Monday, 26 December 2011

My top 100 singles of 2011!

And now onto my favourite 100 songs of the year;

100. Rihanna - Where Have You Been
99. Wretch 32 feat Ed Sheeran - Hush Little Baby
98. Jennifer Lopez - Papi
97. Maja Keuc - No One
96. Kelly Clarkson - (What Doesn't Kill You) Stronger
95. Little Mix - Cannonball
94. Keri Hilson feat Nelly - Lose Control
93. Ed Sheeran - One Night
92. Yohanna - Nótt
91. Ed Sheeran - Sofa
90. Karizma - When Life is Grey
89. Reece Mastin - Good Night
88. Coldplay - Paradise
87. Noah And The Whale - Waiting For My Chance To Come
86. Katie Cole - Breakout
85. Same Difference feat Alcazar - Karma Karma
84. The Saturdays - All Fired Up
83. Tove Styrke - Call My Name
82. A Friend In London - New Tomorrow
81. Adaline - Whiter/Straighter
80. Edith Backlund - What I've Become
79. Kate Ryan feat Narco - Broken
78. Leona Lewis / Avicii - Collide
77. Lady Gaga - Judas
76. Jennifer Lopez feat Lil' Wayne - I'm Into You
75. Drake feat Rihanna - Take Care
74. Young London - Let Me Go
73. LMFAO feat Lauren Bennett & Goonrock - Party Rock Anthem
72. The Saturdays - White Lies
71. Sara Bareilles - Love Is Christmas
70. Misty Miller - Remember
69. Agnes - Don't Go Breaking My Heart
68. Christina Perri - Jar Of Hearts
67. Rachel Platten - 1000 Ships
66. Rizzle Kicks - Down With the Trumpets
65. Swingfly - Me And My Drum
64. Take That - Love Love
63. Lena - Taken By A Stranger
62. Katy Perry - Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)
61. Spiritchaser - These Tears
60. Brittany McDonald - Strawberry Shake
59. Amaury Vassili - Sognu
58. Taio Cruz feat Kylie Minogue - Higher
57. Anna Abreu - Hysteria
56. Emeli Sandé - Heaven
55. Gotye feat Kimbra - Somebody That I Used to Know
54. Hilltop Hoods feat Sia - I Love It
53. Ria - Over You
52. Lady Gaga - Scheiße
51. Yasmin - On My Own
50. The Pierces - Glorious
49. Florence & The Machine - Breaking Down
48. Beyoncé - Best Thing I Never Had
47. Agnes Obel - Riverside
46. Wynter Gordon - Dirty Talk
45. The Pierces - You'll Be Mine
44. Freak Asylum - You Better Leave
43. Jessie J feat B.o.B - Price Tag
42. Lykke Li - Sadness Is A Blessing
41. Sak Noel - Loca People
40. Colbie Caillat - Dream Life, Life
39. Ludovico Einaudi - I Giorni
38. Noah And The Whale - L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.
37. Diddy-Dirty Money feat Skylar Grey - Coming Home
36. One Direction - What Makes You Beautiful
35. Andrea Corr - Tinsletown In The Rain
34. Christina Perri - A Thousand Years
33. Alexandra Stan - Mr Saxobeat
32. Jenny Silver - Something In Your Eyes
31. Britney Spears - Till The World Ends
30. Florence & The Machine - Shake It Out
29. Military Wives with Gareth Malone - Wherever You Are
28. Lana Del Rey - Video Games
27. Frida Gold - Wovon Sollen Wir Träumen
26. Sunday Girl - Love U More
25. Charlene Soraia - Wherever You Will Go
24. Kelly Clarkson - Mr. Know It All
23. Will Young - Jealousy
22. Britney Spears - Hold It Against Me
21. Chart Music - All My Life
20. Nero - Me & You
19. Lady Gaga - The Edge Of Glory
18. Adele - Rolling In The Deep
17. Katie Cole - Sunrise
16. David Guetta & Sia - Titanium
15. Lise Karlsnes - Red Hot
14. Sanna Nielsen - I'm In Love
13. Adele - Someone Like You
12. Sara Varga - Spring För Livet
11. Ed Sheeran - Lego House
10. Eric Saade - Popular
9. Sheelah - The Last Time
8. Ed Sheeran - You Need Me, I Don't Need You
7. Nadine Beiler - The Secret Is Love
6. Blue - I Can
5. Eric Amarillo - Om Sanningen Ska Fram
4. Rihanna feat Calvin Harris - We Found Love
3. Jennifer Lopez feat Pitbull - On The Floor
2. Ed Sheeran - The A Team
1. Maroon 5 feat Christina Aguilera - Moves Like Jagger

