This week's Official UK Singles Chart

Happy new year everyone, and wow what a new year singles chart we have this week. [Indeed it was, for this was the first in what would turn out to be a series of post-Christmas charts which, as I explain below, saw sales soar to record highs instead of record lows. But this one, in particular, was what kicked the digital era into high gear. Because for Christmas 2005, just about everyone received an iPod as a gift].

Traditionally the new year chart is one of the most irrelevant of the year. Sales crash from what is normally a year-long high to a year-long low with shops closed for at least part of the survey and music buying normally playing second fiddle to sales bargains when they are open. Only the very bold release singles in the week between Christmas and New Year because they sell so little, leaving the door open to some very strange activity indeed.

This year, however, is slightly different and is best described as the Christmas iPod chart. Online stores such as iTunes and Napster reported during the week that their trading from Christmas Day onwards went through the roof as people unwrapped their brand new mp3 players as gifts and so of course immediately went on a search for product to load onto it. The result is what we see this week - a singles chart skewed quite dramatically towards older product as the songs that people know and love are granted an unexpected sales boost.

First to the top end though and there is no surprise there as Shayne Ward sustains his lead from Christmas week to spend a second week at the top with That's My Goal. Just two weeks of sales were enough to land him the second biggest selling single of the year, the track now just a few thousand behind the million plus clocked up by Tony Christie earlier in the year. Just behind him are Nizlopi for whom the disappointment of not being Christmas Number One is almost certainly tempered by three straight weeks in the Top 3 with the JCB Song.

The first gainer of the week is Madonna who sees Hung Up vault back into the Top 3 after a three-week break, during which time the single appeared to be on its way out, slipping as far as Number 8 on last week's chart. Her last single to spend as many as 8 weeks in the Top 10 was Vogue way back in 1990 and assuming Hung Up clings on for another week it should match neatly the chart longevity of that famous single.

The two best performing "new" hits of the week are both just outside the Top 10. First up are Brian Kennedy and Peter Corry with George Best - A Tribute. Charting at Number 21 last week thanks to sales in Northern Ireland alone, the EP featuring songs performed by the pair at the funeral of the football legend last month was finally released on the mainland this week and as a result, makes a ten place leap to Number 11.

Three places below is the one and only new single released this week. Hard-Fi's Cash Machine actually had the honour of being their very first single, originally released in limited numbers in January last year (so limited in fact it failed to tickle the charts). Now with three Top 20 hits under their belt, the band have re-released their earlier classic backed with a veritable tidal wave of promotion (I must have heard the advert for it played once every two minutes in HMV the other day). With all that they will probably be disappointed to see the single only reach Number 14 in such a quiet chart week although that said its parent album Stars Of CCTV performs rather better, vaulting 33-4 on the album chart.

So what of the singles snapped up by the new-born mp3 generation on Christmas Day? Well oddly enough two of the acts to benefit the most all line up just inside the Top 10. First up are the Sugababes who see Ugly, what now turns out to be their last single with the Mark II lineup, lead 12-8. It is their last single which has attracted the buys however, former Number One Push The Button flying 41-19 to return to the Top 20 five weeks after it left.

That performance pales however compared to that of James Blunt. Current single Goodbye My Lover also rises slightly, entering the Top 10 for the first time after charting frustratingly at Number 11 last week. His second single High still remains overlooked in favour of summertime Number One hit You're Beautiful which charges 42-16, the highest chart position it has occupied since September 10th, its last week to date inside the Top 10. Of course a similarly dramatic tumble next week is almost inevitable but for the moment it is worth marvelling that thanks to all the yo-yoing it has been doing of late, this is now the track's fifth entry into the Top 40 chart since its release back in June.

Of course for the whole summer, it seemed impossible to avoid mentioning James Blunt and Daniel Powter in the same breath and this week is no different. Mega-single Bad Day also takes a leap from 34-21. Everyone is waiting for the single to drop out of the Top 40 for the simple reason that until it does, his "current" single Free Loop remains chart ineligible.

Also worthy of a mention is Kelly Clarkson. Because Of You vaults 17-13, Behind These Hazel Eyes shoots 70-43 but most impressively of all her first single of 2005, Since U Been Gone returns to the Top 40 for the first time since the end of September with a 51-36 leap.

Finally this week it is worth noting that the other consequence of the April revolution that saw online sales merged with the singles chart is the return after some decades of the long-running single. James Blunt's You're Beautiful is now 31 weeks old - just a few weeks short of becoming one of the 20 longest running singles of all time - at least according to the old meaning of the record.

All the chart books use the Top 75 singles as their reference point, due to the OCC rule which would see older singles removed from the listings as their sales declined once they had dropped below position 75. Thus positions 76-200 were always "unofficial" on the basis that the Number 76 chart record wasn't necessarily the 76th biggest seller and weeks spent on the chart in those positions didn't count towards the "weeks on chart" total of the record. That rule was dropped back in April with the introduction of the downloads which has actually helped to inflate the listed chart runs of some older singles. Thus technically the longest running single on the Top 100 this week is actually Dakota by the Stereophonics which has had 44 weeks on the chart, although only 16 of them were in the Top 75. Similarly although Tony Christie's 'Amarillo' has now had 42 weeks on the chart, its main Top 75 run came to an end in September after "just" 25 weeks. Quite how the record books will deal with this issue I suspect will have to wait until the new editions come out in the summer.

For the moment at least the all-time record holder will still take some beating, the longest consecutive chart run in history being that of Englebert Humperdinck's Release Me which had a 56 week run in the 1960s - back when the chart was still only 50 records long. The all-time non-consecutive champion remains Frank Sinatra's My Way which since 1969 has spent an incredible 124 weeks on the chart, a total which you suspect would have been higher still had it too not had to spent most of its life on a chart which only stretched to 50 positions.