Stand Me Up At The Gates Of Hell
There's an oddly familiar look to the very top end of the Official UK Singles chart this week. Not that Sam Smith's Too Good At Goodbyes is particularly familiar, given it is after all just two weeks old, but there was a crushing sense of inevitability regarding the way it comfortably spends a second week at Number One. Mind, you this is enough to make this single more or less unique amongst his six chart-toppers to date for it marks only the second time he has actually spent longer than a week at the summit of the charts. His only other hit to spend a fortnight at the top was 2015 release Lay Me Down which managed two weeks before plunging to Number 6. That's not to say he hasn't occasionally been unlucky, his first Number One hit La La La in conjunction with Naughty Boy may only have spent a week at the very top of the charts but it subsequently spent a further four in the Top 3, essentially blasted out of the way by the unstoppable force of Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines.
Helping Too Good At Goodbyes further this week was the belated release of its video, although the clip shies away from the awkward business of trying to make the song in any way interesting. Even so it loses a full quarter of its sales from a week ago. Having last week compared him unfavourably with Taylor Swift's opening week at the top of the charts, I guess in fairness we have to note that this week Sam Smith's combined sales total is almost identical to that notched up by Look What You Made Me Do a fortnight ago in its own second week at the top..
The Top 3 is completed by a still hanging on in there New Rules from Dua Lipa, the former Number One single this week spending a fourth week locked in place at Number 2 on what is now its 8th week as a Top 10 hit single. Although I speculated the other week about the prospect of the track dropping a notch as its age made it susceptible to a move to Accelerated, that isn't going to happen any time soon. New Rules' sales are actually up week on week this week, neatly resetting the clock on the three consecutive weeks of market-beating decline a single has to suffer. Just behind her is an equally still dogged Pink who rises back up a place with What About Us to ensure the single continues to have spent every one of its seven weeks on the chart so far at positions 3, 4 or 5. Several times now the single from the veteran chart performer has been the most-purchased of the week, only to be held back by a streaming performance which has been strong but never quite spectacular enough to push her to the very top. I noted when the track first charted that she ran the risk of being a so-called "legacy" act with an appeal which failed to reach beyond the remaining audience still wedded to purchases rather than listens. For all that she has done remarkably well (over 7 million Spotify plays in total is by no means to be sniffed at) but there just hasn't been the volume available to it to push the single to what you can't help but wish was its true destiny.
A Bathroom I Can Play Baseball In
For the second week running, we have at least one new entry inside the Top 5 as a huge chart smash is made by Post Malone and collaborator 21 Savage with rockstar (sic). The provocative track is by far and away the biggest chart hit to date for the 22-year-old New York native, his first visit to the Top 10 after three previous chart entries. Having made his debut back in September last year as one of the guest performers on Kayne West's Fade he broke into the Top 40 for the first time earlier in the summer with Number 28 hit Congratulations which was part of the miniature "summer of Quavo" as the smallest of the many hits on which the singer guested. rockstar is if you like the inverse What About Us, its chart performance largely thanks to a superlative level of online popularity which sees it debut at the very top of the streaming rankings but whose actual sales performances is at best unspectacular. That's not that it cannot grow, but this is for now a single which appeals and speaks directly to the core audience of streamers and playlisters, leaving the older generation entirely baffled as to its appeal.
Waking Him Up
Another dramatic chart leap of 11 places grants the returning Avicii his first Top 10 hit single in over two years as Lonely Together lands at Number 10, coinciding nicely with the video for the track debuting online earlier in the week. Tim Bergling's relaxing of his previous moratorium on co-credits for the singers of his hits is to the benefit of Rita Ora who in turn enjoys back to back Top 10 hit singles for the first time in almost three years hard on the heels of her own Your Song which peaked at Number 7 during the course of the summer. Lonely Together is an intriguing listen as it manages the twin feats of being recognisably and enjoyably an Avicii composition (his trademark instrumental chorus all present and correct) whilst cannily nudging his sound forward and fitting nicely into the current musical vibe of languid tropical beats. It is no night-making wave your arms in the air end of set banger for sure, but it is a fine example of why the Swedish man has continually marked his card as one of the most significant dance producers of the decade.
Does He Still Hate Chips
When a single spends three months climbing the chart with barely a mention in these pages it either means I've not been properly paying attention or it really has risen practically without a trace. Work out for yourself which category Bestie from Yungen featuring Yxng Bane falls under. It first rated a mention back in July when after several weeks on release it finally broke through into the Top 40, one of the primary beneficiaries of the clearing of the decks which resulted from the introduction of the new chart rules at that time. Dropping out of the Top 40 the following week, it rebounded after a further seven days and ever since then the grime single has refused to go away, climbing just a few places each time. Since making the Top 40 four weeks ago the single has continued to trace an erratic path, moving 18-20-19-17 over the past few weeks. The reason I call attention to it now? A further four-place jump means the single sits this week at Number 13, registering its highest chart peak to date after 11 weeks on the Top 100. This is all down to a two-pronged assault with both sales and streams of the single ticking over steadily. Never spectacularly, but steadily enough to ensure the hit single continues to rise almost without trace. Or maybe without me paying attention.
