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Saddle Up For The Ride
Just how capricious are the British charts? One week after Lewis Capaldi enjoys his biggest week to date with long-running Number One single Someone You Loved, he is unceremoniously bundled from the top of the charts by the one record of the moment with the capacity to be even bigger.
The long-awaited changing of the guard at the top of the charts comes thanks to Lil Nas X and Old Town Road which spent the week continuing the unstoppable momentum which propelled it to second place seven days ago. The American rapper takes pride of place at Number One on the Official UK Singles charts and in the process gives us a world of facts to get our teeth into. Let's contemplate the genre first, Old Town Road a glorious collision of rap and country, fusing one of the most traditional sounds of American music with one of its most (relatively) recent inventions. It is unusual enough to call attention to the track, although by no means unique. The search for the last C&W artist to top the UK charts takes us to 2005 when Tim McGraw teamed up with Nelly on Over And Over. A track which was also a notable fusion of country and urban sounds - even if Nelly did more singing than rapping on this particular hit.
As noted last week, there are multiple versions of Old Town Road in circulation but the one which is enjoying the most attention is the remix which adds in the vocal talents of Billy Ray Cyrus. Frustratingly he doesn't appear on the chart credits as the "solo" version of the track is considered the primary one by the chart database. But let's pretend for the moment that he does, because this means that the veteran performer finally tops the UK charts, almost 27 years after he first reached Number 3 with the cute novelty hit Achy Breaky Heart. Cyrus senior reaches the top of the charts just under 6 years since his daughter did so, meaning that Miley and Billy Ray duly become only the third father and daughter tandem to top the UK charts. Curiously they are the only ones to do so separately from each other: Frank & Nancy Sinatra, and Ozzy & Kelly Osbourne both doing so with a pan-generational duet. All three father and son chart-topping teams have done so separately: Chip and Chesney Hawkes (the former as a member of The Tremeloes), Julio and Enrique Iglesias, Trevor and Aaron Horn (as members of Buggles and Sam and The Womp respectively).
Neither the solo nor the Cyrus version of Old Town Road commanded enough streams individually to overcome the opposition but combined they are a potent force. The single enjoyed 9.9m streams last week and tops the charts with a chart sale of over 80,000 copies - the second highest of the year to date. The single is also vanishingly slight. Whilst the Cyrus version clocks in at around 2:23 the "official" lead version featuring Lil Nas X alone is a mere 1:53 - or 113 seconds if you prefer. To put it another way, by the time you've streamed the 30 seconds necessary to count as a "play" for chart tally purposes, you've already heard more than a quarter of the song. The all-time record for brevity still belongs to Adam Faith, his 1959 Number One What Do You Want ran for just 1:35 - 95 seconds in all.
Fancy A Ride Too Becky?
We have additional remixes to thank for the other most notable chart move of the week. A Number 19 hit for RUSS and Tion Wayne on release three weeks ago, Keisha & Becky appeared to be little more than a classic British rap one week wonder, popping a rating upon first appearance but then sinking quickly back from whence it came. Last week the single had come to rest at Number 30 and for all the world looked to have breathed its last as a Top 40 hit single. Then came a new version of the track, this one turning it into a true ensemble effort with new vocal turns from Aitch, JAY1, Sav'O and Swarmz. The result is a startling turnaround in fortunes. Keisha & Becky makes a giant 23 place leap to this week rest at Number 7. That's more than enough to make this the biggest hit single to date for RUSS, eclipsing the Number 9 peak of new year party favourite Gun Lean. Tion Wayne is also enjoying his second Top 10 hit single of the year, but for now this only matches the Number 7 scaled by the NSG track Options on which he also featured. The other collaborators on the new hit version of the track? They don't get a mention here as the same chart rules apply - the first to be released and the first to chart is the only one the chart database acknowledges.
