That's A Pretty Tight Top You've Got On There
The vast majority of "close chart races" don't actually turn out that way in the end. Most of the time when the first midweek sales flashes speak breathlessly of a tight race at the very top of the charts, the suspense never quite manages to last the week. Two days later everything goes quiet in the hype department as it is more or less obvious who will top the charts come Friday.
Things were different this week. The bank holiday meant a one day delay in finding out an official picture as to how the sales and streaming race was developing on the Official UK Singles chart. When the update finally came we learned that as few as 1200 chart sales separated the singles at 1 and 3. Factor in the inevitable truckload of missing data which characterises these early week sales flashes and it was clear we had an intriguing battle on our hands. Remember how I said the suspense normally dissipates? Not so this time around. The final pre-chart update on Thursday suggested there were now just 700 copies between the three tracks.
Yet here is the extraordinary thing. Every single one of those updates pegged either Calvin Harris or George Ezra at the top. Consistently bringing up the rear and, it was presumed, standing no chance of moving ahead was Benny Blanco with Eastside. Yet that is just what happened. Gasps emanated from everyone staring at the data as it was revealed on Friday lunchtime. For the 30-year-old American has landed himself the most unexpected Number One single we've seen in months.
Not that Benny Blanco is any stranger to the top of the charts, far from it. As I noted a few weeks ago, his co-production and songwriting credits mean he has had a hand in as many as 12 different Number One singles by a wide range of different performers over the course of the last decade. His last chart-topping production was indeed the last 'surprise' Number One single - Lil Dicky's Freaky Friday which hit the top back in the spring. For all his behind the scenes success, however, he has never before enjoyed a smash hit single as a credited performer.
Eastside marks a return to the top of the charts for featured singer Halsey, the lady born Ashley Frangipane most notable until now for her guest role on Closer by The Chainsmokers which had a run at the top of the charts back in 2016. Her co-star on the track is fellow American Khalid who despite having only made his chart debut a little over a year ago is already into double figures in terms of hit singles. Benny Blanco's hit is however far and away his biggest, now beating out Marshmello's Silence which reached Number 3 with Mr Robinson at the mic. We chart watchers are playing a game right now of watching out for the first ever 21st century-born star to reach the top of the UK singles charts. Khalid doesn't quite count, although he's the closest we have come to date, the first ever Number One hitmaker born as late as 1998.
Hit singles themed around geographical East are have been surprisingly few and far between in chart history to date. Herman's Hermits had the first with their 1966 Number 33 hit East West but until Eastside came along the highest charting single to reference the East was From East To West by French disco-pop band Voyage which climbed to Number 13 in the summer of 1978. The only other Number One hits referencing compass points both pointed West: Benny Hill's 1971 Christmas Number One Ernie (The Fastest Milkman In The West) and the Pet Shop Boys' 1986 debut West End Girls.
At the end of the day, it was an agonising defeat for Calvin Harris and Sam Smith. Chart race leaders by the end of the week, they are relegated to Number 2 (at least for the moment) by the tiny margin of just 139 chart sales. That's the second narrowest chart race of the modern era, the smallest gap between 1 and 2 since August 2007. That week saw Timbaland's The Way I Are victorious over Kate Nash's Foundations by a mere 16 copies. Promises topped the sales chart this week, but Eastside was easily the streaming winner. Harris and Smith are languishing at Number 4 on the streaming chart, despite a six-place jump. It just wasn't enough to secure them victory.
Not that the Scotsman is any stranger to the runners-up slot. To go with his 9 Number One hits to date, Harris has "enjoyed" six different Number 2 hits, the last of these coming in 2016 when not even the superstar presence of Rihanna could help This Is What You Came For ease past its initial entry point in second place. Sam Smith has never had a single peak at Number 2. But then again each of his 6 Number One singles to date all entered straight at the top.
Sitting just a further 940 copies behind is last week's Number One single Shotgun. Based on previous form it is by no means impossible that he might climb back once again, although after he reset the clock a couple of weeks ago the near six-month-old single is once more staring down the barrel of a move to ACR - this is its second consecutive week of sales decline, and he's now sinking fast on the physical sales market he's dominated of late.
Just 804 copies separate the Top 3 singles in the end, the smallest gap since the second week of January 2007 when the Top 3 were a mere 400 copies apart.
Dream And It Will Happen
The only new single in the Top 10 this week is a single we've been flagging up for weeks as having notably not made it there. Finally enjoying the boost it needed, Lucid Dreams from Juice WRLD moves 11-10 to take pride of place in the upper reaches of the UK charts. For those who have lost track, it has been a protracted climb. This is the single's 14th week on the Official Chart. It first made the Top 40 in mid-June and spent nine weeks floating around the Top 20, including three in a row locked at Number 11. Ironically it reaches its highest chart placing yet in a week when its chart sales actually decrease for the first time in seven weeks.
Always On My Mind
The highest climber of the week lands at Number 15. Up from the Number 36 it made its Top 40 debut at last week is In My Mind from Dynoro and Gigi D'Agostino. It is an artist credit which conceals the complicated genesis of the track. Officially a production by Lithuanian DJ Dynoro, the track is based around several elements (most notably the hook) from a slightly notorious 2001 single L'amour Toujours (I'll Fly For You) by veteran Italian producer D'Agostino. A co-credit as a performer was clearly the price he charged for allowing the samples on what is also essentially a radical remix of a track - also called In My Mind - originally released in 2012 by Ivan Gough and Feenixpawl. Got all that? Well who cares, the single is deservedly a smash hit regardless of how many original ideas it has lifted.
Also on the way up: Happier from Marshmello and Bastille. Which is entirely to be expected and very welcome indeed. The single flies 31-16 and should be Top 5 in fairly short order.
