Reigning Over Us

After Styles week last week, we return to some semblance of normality with just one track by the British singer occupying a rung in the Top 3. Said track is inevitably As It Was, locked in place at the summit for a ninth consecutive week - a statistic that once upon a time would put it among the biggest hits in history but which in this day and age merely continues to make it the longest-running No.1 single since Ed Sheeran's Bad Habits just under a year ago. Keep an eye on the numbers for the track. After last week's artificial high following the release of the Harry's House album a drop to a more measured (but still far more than a few weeks ago) 65,974 chart sales represents a renewed first tick of the ACR clock. Meaning we could have just two more weeks left of this.

The three biggest Harry tracks of this week are indeed the same as last week. Last Night Talking slides to No.4 and Music For A Sushi Restaurant down to No.6. That leaves room for Cat Burns to rebound to a brand new peak of No.2 with Go (the single had previously spent four weeks locked in place at No.3) with Lizzo's About Damn Time one rung below and also reaching a brand new peak.

But all of this is just an amuse-bouche for the most astonishing story of the week.

The Most Astonishing Story Of The Week

Of all the many wonderful ways that the digital era transformed the charts and indeed the state of pop music in general, the democratisation of the good old fashioned hit parade was up there with the best. From the moment the floodgates were opened in January 2007 a hit record was no longer reliant on the old structures of being released, produced in physical form and actively promoted. Anything from the vast musical catalogue could be surfaced and spontaneously become a hit if the public demand was there.

One-off stunts aside, this was most notable at the end of the 00s during the imperial phase of talent show X Factor. Week in week out the songs performed by the show favourites would find themselves enjoying a surge of interest, returning them to the charts as whole new audiences either rediscovered classic songs or became aware of more contemporary hits. Who could forget Frankie Cocozza performing Sex On Fire and sending it surging back into the Top 10 a full year after it had first topped the charts.

Such media-inspired comebacks possibly reached their zenith in 2013 when Ant and Dec performed their 1994 single Let's Get Ready To Rhumble at the close of an edition of Saturday Night Takeaway, sending the song soaring to the top of the iTunes chart and ultimately to No.1 on the official charts in a hastily conceived charity push.

However, the streaming era appeared to have brought all the fun to a grinding halt. One-off spikes of interest in oldies lend themselves more to a quick digital purchase rather than the hundreds of thousands of streams across several days which are generally required to make hits happen. Sure, songs still surface on the iTunes chart for random media-inspired reasons, but given the volumes of digital sales are now are so low the numbers involved are rarely enough to make a proper chart impact outside of targeted Christmas week stunts.

And yet there are still signs that people power can still make hits happen out of nowhere. For two years now the phenomenon of Tik Tok crazes has been creating new stars, making songs into hits after two years in obscurity, and even resurrecting golden oldies and turning them into low-level streaming favourites. Just look at the way Fleetwood Mac's Dreams still pops up on contemporary playlists after first being rediscovered as part of - yes - a Tik Tok viral meme.

That makes what happened this week all the more fascinating. Running Up That Hill was already a somewhat legendary song in the back catalogue of Kate Bush. Credited with reviving her commercial fortunes after some disappointing albums, the haunting and atmospheric track charged into the Top 3 upon release in 1985, giving the British singer her biggest hit record in over seven years. It returned briefly to the Top 10 in August 2012 as one of a number of British classics featured heavily in the closing ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics with a new remix having been released to coincide.

Then this week Running Up That Hill was featured heavily throughout the newly released fourth series of Netflix show Stranger Things, inspiring a literal worldwide surge of interest in the now nearly 37-year-old piece of music. To see it appear in the iTunes chart was perhaps no great surprise, although the fact that it raced to the top and all but swept away the rest of the market was more of an eyebrow-raiser. But then something extraordinary happened. It began to be streamed, and streamed in the kind of huge numbers that you would expect of a chart-topping contemporary hit. 600,000 Spotify streams, 800,000 Spotify streams. The audience just kept on growing. On Wednesday Running Up That Hill was played a massive 956,085 times, dipping only to just over 800,000 on Thursday. Only the biggest superstars of all manage a million plays a day. Outside of the usual festive classics I don't think any catalogue hit has ever done this before.

