The One-Legged Man Is Victorious Again
For the 11th time in 13 weeks, the Number One single on the Official UK Singles chart is Despacito (Remix) from Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee and Justin Bieber. And once more a rule change designed to gently usher older and more enduring hits out of the way to keep things fresh has had utterly no impact on the chart prospects of the single. Still with its streams counting for half those of the singles around it, Despactio nonetheless remains utterly immovable at the head of the market. It just really is that popular.
Out of a sense of obligation, I trot out the stats. 11 weeks in total at Number One brings it level with the infamous total clocked up by Slim Whitman's Rose Marie back in 1955, for decades the longest consecutive stay at the top of the UK singles charts. Only six other singles in chart history have spent longer at the very top of the charts, the significance of this only slightly dimmed by the fact that one of them was a record from earlier this year. Because that which was once spectacular has now almost become routine.
All I'm left with the power to do here is to restate previously made points. A switch from tracking discovery of music to repeated engagement means that the pop charts are now highlighting what radio programmers have known for years, that the public actually tire quite slowly of the songs they really, really love. And when you have a track like Despacito with a near-universal level of appeal, the result is it becomes stranded at the top of the market as people are reluctant to move on and let go. Such a single is, so it appears, immune even from attempts to tweak the rules to help records along the way. Something has to come along soon to turf Despacito from the top of the charts, but a glance at the top end of the singles chart at the moment indicates that most of its competition is from records that have already shot their bolt and are running out of steam themselves.
Even so, this was another close run thing. Just 2,000 copies separated the leader from the rest of the pack and its continuing presence at Number One is more by default than anything else. Despacito registered just 40,891 combined chart sales last week, and although we are not comparing like with like anymore, this is the lowest sale for a Number One single in nine years.
Moving On Up, But Slowly
Not that the current situation is all that unusual. Many times in recent years we've seen August grind to a halt as far as chart movement is concerned as it seems virtually everyone mentally takes a summer holiday. But this is still a small consolation when you stare at the top end of the singles chart and note that we are in something of a holding pattern - WIld Thoughts holds firm at 2, Feels climbs to Number 3 (Calvin Harris' first Top 3 hit single in over a year), and Jonas Blue and Little Mix stay steady at 5 and 6. The only fresh blood in the Top 10 this week is Dua Lipa who jumps 19-9 with New Rules to land her third Top 10 hit. In a fun coincidence none of the previous two have managed to climb beyond Number 9 either: Be The One also peaked at Number 9 earlier this year whilst her contribution to Sean Paul's No Lie saw her reach the dizzy heights of Number 10.
The one Top 10 departure is Maggie Lindemann's Pretty Girl which makes what on the face of it is a rather unexpected 8-17 dive after reaching what will turn out to be its chart peak last week. As I'd previously noted, its age counted against it and after three straight weeks of sales decline and due to being over 10 weeks old it is moved onto the Accelerated Chart Ratio, sees its streams cut in half and takes a chart dive accordingly. Meanwhile, Luis Fonsi sits and wonders just what the fuss is all about.
Chasing High Places
There's more upward mobility of a kind inside the Top 20. Those frantically backing it to be a success will be briefly frustrated by the failure of Enrique Iglesias' Subeme La Radio not to manage more than a four place climb to Number 12, but with the Matt Terry factor involved you can bet that the push for this single will continue. Lower down Demi Lovato's Sorry Not Sorry continues to make good progress with a 27-16 jump, enough to make this the sometimes troubled singer's biggest chart hit for almost two years - not too far short of the Number 7 scaled by Cool For The Summer in September 2015.
Momentum is also with Finnish singer-songwriter Alma whose debut hit single Chasing Highs arrives in the Top 20 for the first time with a six place climb to Number 18. The singer with the bright yellow hair has needed to be patient, the single having first been released at the end of April and which made its chart bow as far back as mid-June. Since reaching the Top 40 the single has maintained an upward momentum, this is now the sixth week in a row it has climbed the listings.
Be Gentle With Me, I Bruise Easily
So here's a question. What truly counts as "the new Despacito"? Is it, as we have so far assumed Subeme La Radio, or is it, in fact, something of a more genuine article in the shape of the single which climbs into the Top 40 for the first time at Number 21. Mi Gente marks the British chart debut of noted Colombian performer J Balvin whose American chart career has seen him become something of a sensation in Latino markets for the past three years or so. His first international smash has its roots in a track Voodoo Song first created by French producer WIlly Williams. With Balvin's reggaeton vocals fused to the original Mi Gente make for the most diverting record you will hear this week. But to claim it has any similarity to Despacito is stretching things a bit - the two singles just happen to be in Spanish that is all.
The Rain Is Back
More singles making leaps and bounds, even if they are nowhere near the top end of the charts for now: Instruction from Jax Jones which moves gently to Number 22 this week, his first hit single since Top 3 smash You Don't Know Me at the start of the year. Amongst the contributors is one Demi Lovato who thus becomes close to having two side by side Top 20 hit singles.
Some frantic pushing of underachieving hits results in two making a Top 40 return, as Yungen's Bestie leaps 41-30 and more interestingly Rain fron The Script which moves 44-31, just shy of the Number 26 it debuted at a fortnight ago. I say "interestingly" as this leap is almost entirely down to some discounting on download stores, to the extent that the single is the 12th most purchased track of the week, its failure to otherwise make a chart impact naturally down to the way this "legacy" act have failed to attract the attention of the streaming end of the market.
Hear It For The Boys
So where, you may ask is the biggest brand new hit single of the week? Well the chart's highest new entry is way, way down at Number 42, a position which in itself is something of a surprise given that it seemed to be in place as the pre-roll advert on just about every music-related YouTube video you played during the course of the last week. Boys is the first release of 2017 for the much-loved online but often commercially struggling British singer Charli XCX. The 25 year old star is often showered with praise by music bloggers and those who are paid to know about these things, but her struggle to make much of an impact is encapsulated not only by the slow start for this much-hyped single but also the failure of her last hit After The Afterparty to limp any higher than Number 29 after a long struggle in the new year. It is not that she hasn't had success in the recent past, making her debut at the top of the charts after all with a contribution to Icona Pop's I Don't Care (I Love It). Yet save for a brace of Top 10 singles in 2013 and 2014 (amongst them the still memorable Boom Clap) she remains frustratingly under the radar. Keep the faith though, Week 1 is by no means the be all and end all of hit records any more, and if the online spend is anything to go by then this single is clearly a major priority, setting up the forthcoming release of what will be her third studio album.
Does Anyone Buy Albums Any More
Winners of this week's "who can outsell Ed Sheeran by a narrow margin" race are Arcade Fire who land their third consecutive Number One with their fifth studio album Everything Now as it debuts at the top. Just for a change, the numbers are worth shouting about, as the album sold an impressive 36,000 copies last week, the highest total for any chart-topping long player since Royal Blood did 48,000 at the end of June. That's still pretty lousy compared to what albums used to do, but given that the La La Land cast recording hit Number One with a mere 15,000 copies at the start of the year, we grab any crumbs of comfort we can.
Oh yes, and in a continuing quest to monitor the slow death of the paid-for singles market, let's note that 1,327,253 purchases were made this week and tracked by the charts. We're still on target for this to slip below a million before the end of the year.