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THE BIG STORY
Eight and a half years. That is how long it has been since Abel "The Weeknd" Tesfaye made his British chart debut (as a guest on Drake's Number 37 hit Crew Love). In all that time he has never quite managed a Number One hit on the Official UK Singles Chart. Until today.
Perhaps shamefully when his single Blinding Lights was first released in November last year we all paid it scant attention. It was, after all, a token promotional single. A song from a TV ad that was really just the supporting feature to Heartless, the first track released from his upcoming fourth album. But while Heartless faded and died in short order, Blinding Lights just kept on growing. Despite briefly being knocked out of the Top 40 altogether by the influx of Christmas hits it bounced back strongly in the new year. Since the start of January, its chart progress has been constant: 11-10-8-4-2. And today it takes the final step to give The Weeknd his first-ever Number One hit single. Just like Lewis Capaldi a week ago, this chart move has been largely thanks to a concerted effort to pull the trigger on the track: releasing its video, discounting the download. This was his moment to shine and the effort has indeed paid off.
Blinding Lights lives up to the brilliance of its title, a sparkling neon-drenched track with its feet planted so firmly in the sound of the mid-80s that you half expect it to turn into Take On Me at pretty much every turn. The Canadian singer has perhaps at times been unfairly pigeonholed as "just another R&B act" or destined to live in the shadow of his more notable countryman who first gave him a chart leg-up. But he's been responsible for more than his fair share of memorable and quite sophisticated neo-soul singles over the past few years. So to finally see The Weeknd at the top of the charts is a quite satisfying case of destiny fulfilled.
Last week we had a Number One single which entered and dropped out of the Top 10 before climbing back to the top of the charts. This time around we have what I'm convinced is a unique first. A song which entered in the Top 20, dropped out of the Top 40 completely and then subsequently climbed to the top. The only song which can even begin to compare with that kind of chart profile is George Ezra's 2018 hit Shotgun which began its chart life as an album cut just inside the Top 40, dropped as low as Number 54 but which then became an official single, starting a chart climb which also took it all the way to the top.
There's a changing of the guard on the top of the Official UK Albums chart this week. With their third album Foolish Loving Spaces Blossoms enjoy a second Number One, following on from their self-titled debut which reached the summit in 2016. They are however the latest act to highlight the growing gap between the kind of people who purchase (or stream) rock albums and those who enjoy pop singles. Blossoms may have had two Number One albums but they have yet to register a hit on the singles chart. At all.
THIS WEEK'S TOP 10
Grasping the runners- up slot this week is once again Roddy Ricch with The Box, the TikTok inspired single climbing back to the chart peak it first scaled a fortnight ago. It is 8,000 chart sales behind Blinding Lights although does claim the crown of the most-streamed hit of the week. Lewis Capaldi's Before You Go turned out to be a one-week wonder at the top of the charts, sliding back to Number 3 now the impact of its big push has worn off. Which all makes you wonder just how long Blinding Lights is set to stay at the summit under the same circumstances. Dua Lipa is back up to Number 4 with Don't Start Now, something which may frustrate her label a little given they have moved on to her new single Physical which we'll come to in due course. Eminem's former Number One Godzilla slides to 5, and Lewis Capldi's year-old Someone You Loved moves back up to 6 to occupy its highest chart position since its accidental ACR reversal earlier in the new year. This is the highest the single has been in the charts since June last year when it was Number 3 in what turned out to be its final week on the Standard Chart Ratio first time around.
Single place adjustments are the order of the day for Billie Eilish (up one at 7), Future and Drake (down one at 8) and Arizona Zervas (up one at 9). The only new arrival in the Top 10 this week is a re-entry as Harry Styles lifts 14-10 with Adore You, the single returning to the Top 10 after three weeks away. It replaces Own It from Stormzy which collapses to ACR after 11 weeks around, the former Number One hit crashing 5-24 as a result.
At what point does a performer cease to just be a "YouTube star" and become officially a musician? It may be time for KSI to make that transition for real. His days of commentating on video games are long beyond him now, and his transition to rapper and chart star seems more or less complete. Following up November's Down Like That (A Number 10 hit) he returns to the charts with Wake Up Call, a single which fails by a single place to match the chart peak of its predecessor. The latest product of his major label record deal, the single is enhanced no end by the vocal contributions of American singer Trippie Red (here charting at the upper end of the charts for the first time following two minor chart entries back in 2018). At the end of the day though KSI is a video star first and foremost and so Wake Up Call is perhaps best appreciated visually in a none more metatextual clip which is all about the process of making the song's video.
