Chart Watch is brought to you by the kind generosity of its patrons, which this week include newest member Dionisios Lialios.Your name could be up here too for the price of a cup of coffee each month. The more supporters the site has, the more features I plan to add over the coming months. Click the button to your right and become a patron today.
Just Dance Your Way To The Top
For the second time in three weeks, we have a brand new Number One single on the Official UK Singles chart. Yet I don't think there has been any chart-topper so far this year which will be greeted with as much joy as this particular one. The number one movie of the moment can now boast both the Number One album and the Number One single. Because after a three-week climb Shallow performed by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper ascends majestically to the top of the table.
For all that, Shallow is incredibly lucky to be there. Its total chart sale of just under 48,000 copies is lower than any Number One single since Clean Bandit's Solo pulled it off with 41,500 sales at the end of June. Of those 48,000, just 34,000 of them are attributed to audio streams - again the lowest total since Solo topped the charts with a similar number. Stronger competition would have easily prevented the single from reaching the top, but as ever you can only beat what is put in front of you. There was no competition, not even from the suddenly resurgent Promises which returned to the top only a week ago. Shallow may have emerged victorious in a weak market, but victorious it is. And at the end of the day, that is all that counts.
The single is the fifth UK Number One hit for Stefani "Lady Gaga" Germanotta, and her first for some considerable time. The first four all came in a 15 month period at the very start of her career: Just Dance, Poker Face and Bad Romance in 2009 with Telephone following shortly after in 2010. Shallow is thus her first Number One single in just over eight and a half years. The old Guinness British Hit Singles books used to regard seven years as the cut-off point for "longest gap between Number One hits" meaning Gaga would make that table with some considerable ease. She is, however, by no means the only woman to have had to wait so long between chart-topping hits. Even longer gaps have been endured in the past by the likes of Kylie Minogue (1990 to 2000) and Chrissie Hynde (1980 (with the Pretenders) to 1995). The woman with the longest gap between Number One hits is Cher, who had to wait from August 1965 until May 1991 to top the charts for the second time - an interregnum of just under 26 years.
The all-time record for a gap between Number One hits presently stands at 42 years and 3 months, endured by Sir Tom Jones who waited from December 1966 and the chart run of Green Green Grass Of Home until March 2009 and his credited turn on the Barry Islands In The Stream charity single. So in order for that to be broken now we need someone without a Number One hit since 1976 to return to the top of the charts. Where are the Bay City Rollers when you need them? Incidentally, the group record is presently held by The Righteous Brothers, 25 years elapsing between the chart-topping runs of You've Lost That Loving Feeling and Unchained Melody in 1965 and 1990 respectively.
We should also pay due homage to Bradley Cooper who is as much part of Shallow as Gaga herself is. Being primarily an actor he has no chart history of any kind to refer back to, but he does at least become part of that elite group of performers who have landed a Number One single despite singing being very much a side hobby rather than the day job. The actor reportedly undertook 18 months of vocal training to prepare for his role in "A Star Is Born", setting him apart from the likes of Kylie Minogue, Jennifer Lopez, Robson Green/Jerome Flynn and even David Soul who began life as actors but who transitioned to recording stars as a natural process. The last "not a singer by trade" movie star to top the charts was arguably Nicole Kidman who teamed up with Robbie Williams on the 2001 Christmas Number One Somethin' Stupid.
As mentioned, the A Star Is Born soundtrack also returns to the top of the charts this week after making way for Jess Glynne seven days ago. Regardless of whether she is actually credited on the charts, this is to all intents and purposes a Lady Gaga vehicle too, meaning she can boast a singles and albums chart double. Incredibly this is the third separate time she has managed the feat. In 2009 Poker Face and The Fame were top single and album respectively whilst a year later the singles chart run of Telephone coincided with The Fame Monster also topping the album chart. Two more cuts from the movie soundtrack are also steadily edging their way up the charts. Gaga's solo track Always Remember Us This Way is up at 25 whilst a second Gaga/Cooper duet I'll Never Love Again is at 27. Believe it or not, this is the first time a movie soundtrack album has topped the charts simultaneously with one of its cuts since 1982 when Irene Cara's theme to the 1980 Alan Parker movie Fame reached Number One on the singles chart with the movie soundtrack belatedly doing the same on the albums list.
