Over on another site I happen to maintain, I think week posted my theory that the age of social media has resurrected the album as an artform, right at the moment everyone (myself in particular) assumed it was about to fade away to nothing. This is neatly illustrated by this week's UK charts where the biggest and most interesting story of the week just happens to be the biggest selling album of the moment. Harry Styles appears to be the very definition of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Tell everyone he is a huge star, and they generally treat him that way. It worked for his debut solo single Sign Of The Times and has produced the same result where his self-titled debut is concerned. Early reports were very promising indeed, although early reports that the album apparently shifted more copies in its first day on sale than last week's champions Kasabian managed in the whole of the previous week turned out to be slightly wide of the mark. Reaffirming his claim to be the biggest star in the One Direction universe, Styles thus debuts with some ease at the top of the Official UK Albums chart with a comfortable combined sale of around 57,000 copies. He's not the first 1D alumnus to have a Number One album of course, that honour going to former bandmate ZAYN whose Mind Of Mine collection raced to the summit in April 2016.
Just like any big-name and young-appealing album of the moment, Harry Styles naturally sees a number of its individual tracks liberally sprayed around the singles chart. But fascinatingly few make any kind of impact. It is not that he isn't a big deal, but as suspected his fan base is largely concentrated amongst those 'veteran' music lovers who are still in the downloading habit. He certainly gained his fair share of streams during the week, but aside from the two already released singles, the most popular album track Carolina only reached Number 48 on the streaming chart. Sheeran-esque this most certainly is not.
Harry Styles singles therefore occupy just nine places on the Top 75, only two of which - Sign Of The Times at 6 and Sweet Creature at Number 46 make the Top 50. The others prop up the bottom end of the chart at 51, 58, 64, 66, 80, 87 and 99. To put that in proper context, the highest charting non-single Ed Sheeran track, 11 weeks after his album was first released, is Perfect which still claims a Top 40 place at Number 37. Harry is a big deal. But he's mostly a big deal amongst those who have discarded the acne cream already.
As a fun aside, Styles was by no means the only artist with designs on a clean sweep of album tracks this week. The release of Afrobeat star J Hus' album Common Sense this week and its Number 6 entry grants him too a grand total of nine singles on the Top 100. Just like Harry though he can only boast two in the Top 50. All the others sit between 47 and 96.
Speak No Americano
At the top of the Official UK Singles chart this week there is a welcome chance to pause for breath as Despacito (Remix) holds firm at Number One, extending its lead over I'm The One with an expanded chart sale of over 94,000 copies - the highest for any Number One single since Shape Of You managed six figures in its 10th week at the top in mid-March. The presence of a foreign language Number One single last week sent everyone scurrying for the record books to note just how many non-English Number One singles there have been over the years. Just as fascinating for me is the way so many of them actually cheat a little and contain either snatches of even long passages of English - not least Despacito whose credentials as a non-native track are stretched by the fact guest star Bieber actually performs the first verse in English before surrendering to the tongue of his co-stars. So for the record, and with caveats noted, the full list of other Number One hits which require translation to one degree or another is:
1969: Je T'Aime... Moi Non Plus - Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg (entirely French)
1977: Chanson D'Amour - Manhatten Transfer (entirely French)
1981: Begin The Beguine (Volver A Empezar) - Julio Iglesias (Spanish, although Julio sings the opening line in English)
1986: Rock Me Amadeus - Falco (German but with English interludes)
1987: La Bamba - Los Lobos (entirely Spanish)
1991: Sadness (Part One) - Enigma (what few lyrics it has are in French)
2002: The Ketchup Song - Las Ketchup (actually mostly in English but with snatches of the original Spanish version)
2010: We Speak No Americano - Yolanda Be Cool (in old Neapolitan)
2012: Gangnam Style - Psy (almost entirely Korean, aside from the "hey sexy lady" chants)
Meanwhile back to Despacito, and the other curiosity remains the fact that its only official video features the audio from the 'original' Bieber-free version.
We Don't Stop
With the advent of the streaming era looking increasingly like a Year Zero reset for much of the music industry, the reappearance of a major name from the dying end of the download era is always a source of great fascination. We last saw Miley Cyrus in 2014 as a guest on will.i.am's Feeling Myself, that Number 2 hit coming in the wake of her biggest ever solo successes with both We Can't Stop and Wrecking Ball, a brace of Number One hits which briefly made her one of the biggest stars in music and kicked off a period of photographic ubiquity which meant I ended up more familiar with her breasts than I am with my own. Technically she has made a record since, 2015's online-only project Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz but this was entirely self-released, and was little more than a vanity project independent of her "main" career stream.
