As foregone conclusions go, they don't get much more straightforward than this. When thrown together girl group Little Mix were announced the latest winners of the UK X Factor series, you could more or less put your house on the fact that their initial prize of a debut single release would fly straight to the top of the British charts.
Which naturally is just what happened. Not for the first time the X Factor winners single is a cover of a track which came to prominence during performances earlier in the series. Cannonball, originally recorded by Damien Rice the song in question this time around. Having originally made Number 19 in 2004, the track returned to the charts at the start of October following exposure during the Boot Camp stage of the audition shows, hitting a brand new peak of Number 9. Little Mix's version exposes slightly the flaw in the "one size fits all" policy of having all the acts record the same track for potential release. As a song of longing sung by a man who you felt had lived the emotions expressed, it works perfectly. As a rather lightweight song of lament by a group of teenage girls, possibly less so.
Nonetheless the single means the girls become the sixth out of eight X Factor winning acts to see their debut release go straight to Number One (Steve Brookstein in 2004 and Joe McElderry in 2009 the exceptions, both having to wait a week under slightly different circumstances). Much will be made, however, of the rather dramatically reduced first week sale of the Little Mix track, their tally of 210,000 copies whilst impressive, and enough to give them the highest first week sale of the year to date, is just under half that of 2010 winner Matt Cardle twelve months ago.
That said, it must be noted that uniquely the X Factor winning single has been released a full fortnight before Christmas, rather than a week like virtually all of its predecessors. To hold its performance up against these other releases is not to compare like with like, and it is entirely possible that Cannonball has not so far had the chance to benefit from the frantic gifting of CD singles in the days before the festive holiday itself. Put simply, they still potentially have another week to come good.
Naturally a musical event as large as the X Factor Final cannot help but have a ripple effect right across the rest of the chart, and indeed just about every other big chart story this week is linked to the show in some way. Inevitably the Damien Rice original lands itself another sales boost, returning to the Top 40 at Number 19, whilst Little Mix's reprise of their earlier contest performance of Don't Let Go (Love) sees the 14 year old En Vogue track leap up the chart to Number 27, three weeks after it made Number 23 following the original performance during the heats.
Receiving one of the most startling boost of all is Paradise by Coldplay which jumps five places to Number 2 after the band performed the track live at the Wembley Arena final in a medley with the track Charlie Brown which is theoretically supposed to be their current single. Instead it is the previous release from Mylo Xyloto which becomes their highest charting single for three years, a quite extraordinary state of affairs given that the track was first made available as an instant gratification offering for the album back in the autumn and became eligible to chart way back at the start of November. [Give it a fortnight or so, it will do something even more surprising].
Also performing on the show was 2006 winner Leona Lewis who chose the occasion unveil her brand new single which lands nearly on the chart at Number 8. An extraordinary choice of single, the lead track from an EP of covers is her own smooth take on Hurt, originally recorded by Nine Inch Nails for their 1994 album The Downward Spiral. The track gained a new lease of life thanks to a moving rendition by country star Johnny Cash in 2002 and indeed it is this version which informs the production of the Leona Lewis version. Cash's version limped to Number 39 when released as a single in Britain in 2003 and in the wake of the Lewis cover returns to the chart at Number 70. The original version by Trent Reznor's band has never been a Top 100 hit single - a situation which theoretically could change in the next week.
Turning to the album chart briefly, and all the pieces appear to be in place for Christmas, with Michael Buble's own Christmas album returning to Number One where it is safe to presume it will remain for the duration of the holiday period. With every single one of the Top 6 albums this week selling well into six figures, it required a hefty sale by Buble to top the charts, and so it proves, Christmas selling over 269,000 copies with the biggest weekly sale since Take That shifted 350,000 copies of Progress in the final week of 2010.
With Christmas more or less upon us, the festive classics continue to make their presence felt, the biggest sellers all achieving their highest chart placings for a number of years. Mariah Carey's All I Want For Christmas Is You is up at Number 11 which is its highest chart placing since 2007 whilst Fairytale Of New York by The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl is at Number 13, now just one place behind the peak it scaled in 2008 and 2009.
Next week as you are doubtless aware is Christmas, which means the British charts receive their highest level of attention of the year as everyone becomes animated over just what will be Christmas Number One. The dominance of X Factor over the last decade has meant the honour has now become something rather removed from "normal" pop music, the victors being either the winning single or something bought with the explicit aim of preventing it. This year the timing of the series has meant a slightly more level playing field. Will Little Mix prove to have the staying power, or will a certain well-promoted charity release manage to have a crucial holiday edge. You have seven days from now to wait to find out...