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 covered the ascension of middling teenage rapper ArrDee on the UK pop charts and saw Nicki Minaj make a major run at the top spot of the US singles chart. We also looked back at the wild time when the number one rapper in the UK was Bart Simpson, thanks to the massive success of ‘Do The Bartman’.
Not that anyone would have taken the obvious bet, but Kanye West did not release Donda 2 on Tuesday. In a move that surprised absolutely no one, Ye instead staged another major listening event in Miami for the album, returning to his studio/underground villain’s lair to keep tweaking the recording in between brainstorming sessions on how to smite Pete Davidson. Did you know Kanye is currently banned from SNL? Wacky times we’re living in.
Meanwhile, speaking of living in wacky times, Clarence Clemons’ son is currently being sued by his family’s estate for using the legendary E Street Band saxophonist’s name and likeness to sell cannabis products. Nick Clemons is trying to say that, as a part of his family’s estate, he can’t sue himself, but obviously that’s not going to hold up in a court of law. It’s all a bit strange, but The Big Man’s legacy surely can’t be toppled by a few CBD products.
Finally, the world of music lost two powerful frontmen over the week, with Procol Harum’s Gary Brooker and Screaming Trees’ Mark Lanegan both passing away on Tuesday. Brooker remains etched into chart history thanks to the six-week run that ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’ had at number one in the UK during the summer of 1967. Lanegan never had a pop number one himself, but Queens of the Stone Age’s ‘No One Knows’, which Lanegan co-wrote, did hit number one on the Billboard Alternative Rock chart in 2003. Both contributed to the evolution of rock music, and both should be celebrated for the music they left behind.
This week, the world still can’t get enough Encanto, but as always, there are challengers to the throne. Ed Sheeran goes for the gold with Taylor Swift on a remixed version of the song ‘The Joker and The Queen’, while Dr. Dre returns to the charts thanks to the boost from his Super Bowl Halftime Show. All that, plus our look at the world domination of Van Halen, 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
Another week, another necessary mention of Encanto and the neigh-unstoppable run from ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’. As the Oscars draw nearer, Encanto looks like a lock for ‘Best Animated Feature’, considering that the Disney team hilariously fumbled the opportunity to land ‘Best Original Song’ by pushing the far-inferior ballad ‘Dos Oruguitas’ for the award.
The big story this week is Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift vying for the crown with their version of ‘The Joker and the Queen’ debuting at number two. The song, in its original Sheeran-only form, was released as a part of Sheeran’s fifth studio album back in October of 2021. Evidently, even Sheeran’s own camp realised that Sheeran’s solo version was a bit of a turd. But it seemed to perfectly fit into Swift’s folky modern sound, so Sheeran tapped his best friend to contribute a verse and harmonise on the song’s chorus.
The two versions are completely identical, with Swift probably emailing her verse over and Sheeran doing a quick cut-and-paste job. Based on the lyrics, I don’t believe Sheeran has ever been anywhere near a card table. It’s about as simple and saccharine as a love ballad could possibly be, and the central hook isn’t strong enough for it to have any real impact. We know why this is at number two: it’s Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift. They basically claim chart birthright at this point.
‘The Joker and The Queen’ represents the fifth collaboration between Sheeran and Swift. The duo landed their biggest chart success together with the original version of ‘Everything Has Changed’ from the 2013 version of Red, which peaked at number seven on the UK charts. Since then, the pair have recorded together on the songs ‘Endgame’, ‘Run’ and a new version of ‘Everything Has Changed’, the latter two appearing on Swift’s re-recorded version of Red. ‘The Joker and the Queen’ is easily the pair’s biggest collaborative chart success, but does it have enough push to drop ‘Bruno’ from the top spot?
My guess is no, especially since Encanto is a legitimate global phenomenon while ‘The Joker and the Queen’ is a limp love ballad, but historically, the pop charts love limp love ballads so you never know. Oddly enough, Swift isn’t included in the official credits on the UK singles chart, probably due to some technicality about remixes. That’s a bummer for Swift, but don’t feel too bad: she already has a number one song thanks to ‘Look What You Made Me Do’.
