Will the oldies prove they're the best? It's a battle of the ages for Christmas No 1

 

A generational battle is set to rage around the Christmas tree, as music's crooners take on teen idols in the quest to be the seasonal bestseller.

The struggling record industry has become reliant on a December sales boost, as once-a-year purchasers sweep into HMV for CD gifts.

The race to the No 1 album spot at Christmas has already begun. The starting gun was fired with the release of Susan Boyle's collection of cover versions, Someone To Watch Over Me, expected to be bought by millions. The third album from the Scot, who has sold 15 million records in three years, swept to the top of Sunday's chart.

Other crooners are hoping to top the gift list. Bruce Forsyth, 83, has released an album of swing standards, while huge sales are expected for a Christmas songs album by the Canadian singer Michael Bublé. Simon Cowell creation Il Divo are expected to sell 500,000 copies of their latest collection of operatic crossover songs, Wicked Game.

But the grannies' favourites are being challenged by a wave of scream-inducing boybands and solo stars, who have persuaded the pre-teen download generation to actually pay for music.

Last year's X Factor finalists One Direction will release their debut album, Up All Night, next week on Simon Cowell's Syco label and it is projected to sell 700,000 copies over Christmas. They face competition from fellow X Factor alumni JLS, whose Jukebox is out on Monday, and from boyband The Wanted. Even the boybands may struggle to match the sales of Justin Bieber, whose popularity shows no sign of being harmed by allegations that he has fathered a child. The 17-year-old sensation's Under The Mistletoe album is likely to prompt screams from parents and children, albeit for different reasons.

Paul Williams, head of business analysis at Music Week, said: "The bulk of sales for the industry are produced in the final quarter, from people who don't buy music the rest of the year."

The wild card in the Christmas schedule is Amy Winehouse's posthumous release Lioness, a compilation of unheard recordings, released next month.

Westlife's farewell greatest hits, Rihanna, Take That and Adele will also continue to sell well over Christmas, Mr Williams predicted, although live performances on The X Factor will be vital in reaching a wide audience.

Rihanna, 23, is launching her sixth album since 2005, but the record, Talk That Talk, is just 35 minutes long.

The X Factor winner, when named on 11 December, will also make their annual bid for the Christmas No 1 single position.

Simon Cowell is likely to be the winner whoever tops the charts, as he has interests in former X Factor contestants Cher Lloyd, Rebecca Ferguson, Olly Murs and Matt Cardle as well in Susan Boyle, One Direction and Il Divo.

Generation Game: The Hopefuls

Joe McElderry

Age: 20

Having won The X Factor in 2009 he was odds-on to claim the Christmas number one single spot that year, before the Rage Against The Machine campaign juggernaut crushed all in its path. He is now back with a album of Christmas tunes, named Classic Christmas, to be released on 28 November.

Rihanna

Age: 23

Talk That Talk is the Barbadian-born R&B star's sixth album since 2005. With a string of hits behind her, as well as several awards, it is sure to sell in huge numbers when it is released on 21 November

The Saturdays

Age: From 22 to 30

The band, who have had 10 top-10 hits since they first released a single in 2008, launch their third album On Your Radar on 21 November.

Andrew Lloyd Webber

Age: 63

Phantom Of The Opera At The Royal Albert Hall will be released on 14 November to mark the 25th anniversary of the Lloyd Webber-penned West End stalwart.

Seal

Age: 48

Seal's singing career has lasted two decades. His latest, Soul 2, is set for release on 21 November

Bee Gees

Age: 65 (Barry), 61 (Robin)

The band synonymous with the disco era releases another greatest hits collection on 5 December.

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