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The final week before the Christmas chart itself and, if we are being perfectly honest, the final week of the year when the UK charts resemble anything approaching normality. We've now got a fortnight ahead of us with both the inevitable frenzy of one-off Christmas Number one contenders and the evergreen festive classics barging actual mainstream pop hits out of the way. Get ready for two weeks of some quite brutal charts, so make the most of this one while you can.
Normality is, for now, just about maintained and as far as the Official UK Singles chart is concerned that means a phenomenal 11th consecutive week at Number One for Australian singer Tones & I with Dance Monkey. Level with the record holders last time out, this week she creates a new one of her own with officially the longest-running Number One single by a female artist in the whole of chart history. Dance Monkey is now one of only six singles to spend as many as 11 straight weeks at the top of the charts with a seventh (Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen) having done so with two separate spells at the top 16 years apart from each other.
You know there's a 'but' coming here, don't you? With her weekly streaming total slipping from 68,303 to 61,759 she goes tick-tock-tick and the moment we have been anticipating has finally arrived. After escaping the axe twice before, Dance Monkey's luck has finally run out and it will be relegated to ACR status on next week's chart, almost inevitably propelling it out of the Top 5 altogether.
Depending on your point of view this is either immaculate or unfortunate timing, creating a vacuum at the top of the charts to neatly coincide with the annual bunfight of the Christmas Number One race. In past years we've always been able to treat a potential gatecrasher to the party, a novelty or one-off hit or something random promoted by people on social media with a small degree of suspicion. After all, they still have to outsell and outstream whatever the incumbent Number One single is. But for Christmas week 2019 we quite literally have no incumbent, making this one of the more intriguingly open races for years.
His To Own?
If you had to pick one of the existing chart hits to sneak to the top then it surely has to be Stormzy and friends with Own It. The single may well be lagging at the moment, finishing this week some 20,000 chart sales behind Tones & I in second place, but the rapper does have the well-timed advantage of the release of his second album Heavy In The Head which will inevitably result in him enjoying large numbers of streams for all its tracks - but none more so than this current hit single. Stormzy is the man to beat for sure, but it remains to be seen just how high a bar he can actually set.
Ellie Goulding's still Amazon-exclusive cover of Joni Mitchell's River continues to impress. A surprise Top 3 in early midweek flashes (which were admittedly devoid of much data from other streaming platforms), the single eventually settles for a Number 8 placing this week. That's enough to make it her first Top 10 hit single since On My Mind climbed to Number 5 in October 2015. The Amazon platform is also exclusively responsible for another of this week's festive hits, John Legend's extraordinary take on Happy Xmas (War Is Over) entering at Number 41.
Styling And Profiling
Someone else with a handily timed brand new album out for Christmas is Harry Styles and he continues to stand his previous chart form on its head with a third Top 40 hit single in a row. The album's final teaser track is Adore You which duly lands at Number 11 this week, a full 17 places higher than the peak scaled by its predecessor Watermelon Sugar although some way back from the Number 3 entry of the album's lead single Lights Up. Second time around he and his label have done a much more thorough job of promoting him as the star he is always intended to be. Three Top 30 hits before the album is released is not bad going at all, especially compared to his debut album in 2017 which spawned just one chart single of any note.
Harry is, inevitably, the only high profile act to have even contemplated releasing new product this week, making him the only chart arrival of any particular note. The rest of the singles chart is occupied by festive hits, and this week Last Christmas enjoys a 13-7 leap to join All I Want For Christmas Is You in the Top 10. Lower down all the usual suspects are present and correct: The Pogues, Band Aid, and Shaky in the Top 20. They may be starting the usual process of swamping the modern-day hits, but the Christmas songs (all of them held back a little by their permanent ACR status by rule) are still sitting at low levels for now. Remember, it is the chart published in two weeks' time covering sales and streams in the run-up to and on Christmas Day itself when they finally come to dominate.
You'll Be Unwrapping This One For Sure
Two weeks ago the Top 3 of the Official UK Albums chart were all new entries. Coldplay's Everyday Life was Number One, Robbie Williams took second place with The Christmas Present and Rod Stewart was Number 3 with his album of orchestral remakes of his older hits You're In My Heart. Last week it was Robbie's turn to top the charts with the Coldplay album fading away, and this time out Rod The Mod finally gets his moment in the sun (snow?). His 11th Number One album, Rod Stewart tops the charts at the grand old age of 74 years and 11 months, beating the benchmark set by Paul Simon in 2016 as the oldest man ever to have a Number One album. Pedants may note that Simon's Stranger To Stranger was an entirely new work as opposed to Rod's collection of re-recordings, but as Rod still went into the studio to make a new recording I'm comfortable crediting him with the record. This is now the 18th week in a row that the Number One has changed hands on the album chart, this too setting a brand new record.
Who Do They Think They Are?
In a way, it is a shame, as we were expecting album chart records of a different kind with The Who's self-titled new album posting a sales lead on early flashes. Had it hung on, their first album of new material in 13 years would have seen the group top the charts for only the second time in their long and storied career, filling a gap that stretches back to Who's Next back in 1971. The race was tight, just 1,265 chart sales separate the entire Top 3, but ultimately Daltry and Townshend could only manage a Number 3 entry.
Gone Too Soon (Again)
The Who's sixties mantra was famously "hope I die before I get old", and alas the latest star to live up to that creed was rapper Juice WRLD who passed away this week at the stupidly young age of 21. Posthumous streams mean he inevitably peppers the lower end of the singles chart with his past works, most notably with Bandit landing at Number 48 and his highest-profile hit single Lucid Dreams reappearing at Number 51, just over a year after it originally peaked at Number 10. Both did numbers which might justify higher chart placings, but as older hits they are by default on ACR at least for their first week back on the charts.
Time To Get Festive
That is indeed the lie of the land before the battle to come. As I write the Christmas Number One race is underway, the void at the top of the charts sadly making it easier than ever for the public to succumb to momentary insanity and install a novelty or a charity gatecrasher at the top. Betting and pre-orders presently indicate that 2018 champion Ladbaby could repeat his triumph a year on, although this relies on the public happy to get behind what is at the end of the day exactly the same joke as 12 months ago. Christmas Number One in consecutive years hasn't been achieved by any act since The Spice Girls over 20 years ago. It couldn't happen, could it? The Chart Watch UK Xmas No.1 blog will update you throughout the week on the progress of the race, and I'll see you back here next Friday to explain just who got it right. Or wrong.