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The Official Charts Company have been most unhelpful this week; in addition to the week's releases, they've aggregated a number of tracks they consider contenders for the Christmas Number One. For the purposes of this issue, we are only interested in stuff released this week.

Party (Chris Brown ft. Gucci Mane & Usher)

In the week Anne-Marie, described by NME last month as a singer "who could kick the shit out of you" spends her sixth week at number one, here is a release by two people who given half the chance probably would: Chris Brown and Gucci Mane (both of whom have spent time in jail with the latter only being released recently) have roped in Usher for Party, not to be confused with Party Hard/Cadillac ft. Sevyn (presumably Streeter) from the 2012 Fortune album; this is a song which reacts boilerplate party lyrics with Brown's usual wub-like synths; as a statement it's great, as a giant I'M OUT OF JAIL it shows tenacity, but as a piece of music, it's a cut-price New Flame. A surge of content following Mane's release is to be expected – there are worse things he could have been thinking about whilst inside – but there was no need for him to impugn anyone else with this.

Dance Tonight (It's Christmas) (Christmas Collective)

Not to be confused with Christmas Hits Collective, those of shambolic cover versions of Christmas tracks, Christmas Collective's Dance Tonight (It's Christmas) is the record I alluded to many weeks ago from the Proclaimers; Christmas Collective is a project by Proclaimers Church in Norwich, and we suspect that the original band name of Proclaimers Christmas Collective was vetoed by the Proclaimers themselves, who walked 500 miles and 500 more to deliver the news in person. (And if you'll believe that, you'll believe anything…) This suffers from the same problem as, but not the diabolical banality of, Christmas Number 1; it does feel a bit cheap, though admittedly having male and female vocals is a nice touch and the country stylings including whistling are also pleasant.

O Holy Night (Frances)

Huh, all these years I've thought Silent Night and O Holy Night were the same record. I've learnt something. Not to be confused with a release of the same name by Francesca Gabrielli, with its piano-led instrumentation Frances' O Holy Night is the perfect showcase for Frances' porcelain vocals, and it's a gorgeous listen. I look forward to hearing more.

You Can't Always Get What You Want (Friends of Jo Cox)

Friends of Jo Cox have covered The Rolling Stones' You Can't Always Get What You Want this week. The original is often considered to be amongst the Stones' most accomplished works, considered prior to 2010 to be among the 100 greatest songs of all time by Rolling Stone magazine, though this reviewer finds much of its gospel stylings off-putting and prefers, for all its faults including a pathetic excuse of a guitar solo and a rapid fade-out, the ninetiesed-up, otherwise forgotten gem of a version by Sheffield native Roman which at the time of writing is the only version to chart, at #93, and with a bit of polishing could easily have gone top fourty. (You can't say we don't do our research…) The Friends of Jo Cox version is certainly more hamfisted than the other two versions, though the guitar solo (solos in the longer version) do improve the record, and by charitable standards this is superb, though it does go on a bit at the end. (Well, more than a bit really. If it tops the charts it'll be the longest number one since Justin Timberlake's Mirrors in 2013.) We wish it luck.

Pillow Fight (Galantis)

Pillow Talk earlier in the year, now Pillow Fight. What next? Pillow Domestic Abuse Lawsuit? Anyway, Galantis, the people behind Pillow Fight, have put together basically a less boring I Ain't Missing You (Aston Merrygold, issue 12); though the verses are pleasant but relatively uninteresting, the breakdowns – of which there are but two – spit fire upon an unsuspecting do-nothing of a beat. It's no No Money, but mercifully, it's no Make Meef Eel either.


If I'd have known that James 'Shinny' Davenport's Christmas Number One would be the sort of thing I'd be reduced to reviewing before I started this back in July, I'd have found something else to occupy my time over the summer holidays. This is excruciating! From the FisherPrice festive bells or whatever the hell they're called that begin and end the record to the sub-K-Tel synths and percussion which populate the putrescent filling, there is not one redeeming factor, not one thing that makes me think 'ah, this was worth listening to' and to think The Official Charts Company reckoned this a contender for the Christmas Number 1. Please leave the jokes to the Christmas crackers.

