By a strange quirk of fate this week marks the first time since release that Shivers by Ed Sheeran is the most-streamed track of the week. For the past month it has lagged behind its predecessor Bad Habits numerically, but finally edges its nose in front (6,527,000 streams versus 6,449,000) this time around. Alas, this also coincides with the exact moment the track is knocked off the top of the charts, making this the first time since the schools broke up for summer that an Ed Sheeran song isn’t No.1 in Britain.
The slender lead Elton John and Dua Lipa’s creative mashup Cold Heart had in the early midweeks was maintained right to the end, and the Pnau-created delicacy finally makes it to No.1 after a nine-week climb, landing 63,928 chart sales. Ed Sheeran eventually finished some 4,000 copies behind on 59,865. Despite its streaming deficit, the Elton/Dua single did indeed benefit from a strong push for sales. They sold 5,057 physical copies and 8,466 downloads. So even in an era when purchases don’t really matter anymore, this is one occasion when they gave an otherwise lagging behind single the chart edge it needed.
Dua Lipa is No.1 for the third time but this isn’t really about her (sorry). Despite the fact that he doesn’t appear to perform a single new note on Cold Heart nor lift a finger in its creation Elton takes his chart career into the realms of the extraordinary. He joins Cliff and Elvis in the elite group of artists to have topped the charts in four separate decades - the 70s, 90s, 00s and now 20s. But having made his chart debut back in 1971 it means Elton has a No.1 single further into his career than any other artist before him, doing so over a chart career spanning over 50 years means he narrowly beats Elvis who was last at No.1 in 2005, a mere 49 years after he debuted.
It is Elton John’s first No.1 single since July 2005, that gap of 16 years meaning he joins a select band of artists who have had two extended spells between No.1 hits, this after he previously went from 1976 to 1990 without a chart-topper.
So why wasn’t more made of this? Well, the problem was that Elton John had already been trumpeted as a record breaker earlier in the week. This was largely the fault of the chart analysts at Billboard who noticed that now Cold Heart is climbing the US charts as well, Elton had become the first man in history to have Billboard Top 40 hits in five decades - 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s and 20s. This seemingly prompted Official Charts over here to take a similar stance, noting that (Christmas songs excepted) Elton John had managed a Top 10 hit in five decades as well. “The first man EVER to do this” they shouted in a press release.
Except he wasn’t. Within a few minutes of them tweeting it people were noting that no, Cliff had actually done this many years earlier. When Santa’s List charted in 2003 he could claim Top 10 status in the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and 00s. His failure to make the Top 10 since 2009 is the only reason he hasn’t extended that record further.
By this time the trumpeting of Elton’s “record” had been picked up by many news outlets, meaning it wasn’t feasible to walk it back. I’m really in no position to gloat, on many occasions I’ve spotted a “first” only for someone with an eagle-eye to notice it isn’t. We have 70 years of stats and history to work with. Stuff will get memory-holed on a regular basis unless you make it a full-time job to keep track.
So Cold Heart making it to No.1 was dealt with in a kind of “he’s No.1 after 16 years, OK bye” manner. Which really it doesn’t deserve. Here’s another fact then: at the age of 74 Elton John is now the second-oldest act ever to have a No.1 single. Only beaten by Captain Tom Moore who was 99 years old when he hit the top last year.