This week's Official UK Singles Chart

This week's Official UK Albums Chart

 

Welcome to the annual head-scratcher column where James attempts to wring blood from a stone. This particular chart, covering sales from Sunday 21st to Saturday 27th December is actually the biggest and most important one of the year. It surveys sales not only in the last desperate days before Christmas but also over and after it, at which point people cash in gift vouchers and consume content for newly purchased digital devices. Sales reach their highest point of the year, bar none and to top either singles or albums chart in this week means you have reached the top of the most difficult summit of all.

In reality, though, the story is all about the numbers behind the chart. Music Week magazine reports that the singles market amounted to 7,306,465 'sales' last week, although around 45% of that total was accounted for by the 3.5m streaming points accumulated by music in this country. Take that away and you are left with 3,751,126 paid-for sales - still, an enormous total but significantly down on the 4.5m registered in the same week last year. It is all about the trends [which would only continue down from this point on].

At the very top of the singles chart, the reign of X Factor winner Ben Haenow proved as expected to be little more than a brief interregnum in the domination of Mark Ronson's Uptown Funk. Although Something I Need still managed to sell 112,000 copies last week this was mere chicken feed to the 185,000 registered by Ronson and Mars who thus swap places and climb back to Number One. Having set a new streaming record last week Uptown Funk shatters that once more, with 2.5 million plays accounting for 24,000 of its chart sales total. Woe betide any act with plans to top the charts until at least mid-January. For now, this record is unshakeable.

As ever in this week fortune favours the brave act who releases a new single and the reward for Alesso is a Number 6 entry with new single Heroes (We Could Be). Appropriating the chorus lyrics (but manifestly not the melody or tone) of the famous David Bowie song Heroes, the track is a chirpy pop-dance hit with a vocal from Swedish singer Tove Lo who thus lands her second Number 6 hit in the last 12 months following on from Stay High which had an extended Top 10 run back in April. Heroes charts just shy of a year since Alesso's last chart credit thanks to his remix of OneRepublic's If I Lose Myself which peaked at Number 8.

Unshiftable at the top of the album charts, Ed Sheeran's X presides over an entirely static Top 6. This is the album's third week in a row at Number One and its 12th in total, making it now the second longest running Number One album of the 21st century, six short of the 18 weeks accumulated by Adele's 21 back in 2011.

With attention turning to retrospectives of the hits of the year Sheeran's hit singles naturally enough make him one of a number of acts to occupy multiple places on the Top 40 with Taylor Swift, Olly Murs, One Direction, Sam Smith, Calvin Harris and Ella Henderson all with evergreens that for now just refuse to fade away.

With their streaming totals still increasing at the very start of the week, even the festive classics manage to loiter on the chart longer than we are used to, with a handful even climbing the chart. Normal service should, however, resume in a week's time.

So here then is to 2015 which will begin with one single racing into an early lead over the rest and with the steady decline of the download market and the ever-growing domination of the streaming one set to continue to change the way the British charts behave. I'll be here watching with fascination. Happy New Year all.