Wake Them Up
Whilst not quite the titanic battle the midweek hype would have liked you to believe was taking place, the story of the Official UK Singles chart this week revolves around two singles - one newly released, one well established - which essentially blew the rest of the market out of the water.
Still ahead by a country mile though are Calvin Harris and Dua Lipa who spend a second week at Number One with One Kiss. Their superlative stat of the week relates to their streams, the single played a massive 8.7m plays, more than any track has managed since Despacito achieved a total of 8.8m during its reign of terror last summer. That was more than enough to ensure that the top of the charts was always going to belong to them, even if that did mean eclipsing what would otherwise have been the most notable release of the week. One Kiss notched up over 83,000 combined chart sales last week, the highest sale for a Number One single since Ed Sheeran managed 89,000 when Perfect climbed to Number One in December last year. It has been almost a year since any single achieved a six-figure sale.
Sing It Caterina
Until last summer, Ariana Grande was in the odd position of being successful in this country without being shall we say, properly famous. Yes, the former 'Victorious' actress had enjoyed her fair share of large hits, topping the charts with her breakthrough Problem in 2014, and enjoying a lengthy Top 10 run in the summer of 2016 with the smash hit Side To Side. But on the flipside her public profile was minimal, most people beyond her core fanbase would struggle to pick her out of a lineup. She suffered too from the lingering squeaky clean image of her character in 'Victorious', meaning attempts to vamp it up (such as when participating on Bang Bang alongside Jessie J and Nicki Minaj) were met with bemusement and the odd feeling you were watching your 12-year-old sister behaving inappropriately.
Then came the events of May 22nd last year when a coward caused the deaths of 23 people attending her concert at the Manchester Arena. Yet instead of being damaged by being associated forever with such a horror, she and her management steered a masterful path through the events, culminating in the staging of the One Love Manchester benefit concert two weeks later which saw Ariana Grande front and centre of the process of recovery.
On the back of that she wound up with her biggest chart single for some time, previously little-regarded track One Last Time returning to the charts as an anthem for the events of the summer and ultimately peaking at Number 2, her biggest chart hit since the aforementioned Bang Bang topped the charts in October 2014.
Against that backdrop, it was more or less inevitable that her next new material would be greeted with far greater attention than anything she had released to date. Luckily for us, it also happens to be one of her best singles ever. No Tears Left To Cry sits nicely in the current groove of making everything sound like an early 90s throwback, but this is a single also blessed with an epic production, a killer chorus and indeed a multi-part construction that means you are never completely sure where it is heading next. The best pop records are the ones which never for a moment become boring and it is entirely possible that this would have been a huge smash without her elevation to Princess Of Manchester.
A strong sale and a huge number of streams meant No Tears Left To Cry joined battle with One Kiss at the top of the market, although as we have seen never quite managing to bridge the gap between it and the Calvin/Dua record. Nonetheless entering at Number 2 means the single is at a stroke the fourth Top 3 hit of her career, and indeed is the first single she has seen fly straight into the Top 10 since Focus back in November 2015. You would be foolish not to put money on this remaining a contender to top the charts in short order, whether fate has destined it will or not. Regardless, this single is set to be a Top 10 fixture for at least the next 10 weeks or more.
Move On Up
As predicted last week, a move to ACR for several long-running singles of the past few months (amongst them former Number One These Days and the otherwise apparently evergreen Feel It Still) means there is room this week for a large number of fresh new singles inside the Top 10 of the Official UK Singles chart. Making good on its momentum of the past few weeks is fast climber Answerphone from Banx & Ranx which soars to Number 7. That makes it only the fourth Top 10 hit single of Ella Eyre's career and easily the biggest to date for Yxng Bane, whose previous best was the Number 10 peak of his Yungen collaboration Bestie.
It hardly requires me to point out that Ed Sheeran is one of the leading songwriters of his era. Yet what makes him extraordinary is just how prolific he is, generating so much material that he has enough to hand out to other acts. He has after all admitted that initially he did not see Shape Of You as a vehicle for him and was contemplating pitching it to Rihanna. One Direction, Taylor Swift, Rixton, Giggs, Justin Bieber, Hilary Duff and Rudimental are just a handful of the acts to have recorded his songs during the past few years. Now it is the turn of Anne-Marie to be added to that list. Just as her vocal performance on Marshmello's Friends exits the Top 10 at speed (thanks to ACR), it is replaced by her new single, the Sheeran-penned 2002. Entering at Number 8 it duly becomes only her fourth Top 10 single as a credited artist (fifth if one also counts Rockabye on which she performed but was not named) but most significantly of all her biggest hit to date as a lead artist, sailing past the Number 9 peak of Ciao Adios which was floating around the charts exactly a year ago. The first major hit single to be titled after a year in the 21st century, the main selling point of 2002 is its cute chorus which interpolates the lyrics from several famous turn of the millennium hits - to whit: Baby One More Time, 99 Problems, Bye Bye Bye, Ride Wit' Me and Oops.. I Did It Again. The arrival of the single also heralds the much-delayed release of her debut album Speak Your Mind which is streaming on a Spotify client near you as we speak.
