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Ride 'Em (Aged) Cowboy
Some hits you can engineer. Some hits you just find the public grow to love over time. Then there are the hits which explode in ways even their creators could not have imagined.
It is into the latter category that we have to put Old Town Road from American rap star Lil Nas X. A quirky example of the under-loved and rather little-noticed genre of C&W and hip-hop fusion, the track was self-released by the performer at the end of last year. It might well have languished in obscurity, but for its discovery by users of the ceaselessly promoted lip-syncing app TikTok who took it upon themselves to spread a new viral challenge. Suddenly Fortnite dance-offs were old hat. The Yeehaw Challenge was in.
This has been enough to transform the single into a major American hit, Old Town Road having apparently effortlessly brought an end to Ariana Grande's reign of terror at the top of the Hot 100. It also ended up the focal point of a rather entertaining row over genre-purity, removed by Billboard from the Hot Country Songs chart following grumbles that it just wasn't "country" enough, and in the process prompting a debate about the visibility of black artists in C&W music in general.
In Britain, the single had begun to grab some attention of its own and indeed Lil Nas X crept into the lower reaches of the Top 40 last week. What has transformed the track, however, has undoubtedly been the release this week of a brand new remix, one which adds to the song's credentials as a bonafide country hit. Because Old Town Road now features the vocal talents of no less a legend than Billy Ray Cyrus. The dad of Miley, both in real life and in an amazing coincidence in the "Hannah Montana" TV series which made her name, his own hit singing career essentially started and finished with Achy Breaky Heart which had enough novelty value of its own to rocket to Number 3 in August 1992. After making a strong play for a Top 10 place in midweek, Old Town Road now goes one better, lodging quite sensationally at Number 2. The only thing which stops this adding to Billy Ray's formal tally of hits is fine print. As we've seen countless times with such transformative remixes of existing hits, the charts tie sales of all versions into the credit for the one which charted first. Lil Nas X's solo take on the track is considered the primary, and so despite the vast majority of sales and streams this week being of the cut with Cyrus' vocals, he remains effectively invisible from the chart listings and from posterity. This is the same rule which means Idris Elba's contribution to Boasty is going similarly unacknowledged.
So yeah, it is Number 2. Meaning that there is once more no change at the very top of the Official UK Singles chart, Lewis Capaldi clinging on manfully for a seventh straight week with Someone You Loved. I say "clinging on", but the truth is that Capaldi seems extraordinarily to be going from strength to strength. Both his sales and streams reached new all-time peaks last week, meaning the single enjoyed its highest chart sale to date with just over 69,000 copies posted. For a track that has topped the charts for seven weeks to still be growing in popularity is quite extraordinary. Only two singles by a Scottish act have ever spent longer at Number One: Love Is All Around by Wet Wet Wet managed 15 weeks in a row in 1994, and Calvin Harris' One Kiss managed 8 weeks in 2018 - even if it was sung by an Englishwoman and technically only produced by a Scot. But let's not open up that particular can of worms.
Lil Nas X also briefly barges Billie Eilish out of the way, just when it looked as if she was going to make a challenge for Number One herself. Bad Guy slips to 3 this week, although in a pleasant surprise she remains top of the Official UK Albums chart for a second week.
Take Another Little One
Making a pleasing climb inside the Top 10 in the kind of manner which its momentum suggested was always on the cards is Piece Of Your Heart by Meduza featuring Goodboys. Helping the deep club track to its new placing of Number 5 was the much-delayed video which finally arrived online on Tuesday to give the streams of the track a boost. The most notable thing about the track continues to be its length, the core radio edit used for the video running just 2 minutes 32 seconds. It doesn't overstay its welcome, but weirdly it doesn't feel too short either.
Free The Hairstyle
The most hotly-anticipated new album of the week was Free Spirit from Khalid and whilst it may not have quite had the legs and ears to overcome Billie Eilish at the top, debuts quite comfortably at Number 2. It is the American singer's second album, his first release American Teen has yet to climb beyond Number 44. The most significant effect of the release of the album has been the transformative effect on the chart fortunes of its lead single Talk. After reaching a brand new peak of Number 12 a fortnight ago the seductive soul track fell back once again but in its ninth week on the chart finally appears to have discovered its full potential and rockets to Number 9. It is his fourth Top 10 hit single on the British charts although his first as a lead artist. He has previously reached Number 3 alongside Marshmello with Silence, Number 9 on Logic's 1-800-273-8255 and of course spent most of the last summer either at or near the top of the charts as one of the featured singers on Benny Blanco's Eastside.
