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Chart Watch Weekly - November 8th 2021

James Masterton's Chart Watch Weekly
Our first superstar hit in what is going to turn out to be a November filled with them. But are there questions to be asked about the way it happened, or are we just desperately trying to find an interesting angle on it all? Stay tuned.
In Chart Watch Weekly this week:
  • Sheer-ease. At least on one chart.
  • Ghostbusters!
  • News from abroad.
  • The Monday midweeks. Or “what the hell are Abba doing” to give them their full title.

Maybe You Can Hire The A Team
Official Charts probably could have taken that picture any time in the past couple of weeks given it was a fairly obvious state of affairs that Ed Sheeran would be landing another No.1 album the moment his new collection Equals hit the online stores.
So it proved, the album selling a suitably Sheeran-esque 139,107 copies to outsell the next 30 albums put together. It is “Sheeran-esque” because quite literally the only person in the last five years to do numbers of that kind is the man himself. It is very marginally more than the opening week of No.6 Collaborations Project and comfortably the highest sale managed by any album since his own Divide eclipsed a quarter of a million copies with some ease back in 2017.
The way the figures broke down did however raise one or two eyebrows. 94,000 of those sales were physical copies - all well and good. 25,000 of them were via streams. But that leaves a whopping 19,000 accounted for by digital downloads. People who clicked to buy mp3 copies of every track on the album. And that’s an incredibly unusual proportion. The download album never grew beyond a niche product and even now sits in a strange halfway house, of interest really to the tiny cohort of consumers who have old fashioned players or servers at home on which to keep physical files.
By way of comparison when Coldplay topped the charts two weeks ago with Music Of The Spheres and also with a chart sale of over 100,000, a scant 9,000 of these were digital downloads. And nobody I’ve spoken to really knows what to conclude from that. Although as we will see later, it may well be that he’s merely started a trend.
The New Boys
The singles chart turned into an oddly compelling battle as the week drew on, the tantalising prospect of a head to head between the two British superstars of Ed Sheeran and Adele was one that did not disappoint.
First to take the lead was the biggest of the new tracks from Ed’s album, Overpass Graffifi which his label had indicated was going to be the next official single. But that, like a large number of the album’s other cuts, began to sag midweek as far as streams were concerned, leading to a switch of emphasis back to Shivers. That was gifted new remixes and a new physical release, only for team Adele to steam back in and bring forward the release of their own physical formats.
In the end, although her CD singles helped, Adele nicked the chart race on streams alone and so Easy On Me ended up topping the charts for the third week running. Not that it truly matters in the grand scheme of things, but the sight of Ed Sheeran dominating both singles and albums charts in his home country in the week of the album release was doubtless a target for his management and label. Yet when it counted they came up short.
Overpass Graffiti could only wind up at No.4, although that still meant every one of Ed Sheeran’s permitted three hits were in the Top 5. Just why does everything have to sound like The Weeknd these days?
Ed Sheeran - Overpass Graffiti [Official Video]
Ed Sheeran - Overpass Graffiti [Official Video]
Spooky Huh?
It isn’t quite the huge festival that, say, Christmas is but Halloween seems to be one of those occasions that impacts the charts in its own small way year in year out as that small subset of “spooky” songs get their own concentrated streams and airings.
This year it seemed to be more intense than usual, helped not a little I suspect by October 31st landing at the weekend, focusing all the usual haunted hits into the early part of the sales week. It meant the first midweek flashes last week had a rather startling look with a raft of golden oldies occupying places as high up as the Top 20.
In the end things calmed down a little, but that still meant Top 40 entries for the first time in forever for Ghostbusters (No.38), Thriller (No.40) with Monster Mash just outside at No.41. Sadly we were denied the sight of the original Rocky Horror Picture Show recording of The Time Warp making the charts for the very first time, the combination of Patricia Quinn and Richard O'Brien stalling at No.78.
Observant watchers did however note that the list of Halloween hits that first dominated the midweeks bore a very close resemblance to the structure of the similarly themed playlist that had been put out by Amazon Music. Food for thought as we approach the Christmas period, one where playlist consumption starts to come fully to the fore. Write off the influence of those set and forget Alexa streams at your peril.
Rocky Horror Time Warp
Rocky Horror Time Warp
Across The Atlantic
