Buy my book! After much hype the brand new Chart Watch UK books are here, the newest volume covering the Top 40 hits of 1989 in the kind of loving detail you've come to expect from these weekly columns. Click the links to your left, unless you are reading on one of those exciting mobile devices. In which case jump on it here.
Whip Crack Away
It could so easily have been a one-off.
When Old Town Road by Lil Nas X climbed to the top of the Official UK Singles chart last week, it did so in the teeth of some very strong competition. Despite being bumped down to Number 2, Lewis Capaldi's Someone You Loved actually once more enjoyed its strongest chart sales week to date, demonstrating it was still growing in appeal even after seven weeks at the top of the charts. So it would actually have been no surprise to be sat here this week telling you that the success of Old Town Road was but a temporary blip, and that normality had been restored this time around.
Only that isn't what has happened. The Lil Nas X track instead accelerated once more last week, posting its own strongest sales week to date. The track enjoyed 10.3m streams over the last seven days, the third-highest total by any track so far this year (even if that is some way short of the 16m achieved by Ariana Grande). Its total chart sale of 84,000 is higher than any other Number One single in the 17 weeks so far this year, save for Ari's 7 Rings which posted 111,000 in its opening week back in February and enjoyed sales of over 80,000 in subsequent chart-topping weeks. It probably doesn't hurt that the track is a) so short and b) available in both original and Billy Ray Cyrus flavours (both enjoying exposure in equal measure). But be under no illusion, this is an enormously and intensely popular hit single. And it still doesn't have a formal video either, save for the lashed together recycled footage being used by TV channels.
Having noted its ongoing popularity, it is therefore even more notable that Someone You Loved doesn't even maintain its place at Number 2 this time around. Instead, the runners-up slot is taken by Piece Of Your Heart by Meduza featuring Goodboys which completes (for now) a six-week climb to reach the Top 3 for the first time.
Darling Can't You Hear Me
With Billie Eilish at 4 and a holding firm Tom Walker at 5, it means the only new arrival to the Top 10 has to content itself with Number 6. SOS from Avicii and Aloe Blacc makes a six-place jump from its entry point last week to further cement the legacy of the late producer. It is Avicii's 10th Top 10 single in Britain, but only the third as a credited artist for Aloe Blacc and his first since The Man was a Number One hit in April 2014. Although as I noted last week, this is to overlook his role on Avicii's own Wake Me Up which may well have also topped the charts but failed to credit its chocolate-voiced singer.
Also making huge strides is Jax Jones' All Day And Night, its leap from 22-14 clearly the result of some creative playlisting after the track became alarmingly becalmed last time around and appeared destined to be stranded outside the Top 20. I predicted a Top 10 hit in short order for the single and thankfully that still appears to be on the cards.
Those who struggle to discern one British hitmaking producer from another are now going to have enormous fun. Hard on the heels of Timucin "Jax Jones" Aluo is Guy "Jonas Blue" Robin who lands the highest Top 40 entry of the week. What I Like About You has spent the past month steadily waiting for its chance to catch fire and now finally does so in its fifth week on the chart, rising 43-23 to become the Essex-based producer eighth Top 40 hit. Almost needless to say the bright and summery track serves as the chart introduction for a brand new name, vocals on What I Like About You handled by Danish singer Theresa Rex. I say "brand new" but this is technically her second chart hit, and if you are struggling to place her vocal tones then check out Martin Jensen's Solo Dance from February 2017 on which she also featured, albeit without a direct chart credit. Her own solo debut Wild Ones sank without trace when released at the end of last year, but you suspect the profile afforded by the inevitable huge chart success of What I Like About You may well see that situation corrected in short order.
What The F***
The highest new entry of the week lands at Number 24, and what an unexpected one it is. Earth is the first chart hit for comedy rapper Lil Dicky since his unexpected turn at the top of the charts last year with Freaky Friday. This time around he has a hit single with some rather worthier subject matter, the single released in support of Earth Day and with proceeds going to environmental causes (specifically the Leonardo Di Caprio foundation). His ability to rope in celebrity names for assistance is second to none and so Earth features cameos along the way from acts such as Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, Ed Sheeran and even the Backstreet Boys - although as more than one person noted to me midweek, precious few of them seem entirely thrilled at the prospect. More to the point, the whole approach seems bizarre. What is supposed to be an inspiring piece of work about loving the planet and with a semi-cute animated video to boot rapidly descends into extended sequences of profanity. Given that children are most likely to be the target audience for the message being conveyed, this does seem to be a rather odd case of the whole project shooting itself in the foot.
OK repeat after me: I'm not turning into an old fart, I'm not turning into an old fart. Just below Mr Dicky and his sweary friends comes George Ezra who makes a sudden nine place climb to see Pretty Shining People sit at Number 25. Given this is the fourth official single (and fifth in total) from an already huge-selling album which is now more than a year old, to previously see the track languishing as a minor chart entry came as no real surprise and was genuinely no reflection on its quality. Staying At Tamara's didn't need another hit track culled from it to help it sell more, and for this single to be pushed seemed like a bit of label self-indulgence. But it continues to climb, and who knows where it will end up. George Ezra has yet to have a Top 40 hit single peak outside the Top 10 after all. Meanwhile, Ezra's former chart-topper Shotgun simply refuses to die. On its 57th straight week on the chart, it climbs 37-30.
