'Scuse Me While I Take A....
It was a little over two and a half years ago that Americans Andrew Taggart and Alex Paul made their British chart debut as Chainsmokers, purveyors of a diverting novelty hit single about taking selfies. From that Number 11 hit they have expanded their horizons somewhat, returning at the start of this year newly re-cast as creators of some of the most appealing dance-pop crossover hits of what has been an admittedly barren 2016 to date. Having achieved the immense honour of landing simultaneous Top 10 hits two weeks ago, this week they now take their drive to stardom one step further as their newest hit single Closer brings to an end Major Lazer's five week run at the top and gives them their first ever Number One hit single.
Closer is a triumph not only for the two producers but also their invited guest singer Halsey who duets on the track alongside Taggart. Real name Ashley Frangipane, she has been a work in progress for almost as long as Chainsmokers, parlaying some early YouTube cover performances into her own record deal. Her debut album Badlands was released last year and managed to reach Number 9 despite her lack of mainstream exposure to that point. One hardly needs to be a chart sage to predict renewed interest in her solo work following this hugely successful collaboration.
Closer actually bucks a number of current chart trends, not least in topping the charts whilst not actually claiming the crown of the most streamed track of the week. Instead it is a distinctly old-school hefty lead in the purchased stakes which has propelled the single to the top at the expense of the two Bieber-sung tracks just below it. Bieber quite coincidentally the only other artist to have accompanied Halsey to Top 40 of the UK singles chart. Finally we should note that for all the talk of a moribund chart (see below) and the difficulty new hits appear to have in finding a foothold, Closer has accelerated to the top of the charts in just four weeks since release.
Let's All Hang Around Here For A While
As I noted to the dedicated band of Twitter followers on Friday evening, the shock of a brand new Number One single (notably only the 8th different single this year to rest at the top of the charts) rather masks the more extraordinary tale that unfolds below. Major Lazer's former chart-topper Cold Water dips to Number 3 this week, swapping places with its replacement, but this is literally the only change in chart positions in the entire Top 14.
That's no typo. Every single record from positions 4 through to 14 is a non-mover, unchanged from last week's position. This makes it simultaneously one of the dullest and most remarkable singles charts in living memory. Modern life we are told is all about change, the pace of life growing ever more rapid with our attention spans becoming ever smaller and the appetite for change almost insatiable. Yet the market for popular music is currently standing that on its head. The section of the public who consume pop music in whatever form, be it the dying download market or the ever-expanding streaming one, now savours music slowly and calmly. To the bemusement of those of us who lived through chart eras of Top 40 charts dominated by new music and Top 10s almost entirely made up of the new releases of the week.
Moving The Needle
For all the talk of the ever diminishing market for purchased music, spiking the sales market appears to remain the one remaining weapon in the arsenal of record labels to propel languishing singles up the charts to something approaching respectable levels. I've noted in past weeks the way promoting an iTunes discount helped to secure one final week at Number One for One Dance and gave Olly Murs' current hit You Don't Know Love the kick it needed to restore his status as a Top 20 artist. Below the Top 14 logjam are a handful of records with upwardly mobile prospects and virtually all of them had one thing in common last week - availability at 59p on iTunes.
But who cares how they are doing it. New singles from anywhere are a welcome relief. And the next Number One single has to come from somewhere after all. Leading the charge this week is Sunshine from Tieks featuring Dan Harkna. The London-based producer (who is nothing to do with brands of trainers) released his first single Sing That Song back in 2014 but it is this new summertime anthem which has finally propelled him into the big leagues. After slipping back to Number 23 last week the single sprouts some new wings and reaches a brand new peak of Number 15 with hopefully better to follow shortly.
Former teen prodigy Martin Garrix also has a new Top 20 hit to his name this week as In The Name Of Love is propelled seven places to Number 17. His first chart hit since the Usher-starring Don't Look Down reached the Top 10 in June last year, the new single features American singer Bebe Rexha on what is now her third co-starring role in the last two years. Bereft of a hit under her own terms, she has also featured on Cash Cash's Take Me Home (Number 5 in May 2014) and G-Easy's Me Myself And I (Number 13 earlier this year).
Is This Really Totally Necessary?
Also finally stirring from the chart depths and new to the Top 20 is the strange spectacle of the remix by electronic artists Lvndscape and Boiler of the old Bob Marley classic Is This Love which was first released in June but which until now has been met with a perhaps welcome level of indifference. After spending the whole of August just outside the Top 40 the single finally peeked above the parapet last week at Number 39 and now benefits from a second straight week of discounting to climb a further 19 places. The original version by the reggae legend first reached Number 9 in 1978 and this new version is now his biggest chart single since another remixed oldie Rainbow Country climbed to Number 11 in January 2000. One can afford to be slightly snobbish about the need to rework some of the most famous recordings of a man who is justly considered a pioneer of his genre and one of the most important recording artists of the 20th century, but if tracks like this help to bring him to the attention of a whole new generation then so be it. You'll note the presence of the long-time definitive hits collection Legend in the Top 10 of the album chart, largely thanks to the existence of the Lvndscape/Boiler remix.
I Am An OAP In Love
It is a music veteran of a very different kind who grabs the main album chart headlines this week as no less a figure than Barbra Streisand sits proudly at Number One with her latest album Encore - Movie Partners Sing Broadway. The legendary performer can actually boast some quite impressive chart records. Encore is now her 7th chart-topping album (a total consisting of six in her name directly and her presence as the main performer on the soundtrack of A Star Is Born). This consolidates her position as the second most-successful female on the album chart, this total only bettered by Madonna who can claim 12 Number One albums (again counting the Evita soundtrack for which she initially was not directly credited). Mind you it should be noted that Madonna has spent 30 weeks at Number One whilst this is Streisand's 20th. Both women are beaten by - who else - Adele who has to date spent 37 weeks at the top of the album chart.
At the age of 74 Ms Streisand is naturally one of the oldest women ever to land a Number One album in this country but she is still a full 18 years short of the all-time record, set by Dame Vera Lynn when she topped the charts back in 2009. We should note however once again that the Vera Lynn album was a collection of old recordings. Streisand's album is a brand new studio set, just as her last Number One album was back in 2009, making her still the oldest women ever to reach the top with a brand new studio recording and only just younger than the all-time record holder Paul Simon who was also 74 when he hit the top back in June.
Perhaps just as extraordinary is the fate of a rather younger performer, one Britney Spears who is thus relegated to the Number 2 slot with her new album Glory. The ninth studio album of her career, it is her fifth to peak (at least for now) at Number 2. She has never once reached the top of the album charts.