Has streaming ruined the Christmas No.1 race?

Clean Bandit

Your correspondent did a pub quiz at the weekend, where one of the questions was about who was Christmas No.1 in the year 2000. Not everyone knew the correct answer, but everyone could name a Christmas No.1 from around that time. Some people could seemingly recollect their entire lives based around what was No.1 that Christmas.

In the pub quizzes of the future, will anyone be able to do the same with the 2016 chart-topper? The race is far from done and dusted yet, of course, but it’s clear from the midweeks that this year’s charge lacks the pizazz of the classic battles.

It basically boils down to a contest between Clean Bandit’s Rockabye – a perfectly respectable pop-dance banger that has already been No.1 since mid-November – and Rag’N’Bone Man’s Human. The latter is at least by an exciting new artist, but any sense of a classic Christmas underdog victory is somewhat undermined by the fact that he’s already won the BRITs Critics’ Choice gong and had his song covered on The X Factor before it was even a hit.

The other “contenders” are a mix of names/songs that could have appeared in the charts at any point this year (Little Mix! Louis Tomlinson!), songs that basically have been in the charts all year (seriously, Neiked’s Sexual needs to change its name to Tantric Sexual it’s been around so long) and various charity singles and tribute tunes, none of which, sadly, can compete with a 22-year-old Mariah Carey Christmas song that’s still having the heck streamed out of it.

No wonder the plethora of big names appearing on telly over the weekend weren’t even bothering to plug their latest singles, just going straight for the album jugular. The albums race might not be much more interesting, with the mighty Ball & Boe basically already getting the Christmas cigars out, but at least there the winner would have been predicted by few people at time of release (although Music Week, of course, called it several weeks ago).

But back in the singles world, the rise of streaming means that the quirks that once made the UK chart so fascinating – particularly at this time of year – are now being ironed out in favour of a new global hegemony, with last year’s Lewisham & Greenwich NHS Choir victory over Justin Bieber now looking like the last gasp of an old tradition that hasn’t produced any real drama since the great Rage Against The Machine middle finger of 2009.

That 2000 No.1 by the way? Bob The Builder’s Can We Fix It?, of course. Let’s hope the OCC’s adjustments to the streaming-sales conversion rate, as revealed by Music Week yesterday, help restore some unpredictability – otherwise the answer could be a resounding “No, we can’t”.

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