Breathless With Anticipation
Well that was all a bit of an anticlimax, wasn't it? The leaked news that Apple was to "shut down iTunes" prompted all manner of feverish speculation as to just what that would entail, along with think pieces about the end of people's playlists and the prospect of no more downloads all of a sudden. In the end, the announcement on Monday was cosmetic, the app itself is indeed to be retired (at least on Macs) with the music functionality spun into its own app. Significantly though the "iTunes Store" itself will still carry on being accessible and Apple will continue to retail music tracks and albums for a little while longer.
That said, this only makes it easier to manage the process of sunsetting the download service in the not too distant future, so the end of the paid-for single is still theoretically in sight. Mind you, there is still an assumption (of which I too am guilty of) that iTunes retains the kind of market domination it always had at the height of the mp3 era. These days a one-off purchaser of a digital single (particularly when it comes to charity or Christmas releases) is just as likely to go to Amazon as they are to fire up iTunes. Perhaps more so, given that all of us have Amazon accounts and not necessarily an Apple one. iTunes may indeed vanish altogether one day, but there are still other outlets for those keen to snap up single tracks. For the moment.
Want to know what else is an anticlimax? The very top of the Official UK Singles chart. The market has found its level, the public knows the tracks it loves the most, and right now they just cannot be diverted from these. Hence this week we have the extraordinary sight of every single one of last week's Top 12 singles retaining their chart positions. Needless to say, this is completely without precedent for a regularly compiled singles chart. It beats the previous record, set on the chart of w/c June 30th 2016 when nine of the Top 10 and the entire Top 8 were all non-movers. It isn't that this has previously been impossible to happen, even back in the era of physical sales, but this does throw into sharp relief the challenge of a table of musical popularity which is ever-increasingly tracking consumption rather than discovery. Those music fans who constantly seek out the new and exiting are a dedicated minority. The public at large know what they like and stick with what they love - and the result is what we see here. That which was the most popular last week is the most popular this week. And who knows, maybe next week too.
This all means a fourth week at Number One for Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber with I Don't Care, but not for the first time in the past few weeks the most fascinating chart story is the one just below them. Old Town Road by Lil Nas X also holds firm for what is now its seventh week at Number 2, the last six of them consecutive. That makes it one of only a handful of Number One singles to have also spent as long as this in the runners-up slot, either before or after topping the charts. Just over a year ago in March 2018, we were boggling at the sight of These Days by Rudimental which spent a full seven weeks at Number 2 before finally climbing to the top of the charts. The single would subsequently spend one further week on the second rung to give it a grand total of eight weeks. The all-time chart record for a "Number One single at 2" is nine weeks total, clocked up by You Belong To Me as recorded by Jo Stafford back in 1952 at the very dawn of the charts era. The chart run of Old Town Road for the moment closely mirrors that of Softly Softly by Ruby Murray which in early 1955 had a single week at 2, a three week run at the top of the charts, and then a further six back in second place.
We're Hot When She's Cold
Not that there aren't plenty of new hits to write about, and indeed there are no fewer than 12 new singles in the Top 75 alone this week. But just as extraordinarily the three (four?) biggest of these all line up consecutively immediately outside the all-static Top 12.
Katy Perry's last major hit singles as a solo star came just over two years ago. Her big "comeback" single Chained To The Rhythm is rather unfairly perceived as a flop, despite the fact it powered its way to Number 5 on these shores. The problem was it didn't loiter so long at the top end of the charts, spending the majority of its three and a half month Top 40 run hovering around the Top 30. The failure of other singles released from her last studio album Witness to make any kind of major impact (Bon Appetit crashed at 37, Swish Swish flattered to deceive at 19) all meant that her big comeback of 2017 was, well, underwhelming. She did at least top the charts later that year, lending a lead vocal to the Calvin Harris smash Feels, but earlier this year her presence on Zedd's 365 failed to help that single higher up the charts than Number 37.
In short, we in Britain are still hot for Katy Perry. It is just that we still aren't too sure how we feel about her as a long term thing. Her music stands or falls on its own merits these days, not through the star power of her name. So the arrival online last week of her new single Never Really Over was always going to be fascinating. "Cool, a new Katy Perry track" was the reaction, "now let's see if it is any good". Actually, it isn't all that bad, instantly identifiable as a Zedd production, a snare drum rhythm straight out of the fun. songbook and a chanting electropop chorus which would proudly grace anything on Haim's last two albums. That isn't to suggest it is derivative, but it is a single which has carefully chosen which buttons to press and done so in style. Never Really Over debuts at Number 13, her biggest chart hit since the aforementioned Feels, but as ever where it charts in its first week is really only half the story. What happens to it next will be just as fascinating to watch.
The second new hit of the week is tied into the most in-demand new album of the week. Following on from his last collection, the award-winning Konnichiwa released in 2016, Skepta lands a second consecutive Number 2 album as his new release Ignorance Is Bliss slams into the market, unable to quite shift Lewis Capaldi from the very top. Needless to say the album derives most of its chart sales from the collective streams of its individual tracks, the most popular of which is the J Hus collaboration What Do You Mean which is the second highest singles chart new entry of the week at Number 14. Hard on its heels is his "current" hit single Greaze Mode which was finally gifted a proper video just over a week ago and as a consequence of that rockets 47-18, beating its previous peak of 22 which it achieved upon release three weeks ago. His other chart hit is Bullet From A Gun, released simultaneously last month with Greaze Mode and which this week also reaches a new peak of Number 32.
