Little Mixed Messages
I'm not going to lie, despite the superlatives hyped upon the single last week I was keeping an open mind about the future prospects of Shout Out To My Ex. Little Mix's new single may well have flown to the top of the charts in sensational style in its first week on sale, but it was hard not to wonder just what would happen once the dedicated Mixers, the ardent fans, the ones who snapped up copies of the single like they were going out of business, had taken their fill. Would there be enough "ordinary" people to fill the void.
Apparently yes, yes there were. Having cranked its streaming abilities to maximum Shout Out To My Ex spent the week doing a comfortable half a million or so a day on Spotify and was lodged with a comfortable margin at the top of the iTunes live tables. Two barometers of success which indicated there would be little to stop the single spending a second week at the top of the Official UK Singles chart. Which indeed it does, clocking in a total sale of 61,400 downloads and 5.5m streams for a total combined chart sale of 112,000 which is enough to vanquish all-comers. Higher than last week of course, but that is to be expected given that this has been its first full week on sale following the Sunday evening release it enjoyed first time out. Happily that does mean two of the group's four Number One hits have spent longer than seven days at the top, and significantly it is the most recent two which have managed this. Black Magic is their biggest hit for the moment with 3 weeks at the top of the charts in July 2015. Their opening two hits Cannonball and Wings only managed one week apiece in 2011 and 2012 respectively. Their total of seven weeks at Number One is now more than any other X Factor winning act save for all-time champion Leona Lewis who notched up a total of 13 during her 2006-2008 glory years.
Shout Out To My Ex is now the seventh single in a row to spend more than a week at the top of the charts - compare that to the picture in the summer of 2014 or indeed through most of 2000 when one week Number One hits were par for the course. This is now the longest run of such chart-toppers since 1994/1995 (not entirely coincidentally another occasion punctuated with a 15 week Number One hit).
In a return to the market shape of the summer, the top end of the singles table is oddly familiar with an all-static Top 5. So for the second week running two Syco acts (and two former X Factor winners) occupy positions 1 and 2 and the Top 3 is made up entirely of current and former Number One singles as James Arthur and Chainsmokers settle down at positions 2 and 3 respectively. The relative monotony is broken by Neiked's Sexual which is one of two singles to arrive inside the Top 10 this week, rising 12-6 (Sales: 5, Streams: 11)
Rather Be Credited
Storm clouds appeared to gather over the eternal sunshine of Clean Bandit's career this week with the news that fiddler Neil Amin-Smith had left the permanent line-up of the group, reducing them for now to a trio of the goddess-like Grace Chatto and the Patterson brothers. This new was, depending on your point of view, either handy or unfortunate timing as it also coincided with the release of the group's second single of the year Rockabye. The dance and Mozart fusion act are naturally enough in that rare stratosphere of acts who are guaranteed not just an opening week but also sustained success for their music so it is little surprise to see the new track debut comfortably at Number 7 (Sales: 3, Streams: 18), one place below the opening hand of Tears back in June. It is their sixth Top 10 hit to date.
Rather curiously Rockabye is one of only a tiny handful of Clean Bandit singles not to hand a chart credit to the invited vocal performers and so like 2015 hit Stronger the charts list it as a single by the group alone. I say 'curious' because the two singers are already established chart names, and one in particular has a track record of popping up on records by some very big names indeed. Sean Paul (for it is he) has already had guest credits on two chart hits this year (Jay Sean's Make My Love Go and Little Mix's Hair) whilst in the past he has graced records by Beyonce and assisted singers as diverse as Blu Cantrell and The Saturdays to the very top of the British charts. Meanwhile the female side of the song is handled by Anne-Marie whose own debut hit Alarm reached Number 16 during the summer and which is still ticking over on the Top 40 as we speak, holding steady at Number 24.