So, a victory for Moves Like Jagger, a song by a soft rock/pop band that peaked in 2004 and an old favourite female artist of mine whose star faded some years ago collaborating on a song that has absolutely no relevance to the music industry of 2011 yet has quickly managed to sell a million copies in the UK. The song came about when Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine and his band teamed up with Christina after the pair appeared together as judges on US reality show The Voice. They performed a new recording on the show one week called Moves Like Jagger and it went into the US top ten. Once airplay kicked in and a video had been made it became a little bit bigger than that and spread worldwide quickly. I'd heard it on the week it initially went top ten in the US and liked it but wasn't exactly wowed by it. However, once it started to get promotion in the UK and I started hearing it more it unexpectedly quickly won me over. Perhaps the fact that it doesn't sound like anything else around at the moment but manages to stand out so much is its main charm?

An infectious whistling introduction leading into Adam Levine's distinctive vocals, this is far more of a Maroon 5 song than a Christina one, she doesn't appear until towards the end where she gives a world class cameo and some amazing ad-libs. Essentially everything about this song sounds like 2004 - it might as well have been lifted off Songs About Jane, it's the last time that both acts were simultaneously relevant and production wise it's at least seven years out of date. So why on earth is it so good? Kids are singing it everywhere and it's one of the defining songs of the year. Kids. In 2011. Singing Maroon 5 and Christina Aguilera songs. How did this happen? And why is it my favourite song of the year when I couldn't care less about Maroon 5 and have always been completely indifferent to them? What the hell is everybody's obsession with Mick Jagger recently? Too many questions which I have no answer to. And let's not discuss the seven weeks at #2 it had in the UK behind a different flash in the pan #1 every week, it's still a sore point. But Wham! had better watch their backs - Moves Like Jagger is coming for your crown of the most essential non UK #1 of all time! So Maroon 5, Christina Aguilera and Jennifer Lopez end up in my top three of 2011. Perhaps this time next year, Dannii Minogue's 700k selling comeback single will be battling Ashanti feat Ricky Martin's new million selling slow jam. Would you bet against it? As a final point, well done to Suffolk singer Ed Sheeran who gets two singles in the top ten, another just outside and my third favourite album of the year, I think it's fair to say that he's been my favourite artist of 2011!

My top 40 albums of 2011!

So it's the end of the year and time for the roundup of my favourite music from the past 12 months. A decent, if not incredible year for music, and after much thought here are my 40 favourite albums of 2011, the top ten including blurb!

40. Slow Moving Millie - Renditions
39. Sara Varga - Spring För Livet
38. Nero - Welcome Reality
37. Lenka - Two
36. Agnes Obel - Philharmonics
35. Ke$ha - Cannibal
34. Birdy - Birdy
33. Lena - Good News
32. Nicole Scherzinger - Killer Love
31. Beyonce - 4
30. Misty Miller - Misty Miller
29. Natasha Bedingfield - Strip Me
28. Same Difference - The Rest Is History
27. Wonderland - Wonderland
26. Cascada - Original Me
25. The Sound Of Arrows - Voyage
24. Colbie Caillat - All Of You
23. David Guetta - Nothing But The Beat
22. Jessie J - Who You Are
21. Veronica Maggio - Satan I Gatan
20. Kelly Clarkson - Stronger
19. Nicola Roberts - Cinderella's Eyes
18. Andrea Corr - Lifelines
17. Caro Emerald - Deleted Scenes From The Cutting Room Floor
16. September - Love CPR
15. The Saturdays - On Your Radar
14. Will Young - Echoes
13. Take That - Progressed
12. Rihanna - Talk That Talk
11. Rihanna - Loud


