I Feel It In My Fingers
22 years ago this summer the top of the Official UK Singles chart was under the vice-like grip of one record which seemed determined to stay there forever. Buoyed by the continuing popularity of the film "Four Weddings And A Funeral" on whose soundtrack it appeared, Wet Wet Wet's cover of the Troggs classic Love Is All Around had topped the charts for such an extended period of time that it was fast encroaching on the apparently unassailable 16 week record set by Bryan Adam's own soundtrack hit precisely three years earlier.
Except that the group themselves were starting to tire of the game. Nothing to do with Jarvis Cocker flashing an "I hate Wet Wet Wet" t-shirt on Top Of The Pops - that incident took place in June in the week the single first went to Number One. No, it was simply that they felt the public were getting tired of them and they risked being defined by this one song that they did not even write. So their label was leaned on and were persuaded to delete the single. No further copies were to be pressed as of Tuesday 6th September 1994. The single was toppled from the top of the charts the very next week, bringing its run at the top to an end after 15 weeks. One short of Bryan Adams' record.
At least that was the way it was all presented to the public. Even at the time the more cynical observers noted that the single's chances of equalling the record were set to be severely challenged by the long-awaited UK release of Saturday Night from Whigfield which seemed almost certain to fly straight in at Number One. Indeed the news that the Wet Wet Wet single was to be deleted caused a last minute rush of interest in the single. It went from selling 65,000 copies one week to 117,000 the next - extraordinarily more than it had sold in any of the previous 15 weeks it had topped the charts. But this was all to no avail, the Whigfield single in turn sold 150,000 copies and topped the charts with ease. If the intention had been to engineer a record-equalling 16th week at the top it had failed, but the single at least had gone out in a blaze of glory.
So why James, I hear you ask, is this tale so important to tell this week? Well you see here's the thing. As of last week One Dance by Drake, Wizkid and Kyla had been atop the Official UK Singles chart for 14 weeks. Now in touching distance of the all-time record. This was no longer a situation the record label could sit back and watch with interest. They surely now want their product to justify its chart domination (one which has even had the mainstream media start asking how this was even possible) and set a new singles chart record.
Except that time is not on their side, and as we noted last week the combined sales totals of the track were on the slide. Last week it was Number One with the lowest total sale of the year and with the smallest margin over even the Number 10 single so far recorded in the 21st century. Put simply, something needed to be done to move the needle. To give the Drake track just the tiniest extra edge. So to the bemusement of some the price of the single was dropped on iTunes to 59p.
Did it work? Well yes, as it so happens. Both sales and streams of the track actually rose this week, most significantly its paid for sales were up from 12,171 last week to 16,223 this week, a rise of over 33%. Just to give you some indication of how significant this is, if Drake's paid for sales had continued to drop or even just been exactly the same as they were last week, he would have dropped to Number 2 this week. Instead One Dance notches up a combined sale of 59,963, higher than it has managed in any of the last four weeks. Make no mistake. He has nicked it this week beyond a shadow of a doubt.
No matter. The reigning Number One single is now 15 weeks old. Equal to the run by Wet Wet Wet in the summer of 1994. Yet in another strange way history is about to repeat itself. Because coming up on the rails is a new release by an act whose own ability to move the dial with both sales and epic numbers of streams. As the final hurdle approaches another potential record-breaker might be about to be brought down by circumstances entirely outside their control.
Juggling The Ten
So for now all the other singles in the Top 10 remain a slight irrelevance. Chainsmokers surrender their Number 2 position to Jonas Blue's Perfect Stranger as the two singles swap places, leaving Calum Scott stranded at Number 4 with Dancing On My Own although he does have the consolation of being this week's sales winner. This is now the 12th week in a row that the top 'selling' single of the week has not been Number One on the singles chart overall. Former Number One hitmaker Shawn Mendes makes good on the potential of his new single Lush Life Treat You Better with a 13-9 rise to make him the only entrant into this week's Top 10.
Four Gals Named MO
As noted last week, the potentially confusing sight of two completely unrelated Top 40 acts with near identical names materialises. MØ rises 28-19 with her solo breakthrough Final Song although it is itself in severe danger of becoming eclipsed entirely by her contribution to the aforementioned nuclear-powered new hit set to land on the chart next week. Meanwhile to the joy of those who have been tipping them for success for the past couple of years, all-girl trio M.O. lift 47-35 with Who Do You Think Of.