A Never Ending Pair Of Shows
The Official UK Albums chart continues to be a source of bafflement and fascination as it continues to be stuck in the kind of vibe it last enjoyed in the mid-1960s as the soundtracks to musical films wipe the floor with everything else. Having made way for the Ariana Grande album last week, Mamma Mia - Here We Go Again returns comfortably to the top for what is now its fifth week in total on the top. Snapping at its heels in second place is - naturally - The Greatest Showman, the album that just refuses to die. I saw much speculation online as to whether the holiday weekend and a possible rise in streaming aided the two mum-friendly albums this week. Although I've speculated in the past as to whether the two albums' potential popularity on kitchen smart speakers has helped sustain their streaming power, the most streamed album of the week was once more Ariana Grande's Sweetener (which slips to Number 3). The Mamma Mia cast album (the new one) enjoyed the most physical purchases this week, whilst Showman dominated digital album sales. It's pop and rock music Jim, but not as we know it.
The most intriguing new album of the week lands at Number 14. Love Yourself - Answer is the latest in a rapid-fire string of releases from Korean K-pop boy band BTS, a collection which completes a trilogy of "love yourself" themed albums. Thanks to the dedicated support of a large and growing online fanbase, who see themselves as an ARMY and not just a fandom, every single one of the albums has been a significant album chart success. Most notably the group's last release Love Yourself - Tear reached the Top 10 upon release in May and has to date spent 12 weeks on the Top 100.
Love Yourself - Answer charts lower, this possibly less a surprise as it consists largely of remixes of tracks that have already appeared on its two predecessors. However amongst them are seven previously unreleased songs and it is one of these which duly becomes the group's first ever Top 40 hit single. They have come close in the past, Mic Drop made Number 46 in July 2017 whilst Fake Love crept to Number 42 back in May. This week a small piece of chart history is made. The work of the ARMY has paid off as Idol storms to Number 21 to make BTS the first ever K-pop group to land a major UK chart single. The single is technically available in two versions, the second featuring an added guest appearance from Nicki Minaj. The chart combines sales and streams of both, although it appears to be the original album version which has been the most popular - and anyway, as the primary version of the track, it means BTS have a sole credit with Minaj nowhere to be seen.
Comparisons will inevitably (and maybe lazily) made with the last international K-pop smash Gangnam Style from Psy which topped the charts both here and worldwide in 2012. But that single was to all intents and purposes a one-off novelty, propelled there as much by its video as the way it sounded. BTS appear to be tapping into a desire by teens and post-teens to hear something fresh and different. Their lyrics are relatable, the "Love Yourself" theme of their releases has resonated with many and almost without anyone noticing their fans have organised themselves into a quite formidable online band of supporters. It is entirely their doing that this single sits where it does today, and it will be entirely to their credit if BTS springboard to even greater things. For now, I suspect this week is a one-off charting, but there are plenty more hits to come where this one came from.
One of the themes of the summer on the UK charts appears to be "singles from forgotten acts which have outperformed all expectations". Hard on the heels of 5 Seconds Of Summer's almost unbelievable chart run with Youngblood, emo veterans Panic! At The Disco appear to be heading in the same direction. Back at the start of August High Hopes became their first Top 40 hit in a decade when it crept into the lower reaches of the countdown. After five weeks scuttling around the bottom, four of which were spent at Number 34, the steadily increasing airplay for the single appears to have jolted it into life once more. This week the track rests at a new peak of Number 25, matching the peak of 2006 classic I Write Sins Not Tragedies to now stand as their joint third-highest charting hit ever.
Also entering the Top 30 after a settled run just inside the Top 40 barrier, Best Life from Hardy Caprio and One Acen which jumps to Number 26 after moving 37-33-32 in the last three weeks. The single is already nine weeks old, having first charted on the Top 100 back in mid-July.
No Shits Left To Give
It is with some amusement that I noted the Official Charts Company in their own press briefing glossed over the single reappearing at Number 35 this week. Said track is Ariana Grande's No Tears Left To Cry which was "starred out" last week in favour of cuts from her newly released album but which now reappears after reasserting its place as her third biggest hit of the moment. That's all thanks to a precipitous drop for the album's title track Sweetener which for now has a chart run of just a solitary week. Her other two concurrent chart hits are of course much higher, God Is A Woman retaining its own newly-regained Top 10 status at Number 6 whilst Breathin' slips to Number 11, this despite an increase in airplay suggesting it may shortly be elevated to full single status.
One place below at Number 36 there is the long-overdue Top 40 arrival for Lost Without You which finally gives singer-songwriter Freya Ridings a proper hit single. The track has spent much of the summer registering a consistent place in paid-for sales tables but always without the necessary streaming support to lift it properly up the charts. The song first came to attention earlier in the summer when the producers of hit ITV2 show "Love Island" used it extensively as part of video montages. To show you the dramatic disconnect between the two singles markets, Lost Without You rises to a new peak of Number 15 on the old fashioned sales chart this week. It is a miserable Number 80 on the streaming Top 100, only the second time it has been played enough to merit a place.
Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo
Finally, for now, a Top 40 entry we may all come to regret. It isn't every day that a South Korean children's rhymes channel on YouTube spawns a hit single, but that is just what has happened here with Pinkfong's Baby Shark song. Suddenly going viral and for some strange reason the subject of video memes where people try to recreate the dance, the annoyingly catchy nursery rhyme has suddenly flown up the charts to sit at Number 37 this week to make it easily the oddest single you will have heard on the Radio One chart show all year. If you haven't heard Baby Shark yet, first of all, where on earth have you been living? And secondly, I'm so very sorry. Because you are about to hear it now and it will be all my fault.