I've avoided the issue for long enough, so let's deal with it now. Why, amongst all the talk about which singles are likely to be up there in contention for Christmas Number One 2018, has there been little mention of what you might term the "Christmas classics". The festive favourites which dominate playlists and in the process clog up the whole of the live Spotify tables for most of December.
And it is a fair question. Ever since the dawn of the digital era the festive season has been characterised by a slew of holiday classics steadily invading the December charts, songs anything up to 30 or 40 years old mixing it up and holding their own amongst more contemporary sounds. At first, this was an amusing diversion and a chance for us to note first hand what the public's preferred Christmas classics were - with Mariah Carey's apparently evergreen All I Want For Christmas Is You leading the way time after time.
This was never really any cause for concern, as each year went by the impact of the oldies grew less and less. A consequence perhaps of ownership of these tracks reaching saturation point. I don't need to buy a copy of Mariah Carey this year as I already bought it two years ago, so the theory goes. The arrival of the streaming era has stood that notion on its head, playing a song online isn't a one-shot deal after all. Recent years have seen the holiday favourites surge in popularity in a manner they never approached during the download era. This led to the extraordinary sight last year of eight of the Top 20 singles on the Christmas chart being holiday favourites. All of which vanished without a trace two weeks later.
With the market for streaming ever-growing, there was a distinct possibility that Christmas charts of the future would come to be almost totally dominated by golden oldies. Christmas is a unique time on services such as Spotify. The long tail which results in consumption being spread across large parts of the catalogue suddenly contracts every December, and everyone (young or old) listens to the same stuff over and over again. Mostly Mariah sodding Carey. But that's no use for the music industry who want the charts to reflect what's new and contemporary. This was almost certainly what led to a subtle and unannounced change in the chart rules over the summer:
Blink and you'll miss it, but there it is. The rule which means an older single can move from the Accelerated Chart Ratio back to the standard one now only applies to tracks within their first three years of release. Golden oldies, and in particular Christmas favourites, are stuck with their streams permanently downgraded. The net effect should be to artificially depress the chart positions of these returning classics. The chances of anything by Mariah, Wham! or The Pogues selling and streaming enough to topple a contemporary single are vanishingly small.
Not, you will note, non-existent. In the very first week that these rules came into force this summer, one twenty-year-old single became the focal point of the nation's hopes and dreams for the England football team. 3 Lions by Baddiel, Skinner and The Lightning Seeds stuck two fingers up at the rules, sold in new-found thousands and was streamed enough times to top the singles chart for the first time since 1998, ACR or no ACR. So whilst it is unlikely an old single will top the charts at the end of December, it isn't totally impossible. That's why you can still get odds, just rather longer ones than might have otherwise have been the case.
Incidentally, the chart to watch out for in this context is not the Official Christmas chart itself. That will cover sales and streams data gathered between Friday 14th and Thursday 20th December. It is the one following, one which will be based on data from Friday 21st to Thursday 27th. Five days of holiday fever, including Christmas Day itself when every Amazon Echo in the land will be pumping out All I Want For Christmas Is You and Last Christmas on a near-constant loop. Nobody is quite sure what that is going to do to the countdown.