Chart Watch is only possible thanks to the support of its readers. For as little as the price of a cup of coffee each month you could join our list of generous patrons and help contribute to the development of this site. The biggest new hit single of the year so far came out this week, and people will be tracking its progress for weeks. Why not get your name and logo in front of those eyes? Even the smallest donation goes a long way, and the biggest contributors also get added benefits such as free books and merchandise. Why not become a patron today.
Next. Thank You!
When it is your time to shine, there's genuinely nothing that can stand in your way. If there were any lingering doubts about Ariana Grande's status as the most white-hot star in the firmament right now, this week she removes every last one of them. We can ignore Christmastime's "promotional" release Imagine (which made the Top 10 regardless). This week she released the official follow-up to global smash thank u, next, and from that moment on it was her stage and hers alone.
By the time the midweek update arrived on Monday, reporting that 7 Rings had in the space of just a few days clocked up almost 6 million streams, it was no longer a question of whether the single would reach Number One, just a case of noting by how much she did so. Well, the numbers are now in. The Ariana Grande track becomes the first single in over 18 months to post a weekly chart sale of over 100,000 copies. Her total sale of 126,000 copies is the highest weekly total achieved by any single since the Artists For Grenfell charity recording of Bridge Over Troubled Water landed at the top selling 170,000. Much of this total is made up from a phenomenal number of online plays and indeed as was widely predicted midweek, 7 Rings smashes the all-time weekly streaming record, clocking up over 16.9m plays. That easily eclipses both the 14.9m that thank u, next posted to set a new record as well as the 15.3m that Mariah Carey achieved five weeks ago. It is still worth noting that of those 16.9m, only 10 million or so were from audio streams, the rest of the total bolstered by video plays. It means Ed Sheeran still holds the record for the most audio-only streams in a week, the 14.2m he clocked up with Shape Of You two years ago this month is still to be bested.
7 Rings is the American starlet's fourth Number One hit single on the Official UK Singles chart, following Problem and Bang Bang in 2014 and the aforementioned thank u, next in the closing weeks of last year. Another Number one hit from a member of the fairer sex means that solo female artists have topped the charts for 11 of the last 12 weeks. Doing everything completely solo appears to now be in vogue, the recently unveiled tracklisting for Ariana's new album (from which both thank u, next and 7 Rings are taken) suggesting that she's the only performer on every one of the listed songs. Which in this day and age is practically unheard of.
Those details alone would have made for a fantastic story, but for the way 7 Rings managed to trigger an enormously entertaining online row in the days following its release. The trouble is with the verses of the song, and specifically Ariana's half-rapped staccato delivery of the lyrics. Shortly after the single hit the streets came allegations that it resembled a 2010 Soulja Boy track Pretty Boy Swag, a 2011 2Chainz track Spent It and a more recent mixtape release Mine by Princess Nokia. Clearly, the track can't have been inspired by all three, but it perhaps demonstrates there are only a finite number of ways you can deliver a rhyme without treading on someone else's prior delivery of a similar poetic meter. This is really all the fault of Taylor Swift who in 2017 made a point of crediting Right Said Fred when she used the I'm Too Sexy vocal beat on Look What You Made Me Do. She may not have been under any obligation to do so, but she set a precedent. One which Ariana is now being accused of ignoring.
All of the above is to ignore the fact that the chorus of the Number One single is based on a far more familiar source, openly using the melody of My Favourite Things from the celebrated stage (and film) musical The Sound Of Music. It means the musical's composers Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II find themselves credited on a Number One single in the most unlikely of circumstances. In fact, 7 Rings is the 8th Number One single to have been co-written by the pair. The first six were all straightforward deliveries of songs from their many hit musicals: No Other Love by Ronnie Hilton (from "Me And Juliet", 1966), Climb Ev'ry Mountain by Shirley Bassey (from "The Sound Of Music, 1961), You'll Never Walk Alone by Gerry and the Pacemakers (from "Carousel", 1963), Happy Talk by Captain Sensible (from "South Pacific", 1982), You'll Never Walk Alone by The Crowd (as above, 1985) and a third version of You'll Never Walk Alone by Robson and Jerome from 1995. The seventh is the only other one to feature an interpolation - The Club Is Alive by JLS which borrowed the melody of the main "Sound Of Music" title song and which spent a week at the top of the charts in July 2010.
For all the fuss about Ariana borrowing ideas, we should note that 7 Rings isn't the first pop single in the last few decades to lift the melody of My Favourite Things for its own purposes. That honour goes to British garage outfit Big Brovaz who used it as part of their own song Favourite Things which reached Number 2 in May 2003. But listen, all of this is just background noise. Ariana Is Number One by some distance, and you may as well get comfortable as we are going to be here for a while.
