Any Old Iron
Pretty much for the first time since we were all small children running around without a care in the world, the most significant and indeed most notable recording artist of the week is not Ed Sheeran. The honour instead goes to 32 year old Rory Graham who under his professional alias of Rag'n'Bone Man this week finally came good on the expectations he has been carrying ever since the tail end of last year.
After one of the more intense build-ups gifted to an otherwise unknown act Rag'n'Bone Man's debut album Human was finally unleashed upon the world last week. Almost immediately it leaped into a commanding sales lead, one it never stood any chance of relinquishing. Indeed such was the demand for the record that by the time of the midweek update it was reported that he was outselling the rest of the Top 20 put together, and whilst that kind of momentum proved impossible to sustain right to the end of the sales survey he still manages to debut at the very top of the charts with the notable accolade of outselling the rest of the week's Top 15 albums. Human the long player sold what is for this day and age a mightily impressive 117,000 copies - 67% of which were good old fashioned CDs. That makes him the fastest selling debuting male of the decade (look, its a thing, OK?), selling more copies in his first week than both Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith did in their 2011 and 2014 chart debuts. Although he was awarded the gong some months ago, this does mean he has the neatly timed honour of being top of the charts just in time to be formally presented with the 2017 Critics' Choice Award at this week's BRIT awards ceremony.
The Shape Of Him
The availability of the album inevitably had a beneficial effect on Rag'n'Bone Man's hit single. The album's title track enjoyed a significant surge in both streams and sales - at one point during the week briefly dethroning Ed Sheeran's Shape Of You from the top of the live iTunes table. Whilst he doesn't quite manage to manage the chart double Human does at least have the distinction of becoming the first single since their release to smash the duopoly the two Sheeran singles have been enjoying at the top of the Official UK Singles Chart. Human ascends majestically back to Number 2, reclaiming the runners-up slot it has previously occupied twice before - at Christmas and in early January. For a single which has been a Top 10 hit for the past 11 weeks to still be as high as second place is something quite notable and worthy of the highest praise.
Whilst there was surprisingly little cherry-picking of the tracks from the album, Rag'n'Bone Man does at least enjoy a second Top 40 hit this week with the track Skin, released as a promotional single earlier this month, rising 51-25 (Sales: 25, Streams: 28) to eclipse the Number 35 it squeaked when it was first made available under instant grat terms.
Listening To Tiny Dancer
So whilst Castle On The Hill may have been bumped down to third place this does mean that for the sixth week running Ed Sheeran has the nation's Number One single as Shape Of You holds firm with a further 36,000 download sales and another 8 million streams. This does mean the single sets yet another interesting new benchmark. Hard on the heels of Clean Bandit's nine-week run at the top, this is the first time two successive Number One hits have spent at least 6 weeks at Number One since 1976, when Elton John and Kiki Dee's Don't Go Breaking My Heart was followed at the top of the charts by Dancing Queen by Abba - both of them six week incumbents. If Sheeran manages to stay at the top with the same track (an important detail that) next week it will be the first time there has been a seven week Number One hit adjacent to a nine-week one since 1957.
Whilst on the topic of Number One runs, a number of people have contacted me noting that we have now passed the first anniversary of the last one week Number One hit - Pillowtalk by ZAYN and were wondering if that is without modern day precedent. Not quite is the simple answer and indeed the last such run passed by without too much in the way of comment. The record gap is a shade over 25 months - from the one week Number One run of The Fly by U2 in November 1991 through to the solitary week of glory enjoyed by Babe by Take That in December 1993. In between, there were nine different chart-topping singles which had a two-week run at the top of the charts.
Touch My Glittery Balls
The honour of the week's highest new entry goes to a lady whose return has clearly had to be carefully planned out. Katy Perry has been a major star for almost a decade now, her memorable run of hits stretching back to the huge splash made by I Kissed A Girl back in the summer of 2008. Since then she's enjoyed three major hit albums, each with their own clutch of hit singles and to date she's enjoyed four Number One hits, the most recent of those being Roar in September 2013. But her success largely came thanks to being wedded to the sound of the moment, her music the shining example of the marriage of West Coast and Scandinavian pop crafted by the production orbit of men such as Greg Kurstin and Dr Luke. But a new age is now upon us where the public has rediscovered a love of gritty singer-songwriters or else is enthralled by the heavily processed melodic house which sits atop just about every other Top 40 hit of the moment like a hard to avoid smog. Is there still room in all of this for a 32 year old woman whose last major contribution to popular culture came thanks to a rubber shark costume whose wearer lost track of the choreography?
