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Chalk up three weeks at Number One on the Official UK Singles chart for Ava Max as Sweet But Psycho continues to dominate the hearts and minds of the British public. From humble beginnings the pop single has grown to become phenomenally huge - its streaming tally alone this week amounted to 7.6m plays, translating to a chart sale of 68,000 - although this does mark the first time since its release that the single has fallen in sales week-on-week. Even so, the first Number One single of 2019 still seems settled in and comfortable. I have to confess all I'm waiting for now is the first hot take from someone alleging the track is problematic for its treatment of mental health issues. Hey, you just know someone, somewhere is thinking of it.
The whole of the top end of the singles chart is demonstrating one of its characteristic periods of stagnation - although just for a change there are specific reasons for this. The disruption to the singles market caused by the mass invasion and then sudden exit of the Christmas songs resulted in an uptick in streaming numbers for most contemporary hit singles last week, their previous numbers depressed slightly by most people choosing to enjoy holiday favourites instead. Combined with the adjusted chart rules which mean streaming totals are now the only things taken into account when assessing whether tracks move to ACR and we now have a situation where almost every single track on the charts has had its ACR clock reset. This is mostly to the benefit of Ariana Grande's thank u next, which is now ten weeks old and has theoretically been declining in sales for the past four or five. But rather than being relegated it holds firm, spending a third week at Number 2.
Meanwhile, just below, Mark Ronson and Miley Cyrus finally break into the Top 3 with Nothing Breaks Like A Heart. This column speculated whether it was in pole position to grab a spell at the top of the charts in the new year - something which now sadly looks beyond it, because there are some big names with some big new singles heading in this direction. The seasonally-induced stagnation isn't set to last too much longer.
For the second week running the true star of the Top 10 is Post Malone who continues to enjoy two of the Top 5 hits. He's in the odd position of having two side by side hits from two entirely different sources as well, meaning both are competing on equal terms. This week it is his "own" track WOW. (an entirely new recording, not featured on his last album Beerbongs and Bentleys) which takes the lead, ascending to Number 4. It means the "Spiderman: Into The Spider-verse" soundtrack single Sunflower takes a small tumble this week, dipping to Number 5. You'd like to think WOW. will be gifted with a proper video at some point, the Christmas-themed animated one which is all that accompanies it so far is starting to look more awkward by the minute.
More Than Just Noise
The peace of the new year is finally shattered with the first big Top 10 new entry of the calendar. The track in question is 18HUNNA which hands a first-ever major hit single to Tottenham-born Headie One, this after he reached Number 32 with his debut album The One Two last summer. Call it Drill, call it BritHop, call it what you want, but the performer is the latest in what is becoming an increasingly long line of British rap stars to emerge from the underground shadows for their own moment in the light. After a series of well-received releases in 2018, Headie One moves from online freestyler to proper chart star. It seems only appropriate that he comes with a fellow 'name' from the scene in tow, so Dave gets a co-credit on the track as well, this his own first hit since Funky Friday topped the charts at the tail end of last year.
Another new arrival in the Top 10 is George Ezra's Hold My Girl. One of those curious examples of a slushy ballad released for the Christmas market but instead finding its true calling as a new year hit, the single duly becomes the third Top 10 hit in a row from his Staying At Tamara's album and the fifth of his career overall.
Daddy Pig's Daughter
Until now, just two singles in the long history of the UK charts had ever made the Top 10 four times during the same chart run. Stranger On The Shore by Acker Bilk was the first, way back in 1961 and it wasn't until 2010 when another single pulled off the trick, Make You Feel My Love by Adele spending several months dancing up and down the tables. Yet in this week's Top 10 there are believe it or not two more which have managed this rare chart feat. The first is Post Malone's Sunflower, which arrived back in the upper reaches for the fourth time last week with its 19-3 climb. The second is the single at Number 9 - Lost Without You by Freya Ridings which climbs three places to begin its own fourth run inside the Top 10. The hit single which refuses to die, first released more than a year ago this week marks 26 weeks as a Top 100 hit record, all but six of those having been in the Top 40. Despite this longevity Freya has yet to climb beyond Number 9, this week marking the fifth non-consecutive week Lost Without You has occupied its chart peak.
