2:14 Into The Video
Jess Glynne may have had her moment in the sun last week, but it was brief and to the point. She slips back to Number 4 on the Official UK Singles chart this time around, leaving the way clear for what in retrospect was perhaps inevitable. After a five-week climb, Solo by Clean Bandit takes welcome pride of place at the top of the charts. For real this time too, as unlike I'll Be There it would have bested One Kiss even if the Calvin Harris single had not seen its streams halved in value a fortnight ago.
Another Number One adds another fascinating chapter in the continuing story of this most intriguing of British acts. A trio of genuine mould-breakers who have steadily morphed from intense artisans with a powerful online focus into the most astoundingly consistent hitmakers of the moment. Every new Clean Bandit track takes you on a journey of discovery, an exploration of a whole new style of music and each one contains subtleties which are only drawn out by repeated listens. They remain largely enigmas for all that, interviews with them are often stilted and awkward, the two Patterson brothers appearing to hate the limelight as much as Grace Chatto gleefully embraces it.
Solo is duly the group's fourth Number One hit single, and indeed their third in the last four releases with only previous single I Miss You breaking the cycle of smashes. They previously topped the charts with Rather Be (2014), Rockabye (2016) and Symphony (2017). Every single one of these chart-toppers has featured a different singer: Jess Glynne, Anne-Marie/Sean Paul, Zara Larsson and now Demi Lovato. The only other act to come close to that kind of performing variety are perhaps Take That whose sharing of singing duties meant that during their time they topped the charts with tracks featuring solo lead vocals from Gary Barlow, Robbie Williams, Mark Owen and Howard Donald.
For Demi Lovato, Solo is a particular triumph. Her first ever Number One single in this country. It was noted online that this week marked the tenth anniversary of the Disney Channel movie "Camp Rock" in which Lovato co-starred. Whilst it wasn't her full acting debut it was certainly the performance which launched her career for real, meaning she has wound up at the top of the charts exactly ten years after her journey there could be said to have begun. Technically the tenth anniversary of Camp Rock in the UK isn't until September which was when the film was first screened here. Her first chart hit came a week later when This Is Me, a duet with a similarly debuting Joe Jonas, charted at Number 33.
In a detail which was actually relevant last week too, but not flagged up until now, Solo is Clean Bandit's seventh consecutive Top 5 hit single, a run which stretches back to the release of Real Love in November 2014. In the modern era, this is actually very hard to do, given the way random album tracks and extra collaborations can serve to muddy the waters of an artist's chart history. Clean Bandit have the advantage of a) never guesting with other people and b) not having released an album for four years so they essentially have one of the cleanest chart runs of any other contemporary act. Seven in a row is the best Top 5 run since Girls Aloud went one better with eight between 2002 and 2005.
Tissues And Issues
An analysis of Solo cannot really be complete without noting the subject matter of the song. My own personal journey of self-exploration led to the conclusion that this surely has to be the first ever Number One single to be unambiguously about the topic of masturbation. The art of self-love has been cheekily probed by countless songs over the years and across a wide variety of genres. Whether it is Turning Japanese by The Vapours, She Bop by Cyndi Lauper, Oops (Oh My) by Tweet, U and UR Hand by Pink or most recently Feeling Myself by Nicki Minaj, songwriters have dealt with the matter in hand and dealt with the sticky consequences later. But none have ever come close to a climax at the top of the charts, making Clean Bandit unique. And as far removed from a bunch of wankers as you can get.
"Unlucky" runner-up this week is another celebrated British act, George Ezra who is now enjoying his second Number 2 hit in a row as the immensely catchy Shotgun makes a two-place climb to match the chart peak of its predecessor Paradise. Meanwhile, his album Staying At Tamara's, on which both singles feature, also holds firm at Number 2, 13 weeks into its own chart run. Of all the big artists of the year, I still have to admit I did not see him coming at all. Chirpy and personable as he is, his first hits were back in 2014, surely too far away for anyone to still care in the new chart era. Yet here he is with two Top 3 hits and a sophomore album lodged for an extended run in the Top 5 itself. Elevate him to national treasure status forthwith, he's the British singer-songwriter for everyone suffering Ed Sheeran burnout.
Under Your Control
Ascending smoothly into the Top 10 this week are Years And Years with If You're Over Me which enjoys a four-place rise to Number 8. Although it is tricky to always attribute chart jumps to particular TV appearances, their profile can only have been boosted by being the featured musical act on the Graham Norton Show a week ago. The success of the single will be of particular satisfaction given the way their first release of the year Sanctify underperformed with a lowly peak of Number 25. If You're Over Me returns the duo to the Top 10 for the first time in three years, their last such smash being Number 2 hit Shine which charted in July 2015.
