Looking back, the rise of Jack Harlow has been as inevitable as it is inexorable. Debuting mid-lockdown in April 2020 with the enduring Top 30 hit What's Poppin' he cemented his name alongside Lil Nas X on Top 3 smash Industry Baby and then in his own right with 2022's First Class (which had the awkward misfortune to spend five weeks at No.2 stranded behind Harry Styles). The American rapper and sort of singer was most recently in the Top 10 alongside Jung Kook on his blink and you'll miss it No.5 hit 3D but he now steps to the fore once more with his first-ever No.1 single.
Billed by the star as the "start of a new era", by which we can presume it is the opening salvo of a new album campaign, Lovin On Me hasn't exactly blown me away on first listen but is nonetheless one of the most hotly anticipated new recordings of the month so far. It debuts at No.1 with a sale of just over 46,000 which suggests it may well end up locking down the summit for the next few weeks until the holiday period sends things a little crazy. Vanishingly brief, like all pop records are these days, the single clocks in at a mere 138 seconds. Although after the first 60 it felt like had gone on for literally hours.
All of the above alas means that our one and future (nostalgia) Queen is relegated to the No.2 position. Almost four years on from her career-defining and dare I say it all-time enduring classic album Future Nostalgia Dua Lipa is back for real. Ignoring the Barbie movie soundtrack hit Dance The Night (even if it was a No.1 single) her new single this week is effectively her first new material proper since the release of Don't Start Now almost exactly four years ago. Since then the British-Kosovan singer has become an icon in every sense, building a business empire on the back of everything that has flowed from her hit album which has grown to such an extent that her entire family are involved in the running.
It is a curious quirk that none of the singles from Future Nostalgia actually made it to the top of the charts, despite the enduring classic nature of them all - it took Elton John cut and shut collaboration Cold Heart to correct that issue. It means new single, Tame Impala-produced Houdini carried with it a weight of expectation which should in theory have propelled it straight to the summit. That it didn't happen is no reflection on the captivating hit single but merely because she has had the misfortune to come up against Jack Harlow who happened to be the stronger opponent this week. A new entry at No.2, it becomes the eighth Top 3 single of her career. But as I've hammered home several times over the past few weeks, the hit singles of now are all potentially destined for a hybrid existence. It is not only about where you chart right now, but where you potentially might be in the first week of January. And you might argue that Houdini is in a perfect position to spring that particular trap.
Man of the moment very much appears to be Noah Kahan. His viral track Stick Season reaches its highest position yet with a climb to No.5 and he is also blessed with another of this week's biggest new entries. The first track on the album which shares its name with his current Top 10 single, Northern Attitude was first released as a single over a year ago but only now comes swaggering its way onto the singles chart as a new entry at No.16. As you might expect there is method behind the madness, the new found appeal of the track coming thanks to the release of a new remix which stirs in jump-on vocals from Hozier. Kahan also has a third single scuttling around the lower ends, You're Gonna Go Far as heard on the new special edition version of Stick Season makes its own bow at No.92.
Spectacular winners a week ago, The Beatles are in the unusual position of ending up double losers seven days later. Although it led the early midweek sales flashes once more, Now And Then's sale was frontloaded from another shipment of physical copies. As a stream it continued to sag badly (it is only the 20th most played track of the week) meaning it was just never going to have the chart legs to sustain a run at the top and slumps instead to No.6. But there were high hopes the veteran group would end up with a 1-2 placing at the top of the Official UK Albums chart only for Taylor Swift to steal everyone's thunder and remain at the summit for a third straight week.
The Beatles albums in question are new remastered editions of the famous "Red" and "Blue" best-of compilations. Released simultaneously in April 1973 and covering the years 62-66 and 67-70 respectively they were essentially the OG of Greatest Moments collections, elevating the curation of a career summary to an artform and taking time to focus not just on the hit singles but the best moments of the group's "other" recordings as well. They famously never reached No.1 either debuting at 5 and 6 respectively first week out and rising to peaks of 2 and 3 the following week (Blue having the edge over the older material on Red). The two albums were belatedly issued on CD in September 1993, again failing to top the charts (Red made 3, Blue made 4) although this release was not without controversy: EMI insisted on staying true to the original packaging and releasing them as premium priced double discs, even though the tracklistings could quite comfortably have sat on a single one.
And now 50 years on they are back in enhanced form, the Blue collection augmented by the inclusion of Now And Then as a marketing gimmick. And for the third time both records fail to top the charts. Blue (67-70) lands at No.2 and Red (62-66) slides into third place. It is almost as if they are cursed.
One side quirk is worth noting - the arrival of the two collections has had the side effect of causing the modern day Beatles hits collection 1 to drop out of the charts completely. Its chart run for the past few years has been entirely down to streams of its tracks, ensuring it has been a chart ever-present for most of the decade so far. But chart rules dictate that in the event of there being more than one such record available, streams of Greatest Hits collections are allocated to whichever compilation of tracks has sold the most copies that week. Red and Blue have sold in their thousands, so they are credited with the streaming conversions too - leaving 1 out in the cold. At least for now.
Back to singles and there is a Top 20 debut for what is essentially one of the more controversial singles released for some time. Murdaside was recorded entirely illicitly by currently incarcerated drill rapper Malcom Graham aka Mazza L20. Despite being theoretically against Tik Tok's terms and conditions, his gloating track about his gun crimes and general ambivalence towards police went wildly viral a year ago. Now out of jail he is free to release his music for real, trading on his notoriety and landing himself a No.18 hit. I’d get thin-lipped and angry about it all, but given hit records by some of the dregs of society are hardly a new thing (hello 6IX9INE) the single is merely proof that your average pop kid cares little for whether their favourite performer is a role model. Meanwhile R Kelly is edited out of Top Of The Pops repeats.
Pinkpantheress began 2023 with what was possibly the last thing she was expecting or truly desired, a huge transatlantic smash in the shape of Boy's A Liar, her duet with Ice Spice transforming the previously reticent British star into a high-profile name. Perhaps understandably she has taken her time plotting her next move, said move being the release of her long-awaited debut album Heaven Knows which makes a rather understated chart debut at No.28 but does at the very least spawn a Top 40 hit single. No.20 hit Nice To Meet You features Central Cee on co-vocals, which those in the know will note is a cute nod to the fact that Pinkpantheress was first dragged kicking and screaming into the Top 40 by the latter's own Obsessed With You which was based extensively on samples from Vict…I mean Pinkpantheress' own Just For Me.
The present imperial phase of Chase & Status continues apace as they add to their tally of 2023 hits with Selecta, another of this week's new entries which arrives at No.27 with no less a name than Stefflon Don on lead vocals. It joins their other hits Baddadan (No.10) and Liquor And Cigarettes (No.17) on the Top 40 - and that's without counting the Becky Hill track Disconnect on which they also have a co-credit. And as I was asked online, the reason this is permitted is because in the event of dual billings, the "primary artist" for a track is considered to be the one whose label the track is issued on. Chase & Status are on EMI while the Becky Hill track is on Polydor. So it counts as one of her three permitted hits, not theirs. Simple really.
Christmas watch: It is still mid-November but we already have two festive songs in the Top 30 (you know what they are), five in total on the Top 75 and ten on the Top 100 as a whole. Of those, only one is a newly released track, Sam Ryder's new offering You're Christmas To Me which opens its account at No.88. Perhaps he should have just sung "I've spotted Santa Man".