Please Don't Hurt Me
To add to the ever-growing list of grime and drill rappers making the breakthrough into commercial pop charts here comes Digga D with this week's Number 27 hit No Diet. This is however likely to be one of the more controversial chart appearances so far as the rapper, real name Rhys Herbert, was one of five members of the 1011 crew from Ladbroke Grove who were jailed in 2018 after being caught setting off with weapons to settle the score with gang rivals (although as a minor at the time Herbert received a lesser sentence). The videos he and his friends had made were considered aggravating evidence in the case and they were also hit with banning orders which blocked them from making references to death or violence in any future tracks. No Diet happily steers clear of any potential legal violations, but its appearance in the charts will still raise eyebrows. Take this, I guess, as an example of someone using their talent to turn their life around and perhaps continue to drag a musical style out of the gutter of being used to issue threats and into actual worthwhile art. But this is still a hit record from a man whose criminal past has yet to become a distant memory.
Bottom Trending Single
Working our way down the Top 40, and it is worth noting, if only in passing, the 13-29 tumble of the BTS track Boy With Luv. Proof once more than the intense adulation for the K-Pop stars simply doesn't translate - yet - into proper mainstream chart success, even with the inclusion of acts such as Halsey to give the hits a bit more western appeal. Their Number One album from last week Map Of The Soul: Persona doesn't quite fall so far, but its 1-7 plunge is still in line with overall expectations rather than exceeding them.
I'll come to this week's Number One album in a moment, but let's round off the singles for now by appreciating the Number 39 arrival of Pokemon soundtrack single Carry On from Kygo and Rita Ora. Destined for greater chart things, a full account of it can wait until next time, but for now, it is worth noting that this is no less than Rita Ora's 20th Top 40 hit single since she made her 2012 debut on DJ Fresh's Hot Right Now.
There Be Dragons
Seeing as people will be searching for it, the instantly viral Florence & The Machine track Jenny Of Oldstones which featured in Episode 2 of the latest Game Of Thrones series on Monday night charts at Number 75, 12 places ahead of the new Madonna single Medellin which was hailed in some quarters as the second coming. As befits a track from a 60-year-old lady who long ago ceased to be relevant, it debuts at Number 87, the lowest starting point of any officially released single since the start of her career.
Wake Me Up
So yes, the Number One of the week on the Official UK Albums chart. Billie Eilish fascinatingly enough, the departure of BTS leaving a vacancy that none of the week's new releases are able to fill. More ominously The Greatest Showman still looms large at Number 2, the sixth time it has climbed this high since it was last at the top of the charts at the start of February. Remember the soundtrack record has had 28 weeks at Number One to date, and it would be foolish to assume it is not going to add to those any time soon.
The most intriguing move of the week on the album chart I guess has to be the apparently random reappearance at Number 11 of Lemonade from Beyonce. This is entirely down to the three-year-old release finally being made available on the major streaming platforms after spending the whole of its life so far marooned in the backwaters of Tidal. Now available to users of Spotify, Amazon, Deezer, Google, and others enough of its tracks were streamed in the four days it was available to propel the album back into the charts for its highest chart placing since August 2016. The streams were also enough to allow three of its tracks to penetrate the singles chart - Before I Let Go at Number 77 (never charted before), Freedom at Number 78 (originally reached Number 40 in the week the album was released), and Sorry at Number 96 (originally Number 33 that same week). In theory, all three would be higher, but for the fact that not only are they all on ACR as tracks released exactly three years ago, they have just crossed the threshold and are now permanently downgraded as golden oldies. Making fewer headlines was the fact that its predecessor 2013 "visual album" Beyonce was also freed to be streamed widely and duly re-charts at Number 49.
RIP The Single
There's another major watershed crossed in the ever-precipitous decline of the paid-for singles market. Total sales this week dipped below 700,000 last week (682,000 to be precise). Fount of all knowledge on these matters Alan Jones reports in Music Week that this is the lowest total of purchased singles since March 2005, three weeks before the market was boosted by the inclusion of digital downloads in the singles chart. Mind you, the situation for albums is even worse. Just 502,000 units were physically or digitally purchased last week. Nobody knows the last time they were this low, the accurate database doesn't go back far enough. The heat death of the format grows ever nearer.
So that was this week, and you cannot help but feel this is all the calm before the storm given that new Taylor Swift product is set to blow everything else out the water in seven days' time. While we wait for ME! to penetrate everyone's brains, why not check out the new Chart Watch books as listed above. Or if you prefer, join your fellow readers in becoming a patron of the site. With a free book tossed in as well if you pledge enough.