Just Take Things Slowly
In a week when all things pop music appeared to take a back seat for a while, the incumbent Number One single quietly got on with the business of selling and streaming in huge quantities. Despacito by Luis Fonsi and friends remains at the top of the Official UK Singles chart for the third week running, in the process further increasing its combined sale to enjoy an ever greater lead over the rest of the competition. 51,000 downloads (more than any other track) plus 9.4 million streams (again, way ahead of the competition) equals 114,000 combined sales - the sixth highest weekly total achieved by any record so far in 2017 and pretty much double that of its nearest sales rival. Three weeks at the summit is also a longer Number One run than any of the other "foreign language" Number One singles which have gone before it, save for Manhattan Transfer's Chanson D'Amour which also managed three weeks in 1977 - even though as one commenter last week noted it barely qualifies given it is as much in English as it is French. But it is on the official lists, so we're counting it. One more week at the top (which seems more than likely) is enough to give it the record for good.
Three weeks also takes guest star Justin Bieber to a grand total of 22 weeks at Number One so far this decade, all of them coming in the last two years. Despite the best efforts of both Drake and Ed Sheeran this is far in excess of any other artist and will take some beating in two and a half years of the 10s which are left.
A Full House
If there was any doubt that 2017 is the year of the solo One Directioner then this week should put all of those to rest. Mere weeks after Harry Styles took his solo bow, the final piece of the jigsaw slots into place as Liam Payne arrives on the singles chart with his debut solo release Strip That Down. The singer has managed a higher profile than many of his bandmates, even without the benefit of chart singles, thanks to his ongoing romance with Cheryl Cole and the recent birth of their child together - much being made of the fact that he first auditioned (unsuccessfully) for X Factor in front of her when a mere 15 years old. But after weeks (months even) of being tabloid fodder it is time to get back to the day job, and his debut single sets out his own stall as a solo artist in fine fashion. As the title suggests the single is a stripped to the bone R&B track which in tone and production bears more than a passing resemblance to Ed Sheeran's Shape Of You - something which in truth may well have worked to its advantage. The single presented a strong challenge but eventually did not quite have the legs to topple the chart incumbents, arriving instead at a perfectly respectable Number 3 (Sales: 3, Streams: 9).
Liam's arrival on the charts means we now have the full set, with every single member (present and former) of One Direction now having landed themselves a solo chart hit. There are precious few collective acts who can claim that distinction. The Beatles managed the trick first, with Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr all enjoying varying degrees of solo success following their dissolution. The only others to pull it off were the Spice Girls - Geri, Emma, Victoria and the two Melanies all making their own solo mark. There is one important benchmark which for now remains unclaimed - that of a group seeing every one of its members top the charts as solo stars. Neither The Beatles nor The Spice Girls managed this, with Ringo and Victoria the notorious failures. For now, One Direction can only claim two out of five. ZAYN and Harry have managed the trick, Louis Tomlinson has made Number 2, Liam Payne Number 3 whilst the rear is for now brought by up Niall Horan whose biggest solo success to date has been the Number 9 peak of This Town - although his latest release Slow Hands is making slow and steady progress, climbing to Number 23 this week.
Two Into Three Goes Perfectly
There is one further fun statistical quirk to be drawn out of this week's singles chart and in particular the Top 3. For what I'm almost certain is the first time ever, two different performers can boast two appearances in the Top 3. Bieber is the first of these, the guest star of both Luis Fonsi at Number One and DJ Khaled whose I'm The One is locked in place at Number 2 for the third week running (this, incidentally ensuring the Candian star has now spent 25 weeks at Number 2 so far this decade). But the trick is also pulled off by the man of the moment Quavo who clearly spent the first part of 2017 saying "yes" to every invitation to contribute to records. As a result, he is Number 2 himself as another of the performers on I'm The One whilst he also gets a guest credit on Strip It Down one place below. Quavo also has a third hit on the charts this week, collaborating with Post Malone on Congratulations which for now languishes at Number 59.
Just one other single arrives inside the Top 10 this week, Charlie Puth's Attention which eases up three places to Number 9 (Sales: 9, Streams: 10) to confirm its status as his biggest hit single since the chart-topping Marvin Gaye in the summer of 2015. His third Top 10 hit, it is the first on which he receives solo credit, with Meghan Trainer the co-star of Marvin Gaye and his chart debut coming as the featured performer on Wiz Khalifa's See You Again which was also a Number One hit.
It is a case of "next time around" then for Jonas Blue's Mama which still has momentum, up ten places to Number 12 (Sales: 7, Streams: 12) as its streams finally explode into life as presumably it finds its way onto the right number of playlists. Maggie Lindemann's Pretty Girl is also on the rise, more slowly here with a four place climb to Number 17 (Sales: 22, Streams: 13) whilst Cheat Codes' No Promises also appears to finally be finding its feet, reaching a new peak of Number 18 (Sales: 19, Streams: 19) in what is now its eighth week on the chart. It is guest singer Demi Lovato's first chart hit of note since she reached Number 7 with Cool For The Summer in September 2015.
Almost Is Never Enough
In a perfect world that would have been the only story to tell this week. Then on Monday night, a very bad thing happened, thrusting Manchester into the thoughts of the entire nation, dominating the news agenda to the exclusion of all else, and in the process granting an unwelcome new level of celebrity to the lady at whose concert the coward chose to unleash his moment of destruction. It wasn't immediately clear exactly how, if at all, that might be reflected by the world of pop music. As the week wore on, however, along with many other acts of coming together came the notion that the perfect tribute to the victims and a way of channelling perhaps the redemptive and healing power of music was to focus on one particular song as performed that night by Ariana Grande at her concert in Manchester. So it is that One Last Time returns to the UK singles chart in the saddest circumstances imaginable. Originally taken from her second album My Everything, the track struggled to a peak of Number 24 during an extended chart run in the spring of 2015. As word spread on social media that this was to be the focus of online tributes to the victims, sales of the song quickly spiked and in short order, it was sat at the very top of the live iTunes tables.
In fact, One Last Time enjoyed perhaps the most concentrated glut of sales we've seen for some time. In the space of barely two and a half days, it was purchased enough times to rank as the second most popular single of the week, outselling even the Liam Payne single in the process. Streaming was another matter though, and although the track was indeed played many times it was still not enough to penetrate the Top 100 of the streaming charts. The result is a combined chart position of Number 11, still a very effective tribute and indeed one which takes the single to an impressive new peak, just short of giving Ariana Grande a fifth Top 10 hit single.
This does illustrate the thin line between chart success and failure when it comes to the tipping point of streams. You may remember a few weeks ago I flagged up here the curious way the Steps single Scared Of The Dark fell short of the Top 40 despite being the 10th most-purchased song of the week, all because it had next to no streams. Ariana Grande this week demonstrates that Top 3 in sales + a handful of streams means a 30 place difference in chart performance.
But sometimes there is more to life than statistics. Whilst this unexpected return for the two-year-old hit is another flash in the pan, such spontaneous sales spikes are generally two-day wonders at best these days, or at least only last as far as the next published chart, it is another moving example of the ability not only of what might at first to be throwaway pop music to capture the hearts and minds of those searching for an emotional touchstone. And also of the way the pop charts always manage to be the reflection of the way the British public are thinking and feeling. In years to come, the presence of One Last Time by Ariana Grande at Number 11 this week stand as a permanent memorial to what took place at the Manchester Arena and serve as a tribute to the 22 people, most of them teenagers, who attended a pop concert and were destined never to return.
Even if the track is blessed with a video whose storyline sits rather awkwardly with its newly-minted emotional significance.