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Six Glorious Weeks Sport!
Why yes, of course Dance Monkey is still Number One. If you really had to ask that question then you almost certainly haven't been paying close enough attention. The Tones & I single maintains its stranglehold on the Official UK Singles chart for the sixth straight week. That's now longer than any Kylie Minogue single ever managed (I Should Be So Lucky lasted for five), meaning Toni Watson has now spent longer at the top of the UK charts than any native-born Australian woman in history. I say "native-born" as technically the record is still held by Australian national Olivia Newton-John who in 1978 enjoyed runs of 9 weeks and 7 weeks with "Grease" soundtrack singles You're The One That I Want and Summer Nights - but she's actually English by birth, her family emigrating Down Under when she was six. But she's on the Official Charts Company list of "Australians who topped the charts" so we have to count her.
Incidentally, this is now the third Number One single in a row to spend at least five weeks at the top, hard on the heels of Senorita and Take Me Back To London. That hasn't happened since the end of 1983 when Karma Chameleon by Culture Club, Uptown Girl by Billy Joel and Only You by The Flying Pickets also spent respectively 6,5, and 5 weeks at the top of the charts in turn.
Dance Monkey is now yet another of those singles which has ended up marooned at the top of the charts. It is so far ahead of the rest of the market, its daily streams on Spotify alone almost double that of any other single, that there once again seems little chance of any other track coming close until the ACR guillotine comes down on the single. This hard on the heels of other long-running chart-toppers this year such as Someone You Loved and I Don't Care indicates this is a recurring phenomenon. My own pet theory right now is that making it to Number One possibly carries far more significance than it ever did in the streaming age. Pop music these days tends to fragment even further than it always did, with people staying in their own bubbles of fandom or at the very least confining their listening to the one narrow genre they are into. But the Number One single commands extra attention, it is the track of the moment that hops the boundaries and which people seek out for a specific reason. So when hits such as Dance Monkey go supernova they burn far longer and far brighter than any other.
The only possible cloud on the horizon? Dance Monkey may have enjoyed its biggest weekly paid-for sale to date (shifting over 11,000 downloads) but its streams decline from 9.54m to "only" 9.33m. So that's a tick of the ACR clock, a position it was last in a fortnight ago. Will she tock for the first time next week?
Don't Call It A Comeback
It has been two years since Dua Lipa released an album. It doesn't feel like it, simply because she has kept her name in lights with a number of multi-artist collaborations, landing herself hits that range from the hot (One Kiss, Electricity) to the lukewarm (Kiss And Make Up). But the fact remains that it was 2017 when Dua Lipa properly made a name for herself. Her breakthrough was no overnight success (her first chart singles coming in 2016) and was thanks to some breathless hard work by her label to get her over the line, but it was still more than worth the effort. The Kosovan beauty with the velvety voice and a neat line in eviscerating crap ex-boyfriends swiftly installed herself as one of the pre-eminent pop stars of the past few years.
Which brings us to today, and the eve of the release of her second solo album. You kind of get the feeling she is either going to go one of two ways. Either this new material sends her properly internationally supernova (she's a one-hit-wonder in America for now, with only New Rules making waves there), or it turns out she was a flash in the pan and sinks without trace. That's why so much attention was paid to her new single Don't Start Now which quite correctly has ended up as the biggest new single of the week.
It is an absorbing listen, a track with a disco bassline yet a subtle approach which means it never quite bursts into life with the kind of killer chorus you were perhaps expecting. That fact alone prompted more than a few lukewarm reviews, although I'm reminded that her biggest smash New Rules was also greeted in much the same manner ("what reason does it have to exist" remarked one reviewer) but whose charms also took time to be properly appreciated. It is an apt comparison, because Don't Start Now reunites the same team behind that smash hit - Dua Lipa credited on songwriting duties alongside Caroline Ailin and Emily Warren along with hit maestro of the moment Ian Kirkpatrick producing. Some in-yer-face promotion (including the MTV EMA's and an immaculately timed day of release appearance on Graham Norton last weekend) has propelled the track to a strong debut. Number 2 makes this easily her biggest chart hit since One Kiss spent most of the spring of 2018 at the top of the charts.
But recent weeks have taught us to be suspicious of high debuting tracks. The biggest smashes are often those which have taken the time to organically grow. Star releases can also last forever for sure, but they can also suffer from "new arrival in the monkey house" syndrome where everyone queues up to be the first to investigate but then drift away. Dua Lipa is back. Don't Start Now is all kinds of wonderful in its own sweet way. But just like Harry Styles and Ariana Grande hits before it, it is where it ends up in three weeks time which will truly count.
Don't Start Now bumps Ride It from Regard down to Number 3, but that still means we have two artists of Kosovan extraction in the Top 3. Regard is a native of the country by birth, but despite her family roots Dua Lipa is technically British (for the same reason that Olivia Newton-John is).
All Over The Place
At the top of the Official UK Albums chart we find - not quite what people were expecting. The band we now call Jeff Lynne's ELO do indeed come From Out Of Nowhere, the veteran rocker storming to the top of the charts with a brand new studio album for the first time since 1981's Time, a gap of 38 years. Although an Electric Light Orchestra hits collection did top the charts in 2016, meaning he hasn't quite been away that long. Yet this is really only half of the story, because From Out Of Nowhere is arguably only there by default.
