10 into 14 Does Go (In Scotland)
After a couple of weeks of turmoil it is nice to report a lack of sensation at the top end of the Official UK Singles chart, Promises from Calvin Harris and Sam Smith comfortably enjoying a second week at Number One with what amounts to their highest sale to date. Meanwhile, the single it deposed - Eastside by Benny Blanco, Halsey and Khalid remains locked in place at Number 2, albeit with the first sales decline of its nine-week chart career - meaning the ACR clock has started to tick.
Most of the entertainment this week came thanks to a gracious tweet from Harris himself. He acknowledged the congratulations from all around over his tenth Number One single, but actually begged to differ slightly over how many he'd achieved:
The "missing four" here are singles on which he was listed as the producer but did not receive an artist credit. The tracks in question are Holiday by Dizzee Rascal, Call My Name by Cheryl, I Will Never Let You Down by Rita Ora, and Spectrum (Say My Name) by Florence and the Machine. Which were indeed Calvin Harris productions (or remixes in the case of the latter). However as we noted last week, there's a very thin line between what counts as "producer" and "performer" given that Calvin Harris only sings on a small handful of his ten credited Number One hits and his artist credit on the rest is thanks to his role in making and creating the tracks - producing them if you will. The line is further blurred by the fact that one of his ten chart-toppers is We Found Love by Rihanna, on which he merely has a "featuring" credit. Yet he doesn't perform on the track and it appeared on her album a year before it found its way onto one of his. So he's technically only the producer of that one, just that his name value even at that time was such that we presume he was entitled to insist a co-performers credit.
So yes, Calvin Harris has "made" 14 Number One singles, even if he has been credited as the performer of just ten of them. But as we noted last week, he's "performed" in the traditional sense on just three.
Let's just be glad Chris Brown's Yeah 3X didn't get anywhere near the top. Calvin Harris is these days presented as co-writer of that track, but that is merely a courtesy credit after he successfully pointed out the similarities with his own track I'm Not Alone. He actually played no direct part in its production.
Kanye West has had a busy 2018 so far. The summer was notable for the intense burst of releases from what had been dubbed the Wyoming Sessions. During June he was the creative force behind a series of weekly releases, five seven-track albums all released one after the other: Daytona by Pusha T, his own Ye, Kids See Ghosts (a collaboration with Kid Cudi), Nasir by Nas and KTYSE by Teyana Taylor. After all that work, you could forgive him for taking time out to rest. But no, this week he's back with what is instantly the most compelling hip-hop single of the summer and which just so happens to be the highest new entry of the week.
Never one for convention, I Love It by Kanye West and Lil Pump was premiered at the Pornhub awards (at which Kanye was the creative director), causing enough of a stir that its hit single status was all but guaranteed. To hear it the first time is to be astonished, the two minute track little more than a burst of unbroadcastable profanity as the two performers describe in explicit, graphic and at first glance unsubtle and sophomoric detail why and how they intend to seduce (if you can call it that) the object of their desires. It is a world away from the kind of elegant poetry that has characterised Kanye West tracks in the past and risks being dismissed as a rather turgid obscenity.
Yet the lyrics are only half the story. I Love It only clicks into place when you view the accompanying video. In the Spike Jonze-directed clip West and Pump are reduced to figures of absurdity, dressed as Roblox characters and portrayed as diminutive figures of ridicule. They can be as filthy and profane as they want, but the eight-foot-tall woman of their desire remains the one with the power to reject their foolishness. A hot take on sexual politics, or merely an extended joke by all involved, who can say? Certainly, both the video and its lyrics have been subject to intense deconstruction online with just about everyone having their own hot take on what each part means. To my mind though this is unique. I've never before contemplated heaping praise on a piece of music which only makes any sense in the context of its video, but in this new age of integrated media and with plays of online video streams counting for the charts it only makes sense that hit records can find their way into the public domain in this manner.
I Love It also gives a credit to American comedienne Adele Givens, the track bookended by a famous soundbite from a set she performed on the 1990s HBO series Def Comedy Jam which gave a jumpstart to the careers of many black comedians. The single smashes into the chart at Number 3, Kanye's biggest hit single since the Paul McCartney/Rihanna collaboration FourFiveSeconds also reached that peak in early 2015 and the highest first week chart placing he's enjoyed since 2009. Lil Pump's only chart appearance to date came at the tail end of last year when his single Gucci Gang wrote itself into a small part of chart history by spending four consecutive weeks locked at its eventual peak of Number 27.
Speaking of Paul McCartney, he pops up for real this week over on the Official UK Albums chart. The story here was the possibility that his new album Egypt Station (his 18th solo album according to official counts) might fight its way past the existing contenders and take him to the top of the charts for the first time in 29 years. He did his best to help, with a series of at times extraordinary interviews spinning all manner of wild tales of his days in The Beatles. In the end, it was not to be, although with a Number 3 entry this week he manages the extraordinary feat of seeing each of his last four releases peak at this position. Telling of the kind of demographic still interested in an album from the 76-year-old performer, Egypt Station was far and away the best-selling album in physical formats this week.
