We Are All Winners Here
Make no mistake, this was a wild crazy week. For the second week running the top end of the Official UK Singles charts looks nothing like the way we had expected it to, especially for those of us trying to track the market day by day during the week.
What did not help was that this was one of these weeks when the official midweek update, released on Monday lunchtime, bore absolutely no relation to the reality of the market. Spotify had been notably slow with updates all weekend and so unbeknownst to the public the Monday lunchtime sales flash had to be compiled without any information from the market leader in streaming at all. Combine that with Apple being a day behind (as they constantly are) and you will understand just why the midweeks looked the way they did. Based as they were primarily on paid-for sales. Which distorted things slightly.
What also didn't help matters was just how tight the chart race was. After weeks of morosely watching one track running away with things, it was kind of disconcerting to see records matching each other step by step in terms of overall popularity. In the end, there were just 2,096 sales separating all of this week's Top 3 singles. One more day. A few more hours and everything could have been different. According to Alan Jones in Music Week this 4.27% differential between positions 1 and 3 is the closest three-way chart race since January 2007 when 2.02% separated Leona Lewis at the top and Mika in third place.
To cap it all, the eventual chart winner was a day late to the party, not appearing online until Saturday. But then again this is a man for whom the usual rules do not apply. Just three weeks after he was last at the top of the British charts Drake is back there again. Brand new track Nice For What took its time cranking up to full speed, its reveal taking a great many people by surprise, and it was only at the very last moment that its strength on the streaming tables finally told, pushing it into a narrow four figure lead when the final totals came in.
Those worried that this is God's Plan part 2 can perhaps rest easy, for Nice For What is a very different beast. Devoid of the hypnotic beat of its predecessor, this is a far more conventional sounding rap single. The Canadian's vocals are naturally enough front and centre, but at the heart of the track is an eyebrow-raising speeded up sample of Lauryn Hill's 1999 Number 4 hit Ex-Factor. For whatever reason she has not asserted her right to a performers co-credit, leaving the track to stand as a Drake solo hit. Even though it is anything but the sort.
This is Drake's fourth Number One hit in all and almost needless to say his second in 2018 so far. The knack of his fellow countryman Justin Bieber in replacing himself at the top of the charts (which he has done twice) rather renders this kind of statistic obsolete, but it is still worth noting that Drake becomes the first act to land a second Number One hit within a fortnight of his last departing the top of the charts since Jess Glynne pulled off the track by performing on Rather Be and then My Love which topped the charts within the same timescale in 2014.
I have mixed feelings about Drake tracks, the ones that are hardest to love tend to be the ones which stick around so long they beat you down by sheer force of will. Nice For What is the kind of track I'd probably choose to listen to myself. Which may mean I've put the mockers on its continuing chances, who knows.
Just One, That's All I'm Asking For
Bad luck then on Lil' Dicky whose moment of glory at Number One was just a week long, denied a second by the small matter of 1,000 sales, this despite Freaky Friday clocking up more chart sales than it has in its chart life to date. Even harder luck though on Calvin Harris who at least was living in hope of ending up in second place but who falls short by almost exactly the same margin.
Trying to predict the hit potential of releases from the prolific Scotsman is at present akin to knitting soup. There's just no rhyme or reason to it. His strategy appears to be to fling a track out, wait for it to catch on, and if it doesn't just move on and throw the next one into the mix. In theory, there was nothing to stop his first release of 2018 Nuh Ready Nuh Ready (made with PartyNextDoor in tow) from becoming a smash. Reviewers liked it, adverts for it polluted by social media timeline for days and it was at the end of the day his long-awaited first release since Number One smash hit Feels last summer. But no, nobody really cared as the single failed to progress beyond Number 48.
Maybe it isn't about Calvin Harris at all then. Maybe it is all about who he collaborates with. Guest star on new single One Kiss is the lady of the moment Dua Lipa whose dulcet and unmistakeable tones are all over what is in truth one of the brighter pop hits of the moment. The single is an impressive 17th Top 3 hit for Calvin Harris and the third in a row for Dua Lipa herself. You would have put money on it being an eventual Number One hit for both artists, but for the fact everyone is looking nervously about the Drake record and wondering if this one is going to end up stranded at the top of the charts as well.
So what of the track that was unexpectedly at the top of the inaccurate midweek listing? Reality kicks in and it settles at Number 14, although the fact it is there at all is something of a triumph both for the performer and the medium by which she has been propelled to fame.
