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Crystal Clear To Me
In the wake of the past few weeks of next to no movement at the top of the Official UK Singles chart, Music Week this week weighed in on the debate about the still awkwardly static music market with an editorial "Static feedback". It contained what might be the surprising revelation that in actual fact notwithstanding the past two weeks the singles chart is moving faster than it has done for some time. The first weeks of this year have actually seen 50 new Top 10 hits (compared to 44 last year), 88 new Top 20 hits (2018: 79) and 149 new Top 40 hits (2018: 144). OK, so in percentage terms that isn't a huge change. But there are more hits around than it may seem at first glance.
In any event, the agenda this week moves on. Just as predicted some of the longer-lasting hits of late finally crash to ACR, freeing up space right at the top end of the charts and giving the listing a rather fresher look than we've enjoyed of late. What that does however mean is that the most immediate threat to the chart crown of Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber has been removed, meaning there was little standing in the way of I Don't Care enjoying a sixth consecutive week at Number One. A new Loud Luxury remix came out last week, although it seems to have had only a small impact on the popularity of the single, slowing its steady decline rather than boosting it. As the graphs page on this site shows, the single has slumped in sales every week since its debut, its 65,420 chart sale this week almost half of the near 124,000 with which it first debuted. Six weeks at the top equals the total chart-topping run of Bieber's Love Yourself (also written by Ed, remember) meaning the two singles are now effectively neck and neck as the Canadian's biggest chart hit ever.
Decks Nicely Swept
So as Old Town Road tumbles 2-7 and Someone You Loved plunges 3-11 the way is now clear for the exciting new sound of er, Vossi Bop which magically rebounds to Number 2 for Stormzy after spending the past four weeks straight at Number 4. Meanwhile, the Top 3 is completed by another long-term chart resident as Billie Eilish's Bad Guy climbs two places to occupy its own highest chart position for nine weeks. Both singles post the lowest tallies of their chart life so far, and in the case of Bad Guy this is enough to ensure it too will crash to ACR next week.
So the biggest winner of this post-Capaldi shakeout actually turns out to be... Lewis Capaldi. His own Hold Me While You Wait rebounds 6-4 and reclaims its chart peak to date, a position it first occupied back in May when it debuted. Do you spot a pattern here though? Stormzy up 2, Billie up 2, Lewis Capaldi up 2. But for ACR we actually would once again have had an unchanged Top 5. Static feedback indeed.
Burger And Fries
The pop music industry right now is a mass of contradictions. On the one hand, we have huge smash singles of the kind we have just discussed, ones which loiter in the market for months and months until it requires the application of rules to ease them out of the way. Then there are those tailor-made epics which sink out of sight almost the moment they arrived - undoubtedly to the chagrin of those who have invested money in their promotion and brightly-coloured videos. It is into this latter category that Taylor Swift's Me! fell, the bouncy single exploding into our lives like a paintball but which ultimately had just a cup of coffee near the top end of the charts. It hasn't vanished completely, but eight weeks on from release it is now.....
In short, it barely feels like five minutes ago it was released, which is why the arrival of the next single from Tay-Tay's forthcoming new album feels like it has arrived with breathless speed. It seems all too fashionable to knock the American star at every turn, to sneer at her for the relentless diet of brightly coloured pop music she is presently serving up. Yet this is the hardest she has worked in years, she's promoting this music enthusiastically and subjecting herself to press and media interviews at every turn. Heck, until this month I had genuinely never heard her speaking voice before, although perhaps that is just me not paying proper attention.
The new single You Need To Calm Down proudly carries the spirit of its predecessor aloft, a magnificent and joyful pop record with an artfully clever lyric but with a profound message at its heart. For this is all at once both the gayest and indeed the Gayest single of the year, one where she once again throws barbs at her haters and announces that "shade never made anybody less gay". And just like Me! this is a track with a video that redefines Fabulous, once more rammed with enough sideways references to be annoying but also with a parade of celebrity cameos - including THAT onscreen reconciliation with former sworn enemy Katy Perry. You Need To Calm Down is also a shining example of production genius, the kind of record that sounds reminiscent of a hundred different others all at once and as a result, sounding comfortingly familiar despite being brand new. Although I've spent the past week trying to work out just what it reminds me of the most.
Easily the biggest new single of the week, the track flies into the chart at Number 5 to give Taylor Swift her 13th Top 10 hit single.
Mixing It Locally
If we judge acts solely on their last chart single then Little Mix badly need help. Think About Us was released back in January and made heavy work of its chart run, able to climb no higher than Number 22 before expiring. In theory, you have to wonder just where they have left to go. Not quite a "legacy" act, but still veterans from a previous era in pop music and doing their level best to find their role in a new era. But then again it wasn't so long ago they were almost back on top of the world. October 2018 single Woman Like Me climbed all the way to Number 2 during a nine-week run inside the Top 10, one which was only brought to an end by the unfortunate combination of ACR and the invasion of Christmas songs. So with the right material they can still hang with the cool kids. Will the real Little Mix please stand up?
