One (More) Time
In a week devoid of anything resembling elections or charity concerts or indeed anything that may have had an undue effect on the pop charts (at least for the moment), the most notable story of the week appears to be an ongoing one. The latest in what is now an extended series of long-running Number One singles, Despacito by Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee and Justin Bieber notches up a sixth week in a row at the top of the Official UK Singles chart. The fact that it does so with a combined chart sale of almost double its nearest rival only serves to further shape the phenomenon of singles becoming all but marooned at the top.
To explain: back in the sales era whilst it was not impossible for a major new release to debut at the top of the market with a sale far in excess of anything else and which represented a commanding lead over the competition, by its second week on sale things had by and large started to return to normal. A track's chances of an extended run at the top of the charts were generally predicated on the presence of something else in the release schedules which was due a similarly insurmountable opening week lead. If nothing much came along, you sat pretty. Or else you moved out of the way. For over a decade and a half this was the way things worked. In the streaming age, however, to be the market leader is to essentially gain a stranglehold. We've seen it time and time again, tracks from the likes of Drake, Clean Bandit, Ed Sheeran and now Luis Fonsi accelerating to such large levels of entrenched popularity - and most importantly front and centre on a wide range of corporate playlists - that no other record is able to come close. Despacito was once more streamed 8.39 million times last week. Nobody else managed even 5.
It isn't just about streams of course, and six weeks into its Number One run the largely Spanish-language single is still in a position to dominate the ever tinier sales market too, avoiding, for now, questions about how legitimate a chart-topper it truly is in old school terms. Not that it takes much as ever, wrestling back the sales crown from Ariana Grande's reactivated One Last Time, Despacito sold 38,000 copies as part of its combined sale of 94,551. For now, there is just no telling what (if any) of the current crop of chart singles is in a position to persuade it to surrender the Number One position - failing that we could well be looking at another double-digit Number One run.
As mentioned, Ariana Grande's One Last Time holds firm at Number 2, the Top 3 shaken up just a little by the arrival of French Montana's Unforgettable which rises to a brand new peak of Number 3 (Sales: 12, Streams: 2) in its third week as a Top 10 hit single.
Got Me Dancing And Crying
It has been two years since David Guetta last had a Top 10 hit single, his Nicki Minaj and Afrojack collaboration Hey Mama doing the honours when it reached Number 9. The most successful Frenchman in British chart history returns this week to the upper reaches as his brand new single 2U crashes in at Number 5 (Sales: 3, Streams: 9). The track is actually Guetta's second single release of the year. The first was Light My Body Up which despite guest roles for both Nicki Minaj and Lil' Wayne was held in little regard by both streamers and purchasers and topped out at Number 64. The reversed fortunes of this new track may well have something to do with the presence of one Justin Bieber on guest vocals, this the first time the two men have found themselves on record together - proving perhaps that there still are brand new permutations of performer/guest act to be pressed into service.
The arrival of 2U on the chart means that Bieber boasts a presence on three of this week's Top 10 singles, with Depacito still at the top and the record it replaced at Number One, DJ Khaled's I'm The One sliding to Number 7. When the existence of this track was revealed it did prompt no small amount of speculation as to whether the Canadian star would follow up one chart first with another and be the featured guest star on three Number One singles in a row. For now, we have to hold our collective breaths to wait to find out, noting instead that this single is Guetta's 23rd Top 10 hit single and the 14th for Bieber.
Power Of A Woman
Having spent last week languishing at the lower end of the Top 40 and looking for all the world like it was never going to take off, Power by Little Mix (and a still uncredited by the charts Stormzy) finally does just that, exploding into life with a jump to Number 13 (Sales: 5, Streams: 18) - that chart placing thanks to what is a leap of form from both sectors of the market. I'm still struggling with the fact that it isn't actually very good, an exercise in shouty American-aping R&B which is a world away from some of their better pop moments, but I guess it also demonstrates their versatility and above all the loyalty of their audience that - barring exceptional circumstances - Little Mix tracks are always good for a chart run. The fourth official single from their Glory Days album, it gives the foursome their second straight Top 20 hit of the year, and indeed beats the Number 15 peak of its immediate predecessor No More Sad Songs. Power is now their 17th straight Top 20 hit, a 100% strike rate of 'official' hit singles. Their only other tracks to chart lower were random album cuts which were never afforded a full promoted release.
Oh yes, and before we leave the Top 20 it is worth noting that as expected Ed Sheeran's Shape Of You dips out of the Top 10 this week for the first time since its release 23 weeks ago. It fell shy of emulating the Number One run of One Dance and now falls shy of matching its continuous Top 10 run. So near, yet so far.
