A quite extraordinary and as a result incredibly historic chart is the result of a phenomenally close week in the race to top the Official UK Singles chart this week, the ultimate outcome impossible to read either from midweek updates or by following live updates from the major retailers.
The most downloaded track of the week was Blank Space by Taylor Swift which began to accelerate about 10 days ago and which maintained its momentum to be the biggest selling track in the land by the time the weekend rolled around. Yet the recent decision by the artist and her label to withdraw her music from streaming services cost her single dearly. Blank Space ended up with a deficit of chart points its sales were just unable to overcome and the single instead languishes at Number 3.
The top-selling single overall (counting both digital and physical sales) was a brand new release. You Got It All is the second single from the forthcoming second album by Union J, the boy band who came in fourth place in the 2012 series of X Factor, the follow-up to Tonight (We Live Forever) which reached Number 9 back in August. Benefiting from an X Factor results show performance along with deals to see the single prominently racked at the checkouts of some major supermarkets (but surprisingly no video for the moment) the single was top of the midweek update and seemed set for a gentle cruise to pole position. Yet its sales were heavily front-loaded and the single had sunk rapidly down the online tables by the weekend. Combined with its own absence from streaming services such as Spotify it was always going to be an uphill struggle to maintain the lead it had built up at the start of the week. As a result, Union J enter at Number 2 this week, far and away the highest charting single of their career but in the process making history as the first-ever "number one selling single" to not be Number One on the official singles chart.
The winner this week is thus a single which in sales terms has been there or thereabouts for the last month but which crucially has been breaking streaming records week on week lately. Thinking Out Loud by Ed Sheeran actually sold 3,000 copies less than the Union J single this week. But having been streamed over 1.6m times this amounted to an extra 16,000 'sales' - enough then to overcome the deficit and ensure that the heartbreakingly beautiful love song returns to Number One for a second time.
The third single to repeat itself at the top of the charts this year (hard on the heels of Happy and Waves), Thinking Out Loud was last at Number One on November 8th, a full five weeks (and four singles charts) ago. The last single to return to the top of the charts after so long away was the all-star recording of Perfect Day which also spent four weeks languishing at lower numbers at the end of 1997. The all-time record is however still held by She Loves You by The Beatles which returned to Number One in November 1963 after seven weeks away. Crucially however both the Beatles single and Perfect Day only made way for two other records at the top of the charts. Since Thinking Out Loud was last at the top, no less than four different records have all had turns at Number One.
Having only topped the charts in its 19th week Thinking Out Loud was already a record breaker but it now extends that honour still further. In its 24th week on sale the single is at the top of the charts deeper into its life than any other record in chart history, breaking the all-time record set in the 1950s by Frankie Laine's I Believe which spent its 18th and final week at the top in its 23rd chart week. [And this still wasn't the last of the extraordinary chart benchmarks achieved by Thinking Out Loud].
Ed Sheeran actually has a brand new single on the Top 40 this week as well, the previously unreleased Make It Rain as heard on the soundtrack of TV series Sons Of Anarchy makes a bow at Number 38 following a low-key midweek release.
Once more Ed Sheeran is denied the chance to top both singles and album charts simultaneously, X this week stuck at Number 2 behind III by Take That which takes an easy pole position to give the group their seventh Number One album. I say "easy" but it is hard not to avoid the elephant in the room. III reaches Number One with a sale of 145,000 copies - short by some distance of the 518,601 copies sold by their 2010 album Progress in its first week on sale.
Back on the singles chart, the other most notable new release of the week is club track I Loved You by Bristol-based dance producers Blonde which enters at Number 7. The single is now the fourth this year to feature vocals by Melissa Steel. She has previously reached Number 30 on Kove's Way We Are, Number 27 on Kishane's Drunk And Incapable and Number 10 with her own hit Kisses For Breakfast which charted back in August.
With two Top 10 hits to her name already, former X Factor contestant Ella Henderson made her own return to the show that controversially eliminated her early in the running this weekend. Her performance of new single Yours is enough to propel the track to Number 16, a month after it first charted at Number 46 after being cherrypicked from her debut album.
Just ahead of its long-awaited physical arrival Do They Know It's Christmas by Band Aid 30 continues to reverse in a manner which is more than a little embarrassing. Tumbling 2-12 this week it is in serious danger of being overtaken in sales terms by singles which predate it by many years as the annual chart invasion of the Christmas classics continues apace. As is always the case it is two hits in particular which lead the charts. Now celebrating 20 years since its release All I Want For Christmas Is You by Mariah Carey rockets 52-17 to make the Top 20 for the 8th year in a row. Along for its 9th consecutive run just a place behind is Fairytale Of New York by The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl which jumps 67-18. Meanwhile Last Christmas by Wham! joins them in the Top 40 with an 86-39 rise. By a strange coincidence all three were Number 2 hits for Christmas in the year they were first released.
Finally, Band Aid's chart tumble may look surprising but it is by no means the most abject sales performance of the week. Needless to say, the crown is taken by McBusted and Air Guitar, the all-time kings of the one week wonder demonstrating that forming a supergroup has done little to expand interest in them outside their loyal core fanbase. Last week's Number 12 hit is this week at 62 - a fifty place drop.