Paint Has Run Out

This week was another of those weeks where Official Charts began by enthusiastically hyping up a chart race that never really came to pass. "OMG there's a big challenge to Doja Cat's domination of the singles chart" read the narrative. Yeah, no that never really happened. That said Paint The Town Red's fifth week at No.1 was by one of the narrowest margins so far, just 2,000 chart sales separating it from its nearest challenger.

Doja's single further extends its record as the most successful female rap single in chart history, already the first such record by a solo performer and with a longer run at the top than Megan and Cardi's WAP (three weeks back in 2020). But sadly this will be its last, now nine weeks old and with its streaming consumption down for what is now the fourth week in a row Paint The Town Red is set to tumble to ACR next time around. Meaning a vacancy that somebody, somewhere has to fill.

Will that filler be Strangers from Kenya Grace which locks in place at No.2 for a second week? Or will it be Greedy from Tate McRae which advances to No.3 and for the moment matches the peak of You Broke Me First to equal her best-ever chart performance? It probably won't be Prada from Casso which reverses down to No.4, but since when did the single chart follow any kind of predictive pattern? Certainly not these days.

What is most fascinating about the Top 4 singles is that they all feature on what were one legendary big-name dance labels. Doja Cat, Tate McRae and Casso's singles are all on Ministry Of Sound records, while Kenya Grace's hit appears on the revived ffrr (an abbreviation for Full Frequency Range Records, although barely anyone remembers that these days). Needless to say neither are necessarily any relation to the pioneering indies they were back in the 90s, MoS now a sub-brand of the giant Sony corporation while ffrr belongs to Warner Music Group. But it is still fun to see the names, regardless.

Kooking On Gas

The week's highest new entry, albeit a single which was never likely to challenge for the top despite the hype, is 3D from a returning Jung Kook. Hard on the hells of Top 3 hit Seven back in July the South Korean boy band star lands a second solo hit as he debuts powerfully at No.5. Almost needless to say the single is propelled this high by a strong physical and download sale from hardcore collecting fans, with its streams lagging some distance behind. Just as Seven plunged 3-13-29 before finding a more sensible level just inside the Top 3, you suspect this new single will end up more realistically placed in a couple of weeks time so it will make more sense to judge its appeal then. 3D features a co-vocal from Jack Harlow, this now his biggest hit since First Class peaked in second place in April last year. My only question is why on earth is he trying so hard to sound like Justin Timberlake?

Also new to the Top 10 with a climb from the depths (no pun intended) is Water from Tyla. The Afrobeats cut finally has a proper music video to call its own, perhaps proof that the label are ready to back it with an even stronger push. Fun fact: it is only the third chart single ever to bear that name, but the first to become a certifiable hit of any kind. Geno Washing and The Ram Jam Band took a song of that name to No.39 in 1966 while Martika could climb no higher than No.59 with her take on the concept in early 1990.

The Newer Guys

Just as her Top 40 appearance last week was a pleasant surprise Mitski makes it two eyebrow-raising moves in a row as My Love Mine All Mine gets a rocket strapped to it and rises 34-15 becoming what in the old days we used to call the highest climber of the week. She is joined as a Top 20 new arrival by DNA (Loving You) from Billy Gillies and Hannah Boleyn (30-18) and Bittersweet Goodbye from Issey Cross (25-19) which arrives after a month of hurtling around between 22 and 25.

Teddy's Minimalism

Ed Sheeran has the No.1 album of the week, but where once this would be the most sensational deal of the week things are markedly different now. This is however mostly deliberate, Autumn Variations is the start of what you might call Sheeran's post-fame era. The first in a series of seasonal-themed albums which are essentially being flung out as indie releases. All on his own label and with the bare minimum of promotion. The singer has even said he will not be making videos for any of the songs or doing any kind of publicity work. He no longer needs to chase fame and fortune it seems, and can for the moment focus on making music on his own terms. Autumn Variations is thus Ed Sheeran's seventh No.1 album, but it debuts with a comparatively lowly sale of just 30,000 copies. Compare this with the 671,000 that Divide opened with back in 2017 and you can see how much times have changed.

Interestingly it is just five months since Subtract was released and also debuted at No.1. Sheeran thus becomes the first performer to top the albums chart with two newly-released and newly-recorded albums in the same year since Elton John pulled off the trick in 1973. This caveat is not to diminish the achievements of Taylor Swift over the past few years, but her twofers in 2020 and 2021 were with re-recorded versions of her old material. So they don't really count. Technically. [Now this illustrates the danger of lazily parroting Alan Jones facts without double checking, as this isn't quite right. Taylor Swift did actually - just - manage two No.1 albums of original material in 2020 as Evermore sneaked a week at the top just before Christmas as a companion to Evermore earlier in the year. So perhaps Ed Sheeran is simply the first man since Elton John to pull off the original work double].

This low-key approach also flows through to the singles chart. The man who once nearly achieved a clean sweep of the Top 10 singles (back when this was allowed) struggles to even chart his permitted three this time around. American Town is the biggest hit the album contains, surfacing at No.27, and it is joined by Magical at No.49 and England at No.84.

Dance With Me I'm Your...

Another hit single with "Tik Tok friendly" written all over it is bizarre electronica snippet Ecstasy from Suicidal-Idol which makes its Top 40 debut at No.33. In an intriguing twist to the usual way these things go the 'original' version features a pitched-up chipmunk vocal and runs a mere 90 seconds or so. But the track is also available in a slowed-down version which runs to a more respectable but still swift two minutes. And if anything it sounds horrible, so avoid at all costs.

Keep an eye on Troye Sivan's Got Me Started which indeed appears to just be getting started. A low key debut at No.56 last week turns into a Top 40 entry at No.34, his second chart hit single of the year following Rush - a single which also lifts itself to a new peak with a climb to No.23 in what is now its 12th week on the chart. The Australian's new album Something To Give Each Other is still a week away from release.

Sista Realness

Electronica soul collective Jungle have spent the last decade carving a fascinating niche for themselves and have been rewarded with four consecutive Top 10 albums along the way, Volcano the most recent of these back in August. One thing they have never had before is a chart single, a duck that was broken a month ago when Back On 74 made its Top 75 bow. Now for the first time they have a Top 40 single to call their own as the track slowly grows in viral appeal and climbs to No.36. Give it up for sister realness, because this is far too gorgeous to have remained underground forever.

Rounding off matters this week, Hide And Seek debuts at No.38 as the first hit for rising star rapper 163Margs, his chart debut given a leg up by added star power of Digga D who pays it back by adding a verse. That's the way they do things in the grime world, and who can argue that it doesn't work.