Out With The Oldies
There was something of a battle of the generations at the top of the Official UK Albums chart this week with even a small if ultimately unsuccessful social media campaign weighing in on one side of the fight. The occasion was the release of Take That's eighth studio album Wonderland which had taken upon itself the possibly futile challenge of attempting to displace Ed Sheeran's album from the top of the charts. Not that they didn't give it a go, for despite the rather lacklustre one week chart performance of the album's lead single Giants, the ability of Take That to tap into what remains a powerful legacy market meant they notched up an impressive 113,200 sales this week - more than enough to top the album charts under any normal circumstances.
But naturally these are not normal circumstances and the album by Ed Sheeran (which henceforth I'll just call Divide in these pages to save looking up the damn character ever time) sits still comfortably at the top of the charts for the fourth week in a row. Divide is now the first album to spend four consecutive weeks at Number One since 25 by Adele (who else) managed seven in a row at the end of 2015. In a sense, this is something of a shame as it ends a near-perfect record for Take That whose last six studio albums all debuted at the very top of the charts. The only other 'failure' of their career was their 1992 debut Take That And Party which entered at Number 5 en-route to also peaking in second place.
Late Result: Sheeran 11 - 8 Drake
Little by little normality is creeping back into the Official UK Singles chart as nobody released an album of streaming smashes this week and the existing glut of tracks from both Sheeran and Drake sag still further. Even so, they still between them account for almost half the Top 40 singles as the numbers above indicate. But every week more and more drift away.
That easing of the pressure almost reaches to the very top, as for the first time in four weeks Ed Sheeran does not command all 3 of the Top 3 singles. Just the Top 2 as he has done for most of the past three months. The vague possibility that he might replace himself at the top of the charts once more failed to materialise. Despite a strong sale from Galway Girl just below, Shape Of You sits both pretty and comfortable at Number One for what is now its 12th straight week. That now unequivocally propels it into the record books, the track now having spent more consecutive weeks at the top of the charts than all but three other singles in chart history. Only Everything I Do (I Do It For You) (16 weeks), Love Is All Around (15 weeks) and One Dance (also 15 weeks) can boast more. It was still a tight race, largely due to the way Shape Of You has surrendered its sales lead to both its Irish-theme rival and the Clean Bandit single Symphony although it still remains easily the most streamed track of the moment and that was enough to give it a 5,000 chart sales margin at the top.
Aside from those Top 20 hits all the Ed Sheeran tracks are now in sharp reverse. The same can also be said for the tracks from Drake's "playlist" More Life - with two honourable exceptions. Passionfruit actually climbs a place, lifting to Number 3 whilst what I suppose we must regard as its twin hit Blem is also on the rise with a 14-10 move.
Just below Clean Bandit rise to Number 4 with the aforementioned Symphony which claims the title of the most purchased track of the week. It therefore becomes an 'honourary' Number One single for the vocal crowd who tell me that the sales chart is the only one they regard as worth paying attention to - although as Alan Jones notes in Music Week this week, it tops the sales ranking with a mere 23,000 copies sold - fewer than all but 10 of the most-purchased singles of the week in the 21st century so far. Adhere to the sales countdown as a 'true' measure of popularity if you will, but all you are doing is scrutinising an ever-dying market.
Thank God It Is You
The Drake track is however only one of two new Top 10 arrivals this week, the welcome increase in diversity coming thanks to It Ain't Me by Kygo and Selena Gomez which takes a 12 place jump (Sales: 10, Streams: 13) to Number 7 and at a stroke reclaims the chart peak it first scaled four weeks ago - thanks in part to some timely discounting on the iTunes store. The track was one of a number of existing hits which were swept away by the Sheeran flood. I wondered at the time whether we would see any shock reversals of these falls as things returned to 'normal' - and so it has proven. Plenty of singles in the modern era have traced odd yo-yo paths up and down the charts before reaching their natural peak. It Ain't Me is probably unique in having tumbled out of the Top 10 to just outside the Top 20 before charging back whilst all the while boasting fairly similar weekly sales and streams totals.
