If You're Ready, Push The Button
I feel a theme week coming on for this week's Chart Watch. Because there is one word that many of the top tracks of the week have in common. They all get to press a big red...
Some - but not all - of this is down to Ed Sheeran because as the immediate after-effects of the release of his new album last week start to subside, several things which were momentarily shoved aside get to ping back into place. None more so than the track at the top of the Official UK Singles chart. A week after making way for Ed's Beautiful People, Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello are back at the top with Senorita, the sultry summer track now enjoying a second week at the top of the charts. That once rare of chart feats, the rebound to Number One, has now become far more commonplace and indeed Senorita is the second single to repeat the stunt in 2019. Ariana's 7 Rings also did a yo-yo back in February, the twist there being that she briefly made way for one of her own singles. And not even Ed Sheeran has managed that yet.
Sorry, I Can't Find A Device Called F**k
It may no longer be "Sheeran week" but that doesn't stop Ed still dominating proceedings as much as the rules allow. After being 1, 3 and 4 on the singles chart last week, this time around he is 2, 3 and 4 with his permitted quota of hits. But this is where the tale gets even more extraordinary as he enjoys a reset of his own with the consequence that former Number One I Don't Care is effectively a re-entry at Number 3 after being denied a chart position last week.
For those late to the party, let me explain what has taken place. I Don't Care should last week have spent its 10th week on the singles chart since release. However as it was 10 weeks old and had declined in streams for the preceding three, it was subject to ACR rules which saw the conversion rate of those streams halve. That immediately dropped the chart sales of the track to a level which would have probably seen it chart at 7 or 8 last week. Except it didn't, due to the application of the so-called "Ed Sheeran rule" which prevents acts from charting more than three singles at once.
Only there is now a new twist. The release of Ed's No.6 Collaborations Project album caused a surge in the streams of all of its tracks. I Don't Care also benefitted from the availability of a new "remix" which saw Ed now duetting (if that is the correct term) with the voice of Amazon Alexa. And once everyone knew of its existence then everyone was giving it a chart-eligible stream. So last week I Don't Care crossed the new "market+25%" threshold and became eligible for its ACR status to be reversed in time for this week's chart. The direct result is that the former Number One is now once again one of Ed's three biggest singles and so returns to the singles countdown a week after it left.
Yes, this all looks very inelegant and inorganic and by the end of this week you'll probably see plenty of comments below the line from some very engaged individuals who don't like rules that impact chart positions. The word "joke" and "farce" gets used a lot. But of course "joke" and "farce" were also the words used in March 2017 when Ed Sheeran had 9 of the Top 10 singles and a great many commentator minds gave forth on how this meant the singles chart was broken and not fit for purpose. Prompting the industry to demand change. I'll merely note that given the rules were specifically put in place to stop Ed Sheeran knackering things up for everyone else, it should hardly come as a surprise when he subsequently becomes the most high profile act to collide with them headfirst. Unless we are arguing for another "Ed Sheeran rule" which means he becomes exempt from regulations put in place as a consequence of his own extraordinary levels of cross-platform popularity.
In any event, we are all about chart firsts. And the historically unique set of circumstances this week means that I Don't Care is the first single ever to exit the charts from the Top 5 one week and then re-enter it the next. For all the fuss about the tracks from the new album, it is fun to note that (for this week at least) the three biggest are Beautiful People, I Don't Care and Cross Me. Or to put it another way, the promotional tracks which have all been around for weeks. Either the public stick with what they love, or Ed and his label chose wisely in picking the tracks to best sell the new project.
Getting Badder All The Time
Also enjoying a reset of her own is Billie Eilish. As I speculated last week, the release of the new version of her long-running chart hit Bad Guy which adds in a co-vocal from Justin Bieber did indeed also push this single over the 25% market increase threshold, resetting its ACR status for this week's survey. The result is a 16-5 jump for the track, returning it to the Top 10 after five weeks away, during which time it has never dropped lower than Number 23. If there is one criticism of the ACR system it is that it doesn't always organically kill off long-running hits such as this one. Bad Guy suffered no noticeable large decline in popularity during its time on ACR. It merely settled back on the singles chart on a different level.
Ed Sheeran wasn't the first to do stunt releases of new "remixes" of existing hits with exciting new vocals, but the inspiration for this new promotional tactic almost certainly flows from the way the three concurrent recordings of Perfect led it to become Christmas Number One the year before last. Bad Guy has no real need to still be a major chart hit, it is already one of the biggest tracks of the year so far and has done the trick of putting both Eilish and her album When We Fall Asleep Where Do We Go well and truly on the map. But her label have decided to extend its life still further, and you know what? It has worked a treat.
Bold Town Road
Old Town Road by Lil Nas X doesn't enjoy a reset, but in truth it doesn't really need one. Six weeks after its ACR relegation it is still a Top 10 single, holding firm once more at Number 10. The country-rap track is also benefitting from the multiple mixes promotional stunt, its chart sales for the past two weeks having included those of a new version which stirs Young Thug and Mason Ramsey vocals into the already crowded mix. The artist and label have made no secret of why they are doing this, Old Town Road now in a position to break the all-time record for most weeks at Number One on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. Previously jointly held by One Sweet Day by Mariah Carey/Boyz II Men and Despacito by Luis Fonsi, Old Town Road last week equalled the record with its 16th week at the top. If you are reading this later in the week it will almost certainly have added one more to set a brand new record, topping the American charts for longer than any track in history. And yet there is still more to come, with a new version dubbed Seoul Town Road which replaces Billy Ray Cyrus with RM from Korean boyband BTS.
