Long Train Running
I will freely admit that the story I was expecting to tell this week was not "Sprinter by Dave and Central Cee spends a fifth straight week at No.1" but something else altogether.
We can deal with the 'something else' shortly, but for the moment we need to take stock of Sprinter, apparently against the odds, spending yet another week at the top of the Official UK Singles chart. Because significantly it now becomes in pure chart terms the most successful British rap single of all time, spending longer at the top than any other single of its genre. The record was previously held by two tracks - Dance Wiv Me by Dizzee Rascal, Calvin Harris and Chrome along with Dave's own Starlight. Both singles enjoyed a four-week run at the top of the charts in 2008 and 2022 respectively. Sprinter now blows both of them well out of the water.
That said the track is now clearly on the decline, its sale of 61,918 while still impressive the lowest of its chart career so far. Virtually all of the chart sales of Sprinter so far have come via streaming coversions, the track notable even in this era for the sheer lack of paid sales that have come its way. Dave and Central Cee topped the charts for the past five weeks on weekly sales of just 456, 386, 294, 379 and 329 respectively.
Fangs For The Memory
That all means the biggest new release of the week, the track so huge on a global scale that it is almost as if everyone steered well clear of going head to head with it, is "only" the No.2 hit of the week. And you can guarantee that the UK charts will be one of the few where this situation applies.
Although not a complete unknown, Olivia Rodrigo still rolled into our lives like a gigantic bowling ball in January 2021. Her smash-hit single Drivers License overcame a slow start in the first few days of the week (a strange anomaly that nobody seems to want to talk about much) to land at No.1 with a record-stretching streaming total. Establishing her out of the gate as a huge talent to watch. She then followed that up with the similarly chart-topping Good 4 U (the first rock-themed single in a decade to top the British charts) and a debut album SOUR which has proved to be one of the more enduring streamed releases of the decade so far. Basically she has set herself up with one hell of an act to follow. All eyes were on the American singer-actress to see what happened next. And in business terms could she avoid the semi-mythical Sophomore Slump.
What we got was something that is if anything even better than before. Vampire is the kind of track which punches you in the stomach, knees you in the face, and then insists you sit up and beg for more. A spine-chilling emotional ballad in which our heroine has once again be screwed over by a man she trusted with everything. Gone though is the tormented soul of Drivers License, locked away (thankfully) is the semi-psychotic protagonist of Good 4 U. Instead she is now the evolution of Amy from Evanescence, spilling out a litany of woes against her former lover in what seems like a desperate stream of consciousness before spitting out the climax of her fury. "Blood-sucker, fame-f**ker, bleeding me dry like a Goddam vampire" will remain one of the most extraordinary and certainly most legendary hooks of the year.
The reason the gothic track works so well is the very reason that makes Olivia Rodrigo the most notable of music stars. She isn't simply an actress who sings. She's a singer who is able to act the song. You feel every emotional wound with her, you are swept up in her impotent rage and quest for redemption. You believe as much as she does in the sheer horror of what she's suffered. And best of all people are now convinced the song is about her real life experiences and are trying to decode it to work out just who Vampire is about.
So yeah, this was always going to be the biggest track of its moment, even before we've even contemplated the video which… well, why should I spoil the story of it for you? Click and watch.
The presumption (made without apology in these pages last week) was that Vampire would essentially proceed unopposed to the top of the charts to give the singer her third No.1 hit. That it did is partially due to a smaller than expected sales total (just over 50,000 in the end) but also because despite being five weeks old Sprinter matched it step by step of the way, never once threatening to surrender its own sales lead. And that perhaps should be the most notable story of the week: that the biggest most hyped international hit of the week, nay the year so far, was out-sprinted by a track that is uniquely and proudly British. Of all the weeks that Dave and Central Cee have spent at the summit, this is actually their most notable one so far. All because they slayed the Vampire.
Hot Summer Streets
Taylor Swift remains one of the other ladies of the moment, everyone frantically queuing for tickets for the European leg of her Eras tour next summer and with the release this week of the Taylor's Version re-recording of her 2010 album Speak Now. She is also new to the Top 10 the re-promoted Cruel Summer, the four year old song clearly more than just a passing novelty and now leaping to No.6 to become her 22nd Top 10 hit single on these shores.
I mentioned that everyone else was staying out of the way of Olivia Rodrigo, hence the startling lack of other new entries this week. Fortune however favoured the boldness of D-Block Europe who combine with Clavish on new single Pakistan. Their 45th chart entry in all, it becomes only their third Top 10 single as it touches down at No.10, their biggest chart hit since Rocket Science peaked at No.9 in November last year.
Red China Johnny Ray
Its chart performance didn't quite live up to the online chatter, but it would be wrong to not mention the arrival at No.52 of We Didn't Start The Fire by Fall Out Boy. A classic example of covering the theoretically uncoverable, the song is a modern day take on Billy Joel's celebrated "history of the world post WWII in four minutes" track which was a worldwide smash hit for him back in 1989. Now 30 years out of date, anyone taking on the song has to take on the challenge of bringing it up to date, which is precisely what the American rock band have done. Picking up where the original left off we rattle through "Kurt Cobain, Pokemon, Tiger Woods, MySpace" and many other cultural reference points, although Fall Out Boy don't quite respect the chronological nature of Joel's original given that "Prince and The Queen die" refers to events that took place eight years apart. But who cares, it is still a great deal of fun. A low level chart entry it may be but it is still the biggest hit single for Fall Out Boy since Centuries reached No.22 in September 2014 - leaving aside lead singer Patrick Stump's appearance on Summer Days by Martin Garrix which was a No.26 hit in the summer of 2019.