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The Week in Number Ones: Drake and 'Grease' go all the way to number one

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 looked at Kate Bush returning to number one after nearly 40 years with ‘Running Up That Hill’, Harry Styles continuing his monster run with ‘As It Was’, and Paul McCartney’s return to glory with ‘Band on the Run’.

It’s time for a brand new segment tentatively titled: ‘How Did Glastonbury Effect Each Headliner’s Chart Performance?’ (editors note: workshop a better title for next year’s festival). Is “the Glastonbury effect” real, or just total hogwash? Time to find out for ourselves!

First up we have Billie Eilish, who doesn’t have any new music out at the moment but does have the title track from her most recent LP Happier Than Ever sitting at number 90 on the singles chart. The album itself is faring much better, sitting at a solid number 28. When We All Fall Asleep Where Do We Go and Don’t Smile At Me are both in the album charts as well, sitting at numbers 61 and 81 respectively.

Big bummer for our main man Paul McCartney: no singles or albums in the top 100 of their respective charts. The Beatles’ 1 is currently sitting at number 30 on the album charts, so that kind of counts, right? Oh well, better luck next time you headliner Glastonbury Paul, which based on current trends will happen once every 18 years. That means the next occurrence will be in 2040 when McCartney will be the ripe young age of 98. Good luck Paul!

It’s Mr. Kendrick Lamar on top in the Glastonbury singles hunt, notching two tracks on the UK charts with ‘Die Hard’ sitting at number 61 and ‘N95’ sitting down at number two Mr. Morale and the Hot Steppers is the most recent release from all three headliners, so it should come as that much of a surprise to see the singles still hanging around. Speaking of Mr. Morale, the album itself sits at number 24 on the album charts.

We’ll check back in next week to see if the Glastonbury Bump is truly BS or not. Meanwhile, this week, Kate Bush is fighting off hordes of demogorgans and other artists to stay at number one, Drake adds a couple more notches in his historic pop music belt, and Grease unleashes a true-blue cultural phenomenon with ‘You’re The One That I Want’. All that and more as we round up all the best chart news of the modern-day and recent past.

Current UK Number One: ‘Running Up That Hill’ – Kate Bush

With the second part of Stranger Things’ fourth season a day away from premiering, the question on everybody’s mind is whether Kate Bush can stay on top of the charts. The renaissance of ‘Running Up That Hill’ has been one of the more remarkable, and likely landscape-changing, chart runs in recent memory. Is that enough to hold off some more modern challengers?

Not this week: ‘Running Up That Hill’ has scored its second week on top of the UK Singles Chart, keeping Harry Styles’ ‘As It Was’ away from the top spot. I guess in this fight, Styles would be taking on the role of Vecna and Bush is… the entire Stranger Things crew? I guess we’ll know for sure tomorrow when the season comes out, but here’s your day early prediction: that counsellor lady had a grandfather clock necklace! She’s in on this somehow!

Also failing to usurp Bush’s run at number one are LF System’s ‘Afraid to Feel’, Cat Burns’ ‘Go’, and George Ezra’s ‘Green Green Grass’. Down towards the bottom of the top ten, Drake notched three top ten “singles” with ‘Jimmy Cooks’, ‘Massive’ and ‘Falling Back’ (more on all of that in a second) while the rest of the top ten is filled out with Lizzo’s ‘About Damn Time’ and Styles’ ‘Late Night Talking’.

You know what? Just for my own amusement, let’s fire back up the annual search for where ‘Mr. Brightside’ is this week, shall we? Ah, at number 61! Not bad! That’s right, sitting between recent Glastonbury star Sam Fender’s ‘Seventeen Going Under’ and recent Glastonbury headliner Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Die Hard’. I will never not relish the opportunity to check back in on my favourite UK Single Chart phenomenon.

UK Singles Top Ten (Week of June 29th, 2022):

  1. ‘Running Up That Hill’ – Kate Bush
  2. ‘As It Was’ – Harry Styles
  3. ‘Afraid to Feel’ – LF System
  4. ‘Go’ – Cat Burns
  5. ‘Green Green Grass’ – George Ezra
  6. ‘About Damn Time’ – Lizzo
  7. ‘Jimmy Cooks’ – Drake
  8. ‘Massive’ – Drake
  9. ‘Late Night Talking’ – Harry Styles
  10. ‘Falling Back’ – Drake

Current US Number One: ‘Jimmy Cooks’ – Drake ft. 21 Savage

Nobody’s exactly sure how the Billboard Hot 100 tabulates its data. That’s for Billboard to know and for the rest of us to either speculate on or not give a shit about. What we do know is that the Hot 100 tracks sales, streams, and radio airplay, and with those metrics as the main three factors to finding a number one song, is it any real surprise that Drake has another number one on his hands?

A few quick and dirty but necessary facts to get out of the way: the number one song this week is ‘Jimmy Cooks’, a cut from Drake’s surprise new album Honestly, Nevermind. It’s Drake’s 11th and featured artist 21 Savage’s second number one. Across the entire Hot 100, Drake has 13 songs from Honestly, Nevermind. That’s a few more notches in the belt of someone who is already statistically one of the most popular artists in the history of the Billboard Hot 100. All of that and ‘Jimmy Cooks’ isn’t even a single.

So is it time to pronounce that era of the traditional single dead? Hardly. Drake is among the rarest of music superstars who can get away with dropping a surprise album and having it blow up to this extent. Of the seven other songs that have hit number one in the US this year, all seven have been traditional singles. The point is that singles aren’t the only kinds of releases eligible to hit number one now.

