Dominus Deus Which Record Will He Play Us
For the fourth straight week, God's Plan by Drake remains Number One on the Official UK Singles chart. Despite valiant attempts by the Official Charts Company to play this up as being a genuine race (the midweek update excitedly noting that These Days was fewer copies behind than it was a week earlier) the truth of the matter was that the Canadian rapper's single was never under any kind of threat, even though Number 2 hit These Days by Rudimental did at least close the gap to a mere 7,000 chart sales. But that's still a veritable ocean away.
To explain just why this is, you only have to look at the daily streaming numbers. Forget purchases, they only truly become relevant as the separator in a close race. Which this isn't. For an artist such as Drake it is all about the online plays.
Those are the Spotify numbers of the two market leaders from Wednesday last week, although in truth you could have looked at the figures on any day and they would have told a similar story. The second most streamed track of the moment is only barely managing 50% of the numbers that God's Plan is. Forget moans about playlists and passive listening and market skews. These are the numbers of a track that people are choosing to listen to more than anything else in the market at present. Almost certainly to the bemusement of anyone under the age of 30.
Number One singles with market-strangling leads are nothing new of course. 20 years ago during the golden age of the CD single it was far from unusual to see the biggest new release of the week debut at the top of the charts with a sale over 50% more than its nearest rival. It was just that these tended to be one-shot deals. Sales front-loaded to Week 1. The following week the single in question would top the charts by a far narrower margin if it hadn't itself been eclipsed by the next big deal on the release schedules.
Streams don't suffer Week 2 burnouts, of course, the biggest hits linger for what seems like forever. That's why we now have the Accelerated Chart Ratio rules to avoid such hits clogging up the top end of the charts for months. But it does mean that tracks such as God's Plan can end up 'stranded' at Number One, and just as I predicted when it first arrived, this is precisely what is happening here. We are playing a waiting game here. Waiting for everyone to tire of God's Plan (which seems unlikely anytime soon), or waiting for another artist to come along who can achieve well in excess of half a million streams a day. Or at the very least have impressive streams and a paid-for sales profile to match. And they are for now few and far between.
Wonders will never cease though. The track finally has its own video.
They Wrote Get Back Up Again Too
There's a similar level of market domination going on over on the Official UK Albums chart, although this manages a different level of excitement. The Motion Picture Cast Recording of The Greatest Showman this week clocks up a sixth week at Number One and just as I predicted last week this is now starting to attract mainstream attention. The album has spent longer at the top of the charts than any film musical soundtrack since Grease in 1978 and the question on everyone's lips has just three letters and one syllable. Why?
Well, in this case, it really is all about the music. The Greatest Showman is the crowning glory so far of the career of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. The two American composers have spent the past ten years honing their craft as worthy successors to the likes of Rogers and Hammerstein or the Sherman brothers, with a knack for creating big production musical numbers which work just as well as pop songs as they do when performed on the big screen. Whilst their work on La La Land a year ago may have been eclipsed by the accolades the storytelling received, this time around the success of The Greatest Showman is being credited as much to the music it contains as it does the acting.
So as well as dominating the album market (to what is the undoubted frustration of more mainstream acts hoping to nick a run at the top at what is a traditionally quiet time of year), The Greatest Showman is enjoying a corresponding degree of singles chart success. The movie's signature number This Is Me jumps a further three places to Number 3 this week, now the biggest hit single to be taken directly from a musical film (as opposed to a stage production or animated film) since Madonna's recording of Don't Cry For Me Argentina from the Evita movie. That also hit Number 3 in December 1996. Meanwhile Rewrite The Stars eases back to Number 20, one place above The Greatest Show which spends a third straight week locked at Number 21.
As I noted last week, there would be far more hits from the film in the Top 40, but for the chart rule which prevents there being more than three simultaneous hit singles from a primary artist. The "primary artist" in this case is considered to "cast of the film", the same rule which means the album is eligible for the main artist chart and is not considered a multi-artist compilation.
Quite The Marvel
The exact opposite applies to the other movie soundtrack phenomenon of the moment. Kendrick Lamar's artfully curated soundtrack to Black Panther was easily one of the most notable releases of the week, but you will search for it in vain on the main album chart. Featuring the work of a number of different performers it is adjudged to be a multi-artist compilation and duly debuts on the compilations chart at Number 9 (surprisingly seven places below the far less hit-laden Fifty Shades Freed soundtrack).