The ACR rules were supposed to help speed up the singles chart a little and allow new music to "surface" quicker. Yet here we are discussing at length at the start of August the same records whose chart runs we've been noting since April.
By Writing On The Wall
Don't panic though, because Sam Smith is here to rescue us. Kind of. It has taken six months but he finally reappears with the direct follow-up to Dancing With A Stranger, a Number 3 hit from back in February. That hit smashed its way into the Top 5 upon first release, but new single How Do You Sleep makes a rather more measured run up and lands at Number 12 first week out. When you consider the near-instantaneous chart success of virtually all of Sam Smith's newly released tracks since the start of his career, this is actually quite an understated opening. Although there are plenty of acts who would kill for Number 12 first week out. Let's play the waiting game to see where this ends up.
Building Castles In The Sky
Intense blokes are all the diminished album-consuming public care about right now, so Ed Sheeran and Lewis Capaldi continue their hegemony at the top end of the Official UK Albums chart. That means a Number 3 entry for the long-awaited debut album from Freya Ridings. About which she is utterly thrilled, as she has posted on Twitter. That also helps push her current single Castles still further up the charts, the single now Number 18 and her second Top 20 hit single following Lost Without You.
Wish That I Could Let You
After sneaking in at Number 40 last time around, Ritual from the fascinating combination of Tiesto, Jonas Blue and Rita Ora makes a 12 place leap to sit at Number 28 and finally become something of a major hit after no less than 8 weeks on release. It is the first chart hit for 50-year-old Dutchman Tiesto since Jackie Chan was a Number 5 hit almost exactly a year ago. Rita Ora was last in the Top 30 a few months back when her vocal turn on Kygo's Carry On helped lift it to Number 26. One more heave and she should at least top that.
Properly new to the Top 40 at Number 36 is Ellie Goulding with Hate Me, the follow-up to Sixteen which struggled to a Number 21 peak earlier in the spring, a position it locked firm at for three consecutive weeks. An added rap from Juice WRLD gives the track a fascinating dimension and makes it a cut above its predecessor. Ellie is badly in need of a major smash hit to re-confirm her status as a proper mainstream pop star. Although Still Falling For You was unlucky to peak at Number 11 three years ago, her last Top 10 hit single was now almost four years ago (On My Mind reaching Number 5 in October 2015). That's a veritable lifetime in pop music terms.
There's a fascinating new entry at Number 38 for Joel Corry, a DJ and performer most notable for his appearances in several seasons of reality show Geordie Shore. Having attempted to become a chart star for some time he hits paydirt with what is it must be said a remarkably faithful reworking of Sorry, one of the earliest acknowledged UK Garage tracks and first recorded by Monsta Boy featuring Denzie. Although first issued in 1998, the track didn't become a hit single in the UK until two years later, Sorry (I Didn't Know) reaching Number 25 in October that year. A 13-place climb next time around and Corry's version has matched it.
Bring Back The Pig
Incidentally, the biggest selling album of the week by some distance is Now! 103 which tops the compilations chart, although exactly one year on from the celebrations as the series reached its centenary issue there is genuine trouble in paradise. Music Week reports that the double album sold 56,058 copies last week, the smallest opening total for any volume of the series since accurate numbers became possible to track in 1994. Now! 102, by contrast, opened on 80,000 copies three months ago. 15 years ago this month in 2004 Now! 58 sold 297,000 copies in its first week on release. No wonder they are busy re-promoting older volumes in the series. The modified re-issue of Now! 3 (missing a Bob Marley track due to licensing issues and a Gary Glitter one because people are idiots) debuts at Number 2 on the compilations chart. Eligible for the main album chart at the time, it first reached Number One for the start of an eight-week run at the top exactly 35 years ago next week.
Can You Feel The Fourth
A few eagle-eyed chart watchers have this week spotted that Beyonce appears to have no fewer than FOUR Top 100 hits this week. She's at Number 42 with Brown Skin Girl, Number 56 with Mood 4 Eva, Number 59 with Spirit and at Number 87 with her duet with Donald Glover on Can You Feel The Love Tonight. In theory, she is the first-named and thus primary artist on all of them, meaning she appears to have one more chart hit than permitted. In fact "primary artist" is defined in the chart rules as "the artist on whose label the single is released", an important point if it is unclear who the main performer on a duet is. If an equal collaboration is between two acts on the same label, then the record company has to nominate who should be considered the lead performer. In the case of Can You Feel The Love Tonight it appears on Walt Disney records, as a soundtrack hit from the new "live action" remake of "The Lion King". As neither Beyonce nor Glover are signed to the label and are "on loan" so to speak, it was left to Disney to nominate the primary artist - and with one eye on Beyonce's companion tracks all competing for chart positions they have clearly gone with Donald Glover. So Can You Feel The Love Tonight is "his" single. Meaning Beyonce is allowed on the singles chart four times. Simple really.
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