We All Aspire To His Beard Though
Throughout the whole of our journey so far through the wonderful world of God's Plan by Drake topping the Official UK Singles Chart, the overriding narrative has been his phenomenal level of streams. Numbers which eclipse any other single available at present and which essentially are the entire reason the single has been locked in place at the top of the charts ever since its release.
The only fly in the ointment, the one small scrap of hope that we have clung to as the weeks have rolled by, has been the ever-diminishing paid-for sales of the single, ones which have meant that the Number One single of the moment has consistently been at the bottom end of the Top 10 most purchased tracks of the week. This has meant that notwithstanding his overwhelming streaming lead, there was always the chance that a single with strong but lesser streams AND some high-level sales might just manage a cumulative weekly chart sales total that would be enough to overhaul the Canadian.
For the past month and a bit that record has been These Days by Rudimental. Consistently the strongest seller but never quite managing to make enough of a breakthrough as a stream to put distance between it and the rest of the market. Despite being eternally relegated to the runners-up position on the charts, the single has at least put in the work to slowly but surely close the gap. Over the past three weeks, the amount by which These Days has fallen short of the Number One position has narrowed from 12,990 copies through 10,436 and then last week a 'mere' 5,092 chart sales.
So it was with great interest that the first midweek update this week indicated that the gap between the Number 1 and Number 2 singles was by Monday afternoon just 500 copies. Not only that but the single in the lead was the Rudimental one, for the first time ever. Day by day the unofficial figures trickled out into the wild. By Tuesday the gap had widened to 800 copies, again in Rudimental's favour. On Wednesday the gap was down to just 19(!) copies. Only this time it was God's Plan which was the track in the lead.
The thing about midweek swings is this: they rarely go into reverse. So it is that in the final reckoning the status quo remains firmly in place. Whilst the gap of 937 chart sales may be far and away the narrowest margin of victory it has achieved so far, God's Plan by Drake nonetheless remains the Number One single in the UK for the 8th week running. However with its sales and streams both down and theoretically in freefall, there is perhaps light at the end of the tunnel.
So Rudimental It Hurts
It means once again that These Days is locked in place at Number 2. This is now the single's sixth consecutive week at a Number 2 single behind the same Number One track - matching the celebrated chart run of I'm Too Sexy by Right Said Fred which also managed half a dozen weeks as a runner-up in the summer of 1991 and with Bryan Adams' record-breaking Everything I Do (I Do It For You) constantly one step ahead at the top.
Only two other records in chart history have had longer consecutive runs at Number 2 without ever topping the charts - I Swear by All-4-One in 1994 and Moves Like Jagger by Maroon 5 and Christina Aguilera in 2011. Both spent seven weeks stuck in the runner-up position, the latter single making no small degree of chart history by being Number 2 behind a different Number One hit for the first six of these. The one chart record which appears destined to remain unbroken, at least for now is that of "longest wait at Number 2 before topping the charts". It is held by the single which was the second Number One single of all time - You Belong To Me by Jo Stafford which spent eight weeks at Number 2 (7 of them consecutively) before landing a week of glory at the top in the first weeks of 1953.
Number 3 this week just so happens to be the apparently evergreen Feel It Still. Now into its 33rd week as a Top 75 hit it reaches yet another brand new peak, climbing into the Top 3 for the first time in its sixth week as a Top 10 hit single. One more heave and it will in a cute way manage to match the highest ever chart position claimed by the song on which it is cheekily based. Please Mr Postman was never a UK hit in its original version by The Marvelettes but was instead taken to Number 2 by The Carpenters in 1975. As I've mentioned before, given the age of the Portugal. The Man track it is in constant danger of having the Sword of Damocles fall and be relegated to ACR with its streams halved in value. In order for that to happen, however, the sales of Feel It Still have to fall for three consecutive weeks and that's something which has yet to occur. This week the track clocked up 36,230 chart sales which means it has increased sales (and in the process reset the ACR clock) for the second week in a row.
Time To Begin Let's Count Them In
Last week's Top 10 contained precisely no new arrivals and although we avoid a similar situation repeating itself this week, we do so by the skin of our teeth. The only new single to penetrate the upper reaches is The Middle by Zedd, Maren Morris and Grey which jumps 18-10. That's frustratingly at the expense of both Mabel's Fine Line which remains locked at Number 11 and George Ezra's Paradise which climbs seven places to Number 12.
The fastest climber of the week slips into place at Number 20 following a 13 place climb. The track in question is Meant To Be from Bebe Rexha which has been around since February but has only now started to catch alight. It is a long overdue lead artist success for the 28-year-old singer-songwriter whose only claims to fame to date have been guest appearances on singles by artists such as Cash Cash, Martin Garrix and Britain's own Louis Tomlinson with whom she duetted on Back To You, a Number 8 hit last summer. Of course these days nobody ever performs truly solo and the sweet and romantic Meant To Be is a duet with Tyler Hubbard, lead singer of country duo Florida Georgia Line who are the ones directly credited on the track. It completes an extraordinary trio of otherwise obscure C&W artists who find themselves propelled into the Top 20 of the UK charts at present, joining Chris Stapleton (on Justin Timberlake's Say Something) and the aforementioned Maren Morris who singles on The Middle.