That also means that most of the tracks from the Black Panther soundtrack are eligible for the singles chart. Because as noted above, the "three per act" only applies to the primary artist credit. No less than 10 of the album's 14 listed tracks pepper the Top 100 this week. Chief amongst them is Lamar's own All The Stars which jumps 28-11 to become the fifth biggest hit of his career, and his collaboration with The Weeknd on Pray For Me which eases 15-13. Of the previously unlisted singles, the biggest is Kendrick Lamar's title track which is a new entry at Number 42.
Shall we stay with the movies? Because once more For You from Fifty Shades Freed advances up the charts. The duet between Liam Payne and Rita Ora makes a ten-place leap to reach Number 8 and in the process finally exceeds the Number 11 it first scaled upon release back at the start of January. That's a particular milestone for Rita Ora as the track is now her 12th Top 10 hit single. Now, despite the fact that when she enjoyed a Number One single on her debut back in 2012 she was hailed as the first ever Kosovan star to top the UK charts, we are now told she should be regarded as British. If this is the case then 12 Top 10 hits are enough for her to equal the all-time record for British solo female artists, matching the number notched up by both Shirley Bassey and Petula Clark.
This may possibly be stretching the definition of "solo" here, given that only six of those twelve were credited to her alone, her other big chart hits coming thanks to collaborations with the likes of DJ Fresh, Tinie Tempah, Iggy Azalea, Charli XCX, Avicii and now Liam Payne - most of these with her credited as the featured guest star rather than lead artist. Still, the Official Charts Company are ranking it as a record, so we should do so here as well. If one takes into account overall Top 10 appearances whether solo or part of a group then she is a long way behind the British record holder - Cheryl (Tweedy-Cole-Fernandez-Versini) who has performed on 29 Top 10 hit singles in her career to date, 21 of those as a member of Girls Aloud. The all-time solo female record holder? Madonna no less, with 63 Top 10 hit singles to her name. All of them as the lead artist.
He Isn't Banksy
The highest new entry of the week lands at a none too shabby Number 19 for Marshmello. Friends is the third hit single in the last six months for the masked Marshmello, this hit the follow-up to Wolves which peaked at Number 9 back in December and which is still gently running its way down the Top 100 after 16 weeks around. Guest singer this time around is the always fascinating Anne-Marie who with this track enjoys her biggest chart success since Ciao Adios reached Number 9 in the spring of last year. The singer claims the DJ and producer kept his helmet on throughout their collaboration, maintaining I guess the fiction that nobody knows who he really is. Except that at the end of last year business magazine Forbes confirmed the suspicions of most people that Marshmello is indeed Christopher "Dotcom" Comstock, simply by following the paper trail of where his royalties end up.
The Marshmello/Anne-Marie single is now the eighth different song entitled Friends to become a Top 75 hit single in the UK. The biggest was the last one, the Justin Bieber/Bloodpop collaboration which hit Number 2 in August 2017.
Also, new this week, Look Alive from Memphis rapper Blocboy JB which comes with the added appeal of a guest appearance from no less a figure than Drake himself. Charting at Number 23 this week, it gives Drake the honour of featuring on four simultaneous hit singles - two of the others being his own with the third his collaboration with Migos on Walk It Talk It which sags to Number 79.
Meanwhile, times are hard for the generation of young British male performers who were hailed as the greatest things on two legs just a few short years ago but who are now struggling to find relevance in the 2018 music scene. Just ask George Ezra whose rather compelling single Paradise has failed to take off at all in the four weeks it has been on release, the track sitting at Number 61 this week having apparently topped out at Number 51 seven days ago. To that list we can possibly add the much-decorated James Bay, the toast of the town in 2015 but whose grand comeback single Wild Love limps in at a mere Number 39 and clearly needs a miracle to become a hit single of the calibre of his past offerings such as Let It Go and Hold Back The River.
Oh yes, and whilst for the moment it isn't showing many signs of becoming a smash hit to match his debut Dancing On My Own, keep an eye out for Calum Scott's You Are The Reason which lifts itself to Number 49 this week. He appears to be attempting to do an Ed Sheeran and maximise his chances with a different version of the track, this time with Leona Lewis in tow - this, in theory, should be enough to push it into the Top 40 next week at the very least.