Meet The New Rules, Same As The Old Rules
Once upon a time, this would have been considered the ultimate climb. And I guess in terms of historical record it still is. New Rules by Dua Lipa began its chart life at the very bottom of the printed version of the Official UK Singles Chart as featured in Music Week. The industry's journal of record featured it at Number 75 in the chart of Week Ending July 22nd. Five weeks later the ascent of the single is complete as it sits at the very top of the charts as this week's brand new Number One. The London-born Albanian Kosovan will celebrate her 22nd birthday later this week with what surely must have been one of her original aims when she began singing songs on YouTube videos as a teenager.
As you may have doubtless read in other media, Dua Lipa has this week managed to become the first solo female to top the UK charts for almost two years, the first since Adele was at the summit with Hello at the tail end of 2015. It is not that other female singers haven't had spells at Number One, of course, ladies such as Halsey, Zara Larsson and most recently Rihanna and Katy Perry have taken lead vocals on Number One hits, but they were all of them in collaboration with other acts. Dua Lipa is blessed with neither a co-credited producer or creator or appears as the guest star alongside someone else. The credit is hers and hers alone. New Rules is technically the seventh single to be lifted from her self-titled debut album, although the first few were low-key releases which failed to gain any sales traction. This is actually her fourth single as a lead artist although her sixth chart hit overall, thanks to collaborations with Sean Paul and more recently Martin Garrix which swell her total nicely.
Is it the new greatest single of the summer, an all-time classic to rival the likes of Despacito in the end of year tallies? Well in truth no, the frustratingly same-y tropical house and EDM beats which render it all but interchangeable musically from half the Top 10 see to that. But the song is lyrically rather more clever than initial impressions would suggest. Dua Lipa is seen as a major new international talent for a reason. And a Number One in the country of her birth is a hugely significant moment for everyone who has backed her so far. As for the artist herself, she's clearly overjoyed about it all. After all, her reaction to the news was to Tweet the screen shot of the story on Official Charts detailing her Number One triumph. It means a heck of a lot to her.
New Rules owes its place at Number One to an exceptionally strong streaming performance, around two-thirds of its 41,000 chart sales coming from streaming equivalent totals. In pure sales terms, the single only shifted 14,000 copies last week, 8,000 less than the lady who actually had the most-purchased track of the week and who lands on the chart four places lower.
Fifty Shades Of Light Red
On many occasions, I've floated the concept of the legacy act. Those long-term stars who through no fault of their own become stranded, isolated as technology, tastes and formats move on without them and leave them playing to a diminishing band of loyalists. In theory, Calvin Harris should have been one of them, but as he demonstrated last week with a Number One single of his own, he has avoided this pitfall neatly. In another theory Alecia 'Pink' Moore should have been one of them twice over. She started her career in 2000 at the very height of the era of the CD single. When everyone transitioned to downloads, so did she, and her career proceeded into the digital era interrupted. Having taken a four-year break in between albums, during which time we all moved on rapidly from downloads to streams, she, in theory, could have been left behind by technology like so many of her contemporaries. Yet this week she proves that she is just as potent a chart force than ever - at least for now.
Proof of this is the chart performance of her brand new single What About Us, her first release since the soundtrack hit Just Like Fire charted in April last year. Released at the very tail end of last week, the track charted at Number 83 based on just over a day of sales and streams. With a full week of data behind it the single this week rockets to Number 5, in the process propelling Pink back into the Top 10 for the first time since Just Give Me A Reason hit Number 2 in spring 2013.
Having spent nearly two decades as a musical chameleon you never know quite what to expect from a Pink single and this one is no exception. A subtle and yet heartfelt ballad with the barest hint of a dance beat, it is a suitably compelling chart comeback and a record that truly makes you marvel at the way she is able to churn out potential classics over and over after all this time. What About Us is now her 19th Top 10 hit, a run dating back to her debut There You Go which reached Number 6 in June 2000. I'd hail this as one of her best singles in a long time, but the truth of the matter is that she has never, in all honesty, made a bad record, has she?
No, she's not necessarily a legacy act. But she's Number 5 this week on what, as I mentioned above, is a very powerful sales performance. Of the 30,000 copies registered by the single this week, a mere 7,000 of those come from online streams at the standard 150:1 ratio. And that may well hurt her in seven days time.
