Having started her musical career 12 years ago by being voted into a girl group on a TV talent show, The Artist Formerly Known As Cheryl Cole has long benefitted from the promotional advantages of the prime time TV stage. Indeed the launch of her solo career in 2009 just happened to coincide with her first association with the X Factor TV show as a judge, her profile on the show and her live performance of her debut single Fight For This Love helping it to sell 290,000 copies in its first week on sale. Her temporary estrangement from the Cowell bosom thanks to her disastrous foray into America in 2011 meant she was denied this privilege for a time, thus making this year's return to the show and naturally enough the performing stage a moment of no small significance.
So when I intimated last week that the arrival at Number One of her latest single I Don't Care was something of an inevitability, it was no exaggeration. A performance of the song (amid grumbling that she mimed it all) on the X Factor results show two weekends ago meant that the single was gifted a promotional advantage that was enough to obliterate the competition. Sure enough, the result is a second Number One single of the year for "Cheryl", hard on the heels of Crazy Stupid Love which hit the top back in August. Possibly one of her better releases for some time, I Don't Care is notable for the singer's newly-found potty mouth: "It feels so f***in' good" she sings, using the kind of language she normally reserves for fights with toilet attendants. This meant that there were actually two versions of the single available for sale; the explicit version and a more radio-friendly edit, with much fun to be had during the week noting which version was selling the most (the clean one as it happens).
As well as marking the first time she has ever taken two Number One hits from one album, I Don't Care is Cheryl Cole's fifth chart-topper, an all-time record for a British female artist, taking her past the tallies of both Geri Halliwell and Rita Ora.
It should be noted that the sales lead of I Don't Care did not last even until the weekend, the single dipping alarmingly as the week went on, early reports suggesting that the single topped the charts by the small matter of just 4,000 copies/streams. This does appear to leave the door open for a return next week for Ed Sheeran's Thinking Out Loud which dips to Number 2 for now, in the process setting a brand new record for most digital streams in a week. His 1.638 million streams thus contributing over 16,000 copies to the 78,000 he totals on the full chart survey. Sheeran also has the consolation of returning to Number One with X, his all-conquering album seeing off the challenge of Calvin Harris' Motion which instead debuts at Number 2.
Harris also has a new Top 10 single this week with the album's standout track Outside storming to Number 6. Reuniting the producer with Ellie Goulding with whom he collaborated on 2013 hit single I Need Your Love, the track has been available outside Britain as a digital download since October but has been withheld from purchasers in this country until this week when it became available as a track from the album. Hopefully, there was method in the madness, but having had his run of successive Number One hits shattered last week by the Number 23 debut of album teaser Open Wide, this track further prevents him for now from adding to his career total.
Week 49 of its epic Top 40 chart run sees Happy dip to Number 40 for the second time in its chart life. Should it finally exit the countdown next week its place as the longest-serving Top 40 hit will be taken by John Legend's All Of Me which this week marks its 43rd week as a chart record and the 42nd as a Top 40 single. Rather surprisingly it does so in its highest chart position for 25 weeks, the track rocketing 26-4 thanks to his performance of the song on the X Factor results show the weekend before last. For the first time this series this demonstrates the extraordinary power that the prime time TV show has to put music in front of people who have somehow so far avoided its charms. Despite being on sale since February, a Number 2 hit back in the spring and a constant on the airwaves throughout the summer, there were still enough people unaware until now of its very existence to be free to buy a copy this week - the chart jump of the single almost entirely down to a spike in sales rather than extra audio streams.
Happy and All Of Me have another thing in common in that their full sales status is rather murky. John Legend's label have already trumpeted his single as a million seller but that is only the case if one counts the digital streams that have contributed to its chart position since July. For now, the Official Charts Company declines to do so and the year's best sellers table is based solely on downloads - a factor that prevents the Pharrell Williams track from formally qualifying as a two million-selling track. At least for now. [This conundrum would not be addressed for another three years and the creation of the 'millionaires' table].
A handful of midweek arrivals at one stage threatened to cloud the sales picture, but those singles eventually make rather more understated chart debuts thanks to late arrivals in the race. One Direction are to be surprisingly found at a lowly Number 44 with Ready To Run despite huge demand in the week - the single only charting thanks to standalone downloads whereas most of its popularity came thanks to being a second instant grat release from their forthcoming new album Four.
This week also saw the debut of what is rapidly becoming a seasonal tradition - the tear-jerking Christmas commercial from department store chain John Lewis. After last year's Lily Allen-soundtracked tale of the Bear and the Hare the stored this week unveiled Monty The Penguin, a clip which rapidly went viral and naturally enough sparked huge demand for the traditional quirky cover version which forms the advert's soundtrack. Until now Tom Odell has been best known for his 2013 Top 10 hit Another Love as well as his branding of being part of what was termed The New Boring last year and his father's entertaining spat with music paper NME which had the temerity to give his album zero out of ten in its review. This week the John Lewis advert gifts him his second Top 40 hit and one which threatens to become eventually his biggest of all as Real Love debuts at Number 21.
It is an intriguing choice of song, a proper rendition at long last of the John Lennon song which previously only existed as demo recorded the singer in the 1970s. Back in 1996 the track was polished up and released as a brand new Beatles record as part of their Anthology project, the song reaching Number 4 in March that year. The Beatles recording was always hampered by the need to use the original Lennon vocals which were taken from a cassette recording made from a machine standing on top of a piano. With Odell's remake, we finally get to hear the song performed in hi-fi and its seems inevitable that it will become the classic it was perhaps always destined to be had Lennon himself ever got around to recording it properly.