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Dancing The Whole Season
"I was wondering", read a tweet to me during the week, "why is nobody offering any odds on Tones & I being Christmas Number One".
The answer is, on the surface, simple. Because the Australian star is at this point constantly teetering on the edge of a relegation to ACR, an act that for the moment appears to be literally the only thing liable to topple Dance Monkey from the top of the charts any time soon. And the singles market as a whole increased last week whilst the streams of Dance Monkey declined again. So she's both ticked and tocked on the ACR clock. One more and it is curtains. Seven weeks at the top means this is the longest-running Number One single by a solo female in well over a decade, matching the reign of Bleeding Love by Leona Lewis from way back in 2007. Plus if we leave aside the thorny issue of Olivia Newton-John's precise nationality (and the fact that her Number One singles were both in partnership with an American man) then Dance Monkey is effectively the longest-lasting chart-topper by an Australian act in chart history, beating the six week run clocked up by Rolf Harris with Two Little Boys almost exactly 50 years ago.
For those who were lying awake wondering if it would ever happen, it has! Tones & I has picked up her official Number One award trophy at last.
Still On The Starting Blocks
Tones & I may well be the reigning streaming queen, but Dua Lipa continues to be the closest thing she has to competition. Don't Start Now holds firm at Number 2 following its second place debut last time out and indeed closes the gap, although she's still some way behind in the race. The two tracks are a mere 32,000 sales apart.
In fact for Don't Start Now to maintain the standing start it has achieved puts it in a tier all of its own. Recent months have seen a string of hits begin their chart life inside the Top 5 only for this to prove a false dawn as they rocket to more sensible levels the moment the novelty value has worn off. Don't believe me? Take a look at the first month chart runs of these tracks:
Don't Call Me Angel. 2-12-18-21
Highest In The Room. 2-5-5-12
Lights Up. 3-11-17-16
Two of them were Ariana Grande tracks (or at least ones on which she had a prominent role. Make of that what you will.
Put The Blades Down Dickhead
There's a pleasing glut of new entries on the singles chart this week, a total of nine new arrivals inside the Top 40 making this one of the busiest week for new hits for some time. Rather fascinatingly almost all of them come from the urban/rap market. When the story of 2019 comes to be written it will have a huge chunk devoted to the wave of young (mostly British) stars who have emerged from the world of self-made tracks and YouTube uploads to become mainstream performers. Many of this week's new entries are tracks which have been entirely absent from mainstream radio and "pop" playlists until now, but which arrive on the singles chart thanks to huge amounts of online support. Online promotion bypasses the usual gateways to success and allows performers to speak directly to a rapidly growing and enthusiastic audience.
So let's deal with them all in turn. Leading the charge is often controversial Londoner J Hus who reaches the Top 10 for the third time in his career to date as hot new track Must Be smashes in at Number 5. If you are of a certain age and find the lyrical message of these hits impenetrable (I'm not judging) then the point of difference between them all is often the musical backing to each. Must Be marks an impressive attempt to change the formula up as Mr Jallow raps over a languid jazz-funk beat featuring a noodling bass and chocolatey sax that is straight out of 1985. A string section kicks in at the end as well, making this surely the most sophisticated grime track to grace the charts to date. It is the biggest new smash hit of the week with good reason and propels J Hus back into the Top 10 as a lead artist for the first time since Did You See reached Number 9 in early summer 2017. This is, however, his second Top 10 hit of the year thanks to his co-vocal turn on the Dave track Disaster which landed at Number 8 in a short but sweet chart run back in March at a time when he made headlines for the wrong kind of reasons. His talents speak for themselves on this new single, perhaps putting extra pressure on him to stop roaming around Westfield Stratford armed to the teeth with knives and stay out of prison for a change.
Still Not A Frog
Next in line is Fredo who enjoys the second highest new entry with Netflix & Chill charting at 13. Named after the none more late 2010s neologism for naked fun, it marks a return to chart form for the man born Marvin Bailey after his last chart hit Freddy could only reach Number 53 back in September. Netflix & Chill returns him to the Top 40 for the first time since the aforementioned Dave collaboration All I Ever Wanted landed at Number 15 back in February. At least he's taken time to get the video ready for the song's release. This embedding blogger approves.
