The November 14th anniversary of the birth of the British singles chart falls awkwardly midway between two chart weeks, so celebrations of the event are spread out somewhat. But this week the next stage of the celebrations took place with the official reveal of the "most streamed tracks from each year" table which made for some rather fascinating reading.
The table sidesteps the awkward issue that the most streamed oldies are inevitably Christmas songs by electing to exclude them altogether, so 1994 isn't represented by Mariah Carey. A song is also attached to a year according to when its parent album came out - this is why Don't Look Back In Anger by Oasis is not the most-played song of 1996, because it was actually released in 1995 and on that basis has fewer streams than Wonderwall (from the same album). Meaning that 1996's biggest track in the streaming era is amusingly No Diggity by Blackstreet. And why Mr Brightside by The Killlers is attributed to 2003, even though it was only a hit in 2004. Although this doesn't explain by Go Your Own Way and Dreams are the 1976 and 1977 winners respectively for Fleetwood Mac, given that both appear on the same album Rumours which was released in February 1977. Go Your Own Way did admittedly precede the album as a single, but it was only released in 1976 in America. In Britain, it hit the shops in Feb 77, contemporaneously with the album.
Anyway, click and enjoy and learn something. Even if it is how The Beatles only actually appear there once, and not with a song you were expecting.
Speaking of anniversaries, this column means I've completed 30 years of almost unbroken writing about the charts. So I've now got to work out how to commemorate that too.
Meta stuff out of the way, time to deal with this week's matters of relevance. To top both singles and albums charts simultaneously (the "chart double") is a vanishingly rare trick. To manage it two weeks in a row, particularly in this era of most hit albums being one week wonders in the moment of release, is harder still. So it is rather extraordinary that this year two acts have managed it twice - Harry Styles earlier in the summer and now Taylor Swift who puts in another strong streaming performance to see Midnights grab a second week at No.1 on the albums chart and Anti-Hero do the same on the singles countdown. The latter thus matches the chart run of her only other No.1 single in this country, Look What You Made Me Do also enjoying a fortnight at the top in September 2017. Oh yes, and just in case you were living under a rock this week, Taylor Swift managed a unique first on the American Hot 100 singles chart and occupied all ten positions in the Top 10, something even Drake hasn't managed. The Official Charts rule of no more than three singles per primary artist (brought in five years ago to counter Ed Sheeran) still makes devoted chart nerds pout, but it still means our listings are slightly easier on the eye on these occasions. Swift's other two hits of the moment all go into reverse from last week, Lavender Haze down at No.6 and Snow On The Beach dipping to No.8.
Props also to Unholy which clings on for a second week at No.2, managing to both run Anti-Hero close at times (although it finishes some 9,000 sales behind in the final tally) and besting the biggest new hit of the week from a major returning superstar.
Does Rihanna's backstory require some context? Breaking through when still just a teenager in 2005, the Bajan singer steadily rose to become the most significant artist of the next decade, amassing a quite extraordinary string of hits, her biggest topping charts worldwide with some ease. It seems almost strange to note in this day of acts enjoying multiple concurrent chart singles that at one point in 2011 her label was practically begging those with whom she had collaborated to ease off on promotion for fear she was becoming overexposed.
Then suddenly it all came to a gentle halt. Her 2016 album Anti, her eighth and final one of her Def Jam contract, was a throwaway act of self-indulgence, an artist making a record for her own tastes rather than based on what would sell. Lead single Work was a hit, but it was in truth the only one of note. And by this time music was secondary to her. She was already pivoting to be a businesswoman, founding the multi-branded Fenty empire which saw her lines of cosmetics and lingerie become an income stream beyond anything music could offer. For over five years fans have been clamouring for new music, and for five years they have been snubbed, save for occasional collaborations with the likes of DJ Khaled and PartyNextDoor.
But now she's back. Not necessarily with a new album (although one is supposedly in the can and was originally supposed to come out in 2019), but she's signed up for the Super Bowl and this week charts with her first solo single in over six years. Lifted from the soundtrack of the Black Panther: Wakanda Forever movie, Lift Me Up is an unexpected sublime joy. An inspirational and moving ballad which will probably take on even greater relevance when it is heard in the context of the movie itself. Imagine how bad it would be if Rihanna had returned to music with something poor. Instead, she is back with one of her best singles in years.
