Eating a Ba-na-na-na-na-na
To YouTube or not YouTube. That appears to be the question. Unlike say, in America, the UK charts only track streams from dedicated audio services - Spotify, Tidal, Apple etc. Plays of chart songs through YouTube are not, despite the platform cheerfully promoting the idea that playlists of songs can be compiled and shared in this way just like the audio services. The thinking, for now, is that playing a video is a very different consumer proposition to just playing a song, however many people leave these things bubbling away in the background. There's also the feeling that the visual aspect can be in danger of swamping the music. Put bare bottoms in your clip and you are guaranteed more than your fair share of eyes, regardless of how useless the music underneath is. And that's reason enough to be cautious about having this count towards the charts. At least for now anyway.
But therein lies the question. Every play of a pop video on YouTube is theoretically an audio stream lost, a whole audience for the music that is for the moment invisible to the charts themselves. Whilst I've yet to read any direct or even anecdotal evidence that the presence of a popular video on YouTube or Vimeo etc. actively cannibalises chart sales (any more than plays on the radio cost you record sales back in the day), it is hard not to look at the way certain singles without videos behave and draw conclusions accordingly.
The debate is all the more relevant this week given the nature of the two singles which are locked together at the very top of the Official UK Singles Chart for the third time in as many weeks. Still leading the way are Post Malone and 21 Savage with rockstar which is the Number One single for the fourth straight week, and which once more dominates the streaming market in a way no other single can manage right now whilst its actual sales lag some way behind - the split of its chart sales is once more is 80/20 in favour of its streams. As I noted last week, this track is resolutely unavailable in any form on any video players. All you can 'watch' is a loop of the chorus.
Close behind though, and trailing this week by the matter of just 5,000 sales, is Camila Cabello with Havana which resigns itself to a third week stuck at Number 2. All but overlooked until now was the fact this single too lacked a video to call its own, its presence on YouTube limited to the "official audio" static card. All that changed this week as the song's epic film clip was finally made available as Cabello became the star of her own mock telenovela. Now given that you could already play the song on YouTube it is impossible to draw proper conclusions, but the fact is that combined sales of Havana shot from 39,403 last week to 43,927 this. It went up with a video.
As the gap at the top of the charts continues to narrow, there still remains the chance the single could eventually overcome rockstar and ascend to Number One, something which it possibly deserves given the way it has dominated the sales only market for the past few weeks. What may count against it though is the single's age. This is now Havana's 12th week as a Top 100 single meaning it is eligible to be hoiked onto ACR as soon as its overall sales begin to sink. For now, as we have seen, it is safe.
Waiting For That Day
In the absence of any movement at the top of the singles chart, most of the mainstream headlines this week have been grabbed by the Official UK Albums chart and in particular, the veteran star and recording which sits at the very top. Following the broadcast of the autobiographical film "Freedom" and the release of a brand new special edition featuring previously unheard bonus tracks, George Michael's Listen Without Prejudice Vol.1 charges to Number One, returning to the chart peak it scaled upon first release on September 15th 1990 - or if you prefer after a gap of 27 years, 1 month and 18 days.That's the second time this year that a "classic" album has returned to Number One, hard on the heels of the Beatles' Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band earlier this summer.
Listen Without Prejudice is an album held in high regard, by critics and fans alike, but had a difficult birth at the time, its marketing hamstrung by George's refusal to do any personal promotion of it or even appear in any videos, insisting that as a "serious" artist his music should be left to speak for itself. In sympathy with both the documentary and the album's re-release, its most famous single Freedom '90 makes a singles chart return of its own at Number 49, having originally made Number 28 as the album's third single in December 1990. Many of its sales actually came from a new limited edition 7-inch issue which was exclusive to HMV last week. The most successful version of the track was that recorded by Robbie Williams whose own point-proving cover became his first post-Take That single when it leapt to Number 2 in the summer of 1996.
Rather fascinatingly George Michael is presently listed as the clear favourite to have the Christmas Number One single in the very early betting markets available at present. Now in the absence of any clear idea as to what singles might be in the charts by the end of December, this is wild speculation on the part of the bookmakers who are simply trying to entice people to put their money down early. Nonetheless, there is a strange kind of logic to it. As the streaming market becomes ever more the dominant means of music consumption and the engine that drives the singles chart, those published in the run-up to Christmas are more likely than ever before to be swamped by the effect of the parade of holiday classics which by the big day itself completely dominate the daily summaries. Last year the Wham! classic Last Christmas made it to Number 7 in the chart published the week after he died. Whilst I'm making no predictions here myself, it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that a golden oldie with particular sentimental resonance could go even further this year. And clearly, the bookmakers are in agreement.
Extraordinarily Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 isn't the oldest album in the Top 10 this week. That particular accolade goes to The Queen Is Dead by The Smiths which dates from June 1986 and which sits at Number 10 this week following a re-release of its own, its highest chart placing since its second week on release.
Still Trying To Be In This
When the time comes to look back on its as ancient history, the defining story of 2017 in music will almost certainly be the parade of Spanglish hit singles which dominated the summer. But you can also argue this was truly the year of the One Direction solo project, with all the individual members of the all-conquering X Factor-created boy band making their own bids for personal glory during the course of the year. Of course, as I may have noted before, unless you are a particularly dedicated fan then there is precious little interest in the works of a group of guys who, lest we forget, all auditioned for the show as solo singers only to be rejected and tooled into a group instead.
