The End Of An Era, The Start Of A New Day
As you could possibly have predicted, the Artists For Grenfell single turned out to be something of a one week wonder, admittedly maintaining a strong lead in purchased singles but ultimately suffering from a lack of streaming. Sinking to Number 3 after just one week on the top of the charts this opens the way clear for Despacito to reclaim the Number One position, the Luis Fonsi/Daddy Yankee/Justin Bieber collaboration now boasting a seventh non-consecutive week at the top of the Official UK Singles chart.
It also, therefore, has the honour of being Number One for the last chart of this particular era, next week seeing the introduction of two important new rules designed to both de-clog and chivvy up the turnover of singles on the chart. Of the former, we will come to shortly, but it is actually the latter which prompted more correspondence over the course of the week.
Said rule is the ratio adjustment, one which kicks in when a single has spent over 10 weeks on the Top 100 and has shown a sales decline for three straight weeks. When that happens it is gently nudged out of the way with its streams counting on a 300:1 ratio to sales rather than the universal and standard 150:1 at present. The question uppermost in most people's minds is whether this will have an effect on long-running Number One hits of the kind we have been blessed with over the past year or so.
The simple answer is "not necessarily", for as I've noted in past weeks, long-running and hugely popular Number One hits tend to end up so far ahead of the rest of the market they become stranded there, and even if they do manage to qualify for a streaming downgrade whilst still at the top, in many cases this will only help to bring the track's sales closer to the rest of the market - not necessarily to beat them.
Despacito, for example, will not qualify for a few weeks yet. Although now 14 weeks into its chart run the single actually increased its sales last week, despite being deposed from the top of the chart. This week is, therefore, its first in decline - and a single has to have a hat-trick of straight slumps to become downgraded.
If the rules had been in place when Shape Of You was on top, it would, in theory, have suffered a downgrade in Week 11, having been in decline for three weeks prior to that, and so still guaranteed to be a long runner. In the case of Christmas Number One Rockabye, it actually had increased its sales when it hit its tenth week as a chart single (its 8th of 9 at Number One), meaning it would never have qualified for a downgrade before it was blown out of the water by the Ed Sheeran single.
In short, don't expect this new rule to impact Number One singles all that often. What it will do is clear out awkward long-runners such as Justin Timberlake's Can't Stop The Feeling which holds firm at Number 71 this week in what is its 60th straight week as a Top 100 chart single. And which is now clearly taking up a space that could be better used by a newer hit.
The other question raised this week: what happens when an older or catalogue hit suddenly gains a new lease of life thanks to a TV commercial or an X Factor performance? Well the answer is that a 50% jump automatically resets the ratio, as this is clearly a single on the rise. Also buried in the new rules is the note that labels can also request a "manual reset" for up to two tracks per album should they wish to activate a previously charting album cut as a single. This should all work smoothly, but as with all exciting new changes, half the fun is sitting back and watching how it all plays out.
It Was A Loop Box People
Last weekend was Glastonbury weekend, an event which saw people politely fail to throw piss bottles at an elderly man ranting from the stage but instead drunk in performances from some of rock's biggest names, many of which were broadcast live on television too. The climactic headliner was one E. Sheeran and inevitably he reaps the whirlwind of that performance, as Divide climbs once again to the top of the Official UK Albums chart for what is now its 12th week in total at Number One.
Sheeran is, almost needless to say, the kind of act at whom the other new singles chart rule is aimed and so this week will be the last hurrah for many of the tracks from the album which still litter the listings over three months after the album first came out - many of which make chart surges of their own following his Glastonbury set (and which you may note have also reset the clock on their imminent streaming downgrades due to increasing their sales). Based on current chart form the only survivors next week will be Shape Of You (presently Number 11), Galway Girl (Number 25) and Castle On The Hill (Number 30). His highest profile chart deletion will amusingly be Perfect, the love ballad now pretty much locked in to be the next promoted single from Divide once the summer has departed. Exactly when it returns will be a fun calculation to watch, as it will be required to wait for at least one of the unholy trio to die off (which will be delayed for at least four weeks as they will still be stuck on 150:1 ratios for a bit) but also wait for a manual reset of its own ratio. Who would work for a record label in this day and age?
