Released: 8th December 2003
Writers: Grete Irimia-Semal / The Cheeky Boyz
Peak position: #10
Chart run: 10-15-14-37-67
After three consecutive top-ten singles, the novelty was evidently yet to wear off for The Cheeky Girls. So, they set their sights on the festive charts for the second Christmas in a row.
While The Cheeky Girls will always be considered a novelty act in many people’s eyes, that seems a tad unfair given they’d managed to credibly extend their run of hits beyond Cheeky Song (Touch My Bum). Gabriela and Monica Irimia – along with their mum, Margaret, who remained their central songwriter – enjoyed further success with Take Your Shoes Off and Hooray Hooray (It’s A Cheeky Holiday), which both reached #3. Most impressively, their debut album – PartyTime – peaked at #14 and spent four weeks in the top 40. It may be a modest achievement in the grand scheme of things, but few would’ve predicted even that when The Cheeky Girls entered the public consciousness on Popstars: The Rivals and failed to make it past the second round of auditions.
With Christmas approaching, the duo opted not to release an existing song from PartyTime, even though Follow My Star had all the makings of a typical festive-sounding pop ballad. Instead, they unveiled a brand-new track – Have A Cheeky Christmas – alongside a special edition of the album, which also included a cover of We Go Together (from ITV’s Greasemania) and a Megamix comprising the first three singles. In some respects, it’s impressive that Multiply Records – which wasn’t a massive record label by any means – expended so much effort turning this into a ‘proper’ album campaign. Particularly since a festive mix of Cheeky Song (Touch My Bum) already existed, which is essentially the original with added sleigh bells. Despite being included on one of the formats of their debut (and as a B-side on this one, too), it wouldn’t have been entirely unthinkable to shoot a different video and pass the whole thing off as a new single in its own right.
Instead, The Cheeky Girls opted for an entirely new Christmas standard, albeit one that sticks closely to the duo’s now-established formula. Have A Cheeky Christmas is constructed around flirtatious, suggestive advances: “Come and get your Christmas present, close your eyes and make a wish, if you’ve been a really good boy, I will be your special dish” that have all the sex appeal of a lump of coal. The retro-tinged production – complete with sleigh bell beats – retains the same rudimentary quality as much of PartyTime, sounding more like a karaoke backing track than an official, finished mix. Yet that’s surely all part of the charm; The Cheeky Girls never pretended to be anything more than what they were and made the best use of the resources available to them.
Have A Cheeky Christmas opens with a celebratory introduction (“Woo! Let’s get cheeky! One, two, three, four, it’s Christma-a-a-as! Woo! Everybody! Woo, woo!”) that rings out as the instrumental swells into prominence. The verses are delivered in a rather pragmatic manner that doesn’t quite convey the spontaneous frivolity they’re seemingly intended to: “Life is good, we all go crazy, light the fire and come with me, dancing at the Christmas party…”. That is, until the final line (“…lots of wine and the boys, they’re cheeky”), where The Cheeky Girls – and indeed the track itself – become far more playful. Atop an ascending melody, the pre-chorus: “Ooh baby, baby, underneath the mistletoe, oops baby, baby, very sexy in the snow, yeah baby, baby, take the reins and hold on tight, this could be your lucky night, woo!” is filled with a sense of barely-concealed glee.
It’s as if Have A Cheeky Christmas wants to build steadily towards the actual refrain while not having any patience to do so. The result is a gently rowdy come-on that typifies the innocuousness of The Cheeky Girls’ lyrics. Any hint of coquettishness in what the duo are singing is entirely performative. Their sincerity remains consistent whether it’s a festive double entendre during the middle eight (“One, two, Santa Claus is coming; three, four, filling up my stocking; five, six, everybody’s popping, Christmas, Christmas, Christmas, wow!”)or reciting a nonsense post-chorus: “Ram-pa-pam, ram-pa-pam, ooh, ah, ooh, ah; ram-pa-pam, ram-pa-pam, ooh, ah, ooh”.
