Chatty, Casual Opening
Good grief, where on earth to begin this week?
Well first of all we should start with the stuff that is theoretically the most important but which has now become background noise (almost). No.1 on the Official UK Singles chart for the 8th week running is - you guessed it - Sprinter from Dave and Central Cee, the track notching up another superlative chart sale against which all others are found wanting. It's sale of just over 59,000 marks the first time it has dipped below 60K since release, but for a rap hit to still manage to be accumulating the kind of numbers other pop No.1 struggle to match, and eight weeks in to boot, remains a phenomenal achievement. And for those keeping track, it sold 265 copies last week.
The first of those "all others" is once more Vampire from Olivia Rodrigo which seems set to go down as her unluckiest hit single to date, stranded at No.2 for what is now a fourth week in succession. It has been huge ever since its release. Its only misfortune is to come up against a hit that is simply far huger.
Life. It's Plastic. But Not As We Know It.
But now to the really juicy stuff. After what seems like endless months of hype Barbie: The Movie finally hit cinema screens this week, and perhaps more importantly for our world its accompanying soundtrack album also hit the stores. Barbie: The Album debuts at the top of the Compilations chart (being as it is a multi-artist collection) with an impressive sale of 21,207, one which in most weeks would be more than every other artist album (although Blur are instead the week's biggest seller with a 44,000 sale for The Ballad Of Darren). However Barbie: The Album also brings with it a veritable parade of chart entries - the end result being far and away the most extensive chart domination achieved by any soundtrack album ever.
Leading the way are the three existing hit singles, noted last week for their varying levels of success but which now all line up after each other in a row to clear out the rest of this week's Top 5. Leading the charge is What Was I Made For by Billie Eilish which jumps 10-3 to become her biggest chart hit single since the No.2 peak of Therefore I Am from November 2020. Most notably it becomes that very rare beast - a Billie Eilish single which climbs beyond its Week 1 entry point. Precious few of her hits have ever done so before.
Barbie hit 2 is Dance The Night from Dua Lipa, a permanent chart resident in the nine weeks it has been available but which until now has never advanced beyond the No.13 it reached in its second week around. Regarded by fans as the final exclamation mark on her Future Nostalgia dance-pop era, the single out-charts all but one of the hit singles from her now-classic 2020 album and with the honourable exception of the Elton John cut and shut duet Cold Heart the track becomes Dua Lipa's biggest hit single since Physical peaked at No.3 over three and a half years ago.
But wait, look what is just behind. Storming up the charts as well is Barbie World from Nicki Minaj, Ice Spice and a contractually credited Aqua. Reaching a new peak of No.20 last week, the track now rockets to No.5, matching the peak of Minaj's Super Freaky Girl from just under a year ago. Aqua did not participate in the record in any sense, their credit solely there as it samples their own Barbie Girl (of which more anon), but their chart credit still means the Scandinavian group now have their first Top 10 single since Cartoon Heroes in 2000 and their biggest chart hit since Turn Back Time made No.1 in 1998.
All of this alone is particularly notable. The Barbie soundtrack becomes only the fourth such album to chart as many as three Top 10 singles simultaneously. It follows in the footsteps of the Saturday Night Fever and Grease soundtracks (both 1978) as well as the Encanto original cast recording which pulled off the trick at the start of 2022. But Barbie has achieved a first - the only soundtrack in chart history to spawn as many as three simultaneous Top 5 hits.
This is now the point where we get to play with some entertaining loopholes. Or rather lack of rules, because as a genuine multi-artist compilation Mark Ronson's soundtrack to the hit movie is not under the same restrictions surrounding the number of simultaneous hits it is permitted. Encanto was, because it was a cast recording and so the "cast" became the artist, even if its hit singles were performed by different singers. But a collection of pop hits by diverse and different artists is a very different matter.
Hence we welcome back to the chart Speed Drive from Charli XCX, a teaser track which crept to No.61 a few weeks ago but which now storms back at No.19, and in what is rapidly becoming a common theme becomes the performer's biggest hit for some time. It is Charli XCX's first Top 20 single of any kind since her participation on Joel Corry and Jax Jones' Out Out last summer (that reached No.6), but perhaps more notably her biggest chart hit as a lead or solo artist since her Troye Sivan collaboration 1999 made No.13 just before Christmas 2018.
Meanwhile the movie's performers get in on the act too. Ryan Gosling's I'm Just Ken gives the actor his first ever solo chart single as it arrives at No.25 (his role in "La La Land" previously gifted him a No.53 duet with Emma Stone on City Of Stars), Pink by Lizzo debuts at No.39, Man I Am by Sam Smith is at No.58, Choose Your Fighter by Ava Max is No.90 and finally Forever & Again by Kid Laroi is No.92. However the most extraordinary part of all is the one played by a song that isn't a formal part of the soundtrack in its own right. The OG Barbie single Barbie Girl by Aqua, a million-selling No.1 hit in 1997 and the basis of the Minaj/Spice track makes a chart return of its own - one suspects due to an ACR reset, but don't quote me on that. One of the most notorious hits of the 90s, it has not been seen on the singles chart since 1998, bypassing even the download era. But now it is back, this week's No.40. And the reaction that greeted its playing by Radio One on the charts show was something else to behold.
