Smoke Smoke Smoke
He's getting "closer" but for the moment we are denied the extraordinary spectacle of James Arthur completing his post-meltdown comeback and storming his way to the top of the Official UK Singles chart. Still, take nothing away from him, even to see Say You Won't Let Go where it is this week is to savour a sight that would have been unthinkable just over two years ago. The triumphant single from the former X Factor winner rockets 25-2 this week, taking him back to second place in the charts for the first time since his first post-victory single You're Nobody 'Til Somebody Loves You also reached Number 2 almost exactly two years and 11 months ago this week.
Say You Won't Let Go was easily the most purchased single of the week, its sales of 40,000 accounting for the vast bulk of the combined chart sale of 60,000 copies it clocked up. From that you will note that the track therefore still lags badly in streaming terms, which was ultimately what cost it the chance to reach Number One. Perhaps more pertinently, especially for those "streaming ruins things and the charts should only track purchasers" naysayers who clog up social media threads on the topic, the fact that the runaway biggest selling single of the week can only move 40,000 units once more goes a long way to demonstrating the direction in which the paid for market is heading. Streaming is king, and if you aren't king of streams then you don't get to top the charts. Simple as that really.
The single which does top the charts then is the one which may not have sold the most but which is still the most played only, Closer from Chainsmokers featuring Halsey sitting pretty for a combined sale of 82,500 copies. It is still in decline but only gently suggesting it may have enough gas left in the tank for another week at the top at least. Although that could just be me tempting fate to engineer a new Number One single next week. I'm that evil. Eagle-eyed chartwatchers will note that Closer is the fourth Number One single in a row to spend at least four weeks at the top. Never before in the 62 year history of the British charts have we seen this kind of sequence.
And Now The End Is Near
It isn't as if I usually point out facts that are instantly invalidated. One week after noting that we haven't had a non-Bieber single enter the Top 10 since June that run is shattered with a brand new entry at the lofty heights of Number 5. To pull off such a stunt, to penetrate the higher end of the chart after just one week online, you have to be one of the small breed of streaming superstars - the sort of act whose name value alone shunts you onto curated playlists without a second thought. Needless to say Calvin Harris is one such act.
He teased the release of My Way by inviting people to speculate on Twitter just who his vocal collaborator could be this time around. The twist naturally being that there isn't one. For the first time since Summer back in 2014 the Scotsman takes the microphone himself on this dreamy tropical house groove which naturally enough for a man of his musical pedigree stands head and shoulders above many of the more dreary club tracks that have clogged up the market all summer. The single takes his tally of Top 10 singles to 21 since he made his debut back in March 2007.
Yes indeed, after weeks of little activity we actually have a Top 10 worth counting down. Only the Number One single fails to move and far from consisting of the same old records over and over again we have no less than three new arrivals in the upper reaches of the singles chart. The third one arrives in slightly more subtle fashion, Martin Garrix & Bebe Rexha drifting up one place with In The Name Of Love to reclaim the chart peak they originally scaled two weeks ago.
But where three arrive, so too three singles must leave and significantly one of those just happens to be former long-running Number One single One Dance which dips down to Number 14 at long last, ending what we noted last week was an epic 23 week unbroken run in the Top 10. Although I flagged this last week as a record, it is only in modern day terms rather than an all-time record for the honour of longest unbroken Top 10 run actually goes to Secret Love by Doris Day which managed 27 weeks at the business end of the singles chart in 1954. It should be noted of course that this was in the days of 78rpm shellac discs and a chart compiled by the NME editor ringing around London record shops and so isn't quite a solid basis for comparison. Nonetheless whilst American chart statisticians such as Joel Whitburn have always taken a "year zero" approach to 1950s chart records and discount everything that took place before the birth of rock and roll, the UK records make no such distinction and so Doris Day has to rank as the record holder.
We should further note that so seismic has the change in the record industry in the past year or so that one could argue for treating the dawn of the streaming era as its own Year Zero in chart record terms, putting feats of chart longevity within the reach of even the most ordinary of artist. One Dance may have stumbled when it had the opportunity to home in on Doris Day's record. Make no mistake where it has lead, others will surely follow.
