Baby I Like Your Style
Do you feel spoiled? I know I do.
Two weeks and two different Number One hits, as Eminem has the dubious honour of becoming the first artist to spend a solitary week at the top of the charts since Calvin Harris in August last year, and indeed maintaining his extraordinary record of never spending more than a single week at the top with any of his nine Number One singles to date.
The cause of this otherwise unscheduled changing of the guard was the unannounced release at the start of the week of what once upon a time would have been called a double a-sided single, a two-track EP from Canadian phenomenon Drake. His first new music since the release of "playlist" More Life in March last year, demand for one track in particular was, to say the least, off the scale.
The result is the presence of the track God's Plan at Number One on the Official UK Singles chart, the track having landed itself over six million streams in the space of the last week and a fair number of old-fashioned download purchases too. It takes the singer-mumbler to the top of the charts for the first time since the long-running One Dance back in 2016, that single the first of the modern phenomenon of insanely popular online hits becoming stranded at the top of the charts. The manner in which God's Plan has shot to the summit makes you fear a little for the same becoming true, but let's park that notion for the moment. With no video or even an official audio upload to its name, chart-logging streaming services have been the only way to consume the track online which has almost certainly contributed to it's out of the blue popularity.
Naturally that means I can't even share it here for the casual reader, but it probably helps to note that the chart success of God's Plan should not come as too much of a surprise given it lays bare the way Post Malone essentially stole Drake's entire act and presented it back to the public - this single and Rockstar being based on broadly similar musical principles.
In one of those fun statistical quirks, this is actually the first ever Number One single to directly namecheck the man upstairs in its title. We've had two Number 2 hits referencing God in the past - God Only Knows by The Beach Boys in 1966 and God Save The Queen from the Sex Pistols in 1977. Based on that kind of sequencing there probably should have been another such single in 1988, but neither the Pogues' If I Should Fall From Grace With God or Midge Ure's Dear God came anywhere near the Top 40. The last man to reference a God of any kind in the title of a Top 10 single was, by strange coincidence, Eminem with Rap God which hit Number 5 in October 2013.
Back to Drake though, his deification as a chart legend takes a small step forward this week, this now his third Number One single in the UK thanks to his credit on Rihanna's What's My Name which landed a moment of glory at the top in the first weeks of 2011.
With the rest of the Top 3 completed by Ramz and Barking at 2 and the aforementioned Eminem single The River at 3, this has led to talk in some quarters of this being an almost certainly unique all-rap Top 3. I may have to be a small contrarian here though and question the classification of Drake as a rapper given he is actually the pioneer of a new breed of performers delivering what are unquestionably rap lyrics in a sing-song chant. See also Malone, Post. So God's Plan isn’t a rap hit at all. Because he's singing it.
Any bets on the single most likely to either replace Drake at Number One or perhaps get stranded at Number 2 behind him should probably be placed on Dua Lipa who rockets a further 10 places with the naughtily profane IDGAF which now sits at Number 4. For now, this is her fourth Top 10 hit single, all of which have come in the last 12 months.
Under My (Tom) Thumb
The link between movies and music appears to have never been stronger as the phenomenon of the Last Showman soundtrack continues to make chart waves. The Motion Picture Cast Recording remains at the top of the Official UK Albums chart this week, relegating Fall Out Boy to second place. However, it is on the singles chart that the musical film continues to impress.
I'll confess, when the first hits from the soundtrack crept into the Top 40 at the start of the year I viewed them as a passing curiosity, benefiting from a brief surge of interest from those who had seen the film when it first opened. But no, they have simply continued to rise in popularity, gaining a foothold in the streaming market in a manner which seems quite extraordinary given the usual domination of urban and pop acts. So it is that This Is Me, as performed in the film by Keala Settle rises the charts once again, a five-place climb meaning it sits at Number 8. I suggested the following stat on Twitter on Friday night and met with little challenge, so let's say for the record that this makes it the first single from a Hollywood musical to reach the British Top 10 since Madonna pulled off the trick with a trio of hits - You Must Love Me, Don't Cry For Me Argentina and Another Suitcase In Another Hall - all from the Evita soundtrack in 1996 and 1997.
Note that for these purposes we are talking hits from live action musicals, performed by actors as part of the script of the film. One can make a case for Justin Timberlake's Can't Stop The Feeling which hit Number 2 in 2016, although that was a) from an animated cartoon and b) wasn't actually the version of the song which featured in the plot of "Trolls". Honourable mention to has to go to Idina Menzel's Let It Go from "Frozen" which stalled at Number 11 in 2014.
