Here Come (All Of The) Girls
The singles chart of w/c November 15th 1986 was a significant moment. So significant in fact that the new edition of the old British Hit Singles bible which came out the following year was moved to note it. The presence of Berlin at No.1, Kim Wilde at No.2, The Bangles at No.3, Mel & Kim at No.4 and Swing Out Sister at No.5 marked the first time ever that the Top 5 singles were all female or female-led (Berlin and Swing Out Sister being mixed-sex groups but with female singers).
The first ever entirely female-led Top 5 came just over a decade later, w/e December 19th 1998 when B*witched were No.1, Cher was No.2, Billie Piper was No.3, Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston were No.4 and The Honeyz were No.5.
We technically had an all-female Top 6 in almost exactly 20 years later, with Ariana Grande at No.1, Ava Max at No.2, Halsey at No.3, Miley Cyrus at No.4, Mariah Carey at No.5 and Jess Glynne at No.6 - the only injection of testosterone being the co-billing of Mark Ronson on Miley’s Nothing Breaks Like A Heart. But we can let that slide, right?
The reason for noting all the above is that this week we do genuinely have a brand new female milestone. Because every single one of the Top 6 singles is performed by one of five different solo females.
At the head of this pile of adult human females sits Billie Eilish - actually quite unexpectedly as she trailed in the race until the very last moment. Her second No.1 single in this country, What Was I Made For is, just like her first (No Time To Die), a song fron a movie soundtrack. And it barely requires me to point out just which movie it is. But OK, let’s break the Barbie seal to get it out of the way.
For some weeks What Was I Made For has been the leading light of all the Barbie Movie songs, and rightly so, the heartbreaking piano ballad working both in its own right as a pop record but also taking on a whole new resonance when you see it in its full context in the plot of the film itself. After six weeks on the chart and a fortnight stuck in second place, the song finally makes good on its destiny. OK, there is the small elephant in the room that without its enforced ACR reversal Sprinter would be - just - enjoying an 11th week at No.1. But frankly this week we have bigger fish to fry.
So that relegates Dua Lipa into second place this week, Dance The Night (also taken from the Barbie soundtrack) reaching a brand new peak on what is now its 12th week on the Official UK Singles chart. American chartwatching friends of mine joke that second place is Dua’s natural home thanks to her unerring ability to have singles peak at that position on the Hot 100. Back here of course she has enjoyed rather less heartbreak with no less than three No.1 hits to her name. If Dance The Night stalls at No.2 (and that is by no means certain) then it will actually become only her second “unsuccessful” second place hit, Don’t Start Now her only other chart record to peak on the second rung of the charts. I’ve mixed feelings about her late relegation in the chart battle with Billie Eilish. On the one hand to see Dua back at the top of the charts would be a glorious joy, but for her to do it with what it is still hard not to see as a quick retread of some of her Future Nostalgia work would have seemed a little empty, I’m sorry.
In third place is Olivia Rodrigo’s Vampire, moving back up the chart a rung after having been slightly blown away in the past couple of weeks. But more on her in a moment. Also bouncing back up (almost as if something above it has been blown away this week) is Taylor Swift’s Cruel Summer, the seemingly randomly reactivated 2019 track in severe danger of competing for chart placings with the re-recorded Taylor’s Version tracks from her 2014 1989 album.
No.5 is the lady who can now surely regard herself as the most successful female Korean performer the charts have seen to date. Peggy Gou’s (It Goes Like) Nanana spends its eighth week in the Top 10 back at the peak position it first scaled five weeks ago. And it is showing no sign of running out of steam just yet. She also can claim a moral victory for being the performer of the only Top 6 single to have no male involvement in either writing or production.
She's Swearing Again
But back now to Ms Rodrigo, because she in this most momentous of weeks has the honour of landing herself the highest new entry at No.6. The second single from her forthcoming new album, Bad Idea Right perhaps doesn’t have quite the emotional impact of its predecessor, but it is another enormously diverting three minutes of acted pop music as via its lyrics and video she tries and fails to talk herself out of returning to an ex for one final fling. Barbie hits be blowed, the American star is rapidly building for herself a catalogue of hit singles which strung together would make a movie in their own right.
And there you have it. The Top 6 hits, every single one of them performed by a solo woman for the first time ever. It is a quite extraordinary moment, not least because it finally stands the long-standing male-centric world of the music industry completely on its head, but also because in this day of co-bills, co-credits, jump-ons and collabs to see the Top 6 single performed by solo artists of any gender is quite the rarity.
We can in theory extend the all-female record still further as No.7 this week is Nicki Minaj and Ice Spice’s Barbie World - the fly in the ointment there being the co-billing for the mixed-sex Aqua even if this is only a contractual acknowledgement of their older hit forming the basis of the new track. And with Becky Hill’s lead vocal on her Chase & Status collaboration Disconnect at No.8 this is beyond a doubt the most female-dominated Top 10 chart we have ever seen.
Amusingly the only officially all-male Top 10 hit this week is Sprinter which dips to No.10. No.9 is Desire by the decidedly male Calvin Harris and Sam Smith who still insists his gender is inderteminate.
The male end of things is represented by the second highest new entry of the week. Producer/performer (depending on how he feels each morning) Fred Again lands his biggest hit single to date as a credited performer as his own I Adore You lands at No.12. It is his second Top 20 appearance of the year, hard on the heels of his participation on Skrillex’s Flowdan which hit No.19 in January.
For the rest of this week’s Top 40 stories it is down to the basement we go, as this is where the potential hits of tomorrow are starting to lurk. Making the Top 40 at the fifth time of, ahem Asking are Sonny Foera and MK who ease their way up to No.31 with one of late summer’s biggest club bangers. It is the second chart collaboration between the two producers, essentially the follow-up to One Night which crept to No.51 three years ago during that unfortunate time when all the clubs were closed.
One Day To The Next
Also new to the Top 40 and for the first time as a solo artist is Issey Cross with Bittersweet Goodbye which lifts itself to No.38. As the title of the track may suggest, the drum and bass banger is based heavily around the Andrew Loog Oldham string sample which formed the basis of Bittersweet Symphony by the Verve way back in 1997. This isn’t qute as original an idea as you might think, the string melody also having formed the core of Treat Infamy by Rest Assured, a No.14 hit back in 1998. And which did it rather better I fear. Back to Issey Cross, and as I mentioned this is actually her third hit single following her contributions to Wilkinson’s No.33 hit Used To This in 2022 Nathan Dawe’s Oh Baby which peaked at No.35 earlier this year.
Finally at No.39 it has been a long time coming but Luke Combs’ smash hit American C&W cover version of Tracey Chapman’s classic Fast Car is finally a Top 40 hit single on these shores as it creeps in at No.39. Chapman’s original has been a Top 10 hit twice over, first time around in 1988 when it peaked at No.5 and then once more in 2011 when it reached a new peak of No.4 in a Britain’s Got Talent inspired comeback. In between it was the subject of a dance cover by Jonas Blue which extraordinarily uncharted them both and peaked at No.2 in 2016. Combs’ version is naturally slightly more respectful, if a little unnecessary. But that might go some way to explaining why it has taken 21 weeks to even get this far.
To round things off let’s talk about one more man - Liam Gallagher, for it is he who tops the albums chart this week with Knebwoth 22, the first live album to top the charts since 2020 and indeed his second live No.1 album, following MTV unplugged which similarly hit the top three years ago. Few and far between are the acts with two live No.1 albums. Liam now has two.