Christmas number one: Sam Ryder battles Wham!’s Last Christmas as chart race reaches climax

Sam Ryder
Image caption,Sam Ryder’s You’re Christmas To Me is challenging the classic festive favourites

Wham!, Sam Ryder and Mariah Carey are all vying for this year’s Christmas number one, in one of the most open festive chart battles of recent years.

Thursday was the final day for streams and sales to count before the Christmas chart is revealed later on Friday.

Wham!’s 1984 classic Last Christmas is leading the way, with Ryder’s You’re Christmas To Me the top new release.

YouTubers LadBaby have been Christmas number one for the past five years, but decided not to enter the 2023 race.

Santa Claus and Mariah Carey
Image caption,Mariah Carey (featuring Santa) reappears in the charts every year thanks to streaming

The Christmas chart battle “feels much more exciting than it has done for a few years”, according to Martin Talbot, chief executive of the Official Charts Company.

Talbot said there is “a much more open field” this year.

“LadBaby have dominated for the last five years and I think by the time it reached its fifth Christmas number one last year, people were keen to see something a bit fresh and a bit new.

“We’ve obviously got the classics that are coming back into the charts, we’ve got the usual run of charity records driven by ordinary people who just want to raise some money for good causes, and we’ve also got one or two really interesting releases as well, like Sam Ryder.”

The former Eurovision Song Contest runner-up has been busy trying to drum up support for his single.

Ryder told BBC Breakfast on Thursday that he could understand why some people think “all new Christmas songs are rubbish”, but said he took inspiration from festive classics by Darlene Love, Stevie Wonder and The Darkness.

“We’ve done 26 performances in the last six days, doing everything we possibly can to make this Christmas miracle come true – because it’s not often you find yourself in a chart race against the almighty Wham!” the singer said.

“But, with massive respect to those absolute legends, there’s always room for new music and new artists coming through and attempts at putting new Christmas music out there.”

The contenders:

Wham on the single cover for Last Christmas
Image caption,Wham!’s Last Christmas has been reissued on green vinyl in an attempt to give it a boost
  • Last Christmas by Wham! is the favourite – it originally reached number two in 1984 and has been number one twice in the past three years, but never in Christmas week itself
  • You’re Christmas To Me by Sam Ryder is an Amazon exclusive and is being heavily promoted by the company including on its Christmas music playlists and the soundtrack of its film Your Christmas Or Mine 2
  • All I Want For Christmas Is You by Mariah Carey was a number two in 1994 but like Last Christmas has been denied the Christmas number one spot in recent years by LadBaby
  • Fairytale of New York by The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl has never been number one but has gained support following the death of Pogues singer Shane MacGowan last month
  • Merry Christmas by Ed Sheeran & Sir Elton John was number one before and after Christmas when it was released in 2021, but was denied the actual Christmas number one that year by – you guessed it – LadBaby

The chart is compiled from streams and sales in the week leading up to midnight on Thursday night.

The Wham! and Pogues songs have been reissued on vinyl, while Ryder’s single is available on CD – with physical sales counting for more than streams in the chart formula.

Streams of newer songs also carry greater weight – meaning Ryder and Sheeran/Sir Elton have a better chance of competing with classic festive tunes.

Shane MacGowan and Kirsty MacColl
Image caption,There has been a campaign to get The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl to number one following Shane MacGowan’s death

And a song’s placing on streaming services’ Christmas playlists can be influential too.

So although Ryder’s song isn’t on services like Spotify and Apple, it is likely to pop up for Amazon users who ask Alexa for festive tunes.

“Playlists have a big part to play, and they are influential in terms of the chart when it comes to Christmas,” says Talbot.

“That said, particularly with a Christmas number one race, the key is not to rely on streaming – it’s to generate sales, whether they be downloads or physical releases.”

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