Funky Promises Broken
So what of the singles just below which failed to make the grade? Promises only narrowly misses out on topping the charts again, the gap between the two tracks less than 1,000 chart sales in the end. It was streamed more than Shallow but was outsold by some distance. Number One a fortnight ago, Funky Friday dips to Number 3. It remains easily the most streamed track of the moment, but its paid for sales are rapidly shrinking to nothing. The third biggest hit of the week is incredibly only the 30th most-purchased. The charts are all about how the maths stack up, and that has enabled Shallow to creep ahead of everyone else.
The highest new entry of the week also owes its popularity to a movie soundtrack - well, aside from it being a brand new Post Malone recording too. Sunflower is taken from the new Spiderman movie "Into The Spider-Verse" and it smashes into the charts at Number 7. That's enough to make it Post Malone's fifth Top 10 single, his fourth of the year following his turn on Tiesto and Dzeko's Jackie Chan which reached Number 5 in August and his two solo hits Psycho and Better Now from the spring. He's joined on Sunflower by fellow rapper and singer Swae Lee who is best known for his vocal turn on French Montana's Number 2 hit Unforgettable in 2017. Sunflower fits nicely alongside Post Malone's previous hits, the performer continuing to occupy his niche of being a cheerier and much more joie-de-vivre incarnation of Drake.
Mind The Chart Gap
Returning to the Top 20 after a week away is Khalid whose current hit single Better reaches a brand new peak of Number 18. The upsurge is down to the release of his album Suncity which may only have reached Number 20 but whose tracks have enjoyed their fair share of streams this week. The title track from the album narrowly misses out on giving him side by side Top 40 hits, charting instead at Number 41.
Zara Larsson is a name we haven't seen on the charts for a while. Her last hit single came way back in April 2017 when she was a designated voice on Clean Bandit's Symphony, a track which gave her the honour of becoming her first ever Number One hit single. This week she returns with a brand new single from a forthcoming new album. It is more than worth the wait as well, Ruin My Life a deceptively pretty pop song with a spiky and acidic lyric. It is a more than worthy equal to her past smash hits such as Lush Life and I Would Like. Number 31 is where this track starts its chart life, but there's plenty more gas in the tank here. Or put it this way, it will be an absolute scandal if this doesn't reach the Top 10.
Also new this week is Dua Lipa. With her self-titled debut album now 18 months old and pretty much milked dry for hit singles, she's taking a tilt at the Christmas market with a new "complete edition" of the album. This not only expands its original 12 tracks to 17, but adds a second mini album featuring a live version of New Rules, plus the tracks by other acts on which she's featured over the past few years - hits by Calvin Harris, Silk City, Martin Garrix and Sean Paul. The new disc also contains a handful of new recordings of which her new single Kiss And Make Up is one. The track is particularly notable for featuring a guest role by all-girl K-pop group Blackpink, and its Number 36 entry is more than enough to make them the first ever female act from the genre to make the UK Top 40 - hard on the heels of their male counterparts BTS doing the same. The combination of English and Korean lyrics on the track is an intriguing mix. There has yet to be a Dua Lipa track which wasn't utterly absorbing and this hit simply continues a winning trend.
It's A No From Most Of Us
Once upon a time, you could pretty much set your watch by how the careers of X Factor winners progressed. They'd top the charts at Christmas with a coronation single, make their triumphant return to the show in the autumn with their first "proper" single and release their contractually entitled album shortly after. Following that, it was all in the lap of the Gods.
Yet over the past few years, things have shifted. The influence of the show has undoubtedly waned, its ability to unearth genuine stars and guaranteed hitmakers now apparently confined to the past. 2015 winner Louisa Johnson had the kitchen sink thrown at her, but her most notable post-show hit came via a Clean Bandit collaboration. She's still around but has been "moved" to another label and has still yet to release an album. 2016 victor Matt Terry suffered a similar fate. He was grafted on to an English language "remix" of Enrique Igelsias' Subeme La Radio in summer 2017, but his return to the show later that year saw his "debut" single Sucker For You crash out at Number 51. He released an album, but nobody cared and was duly dropped by RCA back in June. From this year you can tell there has been a shift in focus. It has become less about finding the next big superstar and propelling them to the top of the charts. X Factor has become less of a talent search and more a routine entertainment vehicle. Although whether that is to the detriment of the show overall remains to be seen.
