Tears No More
With an effortless grace and in a most pleasing manner too Clean Bandit's Rockabye spends its third week on the Official UK Singles Chart climbing to the top of the charts. It deposes Little Mix after a three week run and becomes only the 11th different single to hit the summit in 2016.
What's more it is terrific to see. Clean Bandit arguably raised an impossibly high bar for themselves when their third chart hit Rather Be topped the charts in early 2014. An instant and universally hailed classic, the single spent the whole of the next year on the charts, found itself turned into advertising jingles, propelled its singer Jess Glynne to stardom of her own but also made following it up a near-impossible feat. Part of the problem was that the dance and classical fusion group's debut album New Eyes was mostly made up of the tracks which the group had created and been publishing online since the start of the decade. It meant the album was the sound of a group who were a work in progress, still developing and finding their feat musically. By the summer their second post-Number One single Come Over was struggling to even make the Top 40 and they were in sore danger of being one hit wonders.
Then came the end of year reunion with Jess Glynne and the brand new track Real Love which shot into the Top 10 and served to hammer home the point that Rather Be was but the first step on an exciting new musical journey and that everything they made from this point on was likely to be just as phenomenal. Well here is the proof, Rockabye is a cool club track, features the same exotic mix of strings and beats and yet is also a phenomenally good and artfully made pop record. Just shy of three years from their initial triumph Clean Bandit have a second Number One hit single.
The thorny problem of the single's billing remains however for whilst the digital single gives full credit to the featured guest singers (as indeed does the YouTube video below) the Official Singles Chart listing resolutely does not and Rockabye seems set to remain credited forever more to Clean Bandit alone. Anne-Marie and Sean Paul are denied the 'official' status of Number One hitmakers, this particularly galling you suspect for Paul who would otherwise be celebrating his third Number One hit following guest roles on Blu Cantrell's Breathe in 2003 and The Saturdays' What About Us in 2013. A lack of a full performer credit for a Number One singer isn't unique of course. Back in 1990 another all-time classic Killer topped the charts for a month credited solely to instrumentalist Adamski, leaving singer Seal cursing his manager for not reading the contract properly. He only redressed the balance two years later following solo stardom by taking his own version of the track into the Top 10 in his own right. More recently Avicii's Wake Me Up became one of the biggest worldwide hits of 2013 without once being required to acknowledge the vocal presence of singer Aloe Blacc. Sean Paul however seems to be fated to be the hidden man, this now the third hit of 2016 on which he has heavily featured but not directly credited - Sia's Cheap Thrills and Little Mix's Hair.
Living By Numbers
First the up, now the down. We appear to have hit another of those for now unexplained November sags, the last few weeks of the year passing not in a flurry of expanded sales but with a series of limp markets, as if consumers and industry alike have run out of steam ahead of the holiday. Clean Bandit do make Number One in some degree of style, but that doesn't extend to the numbers with which they have done so. They top the charts with 72,000 combined sales - made up of 37,000 downloads and 3.5m streams - a near 50/50 split you will note. And that's at the lower end of the scale for 2016. It is the lowest combined total for a Number One single for 11 weeks, since Major Lazer's Cold Water did 71,507 combined sales in its fifth and final week at the top. It is the lowest total for a Number One single spending its first week at the top of the charts since One Dance only did 72,615 in April - although given that One Dance has also managed both the highest (140,731) and lowest (54,726) combined sales for a Number One single this year it probably isn't too wise to read too much into that.
It is also interesting to note that this is only the fourth occasion this year that the Number One single of the week is there with less than 3.5m weekly streams to its name. The others: Stitches by Shawn Mendes (3m), One Dance (2.3m) and Shout Out To My Ex (2.8m). Even the year's worst performing Number One single the true one week wonder Pillowtalk by ZAYN spent its solitary week at the summit being streamed 4.9m times.
Neiked Bruno Mars
Three singles make upward progress in the Top 10 this week although only one actually arrives inside the upper reaches. On the rise are 24K Magic by Bruno Mars up 6-5 (Sales: 3, Streams: 9) and Sexual by Neiked up 8-6 (Sales: 5, Streams: 8). The biggest winners of the week however are Maroon 5 and Kendrick Lamarr who maintain their momentum with and 11-7 climb (Sales: 6, Streams: 6) for Don't Wanna Know. It is the 9th Top 10 single for the group and their biggest chart hit since Sugar also reached Number 7 in the first weeks of 2015. Rapper Kendrick Lamar meanwhile has his second Top 10 hit of the year, hard on the heels of featuring alongside Sia on The Greatest which hit Number 5 in late September. His highest chart placing to date has been Number 4, scored by virtue of a guest appearance on Taylor Swift's Bad Blood in May 2015.
