Welcome back to The Week in Number Ones, where all the biggest movers from the US and UK charts get condensed into one article. Last week, Glass Animals stayed at the top of the American pop charts by continuing their hot streak with ‘Heat Waves’ and Dave scored his first solo UK number one with ‘Starlight’. We also looked at the massive impact of The X Factor on the UK pop charts by signalling out of the strangest and briefest pop phenomenons – Chico and the unstoppable onslaught of ‘It’s Chico Time’.
Over on the album charts, Lil Durk sits comfortably atop the Billboard 200 with his new LP 7220. It’s the second chart-topping album from the Chicago rapper after his 2021 collaborative album with Lil Baby, The Voice of the Heroes. 7220 had a major impact on the singles charts as well, having notched five of the album’s tracks in the top 50 of the Hot 100. That’s all well and good, and if it helps divert attention from that truly vile Morgan Wallen collaboration, then all the better.
Speaking of the top 50, ‘Something In The Way’ by Nirvana has landed on the Hot 100 for the first time this week. Originally released as the closing track on 1991’s Nevermind (not counting the hidden track ‘Endless, Nameless’), ‘Something In The Way’ has seen a pop culture resurgence thanks to its use in The Batman, Matt Reeves’ recent reinterpretation of the Dark Knight. ‘Something In The Way’ was never released as a proper single and only occasionally featured in Nirvana’s setlists, but now that we live in the streaming era, just about anything can chart with the proper momentum behind it.
On the UK album charts, eight of the top ten LPs are new to the charts this week. First among not-quite equals is Rex Orange County, the English sadboi king who lands his first number one album with Who Cares? The lineup right behind him is awesomely diverse: Swedish hard rockers Ghost at number two with Impera, Canadian arena rocker Bryan Adams at number three with So Happy It Hurts, and British country duo The Shires at number five with 10 Year Plan. The only interruption comes at number four, which is held by Ed Sheeran’s =. Lil Durk, Franz Ferdinand, Ella Henderson, and The Mysterines all notched top ten albums this week as well, giving a strong push for new music on the album charts.
This week, Manchester’s own Aitch makes a go at the top spot with American soul-pop queen Ashanti while The Kid Laroi looks to make his own push for a return to number one with a previous single that already reached the top. We’ll also flashback to 1971, where a nation mourns another young singer lost to the world of rock and roll by pushing one of her final recordings to the top of the charts. All that and more as we round up all the best chart news of the modern-day and recent past.
Current UK Number One: ‘Starlight’ – Dave
With a second week sitting at number one, Dave has solidified his place as one of Britain’s most important rappers with the success of ‘Starlight’. Careers don’t quite unfold the way Dave’s has anymore: the slow ascent with underground attention, increased visibility, sold-out shows, and mainstream recognition followed swiftly by commercial success is a throwback to the ways that the music industry worked back in the pre-Internet age. But Dave has a very old-school appeal: no flash, no hype, just really good work.
The number two spot on the UK Singles Chart is usually a solid landing area for a hot new song, so much so that it’s odd a song hasn’t debuted at number one in a while. We’ve seen the sudden leap of Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift’s ‘The Joker and the Queen’ a few weeks ago, and now we have another prominent example: Aitch’s collaboration with American singer Ashanti, ‘Baby’.
‘Baby’ is a “collaboration” in the same way that Aitch buddy ArrDee’s ‘Flowers (Say My Name)’ is a collaboration with Destiny’s Child. That’s to say it’s not: Aitch just pilfers Ashanti’s 2003 hit ‘Rock Wit U (Awww Baby)’ to such an extent that Ashanti has to be credited alongside the rapper himself. She’s pitched up slightly, but that doesn’t disguise the fact that this is just ‘Rock Wit U’ with an average white boy rap verse over the top.
Personally, I thought that we were over this back when Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story skewered this exact kind of lazy mashup with the incredible Lil Nutzzak. Evidently, that was not the case. ‘Baby’ isn’t all that bad, it’s just exceedingly pointless. Aitch all but gives up and literally just lets an entire section of ‘Rock Wit U’ play over the song’s coda while Aitch throws in some of the most tossed-off vocal improvisations I’ve ever heard on a record.
