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Music

The Week in Number Ones: ArrDee, Nicki Minaj, and The Simpsons invade the charts

@TylerGolsen

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, we took our weekly look into the world of Encanto and made history with ‘Mr. Brightside’. We also explored the harsh realities of Kodak Black, and when The KLF decided to cut the cord on their own careers in the most gonzo public stunt to ever happen at the BRITs.

With most people wondering whatever the hell Kanye West is doing these days, the hype machine around Donda 2 is officially starting to hit a fever pitch. Are all of these Pete Davidson threats and promises to pay Michael Che if he quits Saturday Night Live all serving to keep interest in the album high? Maybe, or maybe West just really is having a very public breakdown, but one thing is for sure: an album without Kid Cudi is a weaker Kanye album.

Meanwhile, the Coachella Festival has officially washed their hands of any responsibility and is letting any old person who paid a ticket in through their gates, regardless of whether they might have Covid or not. Now confirmed as the year’s hottest superspreader event, no confirmation of vaccination, negative test results, or even masks will be necessary to see Harry Styles this year. Because music is apparently a small world, this can also be tied back to more Kanye news, but let’s just stop mentioning Ye, shall we?

This week, the talk of the town is still Bruno, but there are some other mystical stories to cover. Those include rapid ascents of Nicki Minaj, Lil Baby, and Ardee onto the charts, the surprising staying power of Sam Fender, and the newest threat from Justin Bieber. All that, plus we take a deep dive into when The Simpsons took a novelty rap straight to the top of the British charts as we round up all the best chart news of the modern-day and of the recent past.

Current UK Number One: ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’ – The Cast of Disney’s Encanto

Hello, and welcome to Encanto chat. A few weeks ago, I shared my fear that this column would devolve into just becoming a weekly slate of Adele news, but it turned out that there was a bigger enemy than the British soul queen. The true enemy was Encanto, the inexhaustible charming Disney film whose staying power is largely thanks to one of its songs, ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’, being a transcontinental hit single.

Weirdly enough, the crossover success of ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’ isn’t really giving the film a lot of gas at the box office. Sure, Encanto has made $240 million, which is a major success in the post-covid era of movies, but Spider-Man: No Way Home is still heads and tails the only real movie worth talking about in terms of receipts. If you have a Disney+ account, then you don’t have any reason to go see Encanto in a theatre.

The biggest story in the top ten this week is teenage British rapper ArrDee, who has been pulverising the charts with his recent string of hit singles. It all started with the remix for Russ Millions’ ‘Body’, which featured what had to be the largest density of UK Drill artists ever collected on a four-minute song. Somehow, ArrDee managed to stand out, and even though his follow-ups were the middling ‘Oliver Twist’ and the wonky ‘Flowers (Say My Name)’, the diminutive white rapper is starting to stand above the competition.

Just look at how his most recent single, ‘War’, managed to debut at number six this week. Most of the rest of the songs on this week’s chart haven’t moved in a while – special shout out to Far Out favourite Sam Fender for keeping ‘Seventeen Going Under’ in the top ten for this long – but ArrDee has invaded thanks to a collaboration with fellow whiteboy rapper Aitch.

‘War’ is not a great song, but it’s got a decent enough hook to land it just below ArrDee’s peak on the chart, which still belongs to when ‘Flowers (Say My Name)’ hit number five. Will ArrDee reach new heights next week? Who knows, but if he doesn’t, there’s always time for a remix.

UK Singles Top Ten (Week of February 16th, 2022):

  1. ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’ – Disney’s Encanto Cast
  2. ‘Peru’ – Fireboy DML & Ed Sheeran
  3. ‘Surface Pressure’ – Jessica Darrow (from Disney’s Encanto)
  4. ‘ABCDEFU’ – Gayle
  5. ‘Where Are You Now’ – Lost Frequencies/Calum Scott
  6. ‘War’ – ArrDee & Aitch
  7. ‘Seventeen Going Under’ – Sam Fender
  8. ‘Make Me Feel Good’ – Belters Only ft. Jazzy
  9. ‘The Family Madrigal’ – Stephanie Beatriz (from Disney’s Encanto)
  10. ‘Overseas’ – D-Block Europe ft. Central Cee

Current US Number One: ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’ – The Cast of Disney’s Encanto

More unbeatable rule from Encanto this week, as ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’ sits with its third week at the top of the Billboard Hot 100. That was probably to be expected, but out of almost nowhere, ‘Bruno’ almost got dethroned by the wicked one-two punch of Nicki Minaj and Lil Baby.

That’s because ‘Do We Have a Problem?’, the duo’s recent collaboration, has debuted at number two this week. The track represents Minaj’s return to the singles chart after she announced that she was taking some time off of music in order to raise her son born in 2020. With the return, Minaj bumps chart stalwarts like Adele, Glass Animals, and Justin Bieber down a notch, although Bieber had his own victory by landing ‘Ghost’ at number nine.

Last week we talked about Kodak Black in relation to the separation between an artists life and their work. Nicki Minaj would make a fascinating case study there as well, but let’s not go down that rabbit hole two weeks in a row. Lil Baby is definitely more admirable, especially compared to his compatriot in the Baby Brigade, DaBaby.

If ‘Do We Have a Problem?’ builds on its success and takes over the top spot next week, it will be Minaj’s third number one, joining the ranks of her previous collaborative singles ‘Say So’ with Doja Cat and ‘Trollz’ with 6ix9ine. As for Lil Baby, the song would represent his first number one, having previously topped out at number two with his Drake collaboration ‘Wants and Needs’.

