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You are reading James Masterton's Chart Watch UK, your essential weekly guide to the stories behind the hits populating the Official UK Charts. Read this week's column along with the 25-year archive, a resource of over 1300 articles covering a quarter of a century of popular music history.

This week's Official UK Singles Chart

This week's Official UK Albums Chart

More Energetic Dancing For Table 5

At the risk of making this all sound a bit "back in my day", back in the day it used to be more or less a given that the biggest new release of the week from one of the biggest stars of the moment was all but locked in to be a Number One record. Particularly if its anticipated predecessor seemed to be a track which had rather lucked into it a week before. Well, all that could well come true next week, but for this week we very much have evidence of the new rules (ahem) of chart watching as the biggest pop star on the planet simply cannot shift the existing chart-topper.

This is all a rather roundabout way of noting that Dua Lipa's New Rules remains proudly at the summit of the charts for a second straight week, holding off the challenge of what turned out to be just one of the more intriguing records of the moment. New Rules also continues to be something of a watershed for the declining significance of paid-for sales in the pop music market, the Number One single once again some way short of being the most-purchased track of the week (indeed it drops to the Number 3 position on that table this week) and instead owes its place at the top of the charts to an enormously high level of popularity amongst the click to listen brigade. To satisfy the complainers Dua Lipa does indeed take the crown as performer the most-played track of the week to at least stake the moral claim to the Number One position she theoretically lacked a week ago.

Once again, by contrast, Pink is by some distance the most-purchased act this week but What About Us still languishes at Number 4. Because she's a 17 year veteran who just isn't being played enough. Simple really.

Canadian Blood

Now be honest, if a new Justin Bieber track had shot to the top of the charts this week you would not have batted an eyelid. So it seems entirely appropriate to draw due attention to the fact that all the name value in the world could not help Justin Bieber to debut any higher than Number 2 with brand new single Friends. He thus is forced to wait at least a week (and perhaps then some) for the chance to top the charts for the third time this summer - this time around under his own steam.

Well, almost under his own steam. Co-credited on the single for the very first time is the name of Bloodpop, one of a handful of aliases used by American electropop wizard Michael Tucker. Whilst he may be a new name to those of us who study performer credits, he has actually spent the past three years or so building up a reputation for himself as one of the more notable producers and songwriters you've simply never heard of. Check out Lady Gaga's Million Reasons, that was one of his. As was HAIM's recent hit single I Want You Back. Most notably of all he was one of the team behind global smash hit Sorry from a certain Justin Bieber. Skrillex may have got all the attention at the time, but the young man credited enigmatically under the name of Blood on that single is the selfsame who is on production duties and that all-important first proper chart credit on Friends.

Once upon a time I used to joke that Bieber sold more calendars that he did records. Maybe one day that will again be true, but his chart history grows ever more impressive by the month. Friends is now his 15th Top 10 single, four of which have come this year alone.

Putting The Banda Back Together

We have the rare sight of not one but two brand new singles charging straight into the Top 10 this week, although on name value alone you could be forgiven for having expected this to be a bigger deal than it has at first turned out. 

One of the less well-known of Simon Cowell's talent-trek TV shows was "La Banda", a series which aired on Univision in the States and which aimed to find the next big Latin pop sensation. In sense it succeeded, creating multi-national boy band CNCO who were the winners of the first series in 2015. As far as Europe are concerned they have remained under the radar since their win, but this week they make their British chart debut with Reggaetón Lento (Bailemos) which will doubtless have already invaded the brain of anyone who has been anywhere near South America this summerNeedless to say, however, there is a twist. Because this version of the track that charts is yet another chapter in what will almost certainly go down as the musical craze of the summer of 2017. For this is is yet another "Spanglish remix" as a foreign language original has some new English verses spliced in, needless to say by an act neatly tailored for the target market.

