A new year and a new decade dawns. Welcome to you if you encountered this site for the first time thanks to it blowing up in a big way due to the events of the holiday period, and thank you for sticking around. I hope you enjoy this week's Chart Watch and the time you spend browsing the archives. Why not support this site's continuing development by joining our list of Patrons. Free books, free links and the undying respect of your peers are yours for the taking. As well as the opportunity to have your brand or logo featured on the site. So why not take advantage of a growing and guaranteed audience of dedicated music fans?
THE BIG STORY
Lewis Capaldi released Before You Go in November last year. Designed as a promotional tease for the new extended edition of his smash album Divinely Inspired To A Hellish Extent, the single debuted at Number 19 before accelerating to the runners-up slot a week later. Stranded at the time behind the still dominant but by then flagging Dance Monkey, it seemed a fairly safe bet that it would be challenging to top the charts for Christmas. At the time I was convinced that was the plan. Two weeks before Christmas I wrote:
"I maintain, however, that he and his label have not engineered him into a position to be near the top of the charts with brand new material just before Christmas without some kind of plan to boost him when it matters the most. The song still doesn't have an official video, with a potential surge to come when it does so. And for all we know there's a "jump-on" version with added star power waiting in the wings to be released in a week's time. In no way can we write him off."
Christmas came and went with no such plan ever enacted. Before You Go enjoyed a resurgence as the new year rolled around, still trapped at Number 2 however. Last week the single dipped to Number 5 as if to finally give up the ghost and seemed set to be on its way out. Yet it turned out there was indeed a plan to give it a surge. Christmas may well have been part of that plan but as it turned out the singer and his label were just waiting for a better moment. This week it finally came into play. First came the long-awaited video which puts the emotional intensity of the song to visuals of a similarly slow-burning relationship. But there was also a physical gift to fans as well, in the shape of a one-track CD single sold for £1 each through his website, all 13,000 of which sold out in fairly short order. That is enough to make it far and away the most-purchased song of the week and indeed Lewis Capaldi singles accounted for over 77% of the entire physical singles market this week) According to Music Week that's more CD singles than anyone has sold in a single week since June 2016. Stir in a new acoustic version of the song to similarly boost its sales and streams and you had the kind of compelling package that was designed to finally get the single to fulfil its chart-topping destiny.
Well it got there, but to all intents and purposes it appeared it would only do so by the skin of its teeth. All week long the story of the charts has been a two-way battle between Capaldi and The Weeknd with his single Blinding Lights. On Monday Capaldi was ahead by 900 sales. By Tuesday the gap had narrowed to 800 and halved to 400 copies on Wednesday. The final midweek update on Thursday finally reversed the positions, Blinding Lights was now 600 copies in the lead. It isn't unfair to say there were a few people holding their breath waiting for the final table to appear on Friday lunchtime.
In the end, it is Capaldi's week. Before You Go hands him his second Number One single, exactly 11 months to the day that Someone You Loved became his first. Capaldi is the master of the slow burn it seems. SYL climbed to the top of the charts in its 8th week on the listings. Before You Go makes it to the top after 11 weeks around, the slowest climb to Number One since George Ezra topped the charts with Shotgun in its 14th week on the charts. Capaldi's single was forced out of the way briefly by the surge of Christmas hits at the end of the year, meaning it briefly tumbled all the way down to Number 12. By my reckoning that makes it the first single to fall out of the Top 10 before subsequently climbing back to the top of the charts since (Just Like) Starting Over by John Lennon fell to 21 from its original Number 8 peak before surging back to the top in the wake of the singer's murder in December 1980 [it was suggested to me that Perfect by Ed Sheeran also pulled off the trick, but that technically dropped off the charts altogether in between its first Top 10 run and eventual peak at Number One].
Commiserations then to The Weeknd who snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Also now gifted an official video, Blinding Lights is at least Number 2 this week, equalling the peak scaled by Starboy in 2016 as his biggest chart hit to date. Rather fascinatingly the final tally puts him over 8,000 copies behind his rival, suggesting that the midweek numbers were lacking enough data to make them slightly misleading.
THE TOP 10
Roddy Ricch slides a place to 3, The Box not quite able for now to emulate its US chart success. Last week's Number One Godzilla proves to be something of a flash in the plan for Eminem, Ed and Burna Boy with a slump to 4. That maintains Eminem's extraordinary record of never spending more than a single week at the top of the chart with any single. Its predecessor at the top Own It now is also on the way out with a dip to 5. At 6 and climbing back a place is Dua Lipa, hard on the heels of her firming up the release date of her second album. Future and Drake swap places with her down at 7.
