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Absolutely Storming It
Denied by the narrowest of margins last week, this time around Stormzy achieves a unique first for a British rapper and does the chart double. He is top of both singles and albums charts simultaneously. His single Own It is comfortably Number One on the Official UK Singles chart for a second week, heading an unchanged Top 4 as the now traditional January lull continues to unwind. Having been boldly released one week before Christmas, more than holding its own in the crowded sales marketplace in the process, the rap star's album Heavy Is The Head this week finally fulfils its destiny and climbs to the top of the Official UK Albums chart for the very first time. Only a true cynic would attribute this changing of the guard to the way the album was heavily discounted on all platforms during the week. And it would be mendacious of me to note that it is magically back to full price now the chart summit has been achieved.
Stormzy is only the third act in the last 12 months to manage this kind of chart double, following in the footsteps of superstars Ariana Grande and Ed Sheeran in 2019. The album is his second to reach the top of the charts, following Gang Signs And Prayer in 2017. It all caps what by any measure has been a rather extraordinary seven days for the performer, as he spent his time both acting as a cuddly celebrity with his infamous slipper wearing appearance on BBC Breakfast whilst at the same time continuing his rather childish war of words with Wiley, the two men exchanging hurriedly released dis tracks during the course of the week.
An all-static Top 4 could well have been a static Top 5, but for the welcome appearance of a January novelty - a big new single by a very big name indeed. Number 5 hit Yummy marks the solo return of Justin Bieber, a Number One artist from within the last year of course thanks to his collaboration with Ed Sheeran on I Don't Care, but who hasn't released a single as a lead artist for well over two and a half years. Yummy has attracted its fair share of derision online due to the rather ludicrous nature of the lyrics (dealing mostly with the appeal of the love of his life who, we are told, is indeed "yummy") but given that the appeal of the track is 90% based on its groove this can perhaps be forgiven. To that end, however, it sounds to all intents and purposes indistinguishable from a track by his recent duet partner Chris Brown. To enter at Number 5 is damn impressive, but the reception to the song has been rather more lukewarm than you might expect from an artist of his stature. Small wonder that the release of the single was followed with the headline-grabbing news of Bieber's ongoing health woes, thus explaining the paucity of his output over the past year. Arriving on the charts exactly ten years to the week since his debut British chart hit One Time reached its own peak, Yummy lands the Canadian star his 18th Top 10 single.
Here Comes The Science Bit
As predicted last time around, the behaviour of many chart singles this week is due to a unique set of circumstances. A perfect storm of both a dramatically shrunk post-Christmas singles market and increased interest in older hits (due to year-end retrospectives) meant that the threshold for many long-running hit singles to qualify for an automatic reversal of their ACR status was exceptionally low.
The most high profile of these is a single which exactly one year ago was about to start its steady climb to the top of the charts and in the process not only turn its performer into the breakout discovery of the year but establish itself in a short space of time as a modern-day classic. Quite aside from its seven weeks at Number One, Lewis Capaldi's heartfelt ballad Someone You Loved enjoyed a 20-week unbroken run inside the Top 10. It was one which finally came to a crashing halt at the end of June when it could avoid the ACR axe no longer (although it was back for one final hurrah a fortnight later when it doggedly climbed back to Number 10). Following this relegation Someone You Loved spent the second half of the year doggedly refusing to fully go away. In any given week you could locate it hovering around Spotify's ten biggest singles of the moment and occasional spikes in popularity would often see the hit creep back into the Top 20. Only twice during regular play did it fall out of the Top 30 and it was only due to the Christmas quagmire a fortnight ago that it lost the Top 40 status it had enjoyed for almost a full year. Well, now it is back with a bang. An automatic ACR reset sends one of the biggest tracks of 2019 back into the Top 10 with a 15-7 climb, meaning Someone You Loved is occupying its highest chart position since July 11th last year. And here inside the Top 10 it may well remain, for the next three weeks at least or perhaps even longer. Normal ACR rules apply once again and so Someone You Loved is now guaranteed a place amongst the biggest hits of the week until it enjoys three consecutive weeks of slippage in its streaming numbers. And your mum is still enjoying it far too much for this to necessarily happen immediately.
None of the other lucky recipients of the perfect storm manage quite as spectacular a move, but an ACR reset has promoted unexpected chart comebacks for Ride It by Regard (23-11), Bruises by Lewis Capaldi (24-12), Memories by Maroon 5 (21-13), Lose Control by Meduza (31-15), South Of The Border by Ed Sheeran (32-17), Circles by Post Malone (36-19), Highest In The Room by Travis Scott (43-25), I Don't Care by Ed Sheeran (45-27), Senorita by Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello (47-30) to name but a few. Basically if a single has made an unexpected and apparently out of nowhere climb this week, that is the sole reason why.
Not Mike At All
Yet we also once more have an elephant-sized monkey in the room. The one big hit of 2019 which missed the cut for an automatic reset by the narrowest of margins was the final pre-Christmas Number One hit. Dance Monkey by Tones & I remains marooned on ACR status despite being similarly moored (even after all this time) close to the summit of both streaming and sales tables. The Australian star's smash hit is this week Number One on both sales and streams chart, a combination which for the second week running would mean it would indeed be back at Number One for real were it not for the handicap of its audio streams converting to half the sales numbers of the hits around it. Instead the megahit officially slips one place to Number 6. Dance Monkey is by no means the first track since the introduction of the ACR rules two and a half years ago to be de-facto Number One whilst occupying a chart position several rungs lower, but for a track to do so a full four weeks after it was forcibly marched from peak position is something we haven't seen since the golden summer of 2017 and the similarly phenomenal Despacito by Luis Fonsi.
I won't pretend I necessarily enjoy shining a light on the minutiae of chart rules and regulations, but when that is the only way of telling the story of the biggest chart moves of the week there is little your writer can do about it. What has happened this week on the scale it has is unique, the final shockwave as we emerge from that strange period when the singles market - never more so in the streaming era - does some very weird and unusual things. And all the singles chart can do is reflect that.
A New Boddy
Amongst this mess, it is hard work to pick out the newer hits which are showing upward momentum, so fair play to Roddy Ricch for manging the standout chart move of the week as his debut solo single The Box soars 40-16. The Californian rapper has sneaked into the charts twice before in the past year as part of ensemble records, most notably on How It Is, a track by The Plug which enjoyed a run at Number 18 in March last year. The Box is actually pleasantly diverting and (autotuned lines notwithstanding) treads a neat line between the beats and bass minimalism of the British style and the sense of epic drama which characterises most American hip-hop tracks of late. From the way it is soaring up the Spotify tables you have to presume it has Top 10 in its sights next time around.
My Eyes Are Dim
There's more brand new rap down at Number 35 as MIST lands his first hit of the year, Savage the direct follow-up to his last single So High which reached Number 7 last July. The grime freestyler is another of those performers you either get or you don't, although the wannabe gangster themes are starting to get exceptionally old. Coming as it does in a week where Headie One became the latest in a growing line of grime and drill stars to incur a prison sentence for his weapon-carrying habits, it becomes ever harder to separate the glamour of the music from the rather grim lifestyles of the men who perform it.
Getting Deep Deep Down
New Year is often the point when the shift from sales to streams moves even further, frequently because ever more people land in the groove of enjoying their newly-gifted or bundled subscriptions to one of the numerous services around. My prediction of the weekly total of paid-for sales dipping below half a million units before Christmas never quite came to pass, but this week we come closer than we ever have done before. Just 511,000 tracks were purchased in the UK last week, the lowest total since March 12th 2005.