No Surprises Here
The dynamite combination of a Glastonbury set and a 20th-anniversary re-issue inevitably sent sales of Radiohead's seminal OK Computer album spiralling last week, rocketing the celebrated collection back to Number 2 on the charts. The re-release is being counted as an entirely new product, thus re-setting the album's chart history. However, it is clearly the same product and this marks the first chart appearance of the record which always seems to top modern day "greatest rock album of all time" polls since April 2009. OK Computer was last seen in the Top 10 in February 1998 and the last time it climbed as high as Number 2 was the chart of July 26th 1997 in its fifth week on sale.
Other notable post-Glastonbury album chart moves are the 45-6 jump for the Foo Fighters Greatest Hits and the arrival at Number 9 of a new Bee Gees hits collection Timeless to tie into Barry Gibb's well-received set. The biggest contemporary new arrivals are Evolve from Imagine Dragons at Number 3 and most notably of all DJ Khaled as expected with Grateful - the appearance of the album having a beneficial effect not only on current hit Wild Thoughts which solidifies its chart position with a rise to Number 2 but also immediate predecessor I'm The One which rises 9-7.
Signs Of The Times
All of which swings us nicely back around to a singles chart that has an eerie air of calm about it. In comparison, anyway, to the effect of next week's reset button which should see all manner of snapping around as the new chart rules take effect. The departure of Ariana Grande's One Last Time from the Top 10 allows other singles to shuffle up, all to the benefit finally of Rita Ora's Your Song which at long last becomes her first Top 10 hit single in two years with a 11-10 rise.
For the week's highest new entry we have to dip as low as Number 22 and the rather extraordinary sight of a brand new Drake track Signs. Why extraordinary? Well, he literally only released his last album More Life four months ago and could theoretically still be mining it for promoted singles. Instead, the artist returns to the chart for what, thanks to soon to be outlawed album floods, is his 24th new chart hit of 2017. The new track was premiered by the star at a Luis Vuitton fashion show in Paris last month and was rush-released as a single. Given his status as the kind of man to be consumed by as many fans as possible no matter what the source of the material, a minor chart entry was all but assured.
Though Your Heart Is Breaking
It wouldn't be a chart week at present without some kind of sad story, and the big social media hero of the past few months has clearly been terminal cancer sufferer Bradley Lowery. The six-year-old Sunderland fan captured the hearts of his favourite football team and subsequently the nation with his desire to battle from a hospital bed to be a club mascot, and ever since his friends and family have worked tirelessly to keep his name in the news as a fundraising talisman. The latest product of that is a charity single, Smile For Bradley, a lyrically-tweaked version of the Charlie Chaplin song which was most famously a Number 2 hit for Nat King Cole back in 1954 at the very dawn of chart history. Performed by sisters Olivia Crawford and Georgia Fletcher (credited as Liv'N'G), the two gained enough social media traction to ensure a clutch of downloads for the single and a new entry at Number 28.
And in a week when everything seems to be on pause, that genuinely is all there is to note. Next week should hopefully have more to get one's teeth into. Just as aside you may have noticed this week I've not taken time out to note the relative sales and streams position of singles I've spoken of here. I've been doing that for the past 12 months as it was often a suitably illustrative way of demonstrating just which side of the market support for a track was coming from. As of next week this will be a less reliable barometer, the streaming chart remaining a straightforward ranking of the most listened to hits but which won't directly map to the main singles chart as different ratios apply to different singles. It, therefore, seems to now be a less useful guide and will be more misleading than helpful.
Take a deep breath and let's plunge in. The new 2017 era of the UK charts is upon us. And all being well it should start to feel a lot fresher.