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 20th: 10am

One day to go. And yes, there are more sales updates available as of this morning. But let's remember it is also Christmas. And just as the presents would somehow be less special if you opened them the day before, I think it would spoil any potential surprises too much by revealing exactly how things stand right now. There's still room for the market to flip and for the unexpected to happen, so let's leave the surprise until Friday evening and Radio One's unveiling of the full Christmas chart.

To fill the gap, and given that this liveblog has been speculating wildly since the start of November, I thought it would be fun to contemplate some of the bold predictions that simply didn't come true. I won't make any money out of Christmas Number One this year, my two wild potshots turned out to be badly off-target:

PaddyFail

What was I thinking? That perhaps the combining of the sales and streams of both the original and Reimagined versions of This Is Me would send the longest-running hit single of the year soaring to one final chart peak. Alas, when the new version was released its sales boost fell just short of the margin needed for This Is Me to have its ACR status reset. And in any event, there were other reworked Greatest Showman tracks with far more widespread appeal. I'd also wondered if Sam Smith would release the song he performs on the new television production of "Watership Down" which is due to be screened over the holiday. But it didn't happen and he's absent from the Christmas chart.

Both of these were bets I had to specifically request to make. What of the contenders the bookmakers elected to install as favourites right at the very start of this process?

PaddyPower0711

This was the Paddy Power market as of November 7th. Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper were the de-facto favourites, simply because they were the incumbent Number One at the time. A week later they were replaced by the then 7/1 shot Ariana Grande, although that too looks likely to be a losing bet no matter what. Ed Sheeran? Didn't happen, despite vague rumours of a surprise new acoustic release. Elton John spent a surprisingly large amount of time at the head of the market, this based on the use of Your Song in the then-newly minted John Lewis TV ad. But John Lewis songs topping the charts at any time, never mind Christmas, is so five years ago. And for a golden oldie stuck on permanent ACR it was never going to happen. Elton is on the Christmas chart, but with Step Into Christmas. And that's never going to be a Number One contender either.

Earlier this month we discussed some of the more high profile charity contenders, such as the Fire Tones and Flakefleet Primary School. Supporters of both were actively pushing them on social media right up to the start of this week, only to go quiet when it turned out neither had the sales to even challenge. Neither song will make the Top 40 this week, leaving the path clear for a charity record whose very existence was a well-kept secret until a week ago to be the only one to keep pace with the market leaders.

I also had people firing suggestions at me online:

Sorry Phil, Baby Shark just Didn't Happen. The track has spent two months floating around the cusp of the Top 30, sustained it seems almost entirely on endless plays on YouTube. But there was never any chance those were going to convert to actual sales and even audio streams in enough numbers to propel it nearer the top of the charts, no matter how many football supporters sing it too.

In an alternate universe, Zara Larsson might have been up there. If not Ava Max then why not her. But Ruin My Life never did quite have the legs to propel itself to singles chart dizzy heights. Another Didn't Happen for the list.

Finally, for now, a reminder of this particular entry from Paddy Power's brief "Oasis specials" market:

PaddyPowerOasis

Today, it's gonna be the day when it just Didn't Happen.

More later if any more spring to mind but for now, if you've enjoyed these updates this week, why not put a smile on my face this Christmas and vote for me in the UK Blog Awards:

 

December 19th: 12pm

Wednesday lunchtime. And for the first time in years, it still appears impossible to call the Christmas chart battle.

Ava Max's Sweet But Psycho is still in the lead. She has increased her sales by another 8,000 since yesterday's update and is surging ahead with the kind of numbers which would guarantee it Number One in an ordinary week.

Her lead over her nearest rival is still well over 2,500 chart sales. However, the identity of the nearest rival has changed. Once again it is We Built This City by Ladbaby. Following some useful exposure on Radio Two, plus a BBC News article (to which I contributed) which poured cold water on his chart-topping prospects whilst at the same time stoking the fire of interest, the novelty charity single enjoyed another surge in sales. Online estimates that he moved a further 8,000 copies yesterday proved accurate, as that is indeed the increase he's enjoyed. But you will note that's still only enough to keep pace with Ava Max, not to overhaul her.

What of thank u, next? Up 7,000 on the day, but inevitably this means Ariana Grande is rapidly losing ground on her blonde haired rival. Whereas yesterday she was 2,262 chart sales behind, today she trails by 3,070. And that doesn't seem to be ground she is set to make up any time soon.

So can we call this for Ava? Ladbaby still needs to go some to overhaul the deficit but it is going to take another publicity boost to even maintain his 8,000 a day sales of the past two days, never mind enjoy the increase that means he starts to narrow the gap.

Plus, there is still data missing. YouTube numbers for Saturday finally form part of the above numbers, but they are still lagging three days behind. And as ever, Spotify, Amazon and Apple are running 24 hours in deficit. Those missing streaming numbers will eventually boost the totals of Ava and Ariana but will be of no help to Ladbaby whose chart position is based more or less entirely on paid sales. In short, his position is a true one, those of the pop records around him are actually understated by around 20%.

That means the true gap at the top is probably closer to 8,000 sales rather than 2,000.

Perhaps Ava Max does have this in the bag after all.

December 18th: 11am

The latest sales updates are in.

This race continues to be quite absorbing. Sweet But Psycho is still in the lead over thank u, next and indeed has ever so slightly increased the gap as well. To be precise: on Monday Ava Max was 1306 sales ahead, today she is 2262 ahead.

I'd still sound a note of caution though, as (and this is by no means unusual) the Official Charts Company is still awaiting YouTube video data for Saturday, Sunday and Monday. That should all get added to the total in one large chunk in a day or so. Why is that significant? Well, here are the UK YouTube numbers for Saturday, the last day their live totals updated at the time of writing:

YouTube1512

Translating YouTube streams to chart sales is an inexact art. Some may well be 'premium' plays via a Google Play subscription, but the vast majority will be ad-funded ones and with a 600:1 ratio applied. That means on Saturday Ariana enjoyed 963 chart sales worth of YouTube streams and Ava only 606. So across the three days, assuming the same gap, it accounts for an additional 2,889 versus 1818. So that reduces the gap by 1,000 or so.

It is still tricky to say just where Ava Max's advantage is coming from. Ariana is leading on Spotify, although that position may well be reversed on other services such as Apple or Amazon whose daily figures aren't available for public inspection. And of course, low though the numbers may be, Ava is still outselling Ariana on iTunes. Combined, this all might be enough to account for this narrow, narrow lead.

Given it made headlines with its official Number 2 midweek, what then of the Ladbaby single We Built This City. It's still holding its own and is 3rd in the race, although with only paid sales to its name it still lags behind. And indeed the gap is widening every day.

On Sunday it was 4,800 sales ahead of Ava. On Monday it was 1,000 behind. Today it is 2,700 behind. And remember We Built This City won't benefit from delayed streaming data being added in. Ava Max will. 

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