Force Feeding

It is always the hope that kills you isn't it?

For the fifth year running Britain's Christmas No.1 single on the Official UK Singles chart is by LadBaby - the brand name of vlogger and influencer Mark Hoyle. He of the patterned overalls and onesies, the wife who cannot act, and sausage roll leitmotif. His 2022 festive single is - to many a raised eyebrow - a radical rewrite of Do They Know It's Christmas with an entirely changed lyric to address Britain's cost of living crisis. While the video for the song (rechristened Food Aid) is festooned with some poor celebrity lookalikes in keeping with the whole Band Aid theme its main marketing hook is the presence of Martin Lewis, the Money Saving Expert of TV and price comparison site fame.

And yes, just as it was in 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021 the supposedly one-off single gathers enough social media traction to outsell everything else in the market meaning that once again the same man has rendered the whole idea of topping the charts for Christmas little more than a joke. But all profits (not proceeds, you will note) are being handed to both his favourite charity The Trussell Trust and the still-extant Band Aid Trust (as they still own the rights to the original song). And in theory, we aren't supposed to snipe at all.

Yet this year for a change it wasn't all plain sailing. As I noted last week, the rumblings of an online backlash that has been growing with every passing year threatened to escalate into a roar. Before his musical abominations were tolerated. Now he's just regarded as a total pain in the arse. As the record will show, back in 2018 I noted that Mark Hoyle was destined to make far more money personally out of his Christmas song than he would ever end up handing over to charity. Where once he was a cheery chap out to use his online audience for good, now he is derided as the "Sausage Roll Millionaire". And that's an even worse look than the video supposedly depicting him in a bar which went viral earlier this year.

So while this year Ladbaby once more is top of the Christmas charts by a comfortable margin the single's overall sale is a comparatively miserly 65,335, a huge 52% drop on last year's numbers and making this far and away the smallest selling record Mark Hoyle has put his name to to date. That sound you hear is one of a bubble rapidly deflating, and you can't help but hope that he finally takes the hint and leaves the charts alone now he has shattered The Beatles' all-time record with a fifth Christmas No.1 single. Although Paul McCartney may have something to say about that.

In a fun curiosity (well, there had to be one) this isn't the first chart cover version that Martin Lewis has put his name to. Almost 15 years ago he was the guiding light behind the band Oystar who crept to No.25 with I Fought The Lloyds in January 2008 as part of a Money Saving Expert campaign against what they saw as unfair bank charges. The date of that single isn't insignificant, one year into the digital era and an early example of people attempting to clickbomb a track into the charts to raise awareness of a particular cause - exactly the same tactic Ladbaby has been using for the past five years.

Last Week We Gave Them Our Hearts

But if not LadBaby then who could it have been? Despite attempts by their creators and indeed Official Charts' PR people themselves to hype things up as a battle of the new hits, the nearest potential challengers to the throne were the incumbent No.1 singles of the past couple of weeks. No.2 this week and therefore theoretically No.1 in the LadBaby free world we are all trying to manifest is Last Christmas by Wham! But it is there more by default than anything else, ending up 9,000 (ACR-handicapped) sales behind. What is fascinating is that for all the way festive classics surge into the charts in December their consumption relative to everything else actually plateaus slightly in the final week before the holiday. Almost as if we are all partied out briefly. And this week's charts actually reflect that. Due to certain other circumstances, there are actually only three golden oldie Christmas hits in this week's Top 10, and across the rest of the Top 40 all the rest actually fall back a few places. But as we all know this is merely the calm before the storm. Next week's chart will account for streams on 23, 24 and most importantly 25 December when consumption of festive tunes generally surges to record-busting levels. And this year will be no different. This may be the "Christmas" chart, defining what is top of the pile for Christmas Day, but it is the charts of next week that will truly reflect what is popular over Christmas itself.