Whilst on the subject of slow burners, it seems appropriate to continue to call attention to the chart performance of Rain from The Script which is the last single you would expect to do well in the current musical environment but which thanks to a near-constant promotional effort on the part of the band and the label maintains a constant chart profile. Still, very much sales driven, Rain never having once climbed any higher than Number 27 on the overall streaming table, the single holds firm this week at Number 19, its seventh straight week as a Top 20 hit single during which time it has peaked - for now - at Number 15.
Forgotten You Already
Four weeks ago French Montana's long-running summertime hit single Unforgettable was unceremoniously hoiked down the chart when its age and falling sales led to a downgrade in its streams. Like so many still successful singles which suffer this fate, however, it continues to chart - just at a lower profile level than before. This week the single falls to Number 26 but is finally eclipsed by the single which is its effective follow-up. I say "effective" as A Lie was supposed to be the next French Montana hit from his Jungle Rules album but it crashed out at Number 51 and the end of August. Instead, the rapper has returned to the chart as the invited guest on Hurtin' Me which gives London-based Stefflon Don her first hit single as a lead artist. Technically it is her second hit of the summer months too, following her own chart debut on the Jax Jones' hit Instruction which reached Number 13 five weeks ago but whose chart run was also curtailed when last week it too was moved onto Accelerated and exited the Top 40 at speed. Following all that? Good, because the rather beguiling Hurtin' Me which has been charting on and off since August finally motored into the Top 40 last week and after an 8 place climb sits comfortably at Number 20 for what you have to presume is an attack on the Top 10 in seven days time.
If You Don't Ask You Don't Get
The unfortunate kerning of the font used on the cover of his debut solo album Flicker may have caused social media to convulse, but its planned October release will make Niall Horan the latest One Directioner to make his full solo bow. For now, he lands on the singles chart with his third hit single Too Much To Ask which sits pretty at Number 24. Naturally, there is a temptation to make comparisons with the man who in theory should be his contemporary and equal, and in that case he falls way short of the benchmark set by Zayn Malik with his own Dusk Till Dawn which was an instant Top 5 hit a week ago. Yet whilst Horan may not quite have the intensely dedicated fanbase that his erstwhile bandmate can command to pop a first-week rating, he has proven before that his singles can be slow burners. His last release Slow Hands also opened gently with a Number 24 entry but gradually rose to the occasion to become his second straight To 10 hit single. So, for now, we'll keep an open mind, the aim of this single clearly to be ready to peak just as the album arrives as well.
Nobody Buys Albums Any More
That may be true young James, but at least the album chart also gives us stories to tell. The big deal this week is the debut of the Foo Fighters' ninth studio album Concrete And Gold which gives the group their fourth Number One album in this country. Although their days of big hit singles are surely history, the album does at least pepper the singles chart with a handful of its tracks, the three and out rule restricting them to The Sky Is A Neighbourhood at Number 63, Run at Number 76 and T-Shirt at Number 94.
Lower down you will see much attention being paid to the dramatic uplift in sales given to Process by Sampha following the 28-year-old Londoner's award of the annual Mercury Music Prize during the week. For the first time, an album by the winner has rocketed from outside the album chart Top 100 (it was Number 152 last week) straight into the Top 10. Its streams surged 458% week on week, whilst its sales also shot through the roof with an increase of over 540%.
Stat-Porn Of The Week
Purchased singles? Setting another decade-long low I'm afraid. 1.117m last week the lowest since the summer of 2006 when they were barely hovering over the million mark. Meanwhile, the sales/streams share sets another record with 91.76% of the market total resulting from sales-equivalent streams.
Incidentally, those numbers can start to get confusing. In order to compare like with like, total market size is calculated using the originally defined 1:100 sales:streams ratio rather than the revised 1:150 or 1:300 used by the main singles chart itself. It is that same ratio which is used to compile the brand new "millionaires" list unveiled by the Official Charts Company last week. A way of redefining the "biggest single ever" mark due to the old "count the purchased sales and celebrate those that sold a million" being rendered obsolete by the growing decline in purchasing, the new table welcomes a whole raft of singles - most of them from the past three years - to the table of biggest of all time. Whilst this skew will correct itself over time, particularly given the sky is the limit as far as the market for single streams is concerned, for now we have the rather startling sight of Ed Sheeran's Shape Of You ranking as the UK's third biggest single of all time. This is thanks to its 754,000 purchased sales and 2.121m sales equivalent streams combining for a total of 2.876m, more than any other single in history save for Do They Know It's Christmas and what remains, for now, the all-time champion Candle In The Wind '97. Check out the full list of "millionaires" on the OCC website if you haven't already. It makes for a diverting ten minutes.