Everybody In The House Of Love
The event was dubbed "One Love Manchester". Held at the Old Trafford cricket ground on the evening of Sunday 4th June, the hastily-convened concert featured a veritable cavalcade of stars from both sides of the Atlantic. With free tickets handed out to those who were in attendance at the bombed Manchester Arena concert three weeks earlier and with all proceeds from the rest of the gate going to a fund for the victims, it was seen as a final act of healing and the chance for a city and indeed music fans to stand up and hit back at those who tried to divide them with death and destruction. Those in attendance, plus a huge worldwide TV audience saw acts such as Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, Niall Horan, Take That, Robbie Williams, Coldplay and the Black Eyed Peas all take to the stage in turn to surprise and delight.
Extraordinarily the gig took place in the immediate aftermath of yet another terrorist incident in Britain as three attackers struck amongst late night revellers at London Bridge in the capital city. It meant that the One Love Manchester concert was more or less the only thing to cause TV channels and indeed watching millions to turn away from the horrors of the evening before. Quite unintentionally it took on an even greater significance, an oasis of joy in what had been a stressful and painful weekend. Such a set of circumstances could hardly help but light a fire under the chart prospects of many of the acts involved as pop music took centre stage in the hearts and minds of, well, just about everyone.
A Grande Day Out
Front and centre of the whole event was the unlikely heroic figure of Ariana Grande in whose name the concert was staged and who, the marketing would have us believe, personally summoned all the acts to appear alongside her. At the risk of reducing the tragedy to cold-hearted business matters, this for her and her management was an entirely necessary move. Her unfortunate association with the Manchester Arena events (it was her concert which was bombed) could well have badly damaged her brand in the short term, forever associating her with an event most of us would rather forget. One Love Manchester was instead her golden opportunity to be re-cast as the heroine of the hour, the lady who boldly returned to the city and gave up her own time to stage an event for the benefit of those injured and the families of those killed. By the end of Sunday, she was being spoken of in terms of a new national treasure and an adopted daughter of the city.
As it has been over the past few weeks, much of the resultant sales attention was focused on what has now become her own (and the city's) personal anthem, her 2015 single release One Last Time. After two weeks hovering just outside the Top 10 this week, the single exploded into life, following what is now a formal re-release with new artwork and a commitment for all proceeds to go to the victims' fund. Following the broadcast of the concert, It subsequently took up a lead on the sales tables which suggested it stood a fighting chance of doing the unexpected and end the week sitting proudly at Number One. As perfect a script as that was, real life sadly did not co-operate. The Luis Fonsi single Despacito holds firm at the top of the charts for the fifth week running, it's 43,000 downloads and 8.8m streams (totalling 101,000 chart sales) presenting an insurmountable barrier - even for Ariana Grande.
Not that One Last Time didn't come close. It was far and away the most-purchased track of the week, downloaded 61,000 times - that figure alone higher than any other single this year (save for Shape Of You, naturally). What was always going to hold the single back were its streams. Not that there weren't plenty of them, far more than any 'catalogue' single has managed in a single week to date, there were still "only" 2.9m of them. That gave One Last Time a final chart sale of just over 80,000 copies. 20,000 short - or another 3 million streams if you will.
Even so, as a Number 2 hit the track still becomes only the third Top 3 hit of her career and her second as the lead artist after 2014 hit Problem which went all the way and topped the charts. It is one of five different Grande singles to sit on the Top 100 chart this week, all of which are previous hits and all of which make dramatic climbs from last week after being performed at One Love Manchester. Lower down at Number 56 is her hit from last year Side To Side, back at Number 68 is 2014 hit single Break Free. Into You from 2016 is back at Number 83 whilst her 2014 chart debut The Way returns at Number 84. Bringing up the rear at Number 100 is Be Alright which was the smallest hit of all of these first time around too, limping to Number 65 in April last year. Meanwhile, Ariana Grande's three albums to date also reap the benefit of this whirlwind. Her current release Dangerous Woman rises to Number 11, a position it last occupied exactly one year ago this week. Meanwhile her 2014 album My Everything makes a dramatic chart leap of its own, jumping to Number 14 to occupy its highest chart position since it was at Number 10 in its second week on sale in September 2014. Her debut release Yours Truly also makes a chart return at Number 72, appearing on the best-sellers table for the first time since it had a brief three week chart run back in September 2013.
Not part of this picture, at least not just yet, is her other newly released charity single, a live recording from One Love Manchester of Somewhere Over The Rainbow which should all things being equal be making its chart debut in seven days time.
The Live Aid Effect
Needless to say, the ripples of One Love Manchester continue to be felt lower down the singles chart as every other significant chart move of note is by an act who featured live on the night. Leading the way for the rest of the bill is Niall Horan. Slow Hands the second solo single from the One Direction star had shown little sign of being any more than a mid-table chart hit during its chart run to date, moving 25-31-23-21 during its four weeks on sale. Sunday night duly called the right amount of attention to it and the track rockets this week to Number 7 (Sales: 3, Streams: 19) and give him a second straight Top 10 single following the Number 9 peak of his debut This Town back in October last year.
There is an underlying point here which I won't labour, but which is significant enough to point out. Much of the chart boosts from Sunday's concert come thanks to uptick in downloads rather than increased appeal across the board. That is an inevitable symptom of the music being performed to an unexpectedly large casual and crucially much older audience who naturally saw a one-off purchase of a track as the best way to respond to a newly-discovered love of a random pop hit. The streaming market rewards repeated engagement, something which is hard for an older hit propelled to sudden prominence to achieve. A chart like this week may well be one of the last of its kind.
