Avoid The Fish
Another week, another brand new set of charts for us all to pore over. However, in tracking the ups, downs and whys this week it is important to note that we must sidestep a large red herring. Namely the 2017 Brit Awards ceremony which took place on Wednesday evening and which was screened (almost) live to a watching nation on ITV. Naturally in the 48 hours that followed there have been all manner of breathless pronouncements as to the sales and streaming impact the TV broadcast had and the positive effect which has flowed through to the acts who were either garlanded with awards or who performed live. Yet it would be wrong to draw too many conclusions from this week's chart, for the simple reason that the ceremony came at precisely the wrong moment in the sales week, a Wednesday night staging leaving just over 24 hours for the consumer follow-through to take effect. If I'm the organisers of the awards, I'd be looking at moving it all to Thursdays in future to ensure a full week of post-Brits surge can be reflected in the charts that follow. For the moment, however, it would be foolish to draw too many conclusions as to the reasons behind chart moves this week. So stop me if I do.
Pulling A Bieber
Whilst this was not Ed Sheeran's year for trophies (he released nothing in 2016 after all), the man of the moment still was granted the honour of a live performance on Wednesday night, teaming up with Stormzy for a unique take on his two current hit singles. But even without the Brits Sheeran would have been the most talked about act of the week. This is all because last Friday he casually dropped yet another new track, noting that How Would You Feel (Paean) wasn't "a single" but he liked the song anyway so was making it available. And so all at once those of us tiring of Shape Of You and Castle On The Hill had a new piece of work to appreciate. Demonstrating the third side of Ed by way of a tender and heart-tugging love song, we appreciated it by purchasing it and streaming it in large numbers.
The numbers weren't large enough, however, to dislodge Shape Of You from the top of the Official UK Singles chart, and so there it sits for a seventh straight week to further ensure that we are witnessing back to back long-running Number One hits on a scale not seen since the 1950s. The new track instead enters the chart at Number 2 (Sales: 1, Streams: 6), giving Sheeran the Top 2 singles once more after a break of a week and making him the first act since John Lennon in January 1981 to lock down the Top 2 over a period of weeks with a combination of three different singles. Lennon's run came with both Happy Xmas (War Is Over) and Woman taking turns to sit behind Imagine at the top.
With three different big selling tracks now live in the market this did raise the possibility that Sheeran was about to duplicate Justin Bieber's apparently unduplicatable achievement from 13 months ago and lock down the entire Top 3 by himself. Instead, he is thwarted by Rag'n'Bone Man who spoils the parade of ginger with Human just edging out Castle On The Hill to take third place. Even so, this does give Ed Sheeran three out of the Top 5 this week- and as lead artist too, something hitherto only achieved by Frankie Laine back in October 1953, John Lennon in January 1981 and as mentioned Justin Bieber in January 2016. With this kind of domination that Sheeran seems able to achieve at a canter, I cannot begin to think what is set to happen when the album is finally released.
Rory To His Mum
Speaking of Mr Graham, he remains top of the Official UK Albums chart by a comfortable margin, not selling quite as many as last week but still nearly more than the rest of the Top 10 put together. Rag'n'Bone Man also managed perhaps the most extraordinary feat of Brits night, picking up not only his already allocated Critics' Choice trophy but also the one the next level up, British Breakthrough Act - this despite the fact he only actually broke through so to speak 10 minutes before the cut-off for eligibility. Then again at a ceremony where the nominations for Best British Female had to be bulked up with the likes of Anonhi, Leanne La Havas and Nao who are familiar to few people outside the pages of Q magazine we should hardly be shocked.
Now, where was I? Oh yes, albums. There are new entries this week for Amy MacDonald at Number 2 and Ryan Adams at Number 3 but the most intriguing jump is the 7-4 move for Ed Sheeran's previous album X. This extends its total of non-consecutive weeks in the Top 5 to a massive 62, overtaking Adele's 21 to become in these terms the second most successful artist album in chart history. The first is Bridge Over Troubled Water which can claim 105 Top 5 weeks. Note that this table deliberately excludes film soundtracks, cast recordings and TV albums. With those (most relics from the 1950s and 60s) included, Ed Sheeran's album is only the tenth most successful.
At Least It Wasn't A Shark
Red herring time now, because Katy Perry also performed at Wednesday night's ceremony, but was going to do well anyway. New single Chained To The Rhythm saw its official video released this week, even if it managed the not entirely unexpected trick of not being quite as entertaining as the lyric-based clip which preceded it. In defiance of predictions that its Top 10 entry last week might have been something of a one-week wonder the track nicely consolidates its position in the market, rising two places to Number 5 (Sales: 4, Streams: 13). This makes it the 12th Top 5 hit of her nearly decade-long career and ensures that only Last Friday Night and Wide Awake (both coincidentally Number 9 hits) remain her only Top 10 singles to not make it to the top half of that particular table. The Brit Awards live performances frequently fall victim to one near-disaster and whilst not quite on the scale of Madonna's jammed cape which saw her hauled backwards off a podium in 2015, the legend of Katy Perry's dancing houses and the one unfortunate who missed his footing and plunged off the stage have at least ensured more attention was paid to this particular track. That should help it no end over the coming week.