I've Not Recorded The Middle
The fourth and final 'new' arrival in the Top 10 is actually a re-entry, Zedd's The Middle essentially being hauled upwards by the gap left by the departed oldies. It jumps three places to Number 9 to become a Top 10 single for the first time in three weeks, although still just short of what so far is it's Number 7 peak. It is a timely return for the single however, the song having come under renewed interest thanks to a Variety article which documented its near year-long journey to the charts and which came complete with the revelation that it had been recorded by no less than 12 different female singers, amongst them Demi Lovato, Camila Cabello, Anne-Marie, Carly Rae Jepsen, Tove Lo and (according to the singer herself) Charlie XCX before the producer and his label finally settled on the otherwise unheralded Maren Morris to take her place as the performer of one of the biggest global smash hits of the spring.
We are told that Bebe Rexha also recorded her own version of The Middle. Perhaps she wishes they had gone with it, given she would have enjoyed a Top 10 hit for sure. Despite its chances having never been better, her own hit Meant To Be is incredibly still stranded just outside the very upper reaches of the charts. This week it holds firm at Number 11 for the third week running, this now the fourth time in total the single has occupied what looks increasingly likely to be its chart peak.
Making further progress at least is Love Lies from Khalid and Normani which moves 16-12. Normani appears to be one of the few female singers to have not recorded The Middle, although we are told her former Fifth Harmony bandmate Lauren Jauregi did - along with Camilla Cabello as mentioned above.
This Is Still Me
Over on the Official UK Albums chart the situation is now getting, frankly, nuts. The Greatest Showman cast recording is Number One yet again, for those losing count this now its 14th week in total at the top, and the third in a row for this current sojourn. This is now enough to push it past the chart run of Grease to now be the most successful movie soundtrack since Saturday Night Fever spent 18 weeks at the top of the charts in 1978.
The Greatest Showman thus prevented rapper J Cole from enjoying his first-ever Number One album, his new released KOD settling for a Number 2 entry. Needless to say, this was a release that benefitted from some heavy streaming action, leaving his permitted three tracks to all occupy prominent places on the singles chart this week too. The title track is thus the third highest new entry of the week at Number 17, with ATM at Number 28 and Photograph at Number 30. Those first two also take over as the highest charting hits of his career. His previous high point was Déjà Vu, one of four tracks from his previous album 4 Your Eyez Only which charted in the week of its release and which crept to Number 30 in December 2016.
Didn't Know I Was Lost
By the time last week's Chart Watch column was posted online, we already knew what one of the major stories of the week in music was going to be. The sad passing of Swedish EDM producer Tim Bergling - better known to all of us as Avicii - was a particularly sad moment, not just because of his tragically young age. Most of his songs, and many of his videos, all seemed to carry the same message: live the best life you can while you still have the chance. It has been hard not to listen back to his catalogue and marvel at how prophetic much of it is. Avicii's death naturally prompted a return to the sales rankings of many of his most famous hits, but as someone relevant to the streaming generation too it meant that a slew of old Avicii singles made waves on the streaming charts too.
That said, as we've so often seen over the past few years, posthumous surges tend to be brief in their impact, the interest fading away after 24 hours or so. But thanks to the timing of his death, at the very start of the chart week, there was enough time for many of those older hits to make a large chart impact. Indeed this is one of those occasions where you have caused to regret the rule limiting a lead artist to three hits. Just this once it would have been nice to see just how many Avicii classics had leapt to the forefront of people's thoughts.
Happily, the ones that were permitted to chart were three of his best. Leading the way is his most famous hit Wake Me Up, a smash hit Number One from 2013 and a single which thanks to the way it was released at the very peak of the download market ranks legitimately as one of the biggest selling singles of all time in this country with over one and a half million copies to its name. Wake Me Up sits at Number 26 this week, with his 2011 breakthrough hit Levels at Number 36. The trio is rounded off with Hey Brother at Number 43, although I confess I would have preferred to see The Nights there instead - this the single whose lyrics feature the quote used in the graphic above.
Although his health concerns had led to him retiring from touring two years ago, Avicii had been working on a new collection of songs of which last year's Rita Ora-sung Lonely Together was the first offering. You suspect these won't be the only posthumous Avicii hits to chart this year and to be honest I can think of no more fitting tribute to a man who had created some of the best dance and pop hits of the decade and who clearly had so much more to offer.
Streams of singles this week accounted for 93.86% of the record 17 million 'sales' tracked by the charts this week. Another brand new record. Obviously, they will never reach 100% of the total, but you have to wonder just how high the ratio will reach. Bets on whether we get to 94% by the end of the summer?