The 2015 series of The X Factor came to its traditional climax live on television last weekend, a vast audience inside Wembley Arena and an even vaster one on television saw Louisa Johnson complete what turned out to be a procession to the series crown, voting figures revealing that she was the front-runner from the very start. The producers got their wish, their anointed one survived the public vote and work could now begin on turning the 17 year old singing prodigy into the next Leona Lewis.
Throughout the 11 year history of the TV series, one thing has remained constant. The winner's single, their "coronation song" as it became known, almost without exception would debut at the top of the charts the week after the show with an extraordinarily large sale. Even the two who failed to reach the top of the charts first week out - Steve Brookstein and Joe McElderry - were victims of circumstance rather than success and both would make Number One a week later regardless.
This year however there was a whiff of change in the air. A feeling that the whole TV talent show concept, or at least X Factor in particular was starting to run on fumes. Ratings were down, a revamp of the presentation and judging panel just didn't work. Also throwing a spanner in the works was the new chart rules. The series winner would be announced in the middle of the sales week rather than the start, leaving them playing catch up with the rest of the market. OK, so the same was true in the early years of the series when singles were physical only and took two or three days to make the shops, but that was back when the winner would routinely sell half a million copies in their first week.
Hence this week's singles chart race had an air of intrigue about it. Could Louisa Johnson live up to the hype, overcome a three day disadvantage and storm to the top of the Official UK Singles chart as a matter of routine. As it turned out she could not, and this week it is nothing less than a huge shock to note that her debut single Forever Young limps into place not at Number One, not even in second or third place either, but at a lowly Number 9. It is the worst start to a chart career by any winner of any Popstars/Pop Idol/X Factor winner since the invention of the concept back in 2001.
The numbers reveal why. Forever Young (originally recorded by Bob Dylan in the 1970s and never before a UK chart hit) was the second most purchased track of the week but only the fourth most downloaded and does not even register on the Top 100 most streamed tracks. X Factor viewers are those who buy singles, and in lesser numbers than ever. They don't go on streaming sites. And that was enough to destroy her chances. Louisa sold just 39,000 singles last week. She was never going to be anywhere near the top of the charts.
This all meant the top end of the chart was left clear for Justin Bieber to continue his stranglehold on the British charts. Love Yourself remains top for a third week whilst Sorry clings on in second. It means he duly becomes the first act ever to nail down positions one and two for four straight weeks - beating the record previously held by The Beatles who lasted three weeks in 1968 with Hello Goodbye and Magical Mystery Tour EP in the Top 2. It further takes the Canadian's tally of chart-topping weeks this year to 10, equalling that of Jay-Z and Rihanna in 2007.
The other two new chart arrivals this week are two singles which had actually had previous chart runs earlier in the year. Making what at first glance appears a startling leap out of nowhere to Number 8 is Shut Up by freestyle rapper Stormzy. The track has been available commercially since September when it featured as the second track on his Wickedskengman 4 single, its own download sales propelling it to Number 59 in the same week that its a-side peaked at Number 18. The flying leap occurs as the rapper hit on the idea of leveraging his substantial online support to propel Shut Up into the charts for Christmas and hopefully to land Christmas Number One in the process. Briefly withdrawn from sale at the start of last week, the reactivated single at the very least gives him his biggest hit single to date, but a date at the top of the charts next week appears to be way beyond him.
Last week's X Factor final also gave the disbanding One Direction the opportunity to bid farewell to the stage which created them in the first place five years ago. Their performance of History on the show propels the track to Number 11, easily beating the Number 37 it first scaled as a cherry-picked album track back in November. This won't be Christmas Number One either, but keep an eye on it becoming possibly the first big new chart hit of 2016 in a couple of weeks time.
I've not mentioned albums so far, but that is simply because 25 is inevitably still at Number One where it will remain until well into the new year. Adele's benchmark of the week this week is to probably land herself the fastest selling double million seller in chart history. By close of business on Thursday the album had shifted a staggering 1.97 million copies. By the time you read this the album will have almost certainly passed the 2 million mark, doing so on its 29th day on sale. The previous record holder was Robson & Jerome's self-titled 1995 album which took a comparatively leisurely 42 days to reach that level.
That then pretty much wraps things up for December as we know it, apart from the chart next week which will cover sales up to Christmas Eve itself, the final countdown being unveiled in a special broadcast at lunchtime on Christmas Day. It means the next seven days will be full of the annual game of guessing what will be Christmas Number One, an accolade which over the years has been elevated to a special event in and of itself beyond simply being the best-selling single at Christmas. People will amass on social media to try to mass purchase their nominated song, be it a forgotten oldie, an improvised rap single or bizarrely a record which announces to the world how much they love going to the doctor. To top the charts at present though you still have to best Justin Bieber and his millions of streams a week. Hate to say it, but that is pretty much impossible right now.