Get Up Out Of Your Rocking Chair Grandma
It is here at last. We have officially reached Quarter 4 of 2018. The music industry's focus on the three months before Christmas as the prime time to release the hottest product from the biggest names has become so intense it almost verges on self-parody at times, but it is hard not to scan the release schedules and note the glut of big-name product set to hit the shelves between now and December.
New work from some very big names indeed meant an absorbing battle at the top of the albums market this week, although probably not for the reasons you might expect. From the earliest midweek flashes, it was clear the market leaders were Rod Stewart and Cher, both with brand new work to tantalise us with. Both of whom are well over 70 years old.
That for me is the true absurdity. Rock and roll music was once upon a time the rebellious clarion call of the young. Their way of distinguishing their tastes, ideals, aspirations and values from those of an older generation through an appreciation of music whose sound was alien to anyone too far out of their teens. That's not to say that doesn't still happen today, anyone who has spent time on pop music-focused Facebook groups will know this, but when the biggest selling collections of songs of the moment are from stars who began their careers as - yes - the voice of rebellious youth back in the 1960s it is hard not to marvel that something has gone awry.
There is a glorious irony to the way the two stars began their life in the spotlight. Rod's first solo smash was Maggie May telling the story of a naïve young man seduced and corrupted by an older woman. Meanwhile, Cher first came to public attention singing I Got You Babe alongside her then-husband Sonny, this a song of teenage lovers defiantly fighting the disapproval of their elders. Fifty years later they are both grandparents but are still outselling everyone else in the market this week.
The winner of this Zimmer-frame race was Rod Stewart. Blood Red Roses is his 30th studio album and duly storms to the top of the Official UK Albums chart to take him to Number One for the ninth time in his career. He topped the charts for the first time with Every Picture Tells A Story in 1971 which means Rod The Mod can boast a near 48-year span of Number One albums. At the age of 73 he surprisingly isn't quite the oldest man ever to have a Number One album, Paul Simon bettering him with a chart-topper at the age of 74 back in 2016. In a strange bit of synchronicity he now has the same number of chart-topping albums as the man he's deposed from the top - Eminem - as well as Queen and the original performers of the songs featured on the album just below.
Cher's album is Dancing Queen and is by common acknowledgement a rapid-fire cash in on the rapturous reception her cameo appearance in the second" Mamma Mia" movie received. She has now recorded an entire album of Abba covers, one of those works which almost certainly didn't need making and which adds little of any cultural value, but which was always destined to sell shedloads. It may not have topped the charts, but Dancing Queen is still her highest charting album since 1991's Greatest Hits collection topped the listing and has sold more in its opening week than any album she has released in the last 20 years.
Hit albums by veteran acts are nothing new in 2018, and indeed this week there are other Top 10 arrivals for other legendary performers of a 70s vintage. Following the sad passing of Chas Hodges last week, Chas & Dave arrive at Number 8 with newly-minted hits collection Gold, their first Top 10 hit for 23 years. Similarly, at Number 10 It's About Time gives Nile Rodgers and his ownership of the Chic name a first top 10 album since their original glory days back in 1979.
Keeping Those Promises
Over in singles-land, it is very much the domain of the (mostly) young. Topping the charts once more with some considerable ease is the Calvin Harris/Sam Smith collaboration Promises which sits atop the pile for a fifth straight week. For those still able to keep count, this is now Harris' 13th week at the top of the charts since the start of 2018. He's now one short of the total of 14 notched up by Drake with his three different Number One hits this year. And yes, that does mean that two men between them have dominated the top of the charts for 27 weeks and counting - that's over six months worth of chart-toppers.
As predicted in these pages last week, former Number One (and long-lasting Number 2) hit single Eastside from Benny Blanco finally succumbs to ACR, although such is the level of streams that it enjoys (it is still top of that chart by some distance) that even a halving of their value can still only relegate the track down to Number 8. As so often seems to be the case when the chart has been jammed up for some time, a number of other hits join the path of Accelerated Decline and tumble away. The ACR-induced 5-19 plunge of Loud Luxury's Body and the 6-23 dip of Taste by Tyga and Offset means there is not only room to breathe within the Top 10 but also space for some interesting new arrivals too.
But When You Close Your Eyes
First of all though, we should note the new chart runner-up as Happier from Marshmello and Bastille rises two places to sit (distant) second behind the Harris/Smith track. That's still enough for it to become and in turn equal the biggest hit single for both men. Happier becomes Marshmello's highest charting hit to date, eclipsing the Number 3 he scaled with his chart debut Silence at the end of last year. For Dan Smith, it marks the third time he has been the bridesmaid without ever quite making it down the aisle. Bastille's first major hit Pompeii reached the runners-up position in 2012 and it was followed in November 2013 by their cover version Of The Night. For those confused by the terminology here, we should note once more than the brands of "Bastille" and "Dan Smith" are essentially interchangeable. He began his musical career as a solo singer, was subsequently encouraged by his label to form a band to become more marketable. The band credit on this single isn't necessarily for show, however, the singer indicating in interviews that Happier began life as a standalone Bastille track but then was offered up for Marshmello to add his own euphoric take on the production. In theory, that means the credits should be the other way around (Bastille featuring Marshmello?) but you know, industry politics.
