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Fucking And Fighting
April 2004. That was the first time a lexical Rubicon was crossed and a song with the profanity "fuck" in the title made it to the top of the charts. 15 years on, and indeed a full 42 years since the Sex Pistols caused horror with a record entitled Never Mind The Bollocks, we finally have our first proper fuck at the top of the Official UK Albums chart.
The potty mouth in question belongs to Lana Del Rey, the alter-ego of singer-songwriter Elizabeth Grant and who now enjoys a fourth Number One album with the delicately titled Norman F**king Rockwell which blasts away all competition this week. Is the rude word the most interesting thing about the album? No, not particularly, but it makes for a rather marvellous talking point all the same.
The profanity extends to two of the album's cuts as well, and entertainingly they ended up being amongst the most-streamed of its tracks meaning they also invade the singles chart. As a result Lana Del Rey has the title track at Number 44 and Fuck It I Love You at Number 59. Combine that with the upwardly mobile Fuck I'm Lonely by Lauv & Anne-Marie at Number 32 and we do indeed have one of the most obscenity-laden chart countdowns ever.
The first chart single ever to use one of the most notorious four-letter words actually came in the post-punk era, Too Drunk To Fuck gave the Dead Kennedys a Number 36 hit in June 1981. A generation on it simply isn't taboo, and profanity in pop records is now so commonplace that I noted to a friend recently that a substantial proportion of today's chart hits have to be played in the radio in censored or muted form. Lana Del Rey has achieved a chart first, but in all truth, she is merely following a far wider trend.
Safe For Your Mums
"Big Mike and Teddy" aka Ed Sheeran and Stormzy remain comfortably Number One on the Official UK Singles chart, Take Me Back To London largely free of profanity in its lyrics thank heavens. It is now the sole high-charting Sheeran hit of the moment following a summer where he has dominated the top end of the countdown. Beautiful People finally exits the Top 3, succumbing to an ACR reversal of fortune as it drops down to Number 19.
Still waiting its turn at Number 2 is Higher Love from Kygo and Whitney Houston. The shine came off the single a little for me this week when an article in Music Week revealed that the remix of the track was actually thanks to the urging of Primary Wave, the marketing company who have recently taken a stake in the Whitney Houston catalogue. They pitched the idea at Kygo who cheerfully ran with it, meaning the creation of the single isn't quite as joyfully spontaneous as it appears. But then again, few things in music really are.
His World And We Live In It
Moving up to Number 3 is Taste (Make It Shake) from Aitch, the single reaching a new peak after a three-place climb. Still a teenager, the rapper from Manchester has almost overnight become the man of the moment. He actually features on three Top 10 singles this week. Alongside his own he features on the remixed version of Take Me Back To London and also the Young T & Bugsey hit Strike A Pose which climbs to Number 10. What we rather clunkily call UK rap reaches new levels of domination this week. A full 5 of this week's Top 10 singles are either by or feature British grime or urban stars. Of the rest? Two Americans, two club hits and, er Sam Smith. Rock or even pop just don't get a look-in.
Sunflowers Still Flourishing
With his new album Hollywood's Bleeding streaming from a speaker near you as I speak, it is more than apparent that next week is set to be Post Malone week. As a kind of throat clearance, the final teaser single from the album lands on the singles chart this week. Hard on the heels of his last single Goodbyes comes Circles which narrowly misses out on a place in the Top 10 to instead become the highest new entry at Number 11. Wherever it landed it more than deserves the place. In keeping with the rest of his recent output Circles is a work of quite mesmerising beauty. He has found his voice as the maker of heart-wrenching wistful hip-hop soul. Back in the era of Rockstar and Psycho two years ago I was ready to lament the almost inevitably way his music would take a stranglehold on the charts. Given that Goodbyes only spent a week in the Top 10 during its chart run, right now I'm ready to regret that he struggling to do so quite easily. But this is immaculate. Just check it out.
One thing Post Malone does have going for him is the ability to inspire other people to make songs about it. So we also this week have the rather extraordinary sight of Sam Feldt and Rani's own track Post Malone making another flying leap up the charts, climbing 26-16 to make the Top 20 for the very first time. As I noted a fortnight ago when the track first made the Top 40, songs namechecking other artists in the title are far from unknown, but what we have here is a more or less unique situation of both artist and song subject climbing the singles chart almost in parallel.
The state of Kosovo has in recent years given us the likes of Rita Ora and Dua Lipa, so it seems only right it now produces a male star. The man in question is DJ Regard who this week makes the Top 40 for the very first time as Ride It leaps 45-25 in its third week on the chart. The track itself is a classy topical house groove which is perhaps a tiny bit 2015 - but then again so is Higher Love and it certainly hasn't done that hit any harm, so go figure.
This has been a wonderfully profane article so far, so I kind of feel comfortable lazily using some more of my own as there is some glorious chart rules fuckery going on just inside the Top 30. Disqualified from the singles chart last week, Taylor Swift's You Need To Calm Down makes a reappearance this week at Number 28. That is, you will note, a chart position far in excess of the Number 63 it posted a fortnight ago on its last appearance. But that was when it was subject to an ACR decline, one which has now been cancelled out thanks to the release of the Lover album which gave its streams it a surge in excess of 25% of last week's market. Hence You Need To Calm Down is reset (at least for the next couple of weeks) and reclaims a place in the Top 40.
There's one final new entry worth of note, LaLaLa from Y2K & BBNO$ which pokes its nose over the parapet at Number 37. It is a notable new peak for a track which has been around since early July and has endured a lengthy climb to get this far. One of those singles which appeared to have settled into a natural peak in the mid-40s, this is now the third week in a row it has climbed. A story that may well not be over yet.