Welcome to the annual "bubble" chart. If the sales countdowns leading up to Christmas reflected the increased level of purchasing of music as gifts, the one immediately following the day itself inevitably marks a surge in people buying for themselves as gift vouchers for online stores are eagerly cashed in and newly obtained digital devices are populated with brand new content. This always results in the final chart of the year being less about actual positions themselves and more about the underlying numbers as sales reach a bubble which will burst just as suddenly in seven days time. Just as it has done this week every year since the start of the digital era, the UK music industry saw a new record number of singles purchased in the last seven days, up from 4,220,989 in 2009, 4,757,429 in 2010, 5,451,493 in 2011 to a massive 5,696,413 this week just gone, numbers the like of which we only ever see at this time of year. [And indeed history now records that this week marked the all-time record high for weekly paid singles purchases, a total close to six million a level the industry would never reach again. Within a few years digital streams would have replaced them as the primary way to consume music].
Naturally all this flows through to the numbers shifted by the biggest selling singles, with every track between 5 and 13 on the UK singles chart this week selling more than any other record at that position in chart history. Every single one of the Top 3 singles sold over 100,000 copies apiece and the combined sales of the Top 5 are well over half a million. To think once upon a time this used to be the lowest selling week of the year as well.
With the Christmas chart madness finally out of the way, normal service is restored at the top of the UK charts as James Arthur returns to Number One with Impossible. That makes it no less than the third single of 2012 to repeat at the top of the singles chart, following in the footsteps of Payphone and Somebody That I Used To Know. Although covering sales for the last full week of December 2012, the chart has a publication date of 2013 making Arthur essentially the first Number One act of the new year and indeed Impossible the first record since Lady Gaga's Bad Romance to have separate runs at the top of the charts in two different calendar years.
The third consecutive week of six-figure sales for the X Factor winner's single means it has now sold just shy of 900,000 copies in the three weeks since it was released, enough to make it the fifth biggest seller of 2012 to date (there are still two days of sales left not covered by this chart) and indeed the fourth biggest selling X Factor debut single ever, beating Leona Lewis' offering from 2006 and now trailing just those of Alexandra Burke, Shayne Ward and Matt Cardle. Disappointing though the series may have been in the ratings, its eventual victor has for the moment turned out to be sales gold. Let's hope he knows how best to follow it up.
With there being little point in attempting to promote new product this week, the door is left open for some of the bigger hits of the year to gain one last bit of sales traction. This is to the benefit of former Number One Gangnam Style which leaps three places to Number 3, its highest chart placing for ten weeks and extraordinarily with its highest single week sale - 111,000 copies - since it was first released. Not since December 2003 has any single sold in excess of 100,000 copies and only reached Number 3.
There is little change on the album chart apart from the start of the collapse in sales of Christmas albums from Michael Buble and Rod Stewart which have been amongst the top sellers recently. Ending the year at the top of the album chart and indeed at the head of the yearly sales rankings is Emeli Sande with Our Version Of Events. Sande's album has sold almost 1.4 million copies this year, more than 600,000 more than the second biggest-selling release of the year, Lana Del Rey's Born To Die. Extraordinarily Del Rey can only boast the fourth biggest selling album of 2012, as ahead of her at numbers 2 and 3 are 21 and +, albums which first hit the stores way back in 2011. That stat alone should tell you the true story of 2012 in music -along with the fact that the two million-selling singles artists this year - Gotye and Carly Rae Jepsen - sold precious few albums on the back of their single track success.