The two other permitted Khalid album cuts don't quite manage the same level of success. Already-available teaser cut My Bad reaches a brand new peak of Number 32, and Outta My Head (with a guest vocal from John Mayer) lands at Number 45. That's extraordinarily John Mayer's first singles chart credit since his appearance on the Fall Out Boy hit Beat It back in 2008.
In the 'unlucky not to make the Top 10' pile this week we can put the Marshmello/Chvrches collaboration Here With Me as the single reverses its slight stutter of seven days ago and climbs to a new peak of Number 11. Ava Max's So Am I also gets a bounce, reaching a new peak of its own of Number 16 but still oddly enough showing few signs of becoming the kind of smash its predecessor was. We also need to credit Jay1 with being no one week wonder, last week's big new entry Your Mrs holds steady and eases up one place to Number 18.
Last week I boldly forecast a leap into the Top 3 for Ariana Grande's midweek release Monopoly. And what do I know anyway? One full week of sales and streams sees the hitherto unreleased track make progress, but not quite as much as expected. The song leaps to Number 23 as the second highest-climber of the week. Amusingly it is still only the second-most-popular Ariana track of the moment, still out-streamed by break up with your girlfriend, I'm bored, the former Number One single slumping 9-15.
Not On His Jax
New to the Top 40 after being unlucky not to creep in last week (it charted at 41!) is Jax Jones, here what is effectively his second hit single of the year following Play which enjoyed a brief spell in the Top 10 at the start of the year. Despite the rhyming slang connotations of his name, he is another producer/performer with a need for serial collaborations. New single All Day And Night hands a co-credit to fellow producer Martin Solveig but also hands a welcome British chart debut to American singer Madison Beer. The 20-year-old from New York first came to public attention as a teenager YouTuber with a plug from Justin Bieber to her name, but despite a series of false starts has only ever briefly come close to managing mainstream fame. Via the unlikely medium of a British club hit she appears to have finally managed it and in truth, it is more than deserved. All Day And Night makes a strong climb to Number 25 and should become Jax Jones' fifth Top 10 hit single in fairly short order.
Kissing The Pink
The highest new entry of any kind this week lands at Number 33. Kill This Love duly becomes the second Top 40 hit single for all-female K-pop wonders Blackpink, albeit their first under their own steam. It is the lead track from their EP of the same name which duly hits Number 40 on the album chart. They first came to public attention in November last year when their Dua Lipa collaboration Kiss And Make Up reached Number 36. The power of their fandom has propelled this single to a similar chart placing, although I can't help but feel this is also as good as it is going to get. In any event, their male counterparts BTS are set to dominate all talk of things Korean in seven days time - and they too have a major Western star in tow to ensure they are set for a colossal pop smash.
Alec Benjamin's hit single is called Let Me Down Slowly, but so far it is more a case of let me climb slowly. This week celebrating its 11th week on the singles chart it becomes a Top 40 hit for the very first time with a 46-36 climb. This is another of those singles which is available in two different versions, the American singer's original solo version competing with a newer release which adds Alessia Cara to the mix. As with the Lil Nas X track, the charts are wilfully blind to this situation and credit Benjamin solo, even though it is the duet version gaining the lions' share of sales and streams to date.
Their Portugal, The Man soundalike Sucker is still doing great business higher up the chart, spending a sixth straight week as a Top 10 single, but the Jonas Brothers also enjoy a second chart entry this week with Cool charting at Number 39. Such swift follow-on singles are normally pushed out as album teasers, but with none scheduled for the group so far this one appears to be nothing less than a swift official follow-up, complete with video. It is essentially a 'burner' hit, a secondary single designed to sneak more streams and airplay, but without the pressure of becoming quite the large chart smash its predecessor presently is. Nobody ever went broke having a spare missile in the silo after all.
The latest series of The Voice UK (the eighth) reached its climax last week. Despite channel-hopping from BBC to ITV three years ago the hit franchise is still seen as the red-haired stepchild of the TV talent show world, struggling to gain even half of the respect or attention the annual X Factor series manage. That was certainly the case this year, despite the planned abandonment of the regular X Factor format leaving The Voice effectively the only outlet for new musical talent to reach the screens in 2019. Molly Hocking duly won and was handed the right to release her debut single, but I'll Never Love Again limps to a rather lame Number 73, even taking its midweek release into account. Compare that to the Number 14 scaled by 2018 winner Ruti with her version of The Cranberries' Dreams. Molly won't quite be the worst-performing Voice UK winner to date even if she doesn't progress further. 2014 winner Jermain Jackman could only reach Number 75 with his take on And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going, although this was still better than Mo Jamil who crashed out at Number 78 with his winning single Unsteady in 2017.