Love Is Strong
Reader, I am torn.
There's one headline-grabbing chart story which will have inevitably grabbed the requisite few hours of mainstream attention by the time you read this. And to which this chart blog is also honour-bound to call attention as well. But it is also a chart story which demonstrates just how extraordinarily messed up popular culture is, at least in comparison to the way it has generally worked for decade. Because the pop charts, the ranking of popular music, the great legacy that the rock and roll revolution gifted to those of us of later generations is this week dominated by a brand new record by a bunch of incredibly old men. Old men who once upon a time represented the rawest spirit of youthful rebellion and a lightning rod for establishment outrage and who themselves would have looked askance at performers from an entirely different century being in a position to steal their focus.
But here we are. The No.1 album of the week is Hackney Diamonds, the first complete album of new material from the Rolling Stones in 18 years. The death of longtime drummer Charlie Watts in 2021 means the group are reduced to the core trio of Mick Jagger (80), Keith Richards (79) and Ronnie Wood (76) although the new record boasts contributions from the likes of Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Lady Gaga and - in a move that has raised a few eyebrows - former bassist Bill Wyman who for his own reasons keeps a low profile these days.
With a chart sale of well in excess of 72,000 the album takes the Stones to the top of the charts for the 14th time in their career, their span of No.1 albums stretching back to the release of their self-titled debut back in 1964. That puts them level with Robbie Williams in second place on the all-time list, with only The Beatles out in front with 16 chart-topping records to their name. If you filter the list to exclude live, re-releases and Greatest Hits albums then the Stones are now on 11 - level with the aforementioned Beatles and Williams and alongside Bruce Springsteen.
But yeah, this is still a rock album performed by a bunch of really old men, and purchased solely by people who are longstanding fans of the same, and by definition really old themselves. Trust me, that wasn't happening back in 1964.
The Official UK Singles chart sees Kenya Grace enjoy a third week at No.1 with Strangers, although it was a close-run thing. A mere 762 sales separates it from Casso's Prada in second place, and the sales at the top of the market overall remain limp with Strangers posting just over 37,000 sales for the week. It is still the most-streamed single in the UK and more than deserving of its place at the top of the charts, but the door is wide open for something else to steam in and grab the glory. Precisely what that could be remains tantalisingly up in the air for the moment.
I have a welcome opportunity to flex my fingers and warm up how to type the words "Taylor Swift", because I suspect I will be doing it a great deal over the next couple of weeks. The occasion this time around is the dramatic turnaround enjoyed by Cruel Summer, a single theoretically gently drifting down the charts following its summertime run near the top but one which now rockets back into contention at No.3. This is being credited to the larger interest in her music prompted by the cinematic release of the film of her Eras tour. This surge also means virtually her entire back catalogue has a place in the Top 30 of the albums chart. Enjoyably that also includes the original issue of 1989 which sits at No.8 this week, that recording in theory set to be obsoleted next week by the arrival of the "Taylor's Version" re-recording of the work. Will both end up side by side in the Top 10 in a unique double? Meanwhile, we will continue to marvel at the situation that means while yes, she is currently promoting a career-spanning concert tour rather than any new material, the fact remains that the biggest female star on the planet right now is Top 3 with a single she recorded in 2019 and is set to grab headlines next week with the reworking of a record she made in 2014. What is old is suddenly new again. Just ask the Rolling Stones.
New to the Top 10 as its meteoric chart rise continues is Stick Season from Noah Kahan which smashes its way to No.9. In theory it should be joined next week by Troye Sivan's One Of Your Girls which hits the glass ceiling as it advances to No.11, consolidating its position as his biggest-ever solo single. Beating Sivan to the punch for a place in the Top 10 however is a fellow countryman as Kid Laroi lands himself the highest new entry of the week with Too Much barging its way to an instant No.10 placing. This is a genuinely trans-continental hit, a three-way performance between the Australian Laroi, Korean Jung Kook and Britain's own Central Cee. The single is pretty much everything you would expect from a Kid Laroi track (he only knows one melody) - although there are fun changes up when Cee comes on to say "fuck" a lot. Listening to the track overall you will be hard-pressed to work out just which vocal line belongs to Kid Laroi and which to his Korean superstar companion (even the video doesn't make it completely clear) but his presence of any kind on the single notably makes Jung Kook the first K-Pop star to have three solo Top 10 hit singles, easing past the OG Korean superstar Psy who could only manage two.
Winter Is Coming
Other than that it is an oddly quiet week, especially when you consider it is half term and in theory prime music listening period. But maybe I've lost my ability to work out how the minds of teenagers are supposed to work. But then again we are now in this weird period where the window for visibility of current hits is rapidly closing as we prepare for the arrival of the Christmas singles than plunge the singles chart into a period of ludicrousness. Releasing music at this time is a genuine roll of the dice - are you wanting it to make an impact right now or just be there in the mix ready to dominate matters in the new year. Or do you aim to have your release become a hit either side of the holiday, like Rema's Calm Down did a year ago? Let's be honest, the fun bit of the December charts isn't the latest inexorable rise of All I Want For Christmas Is You, it is speculating on the fate of the songs it brutally but temporarily shoves aside.
Y'All Be Good Now
We didn't really expect much of it (Britain isn't quite as seduced by country as the American charts seem to be) but after a month or so scuttling around the basement of the Top 40 I Remember Everything by Zach Bryan featuring Kasey Musgraves is on the move, having now shifted 29-26-22 over the past few weeks. The track still lacks an official video of any kind, although there are two different "official audio" renderings available, one on his YouTube channel and another on hers.
Also on the "not one week wonders but making slow progress" channel this week: the reactivated Pompeii from Bastille, up to No.26; Agora Hills from Doja Cat, up to No.28; and On My Love from Zara Larsson and David Guetta, up to No.29.
So we come to the end and round off with the only other new single to arrive in the Top 40 this week, a track we mentioned in dispatches a fortnight ago when it first arrived. Me & U from Tems finally breaks cover with a rise to No.36, becoming the first solo Top 40 single for the Nigerian singer, her previous hit singles having been as a collaborator of Wizzkid (Essence, No.16 in 2021) and Future (Wait For U, No.8 in 2022). But this is yet another in a long line of rather lovely Afrobeats chill-out singles and serves as a suitable way to pause things and gather breath for Taylor Swift week next week. You all know it is coming.