Shake It Off
Despite the dramatic way she crashed to the top of the Official UK Singles chart last week, we began this sales period with a small degree of uncertainty as to the ultimate fate of Taylor Swift's Look What You Made Me Do. It is one thing to pop a rating, so to speak, in your first week on sale. Another thing altogether to consolidate that success and grow the kind of regular online audience which is now necessary to sustain you for an extended chart run. And let's not kid ourselves, Look What You Made Me Do isn't a "pop" song as such. It is a bold and provocative statement. Different for sure, but was that enough to make it more than a flash in the pan?
For the moment, all is well. The entire Top 3 holds firm from last week, the feminine trio of Swift, Lipa and Moore (Pink to you and me) all lining up one by one and leaving the way clear for Taylor herself to spend a second week at Number One. She benefits from the rather fractured and consensus-free nature of the two competing singles markets that combine to make up the Official Singles Chart at the moment. Taylor's single is still the most-purchased but this week surrenders its streaming crown to New Rules which is once more the most played. Which is... interesting.
However, of all the singles at the very top end of the market, the one whose position is the most fragile is New Rules which spends a ninth week as a Top 100 single this week. It hardly needs me to point out the significance of that anymore but still, a 10-week old single is liable to demotion and having its streams count for half as much as the rest of the market as it moves onto the Accelerated Chart Ratio. As we've seen over the summer, the rules don't discriminate against singles which are still holding steady near the top of the charts. Three weeks of market-busting falls for the Dua Lipa single and the switch is thrown as from next week. And this week its sales dip by 5% whilst the market overall rises 3%. Incidentally, with Look What You Made Me Do holding firm for a second week after New Rules' own two weeks at the top, we have had a female soloist at Number One on the charts for four straight weeks for the first time since Ellie Goulding's four week run with Love Me Like You Do in February 2015.
Both Of Us - Begin Again
The only artist with a brand new single who theoretically stood a chance of challenging either Taylor Swift or her female Top 3 companions was, oddly enough, Taylor herself. In this bold new world of outside the box and blue-sky thinking marketing, it is simply no longer enough to herald a brand new album with just one available single. Oh no. You have to have at least one other. One way to achieve this is via the Ed Sheeran route of releasing two tracks simultaneously, but given his level of success earlier this year you suspect that nobody else dares try the tactic just for the moment for fear of looking poor in comparison with him. Better then to drop a second cut from the album in a surprise move a week or so after the first, which is precisely the route taken this week by Taylor Swift and her guides. Following its use in an American TV commercial, she released Ready For It on Sunday afternoon and was rewarded with the sight of both of her new tracks sitting side by side on live chart tables across the globe. A midweek release, plus a relative lack of streaming means she doesn't even come close to deposing herself from the top of the charts, instead content to add her name (presumably underlined twice) to the growing list of acts who can boast simultaneous Top 10 hits. Ready For It charges into the charts at Number 7 to become her 11th Top 10 hit single a mere seven days after her 10th.
Time will tell whether this new track becomes a "proper" hit single in due course or whether it remains of the status as a promotional track. In any event, it falls down the awkward crack of being different enough from Look What You Made Me Do to grab attention, more in line with what you would expect from a normal pop single from the artist but with the strange burden of not actually sounding as good as the other one. It is reported to have pride of place as the opening track on her new album. Which means they either feel it is truly representative of what is on it, or they just want to get it out of the way as soon as possible.
Not Even Just A Little Bit?
It has been a protracted and often stumbling journey at times, but Demi Lovato's Sorry Not Sorry finally manages to take pride of place as a Top 10 single this week. It lifts three places to sit comfortably at Number 9, this climb following no less than five weeks seemingly stranded just inside the Top 20. Five just so happens to be the number of Top 10 singles she can now lay claim to, this her first track to climb this high since Cool For The Summer reached Number 7 exactly two years ago this week. Although she made her chart debut as far back as 2008 (duetting with Joe Jonas on This Is Me back in her Disney Channel Original Movie days) her biggest chart hits have all come in the last four years, Heart Attack being her first chart hit of any real note when it reached the Top 3 in the spring of 2013. Lovato's other chart claim to fame is singing one of the few hit songs to be a Top 10 hit in two different versions simultaneously. This after her 2012 single Skyscraper was handed to 2013 X Factor winner Sam Bailey to sing, resulting in the original being propelled back into the charts alongside Bailey's own cover.
Bloody Pouring Mate
For the second week running, Camila Cabello lands herself the fastest moving chart hit of the week as Havana makes a 13-place climb to Number 11. That's enough to make it the highest charting single of her nascent solo career to date, beating the Number 12 scaled by Crying In The Club earlier this summer. There's also another brand new peak for the single that refuses to die - Rain from The Script which climbs three places to Number 15, four weeks after it first appeared to peak at Number 17. The lift of the single coincides with the release of its parent album, Freedom Child easing its way easily to the top of the Official UK Albums chart to give the group their fourth Number One album in five releases.
