Few surprises as to the identity of the Number One act on the UK Singles chart this week. As is the way of things, newly-crowned X Factor 2012 winner James Arthur storms to the top of the charts in an instant with his coronation single, this year a cover of Impossible which began life as a Number 9 hit for Shontelle in September 2010. As an inevitable side effect, her version gets a new lease of life thanks to attention from the cover and so re-debuts at Number 22 in its first chart appearance for 108 weeks.
What is more surprising is the manner in which Mr Arthur has barged his way to the top of the charts. 12 months ago this week when 2011 winners Little Mix made Number One with Cannonball with a sale of "only" 210,000 copies it looked for all the world like the X Factor bubble had burst, with even the show winners unable to command the vast first week sales figures that in the past saw the likes of Shayne Ward shift three quarters of a million copies in just four days. Indeed with viewing figures for the latest series substantially down on expectations, few expected Impossible to do anything approaching spectacular.
Yet this isn't the case. In a mad sales rush, James Arthur last week sold an amazing 490,000 copies, far and away the fastest selling single of the year so far but perhaps more significantly to become one of the fastest selling X Factor singles of all time. That's a bigger sale than Little Mix in 2011, bigger than Matt Cardle in 2010, bigger than Joe McElderry in 2009 and only just short of the 576,000 copies shifted by Alexandra Burke in 2008. Music Week reports that it is in fact the ninth fastest selling single of the 21st century and the fourth fastest selling X Factor winner single. Maybe there is life in the old dog yet.
Some form of commiseration must go to the week's Number 2 single which in any ordinary week both in terms of its sales performance and sheer superstar power would be a shoo-in for chart honours. Selling a none too shabby 75,000 copies are will.i.am and special guest star Britney Spears with Scream And Shout, another single lifted from Will's still to be released album #Willpower. It is Britney's highest charting single for almost exactly five years, her first Number 2 hit since Piece Of Me made the runners up slot in early 2008 at the height of what we must charitably call her off the rails period. Wicked rumours suggest that Scream And Shout actually began life as a track which was supposed to end up on Tulisa's album (she is indeed credited as co-writer) but producers Lazy Jay wrenched it from her and gave it to will instead. What is clear is that the original version of the single was one of a handful of tracks from the album leaked prematurely online, this single release now a complete reworking of what was only ever supposed to be a work in progress.
Whilst less people than normal may have sat through the entire X Factor series, enough were watching the final broadcast for the guest stars to reap some significant sales benefits. Rihanna romped through a medley of album tracks on the results show and this week sees the Mikey Ekko duet Stay (not officially a single until the new year) land at Number 6, just one place ahead of the track which is still officially her current release Diamonds. Normally two side by side Top 10 hits would be a significant moment for any artist but for Rihanna it is nothing that she hasn't done several times before.
However we nearly saw two acts do the double as fellow results show stars One Direction performed their forthcoming single Kiss You on the show and this week watch the album cut race to Number 12, although with current single Little Things now at Number 10, two Top 10 hits was maybe always going to be slightly beyond them.
The album chart domination of Olly Murs is halted for the moment after playing a rather nervy game of brinksmanship Bruno Mars finally unleashed his new album Unorthodox Jukebox last week and is rewarded with an immediate Number One. His debut Doo-Wops And Hooligans had a slightly slower start when first released in 2010, charting in its first week at Number 79, only ascending to the top of the chart three months later in January 2011. His is the only major new album chart arrival this week, leaving the race to be Christmas' biggest selling album presumably a two-horse one between him and Olly.
With Christmas now just around the corner we are in the last full sales week before the holidays, meaning that the mass media is now paying close attention as to what will be the Christmas Number One. Although I've spent the last few weeks suggesting that the potential influx of novelty hits and chancers renders the whole exercise rather distinct from normality, the early suggestions are that this is not the case. The usual parade of "we've a point to prove" online campaigns have failed to materialise, serial independent minded chancer Alex Day will do OK but not particularly well whilst an alleged charity record which the media presumed on no evidence whatsoever to be the runaway winner weeks ago is not selling in quite the numbers anticipated [which indeed it wasn't at the point I wrote those words. It would take other external circumstances to spark it into life midweek]. If James Arthur turns in another strong sale and holds on to be Christmas Number One next week, just remember where you read about it first. See you next Sunday...