Still There, Really Don't Care
It's a third week at the top of the Official UK Singles chart for Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber with I Don't Care, but not for the first time in recent weeks that fact alone doesn't even begin to tell the story behind the current singles market. Because this was by no means the kind of stroll to the top of the charts such superstar hits have enjoyed in the past. They were instead harried all the way by their biggest rival, the gap presented by the midweek updates enough to ensure there was still a small question mark over the Number One single as the weekend rolled around.
A chart sale of 83,500 copies was enough to keep I Don't Care at the top, but its eventual margin of victory was a mere 1,300 sales. The single which clocked up 82,200 copies (once more normally more than enough to guarantee victory in the chart race)? Once again it was Old Town Road by Lil Nas X (and an uncredited Billy Ray Cyrus). The country-rap fusion is now five weeks removed from the fortnight it spent at Number One, but it has now spent every single one of those five weeks lodged firmly at Number 2. With every passing week, the chances of its returning to the top actually seem to increase, and with every week it has to wait the possibility that it may eventually do so becomes ever more extraordinary. Intrigue this week comes with the release of an acoustic version of I Don't Care which may give it enough of a boost to extend the gap at the top once again.
To be honest, we could have done with at least something to stir the pot this week. The biggest singles of the spring have remained largely the same for several weeks now, the top end of the British singles chart going through one of its periodic periods of sluggishness. Outside of the Top 2, we have Lewis Capaldi's former Number One Someone You Loved lodged at Number 3, this now its 16th consecutive week as a Top 4 hit single. Just below it Stormzy's Vossi Bop, arresting its chart decline to enjoy a fifth week in the Top 4. Then at Number 5 is Billie Eilish with Bad Guy, her single also a long-runner here on its ninth week on the chart and having never dropped lower than Number 6. Put bluntly, the pop music consuming segment of the British public loves the big hits of the moment a great deal. And they have been doing so for some weeks.
Meet The New Ed, Funky Like The Old Ed
The good news is that we have a new entry inside the Top 10. The bad news (possibly) for some is that it is another Ed Sheeran track. Ramping up the promotion for his forthcoming new album, the superstar this week dropped another promotional teaser, a single which is clearly not intended to compete with his present smash but instead whet the appetite for the kind of tracks he has up his sleeve. And make no mistake, Cross Me is a very different track indeed to the current Number One. This is Urban Ed making his long overdue comeback, sharing vocal duties with both Chance The Rapper and chart newcomer PnB Rock. The single walks a curious line, a far more credible and - dare I say it - relevant track than I Don't Care, it is far less "pop" and as this initial chart placing suggests maybe appeals to a far more restrictive audience. At the very lease Cross Me proves that any sneers and barbs directed at Ed Sheeran and his unrelenting ubiquity are entirely misplaced. His ability to hop genre boundaries and deliver upbeat pop hits, heart-wrenching ballads and infectious R&B bangers like this track remains the sign of a musical genius firing on all cylinders. And he's British. He's ours. One of the biggest musical superstars on the planet is a home-grown talent.
Cross Me is yet another in Ed Sheeran's long line of Top 10 hit singles, totting them all up an exercise in pointlessness given that many of them were album cuts which appeared during Ed Sheeran week in 2017. For Chance The Rapper this is his fourth Top 10 hit single in the last two and a half years and only the second not to come as the featured guest on a DJ Khaled track. Rather bizarrely he's yet to manage a Top 75 hit single as a primary or lead artist. His every chart appearance so far has been under a guest billing.
It is urban stars who feature on the other two big new entries of the week, both tracks landing back to back at the lower end of the Top 20. Leading the way are NSG with brand new single OT Bop. The six-man collective from Hackney already has one long-running hit single to their name in 2019 thanks to Options which fought its way to Number 7 in early April following a long and steady climb up the ranks. OT Bop follows on from its predecessor in featuring enough charm and wit to be brimming with crossover potential. Kruddz, OGD, Papii Abz, Dope, Mxjib, and Mojo may read like a poor hand at Scabble but they are responsible for some of the most appealing grime hits of the year so far.
