A Shit Position?
To flip a saying on its head, the more things stay the same the more they change. The final beat of the Christmas chart chaos echoes around this week as the Official UK Singles chart undergoes its annual wholesale turnover. The festive favourites exit en masse and in their wake the "normal" hits come flooding back. Welcome then to the 2023 great resetting.
The most amazing bit is that there are actually very few surprises. Most of what we predicted would happen has indeed taken place. And that includes the crowning of 2023's first brand new No.1 single as after far too many weeks waiting in the wings Escapism by RAYE featuring 070 Shake finally makes it to the top of the charts.
And it has been an epic climb in one way or another for both artist and single. Escapism was first released back in October to little fanfare, reliant upon some online virality to finally push it into the charts at the end of November. The single first peaked at No.2 in its third week on the chart itself after a meteoric rise, and as we noted at the time had the sheer bad luck to make it there in what was effectively the final week of normality. But after more than holding its own over the festive period (dropping to a mere No.13 last week when the Christmas songs had their final flourish) it rises from the chaos to take pride of place at the top of the charts.
Plus, as you will doubtless be hearing noted in many places, this is also the final flourish of RAYE's personal creative rebirth. The real-life Rachel Keen was a BRIT school dropout before being signed to Polydor while still a teenager. But after years stranded in development and left unable to release an album of her own as opposed to being a collaborator with others, she threw an online tantrum last year and was released. Escapism thus proves her well-made point, thrusts her into the limelight properly as an independent artist and if nothing else is a fantastic story with which to begin the new year. It also helps that it is a damn amazing pop record to boot.
I've surely banged this drum far too many times, but this is another wonderful example of how questions about the relevancy of the singles chart can easily be countered. Just a few days after someone tweeted me this:
I don't think enough people really care anymore. They could list any 40 songs and nobody would notice.— Britpop Memories (@Britpopmemories) January 1, 2023
We have RAYE leaving the world in no doubt at all just how much having a No.1 single means. The final validation of everything she has been working towards for a very long time.
No. 1 😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭😭 pic.twitter.com/Ome4f9VxSc— RAYE (@raye) January 6, 2023
They All Come Flooding Back
With no new singles of any note making the charts this week it is really a case of working out what has pinged back where and who has ended up with a new peak. The Top 3 features Taylor Swift's former No.1 Anti-Hero charging back to No.2, closely followed by Venbee and Goddard's Messy In Heaven which returns to the No.3 peak it first scaled in early December.
SZA's Kill Bill is thus the next big winner, restricted by the Christmas songs to a No.15 peak just before the holiday, it flies merrily to a new high of No.4, becoming only her third Top 10 single and the first since she collaborated with Doja Cat on Kiss Me More back in 2021.
Also hitting new peaks inside the Top 10 are Central Cee with Let Go (up to No.6), Calm Down by Rema and his invisible friend Selena Gomez (up to No.8) and Out Of Nowhere by Bugzy Malone and Teedee which makes the upper reaches for the first time at No.9 having originally peaked at No.13 at the start of last month.
The highest re-entry of the week is Tom Odell's reactivated 2013 hit Another Love which was hovering around the Top 20 before Christmas songs nudged everything out of the way but now storms back to No.10, matching its original peak from 10 years ago.
I Said What Time Is It
The new year looks set to be kind to Tiesto and Tate McRae. Their collaboration 10:35 was showing enormous potential when it crept into the Top 40 in late November before having to go into semi-hibernation for the next month. The presence of holiday hits meant its growing popularity was masked - subsequent chart positions not truly reflecting the true level of its growth in streaming. But now the gloves are off and the club hit reasserts itself at No.18 to become Tiesto's first Top 20 hit since The Motto enjoyed an extended chart run this time last year.
There are no brand new releases charting this week, but one pre-Christmas arrival does finally become a proper hit for the first time. A track that originally featured on her Born This Way album back in 2011 Lady Gaga's Bloody Mary first charted a fortnight before the holiday but moved 57-56-74 as it too became lost in the mix. Thrust into contention thanks to its use on the soundtrack of the Netflix series "Wednesday" the single track comes storming back in every sense of the word, hitting a new high of No.22 and in the process becoming her own biggest hit since her Blackpink collaboration Sour Candy reached No.17 in mid 2020.
Gosh, I could go on like this for hours. So many underperformers from November and December now have a chance to come back into their own. Golden Hour from JVKE which appeared to have wimped out at No.36 six weeks ago is suddenly back in contention at a new peak of No.24 and which hopefully promises even more.
But how about a new year new entry for a song that dates back from 2021? It was September that year when American singer-songwriter Stephen Sanchez released his song Until I Found You, a single which was largely ignored until it surfaced on Tik Tok last summer, prompting the creation of a video and a chart run which saw it wander around the lower reaches in both June and September. The first glimmerings of greater success actually came in December when, Christmas hits be damned, it hit a new peak of No.72 on the final pre-Christmas chart. And so now the gorgeous Richie Valens-inspire single comes storming into the charts to become a proper hit of last, one of this weeks' most significant genuine new arrivals as it crashes in at No.28.
Two more hits make the Top 40 for the first time - Just Wanna Rock by Lil Uzi Vert which is No.38 after first appearing in October, and 50s by Headie One which sneaks in at No.40.
One notable absence from the upper end of this week's chart is Stormzy's Firebabe which, as we noted, enjoyed an unexpected trip to No.5 after being swept up in Christmas streams. With those having melted away the support for the track collapses, as does its chart position as it falls to No.45. Finally not every Christmas song has exited the Top 100 this week. The one remaining survivor is Christmas Drillings from Sidemen which clings on doggedly at No.73.