So anyway, she's back. Malibu is duly her first brand new singles chart material for four years, the lead track from what will be her upcoming sixth studio album. As the biggest name release of the moment it makes an immediate land grab, after being an uncharted Thursday release last week she is on this survey a new entry at Number 11 (Sales: 7, Streams: 19) and puts paid, at least for now, any fears that she has fallen victim to Year Zero. Where she goes as an artist will be just as fascinating to watch. What made her 2013 smashes so show-stopping was the distance she managed to put between her past as the chirpy child star of TV series Hannah Montana. With no hope of ever making that kind of impact again, she has to make records that speak just as powerfully. Keep an eye on this one, and bear in mind too that this summer will mark the 25th anniversary of her Dad's most famous (OK, only) hit single.
Pay Close Attention
This week's round-up of rising hits needs to concentrate on a handful of singles which all things being equal should be making a play for the Top 10 next week. They include Charlie Puth's Attention which creeps up four places to Number 12 (Sales: 10, Streams: 15); On My Mind by Disciples, which as noted last week is waiting for its streams to catch up with its sales strength, this week moving 23-15 (Sales:8, Streams: a still frustrating 31); and Mama by Jonas Blue moving 29-22 (Sales: 9, Streams: 43).
The biggest chart move of the week, however, is reserved for Maggie Lindemann's Pretty Girl which vaults 58-21 (Sales: 16, Streams: 24). It is the debut UK hit for the 18-year-old American who is the latest social media discovery, her signing to a deal coming after she was spotted performing in short videos on Instagram. Her success has been some time coming, her first singles coming out two years ago, but this is a project which has been carefully nurtured, and by the sounds of this is about to come good in quite spectacular fashion.
If You Say You'll Love Me Madly
A wander through the archives of this site means a chance to wander through the evolution of British attitudes towards the Eurovision Song Contest, the latest incarnation of which took place last weekend. It has gone from being a core part of the musical calendar, a chance for Britain to show what we do best, through "a bit of an anachronism" and then a source of national embarrassment as our chances of ever entering the most popular song again diminish with every passing year. We appear now to have reached the point where it is actually more about the taking part than the winning, what was once a two and a half hour pan-continental television broadcast now transformed into a week-long event and with tentacles that reach out across social media and online far beyond the Saturday night television show.
Should Britain still take part? Absolutely. Because it means we get to be part of this celebration of togetherness and culture. I may have grown up in an era when we were expected to do well, and indeed did well, year after year. In 2017 being in contention just doesn't form part of the fun.
Mind you, as I might also have said before, we surely cannot expect to win the damn thing if we continually enter songs that even the British public don't have any great love for - not in large numbers anyway. Just prior to the competition the Official Charts Company published the complete list of UK Eurovision entries and their respective chart performances over the years. It made for some sobering reading. It doesn't require me to reproduce any of it here, suffice to say that the last UK entry to make the Top 20 of the singles chart was six years ago (I Can By Blue - Number 16 in 2011), and the last to reach the Top 10 was exactly ten years ago (Flying The Flag by Scooch - Number 5 in 2007). Since the Blue track was a hit, just one of our entries have reached the Top 40 and neither of the last 2 has made the Top 75.
The omens, therefore, were not good for Lucie Jones who performed for the UK this year, at least until she put in a creditable performance on the night and narrowly failed to finish in the top half of the voting, our best performance in fact since Blue entered in 2011. That also translates to a much-improved chart placing too, Never Give Up On You sliding in this week at Number 73 (sales: 22, Streams: uncharted). It may not sound much but it is still the highest charting UK Eurovision hit since Children Of The Universe by Molly made Number 23 in 2014. Lucie Jones first came to popular attention as a contestant on the 2009 series of X Factor and this now means she is the fifth contestant from that year's series to have a chart single, following winner Joe McElderry, Olly Murs, Stacey Solomon and Jedward - who by a fun coincidence have represented their native Ireland in the Eurovision Song Contest too. To complete the circle another of that year's contestants was Danyl Johnson who was also vying for selection to represent the UK this year with his track Light Up The World. Lucie Jones is the latest in a surprisingly long line of former reality contestants to try their hand at Eurovision fame. She follows in the footsteps of X Factor 2005 runner-up Andy Abraham in 2008, former Fame Academy contender James Fox in 2004, former Popstars: The Rivals contender Javine Hylton in 2005 and most recently last year's UK entrants Joe & Jake who first met whilst contestants on The Voice UK.
The download era of the charts opened the door to the contest prompting a small flood of the most popular songs from the night landing on the singles chart in the week following, with some random surprises often resulting. The hybrid nature of the charts makes that slightly less likely now, and inevitably for the moment the coterie of "Eurovision fans" don't appear to be part of the demographic to have embraced streaming, at least not in large enough numbers to make any kind of impact. Credit then to Portugal's winning song which does at least poke its nose above the parapet. Amar Pelos Dois by Salvador Sobral charts this week at Number 97 (Sales: 31, Streams: uncharted), the most successful of all this year's Eurovision tracks. At the very least it has perfomed better than last year's winner. 1944 by Jamala reportedly only made Number 289 last year according to Music Week.