“Last Christmas” may be one of the most popular festive songs of all time, but the track always annoyed George Michael, his former manager has said.
Written and produced by the late Michael and performed with his bandmate Andrew Ridgeley, Wham!’s 1984 hit “Last Christmas” is so inescapable in December that it prompted its own game, Whamageddon.
Despite the song being a hit at the time, it wasn’t until 2021 that it topped the charts for the first time. According to predictions, “Last Christmas” is on track to become this year’s Christmas No 1, with the chart being announced on Friday (22 December).
But speaking in a new interview, Wham!’s manager Simon Napier-Bell said that the late singer – who died on Christmas Day 2016 – always harboured some resentment towards the song’s success.
“He was always slightly upset by the fact [that] he naggingly knew it was the best thing he ever wrote,” Napier-Bell told The Daily Telegraph.
“George, above all, really wanted to be remembered as a great songwriter. And I think at the bottom of his mind… it was rather annoying that the song he got so perfect was a Christmas song.”
While Napier-Bell praised the “magnificent” song, he revealed that it had not proven to be lucrative for Michael and his estate.
When the song was released, Michael publicly declared that the single’s proceedings would be donated to help the famine in Ethiopia. However, Napier-Bell and his other managers had to explain that this wasn’t possible.
“He could give his royalties to Ethiopia, but he couldn’t be telling the record company they weren’t going to keep their share. Then you’ve got to pay management commission, and half of [the income] is Andrew’s,” he explained.
While some have theorised that Michael did this deliberately to make the publishers and record companies “look like rogues who were not charitable”. However, Napier-Bell said: “I don’t think he did. He was just a little bit naive and didn’t really think it through.”
“Last Christmas” took the No 1 spot during last week’s chart, with the song’s popularity stemming from a number of factors. Following Michael’s death in 2016, many fans have returned to the song to honour the singer, especially given his death on Christmas Day.
However, another contributing factor has been the spread of streaming services and the growth of editorial playlists. “Last Christmas” features on many festive playlists on streamers such as Spotify and Apple Music, meaning more people are listening to the track than ever.
But the song’s recurring chart success is all the more impressive as older tracks have to earn double the amount of streams as new tracks to count towards the charts, in order to prevent “evergreen” tracks from dominating year round.
Other contenders for this year’s Christmas No 1 are Eurovision star Sam Ryder’s “You’re Christmas To Me”, as well as Ed Sheeran and Elton John’s 2021 track “Merry Christmas”.
Among the classics in the run are Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” and “Fairytale of New York” by The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl, which has gained further support following the death of singer Shane MacGowan in November.