"If Clean Bandit aren't Number One next week, then Zay-Zay and Tay-Tay will be" were my parting words at the end of last week's piece. Well here we are seven days later and you know what? Zay-Zay and Tay-Tay aren't top of the charts (by some margin to boot) and indeed Clean Bandit are. That, however, is to put too simple a gloss on the full story of the week which actually saw a number of other initially unexpected contenders emerge only to fall by the wayside and leave the group of university friends top of the pile for the penultimate chart before Christmas.
Rockabye tops the Official UK Singles chart for the sixth week in a row, enough to make the single the second-longest running Number One hit of the year, trailing a certain summertime smash whose details you surely don't require me to remind you of. The Clean Bandit track is now one of only six singles in the last ten years to spend as many as six weeks on top of the UK charts. The other four: Umbrella by Rihanna and Jay-Z, Bleeding Love by Leona Lewis (both 2007), We Found Love by Calvin Harris and Rihanna (2011) and Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars (2014).
Now for the fun part, because the Clean Bandit single actually surrendered its sales lead this week, never at any time the biggest selling single of the moment and finishing in fourth place overall. But its streams largely held firm (3.9m in total), ending up with the single retaining its Number One position by a distance of over 15,000 sales. A quite unanticipated result and food for thought for those tracking live tables in an attempt to second guess next week's big Christmas Number One. How was this possible? Well, really it was simple. The singles which outsold Rockabye had very little streaming traction and had no way of extending that lead. By contrast, the nearest rivals to Clean Bandit on the streaming charts were both tracks whose online listenership way outpaces their appeal at retail.
Those of us who backed Rockabye to be Christmas Number One in what will be its seventh straight week at Number One were always backing a longshot and in theory, that's what it remains. But as we saw with the Drake single in the summer, a dominant streaming champion can be as weak as it likes in other areas, just as long as nobody else is coming close to hitting that sweet spot.
Aoki Aoki Aoki. Oy Oy Oy.
That's not the really startling part. The Number 2 single isn't even the biggest seller of the week either. Instead, it is a track which was a late entrant to the race, only released late on Saturday, leaving it with two days of catching up to do. That it managed even that is a testament to the popularity of the single - or at the very least the name behind it. Just Hold On teams American EDM producer Steve Aoki with the vocal talents Louis Tomlinson who thus becomes the latest One Direction member to step from the shadows and launch a solo career. As tragic chance would have it the release of the single came with its own backstory, the singer performing the track on last weekend's X Factor Final broadcast just days after his mother passed away. With all involved praising his bravery and dedication Just Hold On became as much a totem in memory of Johanna Poulston as it did a cool dance single and naturally a must-have for any dedicated Directioner.
The single shoots into the charts at Number 2 in a manner which suggests a full week of sales might have been the difference-maker. No matter, this is far and away the biggest of Aoki's six chart singles to date. His previous highest placing was alongside Afrojack on No Beef which reached Number 25 in November 2011. The marketing of this track is rather fun. Although it is manifestly an Aoki created track that just happens to have the One Direction star on guest vocals, it is released on Syco and although both men have equal billing, naturally enough Louis Tomlinson comes first.
As noted above, Just Hold On easily outsold the Clean Bandit single above it, but its streams took time to crank up and it languishes way down at Number 25 on that table. Crucially though the track still managed rather more streams than the track it was outsold by and which as a result sits one place below.
I'm Not Here To Lie To You
Presumptions that the official coronation single of the 2016 X Factor winner would be both nowhere near the Christmas Number One slot or indeed nowhere near the top of the charts in the week of its release were by and large informed by the lacklustre performance of last year's offering. Even taking into account the inbuilt disadvantage of not being releasable until late on the Sunday night and with little prospect of landing a large streaming total, Louisa Johnson's Forever Young was a disaster even at retail - toppling from the top of the iTunes tables after just a few days and selling so poorly as a CD single the show abandoned plans to make this year's winner available physically for the first time ever. It barely scraped the Top 10 and appeared to have killed off the idea that an X Factor winner was entitled to a procession to the top of the charts once and for all.
So in that sense fair play to 2016 champion Matt Terry. His winning track When Christmas Comes Around proved to have a far stronger appeal, launching itself into the upper end of the live sales tables almost from the moment of release, a position it was never to relinquish. Progressive midweek updates saw the single edge closer and closer to the top, its overall market lead enough to ensure it stood a good chance of overcoming the inbuilt disadvantage its midweek release had gifted it. In the end it was a good fight, but just not good enough. When Christmas Comes Around sold more copies than any other last week (although that still only amounted to 35,000 in total - streaming refusniks take note), but was so poorly streamed (50th place overall) it ends up only charting at Number 3 on the official chart. Which is damn impressive but which for now is enough to make it the second lowest charting X Factor winners single to date - next to poor Louisa. He only just shaded her in total sales too - his 46,000 combined beating her 39,000 a year ago this week.
When Christmas Comes Around is an intriguing choice of winner's song - marking only the second time in the show's decade-long history the winner has been handed a brand new and previously unrecorded song to perform. The only other winner to be granted that honour was 2005 victor Shayne Ward who recorded That's My Goal and duly sold three-quarters of a million copies in four days to become the Christmas Number One that year. Terry's song has the added bonus of being the first new material in a year to emerge from the pen of one Ed Sheeran, a fact which should be immediately obvious when one studies the pace and poetry of the song's lyric. Whether that had an effect on the unexpectedly large sales of the track is open to question - but if we credited the Sheeran factor with helping Justin Bieber's Love Yourself a year ago then properly we should do so for this single too. In a change of format this year the big reveal of the song was left to the end. The two final contenders did not perform their potential singles as part of the show, so Terry's tearful climactic performance after the announcement of his victory was its first airing of any kind.
