Stop Your Crying
This week we take a journey into the fascinating world of Harry Styles - solo artist.
The de-facto frontman of One Direction, and if nothing else the most charismatic member of the quintet, he was always the inevitable choice to be pushed as the big solo superstar once the group had finally burned themselves out. To that end he was launched with a spectacular in 2017, his debut solo release Sign Of The Times was a grand and bombastic epic that practically oozed "superstar" and which still remains a quite breathtaking listen even to this day, almost exactly five years on. A few months ago it came over the PA in a branch of Starbucks I was queuing in and there was a genuine sense of "wow, I haven't heard this for ages, so good".
Yet the single an alarming one-off, its chart life after that solitary week at No.1 no more than adequate (although let us not forget it spent seven weeks in the Top 10). None of the other singles from his debut album came even close to the Top 40.
So there was a noticeably more measured approach to the release of his second album Fine Line in 2019. The hype was dialed down and the music given the room (and crucially the time) to speak for itself. The rewards were greater. Lights Up made No.3, Adored You No.7, and then came the big one, Watermelon Sugar. It was a Top 10 smash for weeks on end in the summer of 2020, returning for another bite at the cherry a year later, even if ACR status suppressed its chart potential. A vast worldwide smash hit, a defining career moment perhaps bigger than some 1D tracks of the past.
This brings us to today. The first single from Mr Styles' forthcoming third album can thus be seen in the correct context for the first time - an eagerly anticipated release from a now properly-established solo superstar. As It Was may not win any prizes for originality, sliding neatly into The Weeknd's synthpop revivalist groove, but it was still easily the biggest release of the week bar none. In the newsletter last Monday I suggested that a chart sale of 80,000 was within reach. In fact that was being far too conservative. The single debuts at No.1 with 94,000 chart sales to its name, thanks largely to the 10.5m streams it enjoyed during the week. Not that it was hard for the single to get that many listens - like so many other hits of late it is vanishingly short, clocking in at just 2:45 in length.
But a No.1 it is, Styles' second solo chart-topping hit following the aforementioned Sign Of The Times and the sixth of his career if we also count the four he landed as a member of One Direction. The total swells to seven if we also count the X Factor Finalists 2010 charity single on which he also performed. But that's just splitting hairs to the point of being silly.
Meanwhile thank goodness for Harry Styles because otherwise this would be one of those weeks when we are scratching around for something, anything to talk about. New entries aside not one of last week's Top 30 singles move more than three places up or down. That's all to the detriment of the hits waiting in the wings just outside the Top 10. George Ezra's planned game-changing appearance on Saturday Night Takeaway only moves Anyone For You up a place to No.13 while Tiesto & Ava Max go into reverse with The Motto down to No.14.
If it is Friday there must be a rap hit to talk about, and sure enough there it is. Brand new at No.18 is In My Head by Lil Tjay, his first Top 40 hit since Headshot crept to the bottom rung in April last year and easily his biggest hit single since smash hit Calling My Phone reached No.2 in early 2021. I leave it to the listener to determine whether it is worth these accolades, although it is worth waiting to the end to hear the interpolation of Replay by Iyaz (a No.1 hit from 2010) which fights its way through the mix.
This May Get Me Sued
The Crazy Days And Nights blog was chortling at the idea that Shawn Mendes had enough hubris to even contemplate releasing a single on the same day as Harry Styles, and whilst When You're Gone hasn't exactly disgraced itself in its first week, the optics of the singer entering at No.32 are certainly an entertaining study in contrasts. Even if all the two men have in common is near-relentless speculation about when they are going to both come out of the closet. But you didn't hear me say that. In any event, this is Mendes' first Top 40 hit single since the Justin Bieber duet Monster was a Top 10 hit in December 2020. So you can't say he isn't due.
Entering at No.52 last week but now climbing to No.37 is Birthday Cake by Dylan Conrique. The song was written by the 17-year-old Californian as a tribute to her best friend's mother who passed away from cancer, all proceeds going to the American Cancer Society. But you suspect this rise is entirely due to the song's merits (another epic ballad in the manner of Drivers License or Fingers Crossed) rather than its status as a charity single.
We threw shade a fortnight ago, so it seems only fair to also notice that Clean Bandit's Everything But You has finally surfaced to become a chart hit, moving 75-59 this week. Keep an eye out also for Big Energy by Latto which finally breaks cover in the UK at No.57. A slow-burning hit in the States it finally went Top 3 last week thanks to a remix by DJ Khaled which mashes it together with Fantasy by Mariah Carey, both tracks based on the same sample from Tom Tom Club's Genius Of Love.