Breaking Bad Habits
In 2017 Ed Sheeran released his album Divide. It posted an incredible 671,542 sales.
In 2019 Ed Sheeran released his No.6 Collaborations Project side album. It posted 125,031 sales.
In 2021 Ed Sheeran released his album Equals. It moved 139,107 sales.
This week Ed Sheeran released his brand new album Subtract (or Minus, or whatever you wish to call it). Its chart sale for the week? 76,263 sales.
All things in context that's a huge number by any standards. The kind of weekly sale most artists can only salivate about. But that's still by Ed Sheeran's lofty standards (by which we have to judge it) a pretty limp total. Only just over half the first week sales of his last album.
What's missing this time around is the kind of strong streaming performance that has led to him doing a near clean sweep of the Top 10 singles (when rules allow) when his albums emerge. Of that 76,000 sales just over 41,000 are on CD, 8,124 on vinyl and 4,970 are cassettes. A mere 14,255 of the album's chart sales are accounted for by streams of its tracks.
That surprisingly lack of streaming impact is reflected in the manner in which Sheeran appears on the Official UK Singles charts this week. The album's lead single and former No.1 Eyes Closed skips up to No.3. Teaser track Boat which limped to No.46 a fortnight ago re-enters the chart at a much healthier looking No.15, and previously unheard track Curtains is a place behind at No.16. Compare that to the release week of Equals two years ago. Its hit singles Shivers, Bad Habits and Overpass Graffiti lined up at 2,3 and 4 respectively. His shot at a Top 3 clean sweep denied by arguably the only other British superstar who matches Ed Sheeran for global fame, Adele.
So what to make of all that? The lazy top line is to go "wow, that's the Sheeran bubble deflating massively". For indeed although the new album is the biggest of big deals this week and duly becomes the fastest selling album of the year so far, it still isn't quite as big a deal as some music he's made in the past. It still ensures every one of the six studio albums he has released so far in his career has made it to No.1. But it does so quietly and gently.
However you could argue it wasn't intended to be as huge. Subtract does mark the point where Sheeran himself acknowledges he doesn't need to aspire to be a mainstream pop star any more. He's already made more money than he can ever spend in a lifetime. He's a wife and family to occupy him and in truth he can if he wants spend the next few years making music just for himself and indulge his own creative whims. Subtract is deliberately pitched as his "alternative" release, songs lacking the commercial appeal of old. The exception is Eyes Closed which he has also acknowledged is actually a leftover from the Equals sessions, a track included just to ensure the album has at least one large hit single to its name.
Then again it isn't as if the marketing has been understated. This was an Ed Sheeran album pitched as just as big a deal as the others. And one week ago he released an official video for every single one of the album's tracks. A project which does not come cheap.
Subtract completes the set of albums named after mathematical symbols. But depending on your point of view it is either the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning of the long term career of the century's biggest British superstar.
Do We Need Another Miracle?
Phew, it feels good to get that off one's chest. We also this week have a singles chart which features Miracle from Calvin Harris and Ellie Goulding spending a fifth week in total at No.1. That's enough to ensure it is now Ellie Goulding's biggest ever chart hit, exceeding all her previous runs at the top of the charts. Hard luck then for David Kushner whose Daylight opened big and has commendably stayed in contention ever since. He posts 38,000 chart sales to the 41,000 of the Calvin/Ellie track. Close but no cigar.
Got The Wrong Prince Charlie
The highest new entry of the week is not an Ed Sheeran track either. Instead at No.9 we have what on the surface is a topical bit of whimsy entitled Scrap The Monarchy by an act going under the name of Krown Jewelz. Needless to say there is more to this than meets the eye, the satirical but still politically barbed track the latest attempt at a chart invasion by the act normally known as The Kunts whose annual appearances on the Christmas chart do at least break up the monotony. Languishing at the lower end of the Top 30 at the start of the week, a pronounced social media push and the release of numerous remixes (31 at the last count) helped push their total sales to some more respectable levels. Their 22,870 sales enough to ensure the track lands at No.9. Why am I less dismissive than usual about this? Well the song itself is enormous fun, a throwback to the kind of scatalogical satire its performer used to churn out in his days as Kunt And The Gang and is far more worth five minutes of your time than last year's royal offering from the collective. Honourable mention must go to the fact the track appears on Pegging Prince records. If you know you know.
Florrie? That You?
Extraordinarily we have another wtf moment just inside the Top 30. Originally a No.23 hit back in January 2010 Dog Days Are Over by Florence & The Machine crashes back onto the singles chart at No.27. The renewed interest in the track comes via its inclusion on the Guardians Of The Galaxy 3 soundtrack (the No.1 compilation of the week) and almost needless to say some viral hammering on TikTok. Meanwhile fellow returning golden oldie Maria Maria from Santana edges ever closer to the Top 40 with a rise to No.43. The 2023 remake from Tech It Deep still languishes at No.60.
Making a pleasing Top 40 return are Bring Me The Horizon whose new single Lost arrives at No.29 for what in all probably will end up as its only notable chart position. It is the group's first such hit single since their Machine Gun Kelly collaboration Maybe crept to No.39 in April 2022, their first hit single in their own right since their glorious run of chart form back in 2020. The group have now had 17 Top 75 hit singles since 2014, none of which have ever charted higher than No.17.
Also long overdue another hit single are Rudimental and this week they have their first Top 40 single in over two years as Dancing Is Healing rises to No.33. Bringing Charlotteplank and Vibe Chemistry along for the ride the single has this eerie vibe of "summertime anthem" written all over it. If this is propping up the Top 5 as we approach July don't say I didn't warn you.
Camilla Is My Queen
Healing is also the title of Tion Wayne's new hit single which arrives at No.35. Meanwhile to bring up the rear (almost) at No.38 is Giving Me, the first solo chart hit single from Jazzy - better known as the voice of Belters Only's Make Me Feel Good which enjoyed an extended chart run culminating in a No.4 peak at the start of last year.
Eurovision week has meant renewed interest in the United Kingdom entry I Wrote A Song by Mae Muller. It jumps back to No.45 just ahead of Saturday night's final having first peaked at No.30 back in March. As always, seeing if Eurovision does anything to the state of the singles chart next week will be fascinating. The arrival of the contest in Europe, its first UK staging since 1998 is bound to command more casual interest than usual.
Hello to everyone who Popbitch has brought here by the way. I see you.