Flames Lick Closer

OH MY GOD nothing has changed. Yes, despite the tantalising prospect of a changing of the guard prompted by the sudden surge of interest last week in B.O.T.A. the Top 2 continue to assume the position in relation to each other. So it is duly an eighth week at the top for LF System and Afraid To Feel, although that does mean they are indeed within an ace of fulfilling my prediction that the song topping the charts when the schools broke up will still be there when they come back.

Eight weeks at No.1 means Afraid To Feel is now formally the second longest-running No.1 hit of the year, sailing past the seven weeks at the summit enjoyed by We Don't Talk About Bruno and now only behind Harry Styles' unbroken 10 weeks with As It Was as the biggest hit of the year to date.

How far behind were Eliza Rose and Interplanetary Criminal? Far enough to ensure that No.1 remains tantalisingly out of reach, and perhaps forever. Its 38.5k sales are still almost 3,000 behind the leader even if that is fading fast.

Boot Scooting

For a change it was the albums market which carried the most intrigue, a busy week for new (and resurrected) releases meant that six of the Top 10 are new arrivals with the first three jockeying for position to reach the top. In the end there was a clear winner. Platinum Collection from Steps is the ever so slightly mis-named 25th anniversary release as the veteran pop group tour the landmarking a quarter of a century in business (even if this overlooks the 16 years or so they spent apart and hating each other). Rather extraordinarily this is their third Hits collection to top the charts, the group having also made the grade with Gold - The Greatest Hits (2001) and The Ultimate Collection (2011). Their only studio release ever to grace the summit was 1999's Steptacular, but this does mean they have managed the rare honour of landing No.1 albums in four different decades. That's impressive but not unique, meaning Official Charts have elected to note they are the first mixed sex British group to pull off the trick. If only Freddie Mercury had worn a dress from time to time.

Running the ropes in second place is the man who was both a week after the aforementioned Steptacular reached the top of the charts. Aitch's first ever full-length album Close To Home grabbed some headlines for two reasons, firstly as the first chart-eligible album to come with NFT attachments (the rules recently adjusted to allow this) and secondly due to the headlines made when his label arranged for a mural to be painted in his native Manchester, overwriting one of former Joy Division singer Ian Curtis. Aitch expressed dismay and promised to have the original restored (it was only painted in 2020!), but as Popbitch pointed out the label possibly knew full well what would happen and have conveniently enjoyed nationwide headlines for what would otherwise have been a promotional daubing of limited local interest. Suddenly everyone knew Aitch was more than just the guy on the Lynx adverts on bus stops, and that he had an album out. All very clever.

Cynicism aside Aitch also has the highest new entry of the week on the singles chart as My G slams straight in at No.6. In the process Aitch becomes yet another in a long line of urban stars whose wagon Ed Sheeran has hitched himself to, as our favourite balladeer is indeed the co-star on the single. Dedicated to his younger sister, My G is the Mancunian mumbler's 8th Top 10 hit, the 39th for Sheeran.

Can't Touch Her Still

Also arriving in the Top 10 is Nicki Minaj's Super Freaky Girl which makes a five place leap. But about which I'm not sure I have anything more interesting to say. Fascinatingly it arrives at the expense of KSI and Tom Grennan's Not Over Yet which has turned out to be a two-week wonder. The "potential No.1 hit" when first released has now crashed 4-8-14 and just hasn't taken hold at all.

Oh yes, and having noted last week it was just short, we should acknowledge the rise of Luude and Mattafix to No.11 with the remix of Big City Life meaning the remix is now officially a bigger hit than the original version was first time around.

Bring On The Girls

Blackpink are a fascinating subject. The four-piece South Korean girl group are in theory the female analogue to BTS and indeed are lazily promoted on that basis. Music journalists will write about them as if they are a big deal (for example when Lisa embarked on a brief solo career it was almost taken as a given that everyone knew who she was and where she came from), yet they actually remain a tough sell. They cannot command the same kind of adulation that boy bands achieve and they can't really be pushed as sex symbols due to both the cultural strictures of their home country and the fact that, well, they are four anonymous-looking South East Asian women. So despite best efforts they remain a niche interest only. And it isn't as if there haven't been attempts to turn them into proper mainstream pop stars. They've had chart duets with Dua Lipa, Lady Gaga, Selena Gomez and Cardi B but to date not one of their singles has climbed beyond its initial chart entry.

So let's see what happens with their new single, their first release together since 2020. Pink Venom began the week strongly, but as usual faded badly as the week went on. It is still the second biggest new hit of the week but slides into place at a mere No.22 - contrast this with the way the track has shot straight to the top of the usually stagnant Australian singles charts. It is Blackpink's eighth chart hit but only the third to make the Top 30. It is mostly in English which is a point in its favour for international appeal. But I can't help but think the story is likely to continue. Blackpink are treated internationally as a huge deal, but remain stubbornly outside of the British mainstream.

Swamp Bound

There's movement in the lower end of the Top 40, but as seems to be the trend at the moment it is mainly movement by minor hits stuck in the swamp as it were, having clearly peaked in appeal at a point where they are never likely to make the Top 20 however deserving that status might be. Still we should never say never. Rosa Linn's Snap is up to No.23, Chris Brown's Under The Influence makes a meaningful jump to No.24, while Sunroof from Nicky Youre & Dazy creeps up to No.29.

Making the Top 40 after a four week climb at No.40 is Turn The Lights On Again from Fred Again and Swedish House Mafia, notably only the second ever chart single for the 29 year old producer who has been at the helm of some quite notable tracks over the past few years (most significantly credited with production on most of Ed Sheeran's No.6 Collaborations Project). His only other direct chart credit as a performer came on 2021's No.36 hit Marea (We've Lost Dancing) on which he was credited alongside The Blessed Madonna. For Swedish House Mafia it continues their own mini comeback, this their first hit since Moth To A Flame reached No.15 at the tail end of last year.

For true chart intrigue we have to peer a little further under the hood than usual. Coldplay's current series of stadium gigs has sparked interest in their back catalogue and none more so it seems than OG hit Yellow which reappeared in the Top 75 last week and now climbs - startlingly - to No.52. On perma-ACR of course so its true position is almost certainly far higher. Their former No.1 Viva La Vida sits at No.76 - one place above Eurovision hero Sam Ryder who is clearly going to find post-contest success a little harder to come by with Somebody arriving at No.77.

And finally as Alan Jones mentioned it, we can't go without noting here. Dandelion by Ruth B is hoiked from the chart this week after tumbling to ACR. It means the single has firmly established a new record for near-misses, spending fully 30 weeks on the singles chart without ever climbing higher than No.42.