And it’s that which sells Have A Cheeky Christmas. Whatever the limitations of Gabriela and Monica’s technical ability, they more than compensate with a relentless enthusiasm that can’t be feigned. The joy they exude during the chorus: “Everybody, come together, it’s a hot, hot Christmas night, make the magic last forever, have a cheeky Christmas time” as a pop act enjoying every moment of the position in which they’d found themselves is utterly infectious. That sense of Have A Cheeky Christmas as something of a victory lap for the PartyTime campaign – as well as a seasonal celebration – is further accentuated by fist-pumping ad-libs (“Yeah, yeah, yeah!”) and what else but a jubilant key change.
The accompanying music video for Have A Cheeky Christmas willingly embraces as many of the conventions of a festive-themed pop song as possible. It starts with a vintage, mistletoe-adorned title card reading: ‘The Cheeky Girls Have A Cheeky Christmas’ before showing Gabriela and Monica – wearing sexy Santa outfits, naturally – in a cosy log cabin. Alongside that are sequences set outside in the snowy mountains where the duo dance next to a nonplussed reindeer while dressed in gold hotpants and lederhosen suspenders. There’s a snowman brought to life by a kiss on the cheek from Gabriela and Monica, a snowball fight (with some extras who appear from nowhere) and a turbulent sleigh ride with Santa. It all culminates with everyone at the cabin having a party and exchanging gifts.
If there’s any surprise at all in the visuals for Have A Cheeky Christmas, it’s that a reasonable level of effort has gone into the sets. The Cheeky Girls didn’t have the luxury of a massive budget; that much remained apparent. Even so, the backdrops and lighting – particularly for nighttime – look great, and the whole thing has a pleasing aesthetic quality. It very nicely captures the endearingly likeable oddity of The Cheeky Girls. And nowhere is that truer than the final shot of the video where the snowman turns around to see Santa, Gabriela and Monica riding through the night sky in a sleigh being pulled by a solitary, clearly fake, static reindeer.
Despite being released during a busy chart week, which saw nine new entries in the top 20, Have A Cheeky Christmas held its own to earn The Cheeky Girls their fourth consecutive top-ten single. The track debuted and peaked at #10, finishing ahead of Alicia Keys, Big Brovaz, Nelly Furtado and even Madonna. Inevitably, Have A Cheeky Christmas didn’t hang around for long outside of the festive period; the song spent five weeks in the top 75. Nonetheless, a total of 41,000 copies was enough to make it the 179th biggest-seller of 2003. The special edition of PartyTime did not, however, make the same impact, re-entering the chart at #84. Still, that’s probably the only aspect of the entire campaign that could be considered as going slightly awry. Everything else had met – and, realistically, probably exceeded – expectations.
It wasn’t enough to save The Cheeky Girls from what happened next, though. Their label, Multiply Records, was a subsidiary of Telstar Records, which had gained a reputation for giving hefty advances to the artists they signed. However, a high-profile deal with Victoria Beckham – worth £1.5 million – tipped them over the edge. Telstar went bankrupt in 2004, but not before Multiply shifted The Cheeky Girls’ material to its parent label for the princely sum of £1. That left Gabriela and Monica footing the bill for all the unpaid costs of recording and promoting PartyTime. They quickly signed with XBN, releasing Cheeky Flamenco in September 2004, but it failed to capitalise on their earlier success, peaking at #29.
Whether that was exacerbated by their move to a smaller label or because The Cheeky Girls reached the end of their natural shelf-life, Gabriela and Monica deserved more out of the PartyTime campaign than a stack of debt. Have A Cheeky Christmas thus proved to be something of a commercial swansong for the duo as probably the last point at which they emphatically defied and confounded critics. Alas, the now-perennial return of many Christmas classics to the chart each year hasn’t – yet – extended to this one, but stranger things have happened in pop music. Maybe.