10. Ed Sheeran - Loose Change

1. Let It Out 9/10
2. Homeless 9/10
3. Little Bird 9/10
4. Sofa 9.5/10
5. One Night 9.5/10
6. Firefly 8/10
7. The City (Live at Sticky Studios) 9/10
8. Firefly (Bravado Dubstep Remix) 7/10

Initial pressings of this EP included The A Team instead of Let It Out but the version that I bought has the latter so that's the one that I'll focus on. Ed's most accomplished EP yet, I was unsure as to whether include it here but I always included it in my weekly chart so I'm going to do so here. Loose Change may only have six main tracks, and then a live song and a remix, but as a package it was definitely a firm favourite of mine. With great production, the likes of Sofa, One Night and Homeless arguably all should have made the cut for +, they wouldn't have even needed any production tweaking! Little Bird did make the tracklisting of +, albeit only the deluxe version. Ed's other EP's are great and I'd also recommend No 5 Collaborations Project, but if you're looking for something that sounds most like + then this is for you.

9. Jennifer Lopez - Love?

1. On The Floor (feat Pitbull) 10/10
2. Good Hit 7/10
3. I'm Into You (feat Lil' Wayne) 9.5/10
4. (What Is) Love? 9/10
5. Run The World 8/10
6. Papi 9.5/10
7. Until It Beats No More 9/10
8. One Love 8/10
9. Invading My Mind 8.5/10
10. Villain 8/10
11. Starting Over 9/10
12. Hypnotico 8.5/10
13. Everybody's Girl 8.5/10
14. Charge Me Up 9/10
15. Take Care 8/10

Jennifer Lopez's long delayed Love? finally surfaced this year, although only half of the tracks originally expected to make the cut actually did, the other half was filled with RedOne produced 'club bangers'. Lucky then that the majority of those defined amazing, particularly lead single On The Floor but more on that later! A great album, well produced and a mix of styles but remaining cohesive, Love? was everything I wanted - three great singles, two representing 'party J.Lo' and the other representing 'urban pop J.Lo' which is the style which spawned her most UK hits over the years. Good Hit is probably the only song that I skip, not that it's bad per se but not as strong as the rest of the album, it's track 2 positioning slightly worried me that it was being lined up as a single at some point! American Idol and On The Floor put Jenny from the block back on the map and lets hope that the follow up from the woman that never ages is just as great as this!

8. Le Kid - Oh Alright!

1. We Are The Drums 9/10
2. Mercy Mercy 9.5/10
3. America 8.5/10
4. Oh My God 9.5/10
5. Bigger Than Jesus 9.5/10
6. Kiss Me 9.5/10
7. We Should Go Home Together 10/10
8. Seventeen 9/10
9. Telephone 8/10
10. Escape 10/10
11. Mr Brightside 9.5/10

A joy from start to finish, Swedish pop group Le Kid stole the Alphabeat formula and added less indie credibility and more colour. The result was one of my favourite debut albums of recent times, and it only finishes as low as 8th because I already knew eight of the eleven tracks on it by the time that the album had finally surfaced! All three of the new tracks were worthy of their place, Kiss Me in particular was a country tinged pop romp that brought back memories of Lily Allen's Not Fair and some of the music from the Spiral Mountain level in the Nintendo 64 game Banjo-Kazooie! Elsewhere, my personal Le Kid highlights We Should Go Home Together and Escape were even more amazing than ever in glorious HQ, Telephone was the worst song on here but still worthy of an 8, whilst America served as a decent lead single for the album. Melodifestivalen entry Oh My God and bonus Killers cover Mr Brightside were also perfectly executed whilst Mercy Mercy remained as great as ever. All in all, pop perfection for 2011 - Swedish pop with a Danish aesthetic and personality, but who cares when it's this good?