At the time of writing, Matt Terry retains his lead at the top of the iTunes table suggesting his sales are going to sustain for a few days yet. But any chance he has of topping the charts next week will be torpedoed by the fact that his single is doing very little on the streaming services. Because X Factor fans and viewers don't stream. They buy.
Song Goes Up, Song Goes Down
Two new entries inside the Top 3 never mind the Top 10 is enough to make this one of the more thrilling singles charts of the second half of this year as it is. Within the Top 10 however are two other notable moves. First of all Human from Rag'n'Bone Man which accelerates 8-5 (Sales: 3, Streams: 19) in a manner which suggests predictions of an ascent to the top of the charts in the hinterland of the new year seem to be on track for now. Live betting makes the track still something of an outsider for Christmas Number One, but not as much of an outsider as its odds currently suggest.
Moving in the wrong direction is All I Want For Christmas Is You, suggesting that if it is one day to become a suprise contender to top the charts on its streaming performance alone it won't be this one. The Mariah Carey track dips 6-8 (Sales: 21, Streams: 4) but is still far and away the most popular festive favourite of the moment. Its closest rival is naturally enough Fairytale Of New York which also appears to have become bogged down and slips two places to Number 18 (Sales: 24, Streams: 13)
Watch Me Whip
So go on then, what of Zay-Zay and Tay-Tay? ZAYN and Taylor Swift, to give them their proper names, are so far from contending to be top of the charts it just isn't funny. Their duet of I Don't Wanna Live Forever was a surprise debut at the end of Friday last week, concurrent with the release of the first trailer from "Fifty Shades Darker" on whose soundtrack it can be heard. An early sales leader, the single was swiftly blown away first by the Steve Aoki track and then by X Factor winner Matt Terry. By the end of the week it was an all but also-ran, finishing as the fifth best seller.
So why then is a sultry duet from two theoretically big names stranded rather startlingly at Number 16? Needless to say it is all down to streams - or rather the lack of them. I Don't Wanna Live Forever was on Google, Apple, Deezer and I believe even Tidal but was entirely absent from Spotify. Whether that was down to Taylor Swift's continuing boycott of the platform or because of some odd exclusivity deals is not clear. But it mattered, given that Spotify's market share is anything up to 60%. No Spotify means fewer streams and severely depressed chart placing. Indeed the single fails to register as one of the 100 most streamed tracks of the week. Which is a big ouch.
Things may improve next week, the single has finally appeared on the key streaming platform although oddly credited to ZAYN alone. For now at least it is fourth Top 40 and fifth chart hit overall for the former One Direction singer and Taylor Swift's first chart entry since Wildest Dreams staggered to Number 40 just over a year ago. Continuing interest in the build up to the release of the movie may give this one a longer shelf life than its initial entry might suggest. We are treated to the fun sight of former bandmates Zayn Malik and Steve Tomlinson charting 'solo' hits side by side and other chance to muse that One Direction were formed from aspiring solo singers who all failed their initial X Factor auditions but who were invited along to be part of a producer-made boy band and thus thrust to megastardom.
I Got The Recipe
Amongst the many acts granted the big superstar platform on last weekend's X Factor Final show were Little Mix. As seems now de rigeur they performed not just one song but a medley of two tracks from their current album Glory Days. Theoretically, the main focus was on the track elected to be the next single Touch and which duly enjoys a sales boost, rocketing to Number 23 (Sales: 8, Streams: 44), far exceeding the Number 63 it scaled in the week of the album's first release. Perhaps just as notable however was the mini performance of the fifties-themed Oops for which they were joined onstage by co-star Charlie Puth. That track also received a due boost but somehow rather less, entering at Number 61 (Sales: 22, Streams: uncharted) but in a manner which suggests it may be promoted to a 'proper' single at some point in the not too distant future.
More Cole On The Fire
Perhaps the most notable singles chart debutant of all was the one who received the least attention, all things considered. American hip-hop star J. Cole dropped his new album 4 Your Eyez Only during the week. Said collection duly lands on the Official UK Albums chart Number 21 (it is naturally the most streamed album of the week) but it also liberally sprays many of its tracks around the main singles chart. Leading the way is Deja Vu which lands at Number 30 (Sales: 70, Streams: 22) to become his first ever Top 40 hit single. Lower down however there are also Immortal at 49, Neighbors at 54, Change at 63 and five more scattered between 75 and 100.
Everyone Buys Albums At Christmas
Gaining less mainstream attention but still of equal fascination to the music industry is the "race" such as it is to be the Number One album at Christmas. Easing into pole position finally after a wait of six weeks is Michael Ball and Alfie Boe's Together. Easily the most consistent seller of the season so far, it now stands an extraordinarily good chance of overtaking both Bowie and even Adele to become 2016's biggest seller. Which will be a story in itself when it happens.
Ding Dong Merrily
I suspect very little of the above is why most people are here, for fascinating as it is this is the one chart of the year which becomes irrelevant the moment it is published. All eyes are really on the battle to top the listings next week and become immortalised in history as the Christmas Number One 2016, to be revealed at 6pm on Friday 23rd December. Based on the topsy-turvy way things have developed in recent years I am ruling nothing out and nothing in at this stage, although I will note that in the early running none of the theoretical front runners have shown any sign of even starting the kind of sales momentum which will enable them to overcome incumbent hits - and most significantly incumbent hits which already have a huge streaming head of steam and thus an inbuilt advantage.
I'm running a live blog elsewhere which I'll update day by day as the story develops - or you can check back here next Friday for the full story when I'll either be full of joy that a "proper" hit record has become Christmas Number One at long last, or despairing of the annual chart hijack which sees a single of no relevance to anything else other than the season barge its way into immortality.