Until You're Resting
Hear that sound? That's the shattering of the glass ceiling as after stalling at Number 11 last week the rather lovely Here With Me from Marshmello and Chvrches climbs a place to certify itself as a Top 10 hit single. The bucket-headed producer (give it up Chris, we all know it is you) was all but inescapable in 2017 with Silence and also last year with his two smash hits Friends and Happer. Given the way Here With Me has climbed to near-ubiquity on pop radio playlists since it first appeared on the chart, it seems he's set to repeat the trick in 2019.
Until I'm Wiser
It is exactly a year since Tim "Avicii" Bergling passed away, the suicide of the producer somehow all the more horribly ironic given the universal theme of life-enrichment and grabbing every chance you can which ran throughout most of his hit creations. Before his death, he was hard at work on what was planned to be a comeback album, and his friends and colleagues have now undertaken to complete his final work for him, all proceeds to go to the Tim Bergling Foundation. The first fruits of those posthumous labours appear on the chart this week as SOS becomes the highest new entry, smashing into Number 12. Topically enough given all the talk this week of uncredited performers driving the chart success of the week's biggest hits, SOS does take time out to credit its singer. The presence of Aloe Blacc is particularly notable given that it is was his voice which featured on Avicii's most successful worldwide hit Wake Me Up. A million-selling Number One single on these shores in 2013, it came at a time when Bergling eschewed sharing the billing with others and so Aloe Blacc famously went uncredited for his most famous chart performance. He clearly didn't bear a grudge, and the polishing of SOS to a finished form was largely his work. He finally takes the credited stage alongside his late friend on a single which is more than worthy of the honour of keeping Avicii's name alive just that little bit longer.
Luv Her. And Them.
In a sense, we've saved the best until last this week because the Number One album of the week is perhaps just as notable as the track at the top of the singles chart. All-male pop group band BTS this week become the first ever Korean act to land themselves a chart-topping album in this country as their latest release Map Of The Soul: Persona flies to the very top - beating out the three instalments of the Love Yourself series of albums which marked their commercial breakthrough on these shores last year. The K-Pop superstars remain a fascinating enigma. As this chart success shows they are wildly, crazily popular with British fans, all thanks to an extremely vocal and highly motivated online following. They have already played sell-out dates at the O2 arena in London and this summer will return the UK to headline two dates at the even larger capacity Wembley Stadium. Yet they have done all this to date without anything resembling a truly mainstream hit single, their best performance so far the Number 21 peak of Idol which charted in September last year. But even that hit was the very definition of a one-week wonder, crashing 21-73 in its second week on sale. Their highly motivated fanbase cared, but in truth precious few others did.
Hence, you suspect, the strategy behind their latest release. The primary track on Map Of The Soul: Persona is Boy With Luv which boasts the added Western star power of Halsey. When released last week the video of the track smashed global YouTube records, achieving 74.6m views in its first 24 hours. Whilst many of those views surely came from these shores too, they were only enough to propel the single to Number 13 - still very much the highest charting BTS track to date. The acid test is going to be where it ends up in seven days' time, but given that Boy With Luv had originally posted a Top 10 entry on the midweek update and sank back as the week wore on, you cannot escape the feeling that this is another fanbase number that has been popped and that the long-term appeal of the track is limited. That's a shame. BTS are better than you might give them credit for, and despite the language barrier there is no real reason why one of their hits shouldn't catch on and cross over for real. Until that happens they will remain a startling curiosity. A group from the far East able to top the album charts and fill Wembley Stadium twice over, but still under the radar of all but those who pay close attention to chart positions.
So that's the account of the Top 13 hits of the week. Is there anything else lower down to discuss? No, to be perfectly honest. That's really all there is to tell about the UK charts this week. Everyone else has taken off for Easter, so I might as well do the same. Keep an eye out on this site and on social media feeds for news of the two new Chart Watch UK books which hit the online stores this week. Relentless plugs for those are coming your way, and did I mention that silver-level Patreon supporters get a free copy automatically? Those hankering for the return of printed versions of both full Top 75 charts and artist-by-artist hit tallies may also be interested in the impending release of the first of a series of new official chart books which are also now available. More on those next time as well.