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Nothing In It - Almost
So here we are once again. Take Me Back To London by Ed Sheeran and Stormzy is still comfortably the Number One single in the UK, this week celebrating a fifth week at the top of the Official UK Singles chart. Relative to everything else in the market at present it remains an enormously popular single, benefitting largely from being available in two versions (original and expanded remix) and as a result dominating the streaming tables despite neither version being anywhere near the top of the market on its own. That combination is enough to ensure nothing else is in a position to compete. Is it fair on a huge hit single to still be viewing it in these terms? I'm not convinced that it is, a five-week Number One is after all still a big deal, no matter how common it might be becoming. But Take Me Back To London remains at the top of the charts still largely by default. It is big, but there's plenty of room for something else to be bigger. We just don't know what that is yet.
This Is Where It Gets Interesting
Indeed, the battle just below Ted and Mike turned out to be one of the most intriguing ones of the week, the public's taste for the also-rans demonstrating parliamentary levels of indecision and paralysis. The final midweek update (made available to the industry on Thursday afternoon) showed that the next three tracks in the market were more or less neck and neck with each other. Just 70 chart sales separated the Number 2 single from the Number 4, the track in fifth place lagging just 200 copies behind those three. Before Friday lunchtime I literally could not have told you what was going to be the (distant) Number 2 behind Take Me Back To London.
Taking the runner up spot is Taste (Make It Shake) by Aitch, returning to the peak it scaled a fortnight ago. Higher Love is back up to 3, Ladbroke Grove back to 4. That perhaps rather surprisingly leaves the midweek "leader" in this race languishing some way behind. Not that we should understate this though, the six-place climb of Ride It by Regard to Number 5 now meaning that the remix beats the peak of the Jay Sean original on which it is based. With Joel Corry's Sorry holding firm at Number 6 it means we have a somewhat deliciously retro Top 10 with the Kygo, Regard and Corry singles all based on tracks dating from 1990, 2008 and 2000 respectively.
The tightness of the race survived the final reckoning and the addition of previously missing data. Exactly 501 chart sales separated the singles at Numbers 2 and 5 on this week's chart. Although Ed Sheeran and Stormzy were still 14,000 copies distant from them all.
My favourite online exchange of the week came with the poster on the Official Charts Company Facebook page who, reacting to a writeup about Tones & I's Dance Monkey single noted that he didn't think it stood any chance of becoming a UK hit. He swiftly backtracked when presented with the truth of the matter: already a comfortable Top 20 hit and heading in some style for the upper reaches. And that's just what has happened. The global smash hit is indeed now a Top 10 hit single in the UK, jumping seven places to occupy a new peak of Number 7. Back in the singer's home country, she is indeed a record-breaker, now the Australian woman with the longest-running Number One single of all time. Beating even Kylie.
You'll note no mention so far of last week's hot new single and the chart runner up. Don't Call Me Angel from the all-star trio of Ariana, Miley and Lana absolutely collapses in week 2 and dives 2-12 in the kind of chart movement we normally expect to see from an ACR-ed single rather than something in its first week on sale. This might be the greatest example so far of a streaming-sampled single. Because of its star power and the hype behind it, thousands did indeed play it online just to see if it was any good. Then they realised it wasn't and just didn't play it again.
Down in the Top 20, we have the usual band of existing hits all jostling for permission. We should here pay due respect to the staying power of Jorja Smith's Be Honest which this week spends a fifth week of its own floating around mid-table. This week it rises to Number 16, rather curiously the first time the track has climbed above the Number 18 position it has occupied for three of the past four weeks. As I mentioned last week, the 22-year-old British singer also features heavily in an uncredited cameo on the AJ Tracey hit Ladbroke Grove which samples her voice for its refrain.