Just a few weeks shy of the 13th anniversary of the arrival of his debut hit Run It, the ever-controversial Chris Brown is back once more with what is now his 30th Top 40 hit single. Undecided is a brand new track, his first new material since the release of his Heartbreak On A Full Moon album in 2017. No R&B hit single worth its salt these days goes without a sideways reference to an older hit and Undecided is no exception, interpolating elements of Shanice's 1992 Number 2 hit I Love Your Smile. I guess this is enough to make it a breezy Breezy track, and it has enough appeal to smash straight into the Top 20 on release, his first solo hit single since Questions reached Number 12 in October 2017. He's been higher up the charts more recently than that of course, doing a star turn on Lil Dicky's Number One hit Freaky Friday last year.
Rewrite The Record Books
The Number One album this week? Still The Greatest Showman I'm afraid, this now taking its chart-topping total to a mind-melting 26th week in total. Over the past few months, I've repeatedly understated the total number of weeks Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band has spent at the top of the charts, overlooking its one week return to glory in June 2017. So let's state for the record that the famous Beatles classic has enjoyed 28 weeks at Number One since release, meaning Showman is still two weeks short of equalling it to further move up the table of all-time long-running Number One albums. Although with every passing week and with big new releases lined up around the corner, it is going to become harder and harder for the soundtrack collection to manage this. Although let's face it, it has surprised us at every turn so far.
Your Only Option Is To Enjoy
Also new to the Top 40 singles this week, Options from NSG featuring Tion Wayne which jumps to Number 25 after a Number 80 debut a week ago. More Britrap, this gives grime squad NSG their first chart hit as lead artists although the collective actually made their debut last summer as featured artists on the Gecko single 6:30 which crept to Number 56. Lest you think these street stars are too cool to care about things such as hit singles or chart positions, a glance at their Twitter accounts proves otherwise. Options becoming a hit single and helping the pair cross over to something approaching mainstream recognition is a huge deal for them.
Actually "pop stars cheering their chart positions on Twitter" could become something of a theme, as Scottish singer-songwriter Lewis Capaldi is equally as amped to be enjoying his first ever Top 40 hit single.
As the singer notes, this week his debut chart hit Grace, which first charted at the start of December and which was actually shoved out of the charts altogether over Christmas has returned for the new year with a new lease of life. Streams and sales are up and it deservedly gives the 22-year-old Glaswegian his first taste of true fame, almost two years after his first material appeared online.
In With The Old
The final chart quirk of the week is the unexpected Top 40 return of a handful of long-running 2018 smashes. At first glance, there seems no logic to this, Anne-Marie's 2002 leaps 69-37 (eclipsing her struggling current hit Perfect To Me which has yet to make the Top 40), Jess Glynne rockets 71-40 with I'll Be There, whilst a little lower down Dua Lipa's even more vintage New Rules rises 93-54. This is all a result of last week's dramatic exit from the market of the Christmas hits, a move which as I noted last week collapsed the size of the singles market by a good 14%. As a consequence this dramatically lowered the bar for singles being able to reverse their ACR status. You only need to increase your streams by more than 50 percentage points relative to the market - in effect meaning a 36% rise would be enough. And that's precisely what has happened to many of the above singles, all of which have enjoyed boosts in streams after the brief popularity of "best of the year" playlists on many streaming services. Any change in status only takes effect a week after you qualify, and all three of the above hits have suddenly found themselves promoted back up the table, many months after they moved to accelerated decline. It is another example of how the large influx of Christmas hits completely mangles the singles chart. The sales rule assume a market which doesn't shift more than 5% in any direction week on week. When it surges and falls as it did over the holiday, weird things happen in their wake.
Normality is, however, swiftly returning. Next week should see the arrival of the first 2019 releases from some of the biggest names of all. Fresh material from people such as Calvin Harris and Sam Smith (both with new collaborators of their own), plus a potentially startling comeback from Westlife? Bring it on, I'm ready for it.