A blatant self-shill before I begin this week. Although on these pages I'll track week by week the runners and riders for the annual charge to the Christmas Number One, I'm also writing a regularly updated liveblog to track market moves and any outside factors which may affect matters as the days roll by. Bookmark it at your leisure, and keep an eye on Twitter for news of when it is updated.
News surrounding the plans of one of the acts already on the chart notwithstanding (more on that in a moment), it is a reasonably safe bet to presume that the most likely record to be topping the charts at Christmas will be whichever one replaces Havana at Number One.
The identity of that particular act, for now, remains a mystery. Despite some intensely strong competition from Rita Ora and midweek figures which suggested she was under serious threat of being overtaken, Camila Cabello holds firm. Now 16 weeks old, Havana spends a fourth straight week at Number One on the Official UK Singles chart. That's actually enough to make her notable in her own right. Although the story of this year has been characterised by a pair of singles - Shape Of You and Despacito - which spent extended and record-bending periods at Number One, most of the other chart-toppers this year have had far briefer spells at the summit. We've had no less than seven different Number One singles which spent a solitary week at the top and one other which managed just a fortnight. Havana this week matches the four week run of the single which it succeeded (Post Malone's Rockstar) and in the process becomes the joint second-longest running Number One single of the year.
How has Cabello remained on top of the charts? For the same reason as before. She has the consistency across markets that none of her rivals can manage at present. For the second week running Havana is Number 2 on both the sales and streams chart, but with streaming champion Rockstar sinking like a stone at sales and sales champion Anywhere still fighting to keep up with streams, Camila Cabello is once more the overall chart champion.
Improving On Perfection
So what then will be the next Number One single? I've been saying for weeks it is most likely to be Rita Ora's Anywhere, but she needs to do so next week to stand any chance at all. This is now Anywhere's second week at Number 2, a position she occupies by the margin of just 8000 chart sales behind Cabello - almost exactly the same as last week as it so happens. Rita has the wind at her back though, and her single is once more the most-purchased of the week (by some distance) and its streams are still winding their way up to full power (she moves to Number 4 on the streaming chart). Plus it is also worth remembering that Havana itself spent three weeks at Number 2 before finally topping the charts for its current extended run. All good things come to those who wait.
The spanner in the works though could come from Ed Sheeran. The reactivated Perfect takes another major step towards the top this week as after three weeks locked in place at Number 6 the single now sits at Number 4, finally matching the peak it first scaled as an album cut back in March. But that isn't the significant bit. I'd heard talk earlier this week that something big was planned for the single as one final push towards the top of the charts. But details were thin on the ground. Now Ed himself has blabbed in a radio interview - revealing that December 1st will see the release of a brand new "remix" of the track in which he "does a Despacito", grafting on a guest performer for an additional verse.
Quite how much of an effect this will have will I guess all depend on whether it is any good. But Perfect needed just that little extra something to give it a chart edge. And that's just what it has been given. Watch this space. He's on X Factor this weekend as well, even if he will for now still have to perform the solo version.
Blind To The Truth
If not Rita or Ed, then the next Number One (or even the one after that) could end up being one of the singles with the most upward momentum. Based on current numbers they are in turn:
- Blinded By Your Grace by Stormzy and MNEK which rockets 12-7 to give the grime star only his third ever Top 10 hit.
- Wolves from Selina Gomez and Marshmello which after three weeks rattling around the Top 20 now catches fire with a huge increase in its streams and a 17-9 jump. This too is Selena Gomez' second Top 10 hit single of the year, following her guest role on Kygo's It Ain't Me in the spring. Perhaps more significantly it is her biggest chart hit as a lead artist since Come And Get It reached Number 8 way back in July 2013. In her entire career to date, she has never had a single climb beyond Number 7, the peak shared by both It Ain't Me and also her chart debut Naturally which she performed with former band The Scene in April 2010.
- I Miss You by Clean Bandit and Julia Michaels. The muted nature of its debut suggested at first that this was a Clean Bandit single nobody cared for much. Time and perspective (and some hard promotional work) have changed that. Little by little the single is also edging towards the Top 10 with a 14-11 climb this week. And just like Wolves, its streaming numbers are skyrocketing. Don't make the same mistake I did when it was first released and rule it out completely.
