Totally Run Out Of Lyrical Puns
As I noted on Twitter on Friday evening, a new chart basically means an "Ed Sheeran still has the top 2 places" chart update at the present time. Four weeks on from release and there is just no shifting his dual singles as they remain head and shoulders above the rest of the market. As you will have doubtless seen reported in the mainstream media, by dominating the Top 2 for four weeks straight, Ed Sheeran draws level with the achievement of Justin Bieber at the tail end of 2015. The crucial difference - and which depending on your point of view makes Sheeran's achievement either the greater of the lesser of the pair - is that Bieber's two hits swapped places at the start of that four week run with Sorry giving way to Love Yourself in short order. Ed Sheeran, by contrast, has done this with two hits which have maintained their order throughout as Shape Of You maintains its lead over Castle On The Hill. Needless to say no act in chart history prior to today has retained the Top 2 singles for five consecutive weeks, a record which seems almost certain to fall in fairly short order.
Even though the identities of the two singles at the top of the charts remain unchanged, what has altered is the gap between them. Three weeks ago when the two singles made their sensational debut Shape Of You led its curiously less popular twin by 226,808 chart sales to 193,744, a gap of 33,064. This week the two singles clock up 105,456 and 76,074 respectively, the gap now down to 29,382. Not a huge difference by any means, but this does indicate that sales of the market leader are tumbling far quicker than those of its rival. Sheeran himself has cheekily suggested he'd love to see them swap places at some stage - or at least for Castle On The Hill to fulfill its own destiny and top the charts in its own right. Let's note too that for the first time Shape Of You drops below 10 million streams, although at 8.8m it still remains one of the most played songs of all time in the short history of the format.
Oh yes, and it also belatedly has a video of its own as well, meaning both singles are now competing for chart sales and streams with untracked YouTube and Vevo plays.
Sales Keep Multiplying
New album ÷ remains some weeks away from release, all of which is to the benefit of Ed Sheeran's existing catalogue. 2014 release x has been slowly creeping back up the album chart for the past month and this week comes to rest at Number 4, the highest position it has scaled since November 2015. Significantly this is the album's 80th week in the Top 10, making it only the third artist album in chart history to clock up such a total. The only other long players to claim more at the top end of the album chart are Thriller by Michael Jackson (81) and Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon & Garfunkel (135). Note that this deliberately excludes Soundtrack and Original Cast albums, otherwise the totals would be skewed dramatically by the long-running chart performances of both the South Pacific and Sound Of Music soundtracks whose domination of the market back in the days when there wasn't much of a market to speak of lead to both records spending 276 and 233 weeks respectively in the Top 10.
Ed Sheeran's album also celebrates its 60th week in the Top 5, again making it one of only three artist albums in chart history to manage the feat. The aforementioned Bridge Over Troubled Water is naturally enough the leader here, with 105 Top 5 weeks to its name, but the second is rather more contemporary - 21 by Adele which to date has spent 61 weeks in the Top 5 (but "only" 77 in the Top 10).
Speaking of soundtrack albums, we have a brand new one at Number One this week as the La La Land cast recording finally ascends to the top. It is the first film soundtrack album to top the British charts since the original cast recording of Les Miserables led the pile back in 2013.
No Lipa, No Likey
I spent a great deal of time bigging the lady up last week, but Dua Lipa earns herself some attention once more by becoming easily the most important artist whose name does not rhyme with "theeran". This week the British singer can boast not one, not two but three different chart hits - only one of which of course is "her" record.
Leading the way still is the Sean Paul track No Lie on which she supplies guest vocals. The single rises a place this week to Number 10 (Sales: 7, Streams: 16), giving Sean Paul technically a second Top 10 hit in a row following his only partially credited performance on Clean Bandit's Rockabye. It is his first Top 10 single as lead artist since The Other Side Of Love climbed to Number 7 in August 2013. For Dua Lipa it is her biggest chart single to date, taking her into the Top 10 for the very first time.