There is no doubt that ‘Baby’ is catchy, but that’s because ‘Rock Wit U’ is catchy, not because of anything Aitch or his production team have added to the mix. They’ve added very little, letting Ashanti do the heavy lifting here. That’s not a bad thing, and with any luck this could represent the singer’s second number one in the UK after her feature on Ja Rule’s ‘Wonderful’. It’s just a bummer that she couldn’t reach the top on her own.
UK Singles Top Ten (Week of March 23rd, 2022):
- ‘Starlight’ – Dave
- ‘Baby’ – Aitch/Ashanti
- ‘Peru’ – Fireboy DML & Ed Sheeran
- ‘Where Are You Now’ – Lost Frequencies/Calum Scott
- ‘Make Me Feel Good’ – Belters Only ft. Jazzy
- ‘Down Under’ – Luude ft. Colin Hay
- ‘Where Did You Go’ – Jax Jones ft. MNEK
- ‘Overseas’ – D-Block Europe ft. Central Cee
- ‘Boyfriend’ – Dove Cameron
- ‘Go’ – Cat Burns
Current US Number One: ‘Heat Waves’ – Glass Animals
Still sitting at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 is Glass Animals and their now-cross cultural smash ‘Heat Waves’. What started as a normal indie pop track got co-opted by TikTok and eventually found its way onto radio, TV, and numerous Spotify playlists. As a result, it took more than a year for Glass Animals to reach number one from the time ‘Heat Waves’ first appeared on the chart to its eventually ascension to the top. It took 59 weeks for them to reach the summit, so a third week at number one is surely deserved.
The song that sits right below ‘Heat Waves’ this week has its own long in-progress history on the Billboard Hot 100: ‘Stay’ by The Kid Leroi and Justin Bieber. The song is currently at number two, but ‘Stay’ has previously been a number one song in its own right. Back in the summer of 2021, ‘Stay’ first landed at the top of the chart for four weeks before being replaced by BTS’ ‘Butter’. Despite being knocked out of the top spot, ‘Stay’ actually returned to the top for three weeks, briefly being interrupted by Coldplay’s own BTS collaboration ‘My Universe’ before being permanently sidelined by Lil Nas X’s ‘Industry Baby’ and the rise of Adele’s ‘Easy On Me’.
Right now, the longest gap between a song dropping out of the number one spot and then returning to it is 50 weeks, belonging to Mariah Carey and her now-yearly bookending of the Billboard Hot 100 with ‘All I Want for Christmas is You’. It’s only been 23 weeks since ‘Stay’ was last at number one, meaning that The Kid Laroi isn’t even halfway to Carey’s record. ‘All I Want for Christmas Is You’ can only have a potential return gap of 49 weeks this year, thanks to the fact that it was number one for the first two weeks of 2022 instead just the first and final weeks of the chart year like 2021. So if ‘Stay’ wants the new record, it will have to keep out of the top spot until October of this year. That seems easy enough.
By the way, ‘Stay’ already has a runner-up Billboard record, except this one is a little more notable: ‘Stay’ has spent the second-most weeks in the top five in Hot 100 history. Including this current week, the song has been in the top five for 31 weeks. That’s still 12 weeks shy of The Weeknd’s ‘Blinding Lights’, which managed to hang around the top five for 43 weeks, but that record seems a little more realistic for The Kid Laroi and Justin Bieber to break.
US Billboard Hot 100 Top Ten Singles (Week of March 26th, 2022):
- ‘Heat Waves’ – Glass Animals
- ‘Stay’ – The Kid Laroi & Justin Bieber
- ‘Super Gremlin’ – Kodak Black
- ‘ABCDEFU’ – Gayle
- ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’ – Disney’s Encanto Cast
- ‘Ghost’ – Justin Bieber
- ‘Easy On Me’ – Adele
- ‘Enemy’ – Imagine Dragons X JID
- ‘That’s What I Want’ – Lil Nas X
- ‘Bad Habits’ – Ed Sheeran
This Week in Number Ones: ‘Me and Bobby McGee’ – Janis Joplin (#1 on the Billboard Hot 100, March 27th, 1971)
Between July 3rd, 1969 and July 3rd, 1971, four of the biggest and most important rock stars in the world all died at the age of 27. First was Brian Jones, whose recent dismissal from The Rolling Stones led to an increase in his drug habits that likely led to him drowning in his own pool. Over a year later, Jimi Hendrix choked on his own vomit after taking an excessive number of barbiturates. Then, exactly two years after Jones’ death, The Doors’ frontman Jim Morrison died under mysterious circumstances in Paris, France.
