Even In The Snow, The Post Gets Through
On the podcast a couple of weeks ago I expressed a similar sentiment to that which appeared in last week's column, bemoaning the fact that God's Plan by Drake is marooned at the top until something equally popular comes along to challenge its domination, whilst also noting that none of the acts capable of doing so appear to have a single out anytime soon.
But that's because people don't generally announce things much ahead of time anymore. The biggest and most significant new single release of the week came from the man who by and large stole Drake's act and who at the end of last year managed a large Number One hit single by dint of some scarily large streaming numbers.
That man is Austin Richard Post Malone. If four week Number One hit Rockstar annoyed you then so will his new single Psycho. But if you found Rockstar hypnotic, mesmerising and astoundingly addictive then so the new song will swiftly wrap itself around your brain. The newly released track swiftly lodged itself near the very top of the live streaming tables and remained there for the best part of the week. But the crucial word there is "near" because at no time was it ever able to command the kind of numbers that God's Plan remains capable of doing. Truth be told as well that as an artist whose appeal is solidly and almost exclusively confined to the younger demographic who stream rather than download, sales of the track were a long way from what they would have required to be able to overhaul the market leader.
So in the event, the two-way race is anything but, although far more interesting than anything we have experienced over the past few weeks. God's Plan remains at the top of the Official UK Singles chart for the sixth week (something which would have once been regarded as extraordinary but which now is so commonplace it is the sixth single in the last two years to do so). Pyscho in the meantime has to content itself with a new entry at Number 4, slotting in behind a still static These Days and IDGAF which hold firm at 2 and 3 respectively.
The Post Malone single also features a guest turn from Ty Dolla $ign and who thus enjoys his third Top 10 hit single as a guest artist, all of which have entered the charts at almost precisely yearly spaced intervals. Fifth Harmony's Work From Home was the first, a Number 2 hit which began its chart run in March 2016, followed by Jason Derulo's Swalla, a Number 6 hit which first charted exactly a year ago today. Given the incestuous nature of modern pop music it should hardly come as a surprise to note that this is far from the first time the two men have been united on record, the pair both featuring on the Kanye West cut Fade which made Number 50 back in 2016. Unlike its predecessor, this hit is immediately and fully shareable so you can now see just what I've been banging on about it. Don't shout too loudly but this is a far better record than Rockstar, and even if its mournful tone and trap bassline aren't entirely to your taste, it doesn't make you want to chew your own ears off to escape it. Which is more than could be said for Post Malone's last hit.
With a full week of sales and streams now able to be taken into account it is possible to judge exactly who the popular winners and losers were in the 2018 Brits awards ceremony. And just as he did five years ago, Justin Timberlake appears to have stolen the show. His single Say Something which advanced to a new peak of Number 22 a week ago now rockets even further up the chart, sitting pretty at Number 10 this week to easily eclipse the Number 15 scaled by the album's first single Filthy back in January. Forget hot takes about what a terrible person he is. Leave aside the analysis of how lukewarm the reception has been to the Man Of The Woods album. Get JT to perform and he delivers. He's rewarded with a smash hit as a result. Say Something is now the 19th Top 10 hit single Justin Timberlake has been associated with since he began his solo career way back in 2002, and taking his 'Nsync years into account his career tally is boosted to a massive 25. It is, however, a triumphant chart debut for his duet partner Chris Stapleton, this the first mainstream chart single the American country and western star has ever enjoyed in this country.
She Still Looks Perfect
A gentle 23-21 move for Blocboy JB's Look Alive last week did not bode too well for the single's continuing chart prospects. It advances still further this time around though and is a Top 20 hit single for the first time with a climb to Number 18. This now ensures that featured star Drake has simultaneous hit singles of that nature. One place below at Number 19 is B Young's erotically charged Jumanji which made its Top 40 debut three weeks ago and which has been on a slow rise ever since. After a fortnight stalled at Number 25, it too makes the Top 20 for the very first time.