It is a standing joke that the British incarnation of The Voice has by and large been singularly unsuccessful in uncovering anything resembling a new mainstream pop talent. Seven series of the show have now been aired since it launched in this country, and yet of its winners only one has so far enjoyed a Top 10 hit. That man was Series 4 winner Stevie McCrorie in 2015 who enjoyed a significant promotional push, sending his post-victory single Lost Stars to Number 6. Only for it to fall 62 places the following week. And needless to say, he has not been heard of since. Not even a highly unusual switch of television networks helped. When the BBC dropped the series, ITV bought the format instead. However, their first winner Mo Jamil made a mere Number 78 with his 2017 release Unsteady.
So despite her single "only" reaching Number 14, newly crowned The Voice UK champion Ruti deserves full credit in landing the second biggest hit single ever from a series winner. Her chart debut is largely thanks to a clever choice of song, her take on Dreams by The Cranberries making the charts just a few months after the original also returned to prominence following the sad death of original singer Dolores O'Riordan. Dreams originally peaked at Number 27 in 1994, making this the highest charting version of the track to date - unless you count it featuring as part of Dario G's Dream To Me which reached Number 9 in 2001. It seems almost unnecessary to note that the single is unlikely to be anywhere near the Top 40 next week, leaving the future of the winner up in the air once more.
Oddly enough there is one 'The Voice' contestant who has been in the charts for some weeks without anyone noticing. Originally a contestant on the third season of the American incarnation of the show, Lauren Allred has spent the past five weeks hovering about the Top 30 thanks to her song Never Enough as lifted from the Greatest Showman soundtrack.
Going To Voicemail
Also reaching the Top 20 this week for the first time: Love Lies from Khalid and Normani. Now eight weeks old, as expected interest in the single is growing thanks to the imminent release of the movie 'Love, Simon' on whose soundtrack it features. A five place jump to Number 18 is its reward this week.
Half as old, but also being rewarded for its patience is Answerphone from Banx & Ranx which makes a flying leap into the Top 40 after four weeks scuttling around the lower end of the charts. The duo are yet another pair of Canadians, electro producers who have been working together since 2014. Their first ever mainstream hit single comes thanks to the vocal contributions of two Brits - Ella Eyre and Yxng Bane. Expect this in the Top 10 in fairly short order.
30 Glorious Years
Whilst it wasn't quite the tight race that the singles chart was, there were a fair number of crossed fingers amongst music fans of a certain age as they watched the sales progress of the eagerly awaited new Kylie Minogue album Golden. The shouts of joy you heard on Friday evening were those self-same devotees celebrating the album easing its way to Number One, ensuring that the Australian star celebrates her 30 years as a pop star at the top of at least one chart. Golden is Kylie's sixth Number One album in total and her first since 2010's Aphrodite also climbed to the top in its first week on sale. The availability of the collection finally propels its lead single into the Top 40 for the first time since release. Dancing first hit the stores back in January but despite dipping in and out of the charts following various promotional and TV appearances, it never managed to better the Number 47 it scaled when first released. Until today. Re-entering at Number 38, Dancing now finally takes pride of place as her 51st Top 40 hit single.
It is another hot new album which provides the singles chart with a smattering of other new entries, this the arrival in the shops and online of Cardi B's debut Invasion Of Privacy. A mere Number 6 it may be, but its three permitted singles all line up at 27, 40 and 41. The lead of these is Be Careful, released as a final teaser last week and which now rockets up from its initial Number 72 entry. Hailed as the next great thing in female rap, for now she lacks a proper hit single of her own thanks to the failure of last summer's Bodak Yellow to fall some way short of emulating its American chart success and wimping out at Number 24. Her only major chart success is as the invited guest star on the single remix of Bruno Mar's Finesse which lifted her to Number 5 back in January.
For those who like to keep track of these things, there is a fun re-entry at the lower end of the Top 40. The Weeknd's three new entries of last week all take tumbles to varying degrees this time around: Call Out My Name dives 7-17 and Wasted Times 18-30. Absent altogether is the third hit Try Me for the simple reason that its sales have dipped below those of the Black Panther soundtrack hit Pray For Me on which The Weeknd is also lead artist - thus disqualifying itself and in the process causing the latter hit to reappear at Number 32 a week after being "starred out".
From where I'm sat right now, next week should be fascinating. Will Drake pull away once more or will a sudden flood of hot new sounds put paid to his chances? Big new hits from Nicki Minaj and Britain's very own Zayn Malik are on the way. I say this far too often for it to have meaning any more, but pop music is about to get interesting once again.
This week on the Spotify playlist, Calvin Harris' past flops, the original version of Dreams, past Voice winners, Kylie's hit from her last chart-topping album and plenty more. And over on the stats page, find out just how Drake's sales this week compare with his other Number One hits the week they first topped the charts.