7. Steps - The Ultimate Collection

1. 5,6,7,8 8/10
2. Last Thing On My Mind 10/10
3. One For Sorrow 10/10
4. Heartbeat 9.5/10
5. Tragedy 9/10
6. Better Best Forgotten 9.5/10
7. Love's Got A Hold On My Heart 10/10
8. After The Love Has Gone 9/10
9. Say You'll Be Mine 9.5/10
10. Better The Devil You Know 7.5/10
11. Deeper Shade Of Blue 9/10
12. When I Said Goodbye 9/10
13. Summer Of Love 9.5/10
14. Stomp 9/10
15. It's The Way You Make Me Feel 10/10
16. Here and Now 7.5/10
17. You'll Be Sorry 7.5/10
18. Chain Reaction 9.5/10
19. I Know Him So Well 8/10
20. Dancing Queen 9/10

Of all the acts I'd have expected to reform in 2011, Steps were somewhere near the bottom of the list. The Boxing Day split was ugly (happy 10th anniversary to that by the way) but they reunited for a Sky Living documentary and Faye, Claire, Lisa, H and Lee put the past behind them and somehow scored the most unexpected UK #1 album since Scooter's Jumping All Over The World in 2008 when The Ultimate Collection, an almost complete retread of 2001's million selling Gold, smashed in at the top of the UK charts, including on iTunes, a platform which didn't even exist when they'd last been around! A nationwide nostalgia trip perhaps but the quintet managed to sell out an arena tour as well so who are we to judge?

A second rate ABBA for the 90s perhaps but they flew the flag for manufactured pop and were clearly a lot more missed than anybody could have anticipated, perhaps because no group has really come to fill their niche in the meantime. Last Thing On My Mind, One For Sorrow and Love's Got A Hold On My Heart remained my highlights whilst I can't understand why It's The Way You Make Me Feel wasn't a huge #1 in my chart back in 2001. Perhaps I just wasn't ready for such cheese in my dance loving days (this was before my Eurovision obsession kicked in a few months later with the 2001 contest), but now it sounds like a lost Scandipop classic to my ears. Or perhaps it was Lisa's shockingly awful delivery of it on This Morning that sent me hurtling back to the studio version. Who can tell? Add to the mix all of their other pop 'classics' and you have one of my most played albums of the latter end of the year...roll on the tour and a new single/album in 2012!

6. Florence + The Machine - Ceremonials

1. Only If For A Night 9/10
2. Shake It Out 10/10
3. What The Water Gave Me 9.5/10
4. Never Let Me Go 8.5/10
5. Breaking Down 10/10
6. Lover To Lover 9/10
7. No Light, No Light 9.5/10
8. Seven Devils 8/10
9. Heartlines 9.5/10
10. Spectrum 9.5/10
11. All This And Heaven Too 8/10
12. Leave My Body 8/10

Lungs was absolutely incredible, my favourite album of 2009 and Florence made an amazing opening splash with a debut body of atmospheric Kate Bush inspired work. I'm always cautiously optimistic about follow up albums though, very few singer/songwriter type artists can survive the 'sophomore slump' having spent potentially their whole life crafting and perfecting their debut before having to cobble together a second effort in as little as a year. Florence didn't fall victim to this, not quality wise in my eyes at least. The grand production of Lungs was ramped up a notch on Ceremonials but not to the detriment of some huge melodies. The likes of Spectrum, Heartlines and Shake It Out basically define 'epic' whilst the gorgeous plinky-plonk piano on Breaking Down made that my instant highlight. More mellow moments, such as What The Water Gave Me provided a good balance and whilst some complained that it was drowned in production, I have to say that the album benefitted from it. Songs this big demanded grand, pretentious production and I loved every minute of it!

