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All These Tents Sound The Same To Me
Fallow years in 2012 and 2018 notwithstanding, it has become one of the great annual events in the British music calendar - the Glastonbury Festival, the wall-to-wall coverage it and its headlining acts attract, and the subsequent post-performance surges enjoyed by the biggest names of the weekend. Assuming they have pulled it off, naturally. Changing times means it isn't quite so much to the singles chart we look for the post-Worthy Farm surge, but one glance at the ever more volatile Official UK Albums chart is enough to discern just who the big winners of the weekend were.
Arguably an (almost) definitive Greatest Hits collection from the chart legend that is Kylie Minogue was always going to make a big impact. But her show-stealing set in the "legends" slot on Saturday evening, 14 years after she was forced to cancel a headline booking following a cancer diagnosis, prompted a vast outpouring of love and goodwill and the realisation of just how many classics she had in her catalogue. She also apparently commanded the highest TV audience of the weekend, far surpassing any of the other headliners. So it is that Step Back In Time - The Definitive Collection charges straight to Number One, landing her a seventh chart-topping album to match her seven similarly placed singles. It is her second Number One album in two years, matching the feat of her 30th-anniversary studio album Golden which topped the pile in April last year. Step Back In Time (named after her 1990 hit single) is the first Hits collection to reach the top of the charts since The Best Of Bowie had a posthumous week of glory in 2016 (Take That's Odyssey was also a compilation, but the tracks were all radically remixed). The concept of hits collections died a death during the download era (after all, why bother with a Greatest Hits collection when you can just roll your own set of favourites) and in theory, serves even less of a purpose when the entire back catalogue of big-name acts is available to stream at leisure. But that does leave a gap in the market for a collectable, which an almost fully comprehensive set of Kylie hits (the lack of Some Kind Of Bliss and Did It Again are particularly glaring) most certainly is. You'll note that the album chart as a whole is particularly hits-tastic of late, the Top 20 featuring no less than five different hits compilations (six if you count Hank Marvin's Gold album of partially revisited classics).
Headliners and Deadliners
Elsewhere you can tell more or less at a glance who the big performers at the weekend were. Direct Hits from The Killers rockets 49-6, enjoying what the Official Charts Company tells us is a 323% uplift in overall sales. Stormzy was the first act of the weekend to make waves, his Pyramid Stage headlining spot on Friday night being hailed as a cultural watershed in some quarters and simply "damn entertaining" by most other normal people. Inevitably his previous album Gang Signs And Prayer jumps 59-14 with a 234% sales jump. Sunday night closers The Cure see their 2001 Greatest Hits set reappear at Number 19 (253% up on last week). Amusingly the one act who apparently failed to deliver was Janet Jackson. Her Saturday evening slot was beset with sound issues, amongst other problems, leading to a slew of negative feedback online. Clearly, the rest of the public agree. She does not have a single album in the Top 100. Which is actually quite startling.
Ginger Bollocks Trigger Warning
Ed Sheeran didn't make Glastonbury this time around, although he was very much there in spirit as Stormzy incorporated his version of Shape Of You into his celebrated set. Although it was once more another tight chart race with Senorita harrying it all the way, there was ultimately little to stand in the way of I Don't Care and the now almost over-familiar Justin Bieber duet clocks up an eighth unbroken week at the top of the Official UK Singles chart. That makes it the longest-running Number One hit since Calvin Harris and Dua Lipa also spent eight weeks at the top with One Kiss in May and June last year. The Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello track actually rose in sales last week, narrowing the gap between it and Shee-Ber to just 3,500 sales.
I Don't Care does now face a dual threat to its crown and has to face down not just competition from the rest of the market but chart rules themselves. The track declined in chart sales this week, just as it has done every week since it released. If it dips once more next week that will be enough to trigger ACR rules, and not even the imminent release of the single's parent album No.6 Collaborations Project next Friday will be sufficient to extend the chart-topping run of the single into double figures. Once upon a time labels would do their utmost to reset the clock on singles they still wanted to propel to the top end of the charts, normally by discounting the download single in online outlets. Hence the rule tweak at the start of this year which means it is only streaming totals which are taken into account for ACR countback purposes. Engineering surges in streams is trickier to do, but you can bet your life people are seeking out ways to achieve this.
