Out Of Bullets?
I cannot deny we were all wondering just what would happen this week. George Ezra's dramatic return to the top of the Official UK Singles chart after five weeks away seemed to have only happened due to a sudden drop in the chart sales posted by Drake's In My Feelings. Week on week he lost a full 20,000 sales, and whilst this wasn't impossible (particularly if his streams suddenly verged towards free ones) there was always the possibility that something had hiccupped somewhere.
We should have trusted the chart compilation more than that. It is "as you were" at the top of the charts this week, with Shotgun holding firm at Number One. The single's second week in a row and its fourth in total. We are also told the single enjoyed 7 million plays last week, contributing just under 46,000 to its overall chart sale of 54,000. Absorbingly that's a conversion ratio of just over 153:1 - higher than In My Feelings posted in its final week at the top a fortnight ago. Remember the higher the number, the greater the proportion of those online plays are free ones and applied at a ratio of 600:1 rather than 100:1.
The Ezra and Drake singles retain a commanding lead over the rest of the market, In My Feelings has 50,000 chart sales this week whilst its closest challenger, DJ Khaled's No Brainer posted 35,000. You do get the feeling however that their time in the sun is coming to a close, not least due to the arrival on the charts this week of some very big names indeed.
Promise Me More Kisses
It is now very much a sign of the times that there are only a tiny handful of acts for whom a new release commands such immediate attention that they can pilot their way through the singles chart minefield and land not just in the Top 10 but the Top 5 the moment their material hits the (virtual) streets. Team two of them together and you essentially have dynamite on your hands.
Step forward then Calvin Harris and Sam Smith whose collaboration Promises blitzes the competition and smashes straight in at Number 4. That's entirely in keeping with the pedigree of both men, Harris' last single One Kiss having entered at Number 3, whilst Sam Smith's last new material Too Good At Goodbyes was an instantaneous Number One hit just shy of a year ago. Talk of Number One singles seems entirely appropriate because with this kind of opening momentum there seems to be only one direction the single is heading. The blissed-out Promises was easily the most downloaded single of the week, and it is well on its way to dominating the streaming tables in a similar fashion.
A hit single of this nature will be a welcome boost for Sam Smith, given the way the fuss around his big comeback with second album The Thrill Of It All seemed to fizzle out rather quickly. Aside from the aforementioned Number One lead single, no other tracks from the album managed to come to popular attention with its second single One Last Song fizzling out at Number 27. Promises appears to serve as a reminder of what a big deal he is. But is this because of the Sam Smith vocal, or just because Calvin Harris is white hot right now?
Absence Makes The Taste Sweeter
The theme of the week appears to be the superstar elite, with the Official UK Albums chart most definitely belonging to Ariana Grande. Her eagerly awaited new album Sweetener barges all competition - yes, including the two musical soundtrack smashes - out of the way to give her a second Number One album in a row, her June 2016 release Dangerous Woman also flying to the very top in its first week on sale.
Inevitably the tracks from the album flooded the streaming market too, meaning she enjoys the lions' share of chart new entries this week. Ariana has two singles in the Top 10 this week. Leading the way is existing hit God Is A Woman which had taken a tumble in the past couple of weeks but which now rebounds to Number 6, the highest chart position it has enjoyed since it debuted at Number 4 back in July. Joining it is album cut breathin (sic) which enters at Number 8 to become her third Top 10 hit of the year. The album's title cut sweetener is some way back in the reckoning at Number 22. All the rest of the tracks from the album are scattered around the unfiltered singles chart but starred out from the main listing due to the 3 songs max rule in operation. Amusingly that includes its first single No Tears Left To Cry which has been a languishing just outside the Top 40 for the past couple of weeks but for the moment finds itself disqualified by bigger hits.
The Ariana Grande factor contrives once more to deny Top 10 status to what is now a veritable logjam of current hits which once more find themselves bashing the glass ceiling and stranded just outside. Lucid Dreams is there once more, spending a third straight week at Number 11. Ring Ring from Jax Jones and friends continues to edge upwards but is still stuck at Number 12, and a similar fate befalls the Cheat Codes and Little Mix collaboration Only You which also enjoys a one place climb to a new peak of Number 13. But which is still not a Top 10 hit single.