Rockabye has received a mixed reaction in some quarters. Not that it isn't good, because it is - yet another compelling and immaculately conceived Jack Patterson production - but it is just that aside from the intro and outro the usual Clean Bandit swirling strings are barely in evidence. Almost as if their sound is evolving and evolving away from the classical fusion which set them apart from everyone else in the first place. Still, this is just one track from a brand new album and it is not as if Tears didn't have more than enough cellos and fiddles to last a lifetime. The single is an instant Top 10 smash and Grace gets to dance in the video. All is well.
Mercy Mercy Me
You know what I hate the most? Artists who steadily and consistently land themselves hit singles, affording smug bastards like me little opportunity to either pour scorn on their future prospects or jump up and down with excitement at how unexpected this is. So I'm no particular fan of Shawn Mendes whose chart record so far in 2016 runs to one Number One hit, one Top 10 follow-up and now an upwardly mobile third hit single which leaps with a bound into the Top 20. The track in question is Mercy, officially the second single from his current album Illuminate and which flies 40-15 (Sales: 9, Streams: 24). This has been some time coming too. Mercy first charted at the end of August as the final promotional pre-release track from the album, one which saw it land at Number 58 for a week. Returning six weeks ago once promoted to formal single status the track spent a considerable period nudging the Top 40 without ever quite breaking through - until last week. A week of discounting at iTunes following an appearance on the X Factor Results show finally lit the fire that was needed and the result is what you see above, Top 10 status on downloads and a promotion to the upper end of the chart. Needless to say its streams need to take off some more if it is to land him a third Top 10 hit single.
As a curiosity, Mendes' initial success is credited to his being spotted performing soundbites of songs on Vine. Which will no longer be a potential route to fame for others like him as the march of technology swallows another platform.
You're The One, The One For Me
Can I be honest here? I'm desperate to knock any and all coverage of the Official UK Albums chart on the head in these pages as it grows ever more irrelevant to mainstream musical life. Yet it keeps being the listing that throws up the most interesting stories. For my money the biggest deal this week is not the record at the top (although we'll come to that) but the fact that two easy listening stars have managed to outsell the new Lady Gaga record to the extent that Joanne only sparks into life at Number 3. I've probably said all there is to say about the limp performance of its singles to date but if you want an example of just how much the shifting shape of the industry (or her current willingness to blow off promotional appearances without explanation, you choose) has affected Lady Gaga's status consider the following: In the week her 2011 second album Artpop made its chart bow Gaga had singles listed at 9, 17, 18, 68, 89 and 97. Five and a half years later a new Lady Gaga album sees her occupy positions 66, 85 and 95 with the highest of these not her 'current' hit singles but a solitary cherrypicked album track A-Yo. Know what she needs next? A comeback.
That's The Wonder That Anyone Buys Albums Any More
So what has knocked Gaga into third place? Elvis of course. Last year's If I Can Dream compilation was one of the more startling successes of the holiday season. One of those ideas that sounds hideous, old Elvis Presley recordings overdubbed with orchestral backings from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, it was actually quite the reverse - charming and moving in equal measure. Naturally enough that has prompted a second edition and so The Wonder Of You is the result. It shoots straight to the top of the charts and in the process helps the long-deceased King set a brand new record of his own. The album is his 13th Number One record, putting him unequivocally at the head of the list as the most successful solo artist in chart history. Why "unequivocal"? Well that's down to the way the lady second on the list - Madonna - is only there if we acknowledge the Evita movie soundtrack as 'her' solo album, a status which it was only retconned to comparatively recently. The only other act to be able to boast more Number One albums? The Beatles naturally, leading the way with 15.
The Official Charts Company released a media image of Pricilla Presley holding the special Number One award in recognition of this album. I cannot bring myself to reproduce it here, I just cannot.
In second place this week is a more contemporary easy listening star Michael Buble, his new album Nobody But Me no less than the 13th he has charted since his 2003 debut. It narrowly fails for now to give him a four in a row of Number One albums. Rather surprisingly the seocond one of that run - 2011 release Christmas - makes what at first sight appears to be an unseasonal re-appearance at Number 16. Those checking the calendar in a panic will be reassured that this is entirely down to a supermarket promotion which saw it available for £3 with the purchase of any other chart CD. A tactic which appears to have worked.