Two Letter Acronyms
So that's the thing right now is it? Artists referred to only by their initials. Joining MK in the Top 20 is NF, better known to his mum (and God, it appears) as 26-year-old Nathan Feuerstein. In his short career to date, he has achieved the rather extraordinary feat of straddling both hip-hop and gospel genres, his Christian faith informing many of his lyrics despite his keenness not to be pigeonholed as "the Christian rapper". Well praise be, his single Let You Down earlier this year gave him a Number One on the little-studied US Hot Christian Songs chart and now fights its way into the UK Top 20, climbing four places to hit Number 19. The above paragraph may have done the worst sell job on a single in some time, so instead contemplate this final sentence. Let You Down is actually one of the most compelling hit singles of the moment.
Only Love Can
Did it matter that Paloma Faith has never had a Number One album in her career? To her fans apparently it did, hence the surge of goodwill this week which greeted the release of her fourth album The Architect, her first release in three years following a short career break for motherhood. Although it was a narrow squeak in the end, she beats Sam Smith to the top of the album chart to land - yes - her first-ever Number One album. The market remains astonishingly volatile though, this being the 14th different Number One record in as many weeks.
This Is The Closest Thing
As we have become used to of late, the highest new entry on the singles chart arrives some way down the listings, this despite it being one of the more in demand singles online over the course of last weekend. The latest in a long line of official singles to be tied to the BBC's annual Children In Need charity appeal, Katie Melua's tender cover of the Sting track Fields Of Gold winds up as the fourth most-purchased track of the week. Its overall chart placing is, naturally enough, rather more muted thanks to the inevitable lack of streams it picked up, resulting in a Number 29 placing on the chart overall. That's still more than enough to make this Katie Melua's first Top 40 hit single since The Flood crept to Number 35 in May 2010. There's a cute synchronicity to this though, Fields Of Gold (a Number 16 hit for its composer back in 1993) was also one of the signature songs of the late Eva Cassidy who experienced a rush of popularity in 2001, over five years after she had passed away whilst still a complete unknown. Katie Melua's biggest ever chart hit single came almost ten years ago when she topped the charts with a cover of What A Wonderful World - duetting in a beyond the grave creation with the voice of Eva Cassidy herself.
Three's Yer Lot. Unless It Is Four
We all know how the 2017 chart rules work by now. An artist is allowed a maximum of three hits and no more. This is the cause of a rather fun set of singles chart hokey-cokey moves down at the bottom end of the Top 100 though as artists with multiple hits see their lowest selling ones swapping places with others. Hence the reappearance at Number 66 of Ed Sheeran's Galway Girl, his third biggest hit of the moment and which disqualifies Castle On The Hill from the chart for the first time since its release at the start of the year. Similarly, Taylor Swift's Look What You Made Me Do is a re-entry at Number 78, re-asserting its status as her third biggest hit after being summarily disqualified a fortnight ago.
However no matter what the rule, there is always a way to bend it. And the "three max" rule only applies to tracks where you are the lead artist. Guest appearances don't count. Step forward then French Montana who this week can boast no less than four Top 40 hit singles. His own Unforgettable (Number 39) is joined by his roles on Jason Derulo's new single Tip Toe (making its Top 40 bow at Number 31), Steflon Don's Hurtin' Me (Number 32) and as one of a series of performers on David Guetta's Dirty, Sexy Money which after a two week wait finally registers inside the Top 40 with a 42-35 climb.
We Need To Talk About Matt
The 2017 series of X Factor is marching swiftly towards its conclusion, even if the days of the winner being guaranteed the Christmas Number One single are long past. In the meantime, there is still the messy business of the 2016 winner Matt Terry who has thus far defied most of the attempts to launch the career he was promised when he won the public vote a year ago. His grafting on to the UK version of Subeme La Radio notwithstanding, his first solo release proper was Sucker For You which has been on release for six weeks now but has struggled thus far to gain any kind of sales or streams traction. I say "thus far" because this week it rises to a brand new chart peak of Number 55, ironically just as Syco appeared to have given up on it and instead turned to a new single The Thing About Love. Matt Terry made his long-awaited return to the X Factor stage last weekend and performed the latter track rather than the former. This has helped it, but not by much, his third chart single makes its bow at a mere Number 51.
At least nobody has panicked enough to halt the release of his debut album which is in the virtual stores as we speak. In that sense, he's done far better than his immediate predecessor. 2015 winner Louisa Johnson is still on Syco's books after her win. But of her album, there is still no word at all.
Christmas is indeed coming though. Mariah Carey's apparently evergreen All I Want For Christmas Is You surfaces at Number 34, making the Top 40 for the 11th year in a row and the 12th time in total.