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: 6pm

Well now, this should raise a few eyebrows.

According to Sunday afternoon figures, once more with several gaps in the data from Saturday, Ava Max's Sweet But Psycho is at present leading thank u, next by about 1,000 sales. It is almost as if the presence of two Ariana Grande tracks in the market has actually diluted the demand for her existing hit. After all, if you are going to listen to an Ariana track, why not the newer one?

Neither is the market leader, that honour going to the Ladbaby single We Built This City. However it must be stressed that this is a false position, the track has added precious few sales to its initial number from Friday and it will quickly be swamped once the full body of streaming data starts to roll in.

There's a reason nobody pays all that much attention to sales figures until the middle of the week, and this is why. But still, Ava ahead of Ariana. We now await the "official" midweek update which will arrive at 6pm tomorrow. At which point the bookmakers might start reconsidering their odds.

December 15th: 2pm

One day in to the sales race, and anyone taking a glance at the live iTunes sales might be forgiven for thinking Britain has gone charity crazy. One-off "all in a good cause" singles from the likes of Ladbaby, Flakefleet Primary, The Fire Tones as well as lower profile offerings from The Phat Chants Podcast and The Rock Choir all invaded the upper end of the sales market en masse the moment midnight on Friday ticked around.

It isn't that there are any more hopeful charity privateers than normal, it is just that as I keep emphasising actual sales of individual tracks are so low that it is a trivial matter to muster some social media support and land yourself a high profile slot on iTunes. We are talking sales in the hundreds rather than the thousands.

The first midweek figures are available, although as usual for a Saturday they are more or less entirely lacking data from the leading streaming sources. With no Apple, Spotify or even YouTube data to bite on, this first bulletin is largely meaningless so it would be misleading to reproduce any of it here in any detail.

What I can tell you though is:

- Despite my wondering just how much of a demand there would be for the Ladbaby single, the social power of a YouTuber should never be underestimated. Front-loaded with pre-orders it may be but the track has still sold enough in one day to at the very least guarantee a Top 100 place on Friday, even if it sells precious few more copies for the rest of the week.

- The new Ariana Grande track imagine is the highest seller so far amongst the "regular" pop singles, at least as far as paid sales are concerned. 

After a day stuck, the Spotify chart finally updated so we can see the numbers for Friday, even if they came too late for the midweek charts to have processed them yet.

SpotifySaturday

That's pretty much as you would expect, thank u next more than holding its own against the onslaught of holiday hits. Just bear in mind a) you have to mentally halve the number of the older songs to take their ACR status into account and b) their numbers tend to shoot into the stratosphere at the weekend. Expect Mariah, Wham etc. to be posting numbers north of 800,000 or even higher in 24 hours time. The new Ariana single? Languishing slightly in 11th place with 328,000 streams to its name. Although that still makes it the 4th most popular "normal" and crucially non-ACR track.

December 13th: Ready... Set?

It is late Thursday evening and there are just a few hours to go before stuff starts happening for real, and the sales and streams start counting for the Official Christmas Chart. Before the race itself actually commences then, here's the present lay of the land:

  • Ariana Grande is still comfortable at the top of the charts, her midweek lead sufficient to ensure she will spend a sixth week at Number One with thank u, next and thus remain in pole position ready for a seventh and a quite spectacular Christmas Number One. The only consolation appears to be that her sales figures, although well in excess of the nearest challengers at present, are by no means insurmountable for any surprise track coming up on the rails. A small amount of intrigue surrounds her teasing of yet another brand new track which may well make its debut in a few hours from now. Although nobody is sure if this is being seen as an actual "single" or just a promotional tease for a whole new album in the new year. Either way, unless it turns out to be phenomenal it is unlikely to challenge her existing hit. And in any event, all bets are on the artist and not the song. It matters not a jot which Ariana Grande song tops the charts.
  • The golden Christmas Oldies appear to have hit a wall. Despite being almost neck and neck with Ariana on Spotify for most of the week, Mariah Carey's Track We Shall Not Name seems destined to be marooned outside the Top 5 once more when the new charts are revealed tomorrow. That's the permanent ACR status of these older hits starting to bite. Whilst it isn't impossible that the streams of an older single will accelerate to levels high enough to wipe out this disadvantage, I'll note that the holiday hits tend to peak in the few days prior to and indeed on Christmas Day itself. Which will actually be too late for the Christmas chart, whose cut off is December 20th.
  • An intriguing development in the past few days has seen the Fire Tones charity single, which we'd previously written off as a lost cause, suddenly pick up a burst of interest from somewhere to lodge itself at the top of iTunes since the middle of the week. This is a slight red herring, given a) Apple has tweaked the compilation of the live iTunes tables recently meaning it isn't completely clear how many hours or days of data that is based on, b) numbers for iTunes sales are still a tiny drop in the overall chart ocean and c) they are several days early with this. Firing their hoses prematurely as it were. And the track is absolutely nowhere on live streaming charts.
  • There's an absorbing new arrival near the top end of the betting markets.

    PaddyPower1312
    Ladbaby is YouTuber Mark Hoyle whose regular pieces on his transition from lad about town to responsible father had led him to a subscriber base of close to half a million during the course of the year. He's made his own cheeky attempt to chart for Christmas, an as-yet unheard cover of We Built This City by all accounts. During the week he shot a film of him approaching high street bookmakers to attempt to place a bet on himself, only to be rebuffed as they had never heard of him. Since then most firms have played along and offered him odds, hence his appearance from nowhere in second place. There's no evidence of any actual demand for his single, demonstrating just how random this betting market actually is.



    Hoyle even appears to have attracted some money his way on the Betfair exchange, that market having otherwise settled down to something sensible and is (Ladbaby aside) generally reflective of the true market picture.

Betfair1312

 There's still room for a surprise to be sprung. An unheralded release from a very big name, one in a position to sweep all before them. I'll remind you that last year the Eminem/Sheeran collaboration on River did not make its bow until the very start of the chart race, and even then this was merely an album track that got lucky. It was still Number 2 for Christmas and the first brand new chart-topper of the new year. Everything we know could be completely wrong. We'll find out in a few hours time.

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