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Well you really never can tell, can you?
As fun as it was watching Ariana Grande bend chart records, swapping places with herself at the top of the Official UK Singles chart and doing things no woman before her ever had, it was hard to escape the growing fear of tedium. Were we about to be settling in for another of those extended runs where one single tops the charts and nothing can touch it?
Even when the official chart update was revealed on Monday suggesting that a surprising reversal of fortune for the American star was on the cards, I was urging taking it with a large dose of salt. Large chunks of missing data meant that any deficit she was posting was of the kind that could be eradicated when the final tallies came in on Friday. But we watched and waited as the week progressed, and it became increasingly clear that this was a chart race far too close to call.
The final result comes as an even greater surprise. Because the Number One single on the Official UK Singles chart isn't either of the ones expected. Someone You Loved by Lewis Capaldi is top of the British charts this week, to the utter unspeakable joy of all involved. As if to prove all good things come to those who wait, the Scotsman's third single was released as long ago as last November. Drenched in praise from the outset, it nonetheless took time to catch fire commercially. A brief appearance at the very bottom of the Top 100 in November was followed by weeks under the radar. The single finally broke through in the second week of January, returning to the charts at Number 66 and embarking on a seven-week climb which has finally culminated in this trip to the top of the charts. His 'other' hit Grace is also on the move and climbs to a brand new peak of its own at Number 24.
The video for the gentle ballad features a fun nod back to the singer's family roots, boasting a cameo appearance for one Peter Capaldi who we are told is a distant relative of the singer.
Hark When The Night Is Falling
The most fun irony of all is that Lewis Capaldi has denied one of his fellow countrymen a chance of another Number One single. Sales leader for most of the week was Giant from Calvin Harris and Rag'n'Bone Man which is forced to wait yet again for its apparently predestined chance to top the charts. Harris was widely expected to emerge victorious thanks to his performance at last week's Brit Awards ceremony, the Best British Producer putting on a showcase performance of all his most recent hits. At the very least all make positive chart moves. Giant ascends to Number 2 (with its guest singer equalling his own personal chart best), former chart-topper Promises is at 37, and the rather longer in the tooth One Kiss makes a small rise to Number 56.
Still <censored> Grateful
Ariana Grande's two big hits of the moment are therefore relegated to 3 and 4 on the singles chart, although it is fun to note that they swap places in the market once more with break up with your girlfriend, I'm bored now with the chart sales edge over 7 Rings. This sudden reversal of fortune for her tracks shouldn't come as too much of a surprise. As popular as they are at the top of the streaming tables, they don't enjoy quite the lead that other megahits of recent months have done so, and their startling sag at retail has almost certainly led to the singer's domination of the top of the charts coming to an end sooner than was expected. For all the waves she manages to make and her status as one of the most talked-of pop artists of the moment, Ariana Grande hits don’t exactly resonate with the public as a whole. Oh yes, and as expected the one hit of hers in recent months which was a long-term success is back on the chart. thank u, next is a "re-entry" at Number 30 as all her other album cuts dip out of sight - this despite this older hit still languishing on ACR. Ariana does at least remain on top of the Official UK Albums chart by some distance, thank u next the album now the longest-running Number One album by a female soloist since Adele's 25 back in 2016.
Pretty Pretty Please
The climactic moment of any Brit Awards ceremony is always the extended performance from the artist handed the Outstanding Contribution award. This year it was the turn of Alecia 'Pink' Moore to receive the accolade and to receive due recognition for her near two-decade career in which she has repeatedly defied convention, fashion, and the shifting of musical sands to remain just as important and relevant as she was back in 2000 when her first hits charted. Amongst the medley of tracks she performed to end the broadcast was Walk Me Home, a brand new track taken from her upcoming album Hurts 2 Be Human. The single duly explodes into life, crashing into the charts at Number 8 as the highest new entry of the week. It is her 20th Top 10 hit single in this country and arrives just three months shy of 19 years since There You Go became her first. An artist who under any other circumstances would be viewed as a legacy act, one whose fame and greatest success came during the sales era and who had no guarantee of continuing success as focus shifts to those artists able to command attention on streaming platforms. That she has made the jump so effortlessly, so seamlessly, makes it all the more appropriate that she's been recognised for Outstanding Achievement. Yet another hit single seems to be the least that she deserves.