An Even Greater Show
The top end of the Official UK Albums chart remains as static as ever, but this does mean we now move into the realm of something extraordinary. Number One for the tenth straight week, and once more with a sale that puts it far ahead of anything resembling competition is the original cast recording of The Greatest Showman. This puts it in some very rare company indeed, only the second album in the last 30 years to spent as many as ten consecutive weeks at Number One on the album chart. The other? 21 by Adele which managed 11 straight weeks upon its first release in 2011, eventually relinquishing the title for a single week to Wasting Light from the Foo Fighters. Prior to Adele, the last album to manage 10 straight weeks at Number One had been Brothers In Arms by Dire Straits from January 1986 onwards. Next in its sights surely has to be the modern-day record for a movie soundtrack set by Grease exactly 40 years ago this year when it enjoyed a 13 week run at the top of the charts.
It is The Greatest Showman which also hands us one of the more bizarre singles chart moves of the week, as this week tracks from the soundtrack fall victim and/or benefit from the two notable chart rules introduced last summer. The first of these is the Accelerated Chart Ratio rule noted above, the automatic downgrading of the streams of any track older than 9 weeks and which has shown a sales decline for three consecutive weeks. Such a fate befalls a number of plunging hits this week, but in particular, the two Greatest Showman tracks which have been hovering around the Top 20 since the start of the year - Rewrite The Stars and The Greatest Show.
Now here's the fun part. The Greatest Showman was also labouring under the weight of the "Ed Sheeran rule" which debars all but the three biggest tracks from an album from appearing on the Top 100 singles chart. During the album's epic run at the top of the charts, there have been as many as 4 or 5 of its other tracks theoretically entitled to a place in the Top 40 but which were excluded under this rule. With Rewrite The Stars and The Greatest Show relegated to ACR they plunge down the rankings but in the process, they are no longer album cuts with the second and third highest chart sales. The result: they are now disqualified from the singles chart. In their place come two formerly starred-out hits - A Million Dreams and Never Enough which "enter" at Numbers 22 and 24 respectively.
Formerly starred out tracks have made random reappearances on the main chart on several occasions since the rule was introduced, but never before have any done so quite so high up the list. Meanwhile, the argument goes on as to how this is applied to the ensemble soundtrack of The Greatest Showman where most of the tracks have a different 'primary artist'. Then again, if the collective cast weren't considered the primary performer then the album itself would have had to be considered a compilation and been relegated to the Various Artists album table, denying us the fun of its record-stretching spell at the top of the main artists' chart. Aren't regulations fun?
Under Your Control
As for the highest real new entry of the week, that hits Number 25 for the returning Years And Years. It is the first proper hit single in almost three years for the British synthpop duo who were the toast of the town in 2015 with a notable pair of smash hit tracks King and Shine, the former a Number One hit and the latter falling one place short. Both featured on their debut album Communion. The only new material the pair have produced since was the one-off track Meteorite which featured on the soundtrack of Bridget Jones' Baby and which made a brief chart appearance at Number 72 in October 2016.
Three years away means they face similar challenges to many other acts who have found the world has turned without them in their absence. In their favour, however, is the style of music they perform, tuneful electropop remaining very much in fashion and as one of the first breakthrough acts of the new streaming era they still resonate with the core audience of singles chart consumers. Brand new single Sanctify makes a positive start and is all over the radio as I speak. Another huge smash appears to be a foregone conclusion.
Also newly minted to the Top 40 is Bad Vibe which moves 50-27 and so returns girl group M.O to this end of the charts for the first time since the summer of 2016 when Who Do You Think Of reached Number 18. Now reduced to a trio following the departure last year of founder member Frankee Connolly, this track is essentially credited as a three-way dance with guests Lotto Boyz and Mr Eazi all receiving the dreaded 'x' credit rather than listed as featured stars. Heavy on celebrity supporters but light on what you might call proper smash hit singles, M.O are in so many ways a story of dogged determination to succeed. You suspect this track will determine one way or another just whether the project still has potential.
Stat Watch Is Back!
I haven't done this for a few weeks, so it seems worth finishing this week with another peel back of the underlying numbers of the singles market. Streaming is now 93.87% of the singles market with the all-time record continuing to edge ever upwards. Elsewhere this week I demonstrated the maths which enable you to work out with pinpoint accuracy just how many copies the Top 100 tracks are selling on iTunes at any given moment. Total weekly sales of singles continue to hover around the 1 million mark. They have yet to dip below it again like they did just before Christmas, although this week they come closer than they have done since. Just 8,000 fewer and we would be back to six figures again. Five years ago this week (and a few months before the market finally peaked once and for all) they were a shade over 3 million.