It looks like we have reason to be grateful to X Factor after all. The unexpected emergency release a week ago of Mark Ronson's Uptown Funk following Fleur East's semi-final performance inserted a genuine air of intrigue into this week's fight to be the official Christmas Number One on the Official UK Singles chart as the industry and public plays the annual game of predicting just what record will be top of the charts for the festive period.
A 'race' which might have been little more than a procession led by X Factor winner Ben Haenow and his song Something I Need turned instead into a two-way battle which the added unknown of streaming data meant was impossible to call until the very end. As expected the Haenow track surged into a powerful download lead at the start of the week but the track's market domination only lasted two or three days at least. From that moment on it was Ronson who was leaving the rest for dust, the only question being whether the midweek availability of a CD single of the X Factor song would tip the balance in its favour.
In the end that is just what happened. For the second year running and the seventh time in the last ten years, it is the victorious X Factor contestant who tops the charts for Christmas. Ben Haenow dominated the voting in the show from the third week onwards and naturally enough demand for the song he performed in the final and to close the serious was absolutely enormous.
Like so many coronation singles before it Something I Need is a cover, albeit from a source that may have dipped under the radar of most people. The song first appeared on OneRepublic's 2013 album Native but was only promoted as a single in Australia and New Zealand at the time. Inevitably the Haenow cover has caused a brief spike in sales of the original, but the effect was limited and the OneRepublic version can only limp to Number 78.
Something I Need hits the top with what is needless to say a huge sale - nearly 313,000 copies according to the Official Charts Company.
Thus Uptown Funk dips to Number 2 but in a manner which suggests it will make a comfortable return to the top of the charts in the new year - possibly even as soon as next week as the X Factor effect wears off. Certainly, it still has momentum. Its jaw-dropping 2.34million streams last week shattering the current record by some considerable distance [to put this in some context, 2.34m was easily a record at the time - three years later the most-streamed track of the week will do around 5-6 million on average], enough to add 23,000 copies to its chart total. The former record holder, Ed Sheeran's Thinking Out Loud dips to Number 3 although the red-haired star has the more than adequate consolation of the year's biggest selling album X remaining at the top of the charts for its 11th week in total and becoming the biggest seller of the Christmas period.
The remainder of the Christmas Top 5 is gatecrashed by two rather unexpected new arrivals. Landing at Number 4 is Up by the surprise pairing of Olly Murs and Demi Lovato, the duet the second track from Murs' current album Never Been Better to reach the singles chart, hard on the heels of Wrapped Up which exits the Top 10 this week. The single lands the former Disney princess her third Top 10 hit and her first since Heart Attack reached Number 3 in May 2013.
It wouldn't be Christmas without at least one novelty hit single invading the charts and indeed the surprise sales package of the week was the track Got No Fans by the Wealdstone Raider which was not even in contention on Monday but ends the sales period as the fifth biggest seller of the week. Football fan Gordon Hill became something of an internet celebrity a year ago when a short YouTube video of him drunkenly berating rival fans of his football team Wealdstone FC went viral, his cries of "you want some?" and "got no fans" turning him into an unlikely cultural reference point. He is now an even unlikelier chart star after his rantings were turned into a fun dance track (with the co-operation of the 48-year-old builder himself) with all proceeds going to benefit three charitable causes. Never really in contention to top the charts, his Number 5 hit single adds a refreshing element of randomness into what is after all the most studied singles chart countdown of the year.
The highest charting Christmas themed track this year is Fairytale Of New York by The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl which can't quite manage its first Top 10 visit since 2007 and remains locked at Number 11. Rather surprisingly this is several places higher than the Band Aid 30 single Do They Know It's Christmas which at one stage was priced up as the favourite to top the charts for the holiday but which cannot even sustain the sales boost that last week saw it rocket back to the Top 3 following a physical release. Instead, the charity record dips to Number 17, in the process becoming the first version of the song not to be the Christmas Number One but also rather curiously the first Christmas-themed Number One single to not be on top for the holiday itself since 1989. On that occasion, it was Let's Party by Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers which could not sustain a run at Number One throughout December. The record that replaced it? Do They Know It's Christmas by Band Aid II.
Fortune always favours the brave and so taking the bold step of releasing a brand new single in Christmas chart week has gifted Gorgon City a Number 14 new entry with Go All Night. It is the third Top 40 hit of the year for the electronic duo, albeit the first to miss the Top 10 - at least for now. Featured vocalist on the track is singer and Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Hudson who makes the British charts for the first time since 2011 when the David Guetta track Night Of Your Life on which she also guested reached Number 35. Go All Night is her biggest hit since her own track Spotlight reached Number 11 in September 2008.
Finally most conspicuous by their absence from this seasonal chart are the various singles which online campaigns have attempted to encourage mass purchases of in order to gatecrash the Christmas market. Demonstrating that perhaps after five years everyone is bored of the idea, despite attention being paid to a handful none of managed to make anything resembling an impact. The best anyone could do was to place The Number Of The Best by Iron Maiden at Number 44 (66 would have been funnier) whilst charity recording All Together Now by the Peace Collective also failed to live up to expectations and limps to Number 70. Of token rave oldie LFO by LFO, there is no sign at all in the Top 100.
So that was Christmas 2014 which may not have been much of a race in the end but did at least hand us plenty of talking points. Many thanks to everyone who has read, shared and commented on these pieces during the past year. Have a wonderful holiday - and don't forget to check back next week for the new year chart. The Christmas race may be over, but the annual rush to cash in gift tokens means the biggest sales week of the year is yet to come. As indeed are Madonna's potential five simultaneous hit singles.