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All movies have theme music (or at the very least a memorable song to play out over the credits). Turning those into hits has long been an established part of tie-in marketing. Yet James Bond theme songs are somehow a sub-genre all of their own. The long-running series of spy films has long made its elaborate title sequences and atmospheric movie scores as much a tradition as the title characters inevitable seduction of his leading lady.
That is why speculation as to the identity of the title music performer for the forthcoming new Bond movie was almost as intense as attempts to predict the plot. Following proudly in the footsteps of Shirley Bassey, Adele, Cheryl Crow, Sheena Easton and er, Rita Coolidge this time around is no less a name than Billie Eilish. The much-lauded and now much-awarded teenager was approached before Christmas to pen the theme to "No Time To Die" and reportedly completed the task with regular collaborator Fineas within the space of three days. To say the single swept all before it when it was released this week is perhaps to understate matters a little. What took place this week wasn't so much a race as a procession as Billie Eilish left everyone trailing in her wake. She would have been the biggest artist of the week even without Prime Time TV, but Eilish (along with Hans Zimmer and a full orchestra) was handed the chance to perform the single as one of the centrepiece acts of this week's Brit Awards ceremony. Against that kind of exposure nobody else was ever going to stand a chance.
For the longest time a fun chart fact was to note that no James Bond theme had ever reached the top of the British charts, with both Duran Duran (1985) and Adele (2012) having fallen short. Now for the second time running the movie theme has done so. Sam Smith broke the duck in 2015 with Writing's On The Wall (from "Spectre") and now Billie Eilish takes Bond to the top once more. The single actually has more than that in common with its predecessor, both perhaps self-consciously sticking to a "Bond theme" formula rather than standing tall as original works in their own right. But that hardly seems important. No Time To Die is a lavishly produced and suitably soaring epic, but for all that still distinctively a Billie Eilish track as she whispers, whimpers and oozes her way through what in the hands of anyone else would be an overwrought ballad.
The single did some pretty huge numbers. Eilish's overall chart sale is well over 90,000 copies. The highest total of the year so far, and just a few copies short of the 93,000 posted by Ladbaby to make Christmas Number One back in December. The last "normal" chart hit to exceed 90K in a single week was Sheeran and Bieber's I Don't Care which did it twice in successive weeks in May last year. The Official Charts Company is also cautiously trumpeting the fact that No Time To Die has posted the biggest opening week sale of any Bond single in history, which appears to be true. Sam Smith's Writing's On The Wall achieved a sale of 69,604 in October 2015. Adele's Skyfall was a midweek release in October 2012 and in the process did itself out of the chance to top the charts. It sold 84,010 copies to debut at Number 4 on two days sales. The following week, its first FULL week on sale it shifted 92,464 to reach Number 2. Which you will note is a higher figure than that achieved by Billie Eilish.
The only reason for their caution is the small detail that detailed records of week by week sales only date back to 1994. But given that all the Bond themes prior to that were released in the days when singles started small and grew to be large you would be hard-pressed to make a case for any having ever sold in larger numbers in their first week.
No Time To Die also has one further particular and permanent place in chart history. At the age of just 18 years and two months, Billie Eilish is officially the first artist born in the 21st century to reach the top of the Official UK Singles Chart. That we've had to wait so long for this particular "first" to be achieved is perhaps something of a surprise. The first chart-topping acts born in the 70s, 80s and 90s each did so in either the 8th or 9th year of the following decade - her 1990s equivalent Sean Kingston, for example, topped the chart in September 2007 at the age of 17. If you believe in coincidences then note this too: the first 1980s-born solo artist to top the charts was also a teenaged singer called Billie.
THIS WEEK'S TOP 10
Billie Eilish presides over yet another largely static Top 10, last week's Top 4 singles all simply moving down a place to accommodate her. Lewis Capaldi's Someone You Loved goes back up a place to 6, next week marking the first anniversary of the track first topping the charts. Saint Jhn reaches a new peak with Roses at Number 7, Drake and Future continue to sink down to 8 with Life Is Good and Billie Eilish as expected enjoys two concurrent Top 10 hits as Everything I Wanted continues to pick up streams and holds firm at Number 9. That leaves room for one more new arrival, Justin Bieber picking up his 19th Top 10 hit single as Intentions climbs four places from its entry point a week ago.