This is particularly relevant this week as Niall Horan becomes the latest Directioner to make his formal solo bow as his still awkwardly titled album Flicker makes its debut this week - albeit at a rather muted Number 3, outsold at the death by both Pink and a 27 year old recording by a former boy band star of a very different era. The album is home to the Irishman's two previous hit singles This Town and Slow Hands as well as a third cut Too Much To Ask which struggled to climb beyond the Number 24 it debuted at back in September, although thanks to streams of the album overall it rallies this week and rebounds back to Number 27.
That's still one place ahead of his colleague Liam Payne who this week lands a third chart single with Bedroom Floor debuting at Number 28. It is the successor to his solo debut Strip That Down which impressed with a Number 3 debut and a 10 week run in the Top 10 back in the summer, coinciding with the chart run of the Zedd single Get Low on which he also featured but which could only reach Number 26.
Beating both men then is the man who saw his future lie with solo work far earlier than the rest of the group and who seems to have been reaping the benefits ever since. Still streaming in huge numbers and with its sales holding nicely ZAYN and Sia's Dusk Till Dawn holds firm at Number 6 this week for a third straight week. Seven weeks in the Top 10 equals the chart run of his solo debut Pillow Talk from February 2016, meaning this hit should in short order take over as his biggest chart hit ever.
Carry More Than Just My Secrets
Dusk Till Dawn this week stands in the way of further progress by Ed Sheeran's hit Perfect which does at least make a four place climb this week to sit comfortably at Number 7. The single thus returns to the Top 10 for the first time since the end of March when it initially made Number 4 as a well-streamed album cut. All eyes then on whether it will match or exceed that initial chart run - or indeed if it will manage to duplicate the chart feats of the track which is its spiritual predecessor Thinking Out Loud, which climbed to the top of the charts after a protracted chart run of its own almost three years ago. The flood of tracks from the Multiply album means that Ed Sheeran's chart stats are somewhat distorted, Perfect already one of no less than 20 Top 10 hits he has enjoyed since his 2010 debut. Counting only what have been nominated as "official" singles, it this week becomes his 14th.
The next big album release of the autumn is inevitably going to be that of Taylor Swift's Reputation which is still slated for mid-November. To further whet the appetite this week she released its third hit Gorgeous which makes its bow at Number 15. This track is for now only granted the status of "promotional" single to be delivered to those who pre-order the album, much of the focus instead switching back to the track Ready For It whose video made its bow online earlier this week, this despite the track having seemingly already peaked as a hit single as Number 7 back in September when it too was just a "promotional" track. It remains to be seen if this helps it back into the charts at all, or whether it was just a bit of a waste of time.
Parade Of Calvin's Exes
Also new this week: Rita Ora, riding high in the charts already thanks to her turn on Avicii's Lonely Together (a non-mover at Number 4) but now with a second Top 20 hit to call her own as Anywhere is another high new entry at Number 20. This is the follow-up to the rather lovely Your Song which spent a total of three weeks at Number 7 during an extended Top 10 run back in the summer. Both hit singles are set to feature on her long overdue second album which for now remains unannounced and very much TBC, meaning we are unlikely to see it until early 2018 by which time it will be nearly six years since the release of her acclaimed debut Ora. Still, if she can keep managing hit records like this then the gap should be irrelevant, and Anywhere is easily the best pop hit she has released for some time.
Having noted at least one young star amongst the parade of veterans making hit albums this week, we should acknowledge two more. Krept & Konan become one of a select few acts to see not one but two brand new albums debut side by side inside the Top 10 as their pair of mixtapes 7 Days and 7 Nights chart at 6 and 9 respectively. They claim their obligatory three chart singles too, albeit rather lower down, with the biggest of them Ask Flipz with Stormzy in tow charting at Number 30. That single is one of a handful of other new tracks to creep inside the Top 40, the most notable of which is almost certainly Feel It Still from Portugal. The Man. The American rock band have had to demonstrate a great deal of patience here, this single having first charted back in August and as of last week it had spent 11 weeks on the chart without ever once climbing higher than Number 42. All good things come to those who wait, and on week 12 the single finally rises to a brand new peak of Number 39. It is presently Top 5 back home in America.
That's not to say there aren't still several other minor chart singles which are presently 'enjoying' extended chart runs whilst languishing outside the Top 40. The single we noted a few weeks ago, Butterfly Effect by Travis Scott is this week up one place at Number 66 in its 16th week around, one place short of the Number 65 it has now scaled twice. Similarly No Don by Lotto Boyz is up at Number 45, a new peak for the single which is also 16 weeks old and whilst 21 Savage is enjoying a fourth week at Number One as a guest of Post Malone, his own Bank Account remains locked in place at its present peak of Number 41 on what is now its 13th straight week as a chart record.
Lies, Damn Lies
Ready for the stats bit of the week? Streams accounted for 92.15% of the total singles market last week. Setting another brand new record. 95% by the end of the year perhaps? Paid for singles are still hovering around the 1.1m a week mark. But that watershed dip below a million is on the way as well.