Rare indeed are the American chart stories which make headlines across Europe too, but last week's story of US album sales dipping to record low levels merely served to confirm suspicions everywhere that the album market is in trouble. Naturally cooler heads noted that people buried under several feet of snow don't have much free time to go music shopping and that the headline numbers masked several external factors, but it is still hard to ignore the underlying trends.
In the UK this column has long noted the bleak periods during last year when records would top the charts with what would once upon a time be regarded as insignificant sales, but we've also noted the way this prevailing trend actually benefits that small band of veteran acts whose audience are still very much wedded to the idea of the old-fashioned long player. This week at the top of the Official UK Album chart, High Hopes - the 18th studio album from the 64-year-old Bruce Springsteen - gives him yet another Number One album. It is his tenth chart-topper in total, his fourth in a row and marks the sixth time he has reached the top of the charts in the 21st century. The man who struggled to even be noticed on these shores for the first decade or so of his career find as he reaches pensionable age that he is one of the most consistent chart performers of his era, now with more Number One albums than the likes of Abba, Bowie and Michael Jackson, level with the Rolling Stones and U2 with only The Beatles, Elvis, Madonna and Robbie Williams able to boast appearances on more. And all largely because Springsteen fans can be relied upon to buy his latest release in numbers that other more contemporary acts struggle to command.
Aged 64 years old, Springsteen continues to be one of the oldest men ever to have a Number One album, all the while catching up on record holder Bob Dylan whose 2009 album Together Through Life hit the top a month shy of his 68th birthday.
As far as the singles market is concerned, the now traditionally quiet January rumbles on, the net result of a continuing lack of fresh chart blood being something of a sausage cottage and an all-static Top 4. Naturally, that means another week at Number One for Pharrell Williams with Happy, the second in succession and the single's third in total. As Music Week magazine noted last week, in less than a year Pharrell Williams has managed to spend 12 weeks at Number One, more than any other act in the 2010s, this week easing past Rihanna who has topped the charts for 11 weeks since the start of 2010. She does at least still have the honour of holding, for now, the 21st-century record with a grand total of 24 weeks at Number One to her name. Happy notched up another enormous (and for January quite extraordinary) sale of 118,000 copies last week to take its total well past half a million copies (563,000 to be exact). 333,000 of those have come since the start of 2014, meaning the single wrestles back from Pitbull's Timber the crown of the year's biggest seller to date.
Speaking of Pitbull, he locks at Number 2 for a second week running whilst below him Avicii's Hey Brother and Jason Derulo's Trumpets both spend their fourth straight week at Numbers 3 and 4 respectively.
Some new blood arrives in the shape of Do It All Over Again which gives bright new star Elyar Fox his first ever hit single with a Number 5 entry. Yet another star who began his public life as a hot new talent via YouTube, the teenage singer's rise to fame is at the very least thanks to his own drive and ambition, the result of some relentless self-promotion and hustling of major labels during school holidays when he was just 16. Naturally, the jury has to be out on whether Do It All Over Again is anything more than a one week wonder propelled into the charts by fangirl power, but at the very least he has a Top 5 single to call his own which is one more than most of the rest of us. [After his second single stiffed he went away for a re-think, emerging in 2017 with a new look and new material but with a tiny fraction of the impact he managed first time around].
Mind you the fact that Mr Fox is the highest new entry of the week speak volumes for the way this week's surprise superstar addition to the ranks of new releases didn't quite go off the way things had planned. The last time Columbian star Shakira teamed up with a North American R&B star the result was the worldwide smash Beautiful Liar in collaboration with Beyonce - the single becoming her last Number One hit in April 2007. This week the lady with the truthful hips ropes in Rihanna for Can't Remember To Forget You, a single which naturally made headlines as it flew to the top of download listings all over the world when released at the start of last week. Britain is rather less impressed and to the surprise of many the single misses out on a Top 10 entry, landing instead at Number 11, denying Shakira her first Top 10 hit since 2009 and preventing her co-star from having side by side Top 10 hits for what would be the latest of many occasions in recent years.
Shakira's frustration is to the benefit of Sub Focus whose pre-Christmas flop single Turn Back Time continues its new year revival, now jumping 15-10 to equal the peak of his last but one single Endorphins as his highest charting singles to date. Turn Back Time joins Million Pound Girl and Control in the Top 10 to complete a neat trio of surprise new year club hits turned chart smashes.
Elsewhere on the Official UK Singles chart, it is the turn of some upcoming hip-hop singles to show their hand. The all-star trio of Busta Rhymes, Q-Tip and Kanye West shoots 37-13 with Thank You, the single the first UK hit from his upcoming album E.L.E.2, itself the sequel recording to his smash hit 1998 album E.L.E. To keep the British end of things up, Tinie Tempah and Labrinth move 47-27 with Lover Not A Fighter and seem destined to rise further next week.
Prefer your music sung rather than spoken? Then check out Australian singer-songwriter Vance Joy who has already reached the Top 10 in his native country with his single Riptide and who makes a chart leap of his own, climbing 35-18 to further catch people's attention.
At the very least the logjam at the top of the charts is set to be broken up in some style next week as we have the first genuinely fascinating chart battle of the year. Pop rockers The Vamps are set to go head to head with Electronic and classical fusion wizards Clean Bandit. From this vantage point however, I can only really see one winner.