Up at Number 8 is another artist who also benefitted from some outside circumstances. Making headlines of her own thanks to an impressive haul of gongs at the Grammy Awards earlier this week, Billie Eilish also released the long-overdue video for her current chart single Everything I Wanted. The result is a three-place surge for the single, just like the Capaldi track in its 11th week on the charts. This is now the third time the track has climbed into the Top 10 during its run, one which began when it peaked at Number 3 first week out.
Now 57 weeks old, Lewis Capaldi's other Number One single Someone You Loved still clings doggedly on at Number 9, but Arizona Zervas' Roxanne appears now to be well and truly in decline, sinking two places to Number 10.
THE NEW ARRIVALS
OK, I did all this a couple of months ago but it is worth recapping. Momodou "J Hus" Jallow is a complex subject to address. Credited as one of the pioneers of the afroswing sub-genre of British rap, his career to date has been a mix of contradictions. Already having endured spells at Her Majesty's Pleasure as a teen and having himself been the victim of stabbing attacks in the past, the rapper ran into more legal troubles in summer 2018 when he was collared for possession of a knife in public and was quite rightly sent back to prison for 8 months at the start of last year. Once more we have to find a way to separate art from artist. A rapper and performer hailed for the genius of his poetry but who is also the worst kind of massive dickhead who walks around in public armed with the ability to injure people.
After what appeared to be a leak of his new material the much-anticipated second J Hus album was released this week. After trailing no less a pair of legends as The Pet Shop Boys for most of the week the 13-track Big Conspiracy album eventually overcame the competition, crashing straight to the top of the Official UK Albums chart. As is so often the case with urban albums the vast majority of its consumption came from online streams, over 96% of the album's 24,000 chart sales being attributed to online plays. Put simply he sold very little but was listened to a heck of a lot.
That also means J Hus accounts for the three biggest new entries of the week. His quota of permitted singles entries are accounted for by Play Play at Number 11, Big Conspiracy at Number 19 and Repeat at Number 21. That echoes the multiple entries he enjoyed back in May 2017 upon the release of his debut collection Common Sense, this before the 3 song maximum rule was implemented a few months later. None of his singles this week quite manage to come close to eclipsing or even emulating his biggest chart success to date, his post-incarceration comeback Must Be hitting Number 5 in November last year.
Also from the world of spoken word is the still masked M Huncho who enjoys a third Top 40 hit single as Pee Pee lands at Number 32, the biggest of three chart entries all taken from his own newly-released album Huncholoni The 1st (Number 5 on the albums chart). His last release The Thumb hit Number 30 in November last year and he also made Number 38 in December 2018 as one of the many contributors to Broken Homes by The Plug. Best we don't get into a debate over what he's referring to in the title.
O FRIENDS, NOT THESE SOUNDS
Britain left the EU today. It is the culmination of a three-year process during which time we've had two elections and three Prime Ministers and which has done wonders for shares in megaphone manufacturers. While most of us are just praying it will now put an end to people ranting about it on Facebook there was, it appears, room for one final battle to play itself out in the world of music. Two rival groups of fanatics had the idea to latch onto a song each to either celebrate the UK's newly-won independence or alternatively to pay homage to the institution we have just departed and which for some reason really really means a lot to some people.
No, neither were ever going to be anywhere near the top of the charts. A couple of thousand people buying an mp3 does not a Number One single make. Not any more. But we at least get to note for the record that a recording of official EU anthem Ode To Joy as performed by Andre Rieu and his Johann Strauss Orchestra charts this week at Number 30. That marks a singles chart debut for the superstar Dutch fiddler at the age of 70 after he has previously charted 23 different albums. Ode To Joy was used by the BBC as their theme to the 1996 European Football Championships, a recording by the BBC Concert Orchestra reaching Number 36 at the time. Meanwhile Miguel Rios took an English translation of it to Number 16 in 1970.
In the less blue and yellow corner stood comedian and commentator Dominic Frisby with tongue in cheek comedic monologue 17 Million F**k Offs. This was being mass-purchased with the aim of "forcing the BBC to play it" by getting it in the charts, even though that means the BBC is obliged to do no such thing. In any event, it misses the Top 40 altogether and lands at Number 43. The singles are 2 and 3 respectively on the old-fashioned sales only chart, selling 20,000 and 13,000 copies respectively overall. I can't help but think it would have been far more serendipitous to see them at 48 and 52.