The second biggest new entry of the week slots in place at Number 22 for 5 Seconds Of Summer. The Australian pop rock band fall into that strange category of mainstream niche artists, the kind of act who attract a vocal and dedicated following via social media channels but whose inability to cross over to anyone else means their chart runs never quite reflect the amount of devotion they inspire. That isn't to say they haven't had hit singles in the past, their run of three Top 10 hits back in 2014 including Number One smash She Looks So Perfect after all. But brand new track Want You Back is destined it seems to suffer the same fate as their last hit, Girls Talk Boys which peaked at Number 28 in July 2016. A new entry inspired by strong first week engagement followed by a swift chart exit as literally nobody else will take the time to care.
Own Brand Roses
The comforting familiarity of the top end of the Official UK Albums chart continues this week as The Greatest Showman soundtrack enjoys an eighth week at Number One. As has been mentioned before, this is the longest continuous run at the top of the charts since the nine-week spell enjoyed by the album which sits pretty at Number 2. Ed Sheeran's Divide this week celebrated its 52nd week on release, every single one of which has been spent as a Top 10 album. 20 of those have been at the top of the charts, whilst in all this time it has never once fallen lower than Number 6.
Crucially though this duplicates the exact same feat of Ed Sheeran's first two albums, Plus and Multiply. Which makes him unique in chart history, the first act to ever have three different albums spend an unbroken year in the Top 10. The only other acts with two to their name? The Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel.
As if in sympathy, Divide this week spawns it's fifth and what we are told final "official" hit single. Following his performance of Supermarket Flowers at the Brits last week, the track charges up to Number 29 following its return to chart eligibility last week when it reappeared at Number 81. Like every other track from the album, this has of course been a "hit" before, Supermarket Flowers having reached Number 8 shortly after the album was released during that mad period when Sheeran dominated the singles chart like no other artist ever had before (or indeed will do again if the current rules persist). Just like Perfect before it, part of the fun will now be tracking Supermarket Flowers to see if it will exceed its original peak. Sheeran's main issue though is overexposure. We’ve now had over a year of him dominating just about everything and you suspect he and his advisors will only be too aware of this. That said, having now released studio albums called plus, multiply, and divide you wonder if the next move isn't for him to go back to his busking roots and release a collection of stripped down acoustic songs. Which naturally enough can be called 'minus'.
Give Me One Good Reason
After six weeks around there's a rather welcome climb into the Top 40 for George Ezra with his single Paradise, the second single from his forthcoming second album Staying At Tamara's. Justifiably hailed as one of the most exciting new discoveries of the decade when he first emerged in 2014 with his debut album Wanted On Voyage and its string of accompanying hit singles. His main problem has been to avoid being seen as yesterday's man given the delay in releasing a follow-up and the dramatic way the prevailing culture in pop music has changed since. Sheeran be damned, a gentle balladeer with a guitar is as far removed from the grime rapping and associated musical offshoots which appeals to the chart streamers at the moment. Acts like Ezra are reduced to playing to the old guard and regrettably struggling for attention.
That's why seeing Paradise in the Top 40 is such a welcome sight, a dramatic improvement on the rather miserable Number 66 achieved by his previous release Don't Matter Now in July last year. This still seems unlikely to be a hit of the scale of Budapest or Blame It On Me (may those words come back to bite me in the arse) but it has made the Top 40 and kept him visible. That's all you can really ask at the end of the day.
Two more new hits land inside the Top 40 this week, Lullaby from the intriguing combination of Sigala and Paloma Faith (who is at least consistent with her last collaboration being with the easily confusable Sigma) at Number 32, and Rapper from Hardy Caprio at Number 34. Of which much more of both when they climb the chart in the coming weeks. Keep an eye out too for current Number 41 hit Cigarette which features the collective talents Raye, Mabel and Stefflon Don, a quite intriguing combination of three of the fastest rising British female stars of the moment.
Prolonged periods of bad weather used to mean death for retailers, as fewer people on the high street inevitably meant depressed levels of sales. A more online world means this is theoretically no longer a factor, but despite this, there's a fall back in all levels of the market - both paid for sales and streams. Almost as if it is too cold to properly enjoy listening to music.