Our Kid Doing Grand
The biggest music release of any kind this week was arguably Why Me? Why Not the second solo album from former Oasis and Beady Eye frontman Liam Gallagher. The album duplicates the instantaneous success of its 2017 predecessor As You Were and debuts comfortably at Number One. It is the home of three chart singles so far, although the only one to make any kind of impact was its lead track Shockwave which reached Number 22 back in June. Unusually for a rock album, Liam's collection actually spawns its full permitted tally of three charting tracks on the singles chart. One Of Us lands at 50, Now That I've Found You at 61 and Once at 63. Of the 68,000 copies the album either sold or was streamed last week, a full 17,000 of them were on old-fashioned vinyl making it easily the fastest-selling piece of black plastic of the year.
In what is either a shock or a masterpiece of poor timing, the Liam Gallagher album inadvertently brings to an end one of the more remarkable albums chart runs of recent years. Cause And Effect, the first new Keane album since 2012 can only enter the charts at Number 2, breaking what was until now their perfect streak of debuting at the top. Every one of their previous studio albums: Hopes And Fears (2004), Under The Iron Sea (2006), Perfect Symmetry (2008), Night Train (2010) and Strangeland (2012) have shot straight to the top of the charts upon release. Maybe their mistake was not repeating the pattern of previous releases in bringing out an album in 2014 and 2016. That said, the illusion had been shattered slightly thanks to the failure of 2013 hits collection The Best Of to climb any higher than Number 10.
One week on from its Mercury Prize success, we now get to see the full impact of the award and just what kind of positive effect it had on the sales of Dave's Psychodrama. The album does indeed fly up the charts again, moving 37-12 and almost doubling its sales week on week. Full disclosure though, that's still only an increase of just over 2,000 copies.
Bring On The Hits
Back to singles now and the slow burn of American plus-sized rapper Lizzo continues to be a source of fascination. So far this year she's had two hits which have taken their sweet merry time to get anywhere. Juice huffed and puffed to reach Number 38 during an 8-week run in the Top 75 back in the spring, but that is nothing compared to the lazy chart run of Truth Hurts which began its chart life back in May but has only in the past few weeks just about managed to creep into the Top 30. Even then its chart run in recent weeks has read 31-30-29-30-31 where it sits this week.
But wait, what is this? Lizzo suddenly has an even bigger hit to her name thanks to a fire being lit under Good As Hell, a work that dates back to the very start of her career. It is a track that is almost three and a half years old, first released worldwide in March 2016. Its sudden reactivation as a hit single is thanks to her performance of the track at the 2019 MTV Music Video Awards, the impact of that having also propelled it into the Hot 100 for the first time. Just like the Lil Nas X track a week ago, the track's chart surge has come seven days after its reawakening, awaiting its ACR status to be formally reversed. Hence the 58-23 jump the single has enjoyed apparently from nowhere. That in itself is quite interesting, given that March 2016 (its release date) is noticeably more than three years ago and so technically Good As Hell should be on permanent ACR. Either its official UK release date didn't come until much later, or (as seems likely) the Official Charts Company have exercised discretion and made a special case for waiving the restriction.
In a quiet week for massive new singles, the highest new entry of the week barely pokes its nose above the parapet of the Top 40. But at least it does so I guess. Brand new at Number 37 is God Is A Dancer from the intriguing pairing of Tiesto and Mabel. This is Tiesto's second chart hit of the year, the follow-up to Ritual which was another of a string of summertime hits which kind of ended up marooned in no-mans land, creeping to Number 24 on two occasions before ACR status summarily removed it from view. This is the first time God has been propelled (possibly against his will) onto the dancefloor. His club life has previously been confined to the decks, tracks entitled God Is A DJ having been hits for Faithless (in 1998) and Pink (in 2004).
The Stuff You Rarely See
Finally for this week, here's something meta to ponder. Stats for the Chart Watch website suggest around 45% of visitors do so on mobile devices, meaning they by and large miss out on the desktop furniture which attempts to make this text-heavy place look a little more interesting. So roughly half of you reading never get to see the widget with the Tag Cloud, listing the ten acts to have enjoyed the most mentions in these pages over the past ten months. At the time of writing (ie before this piece has gone live) the list looks like this:
Everyone is there who you would expect to see for sure. But what is most fascinating is the type of acts they are. All solo artists, or people who collaborate frequently with others as individuals. Not one single group amongst them. Not even a boy band.