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 9th: Nearly There

It is Sunday evening as I write this, meaning there are a little over four days to go before, as the Official Charts Company likes to put it, the starting gun is fired on the race to be Christmas Number One 2018.

A reminder: the final pre-Christmas chart will be based on sales and streams taking place from Friday 14th December until midnight on Thursday 20th. The full chart will then be revealed on the Radio One chart show from 5pm on Friday 21st. So by the evening, we will all know what the fuss is about.

At this precise moment, it is still very hard to see past Ariana Grande. Right at the very start of this process, it was possible to have some doubts as to whether she could sustain her place at the top of the singles chart for the seven weeks it was going to take for her to still be there at Christmas. Five weeks into her reign those doubts have mostly evaporated. Last week her overall chart sale leapt by a full 50% following the release of the official video for thank u, next which also handed her a streaming total which broke the all-time record. She is Number One with a chart sale of 83,660 copies. Her nearest rival in the market, Ava Max, is Number 2 with a mere 45,310 sales. As far as any other contemporary hits go, she is unbeatable.

The bookmakers agree. Here's the latest Paddy Power market as of Sunday evening:

PaddyPower0912If this were a horse race, it would be viewed as unbackable and punters would be better advised to focus on the place market to predict which of the long-priced entrants was most likely to finish runner-up.

However, I'm unconvinced this is entirely a one-horse race. Because there's another which is showing amazing form, even though it has been hobbled in the stables and is limping along on three legs.

As previously noted, all the "Christmas classics" and indeed anything over three years from release is locked permanently into the Accelerated Chart Ratio as far as the charts are concerned, its streams counting for half those of contemporary hits. The same assumption was that this would handicap the golden oldies sufficiently to prevent them from taking over the top end of the singles chart as they have done in recent Decembers.

However, last year the Christmas songs - and in truth, we are talking about one Christmas song in particular - did not have the benefit of YouTube plays. And views of the video for All I Want For Christmas Is You appear to have almost totally negated any disadvantage the move to ACR may have put it under.

On this week's charts the 1994 Mariah Carey single has vaulted 28 places to Number 6.It is the 14th most-purchased track of the week, but on the streaming chart (which does not take ACR into account and is based on pure numbers alone, the track is the second most popular of the week. And as I speak it is now the Number One track on Spotify, having been played just over 600,000 times on Saturday. Compared to 540,000 times for thank u, next. Now OK, bear in mind this is the weekend when casual listening on Spotify soars, and it may drop back a little during the week. But those are still significant numbers. As we saw last year, daily streams of favourite Christmas songs edge towards a million as Christmas week itself approaches. These are numbers with the potential to be large enough to negate ACR and send the 24-year-old song to a surprise position at the top of the charts the week after next.

There's clearly been money for this. Mariah Carey was 21.0 on Paddy Power on Saturday. As the graphic above shows she's moved into 13.0 Take it from me, that's a huge price, and right now that is where the value in the betting market lies.

Still, anything can happen between now and then. There may still be an unknown unknown ready to swamp the market from out of nowhere. Or it could come down to a straight fight between crystal-voiced divas from a generation apart.

Right now I'm torn. If All I Want For Christmas Is You makes Christmas Number One because of a million grandma streams at the expense of any contemporary hit records it will be a raging absurdity. On the other hand, if it does top the charts, I'll win enough money to buy myself a brand new laptop in the new year.

December 4th: Known Unknowns

Two more tracks have now entered the Christmas Number One market, if not necessarily the race as such. One we knew was coming but didn't know the precise identity of until the weekend, the other a charity offering which has rather come from nowhere but has forced its way into the conversation thanks to some terrific PR.

