The last time I wrote for this column, Clean Bandit had just usurped Little Mix at the top of the charts. That was six weeks ago. Since then Rockabye has been certified gold in Italy and the UK, and platinum in Australia and Poland. It’s been number one in Russia, Finland, Israel, Mexico, Austria, Switzerland, and as water is wet, Germany. That’s fair. Probably the only place I can imagine enjoying Rockabye is mangled at four in the morning, remixed with techno in Berlin.
So Clean Bandit are still number one, and it might be moralising and self-satisfied but it is a dance track, which is an accomplishment this close to Christmas. I was expecting it to have been stolen away by whichever female vocal cover was featured in John Lewis’ Christmas advert. The last few years have been less X Factor and more Gabrielle Aplin, Lily Allen, and various assorted charity choirs. But history repeats itself. Time is circular. The snake devours its own tail. There’s an awful lot of former X Factor acts in the charts this year, and one of them might even make it to Christmas number one.
Dropping down the top 10 are Little Mix and – collective sigh of relief – James Arthur, but in their places they have left Matt Terry, a new entry this week at three, and Louis Tomlinson skirting ahead and placing at two. When Christmas Comes Around is bland and I have no opinion on it, I had to Google who exactly Matt Terry is, and I’m sure in six months the only person who will remember his name is Simon Cowell as he feasts on the poor idiot’s soul after his two seconds of fame.
I can’t say that Louis Tomlinson’s effort is any better. Apparently solo releases are a faux paus nowadays, so Just Hold On is Tomlinson and Steve Aoki, acting as sort of supermarket basics version of Bieber and Skrillex. It’s generic enough to be number one, but being released this close to Christmas, which is always a chaotic time for music sales and streams, will scupper its chances. We’ll still hear its soft tropical house echoes in nightclubs before peak hours for months to go, though, don’t worry about that.
We also have to address I Don’t Wanna Live Forever. The Fifty Shades franchise is a terrible train wreck, but the soundtrack to the first film was good. Annoyingly good. Beyoncé, Ellie Goulding, The Weeknd, it was definitely the best thing about the film. Enter Zayn and Taylor Swift. I wanted to hate this song, honestly I did. I was really disappointed with Mind Of Mine, Zayn’s solo debut, and Taylor Swift taking her music off all streaming sites made me realise that actually I don’t like her as much as I thought I did when I was 15. But despite her lacking vocal performance (seriously, Zayn sings the first verse and chorus, and then it sounds like the song becomes a karaoke cover, the difference is so noticeable) I definitely like this. It’s entered the charts this week at 16, and you can expect it to be around for a while. The film itself isn’t released until February, so I reckon we’ll be hearing Zayn and Taylor’s duet until at least July. Either way, enjoy it now before you hate it because you’ve been hearing it every 20 minutes. I’m always rooting for Zayn so am grateful that for once I’m not being disappointed. More of this, less underwhelming mainstream R&B.
Lastly this week, I’d like to give an honourable mention to J. Cole, who is at least partly responsible for getting the stagnant charts moving again. He’s back, dragging other rappers left, right, and centre, and has enough new entries to rival Drake’s chart coverage this year. Seven tracks from 4 Your Eyez Only (which, for reference, is only 10 songs), the highest being Deja Vu at number 30. Not all of them will climb to the top of the charts, of course, but it makes me happy to know that in these tough times we can at least rely on J. Cole. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year.