Interestingly enough that leaves Ed Sheeran's Divide holding steady at Number 2 for the second week running (admittedly with almost half the sales of the album above it). Never having charted lower than Number 3 since its release, we await with bated breath the next time (if ever) that it climbs to the top of the charts. This would put it level pegging with Sam Smith's which for now holds the record as the only ever artist album (not counting soundtracks and compilations) ever to have six different spells at the top of the charts.
And It Goes Like This
I've noted before of the curious way Maroon 5 chart entries either go on to be huge enduring smashes or all-but forgotten mid-table curiosities. On balance they are due another of the former after their last single Cold failed to climb any further than Number 24 earlier this year. In that case the omens are particularly good for brand new single What Lovers Do which beats the peak of that single in an instant witth a chart debut at Number 23. The third single from their still to be released sixth studio album, this also ranks as one of their cleverest compositions to date. Or should that be creations? Because What Lovers Do is actually based largely on a piece of work which will already be familiar to chart fans. The song is based on an interpolation of the Neiked track Sexual which was a Top 5 hit at the tail end of last year. It is all rather brilliantly done, the Maroon 5 track borrowing both the tropical house squeals familiar to many and also the bassline, essentially crafting a whole new song over the original backing but managing to sound fresh rather than unapologetically derivative. So yes, Maroon 5 are due another large hit single and in all honesty, I would love it to be this one. Watch it soar.
Want To Want Me?
There's a new entry at Number 32 for Jason Derulo, the American singer belatedly following up Number 6 hit Swalla with new single If I'm Lucky. Both tracks are taken from his forthcoming new album 777 - the title apparently a clue as to how he plans to release it with the collection consisting of three sets of seven songs, each of which are set to be released at different times. We're in a post-physical world, who can blame acts for playing around with the whole concept of 'album' given it doesn't have to mean 'fits on a single disc' anymore.
The Only Way Is Up
The most interesting story of the week, however, comes thanks to two singles which due to the circumstances of their release and the nature of their appeal only tickle the main singles chart this week. Due to what they achieved in the short period they were available, they do however rate a mention.
Megan McKenna is a name best known to those who follow the seemingly interwoven lives of the people who are famous solely for appearing on reality shows. In her time she's featured in Ex On The Beach, "Celebrity" Big Brother and more recently The Only Way Is Essex. Her true calling, however, has always been music and indeed her first ever TV appearances pre-dated all of the above shows when as part of singing duo Harmony who were semi-finalists on Britain's Got Talent in 2009. Her most recent project has been to combine the two, starring in her own reality show which documents her attempts to make it as a country singer once and for all.
The first editions of There's Something About Megan aired on TV channel ITVbe earlier in the week and in the wake of the show she released her first two country tracks. The result was to propel both High Heeled Shoes and Far Cry From Love to the very top of the paid-for sales tables, the two singles spending the final two days of the singles chart survey as far and away the most popular singles of the moment - knocking even the powerful force of Taylor Swift out of the way. Indeed the pair sold so many that they made a direct impact on the old fashioned sales chart, landing at numbers 9 and 13 respectively. Streams, naturally enough, were pretty much non-existent which needless to say dealt a fatal blow to the chances of the two singles making a similar kind of impact on the combined chart. Still, they do manage to chart, with High Heeled Shoes listed this week at Number 43 and Far Cry From Love down at Number 53. And let's face it that is still damn impressive for two tracks taken from a show on a minority TV channel and available for less than 48 hours. If both continue to sell this week then you cannot rule out a Top 40 placing - but with her mainstream exposure beyond the audience of the TV series limited that's a very large IF.
Playing The Numbers Game
Weekly reality check time, thanks to Music Week who helpfully recount the numbers which clue us into the state of the market. In fact, the Megan McKenna singles referenced above tell their own story. High Heeled Shoes may well have ended up as the 9th most-purchased track of the week in just a day and a half. But a day and a half spent at the summit of the iTunes chart amounted to just 8,480 copies sold. That's literally all. And yet there were still only 8 other singles which outsold it this week.
Needless to say streaming accounts for virtually the whole singles market these days - this week it sets a new record of 90.96% of the weekly total. The total for albums creeps ever higher too, 48.43% this week, another all-time record market share. The total number of purchased (as opposed to streamed) albums this week was 812,671. That's the lowest weekly total recorded since accurate sales began being electronically logged in 1994. Music sales are dead. Film at 11.