Strange, Strange, Strange
Those yearning for a surprise this week will be left, alas, slightly disappointed. The expected ejection of Doja Cat from the No.1 position on the Official UK Singles chart takes place as predicted, her replacement being the very single which has been waiting patiently in second place.
So it is that Strangers from Kenya Grace ascends to the very top of the charts to climax a six week climb. The track described in these pages as "well worth three minutes of your time" appears to have captured everyone's imagination and has worked to turn the still mostly anonymous South African-born British performer into something of a phenomenon. And all this without the single having anything other than a lashed-together lyric video to promote it.
Strangers does however have one more significant moment of notability. Written, produced and credited solely to the singer herself, it becomes only the second such solo female No.1 hit in chart history. The first of course only came last year, Kate Bush's 1985 single Running Up That Hill making it to the top of the charts as a revival and also entirely self-written and self-produced. Then, just as now, we have to give due credit to Tori Amos who is credited has having written and produced her own Professional Widow (a No.1 hit in 1997) but which actually topped the charts in a remix created by Armand Van Helden. So we don't count it.
But the crucial difference between RUTH and Strangers is that Kenya Grace's single is entirely her own work from the ground up. She has instrumented and essentially performed the entire track all by herself. That's something Kate Bush cannot claim, Running Up That Hill featuring a number of other (male) musicians as part of its production. So in that sense Strangers stands unique, the first No.1 hit to be written, produced, sung AND performed by an entirely solo woman. Heck, there are precious few No.1 hits by men which can also claim that accolade.
As noted above, Kenya Grace is a British national but South African by birth, the first chart-topping solo artist born in that country since Danny Williams way back in 1961. Strangers is also the fifth No.1 single in a row by a solo female which is the first time in chart history this has unambiguously happened. As we've noted previously, the wrinkle is the 2008/9 run of hits that began with Leona Lewis' Hallelujah and ended with Kelly Clarkson's My Life Would Suck Without You. In the middle of that was Just Dance, credited to Lady Gaga solo by the chart listings but with a co-credit for Colby O'Donis in its metadata everywhere else. So it either does or doesn't count as per your preference.
Despite its brief sales reverse last week Prada from Casso/Raye/D-Block Europe nips into second place, although their 37K sales are 3,000 behind those of the No.1. But the remixed hit is still in pole position to mount another challenge next time at the very least. That leaves Tate McRae languishing in third place for another week as Greedy holds steady.
Quack (Slight Return)
The days of Drake being tediously all-conquering are perhaps thankfully long past. Granted, I'm of completely the wrong generation to appreciate him properly but we all remember with a shudder the 15 week chart-topping run of One Dance in those pre-ACR days of 2016. The dread of every Drake single at the time racing to the top and staying there forever was a very real one.
These days the Canadian star blows hot and cold, but he still has it in him to perform spectacular things. Such as this week where his new album For All The Dogs charges to the top of the Official UK Albums chart. Almost needless to say hardly anyone actually bought it, all but 455 of its just over 29,000 chart sales attributed to streaming power. Admittedly the fact that the album isn't physically available may have something to do with that, but it is enough to land him a sixth No.1 album, putting him ahead of stars such as Celine Dion and Michael Buble(!) as the most successful Canadian of all time.
Naturally enough an album with a huge streaming audience is going to pepper the singles chart to the fullest extent possible, and so it proves. The biggest three of the album's 23 cuts all line up in a row as new entries at 4,5 and 6 on the singles chart. In order they are: First Person Shooter (with J Cole), IDGAF (featuring Yeat) and Virginia Beach (credited solo). They further increase Drake's quite impressive total of charted singles, although noting precisely how many there are gets a bit murky. Reader Robin Tucker wrote to me in the week noting that three hits for Drake this week would mean he has 139 unique songs on the chart. Yet the tables on the OCC website credit him with 137, that total also repeated this week by Alan Jones in the Music Week commentary. Yet the chart database on polyhex.me.uk suggest that he should now be credited with 146 hit singles. The discrepancy arises from a handful of hits being missing from the OCC index - for example 2016 album cut Grammys is missing from the Drake page on the OCC website and so isn't counted in his total. There are also edge cases such a Travis Scott's Sicko Mode which may or may not have a "featuring Drake" credit depending on who you ask. He was never credited during its chart run hence it doesn't show up in a tally of Aubrey Graham's hits. My last attempt at logging these headfucks is a few years old so perhaps that stat is due for a revisit. In any event, whatever the total, Drake now has more chart singles than any other act, save Elvis Presley.
Also edging its way into the Top 10 is Asking from Sonny Fodera and friends. This is notably the first Top 10 appearance for the co-credited Mark "MK" Kinchen since his own 17 reached No.7 in early 2018.
Four new arrivals to the Top 10 means four new exits, two of which are due to ACR dips. Doja Cat's Paint Town Red dips 1-12 (it would be No.2 otherwise) while Vampire by Olivia Rodrigo dives 6-18 after having its streams halved in value too. That means just two organic departures, the 9-11 dip for Chase & Status' Baddadan and - inevitably - the 5-22 dive made by Jung Kook's 3D as its initial fan interest wears off at the first opportunity.
The Opposite Of Usual
Brand new at No.27 is Normal People Things which becomes only the second Top 40 hit single for Lovejoy, this the follow-up to Call Me What You Like which had a brief cup of coffee at No.32 back in February. Now, just as then, most of the interest will come from seeing whether Wilbur Soot's outfit can manage a second week on the chart with this hit. Their only chart record so far to have a chart life longer than seven days was their 2021 debut One Day.
If chart momentum means anything, then the next big thing to happen is Stick Season from Noah Kahan which rockets 69-28. The title track from the American's third album, it was first released as a single as long ago as July last year but has now had a fire lit under it largely it seems thanks to Olivia Rodrigo's performance of the track for Radio One's Live Lounge strand a couple of weeks ago. The track takes over as Kahan's biggest UK hit to date, besting the No.32 scaled by Dial Drunk earlier in the summer.
Nines' Crop Circle 3 album lands at No.2 this week, meaning he also accounts for more of this week's singles chart new entries. The rapper is No.35 with I Do and No.37 with Toxic, those two joining the already charting Daily Duppy which walks back up the chart to No.23 having first reached No.20 a fortnight ago.
The week is rounded off by more K-Pop, Korean performer Jennie makes her British chart debut with You & Me which nicks in at No.39. This means we have now completed the set of Blackpink solo records as she joins bandmates Jisoo, Lisa and Rose in having hit singles in her own right. BTS have some catching up to do, but they'll get there. It would also be remiss not to note that we miss out on the spectacle of two side by side hits with mirrored titles. You & Me is No.39 but Me & U can only make No.41 for Tems. Lots and lots for us to do, you might say.