If you’re British (or you’ve seen Love, Actually) you know that it’s a British tradition to award the title of Christmas Number One to the season’s most popular new song.
This tradition dates back to 1952. It’s gone to the Beatles, the Spice Girls, Ed Sheeran and now, LadBaby.
That’s never happened before. LadBaby has now been named Christmas Number One two years in a row and has officially made history.
But who on earth is LadBaby? Have you heard him on the radio? What kind of music does he play?
Truth is, LadBaby isn’t a musician. His real name is Mark Hoyle and he is a blogger and YouTube star who has risen to fame with what he calls his “wobbly videos” in which he and his wife generally pull pranks on each other. He and his wife Roxane have millions of followers online and have been named Britain’s Celebrity Dad of the Year and Celebrity Mum of the Year, respectively.
One of the running gags on his blog is his fondness for sausage rolls. Naturally, he chose them as the theme of not one but both the parody songs that took him to the top: “We Built This City on Sausage Rolls” (2018) and “I Love Sausage Rolls” (2019).
But it wasn’t really the songs that earned him the title of Christmas Number One.
LadBaby is a master of social media. His site gained one million followers in just four months. He posts regularly and he is approachable. His wife’s amazing sense of humor and infectious laugh have broadened his appeal. He is in no way perfect nor does he pretend to be, but he’s also not a caricature of himself. He’s just a funny guy. He branded himself right out of the gate (“from lad to dad”) and that brand has only grown, along with his family.
He’s what’s now known as an “influencer.” More powerful than your average celebrity, influencers rule the internet, spreading their ideas to anyone who will listen, often with a humorous bent. Some more traditional celebrities have become influencers (Chris Pratt–or maybe his publicist–seems to be online ALL THE TIME) but most influencers are what you might call regular people–regular people with a talent for blogging or vlogging (etc) about their lives and lifestyles. They have a different sort of fame than a musician or a movie star, but their fanbase can be just as big.
So though you might not have heard of him, he’s popular–but also an underdog. Add to that the fact that his Christmas single came with the promise of a donation to the Trussel Trust, which helps feed hungry people all over the UK: a fact that he drove home hundreds if not thousands of times throughout his campaign to claim the Christmas title. For the low price of $1.29 (or 99 pence) his audience could help feed the hungry and help an underdog win.
I downloaded the song and streamed it gratuitously. Team LadBaby, all the way.
Of course, I realize that along with helping the hungry, he rustled up a lot of media attention for himself. His YouTube numbers soared as people watched the music video–and that mainly benefits him. It was a great publicity stunt, and his name is now known all over the UK, by those who love and hate him alike.
Real musicians were knocked out of the number one spot because this oddball on the internet figured out how to work the system. He went to the people and he pushed for a cause. He didn’t ask much–just under a pound–and he wore the world’s goofiest track suit while doing it.
It’s a great example of the way our world is changing. As social media grows, new voices are starting to be heard. The system of celebrity is breaking down. We all have a platform to be heard–for better or for worse.