The One Is Number One
11 years is a long time to perform without being properly famous. It was 2006 that New Orleans-born Khaled Mohammed Khaled released his first album as DJ Khaled. No small degree of American success followed, with regular visits to the Billboard 200 to his name, but as a creator of mainstream pop singles the producer, DJ and sometimes rapper struck out more often than he hit. His most notable US chart success came in 2011 when I'm On One crept to Number 10. On these shores that single was the latest in a long line of flop releases that had stretched back through most of the previous decade.
Yet last year there were stirrings. His ninth studio album Major Key charted at Number 7 upon release, hard on the heels of the chart run of its lead single For Free which, largely one suspects due to the presence on guest vocals of the then man of the moment Drake, soared to the dizzy heights of Number 25 in June 2016. There was every chance that the pieces were falling into place for the veteran performer to finally hit the commercial mainstream.
So it proves this week. Blowing the competition out of the water in a manner that is almost Sheeran-esque his new single I'm The One debuts at the very top of the Official UK Singles chart, topping both sales and streaming tables with what appears to be consummate ease. Once again, a large part of the credit has to go to the performers he recruited to front the track. Chance The Rapper sits alongside Quavo (better known as one-third of Migos) and Lil Wayne but the most prominent role of all is reserved for Justin Bieber whose role as lead singer of the track has almost certainly been the key to unlocking the mystery of DJ Khaled's previous lack of a proper hit record. In all this is Bieber's fifth Number One single in this country, his second as a guest star on someone else's record (following Major Lazer's Cold Water from last year). For Lil Wayne, however, this is far and away his biggest hit single. The man whose chart career stretches back over 12 years has still never managed a major hit single under his own steam, but has featured as a guest player on many other large hits. None as big as this though, his previous best being a brace of Number 3 hits, the most recent Lloyd's Dedication To My Ex (Miss That) which reached its chart peak in December 2011.
But let's also play credit to the track itself, because it is all at once the best mainstream club hit you have heard all year. An insistent, nagging and devastatingly catchy rhythm track accompanies the clever interplay between all three men - Bieber's pop delivery, Quavo's autotuned interjections and Chance The Rapper's er, raps all combine in a manner which is clever and inventive enough to ensure the track never threatens to get boring. Best of all there isn't a tropical whine to be found here. I'm The One sounds fresh, original and exciting and well worthy of its status as the next global smash Number One hit. Forget everything that has come before. This may be the moment the summer of 2017 kicks into gear, and for certain, this is the kind of record an entire generation will look back on in 20 years time and be reminded of a era of "proper music, not like the rubbish kids listen to today". Mark my words.
I'm The One is also, you may care to note, the fourth different single to register a presence at the top of the charts in as many weeks, a stark contrast to the stagnation we've been enjoying since January. After going an entire year without one we've now had two Number One singles (from Harry Styles and Clean Bandit) to have spent a solitary week at the top. And it is also worth noting that in an era when supposedly the biggest hits grow from small acorns and take time to ramp up to their full level of success, three of the last four Number One hit single have all entered the charts at the very top in their first week on sale. This is also the first Number One single for an impressive 31 weeks not to be performed by a British act - Closer by The Chainsmokers the last single by an overseas act to top the British charts. Although the sales winner this week DJ Khaled's track still plays second fiddle on the streaming rankings to - you guessed it - Ed Sheeran's Shape Of You. But the latter single's sales are now in sharp decline and the track sags to Number 10 on the purchased table this week and Number 3 overall. Not enough to do a Drake I'm afraid, so take it as read we've seen the last of it at Number One. Thank goodness.
One Less Lonely Girl
The Bieber factor comes into play for the other new arrival inside the Top 10 this week as Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee's Despacito vaults up the chart once more, climbing 18 places to now sit at Number 4 (Sales: 4, Streams: 4). The chart records still don't acknowledge this but the overwhelming number of sales and streams remain those of the remixed version which adds a Bieber vocal and naturally enough an irresistible appeal. This is the first foreign language Top 5 hit single since Psy's Gangnam Style topped the charts in late 2012.
The two big movers inside the Top 20 this week share something in common with the Number One hit - their record label. The victory for DJ Khaled is a victory too for Black Butter Records, the one-time indie which developed a strange knack of sponsoring the early releases from some very big stars (amongst them Clean Bandit and Jess Glynne) and which now as a major label imprint has managed to lock up some of the most popular stars of the early streaming era. As well as DJ Khaled they also boast on their roster J Hus, who moves 20-17 (Sales: 21, Streams: 17) with Did You See and also the UK release rights to rapper French Montana who rockets 24-12 (Sales: 16, Streams: 13) with Unforgettable.
Just Marvin It
Down to the lower end of the Top 40 we go for a smattering of interesting new arrivals. Chief amongst them is Attention, the lead single from what we are promised is the forthcoming second album from Charlie Puth. The singer-songwriter opened his chart account in grand style back in 2015, topping the charts twice in short order - first alongside Wiz Khalifa on See You Again and then as lead artist (with Meghan Trainor in tow) on Marvin Gaye. Subsequent singles One Call Away and We Don't Talk Anymore didn't quite live up to those expectations, but it meant he was enough of a name to feature alongside Little Mix on the album track Oops which arrived on the charts for a short wander around Christmas time when he performed it with them on the last series of X Factor.