And so the result is a quite astounding No.8 chart position for the Kate Bush track. A chart position lest we forget subject to the handicap of ACR with the streams of the song counting for just half of those around it. Had the restrictions not been in place then the single would have duly planted itself at No.2, exceeding its original 1985 peak for the very first time. Official Charts these days play fast and loose with the rules for resetting hits that are resurging and returning from the depths and I'm sure they will have agonised about giving Running Up That Hill a free pass. But the rules for catalogue (i.e. more than three years old) hits are rigidly stuck to for Christmas songs and in truth there were no grounds for making an exception for a song featured in an American TV series. To have done so would I suspect have opened a rather awkward Pandora's Box.

That's All It Takes

Some sympathies then go to Calvin Harris who was expecting to land the highest new entry of the week but instead is reduced to something of a footnote. His new single Potion marks a long overdue reunion with Dua Lipa, the pair having previously collaborated on the near-legendary One Kiss which was in the middle of an eight week run at No.1 exactly four years ago this week. With Young Thug along for the ride as well this time, the single prompted an immediate outpouring of "is that it?" as if people were somehow expecting a spectacular. But it has long been fashionable to express disappointment at the lack of immediacy of man Dua Lipa tracks only for them to grab the charts by the balls and refuse to let go for an extended period. You write this one off at your peril. For the evergreen Harris it further extends his chart career into a 16th year - and as long as he isn't dicking with us there is an entire full length album on the way too.

Horse Guards Parade Manure

Of course if Kate Bush represents the best of spontaneous gatecrashing of the charts then the record at No.20 represents the worst. Post-punk Satarists The Kunts, having placed singles throwing rocks at the Prime Minister in the Christmas Top 10 for the past two years this week turned their attention to the Jubilee celebrations. The cheeky aim was to be "No.2" for the Platinum Jubilee weekend, a feat they fell short of by a factor of ten. I won't dignify it with any further reference to the track itself, other than to note the great thing about these social media-informed stunts is that it at least gives the worst people in the world a welcome opportunity to self-identify. See you in December guys.

Big Energy watch: locked in place once more at No.21, this the third non-consecutive week it has peaked one place outside the Top 20.

Also in the "records that were sneered at initially" file is Lady Gaga's Hold My Hand, her contribution to the Top Gun: Maverick soundtrack taking flight (as it were) now that the movie has actually hit the cinemas. After moving 51-60-45 in its first three weeks around it now zooms to No.24 to become her biggest chart hit since 2020s Rain On Me reached the very top. The original "Top Gun" movie actually spawned a No.1 hit single back in 1986, Take My Breath Away by Berlin.

He's Still Dead

Until now none of the tracks from Kanye West's Donda 2 album have been chart eligible, the album itself exclusive to West's own Stem Player platform. But this week saw the commercial release of its lead cut as a single. True Love is a posthumous duet with the late XXXtentacion, notably not the first time that Kanye has blended vocals from the late star with his own but this possibly the best of the bunch so far. With music based largely on a previous Kanye West track (Runaway from his 2010 album My Dark Twisted Fantasy) it isn't necessarily the most original work he has ever put out but has prompted enough interest to chart at No.31. It is XXXtentacion's first chart single since December 2018 and his highest charting cut since BAD! reached No.23 a month earlier.

Harry Styles might have spent a second week at No.1 on the Official UK Albums chart but instead has to be content with holding firm at No.2, blown away by Liam Gallagher. C'mon You Know is the former Oasis man's fourth solo No.1 album following hard on the heels of As You Were (2017), Why Me Why Not (2019) and MTV Unplugged (2020). Combined with his eight No.1 albums as a member of his old group he thus now has 14 No.1 albums to his name - drawing him level with brother Noel who has also hit the top four times since the demise of their old group. Liam also manages the neat trick of two simultaneous Top 5 entries, the recording of his lockdown livestream Down By The River Thames also entering at No.4.