The Post Sam Smith Era Begins
If I may borrow a line from another of his more famous hits, the writing was on the wall for Sam Smith last week when he retained his chart crown by the small matter of a few hundred copies. So it is with a sense of inevitability this week that Too Good At Goodbyes bows to the inevitable and has its run at the top of the Official UK Singles chart come to an end. Replacing it is rockstar from Post Malone and 21 Savage which still is not blessed with anything resembling a video but which takes pride of place at the top of the charts.
It is the manner in which the single has done so which is the fascinating part. As I noted when it first charted, the single has been proving insanely popular at streaming but has rather less appeal at the retail end of the market. Far and away the most-streamed track online once again, rockstar languishes lower down the overall sales table, this week making the sales Top 10 for the very first time - at Number 7. This means the Number One single of the week is even being outsold by a single which sits in mid-table lower down the Top 20. By my reckoning this is the largest sales:streams skew of any chart-topping single so far in the streaming era. Of the nearly 47,000 chart sales registered by rockstar, a mere 9,000 of them came from paid for purchases. Everyone else is simply streaming it with enthusiasm.
After a spring and summer of clogged up singles charts and the same tracks lingering at the top for months on end, the Number One position has been refreshingly fluid since the end of the summer. Too Good At Goodbyes is the third single in a row to spend less than four weeks at the top of the charts, a rate of turnover we haven't seen for real since the end of 2015. rockstar is now the 12th new Number One single of 2017, meaning that despite the epic runs enjoyed by Ed Sheeran and Luis Fonsi, there have been far more singles topping the charts this year than in 2016 when 11 different tracks took turns at the summit. Last year was also an all-time low for overall chart turnover with just 90 different singles entering the Top 40 in the whole of 2016. As of this week we are now up to 107 different Top 40 hits, a vast improvement for sure, but that still means we are some way short of matching the 2015 total of 142, not to mention the 200+ hits that we enjoyed every year between 1999 and 2014.
Incidentally, one of those new Top 40 arrivals happens to be a second concurrent hit from Post Malone as I Fall Apart from his previous album Stoney has now come alive and jumps this week to Number 40, dragging the album up to a brand new peak inside the Top 20 in the process.
Quite The Bromance Going On
It is another upwardly mobile-looking Top 10 this week with five singles (including the Number One) on the rise. Avicii hits Number 5 this week with Lonely Together, the single now his highest charting since You Make Me also hit Number 5 in September 2013. Rita Ora's co-credit on the single means she also gets a boost to her chart record, the track sailing past the Number 7 peak of her own Your Song to take her into the Top 5 for the very first time since she hit Number 3 with Poison in July 2015.
The climbers also include two new arrivals into the Top 10 - 1-800-273-8255 from Logic/Alessia Cara/Khalid climbing to Number 9 whilst after a most determined and protracted rise, Bestie from Yungen and Yxng Bane lifts 13-10 to reach a brand new landmark peak.
Be Gente With Me
In an ideal world, one of the week's more fascinating chart stories would have resulted in a slightly more visible impact, but I guess sometimes the singer is out of time with the band. Or at the very least the streaming ratios. A Top 40 hit since the start of August, and following a chart run which saw it peak at Number 5 in mid-September, J Balvin and Willy William's Mi Gente looked to be gently burning out. But then last week the pair introduced a new mix of the track into the equation which stirs in a new vocal from no less a legend than Beyonce herself. Not so much a Spanglish remix as a Sfranglish remix as the new lyrics feature both languages in equal measure, it was enough to give the sales of the track a new kick - but not so much its chart placing. Part of the problem is that the 13 week old Mi Gente fell foul of the Accelerated Chart Ratio rules three weeks ago right after it reached its initial chart peak and has languished lower down the Top 20 ever since, despite its sales and streams holding up well. The release of the new mix of the track gave it a boost - the single rocketing 20-5 on streams and 23-8 on sales, but by no means enough of a boost to reset its streaming ratio back to normal. The result is an apparently minor lift, up just two places to Number 14 making the whole exercise, for now, a bit of a waste of effort.
If Only They Had Left It
After several false starts, the Love Island format has turned into one of the biggest social bankers for the ITV network. Each new series of the contrived dating show, which shoves a selection of people who imagine they are beautiful together in paradise and waits for them to get it on with one another, appears to generate ever-greater levels of social media interest and mainstream press coverage. Clearly, it was only going to be a matter of time before this spilled over into the musical arena as well. Hence the appearance on the singles chart this week of former Love Island contestants Chris & Kem whose aspirations to be rappers were duly documented by a two-part miniseries last week. The result is their very own single Little Bit Leave It and I can actually feel my soul shrinking and dying as I type each one of these words.