One place behind though is her own solo hit Be The One which sits at Number 11 (Sales: 4, Streams: 44) following a ten place rise. This is now her own largest hit single as a lead artist, exceeding the Number 15 peak of her debut hit Hotter Than Hell from 2016.
So that's two of her hits, what about the third. That honour goes to what is arguably the best of the three, Scared To Be Lonely which enters the singles chart at Number 23 this week (Sales: 15, Streams: 43) and which is credited to Ms Lipa as guest singer to Dutch producer Martin Garrix. The prodigious young producer is seeking (and seems likely to get) a third straight Top 10 chart single, hard on the heels of Don't Look Down and In The Name Of Love which both peaked at Number 9 in 2015 and 2016 respectively. His biggest hit to date remains his 2013 debut Animals which nicked a week at Number One back in the days when such a thing was conceivable.
Awkward Segue Alert
Speaking of conceiving, the imminent release of the movie "Fifty Shades Darker" appears to be having a further beneficial effect on the chart performance of its own soundtrack hit single, ZAYN and Taylor Swift's I Don't Wanna Live Forever. Having returned to the Top 20 three weeks ago it charges up five places to Number 13 (Sales: 13, Streams: 13), eclipsing the Number 16 it originally peaked at the week before Christmas. Just like the trashy novels on which the films are based, this story is far from tied up.
Don't Run Too Fast
All this skipping around the singles chart means we've not covered the highest new entry of the week. That honour goes to Run Up from Major Lazer, the all-star production trio of Diplo, Jillionaire and Walshy Fire and which lands at Number 20 (Sales: 16, Streams: 26). The follow-up to last summer's Number One smash Cold Water features vocal turns from Canadian rapper PartyNextDoor and the more familiar sight of Nicki Minaj. This is the third chart single for PartyNextDoor, although the first two were by way of Drake album tracks on which he collaborated. Minaj is back after something of a break. By her own prolific standards she had a quiet 2016, appearing only on Ariana Grande's Number 4 hit Side To Side. The new Major Lazer single maintains the tropical house vibe of its predecessor (and if we are being honest at least half the Top 40 at present) and is officially the third single to be taken from the trio's forthcoming album Music Is The Weapon.
Credit to reader Phil Annets who noted to me on Friday evening that All Night from The Vamps featuring Matoma has been loitering around the lower end of the Top 40 since the start of the year and by dipping to Number 32 (Sales: 50, Streams: 24) this week has now spent a week at each of positions, 28, 29, 30, 31, and 32 for the five chart weeks of 2017 to date. I'm personally more intrigued by the way that this is a Vamps single which can now boast 16 weeks in total on the Top 75, longer than any single by the pop band, save their 2013 debut Can We Dance which charted for 20 weeks in total.
Still Playing Catch Up
Five weeks into 2017 means we are now five weeks into the new chart methodology which means 150 streams count for one 'sale' as opposed to 100 as it did before. If the intention was to close the separation between sales and streaming markets it is for now only partially successful with a number of newer hits which have been making waves on the ever shrinking download market still finding themselves floundering on the official chart. Hence lowly debuts this week for Play That Song by Train which is the 12th most purchased track of the week but with no streams to speak of is stuck at Number 47, and current name to drop Izzy Bizu who makes her debut at Number 56 despite her own placing of 21 on the sales table.
Life In The Old Dog Yet
I began this week's column with some number crunching, so let's end it with some extraordinary stuff about the size of the singles market. Whilst adventure seekers may continue to bemoan the sluggish state of the market, pop music itself remains wildly popular with if anything the awful, horrible streaming world contributing to a dramatic expansion of the universe of singles. At the risk of doing a blatant cut and paste from Music Week (from where these numbers are taken), let's note that paid for sales this week are a mere 1,501,000, down from 2,130,000 this time last year - so I'm not lying when I maintain that the market here is dying. By contrast the Official Charts Company this week tracked over a billion streams for the second week running - contributing to over 5 million extra chart sales (10 million if calculated with the 100:1 ratio in use up to the end of last year). The paid for single is dead, but the digitally streamed single is alive and well. And there's more to listen to than just Ed Sheeran for sure.