Apple Eye Of The Tiger
Once upon a time a brand new Katy Perry single would have been the nuclear option, an all-pervading smash hit single whose anticipated release would see it soar to the top of the charts and consolidate her position as one of the biggest acts on the planet. Or at least that's what happened the last time she had brand new material out three years ago. That her new single Rise drifts gently into place at Number 25 might naturally raise a few eyebrows. Yes, there is the whole "sales explode, streams (normally) grow" factor to consider and indeed the track hits Numebr 5 on the sales chart whilst she does not even make the Top 100 most streamed tracks of the week. Yet here there is another factor to consider as Rise (the official NBC anthem of the forthcoming Rio Olympics) is the most high profile single release to date to appear at least for now as a platform exclusive. Yes, to get your hands or wrap your ears around the new Katy Perry you either have to buy it from iTunes or subscribe to Apple Music (and based on the numbers she did, there are precious few British people making use of the latter. At least not Katy Perry fans anyway). Users of other services and stores are locked out. To those used to the old way of doing business this is utterly barmy. Back in the days of the high street you would want your product to appear in as many locations as possible to fully exploit the sales potential. But now we have competing privately owned online services vying for dominance in a market which is by no means certain to be able to sustain them all. Any edge you can get, any reason you can engineer to make people try your offering over that of the rival down the road, is to be grasped eagerly. So if Apple are able to incentivise Virgin Records to forswear all other stores and restrict Katy Perry to their platform so be it. We should I guess be thankful they have allowed her on YouTube.
Oh yes, and as predicted last week, the Olly Murs single You Don't Know Love slips back from its initial entry point to Number 34 this week. But this isn't necessarily the beginning of the end, just the end of the beginning.
Can Only Last 5 Seconds
There is the all too rare sight this week of not one but two new entries flying straight into the Top 40. The second is by an act for whom mainstream singles sales are actually all but an irrelevance. Australian pop-rock band 5 Seconds Of Summer are firmly part of a generation of teen favourites who are able to maintain a profile whilst all but bypassing the charts altogether. Because they simply don't need to be there. Millions of YouTube followers have proven time and time again to translate to packed out arenas for live tours. And that equals profit no matter how you spin it. Whilst they opened their British chart career in 2014 with a brace of huge hits (including Number One She Looks So Perfect) they have since retreated to a pattern of brief chart entry followed by rapid exit. They now sell to their core fanbase and all but bypass everyone else. New single Girls Talk Boys is their first Top 40 hit since She's Kinda Hot reached the Top 20 in the summer of 2015, entering at Number 18 first week out before diving to the depths and only rebounding to a new peak of Number 14 when a limited edition physical version was made available. Which naturally the fanbase loved. There is a good chance Girls Talk Boys will follow a similar pattern although its one major selling point is being the lead soundtrack single from the new "Ghostbusters" film, about which you have doubtless read much elsewhere. It thus follows in the noble footsteps of both Bobby Brown's On Our Own from 1989 and the near-legendary Ray Parker Jnr theme song from the original which reached Number 2 back in 1984.
Does Anyone Buy Albums Any More
The Official Charts Company have spent most of the past two weeks hyping up the 60th anniversary of the Official UK Albums chart, an anniversary which we apparently hit today (Friday 22nd). I'd note merely that this is a modern day conceit, the album chart having for many years been considered to have begun with the publication of the first Record Retailer list in November 1958. That was until the 2004 publication of the Third Edition of The Complete Book Of The British Charts by Neil Warwick, Jon Kutner and Tony Brown who as part of their research uncovered some Top 5 listings printed in Record Mirror starting in July 1956. It is those charts which were folded into the 'official' canon and hence the anniversary today. An anniversary which has actually only existed for the last 12 years.
Who is it who tops this anniversary chart? Soul star and "Sound of 2012" winner Michael Kiwanuka with his second album Love & Hate. With sales of late being naturally enough in the toilet it is fun to note that Kiwanuka debuts on top with a first week sale of 11,639 - considerably less than the 30,163 that his debut Home Again sold to reach Number 4 in March 2012.
The aforementioned 60th anniversary of the album chart has prompted tie-in sales offers from many retailers of some of the more famous album releases of the preceding six decades. That accounts for the 39-8 leap of Legend by Bob Marley and The Wailers, the 67-37 jump of Tayor Swift's 1989, the 72-39 climb of Queen's Greatest Hits and the presence at 66 and 68 respectively of Michael Jackson's Thriller and Paul Simon's Graceland.
That's all I have for this week, but time now for some breath holding.