A Symphonic Celebration
There is no simple way to hide from it. If you are Ed Sheeran, or people associated with him, then you have a tiny bit of a PR problem. Because people are now tired of him. Not so much the dedicated fans of his music, or even those who are choosing to consume it of course. They are ensuring that at least two of his tracks remain amongst the most listened to day in day out and close to the top of the weekly totals without fail. No, it is everyone else who is tired of him. Tired of his apparent ubiquity, tired of hearing Shape Of You on the radio yet again, and tired of seeing and reading about him at the top of the Official UK Singles chart.
So that's why this week's chart is actually refreshingly good news. Because there is a brand new Number One single at the top, not by Sheeran again nor indeed by a former boy band star whose sales longevity is open to question. Instead at the top of the charts we have Symphony by Clean Bandit and Zara Larsson, the track climbing majestically to the very top in no less than its sixth week on sale. This is a record which has bided its time, built up a head of steam at both sales and streaming and now justly reaps the rewards. In the process giving we chart watchers a joyful glut of stats to chew on.
Clean Bandit then first of all, the trio further cementing their status as one of the biggest British creative forces of the moment. It is their third Number One single and their second in succession, following the iconic Rather Be from 2014 and the evergreen Rockabye which was the Christmas Number One at the end of last year whilst enjoying a nine-week run at the top of the charts. As an act whose core gimmick (even though they say it was just an accident of circumstance) is that they have no regular lead singer, it means that with every success they drag a new name to the top of the charts with them. Jess Glynne in 2014. Anne-Marie and Sean Paul in 2016. And now Zara Larsson who performs on Symphony and who now is enjoying the biggest hit of her career, surpassing the Number 2 peak of I Would Like which reached its chart apex in the first week of the new year - denied the chance to top the charts by what else but Rockabye by Clean Bandit.
This is the really fun part though. Next week will mark exactly six months since the aforementioned Clean Bandit single first climbed to the top of the charts. Such was the length of its own chart run and of course such was the length of the chart run of the record which deposed it from the top - Shape Of You by one E.Sheeran - it means that for 25 of the last 26 weeks the Number One single in the UK has been performed either by Ed or by Grace, Jack and Luke.
Symphony hasn't exactly traced a graceful (no pun intended) path to the top of the charts, having moved 6-4-3-4-2-1 to make it one of those rare singles which has actually fallen down the charts prior to reaching the top. It is rare but not completely unknown, particularly in more volatile chart eras, but I believe I'm correct in saying it is the first to do so within the Top 40 since Paradise by Coldplay in early 2012 [Doh, as pointed out by people in the commments, it was actually Ed Sheeran's own Thinking Out Loud in late 2014]. Stitches by Shawn Mendes also yo-yoed around before topping the charts last year, but its dips came during a lengthy run outside the upper end of the chart. Once it had made the Top 40 it traced a completely upward path.
As to the single's prospects of landing another long run at the top, that's very much in the lap of the Gods. Almost two months old now, you'd imagine it doesn't have much gap left in the tank as a download, but Symphony has now firmly entrenched itself at the top of the download tables, binning even Ed Sheeran down to second place at long last. And as we all know such singles once at the top can be a devil of a job to shift.
Shape Of Harry
Aside from Clean Bandit barging their way to the top, the rest of the Top 5 remains rather becalmed. The two Ed singles of the moment (Shape Of You and Galway Girl) are fixed at 2 and 3 whilst holding steady at Number 4 is the former Number One Sign Of The Times from Harry Styles. Full credit where it is due there as it was far too easy to be cynical about its top-heavy Week 1 sales which came thanks to the massed ranks of the Harry Army. After two weeks at the top of the sales table the track dips to second place this week (out-purchased by Clean Bandit) but just as crucially holds firm at Number 12 on the streaming table. It may not be growing as such, but it is more than holding its own.
Spit or Swalla
We have new blood inside the Top 10 first, in the shape of Swalla by Derulo/Minaj/TDS which continues its own upward progress to make a 15-6 (Sales: 5, Streams: 9) leap. That's Jason Derulo's first Top 10 hit as lead artist since his own Want To Want Me topped the charts in 2015, Nicki Minaj's biggest hit of any kind since Ariana Grande's Side To Side reached Number 4 in 2016 and only the second such single for Ty Dolla $ign following his work with Fifth Harmony on Work (From Home).