Crying In The Future
There are three notable non-moves just outside the Top 20, all singles with what appear to be unrealised destinies. Holding firm at Number 22 (Sales: 53, Streams: 17) is Future's Mask Off which, as its underlying stats may indicate is one of those singles which has been wildly successful at streaming but has gone largely unloved by the sales market to the ultimate detriment of its chart prospects. More fascinatingly, however, this is now its fourth week in a row at Number 22, meaning it joins the elite list of singles to have managed the extraordinary feat of spending four consecutive weeks at the same chart position. I'd like to be able to say with confidence it is only the 16th to be able to do so, the first since DJ Got Us Falling In Love by Usher and Pitbull opened its chart account with four weeks in a row at Number 20 back in 2010. I've a feeling that someone will pop up in the comments below and correct me and say there is something more recent to add to the list - so over to the rest of you on that way.
Also holding firm, perhaps frustratingly so is the previously upwardly mobile Crying In The Club by Camila Cabello which is locked in place at Number 23 (Sales: 25, Streams: 23) - its sales have stalled whilst its streams haven't risen at quite the rate they should. No move too for Bruno Mars' That's What I Like which remains an airplay staple but which topped out at Number 12 seven weeks ago and has now gone into slow burn-out mode, stuck at Number 27 on its way out of the charts.
Came Here To Praise Ella Not To Bury Her
The other high profile new release of the year was the much-anticipated new single from Sigala Came Here For Love which makes an opening splash at Number 26 (Sales: 11, Streams: 59). It is the first chart hit for Bruce Fielder since his collaboration with Digital Farm Animals on Only One which was an out of form flop when it could only crawl to Number 53 just before Christmas last year. The new single teams him up with a returning Ella Eyre who we haven't welcomed to the Top 40 since 2015 and who despite her obvious talent always seems to do rather better in collaboration with others than when she has a solo credit - her biggest hits to date have been with Rudimental (Number One hit Waiting All Night) and DJ Fresh (Number 4 hit Gravity). We wait to see if this new hit continues that rather fascinating chart pattern.
Why Can't I
One single which on a purely emotional basis alone we expected to make more of a splash was Ariana Grande's live rendering of Somewhere Over The Rainbow as performed at the climax to the One Love Manchester concert and which was made available in the name of charity. Competing against her own more contemporary material proved to be a big ask, however, so the single lands at a rather muted Number 60 (Sales: 13, Streams: uncharted). She does however duly become the seventh performer to reach the charts with a take on the famous Wizard Of Oz soundtrack song. None have ever made the Top 10, the best chart performance of all cover versions being that of Cliff Richard who took it to Number 11 as part of a medley with What A Wonderful World in 2001. Grande's is the first chart version since that of the Glee Cast who reached Number 30 in June 2010. It is also the sixth different version to chart since the millennium making the near 90-year-old song bizarrely the most covered chart hit of the 21st century so far.
Does Anyone Buy Albums Any More
London Grammar's second album Truth Is A Beautiful Thing gives them their first-ever Number One album this week as it shoulder-barges Ed Sheeran out of the way to grab pole position. There are five new entries in the Official UK Albums chart this week, the biggest surprise (or perhaps not) being that three of them are from veteran acts who began their careers at least 40 years ago. And in some cases more. Glen Campbell's Adios debuts at Number 3, the veteran country star bidding his public farewell with his highest charting album since hits collection 20 Golden Greats topped the listings back in 1976. Just below at Number 5 is the self-titled release from many-time Fleetwood Mac duo Lindsay Buckingham and Christine McVie, whilst the late Chuck Berry bows out too with his final album Chuck at Number 9. It is his first chart album of any kind since Motorvatin' reached Number 7 in February 1977.
So the more contemporary flag flying is left to Katy Perry who opens at what is for her a startlingly lowly Number 6 with Witness. The album's release has a beneficial effect on all three of its chart singles to date, most notably the Nicki Minaj collaboration Swish Swish which rises 77-47 on the way to hopefully a safe Top 40 berth in the next few weeks.
Does Anyone Buy Singles Any More
I was planning to round off this week with a note about the continuing steady decline of the paid-for singles market, but in actual fact, Music Week and Alan Jones beat me to it, thanks to another unwanted watershed moment being crossed. Just 1,313,846 singles were purchased last week, the lowest weekly total since December 16 2006 when 1,266,194 units were sold. That isn't just down to saturation of the long tail either, at the top end of the market things have sunk to similar levels. The Number One single that week was Patience by Take That which sold 30,833 copies. This week's Number One seller Despacito sold just 38,620 copies as if in sympathy. Remember my prediction: before the end of the year, we will see paid for singles sink below a million units a week. The sinking market will soon only exist at the whim of the online outlets which continue to sell mp3 downloads. And there will come a point when it is no longer cost effective for them to maintain the resources to do so.