Can Stormzy or Mariah Carey catch LadBaby in Christmas number one race?

By Paul Glynn
Entertainment & arts reporter

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LadBaby is leading the race for this year's UK Christmas number one single with only days left to go, according to the Official Charts Company.

The YouTuber secured last year's seasonal chart-topper with We Built This City... On Sausage Rolls.

He has now returned with I Love Sausage Rolls, a similarly savoury rendition of the Joan Jett hit I Love Rock & Roll.

He's aiming to become the first act since the Spice Girls to score successive Christmas number ones.

Proceeds from his song are going to The Trussell Trust, which provides emergency food and support to people in poverty.

Only a fool would write LadBaby off again this year, but he faces stiff competition from some big names and festive favourites. The victor will be revealed on Friday.

The frontrunners

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Heavy is the head that wears the Christmas crown, and if LadBaby is to be de-throned then this year's Glastonbury headliner Stormzy looks to be one of the most likely contenders.

His track Own It features three wise men in the form of himself, Ed Sheeran and Burna Boy, and was closing the gap on the sausage roll singer on Monday, outperforming him on streaming by 3:1.

But overall, when streaming and sales are combined, Own It is currently at number two, according to the Official Charts Company (OCC). The grime star has a second chance with another new track, Audacity, which is also taken from his new second album.

Aussie singer-songwriter Tones & I goes into Christmas week sitting pretty atop the singles charts.

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Her track Dance Monkey has now been number one for 11 weeks, making it the longest-running UK number one single by a female artist ever, beating the previous record jointly held by Rihanna and Whitney Houston.

She'll be dancing around the Christmas tree Down Under if she can hold on for another week.

Ellie Goulding's cover of Joni Mitchell's River, Don't Start Now by Dua Lipa and Lewis Capaldi's Before You Go are all in the top 10 selection box too, according to the OCC's tally so far.

The returning classics

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If you've been brave enough to step foot in a high street shop since the end of November, then you're bound to have heard more than a few old festive pop classics already.

Two in particular, it seems, are in with a chance of bothering the big chart battle this year.

Firstly, Mariah Carey's All I Want For Christmas Is You is celebrating its 25th anniversary and is the UK's most-streamed song on Spotify at the time of writing. It reached number two on its original release in 1994 and again for the past two Christmases.

On Monday, the track went to number one in her native US for the first time. Is it too much to ask of Santa for it to finally go one better over here too?

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Another Christmas cracker, Last Christmas by Wham!, has never reached the top spot in Britain either.

The UK's best-selling number two single of all time is just behind Mariah on the Spotify chart, and 4,500 overall chart sales behind Stormzy.

Its performance has no doubt been helped by the release of the George Michael-inspired soundtrack to the movie of the same name, starring Emilia Clarke.

Elsewhere, Elton John's Step Into Christmas - which appears in the trailer for the new Gavin & Stacey Christmas special - has crept back up the iTunes chart.

The novelty records

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Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without a novelty track or two in contention - as any fans of the Teletubbies and/or Mr Hankey the Christmas Poo will tell you.

LadBaby aside, The Fairytale of Stornoway finds Hebridean band Peat & Diesel featuring Mairead putting a Scottish slant on The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl's festive favourite.

The original version has come in for criticism for some of its lyrics, but here the controversial verse has been replaced by a Gaelic translation.

Meanwhile, a track called Merry ChrisMoyles Everyone channels the spirit of Shakin' Stevens to pay homage to the former BBC Radio 1 DJ.

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Moyles himself is bound to be playing Matt Hulbert's song on his Radio X breakfast show a few times between now and the big chart day.

Finally, a Facebook campaign is hoping to drive a post-election politically-driven track by Jarvis Cocker to the top.

The 2006 song's title is listed as Running the World, although a quick glance at the full lyrics will tell you the former Pulp frontman is unlikely to be invited on to Top of the Pops to sing it.

The Christmas number one is LadBaby's to lose. The weekend chart flash put Mark Hoyle's charity single about 20,000 sales ahead of its nearest competitor, Stormzy's Own It.

If LadBaby maintains the lead, he'll be only the third act in chart history to have consecutive Christmas number ones (the others are two relatively unknown acts called The Beatles and The Spice Girls).

LadBaby's lead isn't unassailable, however. The Official Charts Company says he's outselling the competition by 10:1 - but sales aren't the whole picture. In fact, downloads account for just 9% of the total music market, according to the latest BPI figures.

The real action happens on streaming services, where LadBaby's single is nowhere to be seen. Mariah Carey is the reigning champion on Spotify's daily chart, with 571,873 streams in the last 24 hours. Stormzy tops Apple Music's chart, while Tones & I is number one on both YouTube and Deezer with Dance Monkey.

It's also worth considering that LadBaby's early lead was boosted by pre-sales. Media coverage (like this) will sustain the interest but, even so, his downloads are likely to tail off during the week. That opens the door for a song with particularly high streaming figures to edge him out when the final Christmas chart is compiled.

And what of the other contenders? A fan campaign to get Wham's Last Christmas to number one is gathering steam - but the song is penalised by chart rules, which dictate that older songs have to be played twice as often as new releases before those streams are converted into a "sale". It's currently 4,500 sales, or 1.3m streams, behind Stormzy

Other charity singles, including six-year-old Lyra Cole's cover of When A Child is Born, and East 17 star Tony Mortimer's new version of Stay Another Day, have so far failed to make an impact on the top 40.

In other words, it's looking like a two-horse race between a "dad blogger" and the king of grime. Seems like a fair fight.

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