UK Singles Top Ten (Week of February 23rd, 2022):
- ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’ – Disney’s Encanto Cast
- ‘The Joker and the Queen’ – Ed Sheeran
- ‘Peru’ – Fireboy DML & Ed Sheeran
- ‘Surface Pressure’ – Jessica Darrow (from Disney’s Encanto)
- ‘Where Are You Now’ – Lost Frequencies/Calum Scott
- ‘Seventeen Going Under’ – Sam Fender
- ‘Make Me Feel Good’ – Belters Only ft. Jazzy
- ‘The Family Madrigal’ – Stephanie Beatriz (from Disney’s Encanto)
- ‘Overseas’ – D-Block Europe ft. Central Cee
- ‘Down Under’ – Luude ft. Colin Hay
Current US Number One: ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’ – The Cast of Disney’s Encanto
“Transcontinental” isn’t just a word that will score you some major Scrabble points (only 18 points? Really? Must be all those damn vowels): it’s also the most accurate word to describe ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’. This is the fourth week that the Encanto track has sat on top of the Billboard Hot 100, with the song notching an additional week at number one on the UK Singles Chart. So many people are talking about Bruno that it isn’t even fun to make that joke anymore.
The rest of the chart remains pretty standard: Glass Animals have once again climbed up to number two and are threatening to overtake the number one spot on their upcoming 58th week on the chart. The longest climb to number one currently belongs to Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want for Christmas Is You’, which took 35 weeks to hit the top spot. Glass Animals would easily shatter that record in ‘Heat Waves’ miraculously ascends to number one, and the TikTok phenomenon would become the ultimate sleeper hit of this generation.
But the best story on the chart this week is all the way down at number 23. That’s because, thanks to an acclaimed performance during the Super Bowl Halftime Show, it is once again Dre. Day, and everyone is celebrating. That’s because ‘Stil D.R.E.’, the 1999 single featuring Snoop Dogg, re-entered the chart this week. Previously, ‘Still D.R.E.’ only peaked at a measly number 93 in America (it was a top ten hit in the UK, though). But now that millions of viewers got reminded how cool that song is, ‘Still D.R.E.’ reached a new peak at number 23.
‘Still D.R.E.’, quite famously, had its verses written by Jay-Z, who was coming off the major success of 1998’s Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life, his first number one album in America. Hova could have easily continued blazing his own trail, but when Dr. Dre asks you to help him make a comeback, it’s hard not to oblige him.
Strangely enough, neither Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, nor Jay-Z have solo number one hits on the Billboard Hot 100. All have number ones, but they’re either features of collaborations with other artists:
- Dre has ‘No Diggity’, the awesome new jack swing chart-topper with Blackstreet, but it’s his only number one.
- Snoop has three, with ‘Drop It Like It’s Hot’ being credited along with Pharrell in 2004, along with his features on Akon’s ‘I Wanna Love You’ in 2006 and Katy Perry’s ‘California Gurls’ in 2010.
- Jay-Z sits on top with four number ones, with his feature on Mariah Carey’s ‘Heartbreaker’ in 1999, his collaboration with Beyonce on ‘Crazy in Love’ in 2003, his feature on Rhianna’s ‘Umbrella’ in 2007, and his duet with Alicia Keys on ‘Empire State of Mind’ in 2009.
Billboard Hot 100 Top 10 (Week of February 19th, 2022):
- ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’ – Disney’s Encanto Cast
- ‘Heat Waves’ – Glass Animals
- ‘Easy On Me’ – Adele
- ‘ABCDEFU’ – Gayle
- ‘Stay’ – The Kid Laroi & Justin Bieber
- ‘Super Gremlin’ – Kodak Black
- ‘Shivers’ – Ed Sheeran
- ‘Ghost’ – Justin Bieber
- ‘That’s What I Want’ – Lil Nas X
- ‘Pushin P’ – Gunna & Future ft. Young Thug
This Week in Number Ones: ‘Jump’ – Van Halen (#1 on the Billboard Hot 100, February 25th, 1984)
For all their acclaim and popularity, Van Halen rarely gets credit for the seismic shifts they made in pop music during the 1980s. Few artists can claim to have practically invented an entire genre that took over the pop charts and the music world as a whole during an entire decade, but Van Halen was one of those bands. Maybe it’s because the genre they created wasn’t one that they particularly wanted to claim credit for: hair metal.
