Lucky Number Eight
It should come as no shock to anyone who had studied the figures as they came in during the week. The numbers were only ever going to add up to one outcome. Nothing is capable of overhauling One Dance by Drake at the top of the Official UK Singles chart, at least not for now. The longest running Number One hit of the decade has now been on top of the charts for eight straight weeks. Not since the summer of 2007 and the ten week long run of Rihanna's Umbrella has any record dominated the UK charts for this length of time.
Based on recent trends this is nothing short of extraordinary. It was only two years ago that we were in the middle of an unprecedented five month period when just two singles managed more than seven days at the top of the charts. By this week in 2014 sixteen different singles had reached the top of the charts. So far in 2016 we have had just six.
It does however fall to me to echo what I noted last week. By traditional means of measuring the popularity of recorded music, One Dance has absolutely no business sitting at the top of the singles chart. Its sales continue to slide - on the "most purchased" table the single is this week the fifth most popular record in the market, outsold by tracks from Kungs, Calvin Harris, Clean Bandit and Justin Timberlake. Indeed of its eight weeks at Number One to date One Dance has actually only been the biggest "seller" for three of them. But it is still utterly unskippable on online playlists and utterly immovable at the top of the streaming tables. 6.15m streams and just 23,000 sales makes for a total chart sale of 85,000. A lead of 10,000 over Justin Timberlake in second place. It surely cannot last forever, but for now we are just sitting and waiting for someone, anyone to overhaul it.
A confession. I find Clean Bandit utterly fascinating. The combination of a pair of classically trained musicians and two brothers whose musical skills involve making boxes go "bleep" and "bloop" really should not work. Yet somehow the artistry of all involved combines to make some of the most compelling records of their era.
They also defy music industry convention, a group without anything resembling a permanent lead singer. Instead their records are fronted by a rotating cast of guest performers, many of whom start out as complete unknowns but become famous by association. Jess Glynne was arguably always going to be the breakout star of her time, but it was her link with Clean Bandit and her turn on lead vocals on the enduring classic Rather Be which made her the name to watch for the future. In lieu of this the public face of the group is the Cellist, Grace Chatto pushed front and centre and in the process undergoing an image transformation from the shy mousy haired figure of their earliest videos to the platinum blonde sex kitten of today.
And then there are the videos themselves. All made by Clean Bandit too under the auspices of their own production company. The four men and women are in control of every part of their creative process, leaving them free to craft bodies of work which stand in their own right as works of art.
For all that they can be hard work at times. Aside from the singles, tracks from their 2015 debut album New Eyes struggled to emerge beyond Jack Patterson's obsession with bleeping noises and would often do little more than induce a headache. But slowly but surely they are learning. Their last 'new' music was the pair of singles taken from the special edition of New Eyes and both Real Love (reuniting them with Jess Glynne) and Stronger were comfortable Top 10 hits. A brand new Clean Bandit single was always going to be a big deal and so it proves this week. Not least because of the extraordinary choice of guest singer.
The winner of the 2015 series of X Factor, Louisa Johnson found herself further from the top of the mountain than any of her predecessors. The brave new streaming era of the charts counted against even a TV-prompted release meaning that her celebratory coronation single Forever Young limped to Number 9 upon release and then slunk apologetically out of the charts in short order. She's the only winner in the show's history not to top the charts within weeks of her victory and so for the first time ever is effectively starting from scratch with her music career. News that she was to be the guest singer on Clean Bandit's Tears may have come as a shock at first, but from a marketing point of view it is utterly inspired.
And of course it helps that the single is good. Really, really good. The girl can sing after all and Clean Bandit themselves are slowly but surely learning what makes for an arresting pop record and hitting the mark every single time. Tears starts with a minimalistic production, Louisa Johnson sounding like Whitney Houston performing Gloria Gaynor before erupting into a dancefloor monster. One of the biggest sellers of the week, Tears smashes straight in at Number 6, Louisa Johnson's biggest chart single to date and Clean Bandit's third Top 10 single in a row - the best run of their career to date. It may have been the second WTF collaboration in a row, but more than any talked-up release of recent weeks, this one has delivered on the hype in spades. Let’s hope it sticks around for the summer, or at least long enough for the release of an official video. For now here's their appearance on last weekend's Britain's Got Talent live final.
Bunch Of Kungs
In contrast to last week's becalmed Top 10 chart we actually have movement this week, even if it is confined to the lower half. Aside from the aforementioned Clean Bandit single, Gnash's I Hate U I Love U rises 12-8 whilst the most spectacular move of the week is reserved for the 29-10 leap made by This Girl by Kungs vs Cookin' On 3 Burners. The unlikely bedfellows of a white hot French DJ and producer and an Australian funk trio have produced another infectious summery hit record tailor made for blasting out from the PA system of terrace bars.
Does Anyone Buy Albums Any More?
Welshmen Catfish and the Bottlemen are the theoretically winners of the race on the Official UK Albums chart this week, their second album The Ride giving them their first ever Number One record in spite of their resolute lack of mainstream hit singles. Most headlines however will be reserved for veteran 80s act ABC. Once upon a time groups split up and remained moments of history. These days however the nostalgia circuit is so lucrative that even decades-old personal schisms can be set aside for the sake of giving the old hits one last tour around the block with the chance of a return to the studio arriving later. ABC were technically ahead of the curve on this, original frontman Martin Fry having revived the name for their first comeback way back in 1997 although it would be a number of years before he was rejoined on stage by his bandmates from the 80s. Almost ten years on from the last ABC album Traffic the group (now once more just Fry plus guest musicians) are back again, this time with what is billed as the follow-up to their classic debut The Lexicon Of Love.
Whilst original producer Trevor Horn is absent, Anne Dudley returns to arrange the orchestration and the lure of the name has been enough to make Lexicon Of Love II the most sought-after ABC album for some time. 26 years after they last made the Top 10 of the album chart and almost 30 years since they had a Top 10 album the group are this week at Number 5 with the new release - their highest charting album in fact since the original Lexicon Of Love hit Number One way back in 1982.