With another frankly colossal sale of well over 76,000 Stick Season by Noah Kahan is once again the No.1 single of the week on the Official UK Singles chart by some considerable distance. Chalk this up as week number 5 at the top of the charts as the pre-Christmas hit entrenches itself still further as the biggest smash of the new year so far. It is becoming clear that the only thing that is likely to remove the American performer from the top is the ACR axe, something the track has long been susceptible to, being as it is now 18 weeks into its chart career. But even that prospect is still some weeks away as its streams continue to grow rather than decline.
Kahan's main contribution to culture this week though was his weighing in on the present dispute between Universal Music Group and TikTok. With the latter's licence to the work owned by the conglomerate having expired and with negotiations having stalled on a renewal, music by any of their artists - including Kahan - has been pulled from the platform. Noah noted the grim irony of the fact that he came to prominence initially via the platform but as of right now would not be able to use it to promote any new music he records. These disputes always resolve themselves in time, so this is only going to be a short-term thing. But until then there's going to be a glaring hole in the kind of tracks the platform is able to surface.
In a hypothetical Kahan-free world it is Sophie Ellis-Bextor who reigns supreme, Murder On The Dancefloor comfortably No.2 for the second week running. You may be surprised to learn that this is the first time the track has spent more than a single week at a time at its chart peak. One step behind is Teddy Swims' Lose Control which finally climbs into the Top 3 and rescues me from the hat-eating pledge I made four weeks ago when it first charted. Sometimes the best tracks do get what they truly deserve.
Most headlines this week are reserved for the four place climb made by The Weeknd's Popular which reaches a new peak of No.10 and in the process drags his (brief) duet partner Madonna kicking and screaming back into the Top 10. It is the veteran legend's 61st Top 10 single in a chart career that now stretches back more than 40 years, extending her lead as the female performer with the most Top 10 hits by a female artist. Official Charts credit her with 64 in their publicity, but that's because they are counting both the 1991 re-release of Crazy For You and the three different Top 10 appearances of Holiday as separate chart hits, just as their official site does. Most notably however it is her biggest chart hit since Celebration peaked at No.3 way back in 2009, meaning she's back in the upper reaches for the first time in 15 years. Yes, I know in truth she's hardly on the record at all. But Madonna appears and is credited, and that's really all that matters.
With the upper end of the chart out of the way we can focus on where the fun truly begins. Most global focus has been on the release of two tracks by American superstars which were duly expected to be a very big deal - in their home country if nothing else. Yet in Britain they actually take a back seat to some lesser-starred hits which are - dare I say it - actually far more worthwhile.
Both accelerate from outside the Top 40 to new positions at the cusp of the Top 20. Leading the charge with a 31 place climb to No.20 itself is the rather lovely Praise Jah In The Moonlight by the ultimate nepo baby YG Marley. If musical pedigree is a thing then the chart debutant has it in spades, being the son of Lauryn Hill and via his father Rohan the grandson of the King of reggae himself Bob Marley. The family connection extends beyond his famous surname, his hit record based fairly heavily on the Bob Marley and The Wailers track Crisis from 1978. Joshua (to give him his real name) is but the latest in an ever-growing line of Marley descendants to have chart success himself. His uncles Ziggy and Damian have enjoyed hits of their own in the past, along with cousin Skip Marley - last seen appearing alongside Katy Perry on her 2017 hit Chained To The Rhythm.
Much joy has also greeted the rise to No.22 of Nothing Matters by The Last Dinner Party. Originally released last year as the first single from the all-female indie-rock band it now becomes a chart hit just ahead of the release of their long-awaited debut album Prelude To Ecstasy which all things being equal should be one of the biggest arrivals on the albums chart next week. Some hard work has gone in to making sure they have a hit record to accompany it for sure, but regardless of the promotional push this is still one of the more worthwhile new arrivals of the week and it is something of a joy to see it this high up the singles chart.
So what should the biggest deal of the week have theoretically been? Hiss by Megan Thee Stallion, that's what, the track heading for the top end of the Hot 100 in America with some ease, but instead charting at a lowly No.31 on these shores. Not so much a song as an extended rant, Megan's latest sees her address several targets at breakneck and absorbingly profane speed. The track makes reference to all of her life's beefs - from gun-toting ex Tory Lanez and his misguided supporters, Drake and his ab surgery and then most notably Nicki Minaj with whom she has an ongoing real-world beef. It isn't a bad piece of work by all means, and Megan Thee Stallion reasserts her credentials as the lady rapper with the best flow of the moment, but unless you are American a commercial hit single it isn't.
The best part of Hiss though is that it is joined in the charts simultaneously with its own direct diss track.Three days after its release Nicki Minaj clapped back with her own hurriedly conceived Big Foot. That single suffered from its midweek arrival but still does enough business to chart at No.56 in its own right.
Keeping the British end of things up is Skepta who arrives one place below at No.32 with the surprisingly easy on the ear Gas Me Up (Diligent), the direct follow-up to his last hit Can't Play Myself which crept into the Top 30 last October. The new single is, we are told, heralding a brand new album Knife And Fork, which will be his first full-length release in five years.
The other understated superstar arrival is that of Justin Timberlake who perhaps is no longer the all-conquering chart master he was ten years ago but who could still have expected a slightly better showing for his comeback single Selfish which lurches onto the British charts at No.37. Collaborations aside, it is his first chart record as solo or lead artist since No.9 hit Say Something which began its own chart journey at a similarly lowly No.32 exactly six years ago this week.
Also new to the Top 40 this week, and fitting in nicely with the current vogue for all things Americana is Scared To Start from Michael Marcagi, which you may recognise from the flurry of TikTok videos that accompanied its debut on that platform in November last year. Already Top 10 in Ireland, it reaches No.38 over here after a three week climb.
The albums chart deserves a brief moment of attention too, as an extended three-way battle for the No.1 position was resolved in favour of X Factor alumnus James Arthur whose fifth album Bittersweet Love becomes his second chart-topping record following 2016 comeback Back From The Edge. The new album didn't spawn any hit singles, despite several tracks being promoted, 2023 No.81 cut Just Us the biggest single it contains. But somehow that matters not.