Light Me Up
If you wanted to bet on the identity of the next Number One single (assuming it is one of the existing set of chart singles) then it might still be worth a flutter on Silk City's Electricity. The Dua Lipa-sung track flows with the tidal surge and moves 7-4 this week, now becoming the fourth Top 5 hit in a row that the singer has performed on and her third so far this year. I remain fascinated by the way the Diplo co-creation has easily outpaced his other chart single of the moment, with Thunderclouds still showing upward momentum yet content to merely edge its way up the charts. It rises to Number 18 this week to make the Top 20 for the first time. We must also note the impact Electricity is having on the chart records of the other half of Silk City, a certain Mark Ronson who now has what you may be surprised to learn is only his fourth Top 5 hit single. The others consist of a brace of Number 2's (both covers - Stop Me and Valerie - and both charting in 2007) alongside the Number One smash Uptown Funk which bridged the gap between 2014 and 2015.
Lovely Rita Beats Some Maids
I noted last week she was due to set a record, and Rita Ora duly does so with some ease. Let You Love Me flies 14-6 and in the process gives the singer her 13th Top 10 hit single. That's more than any other British solo female star in chart history, beating the totals achieved by Petula Clark and Shirley Bassey in the 1960s. As with all chart records which compare old and new, this comes with the caveat that whilst Pet and The Dame achieved all their hit singles without assistance, a mere 7 of Rita's Top 10 hits have been credited to her alone. The remaining six are hits on which she was either a credited collaborator on someone else's record (DJ Fresh on Hot Right Now, Iggy Azalea on Black Widow, Charli XCX on Doing It, Avicii on Lonely Together and Liam Payne on For You) or else had an invited partner along for the ride (Tinie Tempah guesting on R.I.P.). In other words, stretching slightly the definition of "solo".
At the risk of pouring ever more cold water here, Rita's qualification to claim a British record is a matter of naturalisation and citizenship. She's Kosovan by birth and indeed when she first topped the charts here in 2012 was celebrated prominently as the first ever performer from that country to land a UK Number One hit. But to hell with it, she's in a position to claim a record so let's claim her as one of our own. Mind you, if we take into account women who have had hits as a member of a vocal group and also solo, then it should be noted that Cheryl TweedyColeNoSurnameAnymore enjoyed 21 Top 10 hits as a member of Girls Aloud and has had a further eight outside the group, for a grand total of 29.
Found: A Hit Single
Speaking of British women, there are enormous congratulations due to Freya Ridings who with one final heave makes a 20-9 jump and scores a Top 10 single with her composition Lost Without You. It has been an epic journey to get here, the single was first released almost one year ago - November 3rd 2017 to be precise. It was rescued from semi-obscurity by the producers of the ITV show Love Island who used it to soundtrack romantic montages during the series screened in the summer. It was enough to ensure the single made the charts for the first time in mid-July, and in the three months since the track has grown steadily in stature. Paid-for sales continue to be the main driver of the single, and indeed it rises to Number 3 on the old-school sales chart this week. But you still don't get to make the Top 10 without some streams to your name, and Lost Without You rockets up that table this week, its chart jump largely attributable to the 43-29 move it makes on the streaming table.
Honourable mention must also go to the single with which I've succumbed to the temptation to twin it over the past few weeks. Be Alright from Dean Lewis narrowly failed to make the Top 10 in its own right too, moving 18-11 this week. Intriguingly the Lewis single is the more popular one online, Number 14 on the streaming table but only 22 on sales.
I'll Be Riding The American Smooth
So what's the single which blocked the Australian from reaching the Top 10 this week? Well, intriguingly it is the now 28-week-old Shotgun from George Ezra which makes the most unlikely of comebacks with a 16-10 leap. Why unlikely? Because the former Number One hit has been on ACR for four weeks now, the move to it causing it to crash from 3 all the way down to Number 17. This chart leap was largely thanks to Ezra and his song featuring on Strictly Come Dancing last week and inspiring enough of a surge in his streams to overcome the handicap and rise back into the Top 10. However this move is ever so slightly deceptive, his chart sale of just over 21,000 isn't actually so far removed from the 20,000-ish he enjoyed a week ago. He's climbed six places not so much because he posted an increase, but simply because everyone else around him declined far more.
Already notable for returning the group to the upper reaches of the charts for the first time in fully ten years, High Hopes now sets a brand new benchmark for Panic! At The Disco. A 17-12 climb means it is officially the highest charting single of the group's career, besting the Number 13 reached by their only other Top 20 hit single Nine In The Afternoon way back in 2008. Good stuff guys, be happy about it, won't you?