Break On Through To The Other Side
Tom Walker didn't get to perform at the Brits, but with a Best British Breakthrough trophy in his hand, he certainly came to the attention of far more people than before. His latest single Just You And I continues to rise, making the Top 10 for the first time this week with a 19-10 jump. A worthy follow-up to Leave A Light On which fails to reap the same benefits, dipping a place to Number 50 instead. His album What A Time To Be Alive is available for playlisting as I speak.
The Brits weren't the only award show in town recently, and the annual Oscars ceremony this week has also pulled off the fun trick of impacting the singles chart. The sizzling with chemistry performance by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper of Shallow kicked off a new surge of interest in the former Number One single. Having been languishing on the edge of the Top 30 since the new year, the track has rebounded slightly in recent weeks and has just spent a fortnight back at Number 21. Post-Oscars it is on the move again and surges up to a new post-Christmas high of Number 11, the highest Shallow has been in the charts since mid-December when it endured an ACR-prompted dip from 5 to 32. The track would be even higher up the charts, but for the fact it remains on the Accelerated Chart Ratio, none of its sales spikes to date have achieved the 50% increase which would re-promote it properly into the upper reaches.
Reaching a new peak this week is Talk from Khalid and Disclosure, a single which endured an all too common Week 2 dip after its strong opening but which now rallies 20-13 in a manner which suggests Top 10 is within its grasp within the next few weeks. Blueface's Thotiana escapes a surprising level of online sneering and also climbs, moving to Number 15, but just behind it is a single which hasn't had its fair share of attention in these pages to date, so it seems only appropriate to correct this. I'm So Tired from Lauv and Troye Sivan made the Top 40 for the first time three weeks ago and has climbed steadily ever since. This week it accelerates to Number 17 to make the Top 20 for the first time. It is the first major chart hit for Lauv, better known to his mum as 24-year-old Californian Ari Leff. This is his second attempt at a hit, his first chart single I Like Me Better crashed out at Number 58 in summer 2017. Guest star Troye Sivan also appears to be on the verge of his biggest chart success to date, this only his second Top 20 hit single to date, hard on the heels of his guest role on Charli XCX's 1999 which reached Number 13 at the end of last year.
Scatter Cushions Out
Little Mix were Brit Awards winners too, taking home the trophy for Best British Video for Woman Like Me. They performed the song at the ceremony, with Ms Banks subbing for the absent Nicki Minaj, but they will have preferred most attention to be directed to their latest single Think About Us. It is rising, but slowly, moving 26-23 this week. It's guest star Ty Dolla $ign once more enjoys two simultaneous chart singles with Kehlani's Nights Like This on which he also guests making its own return to the Top 40 with a climb to Number 33.
Of the other Brits performers, Jess Glynne makes a token move as Thursday climbs 41-35, although more airplay attention has switched to the alternative mix of the track featuring a new verse from rising star H.E.R. which they performed at the O2 a week ago. There were fewer takers for The 1975 and their track of choice on the night Sincerity Is Scary. The single returns to the chart at Number 68 this week, 11 places lower than the peak it scaled when first released in September last year. It is a similar story for Jorja Smith, the one act of the night who will have prompted puzzled cries of "who?" from the nation's sofas but who not only was awarded Best British Female but got to perform as well. Interest in her single is muted, Don't Watch Me Cry creeping merely to Number 73, with even her album Lost And Found only managing to haul itself to Number 27. Hugh Jackman opened proceedings on the night with a grandstand performance of The Greatest Show, but this single is hampered by being on ACR and settles at Number 69. Plus surely every home in the country owns a copy of it already.
It's A Killer
The most eyebrow-raising Top 40 entry of the week is perhaps the arrival at Number 31 of what you will come to understand is the ironically titled Murder On My Mind by American rapper YNW Melly. Ironic because the man behind the moniker Jamell Demons is presently in a Florida penitentiary charged with two counts of murder relating to the October 2018 shootings of two fellow "YNW" performers. I merely note that in a world where people are pretending they never worked with R Kelly and vandalising their own bodies of work to prove it, and we are all supposed to feel bad about having Ryan Adams tickets because his ex-wife doesn't like him very much, there is this week a Top 40 single by a man literally in prison accused of murdering two of his friends. Almost as if we don't really expect our chart stars to be role models.
Here's one final detail I genuinely wasn't expecting to see. The received wisdom (based on previous evidence) is that a major music TV event such as the Brits causes a spike in online purchases, reaching out to that demographic who haven't quite switched on to streaming yet. But this week we pass another important watershed as paid-for singles sales finally slump below three-quarters of a million. Just 733,000 units were purchased last week, according to Music Week this the lowest total since August 2005.