Given the rate at which it has been selling since the very start of the year, it was going to take a very special record indeed to dislodge Happy from the very top of the Official UK Singles Chart. Fortunately one came along just in time.
Clean Bandit were formed when three of their members were students together at Cambridge University. Aspiring producer Jack Patterson would record the music performed by girlfriend Grace Chatto's string quartet and remix it, adding bass and beats to form a classical-house fusion which whilst far from unique was exciting enough to lead to a record deal. The original Clean Bandit track was a rap record called Mozart's House which was released as their second single and which climbed to Number 17 last year. Follow-up Dust Clears fared rather less well, landing just outside the Top 40, but this week Clean Bandit take a huge step towards proper mainstream recognition as the elegant, sophisticated and utterly gorgeous Rather Be storms to the very top of the UK charts in quite some style.
"Baroque Pop" is what Wikipedia calls it, and the label fits. A vocal from guest singer Jess Glynne [a name you will read a great deal more of as this year progresses] glides effortlessly over a compelling musical production with both classical strings and garage beats to the fore. Not for nothing is the track seen as one of the most exciting singles to appear so far this year and you will struggle to find many critics who believe the Number One single is any less than the group deserve. I mentioned that the single tops the charts in style - after just three days on sale Rather Be was reported to have clocked up over 90,000 copies (many of those admittedly pre-sale copies from last week) but the momentum continued until the weekend, the track eventually registering a huge sale of over 163,000 copies - far and away the biggest of the year to date. At the end of a month in which the sales at the top of the charts have far exceeded usual seasonal trends, it is worth noting that no single has sold more than the Clean Bandit track in a single week during January since Babylon Zoo's Spaceman sold 418,000 copies in its first week on sale way back in 1996. [And with that, the most important British act of the decade step firmly into the mainstream. To see this storm to the top of the charts was quite a moment and genuinely turned heads. And it still sounds fresh and exciting today. One of the greatest Number One singles of its era].
This is naturally to the detriment of two other pop acts whose strong fanbase meant they too had high hopes of reaching the top of the charts this week but who have to instead content themselves with Top 5 entries. By a strange coincidence, both are singles with hearts as their titular theme.
First up are all-male popstars The Vamps whose debut single Can We Dance stormed to Number 2 in October last year and which - full credit to it - turned out to have an enduring appeal with a mid-table chart life far beyond most people's expectations. Their second hit single Wild Heart is a song already familiar to most of their dedicated online fanbase, being as it was the first original track the nascent group posted to YouTube during their early days as internet favourites. That said the song suffers from having little of the charm and cheeky appeal of its predecessor and plods along instead in search of inspiration which never seems to arrive. The single was the subject of intense social media bombardment during the week although I noted with some amusement that trending topics hoping for a Number One single eventually mutated into desperate pleas to keep the single at its apparent destination of Number 2, one which itself never really panned out as Wild Heart instead settles at Number 3.
Also offering up their sophomore release are girl group Neon Jungle, they of Number 12 hit Trouble which charted in September last year. Less shouty than that first track, they manage a rather more comfortable Number 4 chart entry with Braveheart which at the very least bodes well for their future prospects in wrestling the crown of biggest all-female troupe from The Saturdays during the rest of the year.
Lower down Vance Joy's Riptide exceeds even the most hopeful predictions from last week at climbs 8 places to rest at Number 10. He is one of a number of strong climbers from last week's Top 40 arrivals, amongst them Tinie Tempah and Labrinth who rise 27-18 with Lover Not A Fighter and Idina Menzel whose version of Let It Go is still making (frozen) waves with a 31-22 rise. As previously noted, the success of this version of the song from the Disney film is most unexpected, Demi Lovato's rather more commercial take on the song is still struggling to gain a foothold and actually goes into reverse this week with a 56-59 drop.
Then again the British public have a habit of not behaving in quite the way they should. After much dithering XO was recently confirmed as the first official single from Beyonce's self-titled current album, but although it continues to make chart progress with a 37-24 rise this week it is still continuously eclipsed by Drunk In Love which holds firm at Number 12 for a second week after climbing as high as Number 10 a fortnight ago. With every track from the album available for download and each with its own video, making distinctions as to what exactly constitutes a "single" from the collection is splitting hairs rather, but working on the assumption that her label has a distinct promotional plan to milk the album for hits, it is fun to speculate just how effectively that is going to play out given the convention-stretching nature of its original release.
Other potential new hits which make Top 40 debuts this week are Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' White Walls which shoots 53-27 to become their fourth Top 30 hit single and OneRepublic's follow-up to the mega-selling (and still Top 20 charting) Counting Stars. New single If I Lose Myself moves 65-32 as airplay kicks in properly but it may be a couple of weeks before it manages to rise above the sales of its celebrated predecessor.
With the cork finally out of the bottle as far as big new hits are concerned, expect another influx of new hits next week too, singles by will.i.am, Gorgon City and Katy B all heading for Top 10 status in seven days time.
This week's Official UK Album Chart has a more muted look to it, Ellie Goulding making a rather de-facto return to Number One having briefly vacated the slot for Bruce Springsteen last week. The biggest new arrival of the week is the surprise Number 4 debut for Wanderlust, the first brand new album in three years for Sophie Ellis-Bextor. This marks a dramatic upswing in her chart fortunes given that her last offering Make A Scene charted for just a single week at Number 33 when released in June 2011. Maybe once more the dramatically changed shape of the market is responsible here. The album charts without the assistance of a major hit single, its lead track Young Blood having been released a fortnight ago and only now making its presence felt with a 100-55 climb this week, the appeal of the track possibly limited by having previously been offered for free download in demo form from her website last year as a teaser for the recording of this new collection.