Those of you who have followed these columns closely over the past few months will have spotted a theme developing in coverage of the Official UK Albums chart. One is the steady collapse in sales of even the top end of the artist albums market, resulting in the recent spectacle of an act spending four weeks at Number One selling fewer albums than a typical chart-topping single might do in one. Second is the almost total disconnect between the ability to chart successfully with an album and corresponding success in the singles market.
This week we witness the perfect manifestation of the latter, as new (or nearly new) albums by acts with Top 20 singles at present are outsold by a comfortable margin by an act whose near decade-long career has yet to land them a single Top 40 hit. The group in question are American rock band Avenged Sevenfold who this week reach a new peak of success with their first ever Number One album as Hail To The King becomes the UK's biggest seller of the week. The sixth album from the California-based five-piece, their arrival comes after years of dedicated championing by the specialist rock press. Never a huge commercial prospect, the group have simply concentrated on developing grassroots support and a highly respected online following - all of which has helped them to the top of the charts this week. Their previous best chart performance was with 2010 release Nightmare which charted at Number 5. I mentioned that they have never managed a Top 40 single - to date there have been just three Avenged Sevenfold Top 75 hits, with 2006 release The Beast And The Harlot representing their best performance, peaking at Number 44 in March of that year.
As for the more singles-oriented acts below them on the album chart, well they are in turn Naughty Boy whose long-awaited debut Hotel Cabana slides in at Number 2, and Ellie Goulding whose newly re-issued Halcyon (now including the special edition Halcyon Days) climbs back up to Number 3. Once upon a time, the arrival of an album would have a detrimental effect on sales of any singles it contained. Not so at present, so as a result, Goulding's Burn spends a comfortable third week at the top of the singles chart, presiding in fact over an all-static Top 3 as Avicii and Klangkarussell hold firm. In the case of Wake Me Up this means the track has now spent four weeks solid held at Number 2, following on from its three weeks at Number One at the start of its chart career. Odd to think that if the original release schedule had been followed, we would still be awaiting its arrival in the online stores even now.
The highest new entry on the Official UK Singles chart this week is Lost Generation from Rizzle Kicks which flies in at Number 6. The Brighton hip-hop duo notched up three Top 10 hits from their debut album Stereo Typical in 2011 and 2012 and seem set to maintain this chart form with the first single from their forthcoming new release Roaring 20s which drops this week. The single is actually set to go down as one of the least notable tracks on the album, most attention instead centring on the pair which see the duo collaborate with Jamie Cullum. Their biggest chart success as lead artists came with Mama Do The Hump which hit Number 2 at the start of last year, although they can boast one Number One hit to their name thanks to a cameo appearance on the Olly Murs hit Heart Skips A Beat which topped the charts almost exactly two years ago this week.
After over a decade of hits (and a record-bending string of Number One hits to boot), Irish boy band Westlife finally called it a day in 2011 with a single which rather oddly became one of their smallest hit singles ever. Two years on and the man who for years was their de-facto lead singer finally makes his solo chart debut, as Shane Filan lands at Number 14 with the track Everything To Me. Although the first of the group to make a post-breakup up solo dash for glory, he isn't quite the first Westlife star to land a solo hit. That honour technically goes to former member Brian McFadden who quit the group in 2004 and had a brief run of hit singles, topping the charts in September that year with his debut single Real To Me. Honourable mention should also go to Nicky Byrne who pre-dates both, having collaborated with the Republic Of Ireland World Cup Squad back in 2002 for the single Here Come The Good Times which topped the Irish charts although naturally was ignored in Great Britain itself.
We should take time out to acknowledge the slow but steady progress of the OneRepublic single Counting Stars which moves 20-17 in its fifth week on the chart, the first Top 20 hit single for Ryan Tedder's group since Stop And Stare back in 2008. Meanwhile Justin Timberlake's Take Back The Night continues to register a constant chart presence without showing any sign of turning into a sizeable hit single. The track is up to Number 24 this week, a five-place climb to claim a new peak after it fell back from the Number 26 it scaled a fortnight ago. Speaking of artists with Number One singles to their name in 2013 who are still having to climb from the depths with follow-up singles, the new Macklemore and Ryan Lewis track Same Love is starting to catch fire and lands on the Top 40 at Number 25 this week. An outspoken statement in support of gay rights, the single features a guest vocal from Seattle-based performer Mary Lambert, herself an active campaigner for same-sex issues. [It is a shame the more serious subject matter of this single meant there was less attention paid to it than some of their more novelty-flavoured hits. As a poem devoted to the promotion of universal love and tolerance Same Love is very beautiful and intensely moving].
With August now passed us and September dawning, there are of course two obvious clues that summer is over and that the end of the year is marching toward us. One is the new NFL season next week and the other is the debut on UK television of the new series of X Factor whose audition shows began airing this weekend. Despite there being just four hours between the airing of the first audition show and the closing of the chart window this week, songs performed by the wannabes still saw their digital sales spike enough to have a chart impact, none more so than Kanye West's classic Gold Digger which charts at Number 40 this week, its first Top 40 entry since it became one of the first singles to see its online sales extend its chart run way beyond that which we would normally have expected to see. By a strange coincidence, one of the other enduring stars of the first years of the digital era Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol also makes an X Factor-inspired chart return at Number 47. If I've counted correctly then this is now its 110th week as a Top 75 hit single, closing the gap ever more on Frank Sinatra's My Way which has 124 weeks to its name as the UK's most charted hit single of all time.