Time to play a game of Only Connect, because there's one man who can boast collaborations in the past with both of the two previous artists. Step forward Dave, the Mercury Prize winner is up next with the third biggest new hit of the week. Paper Cuts creeps in at Number 15 to frustratingly become his second hit in a row to fall short of the Top 10, soundtrack single Professor X peaking at Number 12 a few weeks ago. This is actually where it starts to get confusing, or perhaps demonstrates that the usual rules of promotion simply no longer apply. Paper Cuts, is genre-hopping track which sees Dave step into the world of stripped to the bone Drill for the first time but it doesn't (yet) have a video. Instead this week Dave also dropped the full video for his last hit, the aforementioned Professor X. That existing hit finding its steadily decline in streams arrested for the moment and duly holds its own with a one place climb to Number 21. If Paper Cuts gets a video just in time for Dave's next new track, don't say you weren't warned.
The run of hot British stars just keeps on coming The next new hit of the week comes from a man who is at present just as famous for his extracurricular activities as he is music. Having come to prominence as a YouTuber rather than a musical star Olajide "KSI" Olatunji has spent most of 2019 making headlines for a series of boxing stunts, most notably fighting matches against his American rival Logan Paul. One week after their rematch (which the Brit won by split decision) he makes the Top 40 for only the second time in his career with Down Like That which charts at Number 18. The first product from his first mainstream record deal, the track features an all-star cast including fellow Brit S-X and Americans Rick Ross and Lil Baby. A Top 20 hit makes it enough to overtake 2015 hit Lamborghini as KSI's highest charting single to date. I'd continue the puns to say the new track packs quite a punch, but I fear you will all judge me.
Set To Be Huge, Check It Out
Our run of British stars comes to a halt briefly as the fastest rising smash hit on the American charts makes its UK Top 40 bow with a jump to Number 24. Arizona Zervas is the performer's name, hailing from Los Angeles he's gone straight for the jugular with the autotuned pop-rap fusion Roxanne which admittedly sounds like every other Drake/Malone mashup out there but which is all but guaranteed worldwide attention. Including here in Britain where it is almost certainly the next Top 5 smash hit in waiting. Certainly if you haven't viewed a TikTok video featuring Roxanne as a backing track of late, you are almost certainly following the wrong class of user. I've noted before the fascinating contrast between the worlds of British and American rap. UK-produced tracks dial down the backing and let the flow breathe, American creators are still insistent on swamping us with every cute production trick in the book. But then again, Stateside hits still require the all-important boost of radio airplay, something homegrown stars have the luxury of sidestepping altogether. Pop radio has to dance to their tune (as it is increasingly doing so) rather than the other way round.
Everybody Loves That Man
Bringing up the rear somewhat are two men who are at least consistent in their collaborations. Nottingham duo Young T & Bugsey hit the heights back in the summer when Strike A Pose reached Number 9, this also the track which by and large introduced us to the talents of Aitch. This time around they team up with Headie One on Don't Rush which opens its chart account at Number 28. Given the Zervas single isn't technically a "new entry" but climbs the chart from lower down it means the Top 5 new entries proper are all from British rap acts. Another to add to the long list of chart firsts.
We should also give due acknowledgement to Gangsta from Darkoo and One Acen which lands at Number 34, handing the former her first-ever chart single. She would count as the sixth British rap entry, but for the fact that she is Nigerian by birth.
The Last Time
The Official UK Albums chart this week provides proof that it isn't always about what your granny wants at Christmas. Your Dad gets a look in too. The celebrated return to the party of Michael Ball and Alfie Boe can only land at Number 2, the top slot instead nabbed by The Script with their new album Sunsets & Full Moons. It is now their fifth Number One album in their last six releases. Fascinatingly they achieve something which almost never happens these days, as their new album actually opens its account with a higher chart sale than its predecessor. The Script clocked up almost 32,000 chart sales last week. Their last album Freedom Child could only manage 29,000. Although both are still some way short of the 72,000 their strongest seller, 2010s Science & Faith, managed when it was released.