There are actually parallels between Let It Go and This Is Me, for both songs were hits in their "performance" renditions rather than more lushly produced pop reworkings which were designed as promotional hit singles. In the case of the Greatest Showman single, the plan was for a take on the song by Kesha to be the pop hit, but this has so far generated little interest.
As for the other two Greatest Showman hits, they are still hanging in there too, Rewrite The Stars and The Greatest Show both non-movers at 19 and 23 respectively. Tracks from the album are so popular that under the old rules every single one would have been somewhere in the Top 75. This is particularly harsh on Never Enough as performed by Loren Allred which is duly "starred-out" and which Music Week reports would otherwise be the Number 30 single of the week.
Just Bee Busy Living
The ever-growing disconnect between sales and streams markets means that two of the week's strongest sellers don't quite make the massive chart headway hoped for, but there are still pleasing rises for Sigrid's Strangers (26-14) and Portugal. The Man's Feel It Still which on its sixth anniversary as a Top 100 single writes a further chapter in its extraordinary story with a five-place rise to Number 20.
One place below that is Diplomatic Immunity, the second track from Drake's EP but which hasn't quite made the same impact as its twin. The huge disparity between the two tracks is possibly down to there being room for only one Drake track on the Hot Hits etc. playlists - plus the fact that if you were a purchaser of the digital bundle of the EP rather than the individual tracks, legacy rules mean your purchase counted towards the chart tally of the lead track - in this case, God's Plan.
So perhaps for that reason, it is actually a less interesting new entry than the ones which creep into the lower end of the Top 40. Leading that particular charge is Mabel with a second hit single to follow pre-Christmas smash Finders Keepers. New single Fine Line sees her ride the grime train thanks to the collaborative efforts of a co-credited Not3s. This is actually the second time she has collaborated on record with the grime rapper, although her work on the single remix of his Number 17 hit My Lover went unnoticed by the charts, the credit remaining with him alone as per the original album cut of the track.
One place below at Number 33 there is an equally intriguing collaborative effort. These Days marks the return to the charts of Rudimental for the first time since Sun Comes Up made Number 6 last summer. Co-credited on this single are both Macklemore and perhaps most intriguingly Jess Glynne. This marks her return to the charts after an agonisingly long hiatus. Silent since the run of hits from her debut album in 2014/5, her prospective return in 2018 has already been flagged up as one of the moments to watch for in the new year. Thanks to Rudimental the first stage in that process appears well underway.
Also back, at least on a low level for now are The Chainsmokers who sit at Number 40 with new single Sick Boy. This is their first chart hit of note since their collaboration with Coldplay gave them one of the most enduring hits of 2017, Something Just Like This reaching Number 2 during an extended chart run which saw it spend nine weeks in the Top 10 and 33 on the Top 100 overall. The new single is a brand new track, the first new material from the American duo since the release of their debut album Memories… Do Not Open in April last year.
Give Me Just A Little More Wow
Finally, for this week I guess we have to deal with the elephant in the room. If you had believed the breathless headlines a week ago, then the most significant single release of the year so far was not the Drake EP but instead Dancing, the first new single from Kylie Minogue in three and a half years. Effectively marking the 30th anniversary of her debut hit I Should Be So Lucky making the Top 40 for the first time, this we were told was the track which was going to restore her chart fortunes and return her to the upper end of the charts with new material for the first time since 2014. Well shit. Naturally enough, Dancing was reasonably popular as a download, Kylie's remaining rump of devotees exactly the kind of people to still be purchasing singles. The only problem was there were still only just over 8,000 of them. Enough to make Dancing the 15th most-purchased track of the week, but not enough to mean the single can chart any higher than Number 47.
The only reason I call attention to this in this manner is because Kylie Minogue is one of those artists whose reputation and legacy precedes her to such an extent that it appears to blind everyone to the full extent of her appeal in 2018. She was indeed once one of the greatest forces in pop music, but even the tail end of her best days were almost a decade ago. She still looks and sounds great, but she's also a 50-year-old woman with a 30 year legacy of performing. Capable of making men of a certain age, both hetero and homosexual, fangirl like crazy for sure. But the kind of performer who can still cut it as a major chart act 30 years after she first debuted and with the musical landscape changed forever? Sorry, that really was never going to happen.
Whilst on the subject of the rump of the sales market, its total volume hasn't dipped below the million mark again since that notable moment just before Christmas. But you still don't have to sell many copies to top the still-published old-fashioned sales table. The biggest seller this week was the Sigrid single, but even that only amounted to 16,083 copies. Meanwhile, streams edged their way above 93% of the overall singles market for the first time ever, edging the all-time record just that little bit higher.