Rockin' All Over The World
It wasn't just acts from the youth end of the market who appeared on Sunday night, as the list at the top of this piece demonstrates. Token "oldies", so to speak, were Coldplay who will cheerfully turn up to the opening of an envelope and who had a three-song set of their own. This is to the most immediate benefit of their Chainsmokers collaboration Something Just Like This, already four months into its chart career but which charges back up the table to Number 16 (Sales: 9, Streams: 21). This in itself is fascinating to see, given that the single first became a large hit following a previous bit of prime time TV exposure when the two acts performed it live on the Brit Awards show back in February. A brief look at the rest of the singles chart will clue you in as to the other two songs they performed on the night - Fix You is at Number 54 (Sales: 21) whilst Viva La Vida reappears at Number 75 (Sales: 39). Coldplay landed their first chart singles back in 2000 and yet remain relevant and capable of major chart hits 17 years later. Friends of mine noted at the time, this is the exact equivalent of Status Quo opening Live Aid back in 1985 as they too entered their 18th year as singles charts fixtures.
Liam Gallagher? He was there too on Sunday night and whilst his debut solo single Wall Of Glass was due a chart leap anyway following its initial appearance at Number 60 last week thanks to one day of sales, there is no doubt he was given a huge boost thanks to his performance on the night. The single leaps to Number 21 (Sales: 4, Streams: uncharted) which is actually quite remarkable given that he is a middle-aged man with a 23 year music career behind him and whose last work with his band Beady Eye suggested that he had retreated into the album market-only hinterland that is the destiny of all such "legacy" acts. Wall Of Glass might well be the only solo chart hit of note he ever has, but he has a timely appearance on prime time television to thank for it.
Following the concert, the singer spent more than enough time on social media baiting his estranged brother Noel for not participating in the event and giving the Manchester crowd the spontaneous Oasis reunion many had been clamouring for (Noel for his part noted he hadn't been invited and was on holiday anyway). That hasn't stopped one Oasis track at least from making what is on the face of it a surprise return of its own. 1996 Number One hit Don't Look Back In Anger (as sung by Noel, ironically enough) had already worked its way into being a symbolic anthem of its own for a grieving Manchester, the crowd at one of the vigils to remember the bombing victims having broken into a spontaneous singalong of the track a couple of weeks ago. That had already helped the track back into the charts at Number 66, but then Chris Martin and Ariana Grande performed a duet of their own on Sunday night propelling it still further. The 21-year-old track this week sits at Number 25 (Sales: 11, Streams: 46) - its first Top 40 appearance since its original chart run.
Pubehead On Backing Vocals
The one final notable chart reappearance this week is by the newly reactivated (but it appears Fergie-less) Black Eyed Peas who enjoyed two high profile appearances over the weekend, performing at the UEFA Champions League Final in Cardiff on Saturday and then One Love Manchester on Sunday. It results in their breakthrough hit Where Is The Love landing at Number 42 (Sales: 14, Streams: 91). Originally a Number One hit in the summer of 2003, the single was last on the UK charts in May 2013 when it had a brief Top 40 run culminating in a Number 35 peak. Said comeback was as a result of an in-joke, purchased by Manchester United fans to say goodbye to their own "Fergie" - football manager Alex Ferguson who retired that month.
Ring Out The Old
So there you go, a quite extraordinary singles chart prompted naturally by some quite extraordinary circumstances. It is easily the most wildly random set of best-selling singles we've seen since the week in August 2012 which saw a flood of older singles arrive on the chart following the closing ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics. All of this is the detriment of the main reason we usually assemble here - the appreciation of new and exciting hit singles. Well, they are there, just that you have to tease them out a little. Flying the flag for the new generation is Camilla Cabello, formerly of the now rather awkwardly named Fifth Harmony and who is now spreading her solo wings. The American singer actually had her first extra-band hit over a year ago, appearing alongside Shawn Mendes on his narrow miss I Know What You Did Last Summer but she came properly to her attention thanks to her tour-de-force performance on Machine Gun Kelly's sadly rather underrated Bad Things which deserved far better than its Number 16 peak back in February.
Time then for her solo career to begin properly and after a slow start and a fortnight languishing just outside the Top 40, Crying In The Club takes off and zooms to Number 23 (Sales: 22, Streams: 29) - its upward momentum apparently entire due to it finally breaking through onto a number of curated playlists, its download sales to date have been consistent and rather more respectable than its chart position to date suggested. We are denied for the moment a fun head to head battle between Cabello and her former bandmates, but Fifth Harmony do at least have the honour of the highest new entry for an actual new single this week, Down making its chart bow at Number 47 (Sales: 27, Streams: 66).
Keep an eye out over the next few weeks for the chart progress of the single which enters at Number 71 this week. Unpredictable marks the collision of Olly Murs and former X Factor champion Louisa Johnson and is lifted from the former star's album 24 Hours. Its choice as a single is what we can only interpret as another attempt to find a use for her as her own solo career continues to stall badly. As these pages have noted before, her last single Bad Behaviour failed to progress beyond an initial Number 48 entry despite a nine-week chart run. We are now nearly 18 months beyond her talent show win and she has still yet to release the debut album her X Factor victory theoretically entitled her to.
Not Forgotten You, Ed
He's not had a valid mention in these pages for a while, so let's make a quick nod in the direction of Ed Sheeran who this week climbs back to the top of the Official UK Album chart with Divide, for what is now its 11th week at the top since release. Its most prominent single to date Shape Of You is still floating around the upper reaches but this week dips to its lowest chart position to date at Number 10 (Sales: 25, Streams: 7). It needs to cling on one more week to equal the modern day record of 23 consecutive weeks in the Top 10, the benchmark established by Drake's One Dance last year. I say "modern day" as the all-time record is technically that of I Believe by Frankie Laine which can claim 35 Top 10 weeks in a row back in 1955. But that was a very different era.