Yes, you heard me. The only way to adequately describe the reaction to the first set of singles chart midweeks at the start of the week was the time-honoured expression of "wut?" Because they showed that contrary to all expectation and logic, Shotgun by George Ezra was ahead of Drake's In My Feelings in the race to top the charts.
Cool heads noted that this was probably nonsense. It was a narrow gap after all, and whilst we are used to the early sales flashes emerging with huge chunks of data from streaming services missing, this week there were more variables than usual as YouTube simply hadn't reported in at all. Surely later in the week, the picture would be clearer.
Well, in a sense it was. Because George Ezra's lead continued to hold, even after more of the data gaps had begun to be filled in. So here we are with a situation practically nobody could have predicted. The Drake single was still being streamed in large numbers, but perhaps not quite the numbers it was before. Its sales had started to shrink dramatically and yes, there was a feeling that people watching the video were not quite contributing as much to its chart total as those playing the audio track. For the first time in a month, the numbers just weren't in the Canadian's favour. As the most purchased but notably also the most streamed track of the week, Shotgun returns instead to Number One on the Official UK Singles chart.
It has been five weeks since it was last there, George Ezra's initial two-week run having been truncated by the unexpected success of the 3 Lions single before Drake took hold of the market in his own inimitable fashion. Yet the summertime hit somehow still clung on, spending the whole time holding firm at Number 2, waiting as it turns out for the chance to reclaim the crown that had slipped away at the height of World Cup fever.
Singles topping the charts twice in the same chart run used to be incredibly rare, but as any reader of this column over the past ten years or so will know, has now become fairly commonplace. Shotgun is the first hit of 2018 to turn the trick, but two managed it in 2017 - Shape Of You and Despacito, the latter enjoying three different runs at the top. To return to the summit after so long away is a far more impressive trick though, and George Ezra's five long weeks as runner-up equals the chart trick pulled off by Happy from Pharrell Williams in 2014. Just like Shotgun, the Williams single also waited patiently whilst two different singles had their turn, Rather Be from Clean Bandit spending four at the summit followed by the one week run of Sam Smith's Money On My Mind. The all-time record remains the seven-week gap between the chart-topping runs of She Loves You by The Beatles in 1963.
George Ezra returns to the top of the singles chart with a chart sale of just over 68,000. That's enormously significant in itself as after two weeks of decline this is UP on the figure of 65,000 he posted last week. At the very last moment, he's reset the clock and avoided a drop to ACR next week, meaning I suspect that battle will continue to be joined at the top of the charts. Sadly the Official Charts Company hasn't hinted at the total number of streams Shotgun enjoyed, meaning we can't easily work out the conversion ratio which turned them into the 56,000 chart sales it derived from online plays.
Say What You Really Think
Other than the swap around at the top, the Top 3 singles remain as they were last week with DJ Khaled's No Brainer holding firm at Number 3. Three weeks on the chart still isn't quite enough to work out what is supposed to be so special about it, a rare example of a single becoming less impressive the more you hear it.
There is at least some fresh sounding material one place down as Benny Blanco's Eastside accelerates still further with a 12-4 climb. It is a long overdue smash hit single as a performer for the man who under his real name Benjamin Levin has had a hand in creating some magical pop moments over the course of the last decade, starting from his days as a protégé of Dr Luke and co-producing tracks such as Katy Perry's I Kissed A Girl, Maroon 5's Moves Like Jagger, Rihanna's Diamonds, and Rixton's Me And My Broken Heart. There is also his long-standing collaborative spell with Ed Sheeran which led to his ex-producing much of the Divide album. Blanco/Levin was most recently at the top of the charts as the producer of Lil' Dicky's Freaky Friday.
Eastside is Blanco's first Top 10 hit as a performer, but it is singer Halsey's second following her turn on the Chainsmokers' Closer which hit the top in 2016. It returns Khalid to the Top 10 for the first time since his brace of appearances last year, the track now one place short of the Number 3 he scaled as the singer on Marshmello's Silence. Curiously Khalid's other hit single of the moment also rises to an unexpected new peak, Martin Garrix' Ocean lifting to Number 25 this week.
