There may be well over two months to go before Christmas, but that hasn't stopped novelty bet bookmakers of choice Paddy Power from getting their act together and opening their own market. As I noted earlier this week, any odds laid by a bookmaker on what is going to be on top of the charts eight weeks hence will be based on little more than guesswork. But it is fun to see just how educated their guesses turn out to be. So here for posterity (and indeed for us to look back and laugh in the aftermath of it all) are the odds as they stand as of lunchtime on Thursday 17th October:
This is essentially a list of what you might term "the usual suspects". Irrespective of whether or not they are expected to have records in the Top 10 in December. Sheeran favourite? Well, given he's topped the charts multiple times this year and was Christmas Number One in 2017, it seems safe to install him as favourite. Ariana we may remember was neck and neck with Ava Max right up to the death last year, but there's no reason to assume she's going to have any product in the shops this year. Lewis Capaldi isn't a bad shout. But will he be contending with Bruises (his current chart single) or with something else? Rumours of an Adele release continue to swirl, but any single from her is going to have a swift and short chart life (25-1 shot Taylor Swift style) given she is all about shifting albums these days. Mariah Carey at 10-1 and in sixth place in the market is an intriguing shout, but I'm more fascinated by the fact that the only festive oldie also given a shot is Slade languishing there at 20-1. Of George Michael/Wham there is no sign in this screengrab, Paddy Power have them as the rank outsiders at 50-1 at the time of writing. This despite Last Christmas being comfortably Top 5 ever since George Michael passed away, and ignoring completely the fact that the new romantic comedy film of the same name will be in the cinemas by November, focusing attention on the song like never before. Not that festive classics will actually be in with a shot for the Christmas chart, but you still have to include them in the betting market. As I'll discuss in the next few postings, their true challenge will come in the new year chart, compiled during Christmas week itself.
Notably absent from this list: any one-off charity releases plugging a particular cause. Although we are perhaps slightly too early for the PR campaigns behind them to kick in and alert the bookmakers to the prospect of them. But if someone decides to record Greta Thunberg rapping about crying dolphins, you can bet your life it will be offered at 10-1 or thereabouts.
Ante-post betting on the singles market is in this day and age a raging absurdity given the ever more wild unpredictability of the tastes of the British public. In 2016 the Number One single in early November was a 66-1 shot and lasted until Christmas. In 2017 Ed Sheeran broke the market by releasing multiple versions of the same song. And in 2018 the eventual festive chart-topper wasn't even included in the betting until a few days before his single came out (he even posted a video online of him fruitlessly trying to back himself). The 2019 Christmas Number One could well be performed by any of the artists listed above. But it could just as easily be by someone nobody has even contemplated.