The Ed Sheeran effect on the US singles chart is limited, as you can see Adele remains supreme at the top of the Hot 100 just as she did before. The best any of the new Sheeran cuts could do was the No.41 entry point for Overpass Graffiti (although the album is almost needless to say No.1 on the Billboard 200). The one notable new arrival in the American Top 10 is Heat Waves by Glass Animals which sets a brand new record for the slowest ever climb to the upper reaches, hitting No.10 in what is now its 42nd week on the chart. That breaks the previous record of 38 set by Carrie Underwood’s Before He Cheats back in 2007.
We should of course note that Heat Waves are another British act, a bunch of lads from Oxfordshire who it appears are now set for life thanks to one slow burning viral hit. One all about soaking up a gig in the summer sunshine that is now still a worldwide smash just as the northern hemisphere nights start drawing in.
The Halloween effect manages to impact the US charts as well. Somebody’s Watching Me by Rockwell (with uncredited vocals from a certain Michael Jackson) is No.42 on the Billboard charts this week, charting for the first time since its original No.2 peak in 1984. Although Jacko himself is even higher up as Thriller crashes back in at No.19, meaning that technically he’s had Top 20 hits in the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s, 10s and 20s. Monster Mash is No.37.
A Land Down Under
Ah, but what of the southern hemisphere I hear you ask. Well, Heat Waves is still nicely kicking around to coincide with the Australian summer. Their shock of the week is a changing of the guard at No.1 as Elton and Dua’s Cold Heart edges its way to No.1. And I think this is the first time since we began this newsletter that Stay has been out of the Australian Top 3. Perhaps its time has now passed.
Not that the moribund Aussie charts show much movement otherwise, with even the Swedish House Mafia track not able to sustain a second week in the Top 10 (it plummeted on the British charts too), replaced instead by Ed Sheeran’s Overpass Graffiti to give him three Top 10 singles.
Euro-vision
That’s the current Top 10 singles chart in Austria (although I’ve a feeling that’s actually a week behind, given Adele is listed as having two weeks on the table), a set of songs that should be reasonably familiar to all. The one curiosity is perhaps the notable success of Lost Frequencies’ Where Are You Now which has been the very definition of a slow burner elsewhere (it has limped to No.59 in this country so far). Their local hero at the moment is rapper RAF Camora who has singles at 10, 11 and 13 on this chart. This is the biggest of them. I mean it is not Falco, but who is these days?
RAF Camora - GUAPA
RAF Camora - GUAPA
Midweek Teases
This week is ABBA week as their new album Voyage, their first original studio material since The Visitors in 1981 hit the stores. It was always set to make a huge splash, not least because pre-purchasers of the album got priority in the queue for the live gigs in London’s docklands next year.
And so it has proved. As of the very first formal midweek flashes the album has 118,000 sales to its name already. Which is utterly extraordinary. Now this is a very, very frontloaded figure so you would probably expect this to slow down a little. Nonetheless the album seems set for the strongest first week sale of the year. At least until Adele comes along.
Music Week in their midweek flash have broken the figure down for us already, noting that Voyage‘s total is made up from around 100,000 physical sales, 2,326 from streaming and a whopping 14,834 from downloads. Maybe the Ed Sheeran figure wasn’t so odd after all. Have the kinds of people who like this sort of music (grown-up stuff after all) suddenly discovered a love of album streaming?
The singles chart looks set to be another extraordinary ding-dong battle between Sheeran and Adele. As of Monday evening Shivers is back on top but Easy On Me is just a few hundred copies behind. ArDee seems set to have the highest new entry with Flowers (Say My Name), set to become the second chart hit this year to be based on the old Sweet Female Attitude track from the 2000s.
It would be wrong not to wrap up this week without noting the horrifying scenes that we all witnessed at the Astroworld concert in Texas at the weekend, with fans being crushed to death in a situation which gave people in this country flashbacks to the 1988 Donnington Monsters Of Rock festival which saw a similar crush event with similarly tragic results.
Travis Scott (during whose set the disaster occurred) would be otherwise celebrating his latest two singles making an impact on the charts this week, and he’s set for at the very least a Top 30 new entry in Britain. The rather awkward title of this new cut? Escape Plan. Ulp.
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The new UK charts are announced by Radio One from 5pm every Friday, can be seen in full on officialcharts.com and musicweek.com, and I’m now back on chart-watch.uk with my own detailed charts analysis later that same evening. My words deserve a bigger audience than Music Week’s paywall could give them. So they are now back at their true home.
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James Masterton
James Masterton @chartupdate

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