Not for the first time, the UK's annual Christmas chart countdown proves itself to be something to which the normal rules of engagement do not apply, as the Number One single ends up being a track released for the explicit purpose of making the Christmas chart and existing for that sole purpose alone.
This year it is something of a shame as there was the possibility that the Christmas Number One would have been the single by this year's X Factor winner, not simply because it was released in that week but because its appeal had persisted beyond the immediate aftermath of the show. After leading in early sales flashes and in all fairness putting in a solid performance right to the end, James Arthur's Impossible is beaten at the death by, well, one of the most appalling conceived 'charity' singles ever.
He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother by the ludicrously titled Justice Collective is one of those singles whose promotional muscle was based not so much on what the single sounded like as what it would represent by being in the charts. A statement of intent rather than an appreciation of the music, and on that basis it is very hard to welcome it. Never mind the politics, the single itself is another of those badly made ensemble cover versions which give charity records a bad name. In this case it is a reworking of the track made famous by The Hollies, initially in 1969 when it peaked at Number 3 and then again when re-issued in 1988 on the back of a TV commercial which propelled it to Number One.
He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother sold a none too shabby 269,000 copies during the course of the week, far from the absolute domination its supporters clearly desired but still the second highest total for a Number One single in 2012.
[Funny story, the above paragraph which pours scorn on the record without actually articulating the reasons why was the product of at least 10 rewrites as I valiantly attempted to find a way to rubbish it without attracting the ire of the kind of obsessed and snippy individuals who view anything relating to Hillsborough as a sacred cow. And I had better things to do with my Christmas Eve than wade through a storm of protest. Nonetheless the bland admonishments above still managed to attract the ire of some forum somewhere and prompted a five minute hate a few days later with demands for apologies and restorative donations. All of which I ignored].
Commiserations then to James Arthur who can at least claim a moral victory, his sale of 234,000 officially the second highest tally for a Number 2 single of the 21st century, trailing only to the massive 450,000 copies sold by 2009 X Factor winner Joe McElderry in Christmas week 2009. Careful eyes were on just how many he sold last week, for the simple reason that Impossible was clearly the only single capable of dethroning Somebody That I Used To Know as the biggest seller of the year. To date it has sold 713,000 copies, but at its present rate of decline will struggle to top a million copies in the eight days remaining. Gotye can rest easy as the owner of the top single of 2012.
One thing you will note on the singles chart this week is a refreshing lack of novelty hits and random downloads clogging up the top end, the "let's campaign for record x to be in the Christmas chart" fad having it seems finally died off. Hence the most successful chart ambush this year is by the resolutely independent Alex Day whose Stupid Stupid can only debut at Number 25 despite an attempt to repeat last year's mass purchase by his YouTube followers which saw his debut single Forever Yours reach Number 4 for one week before being deleted. Just below novelty mash-up One Pound Fish by One Pound Fish Man creeps to Number 29.
Of more interest for the future is Yeah Yeah by New Zealand based singer Willy Moon which breaks into the Top 40 at Number 28, beating the Number 34 it first scaled back in November. The track is the latest in a long line of singles to become a hit thanks to its use in a series of iPod TV commercials.
The race to be Christmas Number One on the album chart is possibly the more interesting one to note these days, as it is unpolluted by campaigns or jokes. All expectations were that the race would be a double header between Olly Murs and Bruno Mars, but that was before Emeli Sande had a starring role in the television broadcast of the BBC's Sports Personality Of The Year ceremony. The extra exposure this afforded her propels Our Version Of Events back to the top of the charts for the fifth time this year and for the first time since August when not entirely coincidentally it was Number One after she performed at the closing ceremony of the Olympic games. In a year when album sales struggled to get above mediocre, it is pleasing to note that Emeli Sande is Christmas Number One with nearly 178,000 copies - the highest weekly sale of any album in 2012.
And that was the Christmas chart - the most talked about but inevitably quietest and in truth least significant of the year, but at least we had some fun with it along the way. Happy Christmas to all about.com readers - see you next week for the final chart of 2012.