It might not be the last collaboration between the two to land on the charts either. ‘Bussin’, which was released only a few days ago, could very well replicate the success of ‘Do We Have a Problem?’. But then again, Encanto has faced some tough competition before, so it will be an interesting battle to see who sits on top of the mountain come next week.

Billboard Hot 100 Top 10 (Week of February 12th, 2022):

  1. ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’ – Disney’s Encanto Cast
  2. ‘Do We Have a Problem?’ – Nicki Minaj X Lil Baby
  3. ‘Easy On Me’ – Adele
  4. ‘Heat Waves’ – Glass Animals
  5. ‘Stay’ – The Kid Laroi & Justin Bieber
  6. ‘Super Gremlin’ – Kodak Black
  7. ‘ABCDEFU’ – Gayle
  8. ‘Shivers’ – Ed Sheeran
  9. ‘Ghost’ – Justin Bieber
  10. ‘Surface Pressure’ – Jessica Darrow (from Disney’s Encanto)

This Week in Number Ones: ‘Do the Bartman’ – The Simpsons (#1 on the UK Singles Chart, February 16th, 1991)

Last week, we covered how The KLF took the piss out of the entire British music industry thanks to a series of wild stunts and a surprising amount of chart success. But I also promised that the following week would cover something stranger, more ridiculous, and more ’90s than The KLF could ever hope to touch. That’s because while The KLF was looking to make a mockery of the UK Singles Chart, The Simpsons were accomplishing the same thing. The only difference was that The Simpsons did it naturally.

Before Encanto swooped in to let cartoons take over the top of the charts, The Simpsons were such a cultural phenomenon that the beloved and long-running television programme could release an album of songs that weren’t actually featured on the show and have a number one single from it. Pre-grunge 1991 is a wonderfully bizarre kaleidoscope of kitsch, novelty, and bad ’80s hangovers. But The Simpsons were perfect for their time: a subversive anti-sitcom that was still nonetheless the most popular TV show in the world.

By the early ’90s, The Simpsons were entering their peak. Bill Cosby, the now reviled entertainment figure, called Bart Simpson a bad influence on children. President George H.W. Bush urged Americans to be more like The Waltons and less like The Simpsons. These public condemnations have hilariously aged horribly, but The Simpsons were truly seen as dangerous to the moral majority: the show was being beamed into millions of houses every week, and Bart Simpson became a legitimate spokesperson for a younger generation.

The story of how ‘Do the Bartman’ came to life involves another modern-day pop culture pariah: Michael Jackson. Jackson was a major fan of the series and wanted to write a song for them, but there was a problem. Jackson was signed to Epic Records, which forbade him from releasing material outside the label. Since The Simpsons Sing the Blues was set to be released by Geffen Records, Jackson worked on the song but went uncredited. Instead, professional songwriter and producer Bryan Loren was given credit instead. Series creator Matt Groening later claimed that the song was co-written by the two of them.

As a composition, ‘Do the Bartman’ had a lot to do with the New Jack Swing movement that had taken over in the late ’80s. Rubbery bass lines, synthetic percussion, and kitschy keyboards were all part of the mix. On top of it all was Nancy Cartwright, the voice of Bart, who quasi-raps her way through the track while occasionally dropping catchphrases along the way. If you really wanted to, there might be a connection made to the fads of dance songs that found chart success throughout the decades, but that’s giving ‘Do the Bartman’ far too much credit than it deserves.

There’s no other way to put it: ‘Do the Bartman’ is an awful song. It’s the worst kind of novelty – one that was never funny in the first place and only gets more irritating the longer that you listen to it. In its own way, ‘Do the Bartman’ was officially the time when The Simpsons could no longer claim to be inflammatory or rebellious. It was now officially part of the corporate machine and the series’ famous downhill slide wasn’t far away.

For some reason, ‘Do the Bartman’ wasn’t released as a single in the US. But in the UK, it was a legitimate chart-topper, staying at number one for three weeks and selling nearly half a million copies in 1991 alone. It was actually more popular than the show itself was in Britain, with the series being relegated to Sky One instead of the common terrestrial broadcasts from the BBC. It was an even bigger success in Ireland, where ‘Do the Bartman’ was number one for nine weeks, making it the second-longest raining number one song of 1991 after Bryan Adams’ ‘(Everything I Do) I Do It For You’.

No chart is immune to novelty songs, but the UK Singles Chart is positively littered with goofball number ones across its long history. But ‘The Ketchup Song’ and ‘Mr. Blobby’ needed some kind of precedent before their respective reigns. While ‘Do the Bartman’ wasn’t the first novelty song to top the charts, it was certainly one of the biggest up to that point. That’s likely to be the song’s legacy, since ‘Do the Bartman’ has left no cultural footprint outside of being a footnote the larger stories of The Simpsons, novelty songs, and the UK Singles Chart.

UK Singles Chart Top Ten, February 16th, 1991:

  1. ‘Do the Bartman’ – The Simpsons
  2. ‘3 a.m. Eternal’ – The KLF ft. The Children of the Revolution
  3. ‘(I Wanna Give You) Devotion’ – Nomad ft. DJ Mikee Freedom
  4. ‘Only You’ – Praise
  5. ‘Wiggle It’ – 2 in a Room
  6. ‘What Do I Have to Do’ – Kylie Minogue
  7. ‘Get Here’ – Oleta Adams
  8. ‘I Believe’ – EMF
  9. ‘Hippy Chick’ – Soho
  10. ‘G.L.A.D.’ – Kim Appleby