Louis Louis Louis Louis (and Bebe and Nicholas)
After a patient wait of three weeks, during which time the single has bounded between positions 12, 13 and 14, Back To You from Louis Tomlinson finally claims a place in the Top 10 with a four place rise to Number 8. In the process he adds to the growing list of Top 10 hits notched up by members of the One Direction family. For those keeping score, it means he joins Niall Horan and former bandmate Zayn Malik in having two Top 10 hits away from One Direction. Harry Styles and Liam Payne can for now only boast one each. The new chart success of this single all helps singing partner Bebe Rehxa to maintain her impressive strike rate, this now her own third Top 10 single from four chart appearances - even if every single one of them so far has come thanks to a guest-starring role on someone else's record. Back To You reaches a new chart peak just shy of a year since her last chart hit, Martin Garrix' In The Name Of Love which peaked at Number 9. This is also far and away the highest charting single to feature a performers credit for Digital Farm Animals, aka the multi-talented Nicholas Gale. His work as a songwriter has however seen him hit similar heights in the past. He wrote and produced Dua Lipa's Be The One after all.
Be Gente With Me
As Despacito finally begins to fade away, attention naturally will start to focus even more on the other Spanglish hits of the summer. In a move which will doubtless cause consternation in some quarters (this is after all supposed to be the big launch for X Factor champion Matt Terry) Enrique Iglesias' Subeme La Radio takes a 10-14 tumble this week. Moving ahead instead are J Balvin and Willy William with Mi Gente which appeared to stall briefly last week with a mere two place rise but which now eases its way upwards to a new peak of Number 12 and presumably is heading for the Top 10 this time next week.
Back En Vogue
The other major chart move of the week is the flying 47-16 leap made by More Than Friends from James Hype featuring Kelli-Leigh. This track takes its cue from Jonas Blue's Fast Car hit from last year, taking an old classic and dressing it up in new tropical colours to see what happens. Don't let the title mislead you, this single is actually a re-sing of Don't Let Go (Love) which was the final Top 10 hit single for 90s legends En Vogue, the single hitting Number 5 in January 1997. That's more than long enough ago for it to be an entirely fresh production to modern ears and whilst there will always be the inevitable grumpiness at a famous old single being reworked into what might be seen as a slightly lesser modern day pop hit, you can hardly argue with the way it has vaulted its way into the Top 20. It marks the full chart debut of much in-demand DJ and producer James Hype, who first came to attention thanks to his alarmingly popular remix of Drake's Hotline Bling.
Wake Him Up
The highest new entry of the week lands at Number 32 and marks the eagerly-awaited chart return of a certain Tim Bergling, better known these days to you and I as Avicii. The man who practically invented the whole idea of the instrumental chorus, mixing his own intoxicating beats with some quite memorable songs, literally had the world at his feet between 2013 and 2015. A string of classics included Number One and million seller Wake Me Up along with other hits such as Hey Brother and The Nights. And then he vanished, claiming he was burned out and intended to retire from making music. Well two years is enough of a break I guess. His big comeback single sees him team up with singer-songwriter and fellow Swede Sandro Cavazza for Without You, a track which to all intents and purposes sounds like he has never been away. A semi-acoustic and inspirational song is meshed with his trademark euphoric breakdowns as the song nearly straddles the line between tear-jerker and uplifting anthem. Whether what worked in 2013 will necessarily work in 2017 remains to be seen, but the return of Avicii is a welcome reminder of just how good pop music really was just a short time ago. I cannot be the only one hoping this takes off in a big way. But don't hold your breath. Without You commits the cardinal sin in the streaming age of not quite sounding just the same as everything else.
This is one of two new Avicii singles to reach the chart this week. The other is Lonely Together featuring a guest turn from Rita Ora which lands at Number 49. The reason for this simultaneous arrival is due to the fact that they are both taken from what was a six-track EP release entitled Avicii (01). You will search for it in vain on published charts though. Six tracks makes it too long to qualify for the singles chart whilst it was priced too low to be considered an album either. Instead, it places on the budget album chart, normally populated with cheap hits collections and older releases which are now being discounted heavily to clear surplus warehouse stock.
Battle Is Joined
Several weeks in the new chart rules are working a treat. Older hits clogging things up are moving out of the way and some of the most exciting new prospects of the late summer are starting to hit the stores. Next week is set to be one of the more fascinating chart battles for some time. A new Justin Bieber single is always a draw. But what's this I see? Little Mix participating in their own Spanglish hybrid single with another TV-created band? Watching where both land is going to be utterly absorbing, trust me.