Christmas Number One 2019

The 2019 Christmas Number One will be announced at 6pm on Friday, December 20th. This liveblog features all the latest news on what remains the most scrutinised chart race of the year. Who is in contention. And perhaps importantly who is not.

December 16th: Run The World, Girls

Christmas Number One is as much about the PR war as it is about musical popularity. Well, OK it isn't really about music popularity given that nobody buys Ladbaby's charity singles on the basis of what they sound like.

News that Mark Hoyle had a lead in the early midweeks did indeed spark further interest in his single, and there's been a visible surge overnight in its overall popularity on iTunes. Meanwhile Stormzy has been enjoying some mainstream exposure of his own, featuring as the guest of honour on (of all things) the Radio 2 breakfast show. During which time he even spoke on the phone to his old primary school teacher. I'm unsure whether that will necessarily expand his audience in quite the way it might any other artist, but it is still a major sign that he's got the promotional machine cranked up to maximum.

There is, however, another intriguing outsider it may possibly be worth keeping an eye on. Mystic Masterton even flagged this up when corresponding with a well-connected friend a week ago:

Mystic

Well just look at what we have here:

Darcie Molina is the name of the lady behind the original Facebook group, the idea being to propel an otherwise unnoticed but appropriately titled 2006 single release from Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker to the top of the charts. Given there are people literally planning street protests later this week over the result of a democractic election, it isn't much of a stretch to think there are enough sore losers to also buy a random pop record to make a statement of some kind. There's a lot of ground to make up, and I'm not totally sure there are 80,000 people with enough bitterness in their soul to make Christmas all about hate and loathing. But who knows. In the meantime expect to stumble across more than a few tweets from people going "ooh we are Number 24 already" in a misreading of the way the iTunes charts work.

December 15th: Winning The Argument

The official update is in. Based on two days of downloaded sales and only some streaming data from Friday and Saturday (Spotify, Apple and YouTube did not supply Saturday numbers in time).

The Top 5, as advised by the Official Charts Company is as follows:

1) Ladbaby - I Love Sausage Rolls

2) Stormzy et al - Own It

3) Wham! - Last Christmas

4) Ellie Goulding - River

5) Dua Lipa - Don't Start Now

The exact numbers I'm not at liberty to reveal at this stage. But the gap between Ladbaby and Stormzy is something of the order of 20,000 chart sales.

What are the takeaways from this?

  • Presales for Ladbaby inevitably pushed it into an early lead. The challenge now is to sustain that with "normal" sales. And more importantly from casual observers rather than a highly motivated army of online fans. But most crucially he lands the early headlines. And in a week when part of the battle is getting talked about, this is to his advantage.
  • Stormzy is as expected the man of the week for new music. He is also set for the highest new entry at Number 7 with album cut Audacity.
  • Last Christmas in third place is a fascinating thing, particularly the widespread assumption that All I Want For Christmas Is You will win the overall battle over the season. This may well be a consequence of rabid George Michael fans making their third successive attempt to push the now 35-year-old track to the top in tribute to the late star. But the handicap of ACR status means it will always be an uphill struggle.
  • Of the other hyped contenders, there is practically no sign. So they are dead in the water before the battle is joined. No cute kiddies at the top for Christmas, no chancers making a strange political point. The only random novelty of any note is the Matt Hulbert track Merry ChrisMoyles Everyone which was a shock Number 2 on the iTunes chart over the weekend, albeit some considerable distance behind Ladbaby. That's still a mere Number 37 overall and destined to sink further, meaning Radio X breakfast DJ Chris Moyles is unlikely to be a factor in the Christmas charts.

For the moment it is the head to head race we all anticipated. But what a strange choice. A grime rapper turned mainstream polemicist and a YouTube creator bringing the same tedious joke to the table that he did a year ago.

The Official Charts Company are playing the PR game too and although they technically have no dog in the race, they want to ramp up the anticipation. Hence this wonderfully disingenuous tweet on Sunday afternoon:

Ladbaby may indeed have a 10:1 lead on downloads. But that is because, as noted, downloads generally are at historic low points. His is literally the only track being purchased by people in huge numbers, mainly because he's marketed to people who don't normally consume music and think that buying a download is the way to do it still. For the record, the margin at the top is actually closer to 2.6:1. And remember: Ladbaby's logged information is almost all of his total (save for any credited streams from YouTube for Saturday) whereas Stormzy's numbers are missing a huge chunk of Saturday streams. So the race could well be closer than it looks. At least for now.

I'll leave matters today with my favourite highlight from the Tweetdeck column. Apparently it is very important to beat "the Pop Idols" to the top. Proving that many people who half-heartedly try to play the Christmas Number One game have literally no clue what actually takes place on the charts these days.

December 15th: Exit Poll

Two days into the sales week, and we are now at the point when the early form starts to make itself known. At the moment we are awaiting the broadcast of the Official Charts First Look which as I've noted before has to be viewed with a small amount of suspicion but at least gives our speculation something to bite on. The full details of this are, however, embargoed until 7pm so a full analysis has to wait until then.

For now, we can glean small clues from the data reported by some of the online services. Spotify's daily charts indeed show that Stormzy is the man of the moment as far as online plays are concerned. The release of his album Heavy In The Head has resulted in most of its tracks peppering the table of most-played songs, and sure enough its current hit single Own It has been far and away the Number One track over the course of the weekend, indeed the first time since its release three weeks ago that it has managed to top the daily charts:

SpotifyDaily151219

Above are Saturday's numbers, and you will note that while Stormzy isn't actually the most-played track of the day, you have to essentially chop the numbers for Mariah and Wham! in half given they will count for less when the charts are compiled. Over a half a million plays a day is easily Number One form in any normal week, but he not only has to maintain that form for the next five days you also has to remember that this is no normal week.

That is because over in the sales market Ladbaby is showing the kind of form which literally no other single can hope to achieve under any normal circumstances. These were his popularity bar numbers on iTunes over the course of the weekend:

itunes151219

I stress here that it isn't possible to say for certain what these numbers represent in terms of actual sales, only Apple themselves know this. But we can see the proportions. During the course of Friday (13th) his record sold just under 10 times more than Dance Monkey which was the second-placed track of the day. Presuming those numbers represent 24 hours of sales, some bag of a fag packet calculations on my part suggest I Love Sausage Rolls sold around 7,000 copies on iTunes alone on Friday. That's as many as Dance Monkey sold in seven days. And that's before you take into account sales on sites such as Amazon (which due to it being far easier to access for the casual buyer are in turn likely to be far higher).

Rough calculations these, they could be way off. And we should note that the first day numbers for Ladbaby's track will be inflated somewhat by any pre-orders which were made before it was released and which all get added to his first day today. Subsequent numbers show that the single has slackened off since, but not by a huge amount. It was clearly always going to sell strongly. But does it have what it takes to sell strongly and in sufficient numbers to maintain a lead all week?

More this evening when the first formal sales flashes appear, but those are, as we expected, the two contenders. And fascinatingly each are powering ahead in their own segments of the market. We have a streaming champion and a sales champion, and it will all come down to whose numbers eventually count for the most.

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