So Good All Night
I made much last week of the way not necessarily having to reach the top of the charts instantaneously may well have taken some of the pressure off reigning X Factor champion Louisa Johnson's debut single proper. Debuting at Number 20 last week So Good lifts steadily to Number 13 - and you will note this is despite dipping a place on the sales chart to Number 8, the rise entirely down to her increased streams as she charges 52-25 on that table.
The most spectacular Top 40 entry of the week is at Number 24 as teen cult band The Vamps rocket a massive 56 places with current single All Night. As with many of their singles though this burst of appeal is deceptive as they are one of those select handful of groups who can bypass the mainstream and market solely and exclusively to a rabid and dedicated fanbase. All Night is not suddenly popular out of nowhere, just newly available on a collectable CD single which could be ordered (among other places) directly from the band's website. So their Number 24 placing is largely down to their Number 9 position on the sales chart. As far as streams are concerned they languish at Number 74.
JuJu Like There's Nobody Watching
My enthusiastic hyping of Kideko's Crank It (Woah) last week was rewarded with a 32-31 rise for the single, so let's this week instead note the upward progress of the another annoyingly catchy club hit of the moment. JuJu On That Beat from Zay Hilfiger & Zayion McCall has spent the past month threatening to become a hit single proper and this week takes a major step forward rising 46-40 (Sales: 58, Streams: 36). It is another of those "keep your eye on it" singles, but it is party season soon. And this smells suspiciously like a party hit.
My Breath Smells Of A Thousand Fags
The music industry is still hunting for the saviour who is going to propel 2016's album market out of the doldrums and enable label executives to afford January's down payment on the Bentley. This week they pinned their hopes on Robbie Williams who, limp singles performance of late notwithstanding, was almost certain to pop a slightly respectable number with the release of his 11th studio album The Heavy Entertainment Show. Sure enough the album is the biggest new release of the week and soars effortlessly to the top of the Official UK Albums chart - as it so happens just like virtually all of them have.
In fact all but one of Robbie's studio albums have reached the summit, the only surprise failure being 2009s Reality Killed The Video Star which peaked at Number 2. Add to that two chart-topping hits collections (in 2004 and 2010 respectively) and he can now boast the grand total of 12 Number One albums. That puts him third on the all-time list, behind only The Beatles with 15, Elvis (who landed his 13th just a couple of weeks ago) and level supposedly with Madonna who can also be credited with 12 if one counts the 1996 Evita soundtrack which, as I'm so fond of reminding people, has only been retrospectively credited as one of her albums and never was at the time. As far as British males are concerned that is one more than David Bowie and four more than Rod Stewart. To put this in other contexts however, this week is Robbie's 35th week at Number One as a solo artist. Elvis by contrast has managed 66 to date.
Oh yes, limp singles? The first 'hit' from The Heavy Entertainment Show was Party Like A Russian which made Number 68. Its successor Love My Life performs better - but only just - debuting this week at Number 57, two weeks after it was first made available as a promotional single and following his performance on the X Factor results show last weekend.
It would be remiss to finish this week without noting the passing of two Number One hit-makers from the very dawn of chart history. First to go was the American singer Kay Starr who passed away on November 3rd at the age of 94. Although her recording career began back in the 1940s she had the distinction of singing on the third Number One hit in chart history when her recording of Comes-A-Long-A-Love topped the NME chart for a week in January 1953. Her passing means that only one of the performers who reached the top of the charts during that year remain alive to share their memories - details below.
Just a few days later the celebrated broadcaster Jimmy Young also passed away. Most famous in later life for his long running and hugely successful Radio 2 mid-morning show, his previous career was as a singer and it was in this role that he famously became the first man to take Unchained Melody to the top of the UK Singles charts in June 1955. 95 years old when he died, he was until that point the oldest living male singer of a Number One hit. That distinction now passes to Charles Aznavour, still going strong at the age of 92, 42 years after he took She to the top of the charts.
The oldest living Number One performer remains not the 99 year old Dame Vera Lynn, as generally presumed, but actually Sally Sweetland who performed alongside Eddie Fisher on I'm Walking Behind You which topped the charts in June 1953. 42 years old when her Number One single came out, she celebrated her 105th birthday on September 23rd this year (although as one commenter below notes, there is a suggestion she passed away last year although this was litle reported).
He's never had a Number One hit as a performer, but the passing today (November 11th) of Leonard Cohen is also worthy of mention, if for no other reason than he was around to see three different versions of one of his songs all reach the Top 40 in the same week. The occasion was Christmas week 2008 when X Factor winner Alexandra Burke was at Number One with her take on Hallelujah, the definitive rendition by the late Jeff Buckley was at Number 2 whilst Cohen's own 1984 recording was at Number 36.