysia

Eek eek eeeeeek eek ek eeek. Regards, Hammy. P.S. Word up!
Hampster P. Hampkins jr., UK

I am a fan of Sir Cliff's, and I think he's brilliant. I think someone out there (in radio land) has it in for him, and if you look back over the treatment he's recorded the past 3 years you'll see it's true. They wouldn't play "Can't Keep This Feeling In" because it wasn't "cool" to play a Cliff Richard song. They won't play "Millennium Prayer" because it doesn't "fit" their format. What next? They can't play the next one because his hair is too short..?? The whole situation is stupid, and anyone who snubs a pop ICON such as Cliff is also STUPID.
Cheryl, USA

Hamsters! Sir Cliff making money off religion! It's making those awful pop groups look credible.
Phil Paterson, Australian

Cliff Richard is number 1 at Christmas again, now I know why I left.
Bal, Canada

Why don't the young ones go on a summer holiday and leave us to bask on a decent singer and man being no 1.
Ted, USA

Cliff Richards "hit" is absolute garbage. He must have bought thousands of the CD's to get a number one hit. The Hamsterdance, cute diversion but really¿.. Has Olde England, home to the Beatles, Stones, Who, Moody all...sunk to such lows that these can songs can be hits??? Life is truly strange eh?
Snarley, Canada

I think The Millennium Prayer is the worst song I have ever heard - so completely unoriginal and it is a shame that it ever made the charts at all. The irony is that, if it had been given airplay in the first place, I suspect that people would have steered well clear of buying it. The charts are totally based on hype. My 6-month-old baby likes the hamster dance though. What more can I say?
Su Goodacre, Seattle, USA

Hamster Schmamster! Did you see the Mahir dance, now THAT'S music! Although, I am a bigger fan of Sir Cliff. The charts reflect how fickle the public can be.
Kathleen Oyanadel, USA

The Hamster dance song is terrible but actually much better than Cliff's attempt. Cliff's days are well gone and his latest song is terrible. It's supposed to be 'popular' music not religious music.
Karl Hadman, England

Dear God, Cliff Richard and singing hamsters, now I know that leaving Britain 12 years ago was definitely the right decision. Say! The words and tune of cliffs piece seem a little familiar- where does he get those ideas? Yours excruciatingly¿..
Andy, Canada

My wife and I love the Hamsters. We have listened to them for months and they never fail to improve our moods no matter what else is happening.
Tom Campbell, USA

Did most of us buy it and make it No.1? I think the song is too morbid and too late, if people who believe in God think we must start praying now with Cliff. Do we all fear God or something will put an end to earth come the end of the year, and buying this will be one step to absolution. Is Cliff trying to be like Harry Seacome? I definitely did not buy it.
Andrew Wyer, UK

The singles charts are no more or less a joke than they ever were. They're a reflection of what people buy in any given week. Novelty records, such as the singing hamsters, have been around forever. I remember Pinky and Perky back in the late 50s. As for Cliff, he's been making hits for more than 40 years. His current single has sold 450,000 copies in its first 3 weeks. That's hardly a cult following and easily comparable to the sales of many number ones over the years. I suspect we really have a sour grapes question here. Those who dismissed The Millennium Prayer when it was first released can't come to terms with the fact that they totally misread public opinion. So now they try to dismiss the chart as being a joke. Tough! You were wrong. Get used to it!
Pat Murphy, Canada

Yes! I vote for the Hamsters any day. I came to believe that in the UK the charts were taken far more seriously than in the USA. While living in UK. Best of luck to all.
Kate Mc Clure, USA

The charts are ridiculous. Both the hamsters and Cliff are rubbish.
Gavin Haslehurst, UK

I think the UK charts have been ridiculous for a long time. Segue Segue Sputnik ring a bell? That must be 20 years ago. However it seems to mean something because all these flash in the pan artists still get airplay, although fortunately rarely in North America.
james loken, ca

How can the charts be classified as a joke just because a song that a lot of people have it in for (or should that be a singer that a lot of people have it in for) is currently number one? The charts reflect what people are buying and will therefore always be relevant and a useful indicator of what is going on in the music world in any given week.
Stephen, England

Sir Cliff Richard is one of the worlds greatest servants to music and the arts. He has dedicated 3 decades of music and melodies that have brought a great deal of joy to people of my generation. Long may he continue.
Alan Cheese, England

I've heard "Sir" Cliff Richards' record once -UGH! The hampster Dance has had us all laughing for days.
Barry, UK

Hamsterdance is a brilliant site, but as a single it is too plain and lacks intrest. The least Hampton, the peson who does hamster dance could do is jazz the song up a bit before it is released. I also would like to say that I don't like Cliff Richards new single 'the millenium prayer' at all, it is so sickly. A disgruntled hamster dance fan.
L-Jay, England

Why not? Its fun and innovative. What more do you want to top the pops at Christmas? Hardly the season of deep meaningful dance music!
Michael Grazebrook, UK

The charts certainly are a load a rubbish. Who honestly cares whether yet another trash record sells 150,000 copies, just due to clever marketing or the latest fashion among 15 year olds? It certainly has nothing whatsoever to do with music.
Alastair Stevens, UK

Music charts in general are a joke. Taste in and knowledge of music is no longer a thing that members of a certain country or community have in common. The third wave has washed away the songs that used to make any nation a nation.
Peter Williams, South Africa

I never thought I'd be happy to have Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys at the top of the U.S. charts, but after a quick look at the U.K. charts, I know things can always be worse.
Rath Andor, USA

The Lord´s Prayer? Singing hamsters? I've obviously been gone too long. Anybody remember Slade?
Graham Bell, Brazil

I think the hamster dance is excellent and I wish there could be more websites like it, I know there are a few e.g. unicorn dance, but I really think it is great.
Crofty, England

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See also:
08 Dec 99 |  Entertainment
Singing hamsters threaten Sir Cliff
10 Dec 99 |  Entertainment
The Cuban invaders
05 Dec 99 |  Entertainment
Sir Cliff tipped for millennium No 1
10 Dec 99 |  Entertainment
Michael brands Cliff campaign 'vile'

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