Won't Back Down
I can't begin to tell you how tight this was, but let's try anyway.
We occasionally get chart races which start off neck and neck only for the leading single to accelerate into an unstoppable lead. Rarer though are ones where the gap narrows at every stage during the week.
I first flagged this up online on Wednesday evening, the final official midweek flash noting that the gap between the singles at 1 and 2 was a mere 439 sales. What I was not able to tell you publicly was that by Thursday the deficit was a mere 123 sales, meaning it truly was all to play for. And it was probably no coincidence that this was the day that both acts involved elected to release new remixes and alternate versions to the streaming services. Just to season the pudding a little so to speak.
And that's why this week's Number One single is perhaps not the one some were expecting. Our brand new No.1 single is Unholy from Sam Smith and Kim Petras.
Daddy's Done A What Now
Somewhere along the way something went wrong with the Sam Smith project. Arguably one of the biggest stars of the 2010s, between 2013 and 2018 he participated on no fewer than seven No.1 singles. He took a Bond theme to the top of the charts for the first time ever and somehow occupied that magical space where every style he chose to attack resulted in magic. He could perform songs like I'm Not The Only One and Lay Me Down that your nan liked, and participate in blistering club bangers like Calvin Harris' Promises.
Yet by these lofty standards his third album Love Goes was a crashing disappointment. Was the whole pandemic to blame? 2020 hardly the kind of atmosphere in which to plug your new product - although it didn't stop Dua Lipa of course. Yet for the entire year Sam Smith was flinging out singles which just fizzled out to nothing, only final throw of the dice Diamonds staggering to anything like a respectable chart position - but that was still only No.11. When one-off single Love Me More all but vanished without trace earlier this year (it made a mere No.52) you could be forgiven for thinking Sam Smith was old news. Finished. Destined to contemplate his tattoos, pearl earrings and absurd trousers as a fading star of yesteryear.
Yet there were still glimmerings. His jump on to a remix of Cat Burns' Go was one of the highlights of early summer, even if the charts never reflected that in a credit. And now he has done the unthinkable. Brand new single Unholy has smashed its way straight to the top, taking him to No.1 for the eighth time (putting him level with Oasis and The Rolling Stones fact fans) after a gap of just over four years.
The track itself is utterly fascinating, vanishingly brief (just over 2.5 minutes) as all pop singles seem to be these days and a rare example of a commercial single dialing in to the brittle, glitchy sound of hyperpop, normally the province of underground cult performers. And here it is, smashing its way to the very top of the British charts and quite possibly at a stroke resurrecting Sam Smith's superstar status.
Mention needs also to be made of the co-performer on Unholy, German singer Kim Petras who after five years in the business and three albums worth of tracks finally makes her UK chart debut. Fully co-credited it means we have just had back to back No.1 hits from male-female duos for the first time since Sweet Nothing by Calvin Harris and Florence Welch gave way to Beneath Your Beautiful by Labrinth and Emeli Sande back in 2012. However, we should note that the combination of the self-professed non-binary Sam Smith and proud transwoman Kim Petras takes the whole concept of two-gender duets to an entirely new level.
So how close was it in the end? David Guetta and Bebe Rexha clearly did not benefit as much as their rivals from the arrival of new remixes and were eventually relegated to No.2 by the small matter of over 1,300 copies. Ironically their chart sale of just over 54,000 still represents an increase on last week's total. They were alas just blown away by the competition.
There's just one more move of note in the Top 10 - Steve Lacy's Bad Habit smashing the glass ceiling and making the grade at last with a two place climb to No.9.
But Where On Her Will He Finish
The second-highest new entry of the week is one which began perhaps surprisingly gently but rallied somewhat as the week wore on, even if in the end its final resting place was a lowly (for him) No.12. Him in question is Stormzy, back with his first chart single as a solo (or even lead) artist since early 2020. In stark contrast to its No.1 rival this is an epic, the track in its uncut form running to 7:20 and its accompanying video clocking in at a full 11 minutes. Mel Made Me Do It is inspired by his personal stylist Melissa's Wardrobe, and if that sounds like a curious topic for a rap single then you probably haven’t been paying attention to the way Big Mike's mind works over the past few years. Although credited to Stormzy alone, the track features vocal turns from Stylo G and Michaela Coel. Is it as absurdly good as every reviewer was falling over themselves to say? I'm undecided, but then this isn't music made for the likes of me.
The race to top the albums chart was actually just as exciting as the singles one, the final destination of the No.1 position not settled until the final knockings. Step forward then 5 Seconds Of Summer whose fifth album 5SOS (not to be confused with their debut 5 Seconds Of Summer) nicks in to take the Australian band to the top of the charts for the third time - the great INXS only ever managed this once.
This is at the expense of D-Block Europe who are relegated to No.2 with their new release Lap 5, an album which was needless to say the most streamed product of the week. That translates to a healthy trio of singles chart entries as well, meaning the British rap stars sit at No.23 with 4 The Win, No.30 with She's Not Anyone and No.39 with Conor McGregor.
The Eternal Dilemma
Finally, what shall we end on this week? A note about the handful of steady chart climbers perhaps, the singles that might otherwise pass without comment? Fair enough then. They include Anne-Marie and Aitch's Psycho up to No.13, Beyonce's Cuff It up to No.14, Lizzo's 2 Be Loved (I Am Ready) up to No.21, Rema's Calm Down all excited at No.25 and Words from Alesso and Zara Larsson which has been doing the Top 40 hokey-cokey but now re-enters at a new peak of No.36.
No, I'm going to check out on easily the weirdest single entry of the week. No.68 on this week's singles chart is I Really Want To Stay At Your House as credited to Rosa Walton (normally of art-pop duo Let's Eat Grandma) and Hallie Coggins. First produced back in 2020 for the video game Cyberpunk 2077 it has found its way onto the soundtrack of the related Netflix anime series Cyberpunk: Edgerunners and into the hearts of a surprising number of streamers. I'd desperately love this to be even bigger, and I haven't even seen the show.