I'll bet you any money they are all leapfrogged next week by the week's third highest new entry. Because it is once more a new single from a white-hot chart superstar. Jess Glynne doesn't quite seem to be in "straight in with a bullet" territory, her music taking time to bury itself under your skin, but with two Number One singles to her name already in 2018 it would be a stretch to assume her new single isn't heading in a similar kind of direction. All I Am is the best thing she has put her name to in years, a warm and affectionate pop song which manages the trick of having a false chorus which turns out to actually be the bridge to the real one and with the kind of singalong vibe which grabs your attention from the moment you first hear it. Her new album finally has a title - Always In Between - and a vague release date of "sometime in September". It isn't a stretch to presume its second single will be lodged comfortably in the Top 10 or better by the time it arrives. Jess can literally do no wrong right now. Just as in 2015 in fact. This one even has a proper video to coincide with its release. Quite the novelty as you may have noticed.
The phenomenon of singles reaching what appears to be their natural peak and then becoming stranded almost in mid-air as their streams remain constant week in week out is affecting a handful of the hits around the lower end of the Top 20. Most notable of these is A$AP Rocky's Praise The Lord (Da Shine) which is now 13 weeks old, the last ten of which it has spent at the cusp of the Top 20. It has reached a high of Number 18 on two occasions, the last of which was four weeks ago. This week it holds firm at Number 20, this the fourth time it has posted this chart position. Praise The Lord (Da Shine) has also spent three weeks at Number 21. It is a hit, but there will come a point when you realise it is unlikely to grow any bigger than it has already.
Mind you, one place above there is a pleasant sight for anyone craving neatness and order. Dennis Lloyd's Nevermind is a non-mover this week, meaning the statistics on its official chart listing read as follows:
Last Week: 19
This Week: 19
Peak Position: 19
Weeks On Chart: 19
Also with momentum behind it (for now): David Guetta and Anne-Marie's collaboration on Don't Leave Me Alone which is the highest climber this week, soaring 37-23.
The 1975 continue to plough a pleasing furrow of their own, virtually the only contemporary "blokes with guitars" group at the moment able to move singles in enough numbers to land visible hits. Another single taken from their forthcoming third album, TooTimeTooTimeTooTime lands at Number 26. That's enough to beat their last release a month ago Love It If We Made It which reached Number 33, and just short of the Number 22 scaled by Give Yourself A Try. The group have announced an intention to release two albums in quick succession, the first of which A Brief Enquiry Into Online Relationships is scheduled for November. Which is worryingly not too far away now.
Possibly one of the more unexpected chart pairings of the week collaborates on the Number 31 hit. Happier sees Anne-Marie's previous hit partner, the still enigmatic Marshmello, team up with alternative rockers Bastille - although in this case the name is really there as a moniker for lead singer Dan Smith. Smith's voice is instantly recognisable to any fan of the group's hits and indeed it is probably more accurate to see Happier as a Bastille track which just happens to be produced by Marshmello rather than a Marshmello track with Dan on vocals. Whichever way you spin it, it is an enormously appealing dance/pop track although those expecting a retread of Friends (a Number 4 hit back in the spring) are in for a shock. Another huge smash hit in waiting.
A Deeper Love
It would be remiss to let this week pass without noting the chart impact of last week's passing of the soul great Aretha Franklin. As we have seen countless times over the past few years, the surge of interest in the individual tracks of a deceased act very rarely lasts long enough to propel singles to Top 40 heights. Such was the case here, and early week predictions that some of her greatest works might make the Top 40 for the first time in decades proved to be slightly optimistic. Leading the way is her celebrated recording of I Say A Little Prayer which hits Number 51. Aside from her 1987 chart-topping duet with George Michael on I Knew You Were Waiting, this was Aretha's biggest ever hit single in this country, reaching Number 4 in 1968. Her signature song Respect hits Number 62, charting for the first time since it was a Number 10 hit in 1967. Finally, her third permitted chart single (because the rule applies to soul superstars too) the classic (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman, never before a chart single in this country, makes Number 79. They are her first chart singles since 1998, her last Top 40 single being A Rose Is Still A Rose which made Number 22.
Needless to say, it is on the album chart that Aretha's eulogy is most plainly written. Hits collections Soul Queen, 30 Greatest Hits and Respect - The Very Best Of make 15, 16 and 27 respectively. 30 Greatest Hits actually dates from 1986 (released as a tie-in to her mid-80s pop renaissance which resulted in hits such as Who's Zoomin' Who) but has never charted before until today. Most surprisingly of all her most recent release is in there as well, a set of orchestral remakes of her most famous recordings A Brand New Me which was originally viewed as a spectacularly bad idea and which went largely ignored when released last Christmas sits at Number 45.