Christmas Number One 2018

The 2018 Christmas Number One will be announced at 6pm on Friday, December 21st. 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.

November 12th: Is It My Imagination?

Paddy Power's Christmas Number One market remains a source of fascination whilst we wait for the December charts to take form. This is the state of play as of Monday afternoon:

PaddyPower1211

Since we last looked at this market five days ago we have a notable new favourite. Once more avoiding having their fingers burned by the prospect of an incumbent Number One single proving immovable come Christmas, Paddy Power now make the current chart-topping record the favourite. Ariana Grande has crashed from 8.0 (7/1 in old money) into 3.0 (2/1). By contrast Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper have gone from 4/1 favourites to 10/10 outsiders. Just by being dumped from the top.

Elton has come in a bit, to 6.0 from 8,0 suggesting money has been taken for him. And now their single is actually in the Top 40 Clean Bandit have moved from 13.0 into 8.5.

Yet there's one act who Paddy Power technically make the 8th favourite in the market which you don't see on the screengrab there. That option pops up in the Novelty Bets market just above it on their site. Their Oasis specials.

PaddyPowerOasis

Yes, that's right. If you are so minded you can invest a fiver with Paddy Power, assume they remain in business for another 32 years and collect £45 as an investment. Assuming the Gallagher brothers never do bury the hatchet and re-form. But you'll note you can also back a random Oasis song to top the Christmas charts at odds of 13.0 (12/1). Which puts them at the same odds as Abba doing so. It's just that you can't back them in the Christmas Number One market, but instead have to back them to be Christmas Number One as a "special". Which is wonderfully joined up marketing.

Anyway, there is zero chance of any Oasis track topping the charts for Christmas. So if I were you I'd save your money. Or invest it in the prospects of alien life being discovered in 2020 or later. Which is currently priced at 1.05. Or a racing certainty in other words. Just what is it they know that we don't?

November 11th: Betfair Spell It Out

The 2017 Christmas Number One race managed to confound the bookmakers.

The problem was that for years they had constructed fairly straightforward betting markets all hinging around individual artists. Once upon a time, everyone had just one hit single in the charts at a time, so you took bets on whether Artist A or Artist B would be Number One for Christmas. And everyone was happy. Particularly if the favourite messed up and didn't make it.

But this is the late 10s. And everyone has either a) multiple tracks of their own in circulation or b) pops up as a guest on other people's hits. So the above approach to betting markets just doesn't work. Then last year along came Ed Sheeran and his multiple collaborative versions of the same song. The prospect of the Christmas Number One being either by "Ed Sheeran" or "Ed Sheeran featuring Beyonce" when everyone knew it could be both led to Betfair, in particular, tying themselves in knots. Faced with an Exchange market that was descending into chaos, two weeks before the event they voided the entire market and refunded all bets, never to reinstate it.

So I watched with interest how they would approach matters this year. The answer to that question, it appears, is to spell the precise terms of the market out. Click on "rules" on the page for the market and you get the following pop up. One which amusingly even calls back to last year's chaos and clarifies how it was all supposed to work:

BetfairRules

So to summarise: The "winner" is the lead artist on the Number One single, irrespective of any collaborations. Unless the track is specifically a duet ('&' or 'vs' rather than 'featuring' in the credits) and the line in the market will be added on that basis. Will this cover their arses completely? Here's hoping. 

November 7th: The Markets Grow

So whilst the Betfair Exchange prices are too random to have any kind of meaning to them, we can start to take a look at the nascent odds markets from the High Street bookmakers. Paddy Power is always my go-to site for this kind of thing, novelty bets are their kind of thing and they lay these markets with enthusiasm.

That said, their choices still remain bizarrely random and are based more on "well the other guys are pricing this so we should too":

PaddyPower0711

Installing Gaga and Cooper as the current market favourite is sensible. That's the bookies avoiding a repeat of the 2016 scenario where they assumed a November incumbent stood no chance of still being at the top of the charts in December. And as we've seen, that's genuinely not the case. They are Number One right now so naturally they will be a strong favourite to still be there in six or seven weeks time. Although I don't see that happening myself.

Most of the other selections are sensible. Ariana, Jess, Clean Bandit, Calvin, George, Dua all have hits on their way up or set to enter the charts shortly. No reason at all not to presume they stand a chance. Elton John? He's in there because of the constant rumours he features in this year's John Lewis advert. So it isn't a bad shout, although the ability of these commercials to generate hits has long since evaporated. Abba get a price, because there remain rumours that at least one of their mooted new songs will appear before the end of the year, even though back in September Benny was suggesting it would be the new year before anyone gets to hear them.

But there are two astonishing selections in this list. Three Lions to randomly return to the top of the charts again for Christmas? No, do me a favour. And most fascinatingly of all, you can't stake money at Paddy Power on "X Factor winner" or even a selection of the contestants. But you can back a performer who was eliminated earlier in the series - Georgia Burgess.

As we march closer towards December I'll explain why charts rule changes mean there is precious little chance of any festive classic coming close to topping the charts, although that hasn't stopped Paddy Power allocating prices to a couple. 50-1 for The Pogues and 33-1 for "George Michael" (which we assume is a reference to Last Christmas). No price for Mariah though? For shame.

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