2008 "X Factor" winner Alexandra Burke had her U.K. Christmas No. 1 single confirmed yesterday (Dec. 21), as her version of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" (Syco Music/Sony BMG) debuted at the top with sales of 576,000 units to become the fastest-selling single by a female solo artist in British chart history.
The late Jeff Buckley's 1994 version of the song, also publicized during the recent series, raced 30-2, bringing about the first occasion that the British singles chart has featured the same song in the top two positions for nearly 52 years.
Meanwhile, Take That secured the festive No. 1 album as "The Circus" (Polydor/Universal) started a third week at the summit, with another big sales week of 382,000 units. The set has now sold 1.133 million to date.
To complete an extraordinary week for Cohen, his own 1984 original of "Hallelujah" entered the singles chart at No. 36, giving the Canadian singer/songwriter his first U.K. top 40 hit as an artist, at the age of 74. Although downloads now make up the vast majority of the singles market, the breakdown of Burke's sales underlined that the British music consumer will still buy a physical single when it's seen as a true "event": almost exactly half of Burke's sales, 287,000, were as physical singles.
Nevertheless, her 289,000 downloads are a one-week digital record, beating former "X Factor" winner Leona Lewis' 140,000 sales for "A Moment Like This" in 2006.
Burke's 576,000 sales dwarfed Buckley's, at 81,000, but it's the first time one song has dominated the top two spots on the chart since January 1957, when Guy Mitchell's "Singing the Blues" and Tommy Steele's British cover did battle throughout the month. Mitchell led the way in the first two weeks, with Steele at No. 2 for the second of those, before they traded places for a week and then traded back again, giving Mitchell a total of three weeks on top to Steele's one.
The Christmas charts also contained plenty of good news for Beyonce, who had no fewer than three singles climbing the top 20. The former No. 1 "If I Were a Boy" (Columbia/Sony BMG) moved back 9-4, "Listen" raced 60-8 and "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)" jumped 24-20, all of which helped the parent album "I Am ... Sasha Fierce" move from No. 24 to a new peak of No. 9.
Comic Peter Kay's second single in the guise of spoof reality TV winner Geraldine, "Once Upon a Christmas Day" (Polydor/Universal), came in at No. 5, while English singer/songwriter James Morrison's single featuring Nelly Furtado, "Broken Strings," also on Polydor, jumped 18-6.
Take That's album triumph put them ahead of Lewis' "Spirit," at No. 2 again and Kings Of Leon's "Only by the Night" (Hand Me Down/Sony BMG), which climbed 4-3. The one new entry in the top 40 was Fall Out Boy's "Folie a Deux" (Mercury/Universal) at No. 39.
AC/DC returned to the top of Billboard's European Top 100 Albums chart with "Black Ice" (Columbia/Sony BMG), as Britney Spears secured a second week atop Eurochart Hot 100 Singles with "Womanizer" (Jive/Sony BMG).