Plenty Of Turkey Curry Left, Dig In
Over 30 years I've been doing this, and finding new things to say about the festive perenium chart becomes ever more challenging as we plunge deeper into the streaming mire.
As I surely note every single year (you can go back and check), this is the singularly oddest chart countdown of them all, one which has served many different roles over the years. Before the early 80s it wasn't compiled at all, most shops had been closed during the survey period anyway. Then it became the rump chart, tracking the lowest sales of the year bar none, historic lows after the historic highs of the Christmas chart. Then in the download era it ironically became the most important of all, the chart where all-time sales records would be set year in year out as everyone rushed to populate their newly gifted players with content. And now in the streaming era it just becomes… bollocks. Covering as it does a week which includes streams (and OK, sales) made on 22nd, 23rd, 24th and 25th December it is inevitably dominated to the fullest extent possible by Christmas songs. Representing not the current popular music tastes of a nation, but whatever happened to be streaming on smart speakers as the turkey was basted.
Almost needless to say it provides no indication of what the charts might look like next week either, filled with songs that will vanish in the blink of an eye seven days hence.
But let's play the game anyway. No.1 for the fourth week running is Last Christmas by Wham, for the second week in a row the subject of what started out as a close head to head battle with Sam Ryder's That's Christmas To Me as the two tracks breathed down each others necks during the limited updates we had during the course of the week. George Michael and Andrew Ridgely thus end 2023 as they did both 2020 and 2022, top of the charts as unequivocally the nation's most popular song over the Christmas period.
Sleigh Bells To Fade
Notably new to the Top 10 for the very first time is Santa Tell Me from Ariana Grande which rises to a brand new peak of No.8, completing a mostly constant upward climb which has seen it peak in successive years at No.68 (2015), No.90 (2016), No.28 (2017), No.13 (2018 and 2019), No.11 (2020), No.13 (2021) and No.14 (2022). Also creeping into the Top 10 for the third year running is It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year by Andy Williams which returns to the No.9 position it first scaled two years ago.
For completeness we should note that this is to the detriment of Kelly Clarkson's Underneath The Tree which tumbles back a place to No.14 and so has to wait another year for a run at its first ever Top 10 placing. Her fall is thanks to being outpaced by the vintage recording by Dean Martin of Let It Snow Let It Snow Let It Snow which has had its best ever year and this week reaches another new peak of No.13, up from the No.20 it scaled in 2022. Losing out however (perhaps notably so) is Chris Rea's Driving Home For Christmas which made the Top 10 for the first time in 2021 only to start going backwards after that. Reaching No.16 last year it now peaks for the season at No.21, its poorest showing since 2019. There is better news though for Sleigh Ride by The Ronettes which reaches No.20 to become a Top 20 since for the first time on the 60th anniversary of its release.
New year is always the time when I break my own rule against what-ifs and fantasy charts. Time to wonder out loud what the Top 10 might look like without any Christmas hits at all. This week's festive-free chart (with actual chart positions noted in brackets would in that case look like this:
1) Stick Season - Noah Kahan (9)
2) Lovin On Me - Jack Harlow (27)
3) Greedy - Tate McRae (37)
4) Houdini - Dua Lipa (52)
5) DNA (Loving You) - Billy Gillies featuring Hannah Boleyn (55)
6) Is It Over Now (Taylor's Version) - Taylor Swift (61)
7) Rich Baby Daddy - Drake featuring Sexyy Red & SZA (65)
8) Entrapreneur - Central Cee (71)
9) Prada - Casso/Raye/D-Block Europe) (73)
10) LeaveMeAlone - Fred Again & Baby Keem (75)
Keep your eyes peeled for where they end up next time, while at the same time noting the record number of Christmas singles in the Top 10 (9) and in the Top 40 (37). Remember too, there's a wild card that as of today (29th) the general public don't yet know about. There's a big name comeback scheduled for a surprise New Years' Day release which may well lob a hand grenade into everyone else's well-laid plans.
Have A Holly Jolly Year
Over on the Official UK Albums chart which again, represents largely streaming rather than the frantic purchasing of old, Christmas by Michael Buble tops up his pension plan once more with a return to No.1. This is its third time in four years at the top of the charts for the festive period and marks the fourth time in total the now apparent evergreen has ended up the biggest seller (or its streaming equivalent) of the week.
And with that, let us draw a veil over 2023. Next week some really exciting shit happens, you have to trust me on this. The charts press the reset button, contemporary hits return en masse, and we get to find out what the best brains of the music industry schemed up for us while December took care of itself.