So full credit to her label who found a creative way to at least chalk up interest in her brand new single Chained To The Rhythm. Just over a week ago what appeared to be mirrorballs appeared chained to the ground in selected locations across the globe (one was in Leicester Square in London). If you were so minded you could wander over to one, notice that the dimples on the ball were actually headphone sockets and plug in to hear a brief snatch of the new single. Whether that necessarily sold any more copies of it is open to question but it at the very least was a clever way of turning the unveiling of a new pop single into something of a public event.
Truth be told though the hype wasn't all that necessary. Chained To The Rhythm still has the familiar hands of Max Martin at the helm but it is a very worthwhile release indeed, an oddly comforting marriage of disco beats and dancehall rhymes which manages the rather amazing trick of being refreshingly different whilst unmistakably a Katy Perry song and an immediate airplay smash. Compared to the relative disaster of her last brand new single - Olympic anthem Rise bombed at Number 25 last summer - this new track makes a strong initial start. It debuts at Number 7, a chart placing made up of a Number 5 sale and Number 12 stream.
Chained To The Rhythm features a co-credit for toaster Skip Marley who, as the name may clue you in, is the grandson of reggae God Bob Marley. That makes him the third generation of the Marley family to chart in the UK - the second represented by his uncles Ziggy and Damian who both have had their own hits, although none reaching as high as the Top 10. For Katy Perry this is now her 14th Top 10 hit single and her highest charting track since Dark Horse reached Number 4 at the tail end of 2013. It may not have the top of the charts in its destiny (unlike each of the lead singles from her last three albums) but something tells me this is another hit which will linger for a while yet as it works its way onto everyone's streaming playlists.
The Katy Perry track is the only new arrival in this week's Top 10 which you will note does for now frustrate the prospects of Dua Lipa landing two simultaneous such singles. Whilst her own Be The One rises yet again to Number 9 (Sales: 6, Streams: 17) the Martin Garrix track Scared To Be Lonely on which she appears finds its upward momentum frustrated for now and instead locks in place at Number 14 (Sales: 11, Streams: 13). Whilst the streams for Train's Play That Song are at least moving in the right direction the track remains one of the more notable hits of the moment to suffer from a huge gap in its relative appeal across the two tracked markets. The single consolidates its comfortable position as a Top 10 seller (Number 8) but whilst we still wait for its streams (Number 98) to catch up it languishes at a still frustratingly low Number 21 overall.
Good things come to those who wait, however, just as Tinie Tempah who appeared to be about to turn a spectacular run of Number One hits into a career doldrums when his new single Text From Your Ex debuted at what for him was a lowly Number 35 three weeks ago. Yet whilst the download market remains lukewarm towards it, continued airplay from the cooler radio stations on the dial has helped its streaming potential grow. The single now climbs for the third week in succession, just a place this time to Number 23 (Sales: 21, Streams: 31) but this appears to be a story which is not over just yet.
A slow and steady approach may well still pay off for Migos' Bad And Boujee which is by no means a personal favourite of mine right now but which as an American Number One hit surely has for the moment underachieved here. This is another of those tracks for whom sales are slow but streams are healthy and so in its fifth week as a Top 40 hit finally becomes a Top 30 hit for the very first time, having now moved 37-34-31-32-30 (Sales: 54, Streams: 25) since it first appeared on the radar of this column.
No Alarm Yet
The final Top 40 arrival of the week sneaks in at the bottom run, Ciao Adios giving the highly regarded Anne-Marie what is technically her first hit single since last summer. I say "technically" as although it scarcely needs pointing out here, she featured on the last pre-Sheeran Number One single but her vocal contribution to Clean Bandit's Rockabye went unacknowledged by the chart listing. Never mind, this new single sees her return as a solo artist with the follow-up to Alarm which reached Number 16 during a lengthy chart run in the second half of last year. End of year reviews flagged the 25 year old Essex girl up as one of a new breed of stars who have achieved success by appealing almost entirely to the streaming market although it should be noted that Alarm reached a peak of Number 11 on the sales chart but never climbed higher than 17 on the streaming tables. On that basis she's no more exclusively a streaming act than anyone else. Let's see what this new single does. For all the appeal of her mellow and Sia-esque mumbled singing style, her own material is still an acquired taste. The two best Anne-Marie tracks to date have been the Clean Bandit single and Rudimental's Rumour Mill on which she made her chart debut back in 2015 but which was sadly ignored and could only reach a peak position of Number 67. Back to Ciao Adios then, and it this week sits at Number 40 (Sales: 19, Streams: 68) in its first week on sale. We'll watch with interest where it climbs - and with maybe just as much interest which particular chart it climbs with the greatest speed.