Sweet But Loser
Small commiserations have to be extended towards Ava Max, who watches the four-week Number One reign of Sweet But Psycho come to a grinding halt through no fault of its own. The single dips in sales, but hardly by much and indeed sells more than enough copies to top the charts in any normal week. But in the face of a sales phenomenon, it could do nothing more than wilt under the heat.
The Top 3 is rounded off by the second round of the intriguing chart battle between last week's debuting superstar duets. Bragging rights for the second week go to Sam Smith and Normani who climb a place to Number 3 with Dancing With A Stranger, leaving Calvin and Raggy to flounder just behind at 4, although in the end there was only a hair's breadth difference between the chart sales of the two tracks. One week on and we still await an official video for both Dancing… and Giant.
Nursery Rhymes Are In
The other Top 10 arrival of the week is, on the face of it, something of a surprise. Having spent the past three weeks moving 36-39-34 Gun Lean from RUSS accelerates into life and fires its way to Number 9. Naturally, this sudden jump hasn't come completely out of nowhere, even as the naggingly catchy "left-right-left-right" lyric of the Drill (or, as its creators insist Crashment) track gathers ever new levels of viral fame. The track from the London MC has been slowly taking on a life of its own, from Jessie Lingard doing the moves as a goal celebration to Anthony Joshua selecting it as the walk-on music for his next fight. But the jump this week comes thanks to a musical source - the release this week of a new remix which stirs in extra vocal turns from Taze, LD, Digga D, Ms Banks & Lethal Bizzle to make it a genuine ensemble piece. And it is all the better for it.
Gone To Voicemail
Telephones seem to be a source of fascination for Mabel. Her last chart hit of note came last summer when she took a vocal turn on Jax Jones' Ring Ring, and this week she returns to the singles chart on her own terms with the similarly themed Don't Call Me Up. Easily the most pop-flavoured banger she has put her name to so far, the single flies into the chart and is damned unlucky not to make the Top 10 first week out. Instead, it has to content itself with a Number 11 new entry, still far and away the biggest chart debut of her career to date. Her only Top 10 single so far remains her debut Finders Keepers which hit Number 8 in late 2017, but it will be a major shock if this new cut doesn't join it up there in short order. Her mother Neneh Cherry appeared on five Top 10 hits between 1988 and 1996 the last of which, Woman, came when Mabel herself was just a few months old.
Moving (Back) Up
Also heading for the Top 10 in short order is Lewis Capaldi who rockets to Number 13 with Someone You Loved. Chris Brown shakes off a bad week of headlines with a 21-16 rebound for Undecided, taking the I Love Your Smile-sampling single back to just one place behind the Number 15 at which it debuted a fortnight ago.
There's what is, on the face of it, a surprise chart rebound this week for the Ellie Goulding/Diplo/Swae Lee track Close To Me. Absent from the Top 40 for the last four weeks, the single appeared to be well on its way out of sight. Not so this week, the track which for my money is still criminally underappreciated is restored back onto SCR and as a result, enjoys a dramatic turnaround in its chart fortunes. The single rebounds back up the chart to Number 25, its highest chart placing since the week before Christmas when it reached its peak to date of Number 17. You suspect this second wind is merely a case of restoring it to a higher position from which it can continue to slip away, but it is fun to see it there regardless.
Does He Own An Island?
The one other chart arrival of note this week is at Number 27, Psych Out handing AJ Tracey his third Top 40 hit single. It is also his second-biggest to date, beating what was in retrospect the disappointing Number 38 flame out of Lo(v/s)er in September last year. His challenge is to top last summer's Butterflies which made a far more respectable Number 19. Meanwhile, the video for this new single is all kinds of life goals. Or as I call it: "Wednesday".
Confirmed. Nobody Buys Albums Any More
The albums market continues to plunge hideous new depths, but until the new Ariana collection drops, we are kind of all in a holding pattern. The Greatest Showman remains Number One, extending its total weeks at the top to 28 and, as we noted last week, now drawing level with the total accumulated all those years ago by Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. For the second week in a row, the market is so small as to be a modern-day record just 585,000 albums sold across the entire country in the last seven days. I think that means we are now tracking two milestones - paid-for singles dropping below 750,000 (which hasn't happened yet, although we are close this week on 777,000) and albums overall dipping below half a million. Or maybe this is just a January lull and there's hope around the corner. Think positive.