Participants in this particular cut-n-shut exercise and thus newly-minted partners of CNCO on this new version are none other than fellow Cowell TV creations Little Mix who pout and preen and dress the single up in a way that only they could, even if you know deep down they've never been within a hundred miles of the same studio as the artists they are duetting with. It all makes for a very busy song, count them up and there are no less than nine voices on the track, but just like fellow hybrid pop records such as Subeme La Radio and Despacito the effect is somehow rather compelling. It helps naturally that Reggaetón Lento (Bailemos) is such a strong song to begin with and in truth hardly needed the additional English voices. But such is the way international marketing works, and this is what we are landed with.

Expected in some quarters to be challenging alongside the Bieber single for the Number One position, it instead lands at Number 5. At least for now. The single duly becomes Little Mix's 12th Top 10 hit single overall, and their second in short order with their Stormzy duet Power having just slipped away after peaking at Number 6 earlier this month. With the aforementioned Despacito still hanging doggedly in at Number 7 and with J Balvin and Willy William's Mi Gente also climbing to Number 8 this week we have what is surely the unique sight of no less than three (partially) Spanish-language singles being simultaneous Top 10 hits in the British singles charts.

Reggaetón Lento (Bailemos) appears for the moment to be suffering from the same problem which afflicted Despacito, in that you will search in vain for an official video of the new version and which may well lead the music channels on TV to improvise in the same way they did before. So have the original instead, and just try not to note how much better the song is without those awkward screechy English moments.

Well It Does Mean 'Slowly'

So whilst we are on the subject, what of the summer's most ubiquitous Spanglish hit Despacito? Well, after that awkward couple of weeks when it sat defying the attempts by the new Accelerated Chart Ratio to kill it off and topped the charts regardless, the single now is starting to sink out of sight, albeit very gradually with a 4-6-7 sag over the past three weeks. Such is its hold over the public that its decline was always going to be gradual regardless of how its streams are being counted, but what matters most is that it now has started to sink out of sight and opened up the Number One race to a new set of contenders.

For all that it is still a megahit and is all but guaranteed to linger on the Top 40 for months, just like Ed Sheeran's Shape Of You which spends its 33rd chart week settling once more at Number 25, having spent the past month shuttling between 23 and 26. The effect of the Accelerated Chart Ratio is having more of the intended effect on the more "nornal" hit singles which peak naturally and then are being gently moved out of the way. Even the most laid-back chart scanner cannot fail to spot which ones they are. Hence this week the 3-16 plunge enjoyed by French Montana's Unforgettable and the 4-17 drop of former Number One hit Wild Thoughts. Yes, there is something oddly artificial about this, and yes, they will now spend the next few weeks washing around at their "new" permitted chart level. But given these singles had spent 15 and 9 weeks respectively in the Top 10, weren't you starting to get tired of seeing them there? The singles chart looks fresh once again. And when it is fresh, people start to pay more attention to it. That's all the whole music industry ever wanted to see happen.

Baby One More Time

If three brand new entries in the Top 10 weren't exciting enough, there's yet another one in the Top 20. Landing at Number 20 in fact is Questions from Chris Brown, the first release of 2017 from the ever-controversial individual and indeed his highest charting single for a number of years. His last visit to the Top 20 was almost two years ago when his guest role on Pia Mia's Do It Again saw him land a Number 8 single after a lengthy climb. Brown's last major hit single as a lead artist was six months earlier, Ayo hitting Number 6 with Tyga in tow. That last point is another rather interesting one, Chris Brown one of those acts who it seems cannot be relied upon to perform on his own and who has racked up an extraordinary number of hit collaborations. That may be what makes Questions so fascinating, the fact that it is a solo chart credit for the singer, this his first Top 40 hit with such a singular billing since Fine China peaked at Number 23 in April 2013.

 

The Way I'm Disco Dancing

So that's this week. Next week is going to be one of those chart countdowns which has even the lapsed fans swarming back to see what happens, as one of the biggest female stars around makes a quite timely return. Possibly even upsetting even the Bieber bandwagon. Oh Taylor, look what you made us do.