Is It Me Or Is It Chilly In Here?
When the history of popular music in the first part of the 21st century comes to be written, the Arctic Monkeys will almost certainly go down as one of the most significant acts of their era. Not necessarily because of the music they wrote (although their many and numerous awards indicate that much of it is pretty damn good), but for the way they represented a dawning of a new era.
Back in 2005 they shot to fame almost from nowhere, crashing straight in at Number One on the Official UK Singles chart with I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor, doing so with a sale that was overwhelmingly digital and reflecting the way they had built up a grassroots following entirely online, bypassing the traditional record label-based route to fame until almost the last moment. We last saw Alex Turner and friends in 2013 when they released their fifth album AM, a body of work hailed by all and sundry as one of their finest and which came complete with a full complement of hit singles to boot. The band were on top of the world and the finest Britain had to offer.
However, that was five years ago. And five years is an eternity in pop music. Although news that the band had finally reconvened to record a new album was welcomed by every critic you care to name, there was always the question as to whether they would be the force they once were in this bold new streaming age where rock is very much relegated to an afterthought. A clue that this had been taken into account came from the way no singles were released in advance of the new album. It was an all or nothing deal, designed for everyone to suck it and see.
The first clue that something rather extraordinary was afoot came at the very start of the chart week. The first Spotify reports which trickled in indicated that the Arctic Monkeys were in the process of dominating the streaming tables in a manner that was almost Sheeran-esque. Every single track from the new album Tranquility Base + Casino had taken up residence inside the Top 20 tracks of the day. We are used to that for the big new releases from the biggest urban acts, but for a British rock band who had first made their debut almost 13 years ago? That was, to say the least, unexpected.
Alas, that kind of surge proved to be front-loaded listens from people who were at first unsure about the hype but whose samples of the album were successfully converted into purchases. Tranquillity Base Hotel + Casino charges to Number One on the Official UK Albums chart this week with a combined chart sale of over 86,000 copies - and it is easily the Number One album via all three chart metrics: physical, digital and indeed streaming.
However, this is far from the most extraordinary thing. The packaging of the album was carefully designed to make it a collectable. In particular, there were several editions of the vinyl pressing, with the collection being available in clear, silver and gold editions as well as good old-fashioned black. Clearly, some people snapped up the lot. Tranquillity Base Hotel + Casino sold an astonishing 24,500 copies on vinyl last week. More, we are told, than any album has managed in a seven day period for over 25 years. I was asked on Twitter on Friday evening if theoretically, the album could have reached Number One on vinyl sales alone. It isn't an impossible thought, although this week would not have been the case, The Greatest Showman soundtrack enjoying a sales boost thanks to the arrival of the movie on DVD/BD this week meaning its sales were up to over 33,000. The Arctic Monkeys still sold enough physical copies to have beaten that total, even without taking digital downloads and streams into account.
By topping the charts once again The Arctic Monkeys maintain their 100% record with studio albums. They are only the fourth act in chart history to open a career with a perfect six out of six Number One records, following in the illustrious footsteps of The Beatles, Oasis and Coldplay. Technically speaking this is frontman Alex Turner's eighth Number One album in a row if one counts the two Last Shadow Puppets albums on which he also featured.
But what about all the heavily-streamed tracks? Well, there are indeed 11 different Arctic Monkeys tracks nestling inside the unfiltered Top 100 streaming chart this week. On the Official UK Singles chart itself the group are, needless to say, subject to the Ed Sheeran rule which restricts them to just three appearances, but that still leaves room for them to make Number 18 for Four Out Of Five, Number 23 with Star Treatment and Number 26 with One Point Perspective. All the other eight tracks from the album are "starred out" within the Top 50. What do we take away from this? That given the right circumstances, traditional rock acts can still command the kind of streaming numbers other, hipper, genres are able to do with ease. But those circumstances seem to be when a group releases new material after a long break and everyone takes a sample before deciding to commit to buying.
Anyway, thank goodness for Sheffield, because the upper end of the singles chart is slim pickings this week. Five appears to be the theme, as One Kiss from Calvin Harris and Dua Lipa enjoys a fifth week locked in place at Number One, and presides over an entirely static Top 5. Whilst One Kiss retains a commanding lead over all of them, with a combined sale of spookily precisely 62,000 copies this week, the other four are jockeying for position in close contention with just 10,000 chart sales separating Drake at Number 2 and Anne-Marie at 5.