I've decided not to include the bonus tracks in my review solely because they are just that in feel and are quite a step down in quality from the main album. I still prefer Lungs overall, but this definitely exceeded my expectations and had it been released in the first half of the year would have no doubt been part of my top five - I do feel that five other albums defined my year more though and they'll be revealed later!

5. Britney Spears - Femme Fatale

1. Till The World Ends 10/10
2. Hold It Against Me 10/10
3. Inside Out 8.5/10
4. I Wanna Go 9/10
5. How I Roll 8/10
6. (Drop Dead) Beautiful (feat Sabi) 8/10
7. Seal It With A Kiss 8.5/10
8. Big Fat Bass 9/10
9. Trouble For Me 8.5/10
10. Trip To Your Heart 9/10
11. Gasoline 8/10
12. Criminal 9.5/10
13. Up 'N' Down 9/10
14. He About To Lose Me 8.5/10
15. Selfish 8.5/10
16. Don't Keep Me Waiting 8.5/10
17. Scary 8.5/10

I've never really been a huge Britney fan, in fact the first album of hers I bought was Blackout. Prior to that I was really only interested in the odd single of hers here and there. However Hold It Against Me piqued my interest quite massively for the Femme Fatale era and I definitely wasn't disappointed. Where Circus had its fair share of stinkers and fillers, Femme Fatale kept the melodic club bangers coming from start to finish. The singles were all excellently chosen, definitely four of the highlights on the album and it's gutting that none of them caught on in the UK, she's gone from being the biggest superstar around to something of a pop flop in this country, the sign of things to come for Katy Perry, Gaga and Rihanna a decade from now?

Aside from the four singles that were chosen, Britney's loyal fans were taking part in World War 3 deciding what else would make a decent single. For my money, although everything on this album is at least an 8/10 for me and I never skip anything, I'd have gone with either Big Fat Bass, Trip To Your Heart or Up 'N' Down. Talking of the latter, just HOW good were the bonus tracks on this album! Ok, maybe it wasn't quite a Circus situation where the best songs all missed the cut for the main album but all five of the bonus tracks could have easily been on the main tracklist - extremely strong pop album from somebody who may now be a label puppet, but nevertheless knows her way around a great pop song almost a decade and a half into her chart career.

4. Noah & The Whale - Last Night On Earth

1. Life Is Life 9.5/10
2. Tonight's The Kind of Night 9.5/10
3. L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N. 10/10
4. Wild Thing 9/10
5. Give It All Back 9/10
6. Just Me Before We Met 8.5/10
7. Paradise Stars 8/10
8. Waiting For My Chance To Come 10/10
9. The Line 8/10
10. Old Joy 8/10

I enjoyed UK indie/nu-folk act Noah & The Whale's debut and the follow up was absolutely stunning, if understandably depressing. Onto the highly anticipated third album and it got off to a good start with the joyous lead single L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N., one of the biggest selling indie songs of the year. The album didn't disappoint me either, it barely left my side all year and the singles were all chosen perfectly, it's just a slight shame that Waiting For My Chance To Come wasn't the second single, it would have been so perfect for the beginning of summer.

Aside from that song the second half is far weaker than the first half, but as a body of work, it's one that I still frequently listen to from start to finish and it never fails to cheer me up. Charlie Fink (surely the love child of Mika and Salem Al Fakir?) is happy again and it shows, more of the same for album number four please!

3. Ed Sheeran - +

1. The A Team 10/10
2. Drunk 9/10
3. UNI 9/10
4. Grade 8 9/10
5. Wake Me Up 6/10
6. Small Bump 9.5/10
7. This 8.5/10
8. The City 9.5/10
9. Lego House 10/10
10. You Need Me, I Don't Need You 10/10
11. Kiss Me 8/10
12. Give Me Love 9/10
13. Autumn Leaves 8/10
14. Little Bird 9/10
15. Gold Rush 7.5/10
16. Sunburn 8/10

I first came across Ed early in 2010 thanks to his close friendship with Leddra Chapman (who finished 2010 with my end of year #2 album, Telling Tales). I continued to download his EP's religiously and it seemed certain to me that despite his image, he was incredibly talented and about to blow up and I was bemused when he wasn't included on ANY of the 'hype for 2011' lists, surely he was going to be one of the biggest breakout stars?