Low Low Low Low Low High
Talibans by Byron Messia has spent most of the last two months sculling around the lower end of the Top 40, hurtling between 31 and 37 without ever quite showing signs of taking off. But after finally making the Top 30 for the first time last week the devastatingly addictive Afrobeats track now rockets to a brand new peak of No.12. Needless to say there is a reason behind this, the release of a brand new version adding in a guest vocal from an (inevitably uncredited) Burna Boy. The newly-Christened Talibans II appears to be the touch of magic the hit single needed. Top 10 appears a racing certainty this time next week.
Ready For The...
Pity those who released non Barbie-related singles this week, because they risked being something of an afterthought. However, pages like there are here to ensure they have the appropriate light shined upon them. Brand new at No.23 is The Weekend from the "never contemplated this might happen" combination of Stormzy and Raye. The track is, to put it bluntly, several levels of awesome with Raye giving her parts her best Amy Winehouse and Stormzy being, well Big Mike as he always unapologetically is. I haven't paid much attention to what might be considered the "song of the summer" (we are already much of the way through it after all), but this may well be a contender. Stormzy is overdue a large hit single of some description - for all the hype it received Toxic Trait put in a dramatic in and out performance and collapses to No.54 this week having declined every single week since its debut.
Entertainingly we have a track called The Weekend at 23 and a track featuring The Weeknd a place below. Said hit is new entry K-Pop, the Canadian superstar one of two guests of Travis Scott from whose new album Utopia this is the pre-release single. The track is also notably only the third Top 75 hit for its other participant Bad Bunny, the most streamed man on the planet (according to some measurements) but whose American success has yet to be properly replicated over here, largely due to his performing almost entirely in Spanish. K-Pop becomes his first chart single since his brace of hits back in 2020.
Ark Not Pictured
Also from the category of jump-ons we weren't expecting, American folk-rock performer Noah Kahan lands himself an unexpected chart hit following the release of a new version of his viral hit Dial Drunk featuring the most unlikely of bedfellows Post Malone. The song first appeared in its original form back in June when it charted at No.45 before making a swift journey to the lower reaches. The new mix gives it a new lease of life and it becomes a Top 40 hit for the very first time at No.32.
We Are Listening
Two years ago you could have been forgiven for wondering if we would ever hear from ZAYN again. Weathering the storm of his long-time manager quitting with some pointed public remarks over his failure to engage, he released his third solo album Nobody Is Listening in January 2021 to an almost prophetic reaction. The long-term anxiety issues which the former One Direction performer had long acknowledged had meant that he had become a virtual recluse by that time, and his reluctance to perform or even promote his new work meant that his music was now playing out to the long-term fans in the self-styled Zquad and practically nobody else. After he leaked a handful of hip-hop oriented demos later that autumn his label RCA dropped him. The man who was supposed to be the Robbie Williams of 1D, the brightest star in the firmament whose wings just needed space to spread appeared instead to be the first of the group to reach the end of the road.
But now he is back, renewed and it seems re-invigored. A new management deal led to a brand new record deal with Mercury. The singer emerged from his self-imposed shell, giving his first interviews in literally years. Talking about his music to promote it instead of just assuming it would sell on its own merits. And of course in the meantime we've all watched Harry Styles become the global superstar he was always anointed to be. There's a point to be made and some catching up to do.
That's why the arrival of ZAYN's brand new single Love Like This at No.36 is so significant. Just like many of the songs that everyone ignored last time around, the new track is a compelling, dark, sexy production. A record that almost appears to be made backwards, launching into a "climax" of trap beats and layers before cutting dead to semi-acapella for the real meat of the song. Love Like This duly becomes his first Top 40 hit in over five years, his biggest chart hit since Let Me charted at No.20 way back in 2018. Further progress will be fascinating to track. Yes, this Week 1 will have been fan-led, but the song has found its way onto playlists in a manner that past releases have failed to do. ZAYN is back, with people who want to work with him and people he wants to work with. Stepping into his power, as you might put it, incredibly he's even hinted at a tour.
Obit Of The Month
Another month and another desperately sad rock star death hits us, this time the tragic passing midweek of Sinead O'Connor at the age of just 56. Inevitably that has prompted the chart return of her most famous moment, her haunting cover of the Prince-penned Nothing Compares 2 U which spent a month at the top of the charts in early 1990 and bestowed upon her a level of fame which you suspect she was never completely emotionally equipped to handle. 33 years on from that success, and 11 years and 1 week since its last brief chart appearance the celebrated hit re-charts at No.45 to give the often misunderstood but in retrospect much-loved singer one final chart epitaph.
Oh yes, and should we take time out to note that Jung Kook's much-hyped Top 3 hit Seven plunges to No.13 in its second week? Perhaps it is best not.