One place behind them is an act who on the face of it has made an even bigger leap. Having blasted his way to stardom last year with Number One smash Stitches and follow-up hits Treat You Better and Mercy, new material from Shawn Mendes was always going to be an eagerly awaited event. For the release of There's Nothing Holdin' Me Back he played it cleverly, releasing the single a week last Thursday. Whilst this meant it only had one day of sales to contribute to last week's chart (resulting in an all but invisible placing of Number 143 in the market last week) it did mean by the start of this survey it was an already established release. Making a running start rather than a standing one, so the theory goes. Apparently, it has paid off. The single rockets this week to Number 7 (Sales: 3, Streams: 25) and seems set for an extended chart run. There's no word yet on a new album from the Canadian (it will be his third), so for now There's Nothing Holdin' Me Back has the status of a taster. A sample of new material, just to see how things go for now.
Everyone Go Hus
My cynicism last week was (slightly) misplaced. Lady Gaga's The Cure does not fade away but instead climbs some more. edging up four notches to sit at Number 19 (Sales: 7, Streams: 37) and in the process become her 17th Top 20 hit since her 2009 debut. We still await her first Top 10 since since 2013, mind.
Also reaching the Top 20 is the latest British grime MC to go overground J Hus, his single Did You See making a strong 14 place climb to Number 20 (Sales: 22, Streams: 21). The track thus takes over the mantle of being his biggest chart hit to date, Hus (known to his mum as Momodou Jallow) having featured on the Stormzy track Bad Boys which made Number 22 as part of his post-album release clean sweep back in March.
Fill Me Up
Until now Puerto Rican rapper Daddy Yankee has been a classic one hit wonder in this country, his only chart entry coming in 2005 when Gasolina reached the Top 5. This week he is back on the Top 40 in partnership with countryman Luis Fonsi on Despacito which rockets 70-22 (Sales: 31, Streams: 19). In truth though the interest in the single is little to do with either men but in fact the presence on one of the remixes by an uncredited Justin Bieber who takes his first ever steps into Latino music and in the process gives what might otherwise have been a niche interest foreign language track a huge commercial boost. It is an odd situation though, the Bieber version easily the one hoovering up the bulk of the sales and streams but for now the only video available features the 'original' mix featuring Fonsi and Yankee alone.
No Speak Americano
Dance grooves of an altogether more relaxed kind make an appearance at Number 24 with the Top 40 arrival of Unforgettable by French Montana featuring Swae Lee. Ten years after he released his first mixtape the Moroccan-born American performer has his first ever chart hit as a lead artist. Prior to today his only chart form came as just one of the cast of thousands joining will.i.am on Feelin' Myself which hit Number 2 in February 2004.
Oh yes, and attention all Zquad members. Your idol is still fighting the good fight, as ZAYN's Still Got Time climbs back up the chart to Number 27 this week, boosted at long last by the arrival of its rather racy video and which may well kick into life a track which for the moment has underachieved given the name value of the people involved. Its chart peak, however, remains the Number 24 it scaled on its debut, one which however may well be surpassed, especially given he now has everyone guessing after appearing to fall out with rapper PartyNextDoor who features on the single - the latter has deleted all social media links to his British friend, leaving everyone trying to guess why.
There's room too to mention two more singles which had low key releases at the tail end of last week's survey but which now make more respectable chart showings with a full week of sales and streams behind them - Hard Times from Paramore which sits at Number 34 (Sales: 15, Streams: 44) and Lust For Life from a returning Lana Del Rey which jumps to Number 38 (Sales: 34, Streams: 40).
Scared Of The Streams
There was an intriguing race at the top end of the Official UK Albums chart this week with the early sales flashes suggesting that the big comeback album from Steps was set to dethrone Sheeran's Divide. This turned out to be a false hope and the collection Tears On The Dancefloor, their first album since the rather less well received Light Up The World in 2012, debuts instead at Number 2. The hefty promotional drive for the collection has, in turn, breathed brief life back into its lead single Scared Of The Dark which first charted for a week at Number 37 at the end of March. Indeed it is Scared Of The Dark which supplies us with the most astounding chart fact of the week. A big sales push for what remains a magnificent and lavishly made pop record and far and away one of the best things they have ever recorded - even going back to their turn of the milennium heyday - results in the single becoming the 10th most purchased track of the week this week. Number 10 on the sales chart in old money. But a cheesy rival pop record from a group of older stars leaves the streaming generation cold and it has still failed to find its way onto any playlists of note.
Back at the start of this year I suggested that one of the main motivations for changing the streams:sales ratio from 100:1 to 150:1 was to correct the anomaly that had developed whereby it was possible to have a Top 10 selling single but miss the Top 40 altogether if your streams weren't adequate enough. Well, let's note this week that just four months later the anomaly has returned. Scared Of The Dark is this week only the Number 44 single on the Official UK Singles chart. Because nobody seems to be playing it on Spotify.