This Week In Festive Records (17/12/2018): Ariana Grande, Ariana Grande, & Ava Max

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Ah, so close to last year’s beautiful title symmetry as Ed Sheeran engineered his Christmas Number 1 crown with three versions of the same song. Either way, it is once again nearly the biggest day in the Official Charts calendar, as established popstars contest against X-Factor winners, festive favourites and the odd charity single to claim that all-important top spot over the Christmas week. This year, the all-conquering Ariana Grande goes almost full-Ed Sheeran with two tracks looking likely to find themselves at the top of the Charts come Friday, though she faces stiff competition from U.S. rising star Ava Max, as well as George Ezra, Mark Ronson and Halsey. With a multitude of artists looking to add their names to a tradition that stretches back over 65 years, let me be your guide to who is most likely to be this year’s Christmas Number 1 this week in (festive) records.

Ariana Grande – ‘thank u, next’
Ariana Grande – ‘imagine’

It’s hard not to draw comparisons between Ariana Grande’s push for Christmas No. 1 with ‘thank u, next‘ and ‘imagine’ and Ed Sheeran’s ultimately successful campaign to clinch the top spot with three versions of ‘Perfect’. But these are two quite different situations – for more reasons than Grande only having two songs to Sheeran’s three.

Firstly, Sheeran practically masterminded his Christmas No. 1, re-releasing ‘Perfect’ as a single in November before slowly ramping up promotion around it and releasing remixes with Beyonce and Andrea Bocelli over December. Grande, on the other hand, is simply riding the wild success of Pete Davidson response track ‘thank u, next’ from the start of November, with ‘imagine’ coming in with a chance at the top spot off the back of that success following its release on 14th December. And to be honest, I’d personally be very happy with either of these tracks clinching it come Friday.

‘thank u, next’, aside from being the song that inspired a million memes, is also a terrifically inspiring track about empowerment and individuality – plus it features that killer music video to boot. Meanwhile, ‘imagine’ is utterly affecting (and heartbreaking) in its longing for an unreachable love that is “now and forever”. ‘thank u, next’ may fit the typically upbeat image of Christmas No. 1 a bit more than its counterpart, but both tracks showcase Grande’s sheer talent for crafting chart-breaking bangers in a year she has so utterly dominated.

Ava Max – ‘Sweet But Psycho’

Currently at No. 2 in the Charts, Ava Max leads the charge to take that top spot from Ariana Grande in time for Christmas. ‘Sweet But Psycho’ is a strong contender – it’s dangerously catchy, just as raw about relationships as Grande’s two tracks, and features the kind of danceable beat that’s sure to get heavy playtime at Christmas parties in the run-up to the big day. It’s got momentum on its side too – already top in Sweden, Finland and Norway, could she sweep up the UK too by Friday? No matter what happens, it looks likely we’ll have a feminist song topping the charts this Christmas – whether its the empowering ‘thank u, next’, the confessional ‘imagine’ or the sobering ‘Sweet But Psycho’ – and that’s fine by me.

George Ezra – ‘Hold My Girl’
Mark Ronson ft. Miley Cyrus – ‘Nothing Breaks Like A Heart’
Halsey – ‘Without Me’

Outside of the top two, there are a few other party bangers looking to soak up Christmas party streams in time to take that top spot. Perhaps most surprising is George Ezra’s ‘Hold My Girl’, regaining momentum to bounce back up the charts after a slow December. It’s a touching anthem in the vein of Sheeran’s ‘Perfect’, and should it reach the top of the charts it’ll deliver Ezra his second season-dominating song this year after ‘Shotgun’ basically soundtracked our summer.

Another track that’s gaining momentum in the festive period is Mark Ronson’s debut track off his upcoming album of “sad bangers”. To be fair, ‘Nothing Breaks Like A Heart’ is a pretty much perfect “sad banger”, with the track’s desperate lyrics contrasting perfectly with Miley Cyrus‘ powerful crooning and Ronson’s utterly encapsulating instrumentation. It’s a song that, on first listen, doesn’t seem like it should work, but it does – and it’s mounting a serious challenge for Christmas No. 1 as a result.

Rounding out the list of mainstream bangers likely to top the Charts come Friday is Halsey’s somewhat more morose ‘Without Me’. Currently at number three, the track doesn’t really look like budging either way, but who knows – perhaps its mix of vulnerable lyricsm, cooled-down instrumentation and delicate vocals from Halsey herself will prove me wrong and propel it up the Charts over the next few days.



Flakefeet Primary School – ‘Light Up’
The Fire Tones – ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’
LadBaby – ‘We Built This City’

Of course, every Christmas brings with it some wonderful charity singles. There’s no Ball or Boe this year, leaving the field wide open for a wide array of artists to craft songs for a good cause. This year we’ve seen I’m A Celeb contestants, Basil Brush and the “celeb dad of the year” – whatever that means – bringing out new tunes in support of charities ranging from Great Ormond Street Hospital to the Trussell Trust.