For all that, it is still Ed Sheeran's world and we are just living in it. For the first time since he prompted the introduction of the rule restricting primary artists to three concurrent chart hits, the chart plays host to three simultaneous Sheeran tracks. Joining I Don't Care and its existing twin Cross Me is another teaser release from the album Beautiful People, the highest new entry this week at Number 3. For all his sometimes annoying ubiquity, the single is yet another example of just why he is rightly seen as the finest singer-songwriter of his generation. It is another instant earworm, a masterfully constructed record which is all at once comfortingly Ed but distinct enough from all the others to have its own appeal. Beautiful People actually sounds like a Zayn Malik track and sounds for all the world as if it has come from the Icarus Falls album. Guest of choice this time around is Khalid (here doing what appears to be his best James Arthur impression), this now his second Top 10 hit of the year and his biggest chart hit since he took a turn on the vocals of Benny Blanco's 2018 Number One hit Eastside.
The most extraordinary bit is that two more cuts from the album have just hit the stores, but if Blow or Best Part Of Me fail to overcome the chart sales of the three existing hits then neither of them will actually end up charting. Phantom hits if you will.
Finish With A Facial
So Ed lines up at 1, 3 and 6. As noted Mendes and Cabello hold firm in second place, leaving the Number 4 slot free for - who else? - Stormzy. As I noted last week, in an unfortunate bit of timing that was impossible to anticipate, his own headline-grabbing Glastonbury set coincides with the relegation of Vossi Bop onto ACR. It means that in spite of the eyebrows raised by the crowd on Friday night gleefully singing along to the "fuck the government and fuck Boris" line, the former Number One single collapses 3-14 on the singles chart. That does at least mean Crown (as performed at Glastonbury complete with ballet dancers and a gospel choir) gets to take pride of place as Stormzy's biggest hit of the moment. Let's face it, if he hadn't had at least one Top 5 hit in the wake of the cultural earthquake we are told he generated last weekend, there would have been some questions to be asked.
ACR may now well have taken its toll on four of the five singles which served to bung up the top end of the chart back in June, but they all still remain alarmingly popular in terms of audience consumption. Old Town Road holds firm at 7, Someone You Loved is back in the Top 10 at Number 10 (another Glastonbury bounce), Vossi Bop is at 14 and Bad Guy also clings on at 18. All chart positions which suggest that these effectively vintage chart hits would still be dominating the top end of the singles chart if they were to rank the same as the rest of the table. Two years on from the introduction of the process of "accelerated decline" for older hit singles, the very existence of the rule still has the capacity to trigger some of the more intense-minded followers of the pop charts across various forums. But here is the proof that the public's insistence on consuming the same small subset of popular hits over and over again across an extended period of time would if unfiltered make for some very tedious looking bestseller tables.
Someone We (Still) Loved
And speaking of bestseller tables, the Official Charts Company in the week also revealed the "story so far" table of the biggest hits of 2019 to date. Unsurprisingly it is Someone You Loved at the top of the table with Giant and Sweet But Psycho close behind. It may seem curious to only see I Don't Care at Number 15 on the chart of the year to date, but this just serves to demonstrate the way such bestseller lists are less useful in the streaming age. Back when we all bought singles, the biggest hits revealed themselves over the space of a couple of months. When enough people owned a copy of a hit it stopped selling and its place in the rankings stayed firm. When we love streaming a track we generally go on streaming it for months, meaning an inevitable skew towards those hits which have been around for longer and have thus had more time to clock up the numbers. We are now in a world where an accurate sample of "biggest hits of calendar period X" actually has to be longer than a year to give any kind of true perspective.