The first album chart midweeks suggested than in actual fact the Number One album of the week was set to be BBC Children In Need : Got It Covered, a charity album featuring a number of BBC stars all offering up their own interpretations of recent pop hits. The album was originally listed as eligible for the main chart thanks to the presence of the BBC Concert Orchestra who could be credited as the common artist on an album of tracks which were performed by a range of different singers. But it was swiftly noted that four of the tracks did not feature the musicians, and with the marketing of the record playing up the "various artists" aspect it was clear that an error had been made and it had no business being considered an 'artist' album. On Wednesday a decision was taken. Got It Covered was swiftly relegated to the Compilations chart and was absent from subsequent midweeks.
Needless to say an almighty row blew up, with both the Children In Need charity and releasing label Silva Screen crying foul, noting with some merit that the decreased visibility resulting from the compilation not appearing on the charts might well damage the fundraising potential of the album. Although whether an album destined for wall to wall promotion across the annual Children In Need telethon next Friday is somehow going to have its sales damaged to any great extent is a matter for some debate.
Caught in a PR nightmare only partly of their own making, the Official Charts Company felt compelled to make a public statement:
Silva Screen indicated they would continue to appeal right up until the publication of the charts, but to no avail. BBC Children In Need : Got It Covered is far and away the biggest-selling album of the week, with 29,641 units to its name. But it is lodged firmly at Number One on the compilations chart. leaving ELO free to take the main chart crown. But be assured this is more cock-up than conspiracy. Hanlon's Razor applies here. One fascinating point to note is that the original midweek tally for the CiN album will have included streaming numbers (minimal though they were) for the individual tracks. As streams don't count towards the Compilations chart these will effectively have been discarded, counting only for the totals of the individual tracks.
Didn't Have To Be Q4
Amongst the many seasonal-themed album releases this week and nestling in between offerings from the Granny-moistening duo of Aled Jones & Russell Watson and er, Jeff Goldblum are rap duo Krept & Konan who have the fifth biggest record of the week with Revenge Is Sweet, their second studio album (as opposed to a mixtape) arriving a full four years after their first The Long Way Home peaked at Number 2. It is almost needless to say that the bulk of those 'sales' came from streams and so just like Kanye last week the pair occupy a number of slots on the singles chart too. That also means they have the second-highest new entry of the week with Tell Me slamming in at Number 23, their second Top 30 hit of 2019 following on from summertime chart visitor I Spy which reached Number 18. They also chart at Number 28 with G-Love, the album's final teaser single which reaches the Top 40 for the first time after four weeks around, and First Time which lands at Number 63.
The Masked Super Hero
“I’m not in this for fame or for any type of celebrity status. I just make music and maintain with my close friends and family. That’s all that matters to me. All this other stuff is here today and gone tomorrow.” That's the life philosophy of freestyler M Huncho, a man who is following the Marshmello template of keeping his identity hidden, performing in a mask at all times. He calls his music "trapwave", performing with a smoothness of delivery that sets him apart from others and with lyrics that are just as likely to paint pictures of castles with dreaming spires as they are gritty life on urban streets. He makes his mainstream chart debut this week with the seductive Thumb (with Nate Smallz in tow), the single sliding neatly in to Number 30 in a manner which is either a good jumping off point for a slow burn or at the very least enough to be considered good enough to start with. He seems happy enough anyway. Sort of:
Now, this is where it could get complicated so pay attention. AJ Tracey was the performer of one of last week's new entries, his track Floss taken from the new special edition of his debut album landed at Number 22. It still holds its own this week, sliding to 27. However, it is now joined by yet another new AJ Tracey track, this time one which features on neither the original nor special edition of the album. Because he made a new track and just fancied dropping it, apparently. Sliding into your mentions at Number 31 is a previously unreleased joint Kiss And Tell, and as we roll the dice of permutations once more it throws up another combination of performers we have never seen as Skepta joins him on a co-billing. That makes it a fun clash of old and new generations, Skepta having made his solo chart debut way back in 2009 and was a member of Roll Deep when their 2007 album was released.
Cocks In Frocks
There does come a point in your life when many television phenomena pass you by. The scripted antics of poorly educated people from Essex, the ins and outs and relationship crises of beautiful people on an island resort are all TV formats which haven't grabbed my attention. To that list, you can add a game show with a group of men competing to be the most effective pretend woman, but it is hard to argue with the way the launch of the UK version of RuPaul's Drag Race has turned the show into one of the biggest BBC Three smashes in some time. The show now even has its own tie-in single as Cast Of RuPaul's Drag Race UK arrive this week at Number 35 with Break Up (Bye Bye). Followers of the format will be aware that one of the numerous challenges over the eight-week series is for two teams of Queens to each form "girl groups" and perform the vocals on a pop record together. Episode 5 of the show saw swiftly formed groups Filth Harmony and Frock Destroyers compete against one another, the latter emerging victorious and earning the right to have their track released. The result is what you see before you now. But I'm not judging anyone who bought it. At all.
RuPaul has previous chart form in his own right, a 1993 solo album nudging him into the Top 40 with both Supermodel (You Better Work) and House Of Love/Back To My Roots although his greatest chart success came in early 1994 when he "helped" Elton John to re-record the star's own Don't Go Breaking My Heart for his first Duets album, the new version reaching Number 7 to coincide with the pair's hosting of the BRIT Awards that year.
New hits aside, the rest of the Top 40 just mills around a little, although there's at least one notable jump as Jax Jones and Ella Henderson leap 30-19 with This Is Real, handing Ella her biggest hit single since 2015. She also has another hit on the way it seems, as the new Sigala track We Got Love on which she also features debuts at Number 50.
Without anyone noticing, the Christmas period seems to have crept up on us all of a sudden. For those who don't click links on websites, once again the Chart Watch UK Xmas No.1 liveblog is, er, live. And will be right up to the week of the Christmas Number One race itself. Which hopefully won't include Dance Monkey. But who knows?