Once again, the year flew by and the end of it is here again, which means there’s a massive competition brewing for the #1 single in the United Kingdom this week, traditionally dubbed The Christmas Chart as it falls just before the national holiday on Tuesday. Of course, that country’s Singles Chart is fully determined by sales, whereas our Billboard Hot 100 takes in multiple aspects (airplay, sales, streaming), so a digital release won’t always rise to the top; thus, artists lead big campaigns in order to secure the title. This year, however, isn’t looking as crazy overall as in many past years. Last week, X Factor winner James Arthur sold nearly 500,000 copies of his debut single, a cover of Shontelle‘s “Impossible”, which easily gave him the #1 spot. It is now the fastest selling single of the year. Proceeds from Arthur’s single are going to Together For Short Lives, a U.K.-based children’s charity for young ones with life-threatening conditions. However, another charity single has emerged with a slight lead over Arthur and may just deny him of a second week at the top of the charts.
“He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” is a remake of the old The Hollies tune which became a top ten hit here in the States back in 1970. It was also a #3 hit on the other side of the pond. This version is done by The Justice Collective, benefitting charities associated with the Hillsborough Disaster, a 1989 tragedy in which 96 people were killed in a giant stampede in order to gain entrance to Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, England. Back in September, an independent panel reviewing the incident stated that nearly half of the victims that lost their lives on that day could have been saved had the police presence not neglected to calm the crowd, who toppled over one another when a barrier broke loose. This charity effort was intended to help cover the legal costs of those families who wanted justice from losing a family member or members during the event. Quite a few musicians were recruited for the effort, including a few we know here in the U.S., like Melanie C of the Spice Girls, Paloma Faith, Paul McCartney (who also plays electric guitar), Rebecca Ferguson, Robbie Williams and several members of The Hollies themselves. It was recorded in October and a music video featuring the recording sessions was premiered two weeks ago. Instrumentally, it stays pretty faithful to the original sound of it; it’s even in the same key. However, the addition of a full orchestra definitely opens things up and combined with the soulful vocals provided by the participants, makes it a very emotional song. It truly is a great rendition of it all going towards a good cause.
Here’s the situation: both songs have sold over 100,000 copies a piece since the tracking week began on Sunday. Both are available as digital and physical CD singles, which complicates estimations a bit seeing as iTunes freely displays a chart on their front page while brick-and-mortar retailers don’t. As of now, The Justice Crew are ahead by about 3,000 copies combined, and anything could happen in what could be one of the closest Christmas Chart races in history. (As of Thursday, there’s now a 13,000 copy separation.) Both support worthwhile organizations, but there’s a certain glory in achieving that coveted #1 spot on such a notable week. Though the X Factor contestants traditionally released their winning single on the Week for several years, it was changed last year when winners Little Mix debuted at #1 on the chart before the Christmas Week, giving the Military Wives and Gareth Malone a huge sales week and the #1 Christmas Chart record of last year, “Wherever You Are”, which spent just one week there. I would say that gives a group charity single like “Brother” the advantage in this race, but you never know what Arthur has up his sleeve. With book and CD signings, he may just be able to come back and take the top spot by a few thousand or even hundred copies. Plus, he was just on one of most watched television shows over here. Everything is up in the air.
So, it’s up to you over in the United Kingdom to buy up what you think is worthy enough to grab the #1 spot of the week. We’ll be able to view the final result on Sunday. Arthur has already had his turn at the peak of the pop survey. If there’s any justice out there, take a minute to download The Justice Collective to help them provide a sense of justice to the 96 lives lost on that spring day back in 1989.