One Week Is All It Takes
It's a week later than was perhaps originally scheduled but the promise of Promises is finally fulfilled. Not for the first time in his career, Calvin Harris has selected a superstar collaborator to sing on one of his creations and duly watched it fly to the top of the Official UK Singles chart.
The one place climb of Promises to the Number One position is one of those occasions where the actual sound of the single takes second place to the way it bends all manner of records. Most significantly this is Calvin Harris' tenth Number One single, a total which has taken him just over ten years to reach. He is only the seventh act in chart history to reach double figures, his perfect ten beaten only by Elvis Presley (21), The Beatles (17), Cliff Richard (14), Westlife (14), Madonna (13), and Take That (12). Those numbers can be swelled a little if you take into account people who have topped the charts with more than one acts - for example, Paul McCartney's Number One hits both solo and with Wings, plus the chart-topping exploits of Gary Barlow and Robbie Williams who add to the numbers they reached with Take That. Taken on an act by act basis, however, the above is generally considered the definitive list.
Calvin Harris is unique amongst these acts in that he's the embodiment of the comparatively recent trend for the line between producer and performer to be blurred. He's the 'artist' on each of his ten Number One singles by virtue of being the producer of each. He's only sung on three of them himself - Dance Wiv Me, I'm Not Alone and Summer - with artists as diverse as Rihanna, John Newman, Hurts, Dua Lipa and Katy Perry fronting the others.
Promises is Calvin Harris' eighth Number One single of the 2010s, making him in chart-topping terms far and away the most successful act of the decade. Running him close, however, is his collaborator on this single Sam Smith. This for him is his seventh Number One single and, as I noted last week, the first of his chart-toppers not to have entered at the very top in its first week on sale.
Time to leave the statistics aside now and note the music itself, for Promises more than deserves its place at the top of the charts, maybe more so than some of the past Harris singles which have flown there by default. A gorgeous disco-soul mash up with Sam Smith hitting the dancefloor in a manner he has not done since the halcyon days of his chart debut alongside Naughty Boy on La La La. Calvin Harris' last Number One single One Kiss was the kind of track that bludgeoned you into submission. Promises gets under your skin and wraps itself around your soul, and if it lodges at the top now for an extended period (a good chance now it finally has a video to accompany it) that will be no bad thing.
After last week's narrow race, Promises makes the top of the charts with a more comfortable 4000 chart sales margin, although last week's chart winner Benny Blanco can count himself unlucky here. Eastside actually increases its sale this week too and for the first time is the most streamed track of the week. This time around though the numbers just weren't in his favour.
It's A Monster
Devoting the first part of this piece to the Number One single might be seen as an act of contrariness on my part, simply because most of the headlines across the media this week will have focused on events at the top of the albums chart.
The "surprise album drop" is arguably the music industry's most notable new promotional trick of the decade. David Bowie was arguably the first to try the stunt with 2013 release The Next Day, although in his case the surprise element was simply the announcement of its existence, the album not arriving for sale for two months after it was first revealed to the world. It was Beyonce who took the concept to a new extreme later that year with her self-titled fifth album which not only appeared online without any prior warning as a music project but also with a video for every track already completed. In this information-led age, the ability of even the biggest stars in the world to secretly create entire bodies of work without any rumours or leaks circulating remains something of a marvel.
This week the "surprise drop" club gained a new member as just nine months after the release of his last album Revival he suddenly unveiled his tenth studio album Kamikaze on New Music Friday last week. It soars straight to the top of the album charts, how could it not after all? In the process, he too writes himself into the record books. Kamikaze is Eminem's ninth consecutive Number One album in the UK, a run stretching back to the release of The Marshall Mathers LP back in 2000. He's the first artist in chart history ever to achieve this, moving past the eight in a row record which he had held jointly since the end of last year with both Abba and Led Zeppelin.
As is so often the case with such surprise drops, the album exists only in digital form for the moment and indeed it is reported that over 30,000 of the 55,000 total sales its achieved this week were thanks to digital streams. That inevitably has had a knock-on effect on the singles chart. As per the rules, only three Eminem tracks are permitted to chart simultaneously, but every single one of them does inside the Top 10. They are The Ringer at Number 4, Lucky You at Number 6, and Fall at Number 9. They duly become in turn his 30th, 31st and 32nd Top 10 hits although curiously the first to be credited to him alone as a performer since 2013 release Rap God.