Coming into this week, it was Flakefeet Primary School and The Fire Tones who were on everybody’s lips, with Flakefeet Primary School even going to the lengths of producing an original song for their effort. Raising money in support of the Alzheimers Society, ‘Light Up’ was written and performed by staff and students from the school and – though it’s far from a perfect track musically – is sure to go down well with parents who know all too well the troubles of getting their kids through the school nativity, let alone a full-on charity single.

Meanwhile, a group of fire service personnel have covered Band Aid’s legendary granddaddy of charity singles, raising money in support of both the Band Aid Charity Trust and the Fire Fighters Charity. This one’s of slightly higher quality than Flakefeet Primary School’s song – as to be expected considering there are no primary school-aged kids involved – but every track mentioned here is well worth a listen, and a donation, all the same.

But if we’re talking about who’s most likely to snatch that Christmas No. 1 spot from Grande, Ava Max and the rest, then there’s no surer bet than LadBaby – real name Mark Hoyle, the aforementioned “celeb dad of the year” who found fame posting “lad to dad” parenting videos on social media. Covering Starship’s iconic ‘We Built This City’ – but of course, crediting sausage rolls rather than rock & roll – and donating proceeds to food bank charity Trussell Trust, he’s stormed to No. 2 in the midweek Charts, with many bookies giving him 2/1 odds to take that No. 1 spot come Friday. Responding to the result, Hoyle told the Offical Charts: “Who would have thought it? A sausage roll song being sung by a Nottingham lad would be sitting at No. 2 in the official midweek Singles Chart?!” I share your incredulity, Mark – though I think I’ll give a miss on eating “our own weight in sausage rolls”.



Wham! – ‘Last Christmas’
Mariah Carey – ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’

I’m sure we featured these two tracks last year? Regardless, there are some among us who feel like an actual Christmas song should take the Christmas No. 1 spot, considering that’s probably what they were made for. As with last year, Wham! and Mariah Carey carry the torch for a festive favourite to finally top the Charts over Christmas for the first time since 2004. They are undoubtedly two of the best Christmas songs recorded, with ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ going down a treat at parties and with couples alike, and ‘Last Christmas’ helping us all forget our worries in three minutes of ’80s synth-pop delight. Regardless, despite them having some serious momentum in the charts going into this week, I don’t see either of these tracks honestly walking away with the Christmas No. 1 crown – though it would be nice for a vintage classic to finally end up on top once again.


Dalton Harris ft. James Arthur – ‘The Power Of Love’

Time was that winning the X-Factor and taking Christmas No. 1 went hand-in-hand. No longer, and to be honest I’m only including this here as a formality to the show that’s given us so many chart-toppers over the last two decades. ‘The Power Of Love’ is one of the weakest winner’s singles for some time with nothing on Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s original, and it tells – Dalton Harris is currently languishing at 19 in the Charts, with no sign of picking up the pace. It’s bland, it’s boring, and it’s not really what we want to be listening to over Christmas, so it only holds a very slight outside chance of being the first winner’s single to top the Charts over the festive period since 2014.

Mason Ramsey – ‘White Christmas’

Some memes just refuse to die.

Selected Other Releases

Of course, there were also plenty of new music releases this week. Although we haven’t discussed them here, there’s plenty of stuff there to get stuck into if you’re looking for a new music fix.

Albums

The Chainsmokers – Sick Boy
Grace Carter – Why Her Not Me EP
Kid Ink – Missed Calls
Vic Mensa – Hooligans
ZAYN – Icarus Falls

Singles

Avril Lavigne – ‘Tell Me It’s Over’
Busted – ‘Reunion’
Jack Savoretti – ‘Candlelight’
Miley Cyrus & Mark Ronson ft. Sean Ono Lennon – ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’
MNEK – ‘Stopped Believing In Santa’
Prettymuch – ‘Jello’
Robin Thicke – ‘Testify’
Sundara Karma – ‘The Changeover’
Union J – ‘Paralysed’
Yxng Bane ft. Fredo – ‘Problem’

This Week In Records: Playlist Edition

This week, our shiny Spotify playlist contains all our picks for Christmas Number 1, as well as our pick of the best releases out this week. We’ll be back with weekly music round-ups in the New Year, but to keep you going until then, look out for The Edge‘s Top Albums of 2018 (set to start counting down on 19th December), our alternative picks for the best albums of the year, and our big end-of-year music round-up coming New Year’s Eve. Merry Christmas!

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I play/watch/listen to things, then write about playing/watching/listening to things. Special powers include downing two litres of tea at a time and binging a 13-episode Netflix series in only 12 hours. Records Editor 2018/19 OMG

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