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A Woman Like Her
Another chart, and another week where it is only possible to state that Ariana Grande is Number One on the Official UK Singles chart in a manner which makes it sound self-evident. thank u, next dips in sales for the first time this week and indeed is top of the charts by a smaller margin than it was last time around. But to put it another way, it tops the charts for a third week by a merely huge distance rather than an enormous one. Not for the first time this year, right now we have a Number One single against which practically nothing can compete. Ariana Grande clocks up 64,000 chart sales this week, of which a full 60,000 are accounted for by streams. It's paid for-sales have slackened off to the extent that thank u, next was only the seventh most-purchased track of the week. But it rules all online by a huge margin and for that reason alone is destined to be locked in place at the top of the charts for some weeks to come. And it still doesn't have a proper video.
Not that the Number 2 single isn't giving it a go, and indeed streams of Little Mix's Woman Like Me are at the kind of level which might under normal circumstances have been more than enough to give it a run at the top of the charts. Its destiny, however, appears to be a long-running Number 2 hit, which will make it the first single of Little Mix's seven-year chart career to stall in the runners-up slot.
For Little Mix this week was all about their fifth album LM5 which possibly fell victim to being released in a frantically busy week and has to content itself with an entry at Number 3. Hard on the heels of a wonderfully entertaining online spat over a tasteful nude promotional picture (which resulted in Ariana Grande fighting a Twitter war with Piers Morgan in their defence) the four women also enjoy two more chart entries this week, Strip at Number 25 and The Cure are Number 49.
The singles chart this week is female dominated like never before. Ariana, Little Mix, Lady Gaga, Jess Glynne, Rita Ora and Halsey all line up back to back to ensure we have an all-woman Top 6 for the very first time ever. Well, almost. The one injection of testosterone comes thanks to Gaga's singing partner Bradley Cooper. If he was just the featured act on Shallow then this would probably count officially as a chart record. But he's her equal in the billing, so this won't go down in the record books as a totally female-dominated singles chart. The most significant of all these moves is possibly the 7-4 leap made by Jess Glynne with the ever-gorgeous Thursday. The track is now her 9th Top 5 hit single, drawing her level once more with Rita Ora's total. No other solo British females can boast as many Top 5 hits.
So if Little Mix didn't manage the Number One album this week, who did? Michael Buble of all people, the crooner's tenth studio album Love landing him a fourth Number One record. As if to prove that the route to big sales lies down the middle of the road, Buble sold a massive 67,000 copies last week, the second highest artist album sale of the year. Only the Arctic Monkeys beat him, shifting 86,000 in a single week back in May. Buble is almost needless to say destined to have two albums near the top of the charts, his 2011 festive release Christmas is back in the charts already and floating around the Top 20. Because your mum just can't get enough of him it seems.
Incidentally, with Buble at 1, Mumford & Sons at 2 and Little Mix at 3, this is the first time since the first week of January that there hasn't been a movie soundtrack album in the Top 3. And what is the soundtrack which has been responsible for the vast bulk of those…?
The Beat I Drum
It doesn’t matter which way you try to spin it when the story of 2018 comes to be written it will be hard not to note that above anything else released and recorded over the last 12 months the soundtrack of The Greatest Showman will go down as the phenomenon of the year. The original cast recording of the hit movie has been a Top 5 ever-present on the album chart for all but one of the 48 weeks it has been on release so far. It has spent 21 weeks at Number One, the first 11 of those consecutively. Virtually all of its substantive tracks (8 in total) have been chart singles in one form or another, the most notable of course being This Is Me as performed by Keala Settle. Said track has itself been a singles chart fixture for what is now 47 weeks, all but 12 of which have been in the Top 40. It spent 13 weeks in the Top 10 and peaked at Number 3 on two separate occasions. It is easily one of the biggest selling singles of the year and just as its parent album will rightly go down as a modern day classic.
Now there is a chance for the legend to grow with the release last week of the much-anticipated Reimagined version of the soundtrack album, one which takes the Debney and Trapanese songs and reworks them all as pop hits. It is an idea which could so easily have gone badly wrong, but the whole collection has turned out to be a triumph. Shorn of the need to fit the context of the plot, each now-familiar song is blessed with its own new production values and achieves the near-impossible; a tribute covers album which manages to build on and enhance the originals. However, unlike the full cast recording The Greatest Showman: Reimagined qualifies for the charts as a multi-artist compilation and indeed tops that listing this week with some considerable ease. Crucially this also means its individual tracks are unencumbered by the usual rule which restricts each performer to no more than three simultaneous chart singles. It means tracks from Reimagined invade the singles chart like little nuggets of gold. And guess what? It is quite magnificent to see.
Leading the charge is what is clearly being pushed as the album's lead single, Pink's reworking of A Million Dreams has been on release for several weeks now but only this week does it finally explode into life, rocketing 36-11 as the chart's fastest mover of the week. That's more than enough to eclipse the chart run of the original version whose chart run was admittedly truncated by the aforementioned three hits rule, spending the winter starred-out of the listings before belatedly charting at Number 22 in mid-March. In the wake of the sudden success of the Pink single, it re-enters the chart for the first time since succumbing to a second star-out and is the Number 94 single this week. The new version of A Million Dreams is spine-tinglingly good and demonstrates nicely just how strong the movie's songs were and how they can neatly work as standalone pop hits. This chart placing is for now largely based on paid-for sales, however. Pink had some streams, but not quite enough to propel the single into the Top 10. For now, it is Pink's biggest chart hit since What About Us reached Number 3 in September 2017.