By contrast, the Number One album is once again Eminem's Kamikaze and once more this demonstrates how it is an album entrenched in the brave new world of the music industry. Eminem's was the most-downloaded and most-streamed album of the week, and a full 51% of its 36,000 copies chart sale this week came from online streams.
Please Stand Up
Such streaming power helps Eminem remain dominant on the singles chart this week, his three permitted hits all mostly holding their own, in marked contrast to the cherry-picked album cuts from other urban artists which generally have a one-week shelf life. This week he manages the rare trick of occupying three consecutive places in the Top 10 with singles at 8, 9 and 10. All three are effectively swapping places, The Ringer falls 4-10, Lucky You slips 6-9 but Fall actually climbs a place to a new peak of Number 8. Not entirely coincidentally it is the only track with an accompanying video for now and so effectively has official status as the album's lead single.
Even with Eminem dominating proceedings, there is still a little room to breathe inside the Top 10. That's thanks to both Shotgun and In My Feelings heading into a downward spiral as both long-running hits get yanked onto ACR and take a chart tumble. Replacing them are the Kanye West track as discussed, and also Marshmello and Bastille's Happier which neatly fulfils its destiny as a major chart hit with a 15-6 leap. This is the fourth Top 10 hit and the second this year for both men. Marshmello scaled Number 4 with Friends in the spring, whilst Dan Smith of Bastille saw out January alongside Craig David on the Number 5 hit I Know You.
Meanwhile, Jess Glynne has to remain patient a little while longer. All I Am rebounds from its brief fall last week to reach a brand new chart peak, but still only Number 11. Her prospects for a Top 10 place should increase next week as the trio of Eminem hits continues to sag.
Dip It Low
Thomas "Diplo" Pentz is a man who loves a pseudonymous collaboration. In the past he's worked alongside Switch as Major Lazer, with Skrillex as Jack U (even if the tracks were never promoted under that name here) and indeed can be found on the Top 40 already as one-third of LSD alongside Sia and Labrinth (although Thunderclouds makes a slight reverse this week, down to Number 24). This week he's back once again. This time as one half of his latest project Silk City, a collaboration with no less a dance legend in his own right Mark Ronson. The pair's debut chart single is Electricity, another sparkling and quite compelling pop record which has the added bonus of Dua Lipa on lead vocals. The single surprised many observers by opening phenomenally strongly, its opening week chart sales enough for a Number 15 new entry as the second highest new entry of the week. Electricity is actually the fourth Silk City track to emerge this year, the previous three Only Get Better, Feel About You and Loud were all low-key releases whose presence in the shops passed largely without comment. Once again I guess attention has to be called to the track's video which aids appreciation of what is the best thing Diplo has put his name to this week. It also contains the fast becoming a superstar Dua Lipa singing bringing what is commonly known as all of the sexy.
Rapid Fire Releases
It is back to the world of rap we go for the week's next new arrival. Texan rapper Machine Gun Kelly has had just one mainstream hit to his name to date, although it was at least a potential classic. 2017 hit Bad Things climbed to Number 16 at the start of that year, its main claim to fame being the single which marked the solo debut of Camila Cabello just after she had quit Fifth Harmony. He returns to the Top 40 for the first time since with new single Rap Devil which charts at Number 31. It is the latest shot in a long-standing dis war with Eminem which apparently dates back to 2012 when the pair exchanged words over Eminem's daughter. Shady's Kamikaze album contains the track Not Alike which is generally believed to reference Machine Gun Kelly - and this new track is his response. "Big rap bully can't take a f***ing joke" he spits on a track which probably only serves to diminish him. Although literally as I write this Eminem himself just dropped his own riposte Kill Shot online. Lock yourselves in a room and compare willy sizes guys, it is the only way to deal with this properly.
Rappers have been making dis tracks since the dawn of the genre, but it is rare that we get to see both sides of the argument on the charts. It is now 30 years since LL Cool J and Kool Moe Dee fell out on record, but despite its legendary status Dee's How Ya Like Me Now was never a UK hit, leaving the way clear for LL Cool J to reach the Top 40 with his Jack The Ripper response, which charted on the double A-side of his 1988 hit Going Back To Cali.
As for future hits, big things are expected of Ay Caramba from Fredo x Young T & Bugsey which sneaks in at Number 39 after a seven-week climb and of which I'm sure plenty more in the next few weeks. There's a slightly slower start for hot new singles by acts with rather better pedigrees, but if Sigala's new collaboration with Ella Eyre and Meghan Trainor on Just Got Paid (Number 51) and MK and Jonas Blue's Back & Forth (Number 52) don't go flying up the charts in the next few weeks it is time to give up all hope.
Paid-for singles reached a brand new modern day low this week. 859,000 is the lowest total in almost exactly 13 years - since the first week of September 2005 in fact.