But it’s impossible to argue against the fact that every band parading down the Sunset Strip from 1980 to 1990 wanted to be Van Halen. They were the blueprint from which bands like Poison, White Lion, Stryper, Ratt, and Cinderella all took their cues – flamboyant pretty boy on lead vocals, shredding guitar virtuoso, high harmonies, spandex, and big hair. Van Halen themselves had a lot more in common with Black Sabbath or Kiss than the glam metal bands who took after them, but there remains a direct connection between the first era of Van Halen and the next decade of hard rock and heavy metal.
Van Halen were always a strange group of contradictions. The unmatched technical prowess of Eddie Van Halen could have been undermined by the flippant party antics of David Lee Roth had the music not been so undeniably magnetic. Roth was the lead singer, but the best singer in the band was actually bassist Michael Anthony. They were a pure rock and roll group that played blues songs, Motown hits, and even big band jazz songs from the 1920s. Nothing about them made sense on paper, but part of the Van Halen experience that nothing mattered once the music started.
By 1984, Van Halen were the biggest rock band in America, but they weren’t a singles band. They had only managed to peak at number 12 with their cover of Roy Orbison’s ‘(Oh) Pretty Woman’, and their highest original placement was when ‘Dance the Night Away’ landed at number 15. Roth had a strong desire to see Van Halen make a push for bigger chart singles, and Eddie believed that his interest in synthesisers could help take them there. But Roth didn’t originally like the move to keyboards and had rejected some of Eddie’s synth parts in the past.
One of those synth riffs came back around the time the band started recording 1984. Roth began thinking about a new report about a suicidal jumper, and the macabre juxtaposition became the kernel for what would eventually become ‘Jump’. Combining all the best elements of Van Halen, from Eddie’s wild guitar tapping and Alex’s thunderous drums to Roth’s wild vocalisations and Anthony’s astonishing backing harmonies, ‘Jump’ was eyed as the single that would push Van Halen into the stratosphere.
In February of 1984, the band got their wish: ‘Jump’ ascended to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 for what would be Van Halen’s first, and last, number one song. They would have simultaneously had the number one album in the country had Michael Jackson’s Thriller, on which Eddie made a guest appearance, hadn’t kept them from the top of that chart. 1984 became the band’s highest-selling album and currently sits with the band’s debut as their biggest selling record to date, with over ten million copies sold worldwide.
Despite the success, Roth and the Van Halen brothers soon came to blows, with Roth departing for a solo career only a year after the band’s biggest success. Van Halen recruited Sammy Hagar as their new lead vocalist, and although they never reached the top of the singles chart again, all four albums with Hagar rose to number one on the Billboard 200, something the band had never accomplished with Roth. Various reunions with both singers occurred throughout the years, all of which ended upon Eddie’s death in 2020.
Van Halen’s legacy as one of America’s biggest and best rock bands is secure, but much like Rage Against the Machine opening the doors for ’90s rap-rock, Van Halen’s most dubious contribution to the world of music was setting the course for hair metal’s dominance throughout the ’80s. Most of those acts had to reach the charts with sappy ballads, but Van Halen did it with a monster pop song that also doubled as an amazing hard rock classic.
Billboard Hot 100 Top Ten, February 25th, 1984:
- ‘Jump’ – Van Halen
- ‘Karma Chameleon’ – Culture Club
- ’99 Luftballons’ – Nena
- ‘Girls Just Want to Have Fun’ – Cyndi Lauper
- ‘Thriller’ – Michael Jackson
- ‘Joanna’ – Kool & the Gang
- ‘Nobody Told Me’ – John Lennon
- ‘Let The Music Play’ – Shannon
- ‘Wrapped Around Your Finger’ – The Police
- ‘An Innocent Man’ – Billy Joel