Fast forward a year and I think it's safe to say that Jessie J aside, Ed HAS been the biggest breakthrough artist of 2011. His long awaited (by me) major label debut album + hasn't disappointed at all. I know some people were because it lacks the grit of some of his previous material and comes across as a diluted singer/songwriter-esque album with influences of James Blunt and David Gray. Whatever, whilst he's definitely capable of more diverse material, and I'm sure we'll see it on his second album, I can see why this album was put together as his debut - and looking at the success of The A Team and Lego House in comparison to You Need Me, I Don't Need You, it looks as if the public prefer mellow ballad Ed to 'rapping' Ed. With this in mind, although I'd LOVE The City to be the next single, being one of the more different songs on the album musically, I wonder if they'll avoid that altogether and just go for something like Small Bump or U.N.I. As long as it's not the overly sickly, even for me, Wake Me Up then I don't mind.

So a great debut imo, packed with excellent songs and three fantastic singles, it's a slight shame that Wake Me Up, Gold Rush and Sunburn hadn't been replaced with Sofa, One Night and Homeless from the Loose Change EP, and Kiss Me and Autumn Leaves exchanged with a couple of edgier tracks along the lines of the No 5 Collaborations EP, because then we might have been looking at one of my favourite albums for many many years...

2. Lady Gaga - Born This Way

1. Marry The Night 9.5/10
2. Born This Way 7/10
3. Government Hooker 8.5/10
4. Judas 9.5/10
5. Americano 9/10
6. Hair 9.5/10
7. Scheiße 10/10
8. Bloody Mary 9/10
9. Black Jesus + Amen Fashion 9/10
10. Bad Kids 7/10
11. Fashion Of His Love 8.5/10
12. Highway Unicorn (Road To Love) 9/10
13. Heavy Metal Lover 8.5/10
14. Electric Chapel 8/10
15. The Queen 8/10
16. Yoü And I 9.5/10
17. The Edge Of Glory 10/10

Gaga, what is there to say? Two years ago she had the world eating out of the palms of her hands and now she can't even make Marry The Night a sizeable hit anywhere, despite having her usual huge, pretentious, OTT and unnecessary high budget video. For all the criticism though, Born This Way is an incredible pop album. It pushes boundaries at every move and you have to wonder why nobody seems to care anymore - it's so incredibly accomplished, perhaps not quite the greatest album of the century as she suggested but it throws just about everything into a blender, incredible lyrics, world class production (even RedOne ups his now stale game dramatically on Scheiße) and so much personality. Yet it's still not close to a million in the UK and had to be sold at less than a dollar in the US to ensure a record breaking debut week. Following on from one of the most revolutionary mainstream pop albums of recent times in The Fame Monster, it should have been breaking records without any aid, particularly when the material is this strong. But it sort of feels like she's playing third fiddle to Rihanna and Katy Perry in the realms of female superstardom at the moment. Has worldwide Gaga fatigue set in or is it just a Rated R style sales (but not quality) blip? Only time will tell...

As for the music, I don't even know where to start. Aside from the anthemic - but not particularly to my taste - lead single, I pretty much love everything on here to varying degrees. The Edge Of Glory is an 80s power pop anthem resurrected for 2011 and defines amazing. Judas is a watered down Steps version of Bad Romance, but still a great pop song, Yoü And I is Gaga doing country, and it working, Marry The Night is a convincing opener, Scheiße is one of her greatest ever songs, certainly the best that's never been released as a single. And I love almost everything else too - is it possible to call a multi million selling album by a worldwide icon underrated? Because that's what I'm doing.

