Styles Clash

I am old enough to remember when a single artist having two singles in the Top 2 was the ultimate chart feat, something that only the biggest stars of all could manage and only in the most exceptional of circumstances. The Beatles did it because they were The Beatles. John Lennon did it because he died. Frankie Goes To Hollywood did it because it was 1984 and that thing happened. And Madonna did it because in 1985 she released a new single every five minutes.

But all three Top 3 singles? Surely nobody could conceive of such a thing.

Yet it actually nearly happened right at the dawn of chart history. For the Week Ending October 24th 1953 Frankie Laine was No.1 with Hey Joe, No.3 with Where The Wind Blows and… No.4 with I Believe. As a result, it was not until January 2016 that any one artist managed the trick, Justin Bieber achieving the 1-2-3 with Love Yourself, Sorry and What Do U Mean all lining up in turn.

Until today only one other man pulled off the stunt, a certain Ed Sheeran in that famous period following the release of his Divide album. For three weeks in March 2017 its tracks dominated the streaming tables and thus the charts themselves, resulting in Shape Of You, Galway Girl and Castle On The Hill dominating the top end to the exclusion of everything else.

That particular moment was the catalyst for the introduction later that summer of the Primary Artist rule that has been in place ever since. It doesn't matter how many of your tracks are actually streamed, only three at a time can make the Official UK Singles Chart.

This week for the first time someone not named Ed Sheeran collides almost violently with that rule. The release of Harry Styles' new album Harry's House was clearly an event that just about everyone had to participate in. The state of the live Spotify charts during the week should have clued everyone into this. Every one of its tracks were amongst the most streamed music in the country.

And that means that Harry duly becomes only the third man in history to occupy the whole of the singles chart Top 3. After beating off the challenge of Sam Ryder last week (by fair means or foul) As It Was proudly enjoys an eighth consecutive week at No.1, its sales rocketing to a massive 80,725, fully 77,780 of those via some 8.9m streams. Following in its wake are album cuts Late Night Talking at No.2 and Music For A Sushi Restaurant at No.3.

But it is perhaps the Harry Styles tracks that don't appear which are of most interest. But for the artist rule tracks from Harry's House would occupy 13 of the Top 17 single this week and 7 of the Top 10 alone. The next biggest cut from the album, Matilda, duly becomes the first single since the rules were introduced five years ago to be "starred-out" from the chart at No.4, that particular rung being occupied instead by Cat Burns' Go.

All of this is because the album itself is massive. By the Monday midweeks it had already exceeded the first week sales of either of his two previous solo offerings and indeed Styles' third solo album duly debuts at the top of the charts with a massive sale of 113,812, the first to breach six figures since Adele's 30 did so in each of its first two weeks of availability some six months ago. It is more than the rest of the Top 10 albums combined. Harry Styles becomes the first artist this year to do the singles and albums chart double and he becomes one of a rare breed of acts to do so as both a solo artist and as a member of a group, having also done so as a member of One Direction in November 2012. We'll talk about who the others are in Monday's newsletter.

It is a point I keep returning to, I know, but it has long been easy to gently mock the solo career of Harry Styles. His initial sales performances just didn't match up to the relentless PR image that he was a global superstar able to command instant and lasting chart success. But those days are gone. Three albums in and he is achieving the kind of chart domination worldwide (he already has 8 of the Top 10 singles in Australia for example) that it normally takes someone like Ed Sheeran or Adele to achieve. That appears to be the kind of strata he now occupies.

Just A Sign Of The Times

A Top 10 free of being totally Harry Styles dominated means other hits have room to breathe, including Tion Wayne and La Roux's IFTK which is the most notable mover of the week, shooting 16-8. It is glass ceiling time for Ed Sheeran whose remixed 2 Step refuses to go away but also refuses to make that final leap into the upper reaches, climbing to a new peak of No.11 in the fifth week of its present chart run. His consolation is that his collaboration with Camila Cabello on Bam Bam has its own Top 10 status restored, rising two places to No.9 after dropping out last week.

Fair play too to Sam Ryder who isn't quite the one-week wonder he might have been. Eurovision hit Space Man slides a mere four places to No.6 to enjoy a second week in the Top 10. All the other Euro hits from last week have indeed vanished from sight.

George Ezra's Green Green Grass continues to make pleasing progress, breaking into the Top 20 with a six place rise to No.16, but by far the biggest leap into this region is the 21 place climb enjoyed by 21 Reasons from Nathan Dawe and Ella Henderson which after three weeks scuttling around the lower end of the chart finally makes strides to becoming a proper hit single as it rockets to No.20. It is Dawe's biggest hit since the Little Mix track No Time For Tears made No.20 in the first weeks of 2021 and notably gives Ella Henderson two side by side hit singles with her David Guetta collab Crazy What Love Can Do still alive and itself hitting a brand new peak of No.14. 21 Reasons sounds exactly as you would expect it to sound, another glistening cut of 20s dance-pop with a nod to the past thanks to its sampling of the sax run from Alex Gaudino's Destination Calabria (a hit in 2007).

It's Been Done

Properly new but also sample-heavy is 1989 from Aitch which enters at No.23. Its bold inspiration is the near-legendary Fools Gold by The Stone Roses which was indeed first a hit in the year referenced in the title of the new track. This however isn't quite as shocking as it might be for it is far from an original idea, first used by Wretch32 on his 2011 hit Unorthodox. Is that what Aitch has become now, the man who just borrows other rappers' ideas?

Giant Purple Microphone

The career of N-Dubz is spoken of in near-reverential terms at times for reasons I can never quite fathom. The trio of Dappy, Fazer and Tulisa had a respectable enough run of hits between 2007 and 2011 but only a handful of what you would call proper smashes, their biggest chart successes coming with Tinchy Stryder collaboration Number 1 which did indeed top the charts in 2009, and their own I Need You which reached No.5 later that same year. Dappy and Tulisa would both end up topping the charts as solo artists at the start of the following decade.

But now they are back together after over ten years away with a reunion concert tour and a new album to boot. Incredibly the trio also have a brand new hit single with Charmer entering straight at No.32, only their 16 hit single and first chart entry of any kind in over 11 years. Welcome back I guess.