Still Falling For Bridget
Five weeks after it first made the charts Ellie Goulding's Still Falling For You rebounds to a brand new peak this week, leaping 21-12 as the effect of the full cinema release of the movie "Bridget Jones' Baby" on whose soundtrack it features takes hold. It is now a year to the week since she was last in the Top 10 with On My Mind but I'd be prepared to wager a fair bit on this single joining it in short order. It remains one heck of a grower after all. One further track from the soundtrack album makes its bow this week, Meteorite by Years & Years slipping in at Number 72.
It is a little over five years since Emeli Sande made her solo debut and completed a steady path to stardom. Having completed an apprenticeship which saw her as the featured voice on hits by Chipmunk (Diamond Rings) and Wiley (Never Be Your Woman) she released her debut album Our Version Of Events in 2012. The album brought with it some quite memorable hit singles such as Next To Me and Clown whilst in the meantime she also found time to star on Professor Green's Read All About It (whose lyrics gave her album its title) which topped the charts in late 2011. Add to that an apparently willingness to appear at just about every public event going - including memorably both opening and closing ceremonies of the 2012 London Olympics - and she was essentially one of the biggest music stars in the country and a major and much loved talent.
But, and it is a big one. That was 4-5 years ago. And much has changed around these here parts since she last came to town. Her forthcoming second album was mooted as long ago as 2013, but everyone involved in the project acknowledged that a 2016 release date was the best anyone could hope for. It really has been that long in preparation.
Hence what would ordinarily be a quite celebrated return. New single Hurts duly becomes her first chart hit since she featured on David Guetta's What I Did For Love at the tail end of 2014 and her first release as a lead artist since the aforementioned Clown became a Top 10 hit in the early weeks of 2013. That it charts at a rather muted Number 22 first week out shouldn't come as a total shock, but even on the sales table the single only just squeaks in as the 10th most purchased track of the week. Her reputation and what she achieved first time around has carried her this far, but the fact remains that she is now faced with introducing herself to an entirely new generation of tastemakers and music fans. She's effectively a legacy act to be watched with great interest. Although the album Long Live The Angels will inevitably be huge when it arrives in November.
As an aside, isn't it fascainting that the brand new singles from two major British stars have both arrived on the charts without available videos? Having every element of your promotional toolkit ready by the time a single is released is just no longer considered a pre-requisite. I note this because the video for last week's major new release did finally arrive in the last seven days, but not even the added bonus of some visuals has prevented Lady Gaga's Perfect Ilusion from making what by any standards is a precipitous tumble, plunging from last week's Number 12 entry point to Number 44 this week. No typo. Gaga has fallen out of the Top 40 altogether. And you cannot blame streaming totals for this either. Although the single dips 28-49 on the streaming chart its digital sales have also crashed. From being the fifth most purchased single last week Perfect Illusion is this week merely the 40th.
Now we have to keep an open mind here. Plenty of singles from 'name' acts trace similar paths, opening strongly before settling back and then finding a second wind as they take off online. This is only Week 2 and anything can happen fron here. Nonetheless it is hard to escape the feeling that the suggestion I and many others were making last week is true. Her Little Monsters, her dedicated loyal core fans care a great deal about her musical return. The rest of the world? Not so much it seems.
If nothing else this is also some fine ammunition against the conspiracy theorists who early in the summer were insisting that some kind of fix was on to lock singles such as One Dance at the top of the charts when evidence piled up that people were tired of it. And if you really were in control of fixing the singles chart, you wouldn't ensure that an artist as important, as headling-grabbing, as arena-filling as Lady Gaga would have a single that couldn't even make the Top 40 in its second week on sale. Would you?
Does Anyone Buy Albums Any More?
The Official UK Albums chart this week presents us with the all too rare sight of a disc spending a second week at the top as Bastille's Wild World holds firmly in place, albeit with a crashingly low sale of just 12,000 copies. To put that in some context that is still less than this week's Number 50 single managed to clock uo in combined sales and streams. Mind you Skeleton Tree by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds holds firm at Number 2 with an even more miserable tally of 6,660. As Alan Jones notes in his Music Week column this week, there have been 51 times so far in the 21st century that the Number 75 album has outsold that total. The end of days for the format is fast approaching, be under no (perfect) illusion.