She She She Shine On
So that's the new entries at 13 and 14 accounted for. New at Number 15 is another rapper, MoStack who enjoys what is far and away his biggest hit single as a primary artist to date with brand new release Shine Girl. Until today his previous best as the lead was the Number 31 peak of What I Wanna from March 2018, although he's had far greater chart success as a passenger on other people's rides. He was last on the chart back in April when he reached Number 7 as a participant on Steel Banglez' Fashion Week. Because everyone appears on everyone else's singles at some point in time, MoStack is by no means alone on this hit, Shine Girl also co-crediting Stormzy who thus can boast two Top 20 hit singles this week. Curiously this is the first time a single crediting him as a featured artist has reached the Top 20. Expect this single to be joined by others next survey - he's got an album out too.
In Out In Out And Shake It
Now, you will note I questioned whether there were three or four new entries in a row inside the Top 20? That's because the final one of the sequence is technically a re-entry. Lewis Capaldi's Bruises returns to the chart for the first time in five weeks after being starred out thanks to the arrival of Hold Me While You Wait. The older hit (originally self-released two years ago) has been subject to the "Ed Sheeran rule" which restricts artists to three simultaneous chart hits. Thanks to Grace dipping below it in sales, Bruises can now register the Top 20 placing it has been denied ever since the release of Capaldi's album. This is easily its highest ever chart placing, the single had climbed as far as 49 before being disqualified a month ago. Grace is only disqualified by the tiniest of margins, its chart sale sufficient for it to have been at 17 in its own right had it been eligible. So don't be surprised if the two singles swap places again next week.
Other chart movements of note: a further ten place climb for James Arthur's Falling Like The Stars which now sits at Number 25 as a Top 30 hit for the first time ever, and the Sigala/Becky Hill collaboration Wish You Well which avoids the usual fate of singles which enter just inside the Top 40 and climbs out of the basement after just one week with a 39-24 jump. Less fortunate are Jess Glynne and Jax Jones who clearly need a bit of promotional help after One Touch can only move a single place up to Number 30.
Black Mirror Star Alert
In a masterpiece of bad luck or bad timing, there were two big-name American women with eagerly-anticipated comeback singles vying for attention this week. Sadly Katy Perry grabbed most of it, leaving Miley Cyrus gathering crumbs and doubtless wishing she'd taken more of her clothes off. Her new release was officially an EP SHE IS COMING (the capitals are important apparently) and which lands on the album chart at Number 18. Its lead track is Mother's Daughter and that ensures she also has a presence on the singles chart as it enters at Number 31. That's lower key than someone of her pedigree might expect (especially given her father's high profile if uncredited role on the Number 2 hit of the moment) but at the very least is her first Top 40 hit under her own steam since Malibu reached Number 11 in May 2017. Just like Katy Perry she has had a more recent smash hit as the guest star of a dance producer, in Miley's case Nothing Breaks Like A Heart which she helped Mark Ronson steer to Number 2 at the start of this year. The EP is explicitly flagged as the teaser for a full album which is set to follow later in the summer.
Speaking of Mark Ronson, he's unlucky not to land inside the Top 40 with Find U Again, the Camila Cabello-voiced track charting instead at Number 41. He and the label have clearly given up on Late Night Feelings which sinks back to Number 36 after reaching what seems for now to be its peak of Number 30 seven days ago. His new album (also entitled Late Night Feelings) comes out at the end of the month.
There are lots of very entitled Cheryl stans around, so we should probably draw a veil over the fact that the former Girls Aloud star's new single Let You sneaks into the chart at a lowly Number 57. OK so it didn't quite have the hype and huge coverage of her last single Love Made Me Do It which reached Number 19 last November, but there was still a certain level of expectation surrounding this track. One which it was never going to live up to. Music Week reports that it was actually the Number 3 single in the first sales flashes (generally made up of downloads only). She opened big and finished smaller, that's all you can really say.
Finally, for this week there's a nice inspirational tale to note. The latest World War II anniversary event (this time marking 75 years since the D-Day landings) is commemorated on the charts, not by yet another Vera Lynn compilation, but instead a specially recorded commemorative charity single. Performer of The Shores Of Normandy is 90-year-old veteran Jim Radford who with his Number 72 hit takes over as the oldest ever living performer of a brand new Top 100 single. The record for a new recording was previously held by harmonica player Larry Adler who in 1994 enjoyed a Top 30 single alongside Kate Bush on The Man I Love. If we are counting re-entries of older recordings then he is beaten by Andy Williams whose Christmas classic The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year charted in late 2009 when he was 82. Williams passed away in 2012 meaning the subsequent chart appearances of the standard haven't extended his record as a living artist. This could well be the year of the elderly given Britain's Got Talent was won this week by 89-year-old Colin Thackery who appears destined for some chart success of his own by Christmas at the very latest.