1. Adele - 21

1. Rolling In The Deep 10/10
2. Rumour Has It 9.5/10
3. Turning Tables 9.5/10
4. Don't You Remember 9/10
5. Set Fire To The Rain 9.5/10
6. He Won't Go 9/10
7. Take It All 9/10
8. I'll Be Waiting 8.5/10
9. One And Only 8.5/10
10. Lovesong 9/10
11. Someone Like You 10/10

And my favourite album of the year goes to bascially the biggest album I can ever remember. I'm not usually one to side massively with public opinion, and rarely do the best sellers of the year feature very high up my EOY lists (at least not until Take That arrived back on the scene!). 21 however is a different beast, one that's incredibly deserving of the worldwide critical recognition and high sales. Back in 2008 I bought 19 on the day of release, but although I liked it, I wasn't blown away by it, nor Duffy's Rockferry (seeing as the two always used to come in tandem and be compared to each other). I did however prefer Duffy's singles to Adele's in general. However, although Adele may not have been the Sound of 2008, as had been predicted, she was most definitely the Sound of 2011. Where Duffy returned with a crap album and the limp Well, Well, Well, Adele waited two months and unleashed one of the greatest mainstream albums of modern times in 21.

To say that this is a second album, I think it's fair to say that Adele avoided the 'sophomore slump'! So much more mature and well produced than 19 and the songwriting is sublime from start to finish, as are her gorgeous vocals from start to finish. Unlike many of the big female stars, Adele has a powerful voice when necessary but can also show restraint when necessary. The power of Set Fire To The Rain contrasts nicely with the more mellow Cure cover Lovesong for example. Rolling In The Deep was so different to everything else out there and an incredibly gutsy lead single and Someone Like You is one of the best new ballads of recent times, and a deserved biggest selling single of the year in the UK. It feels like an 11 track 'hits' album, and any studio album where every track could have been a huge hit single if released as the lead deserves all of the praise thrown at it. Rumour Has It and Turning Tables would have been worldwide #1's if released in place of Someone Like You for example. A stunning body of work then, back in 2008 I could have never predicted that Adele would live up to the hype in such a way, but consider me convinced. She's broken just about every chart record going worldwide and it's easy to see why.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Who will get the 2011 Christmas number one?

It's almost time for the yearly tradition that is the battle for the UK xmas number one single. For five of the last six years the winner of X Factor has taken the title with only Joe McElderry's The Climb failing to do so in 2009 due to a successful anti X Factor campaign that saw Rage Against The Machine's Killing In The Name top the charts, selling half a million copies in a week in the process. This year it's all looking very different - nowhere near as much a foregone conclusion as usual. In my mind there are three genuine contenders but before I get to those, I'll list some of the other outsiders.

Amongst the bookies tips for the top are the Cast of The Only Way is Essex with their cover of Wham!'s Last Christmas and X Factor 2009 finalist and I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! winner Stacey Solomon's long awaited debut single, a cover of Chris Rea's Driving Home For Christmas. I very much doubt that either of these will go anywhere near the top, and will probably be lucky to be more than a one or two week wonder in the top 40. Highly tipped singles from Arianna Morgan, The Smiths, The Wombles and Chas 'N' Dave will also go nowhere. And you have to wonder why these acts have such short odds when acts and songs that are currently in the iTunes top five as I write - Coldplay's Paradise, Leona Lewis' cover of Nine Inch Nails' Hurt and Olly Murs' Dance With Me Tonight all have odds as long as 100/1. They're long shots up against the three main contenders but all three surely have more of a chance than The Wombles and Stacey Solomon...

But three contenders have come to the front of the pack in the race to claim the 2011 Xmas #1;

Nirvana - Smells Like Teen Spirit

Nirvana's iconic grunge anthem Smells Like Teen Spirit, which thus far shockingly only has a UK peak position of #7, has been chosen as the front running anti X Factor campaign this year. The Rage Against The Machine group worked in 2009 because it was the first time that the idea had been tried, there was a media frenzy which led to huge sales and almost a million members of the Facebook group, of which it was estimated less than 50% ended up ultimately downloading the song. Nevertheless it managed to top Joe McElderry by around 50,000 sales - many of these thought to be the same people buying multiple versions of the song. The idea was tried again last year with Surfin' Bird by The Trashmen. That went to #3 with around 60,000 sales with X Factor's 2010 winner Matt Cardle absolutely thrashing them with When We Collide.

