Turned This Thing Sideways
Well, this wasn't the story I was expecting to tell this week. Let's just say this is the freaky Friday to end all of them.
For those who cannot read through my enormously subtle clue, let me break the news that we have a brand new Number One single this week. Despite trailing by some distance midweek, Lil Dicky's debut smash hit proved by the end of the chart survey to be an unstoppable force. With a four-place climb Freaky Friday, the funniest comedy single of the decade tops the Official UK Singles chart.
It is an astonishing triumph for the 30-year-old American - real name David Bird - whose career as a 'rapper' came largely by accident when he used it as a means to an end to promote his comedy performances online. When the raps themselves started to gain more appreciation than his straightforward standup work he adopted the character wholesale. Freaky Friday is really the climax of an extended climb to true worldwide fame, during which time he's accumulated enough celebrity friends to ensure his hit single is loaded with some quite astounding cameos.
Credit also has to go to Lil' Dicky's primary collaborator Chris Brown. His very presence on the charts at all always seems to enrage people, thanks naturally to his own past stupidities. On Freaky Friday he at least demonstrates a knowing awareness of how his reputation follows him around. Now he gets his chance to participate in what is only his second ever Number One single. His first came almost exactly six years ago this week, with Turn Up The Music grabbing a week in the spotlight in April 2012. Prior to that, his best chart performance had been a brace of Number 2 singles, his 2006 debut Run It! and a cameo role on Chipmunk's Champion in 2011.
Freaky Friday has managed to achieve the happy medium of being a comedy record which not only remains fresh on repeated listens but which can in its own way stand tall as an R&B hit in its own right. Radio was slow to pick up on the single, largely due to the challenge of its lyrics and the way this is a track made largely for online consumption where usual rules on taste and decency don't really have to apply. There is now a radio edit in circulation, although as I noted on Twitter during the week, sanitising the track and cutting out all the bits that are gleefully 'wrong' means the whole record sounds oddly disjointed when spat out the other end. Effectively making it wrong in a bad way.
There have been numerous comedy records to have topped the charts in the past, although by my reckoning we have been waiting over 10 years for a single played deliberately for laughs rather than novelty value to reach Number One. At the risk of provoking a debate over whether x counts or y does not, let me suggest that this is the first true "comedy" single to reach Number One since Brian Potter and Andy Pipkin (aka Peter Kay and Matt Lucas) took on (I'm Gonna Be) 500 Miles and won back in 2007.
The best thing about Freaky Friday reaching Number One though? There will be people reading this who have never heard it before and have clicked on to see what all the fuss is about. And if you haven't heard it yet, then I actually envy you this treat. Just make sure you watch to the end.
Still Not Her
As for the story which was supposed to be leading the way this week, that all relates to what might appear to be a random resurgence for the smash hit single from the Greatest Showman soundtrack, This Is Me as performed by Keala Settle. Ten weeks into an extended run in the Top 10, you might have expected everyone with an interest to be aware of the single by now. Not so it seems. This Is Me was thrust into the minds of another section of the public last Friday night with the screening of The Real Full Monty - Ladies Night on ITV, the second of two charity specials in aid of cancer charities which saw various celebrities perform tastefully choreographed (and shot) strip shows inspired by the famous 1990s movie. The ladies performed their climactic routine to the sound of This Is Me, needless to say prompting a surge of new interest in the track and rocketing it to the top of the live download charts in fairly short order.
Ordinarily, this would pass without notice. Whereas once upon a time during the height of the download era, primetime exposure for any single was enough to send it surging up the charts thanks to a flood of new purchases, the decline of the sell-through market and the rise of streaming has rendered such impacts negligible. For example, Christina Perri's 2011 soundtrack single A Thousand Years surged up the download charts a week and a half ago thanks to a viral charity video, but without support from any other part of the market it this wasn't enough to make it climb any further than Number 58.
What made This Is Me different is that this was an already current hit single, riding high in the streaming charts and with a still healthy level of sales. The 'bonus' downloads from the watching TV audience were enough to give the single what almost turned into a winning kick. The midweek update on Monday (which due to the bank holiday was not published until Tuesday) gave This Is Me a narrow sales lead. If the situation had continued then Keala Settle was heading for a most unlikely Number One single.
Sadly the surge did not last, but it was still enough to send This Is Me shooting back up the charts to reclaim the Number 3 peak it first scaled on the chart dated February 22nd - a full seven weeks ago. The track was on the verge of being relegated to ACR having declined in sales over the previous two weeks. This week's surge means the clock is now reset, ensuring it should linger in the Top 10 for at least another three weeks. To no great surprise, this has also benefitted the album, having surrendered its crown last week The Greatest Showman soundtrack climbs back to the top of the Official UK Albums chart for its 12th non-consecutive week at the top.
The interest in This Is Me led to a brief surge of interest in the "commercial" version of the song, the theoretically more chart-friendly rendition by Kesha which has so far sunk without trace. Alas, that didn't last either and the single has still to make an appearance on the Top 100 of any kind.
In a neat segue, this means we get to talk about what turned out to be the biggest 'album' release of the week, the six-track EP My Dear Melancholy which was dropped by The Weeknd without warning. However short, it still qualifies for the long player listing and enters at Number 3, the Canadian soulman's highest charting release since Beauty Behind The Madness topped the charts upon release in September 2015.
The album also produces the three highest new entries of the week. Leading the way, perhaps inevitably, is lead cut Call Out My Name which flies into the singles chart at Number 7. It is the singer's first Top 10 hit single since I Feel It Coming shot to Number 9 in December 2016 and arrives hard on the heels of his last hit, Pray For Me from the Black Panther soundtrack which peaked at Number 11 six weeks ago.
Pray For Me had only sunk to Number 23 last week and indeed would still be a Top 30 single this time around but for the fact it has been disqualified from the charts thanks to the arrival of two other cuts from My Dear Melancholy which chart even higher. Try Me and Wasted Times are The Weeknd's two other permitted hits which line up at 17 and 18. It should be noted that the performer is one of the acts whose appeal prompted the introduction of the 3-and-out rule in the first place, the release of his Starboy album in 2016 resulting in him occupying 14 Top 75 chart places simultaneously. It somehow feels better this way.
Nothing To See Here
Mind you, we should be grateful for the presence of The Weeknd in our lives, given that the Easter weekend meant the music industry worldwide choosing to take this week off. No other new singles of note arrive on the charts, leaving the Top 40 looking otherwise becalmed as everything rearranges itself. That's still no excuse for the failure of some smaller hits to take advantage, for example, Sanctify from Years & Years holding firm at Number 29, unable for the moment to advance beyond the Number 25 it reached in its first week available last month. Even the bigger new entries of last week failed to consolidate their positions, Shawn Mendes dipping 13-16 with the otherwise well-received In My Blood. Let us instead acknowledge the persistence this week of What I Wanna from MoStack which is now five weeks old, all of which have been spent just inside the Top 40. The single climbs four places this week, peaking at Number 33 for the second time of asking. It is the British rapper's first chart single as a lead artist, following guest roles on the all-star Steel Banglez track Bad (a Number 29 hit in early January) and more notably Dave's No Words which reached Number 17 over the Christmas period.
As of this week, there's a new addition to the Chart Watch site, a page featuring graphical representations of some of the more interesting statistics of the moment. This week you'll be able to track the sales rise of Freaky Friday, the alarming consistency of These Days, plus a regular tally of the sales/streams split of the Number One single and the ever-downward trend of sales of paid for singles. Even if thanks to the This Is Me factor they actually rose slightly this week.