Many were surprised that the UK first post-Christmas number one was Ellie Goulding’s cover of Joni Mitchell’s ‘River’. The track was exclusive to Amazon, and took the top spot in the chart with the equivalent of 76k chart sales – beating Christmas classics by Mariah Carey, Wham and The Pogues & Kirsty McColl.

The industry is already chattering about how a track that wasn’t available on the two biggest streaming services could outpace those seasonal staples. “Amazon ensured it was on just about every holiday-themed playlist,” wrote Mark Mulligan of Midia Research. “Every time someone asked Alexa to play Christmas music, ‘River’ soon found its way there. Because Echo listening skews so heavily lean-back, ‘River’ simply became part of the sonic festive wallpaper.”

The Chart Watch UK site pointed out that Goulding’s track also had a YouTube video available, with streams counting towards the chart, but also notes Amazon’s playlisting strategy. “People have been spoon-fed a contemporary hit single like no other before it, and the result of that has been to propel it almost by accident to the top of the charts,” it claimed. That said, the ‘Accelerated Chart Ratio’ (ACR) rules in the UK, which give newer tracks an advantage over older tracks when calculating their streaming to sales ratio, also played a part here.

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