Also making smooth progress are Maroon 5 and Cardi B. Girls Like You is now up to Number 11 to beat by a single place the peak of the last Maroon 5 single What Lovers Do in October last year and it is now their biggest chart hit since Don't Wanna Know reached Number 5 at the end of 2016. Cardi B fails by a narrow margin to enjoy two side by side Top 10 hits, her own I Like It holding firm at Number 9, just a few hundred sales ahead of the Maroon 5 single.
A Genuine Freakshow
To the Official UK Albums chart, we turn now, and word has it that the continuing success of The Greatest Showman is starting to make some people grumpy. Mainly the interested parties involved in the numerous Number 2 albums denied the chance to top the charts by the extraordinary musical soundtrack. As you may have gathered, Hugh Jackman and friends are once again top of the pile this week, taking The Greatest Showman into the rarefied territory as one of only a handful of albums to have spent 20 weeks or more at Number One. In fact, it is the 12th to reach the total, although remarkably the second in the last 12 months to do so, this 20th week at the top enough for it to draw level with the total Number One run of Ed Sheeran's Divide. The only other 21st-century album on this list is 21 from Adele, her total of 23 weeks the next benchmark for The Greatest Showman to beat.
For the record, the full list of longest-running Number One albums reads as follows:
South Pacific (OST) - 115 weeks
The Sound Of Music (OST) - 70 weeks
The King And I (OST) - 48 weeks
Bridge Over Troubled Water (Simon and Garfunkel) - 33 weeks
Please Please Me (The Beatles) - 30 weeks
Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (The Beatles) - 27 weeks
21 (Adele) - 23 weeks
G.I. Blues (Elvis Presley) - 22 weeks
With The Beatles (The Beatles) - 21 weeks
A Hard Days Night (The Beatles) - 21 weeks
Divide (Ed Sheeran) - 20 weeks
The Greatest Showman (OST) - 20 weeks (and counting)
My theory that the unexpectedly large numbers of streams which continue to sustain Showman at the top of the market stem from the album being so smart speaker-friendly still holds firm. However, a friend this week told me an interesting anecdote which extends its reach further. Her daughter's schoolteacher has a reward system whereby good work earns a chance to stream a track of the pupils' choice over the classroom speakers. Almost without fail it seems, the pupils elect to have something from The Greatest Showman as their weekly rave of choice. Its appeal is by no means just confined to your mum.
It isn't just about the streams though, on pure sales alone The Greatest Showman shifted just over 22,000 units last week and would have been Number One even if online plays were not taken into account. Even the individual tracks from the collection still sell in respectable numbers. A week shy of six months old, Keala Settle's This Is Me is still consistently propping up the iTunes Top 20, although it has long since been moved to accelerated decline on the singles chart itself and dips to Number 30 this week, the first time the single has fallen below the Number 28 it registered as a new entry way back at the start of January.
So which album is this all to the detriment of this week? Well, we've already noted the presence of George Ezra at Number 2, so in spite of leading early sales flashes, it is left for 5 Seconds Of Summer to register at Number 3 with new album Youngblood. This does at least mean the Australian group have a 100% record of Top 3 releases, their self-titled debut reaching Number 2 in 2014 and second album Sounds Good Feels Good topping the charts upon release in 2015. That's enough to duplicate the career achievement of their fellow countrymen INXS who also enjoyed three straight Top 3 albums between 1990 and 1993 with X, Welcome To Wherever You Are and Full Moon, Dirty Hearts. Although that run of studio releases was interrupted by live album Live Baby Live reaching Number 8 in 1991 and was bookended by a Greatest Hits collection which also reached the Top 3 in November 1994. Meanwhile, the title track of the 5 Seconds Of Summer album continues to climb, up to Number 13 this week and in terms of chart growth going where none of their singles has ever gone before.
No Beds Left To Make
The highest new entry on the singles chart goes to another meeting of superstars, Nicki Minaj's new single Bed flying in at Number 20 thanks in part to the presence of Ariana Grande on co-vocals. The single has already outperformed Minaj's dual release singles Chun-Li and Barbie Tingz from earlier this year, those two crashing out at 26 and 31 respectively. There may well be a reason for this, as Bed is far more accessible than its predecessors with a sultry, summery vibe which marks it out as something truly diverting. Perhaps surprisingly this is Nicki Minaj's first Top 20 hit single as lead artist for almost four years, the highest charting hit single she has put her name to since Anaconda hit Number 3 in October 2014. Since then she has enjoyed six Top 20 hits as the featured star on other people's tracks - one of which just happens to be Ariana Grande's own Side To Side which the pair took to Number 4 in 2016. The alarmingly prolific Minaj can now claim 53 different Top 100 chart singles, all of which she has crammed into the last 8 years. No proper video yet, just a 60-second teaser. So there's far more to come from this one.