However the single does have one particular redeeming factor. Throwing into sharp focus the gulf between the two halves of the singles market and they way they fit together to make up the singles chart. Little Bit Leave It was late to the party, not appearing online until Monday morning last week. However, in fairly short order it was in such demand that it shot to the very top of the live iTunes table, barging Sam Smith out of the way in a quite unceremonious manner. And there it remained for the rest of the week, creating such a stir that it was one of two records to prompt the Official Charts Company themselves to bring out further midweek announcements just to keep track of the fascinating chart race. Such as it was, anyway.
Chris & Kem can duly boast the third most-purchased single of the week, the top honour surely only eluding them thanks to the track's lack of availability over the weekend. Yet that still only amounted to 12,000 sales. Over the course of four days that is roughly 3,000 per day. And that is literally all it took them to be Number One on iTunes - still, for now, one of the most visible live tables of up to the minute singles popularity - for the back end of last week. That's a sobering indication of the kind of volumes involved. Little Bit Leave It wasn't a huge streaming success but still managed what once upon a time would be impressive numbers. A little over 1.1m streams accounted for a further 7,000 chart sales giving them a total of 20,000 overall (7+12 is 19 I know, but I'm rounding) and places the single at Number 15 on the chart overall. From where we can only pray it doesn't progress further.
They Were All Yellow
I mentioned it last week when it first hoved into view inside the Top 40, but it deserves a full mention now. Bodak Yellow from Cardi B has made impressive waves across the Atlantic, becoming the first single by a solo female MC to top the US charts since 1999. Number 37 in the UK last week, the track now lifts to Number 24 as it fights its way onto playlists and its streams start to take off. One of those singles which will place you firmly one side or another of a generation or musical gap, the annoyingly catchy hip hop track will be loved and hated by all who hear it in equal measure. But it is on its way to becoming a large hit single here too, and that's something that makes me smile at least. Just don't ask me what she's on about.
All That Effort Wasted
New entries inside the album chart count? 11 this week in yet another massive week for new releases. The most intriguing chart battle of all was at the top, a two-way tussle between nu-country veteran Shania Twain and North London alternative rock band Wolf Alice. When the early midweek figures revealed that the Canadian superstar was in front by the narrowest of margins, the British act hit the social media bricks with a vengeance and immediately cast themselves as the plucky underdogs in a fight for British honour. Along the way they secured celebrity and political endorsements and if nothing else made such an effort that it clearly mattered to them enormously that they would hit the top of the charts with this latest release. So in a way it is a huge shame that they failed to do so. Wolf Alice's Visions Of A Life ends up as the Number 2 album of the week, just 700 copies short of the 20,000 notched up by Shania Twain at the top. Her album Now is her first studio release in 15 years and duly becomes her first Number One album in 18. The now infamous Come On Over was her only previous chart champion, topping the charts for the first time in 1999 almost two years after it was first released.
A number of veteran acts also have big new album chart entries this week, amongst them David Gilmour and Chris Rea. The most poignant of all perhaps is that of Greatest Hits by Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, a 1993 collection which following the death this week of the celebrated rock star lands at Number 14 to register its highest chart placing since December of the year it was released and its first chart run of any kind since 2014. There's a handful of Tom Petty tracks on the singles chart too, most notably Free Fallin' which registers at Number 65, one place below the peak it scaled on its initial release back in 1989 but just short of the Number 59 it made when it made a spontaneous reappearance in May 2012 after a contestant on The Voice UK made such an impression with it. It seems a sad coincidence, I've spent the past few weeks making Tom Petty gags at the expense of Sam Smith, this following a plagiarism suit which saw Petty successfully claim a credit on Smith's Stay With Me for its musical similarities to Petty's own 1989 hit I Wont't Back Down.
Who Breaks The Wings
Finally for this week and at the behest of tweeter Phil Annets, let's call attention to the protracted fate of Butterfly Effect from Travis Scott which languishes at Number 69 this week, the latest instalment in what is now a 13 week chart run which has seen the single scull around the bargain basement end of the chart without ever showing any sign of properly taking flight, as it were. To date, the track has peaked twice at Number 65, first on the chart of August 17th and then three weeks ago on September 21st. Such a lengthy chart run without ever approaching high levels of success is by no mean impossible in the streaming era, as frustrating as it may be for the acts in question. It is reminiscent of the fate of Please Don't Go by Joel Adams which in 2016 "enjoyed" a 21 week run in the Top 100 between June and November, during the course of which it never once climbed higher than Number 50 - a peak it reached on August 11th that year.