And it is reassuringly massive, smashing straight into No.3 to become her highest charting single of any kind since the aforementioned DJ Khaled collaboration Wild Thoughts topped the charts in 2017, and her biggest hit as a solo artist - her first Top 3 single without another credited collaborator since Diamonds topped the table in 2012. Rih-Rih is back, and somehow everything seems alright with the world again.
Speaking of female superstars from across the Atlantic, the Top 10 is rather blessed with them this week, Taylor Swift and Rihanna joined once more by Beyonce whose CUFF IT returns to the Top 10 after a week away at No.9. Although this annoyingly is the detriment of Venbee and Goddard's still wonderful Messy In Heaven which was posting the kinds of numbers which should have seen it break into the 10 this week but which instead lands at No.11 and may end up stuck against the glass ceiling.
Lips (And The Rest Of Her) Moving
The most notable mover of the week is Meghan Trainor who rockets to No.14 with Made You Look, her throwback to her throwback style proving that it is indeed a career-reviver.
New at No.17 is another single which has been some time in the making. SZA leaked the audio of her track Shirt in a Tik Tok post at the end of 2020, only to then refuse to be drawn on when it was actually going to be released. Finally she has pulled the trigger although you might have expected a slightly bigger debut given the level of hype that surrounded it. Proving perhaps that online noise doesn't always translate into reality. Still, it becomes only her fifth Top 20 hit single, her biggest chart hit since her turn alongside Doja Cat on Kiss Me More took her to No.3.
Most albums chart attention was focused on the battle between Taylor Swift and the new special edition re-release of Revolver by The Beatles (which lands at No.2). But also new this week at No.4 (just behind Michael Ball and Alfie Boe) is Actual Life 3 from Fred Again, another album with large numbers of streams and whose tracks as a result impact the singles chart. It means the producer's Delilah (Pull Me Out Of This) makes a colossal chart leap, rising 71-35. He also charts at No.62 with Clara (The Night Is Dark). Fred Again has a third single - Swedish House Mafia collaboration Turn On The Lights Again which slips a place to No.42. That track is actually taken from his USB EP which was released in September. But he's still the primary artist so it counts as one of his three permitted concurrent hits, preventing other cuts from the main album from charting instead.
Juice WLRD remains deceased, a state he has been in since December 2019. Nonetheless, the well of posthumous works continues to produce. The late performer charts for the 25th time and the third time this year with In My Head, a track he himself teased online in August 2019 but which only now surfaces as a commercial release.
Halloween landed at the weekend, meaning the usual array of classic horror-themed hits benefitted from their annual round of streaming and playlisting. And naturally many of them came marching into the charts. Ghostbusters by Ray Parker Jnr leads the charge at No.32, making the Top 75 for the third year in a row and perhaps impressively landing its highest chart position since March 1985. Monster Mash by Bobby 'Boris' Pickett and the Crypt Kickers is at No.38, the first time it has registered in the Top 40 since its first belated chart run in late 1973.
Other Halloween classics to chart include Thriller by Michael Jackson at No.41 and Someone's Watching Me by Rockwell (on which Jackson also appears on uncredited vocals) at No.68. But perhaps most fascinating of all is the first-ever chart appearance of any kind for Spooky Scary Skeletons by the late Andrew Gold, a 1996 single which briefly became an internet meme at the end of the last decade and the soundtrack to some novelty Minecraft-themed YouTube videos. I suspect Spotify playlisting is responsible for it surfacing for the first time ever and hitting No.93 - two places ahead of The Time Warp from Richard O'Brien and Patricia Quinn, the Rocky Horror soundtrack cut appearing for the second year in a row after it crept (no pun intended) to No.78 last time out.
All of this is a disturbing reminder that the annual influx of Christmas hits is, shall we say, imminent. We are counting the days until Mariah Carey reappears in the Top 100 streaming chart. It gets earlier every year.