The headline news everyone knows about already, so I don't need to be too in-depth here. Last Christmas by Wham! has sneaked to the top for the final singles chart of the year, just like Mariah Carey before it an inevitable consequence of vintage Christmas songs dominating music consumption around the holidays. As a result, it sets a brand new record, the 36-year gap between its 1984 release and appearance at the top of the charts now the longest ever in chart history. Last Christmas also steps aside from a record it has long held, that of being the biggest selling single never to top the charts, an accolade that now belongs to Moves Like Jagger by Maroon 5.
It also seems to have gone unremarked that almost exactly a year since Juice WRLD became the 14th, George Michael is now the 15th artist to top the charts posthumously (even if he isn't directly credited as performing Last Christmas), and does so exactly four years almost to the week that he passed away.
So that's what happened. But what is more fascinating is why. This week is proof that the streaming era is still a very young one. Predicting precisely what will happen to the market and when is something for which we have very little evidence. I'll freely admit that this week I anticipated that Christmas songs would enjoy a substantial chunk of the market but would largely have faded away by the time the full weekly chart was produced, given that their consumption was confined to the 25th and to a greatly lesser extent the 26th. Two out of the seven days surveyed.
But that is without accounting for just how crazy Christmas Day streaming is. It seems that people play festive music non-stop on those days. I've mentioned on other platforms before that Spotify's all-time list of "most plays in a day" consists of nothing more than Christmas songs (with the odd Ed Sheeran track here and there) and almost all of these records have been set on December 25th. Yes, Christmas songs added very little to their weekly totals after December 26th, but those totals were more than enough to ensure they dominated the weekly tallies.
Let's break this down, because this is the one chart of the year where a forensic analysis of the numbers is very educational. Midweek updates to the OCC databases were sporadic due to the holidays. The first sales flashes were not produced until Sunday 27th. They showed All I Want For Christmas Is You was in the lead with 30,391 chart sales and Last Christmas was fractionally behind on 30,197 chart sales. Compare that to the final totals which where:
1) Last Christmas. 40,149 sales
2) All I Want For Christmas Is You. 39,435 sales
So fully 2/3 of the weekly tally for those tracks was accounted for in the first two days of the week, perhaps even more than that given the Sunday flashes did not include Spotify data for Saturday (26th). That said, both singles still put on 10,000 sales each during the rest of the week which is far more than I had expected, although the slowdown was apparent as the week progressed.
So how did Last Christmas have the edge over Mariah? Well, the numbers break down as follows:
Last Christmas: 1,555 downloads, 9,234,000 streams
All I Want For Christmas Is You: 761 downloads, 9,530,000 streams
(Both of those, incidentally, are some way down from the all-time weekly record figures they posted a year ago, a consequence of the run-up to Christmas and Christmas Day itself being separated by the chart calendar).
Wham! are No.1 this week apparently thanks to their edge on paid sales. Despite the 300,000 difference in raw streaming numbers between the two singles, the actual calculated sales were closer than you might expect, the Mariah Carey single having more streams from customers on free tiers than the Wham track. Both catalogue tracks have ACR rules applied so their free streams converted to sales at 1:1200 compared to 1:600 for the paid ones. It means that Last Christmas received 38,591 chart sales from its streams and All I Want For Christmas Is You received 38,674.
Other details worth noting:
The No.3 and No.4 singles this week were the two Amazon Originals. This Christmas by Jess Glynne is No.3 with 33,843 chart sales and Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree is No.4 with 31,550 chart sales. Both with half the streaming numbers of the singles above them, as ACR does not apply to these two new releases.
Last week's No.1 single from Ladbaby is nowhere to be seen in the printed charts. Don't Stop Me Eatin' falls further than any of Mark Hoyle's singles to date, dropping to No.78 after clocking up a mere 9,277 sales second time around. It is only the second single in history to fall completely out of the Top 75 after topping the charts, this fall beaten only by the 1-97 dip endured by Three Lions in July 2018. Something tells me we might see this record broken once again next week. Just a hunch.
For those curious, last week's No.5 single by The Kunts sold a further 5,122 copies, well short of the 7,282 required to spend a second week on the Official Top 100.
One year ago the first full singles chart of January saw a raft of older 2019 hits rebound back up the charts having enjoyed an unexpected reset of their ACR status thanks to circumstances surrounding the shape of the market. I sense this is unlikely to happen to quite the same extent this year. The singles market declined by 9.88% this week meaning the threshold for an ACR reset was a rise in streams of 15.12%. But despite this some singles apparently did manage to cross the threshold and will rocket back into contention next week, perhaps most notably Levitating by Dua Lipa which is rocketing back to the Top 5 on the early midweeks [but don't hold me to that, at this precise moment it isn't clear why a reset has taken place].
There does however remain the possibility that in this odd year for the chart calendar the impact of the new year reset has been delayed a week. What effect the wholesale absence of Christmas songs from next week's market remains to be seen, and it seems almost certain that many more singles will qualify for an automatic reset next time around. It makes January perhaps a little more interesting than might otherwise have been the case.
Hope you've enjoyed these bonus free rundowns. I'll be back next week in the pages of Music Week and at musicweek.com with the full background on the first official charts of 2021.