Patience in this new era of chart music remains as much of a virtue as ever and has its own reward for Dennis Lloyd who finally reaches the Top 20 with the two-year-old release Nevermind as it moves 25-19. Seeing as we have been keeping an eye over it lately, we should note and lament once more the failure of Juice WRLD's Lucid Dreams to break the confines of the Top 10. The single is a non-mover this week, locked in place at Number 11.
Just One More Look
The two men may have swapped places on the singles chart, but over on the Official UK Albums chart Drake still just has the beating of George Ezra as Scorpion and Staying at Tamara's line up at 3 and 4 respectively. The void at the top is filled not by pop or rock or even rap music but musical theatre once more. Mamma Mia - Here We Go Again sits proudly at Number One for a fourth week, once more holding off The Greatest Showman which remains dutifully at Number 2. This may well be the seventh week in which the smash hit movie soundtrack has not topped the charts (easily the longest spell since its release, but you cannot help but wonder if it isn't just biding its time for one final triumphant run.
Meanwhile, the Mamma Mia movie finally has a Top 40 hit single in its name, the cast recording of When I Kissed The Teacher clearly the standout moment from the soundtrack and which now sits at Number 40. As I've noted in previous weeks, for a previously uncharted Abba song to become a chart cover is a pretty much unique occurrence. The Abba songbook has over the years been treated with almost untouchable reverence and hit covers of their songs have been few and far between. In the 1980s Blancmange tried their luck with a cover of The Day Before You Came whilst Dr and The Medics took on Waterloo, both were only minor hits. More success came in the 90s with both Erasure (the Abba-Esque EP led by Take A Chance On Me) and Westlife (I Have A Dream) both topping the charts. All you will note were previously charted hits for the group. When I Kissed The Teacher was never a hit for Abba first time around and so makes its Top 40 debut here.
The most-hyped new album of the week was Nicki Minaj's long-awaited Queen and which slides into place at Number 5 with what is, on the face of things, a rather miserable sale of just 10,000 copies (Mamma Mia did three times that). It has at least had a beneficial effect on her current hit single Bed, the Ariana Grande duet lifting to Number 23, the highest position it has occupied since it charted at Number 20 upon release back in June. The album is permitted two other cuts on the chart: Barbie Dreams debuting at Number 36 and Majesty (with both Eminem and Labrinth in tow) at Number 41.
A Slow Frenchman
There's one other new arrival on the Top 40, as with a five-place climb David Guetta sits at Number 37 with new single Don't Leave Me Alone. As the prolonged climb of Flames demonstrated, for a man of his hitmaking pedigree he is not beyond taking his time to land a hit single, so there's no reason to be alarmed at the slow burn of this one. Co-star on Don't Leave Me Alone is the most in-demand British woman of the moment Anne-Marie, the Guetta single a belated addition to the deluxe digital edition of her Speak Your Mind album. Meanwhile, the other hit in waiting on which she features, Let Me Live by Rudimental, just cannot get going and remains stranded outside the Top 40, yet to climb higher than Number 42 after nine weeks on release.
Guetta's last musical partner was Sia and she also pops up again on another of this week's minor new entries as one-third of "supergroup" entity LSD. She's the "s", the other two letters referring to Labrinth and Diplo and if there is any justice Thunderclouds should go on to become a sizeable hit in short order. Their only previous chart single as a trio Genius limped out at Number 72 back in May.
Watershed Of The Week
Last week's paid-for singles total was only just above 900,000. This week it drops below it for the first time since October 2005 with just 898,000 tracks changing hands for money. I note this simply because you may see breathless accounts over the weekend of old Aretha Franklin tracks racing up the iTunes chart in the wake of her sad death this week. But the truth is, you only need sales in the hundreds to do that these days. We edge closer to a world where your streaming numbers are the only things that matter.