Yet there's more. Contending with A Million Dreams for bragging rights is the Reimagined version of Rewrite The Stars, the song performed in the movie by Zac Efron and Zendaya and which reached Number 16 in February. Matching that very same chart position at a stroke is the Reimagined take on the song from the unlikely partnership of James Arthur and Anne-Marie. For all the push that's been given to the Pink track, this one has been blessed with an official video and is to all intents and purposes a single too. Amusingly this out of sequence release has neatly eclipsed the current hit singles from both acts, Arthur's own Empty Space reverses to Number 26 this week whilst Anne-Marie's new offering Perfect To Me makes its chart bow at Number 70 - although you can expect much more from this one as we edge nearer the holiday.
Other hits from the album this week include the other teaser single The Greatest Show as performed by Panic! At The Disco and which rockets to Number 39. Kelly Clarkson's rendition of Never Enough is at Number 59, Come Alive as reimagined by Years & Years and Jess Glynne is new at Number 80, and The Other Side by Max and Ty Dollar $ign lands at Number 84.
I Make No Apologies
You will note there is one curious exception to that parade of hits. The movie's signature song This Is Me already existed in two different versions, the soundtrack recording sitting alongside the original 'pop' interpretation by Kesha. Just as in 2014 when Demi Lovato's Let It Go fell victim to the runaway success of Idina Menzel's "Frozen" original, so too the Keala Settle performance of This Is Me became the hit it was never supposed to be, leaving the expensively-made commercial version languishing in obscurity. Hence the version of This Is Me on the Reimagined album is actually more of a mash-up, combining Settle and Kesha's vocals for the first time, with an added Missy Elliott rap to bridge the two. It is the only track from the album billed as a remix rather than a reworking. Most crucially of all, Keala Settle continues to be billed as the lead performer on the song. And it is here that what you might call the "Perfect" rule kicks in because just like with the Ed Sheeran hit from a year ago, two different versions of the same song performed by the same lead artist have their chart sales combined for a single chart position. Hence the somewhat dramatic 63-34 leap for the longest-running chart hit of the year. This Is Me by what is still billed as "Keala Settle and the Greatest Showman Ensemble" returns to the Top 40 for the first time in nine weeks. The single would almost certainly have charted higher, but for the fact it crashed to ACR status some six months ago. It doesn't matter that many of its sales and streams this week were thanks to the new version, for now, the single remains relegated - although don't be surprised if this surge this week has exceeded the market plus 50% increase for This Is Me to enjoy an automatic reset [EDIT: by the looks of things it actually didn't, posting an increase of 3-4,000 over the 9,000 or so it had last week. So no reset just yet]. A confession: I've got £10 at 25-1 that Keala Settle will have the Christmas Number One, and why not after all? Because just like A Million Dreams and Rewrite The Stars and indeed all the other Greatest Showman: Reimagined tracks, the 'new' version of This Is Me is breathtakingly good.
Bermuda Triangle Escaped
Let's return briefly to reality and rewind back to mid-table. One week after I hinted that the 31-40 part of the singles chart is a twilight zone where new singles will take their time escaping, one of last week's new appearances wastes little time in rocketing to the business end of the market. Step forward then Ava Max with Sweet But Psycho which moves 32-13 and more than lives up to the potential everyone knew it had. Also escaping the zone, although having to be patient with it this time, Ellie Goulding and Diplo's Close To Me which reaches a brand new peak of Number 21 as its airplay and appearances on playlists start to bite. The arrival of its official video online can't have hurt either. There is also progress, and the second new peak in two weeks, for Billie Elish's When The Party's Over, up at Number 24.
Listen To The Man
George Ezra knows the meaning of patience. He may well have had two smash hit singles already this year (Paradise and Number One hit Shotgun) but they were preceded by a relative flop and indeed took their time to become the hits they deserved to be. So slow but sure progress for his third Top 40 hit of the year should hardly be a surprise. Quite whether Hold My Girl stands a chance of living up to the chart success of its predecessors remains to be seen, particularly as Shotgun still out-guns them all at Number 27), but it comes to our attention for the first time here with a climb to Number 33. The string-drenched ballad has clearly been pushed with one eye on the seasonal market. An inspired move or a cliché too far? Time alone will tell.
Was It A Factor?
It peaked at Number 7 back in the summer, but Tom Walker's Leave A Light On returned to the singles chart three weeks ago after the performer reactivated it with an appearance on the Stand Up To Cancer television charity event. Last weekend he continued that comeback with a performance on the X Factor results show, and this was enough to rocket the single back into the Top 40 for the first time since early August. But Walker wasn't the only one to perform a current hit single on X Factor last weekend. Back in October 2009, Cheryl Cole (as she was then known) launched her solo career with a triumphant X Factor performance, one which sent her debut single Fight For This Love to the top of the charts with a massive sale of 293,000 copies. Last weekend she performed her latest hit single Love Made Me Do It on the show. The single this week plummets from its entry point of Number 19 all the way down to Number 47. Clocking up just over 11,000 chart sales.
This week does seem to have been all about numbers, doesn't it? Still, there's one more to take note. The paid-for singles market took another steep dive last week, total sales dipping below 800,000 for the first time since the summer of 2005. Or right at the very dawn of the digital singles market. We're still on course to go below three-quarters of a million before Christmas. This time last year we were waiting for sales to dip below a million. Streams are on the up. Sales are down. But it is amazing how many people still haven’t grasped this.
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