RACE FOR THE ALBUM PRIZE
Bieber's climb can be largely attributed to his victory in what ended up a tightly-fought battle at the top end of the Official UK Albums chart. The Canadian star's new album Changes made its digital bow this week but at one stage looked as if it was set to fall short of the target and be outsold and streamed by Australia's Tame Impala. In the end Bieber is triumphant and lands his second Number One album, a mere eight years after Believe became his first in June 2012. Just 1,200 chart sales separated the entire Top 3 this week and indeed Bieber ended up nabbing top slot by the small matter of 144 copies. The album's three hits are Intentions (Number 10, as noted above), Yummy (up a place to Number 12) and album cut Forever which sees him joined by Post Malone and Clever which is a new entry at Number 29. With Lewis Capadi in second place it left midweek leader Tame Impala to chart at Number 3 with The Slow Rush, this matching the peak of his last album Currents which charted back in 2015.
He was mentioned earlier as the first artist to top the charts with a Bond theme, but there is a strange irony in noting that circumstances dictate that Sam Smith's big chart return arrives as little more than a footnote. Timing is everything in pop music and it seems this time around the instincts of everyone involved were slightly off. Despite the twin gimmicks of a Graham Norton show performance on the day of release and, of all things, pop-up wig shop in Soho as a promotional stunt Sam Smith can still only manage a new entry at what is by his standards a lowly Number 20. In a spooky coincidence his new single also has death as a theme. To Die For at the very least returns Sam Smith to the more respectable end of the singles chart, his cover of the disco classic I Feel Love was given a low key release last November and made a correspondingly low-key Number 76. The brooding (and let's face it phenomenally moving) ballad is the title track of the singer's forthcoming third album which is set for release in May. Sam Smith songs have a habit of gaining a stranglehold on the public and inviting themselves into your mind in a manner which is quite startling. Let's not draw too many conclusions from this more gentle than anticipated start, the damn thing sounds like a classic already. Although we said similar things last week about the Pussycat Dolls. And they've slumped 29-52 this time around.
THE BRITS EFFECT
Every February the British music industry celebrates the great and the good of the last year with the Brit awards ceremony and every February this column gets to note that the chart impact of the live ceremony and the garlanding of some of the biggest artists of the past 12 months is at the very least visible but perhaps not as spectacular as it has been in the past. A large part of the problem is timing, the Tuesday evening ceremony arriving late in the chart week meaning there were just two days in which post-Brits uplifts could take effect.
Albums are what everyone had their eye on, and there is a suitably large surge of interest in Album Of The Year winner Psychodrama from Dave which dutifully leaps 57-14 with what we are told is a 111% rise from last week. Lizzo was nominated for Best International Female, losing eventually to Billie Eilish (who else?) but her medley performance plus her newfound role as straightwoman to host Jack Whitehall saw her album Cuz I Love You enjoy a 114% week-on-week uptick and reach a brand new peak of Number 35. There are also notable, if smaller, boost for both Celeste and Mabel.
On the singles chart you'd be hard-pressed to know the ceremony even took place, although this is largely because most of the songs performed and rewarded on the night spent the week languishing on ACR. They will all have done enough to earn a reset next week, but of course by then the impact of last Tuesday night will have faded away. All eyes were on Dave once again thanks to his impactful performance of Black (a piano duet with producer Fraser T Smith who made a rare foray into the public eye). The track posted a 515% increase in sales and streams over last week, but that's still only enough to send the track to Number 100. It's chart peak to date remains the Number 40 it scaled when released as a teaser single for the album in March 2019.
Harry Styles performed Falling, making a bold choice to go with an album cut rather than any of his current hit singles. The track jumps 94-41 with an 85% increase in chart sales, just two places short of the Number 39 it scaled in the week of his album's release just before Christmas. Although that chart position was inevitably depressed due to competition from seasonal hits at the time. There's no room on the chart for Strange, the track performed by Rising Star winner Celeste, although her current hit single Stop This Flame at least reaches a new peak of Number 47. Finally, Mabel stood out as the only performer of an out and out pop banger on Tuesday night. She noted emotionally that it was 30 years to the day that her mother (Neneh Cherry) performed at the same event. Don't Call Me Up rises 48-34.
I FOUND A LOVE
Weirdness alert, and I know this is the kind of thing that most of you come here for. Returning to the Top 40 at Number 36 in its highest position since January 2019 is... the 2017 Christmas Number One - Perfect by Ed Sheeran. What's happened here is that the veteran track was one of a number of older hits which enjoyed a reset to SCR following the larger than normal market slump just after Christmas. It was not originally visible, starred out from the main listings thanks to the presence of many newer Ed Sheeran hits. But several of them tumbled to ACR four weeks ago, leaving the path clear for Perfect to reappear. And with the track being a suitably romantic stream for Valentines Day naturally it has continued to hang around. This will almost certainly be Perfect's last chart hurrah though. In three weeks time it will reach the third anniversary of its release, meaning that its next relegation to ACR will be a permanent one.