There's A Sucker Born Every Minute
It is January. The morning skies are grey, the evenings damp and dark. Is it any wonder that at this time of year escapism and glamour plays so well at the cinema? The evidence of this is reflected in this week's Official UK Albums chart. 11 months after the La La Land soundtrack made a surprise appearance at Number One, this week we have yet another cast recording from a Hollywood musical as the biggest selling album of the week. This time around it is the turn of The Greatest Showman, taking the storm of PT Barnum and turning it into one of the most compelling cinematic experiences of the moment.
As we mentioned last week, the album has come with three chart singles in tow and all of them make similarly positive progress up the Top 100 chart, This Is Me up to Number 16, The Greatest Show now at Number 23 and Rewrite The Stars at Number 26.
It is good to be able to acknowledge a touch of colour and glamour, given that the top of the Official UK Singles chart it is still a bit same old, same old. Ed Sheeran remains locked in place at Number One, the Christmas chart-topping single holding firm well into January with Perfect now spending a sixth straight week at the top of the charts, coinciding neatly enough with the anniversary of Shape Of You arriving at Number One exactly a year ago this week. Sailing past the five-week run of Havana, this is the longest continuous stay at the top of the charts by any single since Despacito managed six in a row last summer.
This week, just as last, Ed Sheeran holds off himself with the Eminem single River on which he appears holding firm at Number 2. This does, however, mean Sheeran enjoys a rather notable chart record. This is now the 14th week in total (all of which have come in the past year) which he has occupied both the first and second place on the Official UK Singles chart, sailing past the record previously held by Justin Bieber.
Lucky For Him
The highest new entry of the week is a single which for whatever reason appeared to fly under the radar compared to some of the other new releases of the week. Finesse began life as a track on Bruno Mars' 24K Magic album, first released as far back as November 2016. It arrives as a single in a brand new version which changes things up with an added rap from Cardi B, and this has been enough to propel the single straight into the UK charts at Number 7. That's a major uplift on the rather lowly Number 59 peak of Mars' last single Versace On The Floor and returns him to the Top 10 for the first time since the album's title track peaked at Number 5 just over a year ago. Benefiting the most, however, is rapper Cardi B. Hailed as the next big thing in hip-hop, big things were expected of her debut hit Bodak Yellow when it charted here in the wake of topping the Hot 100 in America. To the surprise of many (including this column), it failed to progress beyond Number 24 in September last year. Although Cardi B has appeared as a guest on a handful of other singles since, the Bruno Mars track lands her far and away her biggest hit to date, something which perhaps bodes well for her own single Bartier Cardi which rises to Number 40 this week on the way to hopefully establishing her once and for all in her own right.
Incidentally, Cardi B's presence on two other chart hits - G Easy's No Limit (Number 45) and Migos' Motor Sport (Number 49) means she neatly sidesteps the "Ed Sheeran rule" with four simultaneous Top 100 hits.
Also new inside the Top 10 is Craig David's I Know You, the pre-Christmas release doing something rather cutely old school and rising above the morass to become a sizeable new year hit. A 15-10 jump means this matches the peak of his 'comeback' single When The Bassline Drops which was a chart hit exactly two years ago. I Know You also returns co-collaborators Bastille to the Top 10 for the first time since their single Of The Night (a cover of Corona's Rhythm Of The Night) hit Number 2 way back in November 2013.
Watch Me Whip
The "50 Shades" movie series has to date been a happy source of hit singles, and the third and final(?) instalment appears to have now continued the run. The original "50 Shades Of Grey" back in 2015 gave us the mesmerising Love Me Like You Do, an instant Number One hit for Ellie Goulding and an equally instant classic that still sends shivers up the spine to this day. Perhaps less immediate was the "50 Shades Darker" soundtrack hit, I Don't Want To Live Forever by the curious pairing of Zayn Malik and Taylor Swift. Released just before Christmas 2016, the single rebounded from a slightly slow start to peak at Number 5 in early spring. Although as it is directly responsible for two of the most important friendships of my life, I guess I owe it a great deal.
Now with the imminent release of "50 Shades Freed" comes another single with a One Direction link. For You sees Liam Payne team up with Rita Ora on a single which smashes its way into the chart and is unlucky not to make the Top 10 first week out with a Number 11 entry. It is a major boost for Liam Payne's solo career, given the rather frustrating way his last solo single Bedroom Floor stalled at Number 21 before Christmas, this despite extensive radio support. At a stroke, the new single becomes the second highest charting of his ex-One Direction career, and in short order should match the Top 5 run of Strip That Down, the Quavo-starring track with which he opened his account in June last year.
As far as his duet partner on the track is concerned, For You becomes the third concurrent hit single for Rita Ora, sitting neatly alongside her still-resurgent Anywhere at Number 3 and the Avicii single Lonely Together on which she stars and which slides to Number 60 this week. I'd share it here, but for the moment the track is entirely absent from YouTube, not even in audio-only or lyric form.
Last time around the new year was a happy hunting ground for Justin Timberlake, so it makes perfect sense that he should attempt to make it his own once more. Leaving aside his work curating the "Trolls" soundtrack and its enduring hit single Can't Stop The Feeling (which spent most of the spring of 2016 being denied a chance to top the charts by Drake's One Dance), Justin Timberlake hasn't released a full studio album since 2013. That was the two-part 20/20 Experience, which was heralded in January that year by the Top 3 single Suit And Tie and in fairly short order the Number One smash hit Mirrors. Five years on, he is back with new material, his brand new single Filthy instantly one of the most talked-about singles of the week.
This wasn't always for the best of reasons though, for this is a track which lives up to every letter of its title - at least in a musical sense. Blessed with the rawest, dirtiest electro house bassline in a manner calls to mind the Mr Oizo track Flat Beat from a full 19 years ago, Filthy is all at once a hardcore dance workout but with the glimmers of an enticing pop hit just waiting to be teased out. An immediate pop hit like Can't Stop The Feeling it is manifestly not, and this fact alone may have contributed to the single opening with what is for him a rather lowly Number 15 new entry. The more I hear it though, the more I love it and I'm reminded in many ways of how way back in 2006 Justin Timberlake hit the world with the equally hard to love SexyBack, a single which now sounds like the work of genius it always was. Filthy is by no means the most immediate single of what is now his 15-year solo career, but it deserves marks for attempting to be different and sounding like nothing else around it. That actually makes it one of the better hit singles of the moment.
Other notable newer hits of the moment - Camila Cabello's Never Be The Same which jumps 37-29 and which should get a further boost next week as her debut album arrives online, Feel It Still by Portugal. The Man which reaches yet another new peak with a jump to Number 32, and the new single from Dua Lipa IDGAF which arrives in the Top 40 with a climb to Number 38. This should hopefully go some way towards finally extinguishing her previous hit New Rules which is now six months old, long downgraded on the main singles chart thanks to ACR rules but which remains bafflingly popular as an audio stream, still one of the Top 10 most played tracks (dipping to Number 8 this week on that particular table).