Twice Shy

Oh my days, just where do you begin to unpick this one?

The stars align in such a way this week to ensure that we have what you might guess is an utterly unprecedented situation, as for the second week running a vintage single returns to the top of the charts for a second time.

As ubiquitous as All I Want For Christmas Is You is across the globe, as far as Britain is concerned Last Christmas by Wham! runs it a very close second, a situation which has become even more prominent since the Christmas Day demise of its composer and singer George Michael back in 2016. Enormous social media pressure for the single to finally land the honour of topping the charts (something it failed to do upon first release in 1984) eventually paid off when the vintage track crept to No.1 on the final chart of 2020 - setting an as-yet unbeaten all-time streaming record in the process.

Almost two years later and here we are again. Having duelled with the Mariah Carey track all week the now 38-year-old song emerges victorious in this penultimate chart race before Christmas. Just seven days after All I Want For Christmas Is You became only the fourth single to return to No.1 on two separate occasions, Last Christmas now becomes the fifth (for the sake of argument here we are ignoring the 2005 Elvis Presley reissues, as this complicates matters). 11.4m streams were what did the trick here, and we are still a week away from the big date itself.

This also means we have the rather unique situation of two of 2022's No.1 singles being tracks originally issued in the mid-1980s, this hard on the heels of Running Up That Hill's unexpected success earlier in the summer. Ironically when Last Christmas first ascended to the top two years ago it set a brand new record for the longest time a single had waited to top the charts - a record ironically broken earlier this year by Running Up That Hill.

As for what happens next - well, we will come to that in due course.

Silver Bells

So all of this bumps Mariah Carey down to No.2 to leave Escapism by RAYE and 070 Shake trailing in their wake, but still more than holding their own as the moral chart victors. And as I keep stressing, what happens over the next two weeks is unimportant and subject to factors other than the usual "which pop record is the most popular of the moment" question which normally determines the make up of the singles chart. What matters is the week after that. New year, when all the festive songs vanish and things return to some semblance of normal. Escapism surely has to be in the mix to make it to the top when the tinsel is finally packed away.

Only one single arrives in the Top 10 this week, the similarly vintage Fairytale Of New York by The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl which moves 14-9 and completes its own pilgrimage to the upper reaches of the chart for the sixth year in succession. This against the usual background of fussing over its lyrical content and the increasing circulation of a radio edit which substitutes the notorious "cheap lousy faggot" line for Kirsty MacColl singing "cheap and you're haggard" in a vocal presumed to be lifted from a live performance of the song for Top Of The Pops in January 1992.

The presence of some more unusual festive favourites in the upper end of the chart can largely be attributed to the compilers of Spotify and Amazon playlists being American-based, resulting in songs better known to them arriving higher up the list than most British listeners might place them. That surely accounts for the presence at No.11 of Jingle Bell Rock by Bobby Helms. The song was originally a British hit for Max Bygraves, his cover version reaching No.7 in December 1959. Helms' subsequently better-known take did not chart here at all until the onset of the digital era in 2017 and did not make the Top 40 until 2019. In the last few years it seems to have taken on a life of its own, hitting 27 two years ago, 16 last year and now on the cusp of becoming the late country star's first ever Top 10 single - 25 years after he passed away at the age of 63.

Still Orbiting

The modern day sales market means this isn't like Christmases of old, where a big release from a major star would dominate gifting and thus December sales right up until the big day. It means the door is open for what surely must be the last big new releases of the year to grab a moment of glory. This week that honour goes to Britain's Eurovision hero Sam Ryder sales and streams of whose subsequent singles haven't exactly gone stratospheric (man) but who does at least end up with the No.1 album of the week. The conveniently titled There's Nothing But Space Man slams into No.1 as the week's most physically-purchased and most-downloaded record. Sam Ryder actually enjoys one of this week's new entries although bizarrely it isn't one of the tracks from his No.1 album, his take on Jingle Bells an Amazon exclusive which is, inevitably, enjoying some unbidden streams.

But what was the most-streamed album? Well, that was SOS from SZA, her second studio album enjoying a chart run in marked contrast to her debut Ctrl which could only reach No.45 in 2017. Her new record is No.2, and as you might expect plays host to what are effectively the only true new single hits of the week.

So well done to the American star who sees Kill Bill enter at No.15 (No.6 on a Christmas-filtered chart) and Nobody Gets Me at No.27 while the already-charting Shirt rockets back into contention at No.36. Spookily that's one place ahead of Snowman, meaning we have the neat visual of songs by SZA and SIA next door to each other on the chart countdown. Well, it tickled me anyway.

Wrapped Up?

And that's this week's chart. It is what it is, regular visitors to this site will know my thoughts on the subject. We don't need an expensively-assembled chart compilation operation to tell the world that people like streaming Christmas songs and Christmas time, but alas that's the function it performs right now and will indeed do so for the next fortnight.

The publication of this chart naturally means the starting gun has fired on what is still laughably called the Christmas No.1 "race", although the existence of yet another LadBaby novelty chart abomination single probably means next week I'll be sat here telling the same story I have for each of the last four Christmases. Social media backlash to the "sausage roll millionaire" has been louder and more strident than I've seen before, suggesting most who have an opinion are tired of his antics and actually want something to disrupt things (hence an even greater push than usual for the annual three minutes of political invective from The Kunts). But Twitter does not represent Britain, and much as I would love to see Mariah or Wham pull off a shock (and make me a huge amount of money from some speculative bets in the process), you know as well as I do it just isn't going to happen.

Unless I've just manifested this into existence by boldly predicting something that turns out to be wrong. I've got form here. See you next week.