Poison Ivy (Little Simz ft. Tilla); Picture Perfect (Little Simz)

Little Simz released two tracks as buzz tracks from her album Stillness in Wonderland released 16 December; Poison Ivy ft. Tilla released 12 December, and Picture Perfect released 14 December. Poison Ivy's a bit scattered for my liking; it doesn't have much of a beat on it, it's just a series of guitar strums and drums which wouldn't sound out of place on something like Burundi Black, whereas Picture Perfect is more of the same but with brass instead and violin which brings back nightmares of my sister playing on the Nintendo Wii's Mii Plaza for hours on end. It's a shame, really, because Simz raps with a fearsome flow; her verses on Picture Perfect in particular are fire, though her freeform instrumentals may put off some listeners.

The Living Years (London Hospices Choir ft. Paul Carrack)

My father's least favourite record The Living Years by Mike + the Mechanics (it was performed at a funeral) has been re-recorded by London Hospices Choir as their attempt to claim the Christmas number one. The original version is a soft rock, gospel-tinged record; the guitar in the record adds a bit of funk to it without drowning the track, and frankly it makes the record. The new version hasn't got the same energy to it, though the choir adds some nice vocal touches; in addition, it's nice to hear a singer from the 1980s still being listened to. If this tops the chart, he will be the oldest person since Sir Tom Jones in 2009 to have a number one and I wish him luck with it.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas (Nathan Sykes)

The oft-covered Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas is Nathan Sykes' proffering this week, it's been released as the official song of the Coca Cola Christmas campaign. It's an irritating record, because while it's not in itself unpleasant (just slightly boring), the track really needs being cut down at the end because it goes on for so long and it's obviously been bloated to fit the advert, which is never a good idea. Still, though it's a standard, no-one's ever gone top fifty with it so there's hope yet.

We Should Be Together (Pia Mia)

Pia Mia has released We Should Be Together this week, a sultry track which samples Isaac Hayes' The Look of Love to fantastic effect; Pia Mia's softly-sung vocals delicately placed upon the sensual baseline make for a sumptuous listen, though the end-of-bar thumps begin to wear thin by the end. Otherwise, it's not a bad record, and I look forward to hearing more.

Rather Be With You (Sinéad Harnett)

Mmm! Sinéad Harnett released the single version of Rather Be With You on 15th December. We gave it a brief review in issue 6 (my God the nonsense I was coming out with in those days!), saying that it "bubbles passionately but never furiously enough to sabotage the record". The acoustic version, the first I've reviewed since the same issue's acoustic version of Who Do You Think Of by M.O. isn't a patch on the original but it is nonetheless a relaxing refreshment. The Mechatok remix adds a cold, hard, metallic feel to the record which is at odds with the fluffy vocals and subject matter. Stick to the original.

Rennen (SOHN)

SOHN has released the title track from his album Rennen (a German verb meaning to run), due out next year, but if this is anything to go by, it's not worth hanging around for, for there's nothing to this track at all. If it had the right drum track on it, there might be the potential to be a hit, but as it stands it's boring, and it's a shame.

Swear Down (Tiggs Da Author ft. Wretch 32 & Avelino)

Mmm. I said in issue 9 about the original version of Tiggs Da Author's Swear Down, which featured Yungen, that its "occasional trap beats manage to work alongside very funky guitar without violating them whilst at the same time managing rap vocals. The result is a serene release that sounds right at home in the summer sun (or what precious little we have left of it)". It is now December, and the new version of the track – with new verses from Wretch 32 and Avelino – sound distinctly out of place, and unfortunately as talented as Wretch and Avelino are, they add nothing to the track. What a waste.

Both Sides Now (Years & Years)

Right, here's what we know about Years & Years' "new" cover version of Judy Collins' Both Sides Now. (In the version of the song with an intro, the band's Olly Alexander may have said that he was covering Joni Mitchell's Both Sides Now, and she may have written it and recorded it, but Judy Collins released her version first.) This was technically released 19 November 2016 on the website of charity CALM as part of their Torch Songs project to mark International Men's Day – no I didn't know there was such a thing either, the women of the world kept that one quiet – but recently hit download services on 16 December 2016. We also know that Joni Mitchell's original is excruciating, it's mind-numbingly slow. Grrr!

Versions by Judy Collins, Viola Wills and Clannad and Paul Young have charted. Judy Collins' version applies Mitchell's lyrics with an upbeat, very very 1970s middle of the road beat, and it's a joy to listen to, a sort of musical calpol if you like. (To think my mother's generation had that and mine has Zara Larsson. Not fair.) Viola Wills' version tries to be upbeat, but all three of the versions I've listened to (the original 12" version from the Dare to Dream album, the Trilogy mix with bits of Ebb Tide and Over the Rainbow and what I think is a version recorded somewhere along the line for K-Tel) sound fast asleep. Clannad and Paul Young's version grinds at an identical pace to Joni Mitchell, and it's almost as execrable. Years & Years' version, clearly intended as a faithful cover of the Mitchell "original", ends up as a half-maserated cud with whining vocals, like it melted in the sun. The only decent version is the Judy Collins version.