In between these deaths saw the loss of a pioneering American blues singer by the name of Janis Joplin. Having grown up in a restrictive Texas environment, Joplin absconded to San Francisco in order to join in on the nascent hippie movement. But Joplin wasn’t a gentle peace and love type: she was a hard-drinking, hard-partying, drug-fueled survivor with a hardened exterior and a penchant for cursing and fights.
Joplin first arrived in San Francisco in 1963, but after two years, she had failed to find her place among the ever-changing landscape of the city. Even worse, she was emaciated and addicted to methamphetamine, causing her friends to ship her home to Texas so that she could recover. For two years back in her home state, Joplin attended college, got engaged, and played small gigs in and around Austin without any indication that she would return to California. However, an old friend named Chet Helms implored her to contact a band called Big Brother and the Holding Company, who were looking for a new lead singer.
With the Holding Company, Joplin returned to San Francisco and befriended the residents of the Haight-Ashbury neighbourhood, most notably the members of the Grateful Dead. As the Summer of Love began to take hold, Big Brother was able to ride the momentum of their hits, including covers of ‘Ball and Chain’ and ‘Piece of My Heart’, to the highs of success. A prominent slot at the Monterey Pop Festival gave Joplin her first major exposure, with the rest of the world being introduced to this shrieking possessed blues disciple for the first time.
By 1969, Joplin sought to lead her own band and left Big Brother and the Holding Company. However, most of her money was being funnelled into drugs and alcohol. Joplin’s first solo album, I Got Dem Ol’ Kosmic Blues Again Mama, was less psychedelic and more R&B-influenced than her work with the Holding Company, and as a result it was only tepidly received. A slightly off performance at the Woodstock festival followed, and by this point, Joplin was completely engulfed in addiction once again. It took a brief sojourn to Brazil for Joplin to once again attain sobriety, but the commitments she had to touring and recording caused her to relapse during the spring of 1970.
Despite the renewed drug problems, Joplin seemed to be in a good space while recording her second studio album. Having assembled a new backing band called the Full Tilt Boogie Band, Joplin was hitting a creative stride. After four months of recording, Joplin entered the studio on October 1st to record vocals for two songs, the still-in-progress ‘Mercedes Benz’ and her cover of Kris Kristofferson’s country rock story song ‘Me and Bobby McGee’. Although originally written from a male point of view, Joplin flipped the genders and instantly made the song her own through her unique vocal scats and improvisational raps.
That October 1st session would be the final time that Joplin ever recorded. Just three days later, she died of a heroin overdose in her hotel room. Joplin’s death came just two weeks after Hendrix’s, and an entire era of rock and roll died with them. In January of 1971, Pearl was released along with ‘Me and Bobby McGee’ as its first single. Featuring an ever-escalating arrangement, the song was quintessential Janis Joplin, and it acted as both a balm and a searing reminder to rock fans of the loss of an icon.
Janis Joplin only had one number one hit in her career, and she was never around to see it. ‘Me and Bobby McGee’ hit the top of the pop chart over five months after Joplin had died, giving her only the second posthumous number one after Otis Redding’s ‘Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay’ reached the top almost exactly three years prior. The Grateful Dead began performing the song shortly after Joplin’s death, even after close friend Ron ‘Pigpen’ McKernan died in 1973, also at 27. ‘Me and Bobby McGee’ just had a transcendent power, one that only Joplin was able to fully bring to life.
Billboard Hot 100 Top Ten (Week of March 27th, 1971):
- ‘Me and Bobby McGee’ – Janis Joplin
- ‘Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)’ – The Temptations
- ‘She’s a Lady’ – Tom Jones
- ‘Proud Mary’ – Ike & Tina Turner
- ‘For All We Know’ – Carpenters
- ‘Doesn’t Somebody Want to Be Wanted?’ – The Partridge Family
- ‘What’s Going On’ – Marvin Gaye
- ‘Help Me Make It Through the Night’ – Sammi Smith
- ‘One Bad Apple’ – The Osmonds
- ‘What Is Life’ – George Harrison