Well come off it, most of you were still on holiday last week so why should the music industry be any different?
The week between Christmas and New Year is a strange one in chart terms. Whilst the old problems of shops being closed for several days and supply chains not operating at full stretch are a thing of the past, most footfall in stores is of people seeking out bargains in the new year sales, back catalogue leading the sales rush to the possible detriment of any brand new releases available.
True, the online stores don't quite follow the same pattern but there is still the general feeling that unleashing new product on the market during a week when nobody is paying attention and when the artists themselves either aren't around or don't have the opportunity to do promotional work is a bit of a waste. Then again, if nobody else is bothering then there is a neat window of opportunity available for anyone bold enough to take the plunge and attempt to gatecrash the holiday market. It helps if the act in question is either one with an already established fanbase (hello Iron Maiden and the Manic Street Preachers to name but two). Failing that, just make sure you are an actor who has already been a name to drop for several months and who was all but guaranteed to make an impact with their UK debut no matter when it is released.
[Superstar debut klaxon!] Into the latter category comes American starlet Lady Gaga whose British chart debut arrives several months after her album The Fame was the sensation of the autumn across, well, most of the rest of the world as it turns out. After being forced to wait longer than most, it seems these shores are finally ready for the platinum blonde and her enormously appealing electronic pop. Debut single Just Dance replicates its chart performance across most other major territories and charges straight into the Top 3, making the required splash as almost literally the only big new release of the week and ensuring that she is in pole position to grab the first new Number One hit of the year once the Alexandra Burke juggernaut finally runs out of fuel.
For the moment though that hasn't happened, leaving Hallelujah to cling on to Number One for a third week whilst the record it displaced - Run by Leona Lewis maintains its place in the runners-up slot. The only two records to exit the Top 10 are the Jeff Buckley rendition of Hallelujah which tumbles 7-22 and Geraldine McQueen/Peter Kay's Once Upon A Christmas Song which as you might expect sees its sales tumble off a cliff along with the rest of the holiday hits.
"Geraldine" actually takes a 47 place dive this week, rocketing 8-55 in one fell swoop. Only one other record in chart history has fallen out of the Top 10 from a higher position, namely 21st Century Christmas/Move It by Cliff Richard which dropped 7-43 in January. With the exception of the two singles that were removed from the chart for technical reasons whilst in the Top 10, Once Upon A Christmas Song still claims the record for the most spectacular fall from Top 10 grace in chart history. The only other singles to drop directly from the upper reaches did so with sub-40 place falls. Aside from the Cliff single they are in order: Sixteen Reasons by Connie Stevens (9-45 in 1960), Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth by Bing Crosby and David Bowie (9-46 in 1983), Red Letter Day by the Pet Shop Boys (9-42 in 1997) and My Weakness Is None Of Your Business (9-44 in 1998). [This list omitted the 10-96 fall endured by Wet Wet Wet with Weightless in February 2008].
Lower down the only other items of interest on the singles chart are the "next" hits from established artists that for the moment appear to be in danger of being lost in the mix. Beyonce isn't doing too badly with Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It) which advances once more to Number 14, but it is still somewhat in the shadow of If I Were A Boy which hovers at Number 4 and is refusing to die just yet.
Instead, it is the three top-level girl groups who will all be eyeing their chart placings nervously. Entering at Number 23 are The Sugababes with new single No Can Do. They at least don't have the challenge of competing against themselves, previous hit Girls now languishing at the bottom end of the chart, but their past chart history shows that most of their biggest hits have come with singles that have made an immediate impact. This will doubtless be the cue for several fanatics to post angry comments below explaining in indignant tones just why there is life in the single yet and how I am out of order for suggesting otherwise, but if No Can Do becomes their lowest charting hit since little regarded 2006 flop Follow Me Home, don't say you weren't warned.
At the very least they still have a better head of steam on them than Girls Aloud. Their problem is the continuing chart performance of former Number One hit The Promise which is hovering around the Top 20 and refuses to let go just yet. This is all to the detriment of new single The Loving Kind which eases its head above the parapet at Number 39. Truth be told the single is far too good to miss out, a dreamy mid-tempo song written by no less a pair of legends than the Pet Shop Boys who plug themselves into the Xenomania format with seamless ease. Still, good reviews do not chart placings make and "this song is too good to be a flop" is as much a myth as "team x are far too good to get relegated".
Finally, there could be a similar fate awaiting Issues, the third single from The Saturdays which has crossed paths with their previous single Up, the former sitting at Number 27 to the latter's 29. Hearing the two back to back on the chart only serves to highlight that drippy mid-Atlantic love ballad Issues contains little of the spark, energy and sheer excitement of its predecessor.