By Geoffrey Rowlands
There was a time when the winner of British television’s X Factor was virtually guaranteed to hold the Christmas number one on the UK singles chart. So much so that orchestrated attempts were made by anti-X Factor individuals to have some other artist secure top spot on the Christmas week chart.
In more recent years, X Factor mania has waned to an extent that taking pole position is by no means certain. A poor choice of winner’s song may have been responsible in some cases, particularly 2015 winner Louisa Johnson who was saddled with the lullaby version of Bob Dylan’s Forever Young.
This year’s winner had no-one to blame, or credit, but themselves. Rak-Su write all their own material. Their composition, Dimelo, was released as the winner’s single.
A reggaetron song, Dimelo was initially performed by Ashley Fongo, Jamaal Shurland, Myles Stephenson and Mustafa Rahimtulla on the second live show as part of Latino week. It proved so popular amongst viewers that this version of Dimelo topped the UK iTunes chart, as did three of the other original songs performed by Rak-Su on X Factor, but was ineligible for the official singles chart.
The version released as the winner’s single was produced by Naughty Boy and featured additional vocals from former Fugees star Wyclef Jean. It shot straight to second spot on the UK singles chart but was denied the number one position by Ed Sheeran’s Perfect.
“It would have been great to get a number one,” Ashley reflected. “But we’re still on cloud nine from winning X Factor. We went on the show with no real expectation of winning. We knew who we were and who we wanted to be. Our objective from going on X Factor was just to get some exposure to help us make our way in the music business.”
“We got asked if we could ever have imagined working with Naughty Boy,” Mustafa smiled. “No chance, not even in our wildest dreams. We can’t put into words how special it was for us. He’s such a great guy too and he’s also from Watford, like us. It’s nice to show everyone there are some talented people in Watford.”
Now in their mid-20s, the boys have known each other since childhood. They are from different ethnic backgrounds, different races, different religions yet are the best of friends, effectively the perfect example of what everyone in the world could and should be.
Music has always played an integral part in their lives but it was only last year when the boys decided to take things seriously and form Rak-Su.
“Our problem was always making the decision to either have proper adult careers or trying to make it in music,” Myles stated. “That’s how we chose our name. Rak-Su is taken from ‘tracks versus suits.’ The tracks are the casual clothes of music, the suits are the formal clothes of business. Rak-Su represents our uncertainty about which path to follow.”
They certainly made the right choice. The popularity on X Factor of their original songs was such that the only time Rak-Su failed to win the public vote was in the George Michael week. They placed second with their cover of Faith behind eventual third place finisher Kevin Davy White’s cover of Fastlove.
The boys are prolific songwriters sometimes creating four or five tracks in a week. Their style is eclectic moving freely through hip hop, future R&B, grime, spoken word and everything in between.
“We’re honest enough to say it’s a good thing we write so much because most of our songs are rubbish,” Jamaal laughed. “We performed what we thought were the best of our most recent songs on X Factor. But we’ve got a whole catalogue of material ready for an album so we’re looking forward to working on that and eventually seeing the response of our fans.”
Rak-Su’s music had already received some radio support before they appeared on X Factor. Now with a vastly expanded fan base, one of their biggest fans is the man who made a guest appearance on Dimelo.
“Wyclef is so enthusiastic,” Ashley remarked. “He said he really feels our energy and our vibe. He told us ‘Uncle Wyclef is always here to work on future projects.’ He just seems to get it, get us. He seems so excited about us so it just works.”
Their fans are also excited about Rak-Su. It doesn’t look like the boys will reach number one with Dimelo but their follow-up single and debut album should be released not long into 2018.
“That will be the test for us,” Myles admitted. “We’re riding the X Factor wave at the moment so we’ll see how things go in a few months. People have said we could become the biggest X Factor act since One Direction. If we can do anything remotely like as well as them, I think we’ll be very happy indeed.”
It was 1994 when superstar singer Mariah Carey released her single, All I Want For Christmas Is You. The song reached number two in Britain being held from top spot by East 17’s Stay Another Day.
For virtually all of the intervening 23 years, Mariah’s song has been a staple of the Christmas music scene. Most of those years saw it sell well enough to find a place in the chart listings.
This year is no exception. But it has proved so popular that All I Want For Christmas Is You matched its 1994 number two spot in Britain. Not only that but the song has now reached a new peak on Billboard’s Hot 100. The number nine spot has given Mariah her 28th Hot 100 top ten hit, her first since Obsessed reached number seven in 2009.
“This is such an amazing Christmas gift,” smiled a delighted Mariah. “I feel so honoured to have my song reach the Billboard Hot 100 top ten for the first time.
“I am so proud of this song which I wrote basically as a kid on my little Casio keyboard. I honestly never thought we’d be talking about all this now 23 years after it was first released. I’m so thankful to everyone who embraces it as part of their holiday tradition.”
Mariah new success has seen her equal Stevie Wonder’s total of top ten hits. They share fifth place in the list behind Michael Jackson, with 29, Rihanna, who has 31, The Beatles, with 34, and Madonna, who leads the way with 38.
Mariah has also become the 12th artist to register at least one top ten hit on the Billboard Hot 100 in the 1990s, 2000s and 2010s.
Surprisingly, All I Want For Christmas Is You is the only top ten hit in the entire history of Billboard’s Hot 100 to have the word Christmas in its title.
This will astonish everyone who believes Band Aid’s charity song, Do They Know It’s Christmas?, must have been a top ten hit. But no, the 1984 original recording was by far the biggest-selling version in America and this could only reach number 13.
Former Fifth Harmony singer Camila Cabello will release her debut album on January 12. But it will not be the album that her fans were initially led to expect.
Her LP was originally titled The Hurting. The Healing. The Loving. This has now been dropped and the album will simply be titled as Camila.
Her single, Crying In The Club, was promoted as the first release from Camila’s album. But the song has now been removed from the album track list.
Originally issued only as a promotional song, fan response to Havana quickly saw it officially released as the lead single from Camila. It will now be followed by Never Be The Same as the second official single.
As yet, there is only an official audio posting of the song at www.youtube.com/watch?v=FITSPSA8gQs.
A number of fans have created lyric videos which are posted on YouTube. But there is a fan-made music video which is about as good as any official promo which might be made for Never Be The Same. This can be seen at www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ztKDMKc77g.
The same fan has also created a video of similar quality for Real Friends, the latest promotional song from Camila. This is available to view at www.youtube.com/watch?v=72OnFJtz38A
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