Two weeks to go to Christmas and it is normally at this time that the final shape of the seasonal market can be divined. This does, however, mean a slight slackening off of the release schedule, and so for the first time in many weeks, the Official UK Singles chart is almost becalmed with the week's new releases barely making an impact at the top end.
Naturally, this leaves room for existing hits to stretch their legs and breathe and so the race to be Number One was wide open for most of the survey period, the eventual gap between Number One and Number Two singles less than 6,000 copies. There can, however, be only one winner and so after dipping as low as Number 4 last week, Lily Allen rebounds back to the top of the charts to grab a second week at the top with her cover of Somewhere Only We Know. Incredibly enough the single is now the fourth Number One hit this year to have two spells at the top of the charts. We began with James Arthur's Impossible in January (its first run on top coming at the end of 2012 of course), Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines in July and more recently back in October One Republic had two bites of the cherry with Counting Stars. Such a run of returning chart-toppers is unprecedented in chart history. Back in the rock n' roll era, there were other years with three yo-yoing Number One hits (1955 for example), but never before have we seen a year when four singles managed the trick.
Mind you, the single which missed out on the Number One spot this week would have made for a notable story in itself. After dipping as low as number 10 a fortnight ago, Story Of My Life by One Direction continues its most unexpected comeback and climbs to a new peak of Number 2, in the same week that their Midnight Memories album remains glued to the top of the long player chart. Given the level of teen hype which surrounds their music, it is all too easy to dismiss the chart performances of their singles as front-loaded one-week wonders - which in fairness many of them are. This latest single, however, is different, now reaching a brand new peak in its sixth-week onsale and clearly a record which has grown in appeal far beyond the group's usual core fanbase. Compare and contrast that with the McFly single Love Is On The Radio, propelled into the Top 10 by their fans last week but as is all too often the case entirely lacking in second-week appeal - that single sinking 6-42 in one of the worst Top 10 chart runs of the year.
After a gentle three-week climb Avicii's country-themed single Hey Brother finally joins his three other singles this year in becoming a Top 10 hit with a 14-8 rise. Not quite there just yet but clearly on the way is Jason Derulo's latest single Trumpets which moves 26-12. It is the follow-up to Talk Dirty which incidentally was the last single to spend two consecutive weeks at Number One when it rested at the top of a fortnight back in September - although since then we have of course had two singles with non-consecutive two week runs at the summit.
For totally new singles we have to look slightly lower down inside the Top 20 - surprising in a way because the two biggest selling new releases of the week are both from former X Factor stars who theoretically benefitted from Results Show performances last weekend. Leading the way is Rebecca Ferguson with I Hope. Big things were expected of the 2010 runner-up but she has made hard work of developing a pop career in the two years since she made her post-X Factor debut. Her debut album Heaven saw just two of its five single releases chart, lead track Nothing's Real But Love hitting Number 10 in December 2011 and Backtrack from a Special Edition re-release making Number 15 in October 2012. This new single is taken from her second album Freedom which makes its own chart debut this week as the album chart's second highest new entry at Number 6. She has her fans, clearly, but the public at large still remains unconvinced.
Meanwhile, 2012 winner James Arthur is clearly making hay whilst the sun shines. Just six weeks after his first single proper You're Nobody 'Til Somebody Loves You charted he is back with a second, Recovery also benefitting (theoretically) from an X Factor performance. His third chart hit does, however, become his smallest so far, entering at a lowly Number 19 although his self-titled debut collection does at least rally a little and climbs to Number 12 on the album chart this week.
Possibly the most interesting chart arrival of the week is the Number 20 hit Higher (Free) which gives garage trio All About She a long-overdue debut hit. The track is actually the second single for the group, signed to Tinie Tempah's Disturbing London label. Their first release was Bullet which stiffed and failed to chart earlier in the summer although lead singer Vanya Taylor does have one chart hit to her name already, her uncredited vocals having appeared on her label boss' 2011 hit Simply Unstoppable.
Having last week bemoaned (or perhaps celebrated) the absence from the singles chart so far of the usual flood of Christmas songs, it was clear all they lacked was proper exposure. A heavy push for the latest incarnations of the festive compilation albums has given many of the classic hits the sales shot in the arm they were looking for. As a result, something of a singles chart invasion is underway. All I Want For Christmas Is You storms to Number 14 this week, its highest chart position since it peaked at Number 11 in December 2011. Similarly Fairytale Of New York races to Number 16, now the ninth year in a row that the Pogues/Kirsty MacColl classic has been a Top 20 hit single. The only other long in the tooth seasonal classic to make the Top 40 (so far) is Wizzard's I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday which sneaks in at Number 37. Others will surely join it over the next fortnight.
Those longing for some newer additions to the festive canon do at least have a glimmer of hope, thanks to Leona Lewis whose rather limp but in all truth still rather sweet One More Sleep makes a debut at Number 34 this week, the first chart hit for the 2006 X Factor winner since Trouble made Number 7 in October 2012. She performed the track on the X Factor Results Show this weekend just gone, something which almost inevitably will propel it to bigger and better things next week. The single is taken from her festive themed album Christmas With Love which debuts at Number 25 this week, one of a startling number of seasonal collections which arrive on the chart. One place ahead at Number 24 are summertime chart champions Richard and Adam with their own The Christmas Album whilst festive offerings from Susan Boyle, Rod Stewart, Mary J Blige and even Kelly Clarkson (debuting at Number 65 with Wrapped In Red) can be found littering the bestseller listings. They are however all outsold by the album which arguably resurrected the craze for Christmas albums, Michael Buble's Christmas which climbs 13-10 this week to mark the third year running that the album has been a Top 10 hit in December.