Back to the latest hit though, and for his second album, he is clearly charging headlong into the same issue that afflicted his erstwhile duet partner Meghan Trainor. The cute do-wop revivalism of his early work was a novelty which was only going to sustain him so far, so this new single is an attempt to head down a more credible and, dare I say it, artful path. It is a blisteringly good track, his high pitched vocals sitting effectively atop an incredibly catchy funk rhythm, but it is also a record out of its time. Mid-80s pop-funk is crying out for a revival it seems, but given the prevailing musical trends of the moment I struggle to see just what its market is. For now it has more than acquitted itself, sitting this week at Number 31 (Sales: 19, Streams: 36) but I wonder just how much further it can go. Prove me wrong Britain.
Don't Cry Ellie
New at Number 34 (Sales: 14, Streams: 50) is the intriguing combination of Kygo and Ellie Goulding on First Time, this single facing most competition from the king of tropical's last hit It Ain't Me which is showing little sign of fading away just yet, drifting down to Number 18 this week after peaking twice at Number 7 either side of the Sheeran flood. You've doubtless heard this single many times over, so ubiquitous has it been on the radio over the course of the last week, but it is more than worthwhile. For all my grumbling about how every other single has to have a tropical house sound, nobody does the style quite like Kygo and I've yet to hear a Goulding vocal which doesn't cause some quite startling emotional and physical stirrings. This is actually Ellie Goulding's first Top 40 hit as a guest artist since she featured on Calvin Harris' Outside back in 2014.
Chained To The Bottom
A few eyebrows will be raised at the rather understated Number 40 debut of Katy Perry's new single Bon Appetit, the rapid follow-up to Chained To The Rhythm. Whilst, yes, an artist of her supposed calibre might be expected to command instant support for any new material, this track has had a rather more low key release than its predecessor (which sits three places above) and is possibly intended to be a promotional release to whet the appetite for the album which we are still told is due in the summer. Either that or she isn't the draw we all thought she was, go figure. Bon Appetit features a guest turn from Migos, which means that member Quavo has the curious honour of featuring on the new entries at Number 40 and Number One in the very same week. Migos also featured on Sean Paul's new single Body which limps in at Number 76, apparently just three sales shy of what would be an equally contrasting Number 75.
Love Really Hurts Without You
One intriguing story that has been developing under the radar for a good many weeks now is the constant underperformance of Louisa Johnson's latest single Best Behaviour. Released in mid-March, its Number 48 debut was attributable in part to having to fight against the Sheeran storm, but since that passed the track has just been unable to capitalise. For the past two months, the track has floated around on the cusp of the Top 50, this week holding steady at Number 60 (Sales: 67, Streams: 60). This is significant simply because of her status as the X Factor winner before last, and significantly the first ever X Factor winner to go more than a year after her victory without seeing the release of her contractually-promised debut album. The intention was perhaps for her to make a proper name for herself, free from any lingering link with the talent show, but in order for this to work, she has to have consistently high charting singles. Her first 'proper' release So Good was clearly planned to have a far better life than the Number 13 it staggered to before Christmas but the continuing refusal of Best Behaviour to catch alight is surely causing someone's plans, somewhere to be rapidly rethought.
There is one further story to tell this week and one which throws into ever sharper relief the generational and cultural gap between the sales and streaming markets. Earlier this week the Peter Kay sitcom "Car Share" reached the climax of its second series, the final episode featuring the latest in a series of memorable musical set-pieces. Star-crossed good friends John and Kayleigh bonded over a radio singalong of Red Light Spells Danger by Billy Ocean, a scene which struck such a chord it sent significant numbers of people scrambling to hear the classic (a Number 2 hit in 1977) for themselves. In the not too distant past this sort of spontaneous rush to the shops would have generated a fun random chart single, and sure enough, the song sold enough copies to become the 36th biggest seller of the week. But crucially its appeal was confined to a more mature demographic, the young (and old) adults for whom the instinctive response to a song on the TV which has inspired them is to go online and buy a copy to download. How do we know this? Because the single picked up minimal streams, and as a result fails to register at all on the combined Top 100 singles chart. If I hadn't called attention to it in these pages, this brief flurry of interest in the old disco hit might well have passed by unnoticed by chart history.
Nothing better illustrates the gulf between the two markets. Streaming is part of the culture of the upcoming generation of music fans. Everyone else is still clinging to the old formats. This will change, it is inevitable. Either when the online music stores all close down or restrict their services, or when the streaming market matures into the new normal for music, we will start to see TV shows inspire spontaneous hits properly again. But for now, there is a gap a mile wide between the two generations and how they consume their music. And why forums and below the line comments will be filled with people unable to grasp why the charts are filled with music they are not buying and the sound of which they sometimes struggle to comprehend.