Let's face it, most Little Mix tracks of late have fallen into the trap of just being too shouty, the four women bellowing at us over dirty R&B beats. It made tracks like Think About Us so hard to love. So it is reassuring to report that their brand new single Bounce Back does exactly that in every sense of the word. It is hardly a secret that the track is heavily based on a 30-year-old classic, interpolating entire chunks of Back To Life (However Do You Want Me) from Soul II Soul which was at the top of the charts this week in 1989. But by stirring in something that is already good it automatically makes Bounce Back on the edge of great, possibly their best single for three years. Bouncing back indeed. This is the first single from the "new era" of the former X Factor winners, their first release for RCA Records after Syco rather messily severed all links with the group and their management at the end of last year. After a strong start to the week, the single faded slightly and only just scrapes a place in the Top 10 at the very bottom. But a Top 10 single it is, the 14th of their career - four more than the Spice Girls ever managed but still some way short of the 21 that their spiritual predecessors Girls Aloud managed in their chart heyday.
He Quacks Again
So there we were last weekend minding our own business, taking in the majesty of the Little Mix and Taylor Swift tracks when CLANG just like that up popped Drake with two surprise new tracks. The man with the cultural stranglehold has been surprisingly quiet of late, his only chart hits in the past year being as a guest star, so it possibly should not have come as much of a surprise that he's been busy creating stuff in the interim. What perhaps is a surprise is the rather low-key way these two new singles arrive on the charts. Easily the biggest of the pair is Money In The Grave, the most hardcore hip-hop track he has released in some time but which still carries the distinctive dreamlike Drake backing. It lands with a splash at Number 13, the smallest opening week for any of his "proper" single releases (dual releases and album cuts excepted) since Signs opened at Number 22 in July 2017. Co-performer on Money In The Grave is rapper Rick Ross, this only his second Top 40 hit single. His first was his contribution to 2014 Number 10 hit New Flame as performed by Chris Brown - who is himself in the Top 10 this week alongside Drake. Proving my point that everyone records with everyone else eventually.
The other Drake hit is Omerta which was actually pushed as the primary track from the Best In The World double pack but which instead ends up as by far the smaller of the two, charting at Number 33.
I'd Have Loved 3 Nights With You
Outside the new entries, everyone else just sculls around in mid-table, although there is a climb into the Top 20 for Jess Glynne and Jax Jones as One Touch moves 23-19. Following her late notice withdrawal from the Isle Of Wight festival midweek she probably needs all the good news she can get.
The highest climber of the week is 3 Nights by Dominic Fike which vaults 31-21. The debut single from the Floridan singer and rapper, it is a track which has been floating around for several weeks already and this chart jump comes after the single spent a frustrating four weeks floating around the lower tier of the Top 40. 3 Nights is a track which has defied attempts by reviewers to categorise it, too bass-heavy to be proper reggaetón, too bouncy to be R&B. But I'm glad it is finally getting a chance to get its head properly above water because it is the kind of track which sounds like it belongs on your speaker on a hot summer night.
Only one other track climbs into the Top 40 this week, Summer Days a 3-way collaboration between Martin Garrrix, Macklemore and Fall Out Boy's Patrick Stump and which makes an appearance at Number 36. A single which is perhaps slightly less than the sum of its parts (the nod towards Daft Punk's Harder Better Faster Stronger notwithstanding), but its name value should be more than sufficient to propel this higher. Eventually anyway.
Nana And Grandad
On then to the Official UK Albums chart which in theory handed us the most fascinating chart race of the week. Sadly it was a race of the Zimmer frames, a two-way tussle between the 69-year-old Bruce Springsteen and the 60-year-old Madonna. Both huge names and superstars of their eras for sure, but the fact that the biggest new album releases of the week are by two superannuated pop icons of the past tells you possibly all you need to know about the dire state of the album market. Let the record show then that it was eventually The Boss who had the edge, Western Stars ended up the fastest selling record on physical formats so far this year. His first studio album of new material since 2012, it becomes his 11th Number One album on these shores. In second place is Madonna's Madame X, her 14th studio album duplicating the chart fate of its predecessor, 2015 release Rebel Heart which also stalled in second place.
Finally for this week a genuine curiosity. New at Number 71 is On A Roll from chart debutant Ashley O. Except that it isn't really, for this is the character played by Miley Cyrus in an episode of Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror series on Netflix. This marks the second time in her career she has made the charts "in character" rather than under her real name, scoring a brace of hits as Hannah Montana back in 2007. It does prompt the question: does this count as Miley's second concurrent hit single of the moment under chart rules, or are they separate tallies given she's performing as two different people?