Issues by Julia Michaels also appears to be heading for the Top 10 with a jump to Number 13 (Sales: 7, Streams: 31) this week. It is the debut hit for the 23 year old American - as a performer at least. Her musical apprenticeship has been served over the past three or four years behind the scenes as a songwriter, meaning her name has already appeared in the credits of a startling number of hits - amongst them Bieber's Sorry, Rita Ora's Poison and Selena Gomez' Hands To Myself. She even managed time for a collaboration with Ed Sheeran, penning the track Dive on the album of the moment - which itself sits at Number 27 this week.
Back to her own hit, though, and it is in truth everything you might expect given her songwriting catalogue to date. A subtle track with a fingerclick rhythm, it can boast a clever production which spends three minutes threatening to turn into a tropical house wig-out but never quite does so, battered into place, if you like, by the strength of the vocal. An intriguing track which is a grower both musically and chart-wise. Top 10 is nothing less than it deserves - assuming Ed and Drake continue to move out of the way for others and its own streams continue to grow.
Not A Jive Bunny Cover
Bruno Mars' That's What I Like appeared on the charts just before the Sheeran flood but somehow managed to be unaffected by it, save, I guess, for the fact it was destined to start its chart career rather lower down than would otherwise have been the case. Having reached the Top 40 a fortnight ago the single has traced a graceful ten place at a time path ever since, moving 35-25 and now to Number 15 (Sales: 13, Streams: 24) to become the second Top 20 hit single from his current album 24K Magic following on from the title track which reached Number 5 at the back end of last year.
Call It Malik
His debut single Pillowtalk may have shot straight to Number One upon release in February last year but since then former One Direction singer ZAYN has had to content himself with his hits taking a more conventional and steady path to success. He can at least boast the highest new entry of the week as Still Got Time (with a guest appearance from PartyNextDoor) crashes in at Number 24 (Sales: 17, Streams: 30). In a sense, this is actually rather a surprise given the single is a brand new track, the first to be released from his yet to be formally announced second solo album. There are two conclusions to draw there: either his status as a 1D member is no longer the fast track to chart success it once was, or perhaps it is simply that even boy band stars with a near hysterical and dedicated online following still need their sales and streams to crank up to full pace. The track only has a lyric video for now, so this story still has a few more pages to be turned.
Another deserved post-Sheeran rebounder is Lorde who makes a chart climb of her own this week. She, you may remember, was one of two big-name stars who had the misfortune to release new singles in the same week that Divide hit the shops, meaning that although she made a decent fist of things first week out she was quite literally only a footnote in the chart story of the week. Well, those who expected her single Green Light to fade and die as a result of this may have to look again. After a fortnight of sinking the single gains a welcome second wind this week and surges 40-26 (Sales: 16, Streams: 50), beating by two places its initial entry point. As much of a 'name' as she is treated, Lorde has until now had the misfortune of being something of a one hit wonder, none of her other hits coming anywhere close to the chart-topping success of Royals in 2013 (notable as a Number One hit that everyone recognises but precious few can actually sing back to you). It still has some way to go but the rather glorious Green Light now has the honour of being her biggest hit since than chart-topper. And yes, my language there kind of gives away that I'd personally love it to go much further.
The other 'forgotten' new entry of Sheeran week was Little Mix's No More Sad Songs which appeared to be so embarrassed by this it exited the top end of the chart in short order and last week had dived to as low as Number 89. Syco clearly haven't completely given up on the track and it even had its video premiere in the last day or so, helping it rebound slightly to Number 51 (Sales: 22, Streams: 77) but if it is to add to their tally of Top 10 or even Top 20 hit singles it will need to perform the mother of all post-Sheeran rebounds. And then some.
Knit One Perm One
Finally for this week my favourite stat of the moment, once more blatantly stolen from Alan Jones but too glorious not to mention here too. David Guetta, Nicki Minaj and Lil' Wayne debut at Number 64 this week with Light My Body Up. It is a familiar collection of names, and indeed this marks the fourth Guetta/Minaj hit collaboration, the second Guetta/Wayne meeting, the fourth Minaj/Wayne collision but significantly the first that all three have appeared on the same record together.