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Dec 5

Charts – 4 December 2020

Posted on Saturday, December 5, 2020 by Paul in Music

There’s a school of thought that says the singles chart shouldn’t get overrun with Christmas singles every year, because it exists to promote new music. There’s a degree of truth to this. The chart exists because the music industry funds it. And the music industry funds it because they see it as a useful promotional tool. And until streaming came along, nobody expected the charts to tell us that people kept playing records they already owned.

But. The charts only work as a promotional tool because they’re not perceived as a promotional tool – or at least, because they’re perceived as some objective measure of popularity. In a streaming era, where sales are dwindling into irrelevance, you’re talking about measuring the music that people listen to. And in December, they listen to Christmas records.

God, do they listen to Christmas records.

1. Ariana Grande – “Positions”
13. Ariana Grande – “34+35”
16. Ariana Grande – “Santa Tell Me”

I mean, not all of them. Some of them are still listening to Ariana Grande’s “Positions”, which has now been number one for six weeks. Further down the chart, “34+35” climbs back to 13 (still below its initial peak). And the third track from her album… ah, that vanishes. Because the chart rules only allow three tracks by the same lead artist at one time, and… well, here’s “Santa Tell Me”, again.

And it is quite a good record – a rare example of a modern single joining the canon, too. When it was released, at Christmas 2014, nobody cared – she had had a couple of major hits in the UK by that point, but she hadn’t graduated to A-list status, and the track didn’t get past number 68. It’s now charting for the fourth year running; its peak was number 13, which it reached in both 2018 and 2019.

“All I Want for Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey climbs from 14 to 2, and it’s only December 4th. It reached number 2 in the last three years, but only around Christmas itself. It’s never been number 1. Could this be the year? “Last Christmas” by Wham climbs 20-3, already matching its peak for the lat two years. (It got to number 2 in 2018.) “Fairytale of New York” by the Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl climbs 26-8. Boldly overcoming the Christmas march, “Whoopty” by CJ climbs 12-11. “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” by Michael Bublé climbs 35-13. “Merry Christmas Everyone” by Shakin’ Stevens climbs 33-14. And “Do They Know It’s Christmas” by Band Aid climbs 38-15.

The chart rules were changed a few years ago to permanently downweight older records. That was meant to stop this sort of thing from happening. The British public say otherwise.

18. Elton John – “Step into Christmas”

A minor hit in 1974 – it only reached number 24 – “Step into Christmas” is charting for the fifth year running. It reached its all time peak last year, when it got to number 8.

19. Brenda Lee – “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”

Originally a number 6 hit in 1962, this started charting regularly again in 2016. It reached the top 10 in 2017 but only made the low teens in the last couple of years.

20. Kelly Clarkson – “Underneath the Tree”

Another modern addition to the list, this one dates from 2013 (when it made number 30). Its previous peak, last year, was number 21 – so it starts off its 2020 run with an all-time best.

21. Justin Bieber – “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”

Yes, there are two versions of “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” on the chart. This is a new one, and it’s an Amazon exclusive, with no video available. It’s awful – a hint of contractual obligation hangs over it.

22. Chris Rea – “Driving Home for Christmas”

Back for a fifth year running. It didn’t make the top 40 on its release at Christmas 1988; its all time peak was 11, two years ago. (Despite what it says on Wikipedia, it hasn’t made the top 40 every year since 2007 – top 100 yes, top 40 no.)

23. Wizzard – “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday”

Originally, number 4 at Christmas 1973. Wizzard have been back in the top 40 every year since 2010, and last year they got to number 10 – their best performance of the streaming era.

28. Jess Glynne – “This Christmas”

This is new. It’s another Amazon original, but it does have a video on YouTube (which will count towards the chart place). It’s a cover of a Donny Hathaway song from 1970, which is apparently a standard in the USA, but has never charted in this country. Nor has anyone else had a hit with it before. Hathaway himself only had a couple of top 40 singles in the UK, both of them duets with Roberta Flack.

32. Slade – “Merry Xmas Everybody”

The Christmas number 1 of 1973 (the same year as Wizzard). This is charting for the fifth year running; it tends to wind up in the low teens.

33. Leona Lewis – “One More Sleep”

When this came out in 2013, it seemed like a transparent bid for a Christmas standard – and it did get to number 3. Over the last few years it seems to have achieved its goal, and it got back into the top 10 in 2018.

35. Liam Gallagher – “All You’re Dreaming Of”

This is a charity release. It’s quite pretty, within the fairly predictable reference points of a Liam Gallagher ballad. It’s not explicitly a Christmas song, but you can kind of imagine it being used in a John Lewis advert. With typical modesty, Gallagher has described it as “an instant classic that is perfect for this time of year”.

36. Andy Williams – “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”

Back for a fifth year running. This was an album track that never got released as a single, and so it never charted before the digital era; its all time peak was number 17 in 2017.

37. Michael Bublé – “Holly Jolly Christmas”

A second track from the Michael Bublé Christmas album. The reached number 32 last year, and number 34 in 2017, but it’s yet to be fully established as a regular. The original version was released by Burl Ives in 1964, and it’s never made the top 40.

38. Bobby Helms – “Jingle Bell Rock”

This made its first appearance of the digital era last year, when it managed a week at number 30. It wasn’t a hit in the UK on first release, although Max Bygraves took a version of the song to number 7 in 1959.

39. Paul McCartney – “Wonderful Christmastime”

The 1979 Christmas single that saw Paul McCartney buying a new synthesizer and wondering what that button does. It reached number 6 on release, and it’s back in the top 40 for the fifth year running.

40. John & Yoko and The Plastic Ono Band with the Harlem Community Choir – “Happy Xmas (War is Over)”

This does have a video, but the only version on YouTube is the vaguely disturbing one with footage of war victims – you can watch it here. Back for the fourth year running, it reached number 4 in 1979, and an all-time peak of number 2 following Lennon’s death in 1980.

Can all these Christmas records really march any further up the chart? Is there space? Or are they just peaking early this year?

On the album chart, where things are both quieter and a little more normal.

1. Gary Barlow – “Music Played By Humans”

His first solo album in 7 years is going for the orchestral class route, and it’s his third number one. Barlow’s solo chart record is a remarkable artefact of his career fortunes. His last three albums all reached 1 or 2. His 1997 solo debut reached number 1. And his second solo album, from 1999, reached number 35.

2. Steps – “What the Future Holds”

Not sure it’s the healthiest sign for the album market that a new Steps studio album is getting to number 2. Mind you, the single above is not bad at all.

4. Miley Cyrus – “Plastic Hearts”

That’s her highest position since “Bangerz” became her sole number 1 in album in 2013. Obviously, we’ve had a couple of singles from this album in the top ten.

10. Shakin’ Stevens – “Singled Out”

As good a time as any to release a Shakin’ Stevens singles collection, I suppose. Of course, his Christmas single is in the charts at the moment. He’s had two greatest hits albums in the top 10 before, in 1984 and 2005.

15. Spandau Ballet – “40 Years – The Greatest Hits”

And finally, this. It’s only been six years since the last Spandau Ballet greatest hits album!

Bring on the comments

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  2. Bryan F says:

    I’m betting the Christmas songs will keep climbing. It’s 2020; people are pulling Christmas as close to themselves as possible and screaming, “GIVE ME COMFORT!” (Or normalcy, or joy, or whatever else they want to counteract what the rest of the year has given.)

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