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.

October 17th: The Guessing Game

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:

PaddyPower171019

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.

October 15th: When Is The 2019 Christmas Number One Announced?

Yes, if you will excuse the search engine fodder headline, it is time to do this once again.

Welcome to Chart Watch UK's annual live blog tracking the runners, riders, and the race itself to top the Official UK Singles chart just in time for Christmas. It is the peculiar yearly game that the British public like to play, the one time of year when even if you stopped paying attention to what is in the charts some time ago, it somehow really really matters just what makes it to Number One. And given that this entire site is devoted to a weekly study of why it matters what makes it to Number One you have come to exactly the right place.

To answer the question then: The 2019 Christmas Number One will be revealed by Radio One shortly before 6pm on Friday December 20th. It will be a singles chart based on sales, streams, and video views accrued between Friday December 13th and Thursday December 19th.

You will note that the vagaries of the calendar mean that the "race" itself takes place some 10-12 days before Christmas itself. This does mean that there are actually two different charts which are of interest to music fans. The general public and the bookmaking firms will indeed be solely focuses on the December 20th chart, but it is perhaps the one afterwards - that revealed on December 27th - which will be the most absorbing of all. That is the one based on sales and streams data gathered from 20-26 December. Essentially encompassing the entirely of the Christmas holiday itself - and in the bold new streaming world the one period when every radio station and in turn every smart speaker and musical device is playing nothing but Christmas songs.

More on the significance of that in the days to come. Plus, we'll keep an eye out for the very first bookmakers odds as they attempt to make wild guesses in the middle of November as to what songs will be the most popular a month later. The Betfair Exchange market is already live but with just £200 of liquidity in it so far the actual odds themselves are essentially meaningless.

Grab your tinsel and strap in. The 2019 holiday season has begun.

December 21st: In Conclusion

In the end, all our attempts at analysis and studying the form came to nothing. Because the very record this blog spent over a week insisting stood absolutely no chance turned out to be the runaway winner.

Why was that? Because what I, we, everyone overlooked was the tendency of festive charity singles to experience a snowball effect. From one tiny push, a whole avalanche can result. Particularly when a chart race attracts the attention of those who ordinarily would not pay attention to pop music or the charts in general. When that happens singles don't behave as they would do under any normal circumstances.

It is a pattern we have seen before. In both 2012 and 2015 the charitable singles which ultimately triumphed started the week lagging badly behind. The Justice Collective single didn't truly spark into life and accelerate into an unstoppable lead until the serendipitous announcement in the High Court that the original Hillsborough inquest findings were to be quashed. Similarly, the Lewisham & Greenwich NHS Choir were wilting against the onslaught of Justin Bieber until the artist himself was persuaded to Tweet in favour of his rivals.

We Built This City by LadBaby wasn't dependent on any such external factors, but there is no doubt the mainstream attention which had been denied it right up until Monday evening finally set the ball rolling. To understand just how it grew, it is worth looking at the numbers I've been alluding to all week. These were the daily reported sales of the single during the chart survey period:

Friday: 10,990
Saturday: 3,846
Sunday: 1,918
Monday: 5,331
Tuesday: 8,071
Wednesday: 15,180
Thursday: 30,106

All for a grand total of 75,442.

Tuesday's sales were the point at which the single was 2,000 copies behind the Ava Max single and showing little sign that it was going to close that gap. If it had sold its average total again over the final two days of the week it would have ended up languishing at Number 4. Yet Wednesday and Thursday were when the snowball began to gather speed. If it had only managed another 15,000 on Thursday it would still have topped the charts. To do double that was just the icing on the cake.

So it was what it was. As someone who thrilled over the past few years about the way normality returned to the Christmas race at long last, with what you might call "proper" pop records taking the crown, it is a little sad to see that trend broken by the return of rubbish charity records. But history records that just as many throwaway novelties have topped the charts for Christmas as long-standing classics. Another Brick In The Wall was followed a year later by There's No-One Quite Like GrandmaDon't You Want Me preceded Save Your Love. And I Will Always Love You a year later turned into Mr Blobby. You get the picture.

This year the public got to thrill once more at the sight of something subversive reaching the top of the charts, the Christmas Number One made headlines once again and justified the attention we pay to it year in year out, LadBaby ends the year a hundred times more famous than he began it, and perhaps inevitably it has sowed the seeds of an idea in any number of other social media stars. None of whom will ever be able to properly duplicate his success.

Plus at this time of year when we all give thanks for our own good fortune and spare a thought for those without, a charitable cause we can all relate to gets to benefit and will do so to the tune of tens of thousands of pounds. And no normal person could possibly object to that.

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