Sausage Free Zone

As has now become a traditional part of the holiday, the New Year chart is if anything an even greater absurdity than the Christmas countdown. On Christmas Eve, Christmas Day (and to a lesser extent, Boxing Day) Christmas tracks were streamed in such numbers as to utterly dominate the market, even if they did vanish to almost nothing in the final four days of the survey week.

Yes, the exact order of the songs here will indeed closely resemble the default "holiday" playlists on many of the streaming services as the issue of passive listening becomes ever more pronounced at this time of year. Although the debate over whether "lean in" streams should count for more on the charts than so-called "lean back" streams has yet to be resolved, I've always noted that people will still click past the songs they hate or simply don't know well enough even when consuming a playlist. That however is not the case when it comes to Christmas songs (unless you are really, really bored of Mariah Carey of course) which means that this is indeed the one chart of the year that arguably doesn't necessarily represent mass popular taste, simply the tracks which people were spoon-fed during the one time of the year when your Echo speaker plays to you on a loop. But it is what it is, so let's deal with it.

The one hope of intrigue was the identity of the No.1 single, especially given there was a new contemporary festive song thrown into the mix this year. And so it proves, as a week after surrendering its crown to the Ladbaby remake Merry Christmas by Ed Sheeran and Elton John climbs back to the top of the charts for its third week at the summit in total.

This is significant for two reasons in particular:

  • It ensures that for the whole of the last six months of 2021 the No.1 slot was occupied by at least one of Ed Sheeran, Elton John or Adele. The only other artists since the start of July to have topped the British charts were Dua Lipa and Ladbaby, both for a week apiece and both accompanying Elton John.
  • It also means that a decade-long streak remains intact as 2021 joins every year since 2009 in having at least one single climb to the top of the charts twice, even if (as in 2015) it only happened right at the death.

Ed Sheeran, quite incidentally I guess, returns to No.1 on the albums chart with Equals, dethroning Adele for the first time since her release. It was a tightly-fought race we are told with a mere 500 sales between the two. But it means Sheeran ends the year once more doing the singles and albums chart double.

And The Rest

Ed n' Elton were, in the end, some considerable distance ahead of the two festive favourites which make up the rest of the Top 3. Once more as it has done for most of the season Last Christmas has the edge over All I Want For Christmas Is You meaning that the once unassailable crown of the Mariah Carey track appears to be slipping. This is the first time since 2016 (and the dawn of the streaming age) that the single hasn't peaked at No.2 or higher.

As for last week's No.1, well this is actually quite interesting. Sausage Rolls For Everyone "only" tumbles to No.29, in stark contrast to last year when Mark Hoyle's festive offering dived to No.78. It almost certainly helped that the single was itself Christmas-themed and enjoyed more plays than might otherwise have been the case. It is only the second Ladbaby single to spend two weeks in the Top 40, his 2018 debut We Built This City fell to No.21 in its second week on sale.

Festive Peaks Anew

The only other thing we can do this week is note which Christmas songs achieve notable career-bests. Chief among them is Brenda Lee's Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree at No.5, finally beating the No.6 it scaled upon first release in 1962. I've a feeling that 59 year journey is the longest any track has ever made before making the Top 5.

George Ezra's Amazon Original also reaches a new peak of No.8 as Come On Home For Christmas climbs two places. The same is true for his counterparts The Christmas Song by Olivia Dean up to No.19, and Camila Cabello's I'll Be Home For Christmas at No.24. Alexa, stop.

During his whole career Chris Rea famously only ever had one Top 10 hit (The Road To Hell edging to No.10 in 1989) but he finally has a second as Driving Home For Christmas, for years the long-lost festive classic, finally matches that peak as it makes the Top 10 for the first time. Jingle Bell Rock by Bobby Helms is a Top 20 single for the first time ever as it climbs to No.16 while Sleigh Ride by The Ronettes, Feliz Navidad by Jose Feliciano and Let It Snow Let It Snow Let It Snow by Dean Martin are both also at career highs at No.23, No.25 and No.27 respectively. There are plenty of others lower down the chart for those with the patience to go through them all.

Kids! Kids! Your Turn!

Of contemporary non-seasonal hits, ABCDEFU by Gayle is the biggest at No.14, but we do genuinely have a new entry as a new remix featuring (who else) Ed Sheeran propels Peru by Fireboy DML into the Top 40 for the first time at No.28. The original version crept to No.89 in mid-November during which time it had topped the Afrobeats chart.

Dream Sequence

Much as I hate what-if charts and fantasy listings, the potential state of things next week when the Christmas songs all exit en-masse and the singles chart rebounds to something approaching normal can be gleaned by working out just what a festive-free listing would look like this week. So if we do indeed delete all Christmas songs (including newly-released ones) then this week's Top 10 would read:

1) ABCDEFU (Gayle)
2) Peru (Fireboy DML and Ed Sheeran)
3) Seventeen Going Under (Sam Fender)
4) Flowers (Say My Name) (ArDee)
5) Overseas (D-Block Europe featuring Central Cee)
6) Easy On Me (Adele)
7) Overpass Graffiti (Ed Sheeran)
8) Coming For You (Switch OTR featuring A1 & J1)
9) Shivers (Ed Sheeran)
10) Do It To It (Acraze featuring Cherish)

Make of that what you will.

Factor in the potential for some surprise new releases, plus what I'm presuming will be the annual elective reset of ACR-dipped hits as nominated by their labels, and next week could be both rather messy and very interesting indeed. After weeks of complaining how shit this all is, I can't wait to get enthusiastic again. Happy new year all.