It is that time of year. The brand new series of the X Factor is now well established on TV screens on Saturday nights, and inevitably some single chart activity comes trailing in its wake. This year the producers of the show have elected to do a handful of things differently, and so the first X Factor related chart hits of the year are themselves present in a rather different manner.
First we have the post-show appearance of 2011 winners Little Mix, kicking off their chart career proper in some style. In the early years of the show winning acts were rushed to the studio as soon as possible, flinging product out hurriedly in early spring. However when the show unearthed a genuine potential superstar in Leona Lewis in 2006 this strategy was switched, and since then all X Factor winners have had their debut albums held back to the autumn, allowing them to make a triumphant return to the show on which they made their name to perform their first hit song proper on one of the first live shows.
Hence the appearance in the stores last week of the first new Little Mix single since last Christmas is somewhat out of pattern. As the first ever group winners of the show, the pressure was clearly on to make them a viable prospect and with the "hold until the winter" strategy having seen the likes of Matt Cardle poorly served, this summertime release is clearly a bold new marketing switch. Needless to say the track was always going to do well, and a carefully planned airplay lead-in of close on six weeks meant that demand for the single was high. Nonetheless it is not insignificant that with En Vogue-invoking track "Wings", Little Mix have become the first X Factor winners to make Number One with a track other than their coronation release since Alexandra Burke back in 2009 - and significantly only the third in the history of the show to do so. Needless to say the timing also means that the release of their next single should coincide with the climactic live shows when the audience figures for the show are at their highest. There is method here in the madness.
The other X Factor change this year has been the relaxing of certain rules for auditionees. Acts with management deals or previous industry history are allowed to compete, and in some cases contenders can perform their own original songs. Little did the producers suspect that this would backfire.
Thus we have the strange tale of 21 year old singer-songwriter Lucy Spraggan whose audition performance was featured on TV the weekend before last. She captivated the audience and the judges with her own original song "Last Night" and was put easily through to the next round. The only problem was that the song had first appeared on a self-released album Top Room At The Zoo which Spraggan had put out at the tail end of last year, and it was still to be easily found in many of the online stores. Having apparently sold 162 copies in the 40 weeks it had been on sale, the album sold several thousand more within hours of her TV appearance with the single doing even better and rocketing into the iTunes Top 10.
None of this was against the rules, but it naturally rather undermined the whole point of the competition if one of the acts was in a position to have her own hit records before voting had even begun. Providing a clue as to how far she has progressed in the competition already, Spraggan withdrew her records from sale on Tuesday last week, clearly at the semi-polite request of the show producers. Even so, the sales were still on the board and hence Lucy Spraggan sits comfortably at Number 11 on the singles chart this week with "Last Night" and at Number 22 on the album chart with Top Room At The Zoo. Neither record will appear in seven days time, but it would be foolish to say the least to presume this is the last we have heard of Lucy Spraggan and her work.
Watch "Last Night"
The rest of the singles chart shows some pleasing upward momentum for already-charting hit singles. The most significant jump is the 11-4 move of Public Enemy with "Harder Than You Think" as its Paralympic association continues to ring home. Already their biggest hit ever, this is naturally the first ever Top 10 hit single for the veteran rap group.
With a Number One single each to their name, it was inevitable that the Owl City and Carly Rae Jepsen collaboaration "Good Time" would make progress, and the duo soar to Number 5 this week, up from 17. Just outside the Top 10 Of Monsters & Men reach a new peak of Number 12 with "Little Talks" whilst fun are also upwardly mobile with new single "Some Nights" which jumps 24-14.
Whilst bandmates Tulisa and Dappy have Number One singles to their name already, the third member of Ndubz is finding solo success slightly harder to come by. Fazer's debut single "Killer" makes a muted debut at Number 17.
The UK album chart plays host to three strong new entries. Entering at the top to ensure her chart-topping strike rate across all formats is intact is ORA from Rita Ora whilst the aforementioned Of Monsters & Men enter at Number 3 with their UK chart debut My Head Is An Animal. Meanwhile as their 2008 single "One Day Like This" continues to pleasingly occupy a Top 20 berth this week, Elbow see their b-sides collection Dead In The Boot enter at Number 5, the fourth Top 10 album of their career and their third in a row to reach the Top 5.