This is all getting a big naval-gazing isn't it? So let's contemplate news of newer hits making waves instead. Fears of a Top 10 glass ceiling forming have happily turned to dust. Mabel's Mad Love becomes a Top 10 hit after a four-week climb with a jump to Number 8. She's followed by Sigala and Becky Hill who move 11-9 with Wish You Well, the producer back in the Top 10 for the first time since Lullaby hit Number 6 just over a year ago.
New to the Top 20 from below is AJ Tracey with the incredibly slow-burning Ladbroke Grove. A 21-16 climb gives the single a brand new peak on what is now its 18th week as a Top 100 chart single. It may have only taken half the time but Dominic Fyke's 3 Nights has also had to be patient. It too is now a Top 20 hit with a 26-20 jump in its ninth week as a chart single.
Keep It Down Brown
During last week's festival of doubling up, I skirted around the small inconvenient detail that of all the Top 10 hitmakers neither Chris Brown nor Justin Bieber could boast a second concurrent hit. Funnily enough that all changes this week as the two men appear on record alongside one another. Don't Check On Me is the track, led by Breezy but with guest vocals from both Justin Bieber and Ink (a new female star, and not frequent Chris Brown collaborator Kid Ink as I erroneously suggested on Twitter on Friday night). Technically it only appears here as an album cut, charting at Number 29 as one of the more popular tracks taken from Chris Brown's new album Indigo which charts at Number 7 this week, but a chart hit is a chart hit. It also ensures that whilst it doesn't apply to all of this week's Top 10, the Double Up concept is alive and kicking. Chris Brown is the current master of self-indulgence when it comes to album length. Indigo boasts no fewer than 32 tracks - down on the 45 which his last set Heartbreak On A Full Moon contained.
From The Moment I Saw You
One of the more compelling new hits of the week is the Top 40's final new entry of the week. Arriving at Number 36 is Higher Love from the rather startling combination of Kygo and the late Whitney Houston. Higher Love started life as Steve Winwood track, the big comeback single from the 60s star which topped the American charts in 1986 and which also reached Number 13 over here. Whitney's version of the song is one of her deeper cuts, her version winding up as a bonus track on the Japanese edition of her 1990 album I'm Your Baby Tonight. This week her vocals are duly resurrected for this effortlessly charming tropical remix by Kygo, one which drags the song kicking and screaming into the 21st century. It is Whitney's first brand new hit single since 2009 and her first chart record since she passed away in 2012. To hear the celebrated star singing from beyond the grave in this manner is perhaps a little disconcerting at first, but this is really no different to remix treatment doled out to people such as Freddie Mercury and Michael Jackson in the past. Number 36 is perhaps a slightly slower start than the single deserves, but I'd love to think this one has the potential to grow.
Take Off Her Dress
With The Killers generally hailed as the guitar-based highlight of the weekend at Glastonbury it comes as little surprise to see the evergreen Mr Brightside pop up on the singles chart again. Charting at Number 54, their 2004 Top 10 single lands its highest chart placing in almost exactly two years. Absurdly popular for reasons I can never fathom (it isn't even their best song), Mr Brightside has enjoyed a second life thanks to downloads and streams and is far and away the track with the most weeks on the official Top 100, this now its 209th as a chart single. However more than half of these weeks have been spent at the bottom end of the chart, the single only able to boast 44 weeks in the Top 75, some distance behind celebrated long-runners such as Snow Patrol's Chasing Cars (111 Top 75 weeks to date) and the all-time chart longevity champion My Way by Frank Sinatra which can boast 124 weeks in the Top 75 - all but one of which were in the Top 50 to boot.
We can't end this week without noting one rather startling disconnect between the sales and streaming markets. The Number 8 most-purchased single of the week is the follow-up to a smash, Castles the latest release from Freya Ridings. Her previous track Lost Without You may have lingered around the Top 10 for literally months, but this new single just refuses to catch fire. Heavy label support (plus a lot of discounting) has propelled it up the rump of the purchased market but a steadfast lack of streams has left the single languishing in the charts for real. It does at least reach a new peak of Number 52 overall, and that's an improvement on the Number 57 peak of her last single You Mean The World To Me. She deserves a successful follow-up for sure, but it is clearly going to be a while coming.