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The Dance Goes On
Week 47 of 2019, the week a number of well-known acts took one look at the "new music Friday" concept and invited us all to sit on it. Some unusual midweek releases have meant some lower than expected debuts for a number of otherwise notable hit singles, skewing somewhat the perceptions of just how big a deal they are. But we'll come to all that in due course.
In the first instance, we have to note the continuing presence of Dance Monkey at Number One. Tones & I's smash hit single now boasts a continuous eight week run at the top of the Official UK Singles chart, matching the summertime run of I Don't Care from Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber. It is now the longest-running Number One single by a female artist since Rihanna's epic ten-week spell at the top with Umbrella in the summer of 2007 (even if to be pedantic she wasn't technically solo). What is most unusual about Dance Monkey is the profile of its chart sales. Ordinarily, singles which have spent an excessive amount of time near or at the top of the charts find that they are sustained there almost solely by streams, their paid-for sales having gone into terminal decline some weeks earlier. Not so Dance Monkey, whose epic levels of streams have been matched step for step by purchases. The result is that the single has topped the old-fashioned sales-only chart simultaneously with her run at the top of the full singles charts, a record it continues to hold this week as well. And these days that is actually pretty damn unusual.
Now for the extraordinary bit. For the past fortnight, I've been flagging up the possibility that Dance Monkey's run at the top of the charts is set to come to an end in fairly short order, with the ACR clock ticking underneath it. But ACR only kicks in if your streams decline for three weeks in a row, and this week the streams of the single go... up! No word of a lie. From 9.3m last week to 9.6m this week. Which duly resets the clock once again. Now, this is where it starts to get really interesting. Assuming nothing comes along in the next few weeks to do the kind of numbers Tones & I is posting, then it is entirely possible that Dance Monkey will still be Number One in three weeks time - one week before the Christmas chart. And if another ACR reset has taken place in the meantime then you can forget all I've said elsewhere about there being no chance of the single being in contention for Christmas Number One. Lots can change between now and the end of next month (and there's a certain single lower down that might have something to say about this as soon as next week), but as of right now it is impossible to rule it completely out of the race.
For the first time in almost a year, we have an all-female Top 3 this week, as just behind Tones & I are two equally powerful solo women. Leading the way is Dua Lipa who enjoys a third week locked at Number 2 with Don't Start Now, albeit once more some distance behind the chart sales of Dance Monkey. Number 3, however, belongs to the highest new entry of the week, and a single which you also have to fancy to make a play for the top
Teenager Billie Eilish has easily been one of the discoveries of the year. The songwriter with a distinct line in bleak, nihilistic, and at times downright scary lyrical turn managed to successfully turn cult appeal into mainstream success with the release of her debut album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go. The smash hit single was Bad Guy, one which effectively enjoyed two different Top 10 runs thanks to the belated release of a new version which saw Justin Bieber jump on a verse. But it was also a shame that attention ended up focused solely on that single, given it was earlier chart hits such as Bury A Friend and When The Party's Over which made everyone fall in love with her in the first place.
Well now she is back, Everything I Wanted is a previously unheard track, its lyrics we are told dealing with both "a nightmare she once had" as well as the symbiotic relationship she has with her brother Finneas who co-writes and produces much of her material - this track included. Pleasingly it retains the ethereal beauty of before, a low-key almost ambient track which she whispers in a tone which leaves you wondering who it is she is planning to kill - you, the listener, or herself. I don't think I got into pop music wanting to hear artists who creep you out with every syllable but I'm so glad I ended up here to witness this. Everything I Wanted is Billie Eilish's third Top 10 hit of the year and the second to reach the Top 3. All she has to do now is find some way of consolidating this Week 1 interest and she might just have a Number One single in her destiny at last.
Another Red Light Gag
We flagged it up last week as one to watch and Arizona Zervas' Roxanne makes good on its early promise, rocketing straight into the Top 10 with a 14 place climb which leaves it sitting pretty at Number 10. That's even higher than midweek predictions suggested, indicating that the single grew even further in the final few days of the survey. The track is comfortably in the Top 5 on Spotify and still clearly has the potential to grow further with a full video still yet to appear. Rule this one out for Christmas Number One (or at the very least the first chart-topper of 2020) at your peril.
