It's Christmas No.1 week. What do you mean you didn't notice?
In truth, you could have been forgiven for overlooking the entire festivities given that from the moment the first sales flashes were revealed last weekend it was clear that any hopes of there being any kind of intrigue or uncertainty about the destination of the No.1 single had faded into nothing. Ladbaby and his celebrity mates were ahead and out of sight, a situation that persisted throughout the week.
Sausage Rolls For Everyone by Ladbaby (featuring Ed Sheeran and Elton John is No.1 for Christmas 2021.
Yet there is an aura of negativity about the whole thing, and not just from jaded cynics like myself. Back in November I was debating with industry contacts about the wisdom of Ladbaby even attempting to extend his run of one-off charity singles, reasoning that should he release a single and fail then whatever aura he once had will be shattered. As it turned out he didn't fail, but the crown has slipped anyway. The fourth annual charity release from online influencer Mark Hoyle is a world away from his one man against the odds journey to the top of the charts back in 2018 (back when it all began). Now he's the frontman for what appears to be a cynically corporate exercise, the sideshow to the cameo "rolls" from Ed and Elton and with some slick PR work which meant he popped up on every daytime show going in the week to shill his charitable causes.
But let us not be a grinch about it all, it is still Christmas. Storming to No.1 with another huge sale of 136,000 (compared to 157,733 in 2020, 92,896 in 2019 and 75,442 in 2018) Ladbaby sets a new chart benchmark as the first artist ever to land four Christmas No.1 singles in a row, The Beatles and The Spice Girls having only ever managed a hat-trick apiece. Sausage Rolls For Everyone is unique amongst his opus in that rather than a rewritten parody of an old rock song it is in fact a re-versioning of the record he replaces at No.1, a new rendition of Ed Sheeran and Elton John's Merry Christmas.
This is unusual but not entirely unheard of, an echo of that strange period in 2004 when (F**k It) I Don't Want You Back by Eamon was deposed by its own response track FURB by Frankee, the two songs sharing a structure and melody if not lyrics and intent. Plus there are the two occasions back in the dawn of chart history when competing versions of the same song replaced each other at the top of the charts - in 1953 when David Whitfield and Frankie Laine's versions of Answer Me took centre stage and then again in 1957 when Guy Mitchell and Tommy Steele swapped places twice with duelling versions of Singing The Blues. But that was a very different age.
As credited guests on the cover of their own song Ed Sheeran and Elton John effectively replace themselves at the top of the charts, this extraordinarily the third time Sheeran has done this, having pulled off the trick in January 2018 and of course earlier this year. This is the first time Elton John has done so, but in the process he continues his extraordinary career journey of either topping the charts with a cover, remix or re-issue of an older hit or with a song he will subsequently remake.
Oh yes, and with the "original" version of the song sitting at No.2 it means the Christmas chart of 2021 effectively duplicates that of 2008 with two different versions of the same song at positions 1 and 2 - thirteen years ago it was competing versions of Hallelujah by X Factor winner Alexandra Burke and the late Jeff Buckley.
Are we done? I think so, other than to note that Christmas No.1 is now essentially as ruined as a concept as it was back at the height of X Factor dominance of the festive charts, and that if the Ladbaby single is still anywhere within the Top 75 or even the Top 100 next week it will be something of a shock. A pop record reduced to the empty gesture of a charitable donation. No heart, no creativity, no artistry. We want our charts back Mr Hoyle, and your celebrity mates could go a long way to alleviating much of the poverty you profess to care about so much by contributing about five minutes worth of their daily earnings.
More Turkey Vicar?
The remainder of the Christmas chart is pretty much a mess of festive tunes, not helped by the sharp departure of Adele's Easy On Me which crashes to ACR and a consequent 2-28 reversal of its chart fortunes. Last Christmas, as it has done for most of the build up to the holiday, has the besting of All I Want For Christmas Is You and is No.3 to Mariah's No.4.
Leader Of The Gang
The one glimmer of hope for some form of chart race came from the second annual sweary rant against the Prime Minister from master satirist and profanicist Kunt, the viral star these days the frontman of his punk rock band The Kunts. Having reached No.5 for Christmas last year with Boris Johnson Is A Fucking Cunt the group announced they were trying again with the creative follow-up Boris Johnson Is Still A Fucking Cunt. You can go back and read last year's column on this site where I failed to find the whole stunt amusing, but this time around there was some worth to the single, Kunt admitting he had taken his inspiration from the famous book The Manual by the KLF and used some of its ideas. Hence the 2021 single is based (just as the Timelords hit Doctorin' The Tardis which inspired the writing of the book) on Gary Glitter's Rock And Roll Part 2 which in itself is just as subversive as the title of the single.
Despite relentless social media pushing and a slew of remixes (including ones from such online legends as Rob Manuel, Dan Bull and Cassetteboy) the single could potentially have suffered from being the same joke told a different way, but although a strong challenge to Ladbaby et al was never truly on the cards The Kunts duplicate their No.5 position from Christmas 2020, shifting 53,000 copies in the process.
Otherwise festive records make up 26 of the Top 40 and 49 of the Top 75. That's dominant but not a total sweep, contemporary hits are in the mix and in a position to hold their own. One of the other big contemporary recordings of the season has been George Ezra's Amazon Original Come On Home For Christmas which after three weeks of threatening to do so finally edges its way into the Top 10.
Next week it is inevitably only going to get worse. The new year chart will be tracking sales and streams across Christmas Day itself, the point at which plays of the favourites dominate everything. Last year the chart only covered a single day of Christmas spirit but it was still enough for seasonal classics to dominate. The big intrigue is going to be just what ends up at No.1 next week. The duelling titans of Wham and Mariah will get the lions' share of streams, but don't rule out a brief comeback for Ed and Elton, whose streams count for twice those of the vintage hits and so only need half the plays of the old favourites. With everyone and his dog on holiday midweek updates are all but nonexistent. Next Friday could well make for some fascinating reading.
And with that, I'm done for Christmas and there is a glass of sherry with my name on it. Many thanks to all of you who popped back to this site at the same moment I did. Let's keep this ball rolling as long as we can.