It Is Totally You
One new entry inside the Top 10 is something of a novelty these days. For there to be two in a single week is a moment worthy of framing. So let's celebrate then, the arrival of It Ain't Me at Number 9 (Sales: 9, Streams: 11), a track which sees American pop princess Selena Gomez team up with Norwegian DJ Kygo. The track gives Kygo his second Top 10 hit single just shy of two years since his first, the Conrad Sewell-voiced Firestone which reached Number 8 after a protracted chart run in the spring of 2015. Selena Gomez is no stranger to lending her vocal talents to the work of a hot dance producer, having previously featured on Zedd's I Want You To Know which reached Number 14 in June 2015. This new single, however, gives her chart form a major shot in the arm, taking her into the Top 10 for only the third time in her seven-year chart career. She previously reached Number 7 with her debut Naturally with her old band The Scene in April 2010 and crept to Number 8 with her solo debut Come And Get It in 2013. It Ain't Me takes her into thrilling new territory personally even if as a Kygo track its gentle tropical house rhythms hardly break any exciting new musical ground. A fine pop record, but only in the same way I Took A Pill In Ibiza was a year ago but this inevitably means it will be massive at streaming for the next few weeks at least.
A Giant Amount Of Patience
You know how every week of late seems to be a "quiet week for new releases"? Well, this one - by contrast - was huge as there is a third brand new entry inside the Top 20 this week. The end of 2016 meant it had been a decade since Take That's celebrated comeback, one which set the template for such pop reunions and ensured that "getting the band back together" became a more or less obligatory thing to do for any act who hadn't spoken to each other for at least five years. None had quite the same impact as Take That though who have plodded on ever since, even if their membership has proved to be fluid during this time. The legacy nature of their fanbase naturally means they tend to blow hot and cold where chart success is concerned. Whilst the first single from their last album These Days was an easy Number One back in December 2014 it turned out to be the only hit of note from the album, and even a potentially career-defining collaboration with Sigma on Cry could only reach Number 21 last summer.
So there is good and bad in the Number 13 entry point of Giants, the first single to be taken from what will be their eighth studio album Wonderland. It is their biggest hit since These Days and indeed their 11th Top 20 hit since that spectacular 2006 comeback a decade after they first split. Extraordinarily though the single has sold predominantly physically, shifting 12,000 copies of the CD single. That makes it far and away the most popular physical single of the week and contributes to the single's Number 5 placing on the sales table. On streams however it is nowhere to be found (it reportedly picked up just 287,000 streams on Spotify this last week and 476,000 overall) - and this is the one thing which will almost certainly kill off any chances of this track progressing further, or indeed lingering long enough for its video to be released. Take That fans are mature fans, and they are wedded to the old-fashioned way of consuming music. To the current generation, they are a bunch of golden oldies.
Speaking of an odd disconnect between sales and streams, Anne-Marie's Ciao Adios makes what appears to be strong progress up the chart with a 40-21 leap this week. That is still entirely down to the single's popularity as a purchase, as it rises 19-13 on the sales chart. Its streams are what for now are depressing the single's chart position as it sluggishly moves 68-50 on that table. It is no Take That though, or even a Lana Del Ray whose new release Love is the 17th biggest seller of the week but only the 74th most streamed - leaving it stranded at Number 41 on the full chart.
Got The Dirtee Love
Red herring time again. The Brit Awards ceremony continued what has now become a time honoured tradition of having acts perform surprise duets with each other. As well as the Sheeran/Stormzy collaboration mentioned above, the ceremony was marked with the on the face of it extraordinary collision between The Chainsmokers and Coldplay. Not that this was too much of a surprise, the duo having dropped hints at the end of last year that they had been recording something with Chris Martin et al, and the big unveiling of the collaboration was spoiled rather by an itchy finger of someone at Spotify who put life a banner ad encouraging people to listen to their new track earlier in the day on Wednesday.
Nonetheless, it was the big deal of the night, the grand premiere of Something Just Like This which went on sale the moment the TV broadcast finished. Did the single clock up a huge sale as a result of that live performance? Maybe. Would a Chainsmokers/Coldplay collaboration have been huge regardless of the circumstances of its debut? Beyond a shadow of a doubt. Speculation aside, what is inarguable is that Something Just Like This rapidly became the biggest deal of the moment, eclipsing even the Ed Sheeran track. Available for a little over 24 hours of the chart week, it still became the 8th most purchased track of the week and whilst it did not manage enough streams to register on the Top 100 that was still enough to see the single arrive at Number 30 ahead of what you suspect will be a colossal leap next week. Officially the track is the follow-up to Paris and the second track to be taken from the Chainsmokers' album Memories... Do Not Open which is finally due out at the start of April.
Oh yes, and proof if any were needed that 24 hours just wasn't enough for the Brits to have too much of an impact, let's note that despite breathless reports of an 800% increase in streaming for George Michael's A Different Corner following the cross-generational duet between Chris Martin and George's 1986 self that particular track is nowhere to be seen on the Top 100 this week. Bruno Mars' rendition on Wednesday night of new single That's What I Like only earns him a jump to Number 72.
To The Power Of 3
Three is most definitely the magic number this week. Dua Lipa was already an act of note with three simultaneous hits to her name, but the arrival of new Ed Sheeran and Chainsmokers tracks means that that too can claim the impressive distinction of having three tracks at varying locations on the Top 40. When you express that in percentages it becomes rather startling - just three acts account for 22.5% of all the Top 40 singles this week. Mind you none of them can boast three consecutive chart places. Unlike, say, Sia who you may care to note occupies positions 63, 64 and 65 with The Greatest, Cheap Thrills and Move Your Body respectively. Curiously none of these are what you might technically call her 'current' hit single - that's Helium as featured on the Fifty Shades Darker soundtrack which dips 45-48 (Sales: 21, Streams: uncharted) this week.