Yet last year almost without trying they managed to produce some instant celebrities. The 2017 series of the show unearthed Rak-Su as winners, an act who came to them fully formed from the start, with their own material and own sense of purpose. Their coronation hit Dimelo became one of the highest charting X Factor releases for some time when it reached Number 2 last December. It never reached Number One, but somehow that didn't matter as this was no longer the point of its release. Since then the philosophy appears to have been one of "let them do their own thing", allowing the group to grow at their own pace. Hence the low-key release of a full EP of the songs they performed during the series in February, this followed by the summertime release of the track Pyro Ting which appeared online with little fanfare and was largely ignored.
Three weeks ago Rak-Su returned with I Want You To Freak, a single whose timing just prior to the start of the live shows was surely no coincidence. Once upon a time, such a release would have been in the same week as their triumphant return to television, but even Syco realise the charts just don’t work that way any more. I Want You To Freak instead simply drifted into being. Reviews were mixed, the title of the track a nod to the way it interpolates the melody from 90s R&B classic Freak Like Me, but at the same time the recycling of the melody makes this sound derivative and tired rather than something fresh and new. The single reached the Top 100 at least and duly moved 58-66-61 where it sat last weekend when the group made their inevitable TV return on the first live shows of the new series. Did the TV performance have the desired effect? Well yes and no. The single rocketed up the sales tables but failed to move the dial on streams any more than it had done already. The result is a 61-39 jump for the track, at the very least returning Rak-Su to the Top 40 for the first time since their show victory. But that Number 39 placing speaks volumes. Not so much for the talents of the group who are actually perhaps better served by ignoring their X Factor connection altogether and building on their own foundations. But it is once again proof that an appearance on prime time TV no longer bends the singles chart to your will in the manner it used to. When even an act like Rak-Su, easily the coolest performers to win the show in a long time, can only creep into the Top 40 after the show has pimped them to the hills, you know that X Factor just no longer works as a promotional tool. Which makes you wonder if the eventual winner of this series stands any chance of reaching the upper end of the charts at all.
Could Be Much Worse
Rak-Su aren't the only former X Factor winners to be languishing where they don't want to be. 2012 winner James Arthur released his new single Empty Space this week, two years on from the extraordinary comeback which saw him return to the top of the charts with Say You Won't Let Go after initially being dropped and essentially airbrushed from history following some personal issues. Proving it was no one-off, he reached Number 11 last December with Naked and in theory had re-established himself as a viable commercial prospect. Hence to see Empty Space debut at a mere Number 43 will come as something of a disappointment. Yes, we aren't all about Week 1 any more and past evidence has proved that you write this man off at your peril. But this chart placing is by and large entirely down to its sales - it is the 16th most-purchased single of the week - whilst its streams, for now, have been minimal. He's going to have to fight from here to make it onto the kind of playlists which will lift him further up the charts.
Time Travel Nerds Don't Stream
It seems odd to end talking of a single which is nowhere to be seen on the Top 100, but people will be looking for it so perhaps it is necessary to do so. The October 21st edition of sci-fi TV series Dr Who featured a rare commercial track as part of its soundtrack, the powerful story of The Doctor and companions interacting with Rosa Parks in segregated America featured the moving sounds of American singer Andra Day singing Rise Up just before the credits rolled. It was enough to send interest in the previously obscure track soaring and the track duly spent much of the first part of the week lodged near the top of the iTunes table.
Yet as regular readers will know, that counts for little if that’s the only place you appear these days. Four days of strong paid sales were enough to make the track the 19th most-purchased of the week. Yet just like the James Arthur track, this was not matched by any great level of streaming interest. Even more unhelpful was the age of the track. Because Rise Up was first released in August 2015 and so languishes on ACR with its streams reduced to a tiny fraction of the value of others. It all meant the maths just weren't in its favour at all - and if we are truly being honest, 19th on the sales table means it only sold about 5,000 copies if that. Nowhere near enough to count as a proper hit single. Rise Up fails in its quest to become the first track to become a chart hit thanks to its use in an episode of Dr Who since the Scissor Sisters' I Can't Decide back in July 2007. Instead, it misses out on a place on the Top 100 altogether.
Circling The Sales Drain
Whilst we're on the subject of the dying paid-for market, total sales this week dipped to a new modern-day low of just 819,000. A year ago I was monitoring the number and wondering if they would crash below a million by Christmas. Just for fun this year, shall we see if we reach 750,000 before the end of 2018?