Gonna Take This Moment
First filmed by Hollywood in 1934, the rags to riches tale of celebrity "A Star Is Born" has now been remade on three different occasions. The most notable telling of the story until now was the 1976 version starring Kris Kristofferson and Barbra Streisand which transplanted the narrative from Hollywood to the music industry. It featured an Oscar-winning soundtrack too, the trophy awarded to its love theme Evergreen and which Streisand took to Number 3 in this country.
I say "until now" as there now appears to be the very real prospect that this will be eclipsed by the brand new retelling of the story, the new movie starring Bradley Cooper and the somewhat unexpected form of Lady Gaga. Unexpected, because although her credentials as a singer have never been in doubt, the jury mostly remains out on her acting abilities. Based on the reception to the film from reviewers so far, this does not appear to have been an issue. And just like its 70s counterpart, "A Star Is Born" has spawned its very own hit single. The centrepiece duet between Cooper and Gaga explodes onto the singles chart this week, Shallow the highest new entry of the week at Number 13. Her first hit single since one-off release The Cure reached Number 19 in May last year, the track is her biggest chart hit single since Perfect Illusion reached Number 12 in September 2016. It clearly has the potential to go much further, and may well hand Lady Gaga her first Top 10 single in five years. Even if the country-rock duet is as far removed from the electro-pop with which she first made her name a decade ago.
Hurry Up And Pay
The highest climber of the week, shooting 33-17, is Just Got Paid from Sigala and company. The rise has almost certainly been prompted by the new availability of Sigala's album Brighter Days (a new entry at Number 14). We are still awaiting an official video for the track (all there is on YouTube, for now, is the lyric video) which would suggest there's another boost in streaming coming its way when one finally arrives.
Mr Carter To You
With a chart career stretching back to 2005 (when he made a guest appearance on the Destiny's Child hit Soldier), Dwayne "Lil Wayne" Carter is theoretically one of the rap world's most consistent stars. I say theoretically, as for the longest time I've been entertained by the way his biggest hits have only come as a guest on other people's tracks. Bereft of anything resembling a smash hit under his own name, he's made the Top 20 precisely twice as a lead artist. First alongside Bruno Mars on Mirror (Number 17 in February 2012) and then most recently as the first credited artist on all-star movie soundtrack hit Sucker For Pain which made Number 11 in the summer of 2016.
This week Lil Wayne released a brand new album, Tha Carter V, which smashes into the album chart at Number 5. With most of its 'sales' coming thanks to streams, this inevitably meant he was due some singles chart entries too. Two of his three permitted hits land inside the Top 40. Leading the way is Mona Lisa (with fellow streaming superstar Kendrick Lamar) which narrowly fails to add to his tally of Top 20 hits with an entry at Number 21. Just below at Number 28 is Don't Cry, notable for featuring one of the final studio performances from XXXtentacion. Although he was the last credited guest star, Lil Wayne's last chart hit was at the very least as part of a Number One hit - DJ Khaled's I'm The One which topped the charts in May 2017.
I don't mention this as a poor attempt at a tenuous segue, honest. It just so happens that another chart climber is the easily confused Khalid who moves 31-24 with his latest single Better. The cross-pollination of musical acts these days means that the 20-year-old singer enjoys a past musical link with most of the people already mentioned in this column, having appeared on chart singles with both Calvin Harris (Rollin) and Marshmello (Silence) and having recently topped the charts thanks to his guest slot on Benny Blanco's Eastside. As far as his own chart hit is concerned, Better is his biggest hit as a lead artist since Love Lies reached Number 12 earlier this year.
There are two more Top 40 new entries worth noting, although their full analysis can wait until they climb a little - which they inevitably will. Taki Taki from DJ Snake, Selena Gomez, Cardi B and Ozuna lands at Number 30 whilst the 3-way collaboration between MK, Jonas Blue and Becky Hill Back And Forth surfaces at Number 37.
Topping The Tables
With the year now nine months old the Official Charts Company released the updated list of the biggest hits of the year so far during the week. For me, the annual bestsellers tables are slightly less useful than they used to be, the ability of the biggest hits to stick around and keep the meter running on a near-constant basis means such tables inevitably skew towards the tracks that have been around since the start of the year. Hence it is hardly a revelation to learn that God's Plan, One Kiss and These Days line up at 1, 2 and 3 on the chart of the year. Although the presence of This Is Me at 4 is a fun reminder of just how much of an impact The Greatest Showman has had.
This Is Me tops the most-purchased table though, which given its chart peak was "only" Number 3 is all kinds of fascinating. I'm unsure as to just how far back the "most played videos" chart goes, with a suspicion that its tabulations only date back to the summer when the charts began counting them. But regardless of its point of reference, the biggest video of 2018 to date is official Girls Like You, with Shotgun in second place. The full tables are on the OCC website, but it will send you down quite the rabbit hole, believe me.
So that's this week's UK charts in some considerable detail it seems. Funny how we go from dull to frantic in the space of seven days. Chart Watch UK now has its own Patreon site, so if you fancy participating in support of the site, seeing your name up in lights (or at the very least right here) then your support will be very welcome and appreciated more than I can tell you. And I'll use it to make this place bigger and better than it ever has been before.