It is one week to Christmas and so on the Official UK Singles chart, this is essentially the last 'normal' week of the year before things start to get a little bit silly. Hence it is something of an honour for Lily Allen to retain her place as the nation's Number One single, her cover version of Somewhere Only We Know holding firm at the top of the charts for the second week in succession and its third in total.
Not that she didn't have some competition, for yet again this was a week where the competition swung first one way and then the other, Lily Allen's winning margin once again down to the small matter of 5,700 copies. Unlucky then for Avicii who was on course to become the only act this year to top the charts with three different singles, duplicating the feat of Rita Ora in 2012. Instead, Hey Brother has to be content with an 8-2 rise to beat the Number 5 peak of his last single You Make Me and become officially his second highest charting single to date.
Once more a dearth of outstanding new releases, at least as far as the singles market is concerned, has allowed some existing hits to stretch their legs, meaning that the two highest new arrivals in the Top 10 are both singles which featured lower down the Top 40 seven days ago. Charging to Number 3 (and extremely unlucky not to have overhauled Avicii at the death) is Leona Lewis who lands her biggest hit single for four years as One More Sleep moves 34-3 following a grandstanding performance on the X Factor Semi Final show last weekend. The emotional Christmas song is her highest charting record since Happy also peaked at Number 2 in November 2009. It has not gone unnoticed that it has been some time since a contemporary hit record was added to the standard playlist of holiday favourites (even the notorious Mariah Carey hit single is 19 years old this year) and it is not unthinkable that One More Sleep may have a lifespan far beyond this month or even the still somewhat stuttering career of its singer.
One place below and also making a flying 26 place chart leap is the comeback star of the year Pharrell Williams who finishes 2013 not only as the singer on two different million sellers, with a Top 5 hit of his own as Happy storms to Number 4 [strap in, we are going to be here a while with this one]. The track is taken from the soundtrack of the film Despicable Me 2, its popularity undoubtedly helped by the fun gimmick of the "24 hour video" which is available online for those with a great deal of patience and an ability to not tire of hearing the song over and over again. Happy is the highest charting single to feature Pharrell Williams as lead artist since Can I Have It Like That hit Number 3 with Gwen Stefani in tow back in 2005. The singer and producer has also charted in the past as part of N*E*R*D, reaching Number 5 in 2004 with She Wants To Move.
Also new to the Top 10 this week is Jason Derulo with Trumpets, the single climbing 12-7 to give him his third Top 10 hit single of the year following The Other Side and Talk Dirty. Moving slightly slower but in a manner which suggests if it keeps the momentum up is ideally placed to become one of the first big hits of the new year in two weeks time is Jessie J's Thunder which lifts 31-18 to beat the peak of her last single Sexy Lady which stalled at Number 22 back in October.
It is also worth noting that a few weeks after it set a sensational American chart benchmark by becoming a Top 20 hit on the Hot 100 for the first time whilst into its second year on the chart, Sail by Awolnation duplicates the feat in the UK. The ultimate in slow-burning singles only made the UK chart for the first time at the end of October and looked to have reached a premature peak when it fell back last week after reaching Number 22. This week, however, the brooding rock single makes a three-place climb and registers a new high of Number 20 - with hopefully better things to come once the holiday madness has passed.
The Christmas classics continue to solidify their chart positions in what is traditionally their peak week for chart performances. Thus Mariah Carey wins the race once more as All I Want For Christmas Is You moves up two places to Number 12, one place short of the peak it scaled two years ago. Originally a Number 2 hit when first released in 1994, its peak in the digital era came at Christmas 2007 when it climbed as high as Number 4. A little lower down Fairytale Of New York is now at Number 15, surprisingly perhaps its lowest chart placing for three years.
On the album chart, there is a surprise changing of the guard and a pleasing return to the top for Robbie Williams' Swings Both Ways, three weeks after it first debuted at the top to become the 1000th Number One album as One Direction's Midnight Memories is dumped down to second place. It raises the prospect that the star could indeed duplicate his feat of 2001 and top the Christmas charts with a swing album. The one spanner in the works could well come from Beyonce who this week "pulled a David Bowie" with the unexpected release on Friday of a brand new and hitherto totally secret new album. Despite less than 48 hours on-sale and for the moment restricted to being an iTunes exclusive, Beyonce lands on the chart at Number 5 and presumably is in pole position to rise to the top if it can keep up that momentum. What will help is the fact that none of its tracks are being made available for individual purchase until this Friday (20th), so for now it is the album or nothing.
Mind you, Beyonce's unexpected appearance is really only the second most extraordinary chart move of the week, with Michael Buble's To Be Loved motoring 19-6 to ensure he has not one but two different albums in the Top 10, his 2011 release Christmas proving as strong a seller as ever and sitting just one place below his current collection of songs.
That then is essentially that for chart normalcy. Next week is what you might call a "bubble chart" as standard measurements of popularity are pushed aside in favour of the now annual madness of singles being downloaded with the express aim of making comedy appearances in the annual Christmas chart. The timing of the climax of X Factor this year has however made all talk of a race a rather moot point, series winner Sam Bailey set to sweep all before her with her cover of Demi Lovato's Skyscraper - that is, unless fate determines otherwise. Wiser heads will note that the hype surrounding the "Christmas Number One race" now exceeds the significance of the chart countdown itself - the true test of seasonal popularity will actually be to top the chart published the week after next, the "gift token" chart when overall singles sales traditionally reach their highest level of the year.