Keep Up America
One step behind are the Americans, Number 18 hit The London a collaboration between Young Thug, J Cole and Travis Scott. Lead artist Jeffrrey "Young Thug" Williams hasn't featured in the upper reaches of the singles chart since his guest turn on Camila Cabello's long-running Number One hit Havana back in 2017. J Cole was last seen back in February on Number 9 hit Middle Child whilst Travis Scott you may know from his own Sicko Mode and his turn at the mic on Kodak Black's Zeze, both Top 10 hits within the last year. So that's quite a pedigree all three men bring to the table, although 30 seconds of The London is enough to have me scurrying back to OT Bop. Call it a surge of patriotism if you will, but American hip-hop appears to be treading water creatively, leaving the ever-growing band of British rap stars to forge the way in innovation and excitement.
Still Looking Perfect Babe
We last saw 5 Seconds Of Summer a little over a year ago when they tore up the form book with the wordwide smash hit single Youngblood. Long written off as a fan service act, releasing singles that appealed to their loyal and dedicated fanbase but absolutely nobody else, that 2018 release forced everyone to re-evaluate their expectations. Youngblood spent over six months on the charts, peaked at Number 4 in the middle of that extended chart run and surpassed even their 2014 chart-topping debut She Looks So Perfect in terms of both British and worldwide sales. So we greet their first single as lead artists since with suspicion. Just which version of 5SOS are we going to get here? The lead single from the Australian group's forthcoming fourth studio album, Easier treads the same path as its predecessor, nudging the group still further away from their pure pop roots and into a direction which they presumably have calculated will retain their mainstream superstardom. For now the single debuts at Number 29. But it is where it ends up over the next month which will determine if Youngblood was a one-off or the start of a whole new career.
Late Night Bang Bang Bang
I swore last week I'd find the time to pay Mark Ronson's Late Night Feelings some attention, and on its third week as a Top 40 hit single it seems appropriate to do so. The latest hit from the super producer continues to climb the ladder a few rungs at a time, rising three places this week to reach Number 30. Regardless of where it ends up, the track will be most notable for handing a British chart debut to noted Swedish singer-songwriter Lykke Li who supplies the vocals on the rather addictive pop hit. Mark Ronson has yet to release anything that is truly average and he avoids that pitfall here, but this track still has some distance to travel if it is even to come close to emulating the Number 2 peak of Nothing Breaks Like A Heart from earlier this year.
Even the biggest names have to deal with slow starts these days. Starting its chart life at Number 31 are Jess Glynne and Jax Jones, One Touch a brand new recording that did not feature on Jess' last album Always In Between. Almost needless to say it is Jax Jones' second hit single of the moment, competing against his own All Day And Night which continues to dart in and out of the Top 10 (it dips to Number 11 this week). One to watch over the next few weeks.
Rewrite The Script
James Arthur's new single Falling Like The Stars landed at Number 34 a fortnight ago and then promptly took a dive, slumping to Number 47 last week. That appeared to send his label into a tailspin and they took immediate steps to push the single heavily in the hope of reviving its fortunes. It all seems to have done the trick, the track rebounding back into the Top 40 this week at Number 35. He was the interval act on the live show of Britain's Got Talent on Wednesday, but that was far too late in the week for it to have had much of an impact on the chart fortunes of the single. Since then it has lodged in the Top 5 on iTunes and has reached its highest position to date on the Spotify daily charts. Looks like this story isn't done yet.
Finally for this week, a token acknowledgement for Sigala and Becky Hill who arrive at Number 39 with Wish You Well. Sigala's first release since Just Got Paid back in 2018, it should hopefully do just as well. Becky Hill is still without a major chart hit as a lead artist despite her extensive success as the guest star on other people's hits. Her last release I Could Get Used To This limped to Number 67 earlier in May. Neither of her two chart hits as a lead artist have come even close to reaching the Top 40.