Do We Give An XXX?
Disruption to what might otherwise have been an effortlessly predictable chart week came shortly after the weekend with the news that rapper and performer XXXtentacion had been shot dead in Florida. The news itself prompted some fevered debate online, people wrestling with the tragedy of the waste of a young life (he was only 22) versus the fact that in that short life as well as making some compelling and moving records he had also done some pretty unpleasant things towards women. The philosophy of this writer has always been to separate the art from the artist, so perhaps it is best to gloss over his past and concentrate on what has been taken from us.
The irony was lost on few people that mere weeks after XXXtentacion became subject to Spotify's faintly ludicrous and swiftly abandoned morality clause (whereby his music would not appear on their curated or automatic playlists because they wished to censure his behaviour) he became the subject of a special memorial playlist gathering together his entire catalogue and featured heavily on the front page of the interface. It was that very playlist which caused something extraordinary to happen midweek. The deaths of prominent musicians always prompt posthumous purchases of their most famous tracks, but the general lack of streaming traction for these means their chart impact is limited. But XXXtentacion was a star of the new era, and with streamers presented with a chance to appreciate his music they did so in large numbers. By Wednesday his work occupied the Top 3 places on the daily Spotify charts, his most famous hit to date Sad! achieving almost three-quarters of a million plays in one day alone. These were Ed Sheeran-level numbers.
That surely had to have a large impact on the singles chart then, regardless of the fact he had some catching up to do. Well yes and no. Complicating matters was that his two most popular tracks - Jocelyn Flores and the aforementioned Sad! - were both subject to ACR, thanks to their chart runs earlier this year. There is a process by which tracks can "de-cloak" as it were, by posting a sales increase way in excess of the market. But just as the move to ACR only takes place the week after you meet the criteria, so too a move off it is only done retroactively. XXXtentacion hits will be free to chart as normal next week thanks to their performance over the past few days, but as far as this week's chart is concerned they are labouring against the existing downgrade.
Even against this handicap, the late star still manages to place all three permitted singles inside the Top 40, all of which line up neatly next to one another. As expected Sad! is the biggest, returning to the singles chart at Number 31 following its original Number 19 peak back in the spring. Moonlight is at 32, one place below the chart placing it achieved in he week his album was released whilst Changes sits at Number 33, easily beating the Number 71 it registered when twinned with Sad! in a dual release back in March. The two albums he released in his lifetime also rebound with power, his latest offering Question Mark leaping back to Number 9 with his debut offering 17 making a similar leap to this week's Number 13.
Me And My Girlfriend
It sits just outside the Top 40 at Number 43, but we cannot go without mentioning Apeshit, ostensibly the debut hit single for The Carters but actually the sixth different collaborative single featuring the husband and wife team of Beyonce and Jay-Z. The pair first hooked up (in every sense) on 2003's 03 Bonnie And Clyde which reached Number 2. They last teamed up on their own terms back in 2013 on Beyonce's Number 9 hit Drunk In Love although both Mr and Mrs Carter shared a co-billing on the DJ Khaled track Shining which crept to Number 71 in March 2017. Their surprise album Everything Is Love from which the single is taken overcomes both its late weekend release and a brief period of Tidal-only exclusivity to chart this week at Number 5.
Technically Now 52 Years Of Hurt
Having complained last week about a lack of football songs in the charts for the World Cup, there is a slight change to the situation this week with a fun surge of interest not in any newly created tracks but what you might view as the "football classics" catalogue. For all that the impact is still slight, but this does mean the return of 3 Lions by Baddiel, Skinner and The Lightning Seeds at Number 72. It is one of only two tracks in chart history to go to Number One in two versions by the same act (Band Aid excepted), having hit the top in its original form in 1996 and then in a re-recorded and re-written version two years later. Since the start of the digital era, sales and now streams of the two versions have been combined although the Official Charts Company database regards any new sales as contributing to the chart run of the original release rather than that of 3 Lions '98. Although originally written for England's campaign in the 1996 European Championships, the song has proven to be a hardy World Cup month perennial. It reached Number 16 in 2002, Number 9 in 2006, Number 10 in 2010 and Number 27 in 2014. I suspect this time around it won't be hitting even those kind of heights, but the track is at very least 24 on the sales table and the 77th most-streamed track of the week.
Now the weekend is over, the significant new chart news can be revealed. As of the start of July the streaming universe will expand once more. Video streams will count towards the charts, and there's to be a new distinction between paid-for premium streams and the ad-supported free ones. For more details, see the announcement from the Official Charts Company and my own explanation of the changes.