Anyone who has followed her career for the past three years or so will know that there are essentially two Dua Lipa's. There is the brooding, moody one. The one who suffers from crap ex-boyfriends and sings songs full of attitude about how rubbish some men can be. And let's not be shy about it, this incarnation of her is very good and has made her a huge star. But then there's the other Dua, the bubbly and optimistic version of herself. The one who sings epic songs about passion and the sheer emotional freedom that comes with the joy of being in love. For every New Rules there is Be The One. For every IDGAF there is Electricity. This week she gives us the study in contrasts once again.
"Walk away, you know how. Don't start caring about me now" she sang on Don't Start Now. Rejecting once again the ex who has come crawling back. But on new single Physical she's horny and wants us to know it. "Who needs to go to sleep, when I got you next to me?" is the mantra this time around. And just like all the other times before when Dua Lipa gets a chance to sparkle, she does it in grand style.
Befitting a week when we have some 80s revivalism at the top of the charts, Physical is itself rooted in the dancefloors of the decade of neon. Only a guitar solo away from new wave electropop of the latter half of that decade, the track buzzes onto the charts like a breath of fresh air with an insistent and irresistibly catchy funk bassline and an attitude that just screams smash hit in waiting. The single's only disadvantage has been the continuing success of its predecessor and so as we noted above has to content itself with opening its chart life slightly lower down than might otherwise have been the case. The Number 12 hit of the week it is then, but this surely has to be just the start.
OTHER MOVES OF NOTE
Halsey's You Should Be Sad has taken its time to catch fire but now appears to be doing so, making a flying 24-17 leap to now become her biggest chart hit as the lead artist since long-running smash hit Without Me made Number 3 just over a year ago. She was most recently in the Top 20 in April last year when her contribution to the BTS track Boy With Luv helped it to Number 13.
Also on the climb is Saint Jhn with Roses, which crept onto the bottom rung of the Top 40 last week and which now sits proudly at Number 21. The American performer first released the track in 2016, but this new-found success is all thanks to a brand new remix from Kazakhstani producer DJ Imanbek which essentially discards most of the elements of the original and then pitches up the rest - including the singer's own voice. Saint Jhn isn't the first artist to find himself more celebrated sounding like Alvin and the Chipmunks than he does with his regular voice, but of course the challenge will be to subsequently persuade people to accept the "real" him once the fuss over this hit has died down.
The green shoots of forthcoming springtime hits start to show at the lower end of the Top 40. Joel Corry follows up Top 10 smash Sorry with a new hit Lonely which takes a flying leap with a 61-30 climb. Serving up more of the same Garage-house revivalism which made its predecessor such a smash, Lonely is tailor-made for the Capital A-list. And quite possibly a club near you. Despite rumours to the contrary, the singer on the track isn't Becky Hill but star in waiting Harlee, even if she doesn't get a direct credit this time around.
My favourite arrival of the week is another hit single which has benefitted enormously from viral clips on TikTok. Doja Cat's Say So has in recent weeks become the soundtrack to a well-copied dance meme where countless people take on the challenge of reproducing a dance first conceived by user Hayley Sharpe (on her @yodellinghayley account). Hundreds of memes later the effect has been to propel the track into the charts. I won't lie to you, the disco-funk revival track has been my jam for most of the last fortnight. If a 15-second video clip finally propels the American singer and rapper (Doja Cat the spiritual successor to Nicki Minaj and Cardi B) into the mainstream it will be nothing less than she deserves. Let's hope a proper video is forthcoming soon - and that it includes the dance!
Speaking of Becky Hill as we did just now, 2020 is we are told the year when she is absolutely for certain finally going to establish herself as a proper chart star. Well, fingers crossed. This week after enjoying chart success as the guest star on a number of club hits she finally for the first time ever lands a Top 40 single as the lead artist on her own track. After languishing in the lower reaches for a fortnight Better Off Without You climbs to Number 36, five months after its predecessor I Could Get Used To This stalled at Number 45. It has been a long time since she made her chart debut as the singer on Oliver Heldens' 2014 Number One single Gecko (Overdrive). Longer still since she first came to prominence while still a teenager as a runner-up on the first series of The Voice UK back in 2012. But this is to be her year. You read it here first.