First the "known" unknown, the identity of the 2018 X Factor winner. The ability of the talent show to produce instantaneous Number One hits and in particular Christmas Number One hits has long since vanished into history. The last contestant to manage either was 2014 winner Ben Haenow. Since then we've seen Louisa Johnson, Matt Terry and Rak-Su post chart performances which are one week wonders and certainly have ended up a long way from the top of the charts at Christmas. What no longer helps, aside from the difficulty of generating mass streams for an act from a series which still plays to the older non-streaming demographic, is the move to a Friday-Thursday chart week which means that an act crowned on Sunday night has just four days to make a proper chart impact. To compound matters further this year, X Factor finished earlier than it ever has done before, meaning the winner's single is emerging a full three weeks before Christmas itself. Yes, it could climb in the intervening period, but recent history shows that X Factor winners singles now pop a first week high and then settle back afterwards. The same fate is almost certainly going to befall Dalton Harris, even if he is alongside James Arthur who was denied the 2012 Christmas Number One by circumstances beyond his control (a terrible charity single). The bookies have installed him as a contender anyway. Even if he's way adrift at 10.0 on Paddy Power right now.

The "unknown" unknown is Flakefleet Primary School whose promoters are spamming hashtags on Twitter trumpeting the fact that they have gone from 100-1 to 4-1 in an instant as if this is somehow proof of their commercial potential. This blog's standard point of reference, Paddy Power, have them at a rather more sensible 13.0 at the time of writing, and Oddschecker suggests their odds range from 17.0 to 9.0 across various bookies. In short, because nobody really knows what to do with them. This is all PR led, and fair play to them for managing to attract this amount of attention almost out of nowhere. The song is sung by children from the Fleetwood school with all proceeds going to the Alzheimers Society. Like the singing firemen before them (whose single is now out and set to vanish without a trace) it is all in a worthy cause and a fun talking point, but it is hard to picture any circumstances where this otherwise random song will be anywhere near the charts in three weeks time.

December 1st: The State Of Play

Throughout these Christmas Number One blogs there is one point I don't think I'm emphasised enough. We are attempting to make an intelligent call as to what the singles chart will look like in what is now three weeks time. The truth of the matter is that it is impossible. We're guessing, sticking fingers in the air to see which way the wind is blowing and hoping nothing changes between now and then. But we're giving it a go anyway.

It is increasingly clear that Christmas Number One will be Ariana Grande's thank u, next or something else. That statement is slightly less ridiculous than it first appears when you consider the present situation. Ms Grande has just topped the charts for the fourth week in a row, her sales down from their massive peak of her second week but still enough to ensure she is Number One with a sale more than 20,000 copies ahead of her nearest chart rivals (Little Mix). She is more or less guaranteed at least another fortnight, given the surge of interest that will be generated by the long-awaited release of the single's video. Which means we will go into Christmas chart week with Ariana Grande comfortably at Number One and waiting for someone to depose her.

That's why it is Ariana... or somebody else.

Who could the somebody else be? Well, it could easily be one of the current crop of hit singles. Both Jess Glynne's Thursday and Ava Max's Sweet But Psycho are the songs with sales and streaming momentum. Ava is at the time of writing priced at 4.5 on Paddy Power (bet £10 get £45 back) whilst Jess is a slightly surprising 13.0 (bet £10 get £130 back) which suggests the market has little faith in her chances, despite the way she moved into the Top 3 this week.

The somebody else could quite easily be a new release not on the charts yet, although as we move ever closer to the day itself this new single is going to have to be from the calibre of artist who can smash their way to the top of the charts in an instant. There will be many eyes on the big release of this coming week, Nothing Breaks Like A Heart from the absorbing pairing of Mark Ronson and Miley Cyrus, the single virtually a note for note reproduction of the old Dolly Parton track Jolene and with Miley doing her best Dolly impression on the vocals. It will almost certainly be next week's highest new entry. At the time of writing it isn't listed in the Paddy Power market although Oddschecker indicates rival bookmakers such as William Hill or Bet365 have it listed at 7.0 or 9.0 which seems reasonable. It's a similar story on the Betfair exchange where Ronson and Miley are backable at 8.0.

It's still Ariana's race to lose.