The Nirvana group has so far got 130,000 or so 'fans', assuming a conversion rate of 50% at absolute best then this should translate to a sale of around 60,000-70,000 copies, which won't be anywhere near enough to get it the Christmas #1. An idea that's been tried, tested and achieved before, to attempt it for a third year on the trot rather dilutes the impact of the successful 2009 campaign. It will do well but I don't see it being a realistic contender for the top and I expect Smells Like Teen Spirit to be #3 at best in the Christmas chart. Kudos for whoever chose the charity that proceeds raised will go to though - Rhythmix, the children's charity that battled to get the X Factor girl group to successfully change their name to Little Mix...

Little Mix - Cannonball

...And so then to Little Mix, who were crowned winner's of X Factor at the weekend, the first ever group to win the competition. Put together by the judges in boot camp and mentored by N-Dubz singer Tulisa, the group - consisting of Perrie, Jesy, Leigh-Anne and Jade - has built up a fanbase that has grown througout the competition until they eventually became the most popular act, winning both the semi final and obviously the final. It was in fact Irish singer Janet Devlin that had led the voting for the majority of the series, until a dire performance of Hanson's Mmmbop put her into the bottom two for the first time with the judges wasting no time to send her home. You suspect that Cannonball, the winner's single and thus Little Mix's debut release, was in fact chosen for the winner when Janet was comprehensively leading and expected to win the competition. The Damien Rice song would have suited her vocals and persona a lot more than a girl group who were becoming known for their more contemporary edge.

Nevertheless, they won and were lumbered with this as their debut single (it's a pleasant version of a pleasant song but it's no Sound of the Underground is it!). It went on sale late on Sunday night and has so far managed to shift over 60,000 copies. This is way below the opening sale that Matt Cardle's When We Collide managed last year and even with CD sales in the mix (no pun intended!), it looks as if Cannonball will open with a sale of under 300,000 copies, a direct reflection of the fact that the girls were never absolute favourites from the start in the way that Matt was twinned with the fact that the show has had far lower ratings this year. For the first time, the winner's single has been released a week earlier than usual which means that Cannonball could be on course for a Christmas/second week sale of around 150,000 copies at best - which is easily beatable, perhaps not by Nirvana but certainly by another unknown quantity...

Military Wives with Gareth Malone - Wherever You Are

And to my tip for Christmas #1 - a choir brought together for a BBC2 TV show by choirmaster and presenter Gareth Malone. The choir consists of around 100 women whose husbands are out serving their country in Afghanistan and next week they will be releasing a song called Wherever You Are, an original composition by Welsh composer Paul Mealor with lyrics taken from some of the letters sent between the wives and their husbands. The collective have already performed the song live on Strictly Come Dancing and the CD single has become online retailer Amazon's biggest ever pre-ordered music item. Whether it will be downloaded in such quantities remains to be seen but huge demand very much seems to be present for this song and I expect that it will do big business both digitially and physically.

It should easily get past the 150,000 or so second week tally expected of Little Mix and will almost certainly be the first Christmas #1 since 2004's Band Aid 20 that isn't X Factor related in any way, be it the winner's of the show or a campaign against it. It's a wintery sounding, haunting and touching song which is delivered beautifully by the lead vocalist, shy Scottish 28 year old Samantha Stevenson. Perhaps not an obvious contender for Christmas chart topper considering some of the songs that have topped the festive listings in the past but this does look like the one to beat at the moment. Anybody keen to see X Factor miss out this year might as well move their attention from Nirvana over to this, as it's definitely the one to beat.