A browse through the archives on this site will allow you to marvel at the rapper's long and storied career to date. Looking back at his 1999 debut (in which it was noted he had the capacity to be quite controversial), his first ever Number One in the summer of 2000 (which led tabloids to complain the sky was falling in), and his performance of the greatest rap single ever made later that same year, it is extraordinary to note where he has now ended up nearly 20 years later. As a genuine member of popular music royalty.
The arrival of the three Eminem singles in prominent places does have a rather disruptive effect on everything around them, displacing long-runners from the Top 10 but perhaps most significantly stalling the momentum of several otherwise up and coming hit singles. Most notable is the otherwise surprise two place reverse for Jess Glynne's All I Am whose majestic sweep to the Top 10 stalls for now at Number 14. We should, however, note that even without the Eminem album, this still means she might only have been Number 11 this week, knocking on the glass ceiling rather than smashing through it.
Indeed the Top 20 is this week characterised by a number of once-hot singles which are now treading water mid-table in a rather alarming manner. They include Marshmello and Bastille's Happier and Dynoro's In My Mind which swap places at 15 and 16 respectively, plus David Guetta and Anne-Marie's Don't Leave Me Alone which can only edge up one place to Number 19. Below that there are others which continue to make progress, not least of which is Panic! At The Disco's High Hopes which is now just one place short of becoming only their second ever Top 20 hit single.
Can We Take A Trip
The fastest chart move of the week is the very welcome 47-22 jump for Thunderclouds by LSD. The track (and mobile phone jingle) duly becomes the first Top 40 hit single after three attempts for the supergroup combination of Labrinth, Sia and Diplo. With the initials of all three performers combining to make up the name of the act, their identities are hardly a secret so it seems a rather desperate bit of marketing to have the artists listed on the charts as "LSD featuring Sia, Diplo and Labrinth". Maybe somebody somewhere did some focus group research and discovered the reason their previous two releases Genius and Audio came and went without comment. Such hair-splitting aside, Thunderclouds is close to perfect. Labrinth remains the coolest Simon Cowell signing in history, Sia sounds as outworldly as ever, and Maddie Ziegler dances in the video. What more could you ask for?
Sensitive Bloke Warning
Whilst floating around this part of the chart, let's take time out to note the new peak scaled by B Young with 079Me. Now seven weeks at Top 40 single, the track has been almost imperceptibly easing its way up the ladder, its chart run of the last few weeks reading 28-25-24-23. Also in the "climbing slowly for now" file are Lost Without You by my new Twitter friend Freya Ridings (36-29) and Baby Shark, whose 37-32 move should perhaps be reassuring to those worrying it was going to become a huge smash hit rather than just a passing novelty.
There's a Top 40 entry at Number 35 for 30-year-old Australian singer-songwriter Dean Lewis. His single Be Alright is presently top of the charts in his native country and whilst it doesn't have anything about it that is new or outstanding, it is another fine addition to the "sensitive bloke singing about lost love to a piano and acoustic guitar backing" genre to ensure it will be finding its way onto middle of the road playlists in fairly short order.
Never Be The Same Version
Also new to the Top 40 at Number 36 is American singer Bazzi, following up his debut single Mine which reached Number 21 in the spring thanks to a little help from a Snapchat filter which featured the song in the background. His second hit single is Beautiful, a track which he first self-released back in 2017. It's newly polished commercial release features the added star power of Camila Cabello who arguably wasn't needed but whose little-girl-lost vocal routine is never less than a joy to hear. We are still awaiting a proper video of the new duet version, even if the one for the original solo recording remains online.
But for Eminem, the highest new entry of the week would have gone to AJ Tracey. The grime rapper made his chart breakthrough in the summer alongside Not3s with Number 19 hit Butterflies but makes his first ever proper solo appearance at Number 38 with Lo(v/s)er. It's a song I'm dying to hear on the radio if only to hear how presenters have been told to say the otherwise unpronounceable title. The track is most notable of all this week for the dramatic skew in the way it is being consumed. Posting a chart sale of 10,683 this week, Music Week reports a full 97.21% of these came from streaming points. Its number of actual purchases can be measured in the hundreds.