Hold Your Own
Two British acts with hits inside the Top 20 are playing the game of running simultaneous hit singles this week, to varying degrees of success. Leading the charge is one of the men of the year Lewis Capaldi. His "current" hit single Bruises this week rebounds slightly after three weeks hovering on the edge of vanishing from the Top 10. A four-place jump takes it back to Number 6, matching the peak it scaled four weeks ago. But that's really just a throat-clearance as the Scotsman also lands himself the second-highest new entry of the week. Before You Go is a brand new track, lifted from a forthcoming special edition re-release of his chart-topping debut album Divinely Uninspired To A Hellish Extent. The mere existence of the single has led many high street bookmakers to install it as the current favourite in the Christmas Number One betting market, and it will be interesting to see how they react now it is available for real. The single opens fairly sedately, entering at Number 19 - however, as you might expect there is a reason for that. This is one of those midweek releases I noted at the top, the single only actually making it online on Tuesday which means it has done damn well to get this far based on just three days of sales and streams. It has surged to the top of Spotify already and if it keeps up the pace then in actual fact Dance Monkey's reign at the top of the charts might well come to an end next week anyway, regardless of its ACR status.
Spit Out The Pips
The second twofer Brit of the week is Harry Styles, who dropped a new single of his own this week to coincide with his Saturday Night Live appearance last weekend. Anticipation for his new album has also helped too, resulting in lead single Lights Up reversing the decline it has enjoyed over the past couple of weeks and rebounding up to Number 16. A weekend release means it only lost a day or so of sales, but the latest new Harry track Watermelon Sugar has a rather more muted chart opening than its predecessor, landing at Number 35. In any event, it means his second solo album has already done better than the first and produced two Top 40 hit singles.
Hope My Dreams Will Take Me There
In the albums market this week was effectively the Q4 event horizon, the point at which most of the "gifting" releases are now all lined up in the market. Promotional slots on TV shows are all booked and public appearances between now and the New Year all planned. With the exception of those tasked to work on the still-forthcoming Styles and Stormzy releases in December, the music business will now start to wind down and make plans to take the rest of the year off. So this week sees the last in the series of gran-friendly albums land on the chart. Leading the way are the returning and apparently evergreen Westlife who land themselves another Number One album. Their first studio release in nine years, Spectrum smashes into the top of the charts to give the group their eighth Number One album over a span of 20 years together. But really, who cares about Westlife any more?
No Political Bias
Amongst the parade of Giftwrap-ready releases there are also new entries for Celine Dion, Take That, Kidz Bop Kids and Chris Kamara(!) but for mainstream pop purposes the most interesting one is the Number 10 arrival of Chixtape 5 from Tory Lanez. Needless to say, the streams used to generate this chart position for the Canadian rapper also help him make an impact on the singles chart. The biggest of his three permitted hits is the album's lead track Jerry Sprunger which made an understated Number 56 entry last week, but this time around is lifted to Number 32. He's also at Number 47 with The Take and Number 70 with Beauty In The Benz. This marks the first time Lanez has enjoyed a Top 40 single as the lead act on a hit, his only chart appearance of any note to date was as the guest voice on 6ix9ine's controversial Kika which reached Number 9 in December last year.
Love Me Again
At Number 38 there's an absorbing re-entry for a single which until today had fallen out of the Top 100 altogether. The title track from her last album, Lover by Taylor Swift has already been a medium-sized hit, peaking at Number 14 in early September. Its spectacular rebound into the Top 40 comes thanks to the release of a brand new version of the track, a collaboration or as Tayor herself puts it a COLLABORASHAWN. Jumping on with a new verse (penned by the man himself) is Shawn Mendes, an addition that is possibly a little unnecessary given it is such a beautiful, heartfelt piece to begin with, but which has sparked new life into the track. Will it wind up as big a hit second time around? I'm somewhat dubious, but given that the Ariana verse on Lizzo's Good As Hell turned that lowly single into a Top 10 smash it is clear that anything is possible.
I don't want to scare anyone, but the biggest of the Christmas songs are starting to edge their way towards the Top 40. And yes, I know it is still November, but the neighbours two doors down have their tree up already so who am I to judge? All I Want For Christmas Is You leads the charge, climbing 77-59 this week. Music Week notes that it remains on permanent ACR. Without that restriction, it would already be inside the Top 30. Listen to something else Britain! Damn you!