Coming Around Again
One of the great seasonal traditions began this week. I took my first call from a media outlet wanting me to appear on camera to discuss the Christmas No1. Entertainingly when the report was broadcast I didn't make the final edit, which will teach me to be more interesting I guess.
Or perhaps I failed to muster the right enthusiasm. Because let's be honest the whole concept has become bollocks of late. It doesn't help that the charts at Christmas time bear no relation to current trends in popular music or what actual music fans are consuming, but Christmas No.1 has now become a bubble all by itself. The chances of any contemporary hit single such as Rockabye or Perfect topping the charts for Christmas are practically zero. The No.1 single on December 23rd (three weeks hence) will either be a vintage festive song or some one-off one week wonder which has gatecrashed the party. Just as for the past four years running it has been Ladbaby.
We still don’t know whether the Sausage Roll Millionaire is going to drag us all down to his level once again, but the small handful of bookmakers who have bothered running a book (and there are some big name brand who have not) are naturally taking no chances and installing him as a favourite. There will surely be some kind of twist on the cards (just like last year's Ed n Elton link-up) but other than that there is little to anticipate. Christmas No.1 will be a random single from nowhere (and wouldn't it be joyful if it were The Kunts just for mischief purposes) but it will be of little or no relevance beyond that. And that's genuinely why I struggle to care.
Still Her. STILL!
You have to wonder where Taylor Swift will factor into all this. Anti-Hero remains, frankly, unstoppable amongst the non-festive market and spends a sixth week at No.1 with some consummate ease. And while once upon a time six weeks at the top of the charts would be something quite extraordinary (I remember what a big deal it was in 2003 when Where Is The Love became the first single in literally YEARS to stick around at the top for that long) it is still only the fourth-longest spell of 2022 so far.
With Unholy now relegated to ACR (it collapses to No.16) second place goes to the M-Train. Made You Look becomes her fourth single to make the Top 2 as in its own sixth week on the chart it rises to second place. It is there on merit and not just by default, make no mistake, but its sale of 34,000 is still some 10,000 short of the total accumulated by Ms Swift. So No.2 it is by some margin.
Also moving up is Messy In Heaven from Venbee & Goddard which climbs to a brand new peak of No.3. It leapfrogs Miss You which is locked into fourth place while Psycho from Aitch and Anne-Marie continues its own impressive long chart run as it rises to a brand new peak of its own at No.5 in what is now its 11th week on the chart.
The most startling chart move of all though is the 31-6 soaring of Escapism from RAYE and 070 Shake. The lady whose prior solo hits failed to catch fire in the same way her features did now has her first ever bone-fide smash as a lead artist. Escapism is only her fourth Top 10 hit single and smashes past the No.15 peak of 2017's Design to become her biggest ever hit under her own steam.
But, and I cannot stress this enough, all we can do now is wait and speculate just where the song is going to end up come early January. There may still be two "normal" chart weeks before Christmas, but the encroachment of the parade of festive hits, all propelled by the usual phenomenal numbers of streams they command, has truly begun in earnest. It means we once more welcome back to the Top 10 All I Want For Christmas Is You by Mariah Carey (No.8) and Last Christmas by Wham! (No.9). The latter is actually the most intriguing part. As I write chart nerds the nation over are frantically consulting record books, as it appears the 1984 single has just become the first song ever to spend at least one week at every rung of the Top 10. Unless of course anyone reading this knows differently.
Merry Christmas by Ed Sheeran and Elton John continues to benefit from its ACR status, making an otherwise disproportionate 40-15 leap, but it is followed in close quarters by Brenda Lee's Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree at No.18, Michael Buble's take on It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas at No.20. There are six more festive hits in the lower half of the Top 40, and I won't bore you by listing them here. Although once more pleasingly there are the slightly more contemporary sounds of Santa Tell Me by Ariana Grande (No.28) and Underneath The Tree by Kelly Clarkson (No.31) among them. One More Sleep by Leona Lewis is No.57 too, just saying.
We actually very nearly had a brand new Christmas recording land on the Top 40 as well, but having faded from its first midweek placing Lizzo's take on the old standard (written by Stevie Wonder) Someday At Christmas can only make No.52. For now. It is, naturally, one of this years' Amazon Exclusives.
The big story of the week was the cross-generational battle between Big Mike and Cliff for supremacy on the albums chart - Mistletoe and Grime as some wags put it.. It was resolved in favour of Stormzy whose third album This Is What I Mean gives him a third No.1 record as it has the beating of Cliff Richard's Christmas With Cliff. It was however a damn close run thing. Stormzy's album landed itself 27,874 sales with Cliff a mere heartbeat behind on 24,358. All but 150 of Cliff's sales were through paid purchases but although Stormzy naturally enough had a strong performance on DSPs, he still sold more than his fair share of physical product - moving almost 14,000 copies on CD alone.
The arrival of the album has a necessarily beneficial effect on Stormzy's current hit singles. Hide And Seek rallies briefly to No.7 but its teaser successor Firebabe turns around and rockets to No.11 after a fortnight locked at No.26. The album's third charting cut is This Is What I Mean which debuts at No.32 to effectively become the highest new entry of the week.
Let Sleeping Lions Lie
We can't finish without noting the curious chart form of 3 Lions which for the moment is bucking expectations. A new entry at No.20 last week, buoyed by downloads of its new festive version, the football standard actually slumps to No.37. In a sense that is understandable, the track falling 6-27 on the old school sales chart. But its streams have stubbornly failed to take off in the manner they did four years ago when England marched on in the World Cup, the hit moving 75-79 on the streaming chart. Let's see just what happens if England ease past Senegal on Sunday and progress in the knockout stages. This story may end abruptly or it may yet not be over.