Weatherman (Yo Gotti ft. Kodak Black); Castro (Yo Gotti ft. Kanye West, Big Sean, Quavo & 2 Chainz)

How did Meghan Trainor's Better not chart? Anyway, its featured artist Yo Gotti's got two new records out this week. The first, released 12 December 2016 features the oft-imprisoned Kodak Black, and clearly Black hasn't mastered the art of the classy put-down; he's still using phrases like "shut up you're irrelevant", which I'd expect to hear off a four year old, and frankly any record where Yo Gotti (or anyone else, for that matter) can rap "I'm young, black and rich" and still sound like an aloof old man is embarrassing. Consider collaborators carefully. As for the posse cut Castro featuring Kanye West, Big Sean, Quavo and 2 Chainz, the title alluding to the late former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro and the record released 15 December 2016, posse cuts live or die by their instrumental, and the instrumental on this weighs down the record like treacle in a jam sponge. Gawd, awful.

Other notes

Two deaths to report this week. First is the death of Jim Lowe, who recorded the original version of Green Door with the High Fives which charted at #8; subsequent versions by Frankie Vaughan, Glen Mason and Shakin' Stevens peaked at #2, #24 and #1 respectively. The second is that of Mark Fisher, who helped shift Matt Bianco's sound to a more keyboard-driven sound which got their cover of Yeh Yeh and their Don't Blame It on That Girl/Wap-Bam-Boogie double A-side to #13 and #11; he did not perform on their #15 hit Get Out of Your Lazy Bed. Lowe was 93, Fisher was 57.

Decca Decca Records

Deca being the prefix for 'ten', get it? Tch! And to think we were disgusted by the lack of Greg Lake in the charts…

    1. Rockabye
      (Clean Bandit ft. Anne‑Marie & Sean‑Paul)
    1. Starboy
      (Weeknd ft. Daft Punk)
    1. Say You Won't Let Go
      (James Arthur)
    1. Shout Out to My Ex
      (Little Mix)
    1. I Feel It Coming
      (Weeknd ft. Daft Punk)
    1. I Would Like
      (Zara Larsson)
    1. Don't Wanna Know
      (Maroon 5 ft. Kendrick Lamar)
    1. 24K Magic
      (Bruno Mars)
    1. Closer
      (Chainsmokers ft. Halsey)
    1. I Don't Wanna Live Forever
      (Zayn & Taylor Swift)
    1. By Your Side
      (Jonas Blue ft. Raye)
    1. The Mack
      (Nevada ft. Mark Morrison & Fetty Wap)
    1. Starving
      (Hailee Steinfeld ft. Grey & Zedd)
    1. So Good
      (Louisa Johnson)
    1. The Greatest
      (Sia ft. Kendrick Lamar)
    1. Mercy
      (Shawn Mendes)
    1. All Night
      (Vamps ft. Matoma)
    1. Love Me Now
      (John Legend)
    1. My Way
      (Calvin Harris)
    1. Cold Water
      (Major Lazer ft. Justin Bieber & MØ)
    1. Million Reasons
      (Lady Gaga)
    1. Love On Me
      (Galantis & Hook N Sling)
    1. After the Afterparty
      (Charli XCX ft. Lil Yachty)
    1. Party Monster
    1. In the Name of Love
      (Martin Garrix)
    1. Love My Life
      (Robbie Williams)
    1. Can't Stop the Feeling
      (Justin Timberlake)
    1. Don't Let Me Down
      (Chainsmokers ft. Daya)
    1. Find Me
      (Sigma ft. Birdy)
    1. No Lie
      (Sean Paul ft. Dua Lipa)
    1. Only One
      (Sigala & Digital Farm Animals)
    1. Ain't My Fault
      (Zara Larsson)
    1. All We Know
      (Chainsmokers ft. Phoebe Ryan)
    1. You Don't Know Me
      (Jax Jones & Raye)
    1. Now and Later
      (Sage the Gemini)
    1. This Town
      (Niall Horan)
    1. Grow Up (Olly Murs) • Blow Your Mind (Mwah) (Dua Lipa) • Redbone (Childish Gambino) • Still Falling For You (Ellie Goulding) • Would I Lie To You? (John Gibbons) • Breathing Underwater (Emeli Sandé)

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