Just below we are at least spared the spectacle of another entirely becalmed Top 10 as three different singles manage to break through the glass ceiling. Inevitably one of them is Childish Gambino's This Is America which vaults 14-6 to give the actor and rapper his biggest ever hit single of any kind in this country, eclipsing the Number 7 he reached as a guest of Leona Lewis on Trouble in 2012. Lifting two places to Number 9 are David Guetta and Sia with Flames, the latter returning to the Top 10 for the first time since she guested on Dusk Till Dawn with ZAYN at the end of last year. David Guetta's last Top 10 hit single was his Justin Bieber-sponsored 2U which made Number 5 in June last year. This is now the third Top 10 hit that Guetta and Sia have enjoyed together, following 2012 hits Titanium and She Wolf (Falling To Pieces).
The one other Top 10 arrival comes thanks to what on the surface is a surprise 21-10 jump for the Shawn Mendes track In My Blood. A chart single for eight weeks now, the hit opened at what appeared to have been its Number 13 peak, the path of the single turning out to be all in reverse from there. Indeed last week it had dropped out of the Top 20 altogether for the first time. This impressive turnaround comes thanks to the arrival of a brand new acoustic version which takes the underperforming hit to an entirely new level. The single now becomes the fifth Top 10 hit for the 19-year-old Canadian.
This does mean for the moment there's no room for last week's other big new entry, I'll Be There from Jess Glynne which can only rise three places to Number 13. It's problem for the moment still appears to be a lack of streaming support although it at least rises 38-23 on that table. But that's still nowhere near enough to give her a Top 10 hit single just yet.
Thinking About Boys
The highest non-Arctics new entry of the week goes to another huge British female star, even if she has brought some friends along for the ride. Rita Ora is in the middle of the hottest streak she's enjoyed since the start of her six-year chart career. Three straight Top 10 hit singles in 2017 (including sure-fire Number One hit that was destined never to make it Anywhere) were followed earlier this year by her Number 8 performance alongside Liam Payne on the movie soundtrack hit For You. That's four Top 10 hits in a row with what is hoped is a fifth to follow. Yet new single Girls has got some work to do.
Did I mention the friends coming along for the ride? Rita's new single is an all-star performance, featuring vocal contributions from Cardi B, Bebe Rexha and Charli XCX. Rumour had it that her label was so convinced this was a smash that all manner of stops were pulled out to ensure the track debuted with a bang worldwide. In Britain that hasn't quite come off, Girls enters the charts at a mere Number 23 - lower than any single with Rita Ora as lead artist save for her 2015 track Body On Me which began life at Number 22. Still, this isn't the 1990s anymore and we don't judge singles on Week 1. Here's to it soaring skywards next week and leaving me with egg on my face. Or maybe this is something of a Rita misfire. Time will tell - and we've yet to see the video after all. Nine other songs entitled Girls have been chart hits in the past, but only two (by Moments & Whatnauts and The Sugababes) have reached the Top 10.
Other Top 40 new entries? We've got a couple this week. New in at Number 39 are Years & Years with If You're Over Me, the direct follow-up to previous single Sanctify which, let's face it, underachieved badly when it only reached Number 25 back in March. Both hits are taken from their upcoming second album Palo Santo. One place below is Selena Gomez with new single Back To You, this her first release of 2018 and follows up the huge global smash hit Wolves which reached Number 9 here at the end of last year. The song features on the soundtrack of the TV show "13 Reasons Why" but you suspect will also end up on her forthcoming third album.
So what of Eurovision? The broadcast of the annual song contest last weekend prompted the usual flurry of interest in some of the most popular songs from the events, although as so often appears to be the case said interest lasted no longer than a couple of days. Certainly, it wasn't enough to propel any of the tracks in question to the higher end of the charts. That said, we are still treated to three Eurovision hits this year. Leading the charge is Israeli winner Toy from Netta, charting at Number 49. Her victory came 20 years after Israel last ended up victorious at Eurovision when Dana International won with Diva and landed herself a Number 11 hit to boot when it was released as a single a month later.
The British entry Storm from SuRie is a place below at Number 50, this more than enough to peak the Number 73 scaled by our 2017 entrant Lucie Jones with her song Never Give Up On You. Storm is now the highest charting United Kingdom Eurovision entry since Molly reached Number 23 with Children Of The Universe in 2014. The final Euro hit is the Cypriot entry Fuego from Eleni Foureira which creeps to Number 64.