Last Christmas I Sat On A Fart
Well, that was unexpected.
Last week a bout of flu left me bedridden for fully seven days, meaning last weekend I was not physically in a position to contemplate the weekly charts, let alone sit and write about them. So apologies to anyone left bereft by this site's first dark week in well over a decade. But I'm back bitches, so deal with it.
Not that there was much to miss in truth, we are now snow(balls) deep into that crazy four-week period where contemporary hit singles mostly take a back seat to the annual chart invasion of Christmas-themed singles, the Official UK Singles chart performing its usual role in tracking just what it is people are listening to and consuming in the greatest numbers, but at the same time temporarily unable to be its usual effective barometer of what is new and exciting in popular culture.
Suppose you want to read endless prose being grumpy about just how shite this all is. In that case, there are plenty of site archives to fill your boots with, as the same arguments from previous years apply for this, but as we sit in this final week before the official Christmas chart, all we can do is make do and mend with what the streaming numbers have presented us with.
The big headline, naturally, is what is now a second straight week at No.1 for Last Christmas by Wham, the now 39-year-old track having lost since lost its longtime unique selling point as the biggest-selling single never to top the charts and now seemingly a routine part of the festive buildup. Perhaps more so than ever this year the 1984 Christmas No.2 single has leaned in to its status as the nation's overwhelming favourite Christmas song, leaving Mariah Carey trailing in some cases quite distantly behind in second place. A few years ago the two tracks were effectively neck and neck. As of now George and Andrew are leaving the competition for snowdust.
This is now Last Christmas' fourth spell at the top of the charts, the only song in chart history to climb to the top on this many occasions. It first hit the summit on the final chart of 2020 before returning to the top of the charts for two different runs either side of the holiday last year. On the upside, yay, it prevents All I Want For Christmas Is You from making what was starting to become an annual pilgrimage of its own to the top of the charts, but on the other hand yawn. To see Last Christmas finally make it to No.1 was a kind of watershed, a moment that had long been anticipated. But given it has now journeyed to the summit for three of the last four holidays it is just - boring. That's all.
Two By Two
Curmudgeon mode cancel, for while we are indeed weighed down by a seasonal chart invasion - sixteen of this week's Top 20 singles are Christmas songs of one vintage of another - the biggest of the big modern day chart hits are still more than holding their own. None more so perhaps than the surprise package of Stick Season from Noah Kahan which rebounds back to the No.2 peak it first scaled a fortnight ago. The singer-songwriter's tale of autumn is outgunning snow-laden favourites from Mariah Carey, The Pogues, Brenda Lee and Michael Buble to retain the kind of streaming presence that may well see it ascend to the top almost by default in the new year. I cannot stress enough how vanishingly unlikely it is that a hit single such as Stick Season will emerge triumphant in the Christmas No.1 race next week. But at the same time it has asserted itself as a most unlikely dark horse.
We should not forget either the former No.1 single, as a fortnight after being deposed Lovin On Me by Jack Harlow holds its ground, slipping to a mere No.4 as the frost from elsewhere creeps in. It is a worthwhile reminder that the present batch of 2023 hit records have not simply been turned off and had their streams cut to minimal levels. Those who were playing them three weeks ago are still playing them now, it is just they face competition from the collapsed long tail of back catalogue that was never there before.
Eat Up Your Greens
Props too for Greedy from Tate McRae, seemingly swamped by snow when it crashed 4-14 last week but which following the release of its parent album Think Later (No.5 on the chart this week) the single now received a quite timely boost and fights back to No.9 to reoccupy a Top 10 position it would otherwise have not expected to see until January.
The other new Top 10 arrival is the Christmas song that you have to go out of your way to hear. Sam Ryder's You're Christmas To Me finally barges its way to a new peak of No.10 although even the inevitable mainstream news writeups of the song note that its status as exclusive to Amazon Music means until now it has been impossible to actually hear or consume by any other means. We are left wondering if this Top 10 placing is due to the prominence that Amazon is able to afford it and whether the single might be even higher up the charts if it existed on other platforms. Regardless of the circumstances it does mean the former Eurovision star finally has a second Top 10 hit single to follow 2022's Space Man, his first as a newly-minted "independent" artist following the end of his one-album record deal. Although releasing a song with the backing of a huge multinational corporation is stretching the definition somewhat. Anyway the good news is that You're Christmas To Me finally has a video online and can actually be shared here.
The other Amazon exclusive is also making progress, Jorja Smith's take on East 17's festive tale of fraternal suicide Stay Another Day lifts to a new peak of No.20 to land her a second Top 20 hit of 2023.
The New Guys(!)
As has been documented this may well be a phenomenally stupid time to be releasing new music, but that doesn't stop people trying. And at the end of the day as long as you don't care too much about chart numbers and are just content to get an audience, there are still enough plays available to make a hit single in December viable. And always as well with that cautious eye on the new year market when absolutely everything comes back into play.
So as a result we welcome back to back new entries just inside the Top 30. Leading the way is Stop Giving Me Advice, the first credited chart single for Lyrical Lemonade, aka music video producer Cole Bennett. The 27 year old American has been the force behind the camera for videos by big names such as Wiz Khalifa, Eminem, J Cole and Kanye West, meaning he has an address book of contacts lined up to assist him with music he releases under his own name. Stop Giving Me Advice is a truly transatlantic affair, with both Dave and Harlow providing the rhymes here. It isn't particularly festive, but under present circumstances that fact alone is enough to make it a genuine breath of fresh air.
Oneplacebelow at No.30 is Leavemealone from Fred Again and Baby Keem, although be warned that its incessant everybodyeverybodyeverybodyeverybodyeverybody hook is more than enough to make you want to stick pine needles in your ears.
Onto albums proper and the market which once upon a time was all about just which family-friendly collections were destined to land in people's stockings is now largely drifting on just as it does at any other time of year, with the big new releases of the week all lining up for their brief moments of glory. Step forward then The Killers who top the charts for the eighth time with their second retrospective hits collection Rebel Diamonds - their only other compilation Direct Hits could only peak at No.5 back in 2013.
Begone then the phony war, because now it is time for the real thing. Next week is the Christmas chart, the countdown of consumption which will determine who is top of the charts on Christmas Day itself. Which of course leaves the mainstream press convincing themselves that this still actually matters. Perhaps it still does to some, just not actual music fans. Which you presume makes up the most of the readership here. All I can confidently predict is that next week's chart will be bollocks, filled with charity bandwagons (and of course Mariah and Wham). Yet somehow next week's Chart Watch will end up one of the most read columns of the year. See you next week then.