Jingle Bell Rap

Now if you were relying on the midweeks to judge what was going to complete this week's Top 3 then you will have been in for a surprise. Coming up on the ropes towards the end was Christmas Drillings from The Sidemen. The collective which birthed KSI and still counts him as one of their members have never been known for their commercial singles, but made a genuine attempt to land a festive hit for the ages this year. Available since mid-December the track has moved 58-41 in the last fortnight and on the first midweeks seemed set for nothing more than a minor Top 40 entry. But it too rallied thanks to some social media pushing and the release of the new remix or two. So you can't help but wonder what might have been. The release of physical versions meant the festive rap enjoyed a late-week surge, adding in over 30,000 sales out of nowhere to eventually chart at a completely expected No.3. Without that physical release, truth be told, the single would have been languishing at No.14. It was still never the Christmas No.1 contender it was hyped to be, but the fact that they have landed this high at all from what was effectively a standing start is nothing less than remarkable. This perhaps is the biggest Christmas miracle of all. So well done gents. Turns out there is something here worth celebrating.

Champagne For The Socialists

Fast also becoming an integral part of the traditions of the Christmas chart is the annual attempt by The Kunts to inject the twin notes of political invective and profanity into our lives. With the usual target of their ire having departed the public stage this year they have had to cast their net wider, so the honourable successor to post-punk classics Boris Johnson Is A Fucking Cunt and Boris Johnson Is Still A Fucking Cunt is the tenderly composed ditty Fuck The Tories. As in previous years the artist formerly known as Kunt And The Gang has attempted to game the system with a series of remixes and reworkings to encourage as many multi-purchases as possible. Just as in previous years their chart form over the week ebbed and flowed. Kunts hits always start the week slowly and then accelerate as more people cotton on to the joke and the concept extends beyond their own social media bubble. Hence Fuck The Tories went from early midweek positions outside the Top 10 and almost outside the Top 20 too to eventually rally and land a new entry at No.7 - the group will perhaps be disappointed not to have duplicated the Top 5 success of the past two years but perhaps their joke, just like the one six places above them, is starting to wear thin even if this song is the best and funniest of the trio so far. Their sale of 46,101 compares to 45,119 in 2020 and 52,215 in 2021.

I mentioned there were many versions in circulation. This one happened to be my favourite for reasons I just cannot explain.

A Glimmer Of Hope

I've spent many weeks noting that it takes a bold act to release a brand new track of any kind in the final few weeks of the year, so many caps are doffed to Central Cee who chose this week of all weeks to grace us with new single Let Go. A substantial reworking of Let Her Go by Passenger (who features extensively here), the tender grime ballad would have been wonderful to see as a Christmas No.1 contender but eventually can do little more than chart at a still damn impressive No.9, his second Top 10 hit of the year following No.2 hit Doja back in August. Consider that he did this with very little promotion and a fraction of the social media hype that the "rivals" for the Christmas chart engaged in.

Off The Cliff

The battle to be the Christmas No.1 album turned into an intriguing five-way fight. But it was one eventually won by default as Midnights by Taylor Swift returns to the top after six weeks away for what is now its third week at the summit. Only Harry's House by Harry Styles has spent longer at the top of the albums chart in 2022. And you will note there is no greater barometer of the decline of the recorded album as a gift of choice than the fact that the week before Christmas the biggest "selling" one of the week is a record whose consumption was largely down to its still healthy streaming numbers. Midnights did a mere 17,000 chart sales - and No.2 for the week is Christmas With Cliff, the biggest SELLING album of the week but which could only manage a miserly 15,837 in purchases to return to its original chart peak. We are in no way comparing like with like or even the same kind of market, but it is worth noting that ten years ago this week the Xmas No.1 album was Our Version Of Events by Emeli Sande which moved 178,000 copies in Christmas week. Olly Murs was No.2 with 154,928 copies sold.

And so ends the first part of this festive period. My traditional thanks to all those who have visited these pages over the past year and my grateful thanks to all those who keep coming back to this site time and time again. Enjoy what remains of the festive buildup, ignore those who tell you not to overindulge over the weekend, and I'll see you the other side of the holiday for the final chart of 2022 and what continues to be these days the most MESSED UP chart of the year.