This actually wasn’t the case for a while: if a song hadn’t been released as a commercial single in the US, it was ineligible for the Hot 100 until 1998. This meant songs that were otherwise released as radio-exclusive singles, or even just random album cuts, couldn’t reach number one, even if they were the biggest selling singles in the country. Obviously, back in the day of physical single sales, album cuts had no way of appearing on the Hot 100. But now that streaming has turned anything into a single, any piece of music, or even just snipped of conversation included on an album, could potentially hit number one.

US Billboard Hot 100 Top Ten Singles (Week of July 2nd, 2022):

  1. ‘Jimmy Cooks’ – Drake ft. 21 Savage
  2. ‘As It Was’ – Harry Styles
  3. ‘First Class’ – Jack Harlow
  4. ‘Wait For U’ – Future ft. Drake & Tems
  5. ‘About Damn Time’ – Lizzo
  6. ‘Sticky’ – Drake
  7. ‘Falling Back’ – Drake
  8. ‘Glimpse of Us’ – Joji
  9. ‘Running Up That Hill’ – Kate Bush
  10. ‘Heat Waves’ – Glass Animals

This Week in Number Ones: ‘You’re The One That I Want’ – John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John (#1 on the UK Singles Chart, Week of July 2nd, 1978)

Over the course of the 1970s, only three songs every spent nine weeks at number one on the UK Singles Chart. The first was Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, which stretched its nine-week run from November 1975 to early February 1976. The second was Wings’ ‘Mull of Kintyre’, which went on to be not only the biggest selling single of 1977 but also the biggest selling single of all time in the UK for roughly seven years. The third was the John Travolta-Olivia Newton-John duet ‘You’re The One That I Want’ from the 1978 film Grease. One of these things is not like the others.

I’m of course referring to ‘Mull of Kintyre’. Perhaps it’s because I’m not British (or specifically Scottish), but this limp folk tune never connected as anything more than a lower-level Paul McCartney tune for me. Meanwhile, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is an impeachable part of rock history and ‘You’re The One That I Want’ is a lot better than its reputation might suggest.

1978 was the year of John Travolta: both Saturday Night Fever and Grease were major box office hits, catapulting the former Welcome Back, Kotter actor into superstardom. Olivia Newton-John had been having a few pretty good years herself, highlighted by two US number ones with ‘I Honestly Love You’ and ‘Have You Never Been Mellow’. The two were adequate on their own, with Newton-John being a talented but lukewarm adult contemporary singer and Travolta being a hotshot actor who wanted to indulge his dream of singing. Somehow both found perfect vocal chemistry with each other on ‘You’re The One That I Want.’

OK, maybe “perfect” isn’t the right word here. 45 years later, I think it’s fine to admit that Travolta’s vocal performance in pretty much all of Grease is relatively subpar. He certainly throws himself into his singing parts with gusto, but his hit-to-miss ratio tops out at about 50 per cent. The best part about ‘You’re the One That I Want’ is that it doesn’t matter. With a downright exhilarating chorus and some well-placed chord changes, ‘You’re The One I Want’ is pure, unadulterated earworm music cranked up to ten and transformed into weapons-grade levels of catchiness. 

All it takes is one listen and you’re infected: ‘You’re The One That I Want’ simply won’t leave your brain. The single was even released before the film was in the UK. With two million copies sold in the UK alone, ‘You’re The One That I Want’ is still the fifth best-selling single of all time in Britain. For much of the British public, Grease wasn’t the cultural phenomenon: ‘You’re The One That I Want’ was.

It wouldn’t be the final time that Travolta and Newton-John would top the charts either. Just six weeks later another cut from the Grease soundtrack, ‘Summer Nights’, hit number one as well, spending seven weeks atop the charts. That means that, all told, John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John spent nearly a third of 1978 at number one on the UK Singles Chart.

Perhaps that’s part of the reason why ‘You’re The One That I Want’ hasn’t quite held up as a classic the way some of the other biggest-selling songs from the same era have. There’s also no accounting for the overwrought goofiness of the two singers, the incessant cheeriness of the track, the general backlash against popular musical songs, and the strange association that Travolta’s Scientology connection has done to the track. When combined, it all makes ‘You’re The One That I Want’ more of an embarrassment than a moment in history.

But ‘You’re The One That I Want’ is still a moment in history, representing a time when kitschy throwbacks and John Travolta ruled the world. Or at least ruled the pop charts. When revisited with all its cultural baggage, it can still seem like a schlocky slog to get through, but every once in a while, that singular monster earworm at the heart of ‘You’re The One That I Want’ sticks in your brain and doesn’t let go for days. That’s what the best pop music does, but it’s hard to statistically prove what is and isn’t good pop music. The charts aren’t our best metric, but in rare cases like this, they actually happen to be correct. Even after 45 years of overplaying, ‘You’re The One That I Want’ can still be electrifying.

UK Single Chart Top Ten (Week of July 2nd, 1978):

  1. ‘You’re The One That I Want’ – John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John
  2. ‘The Smurf Song’ – Father Abraham and the Smurfs
  3. ‘Annie’s Song’ – James Galway
  4. ‘Airport’ – The Motors
  5. ‘Dancin’ in the City’ – Marshall Hain
  6. ‘Man With The Child In His Eyes’ – Kate Bush
  7. ‘Miss You’ – The Rolling Stones
  8. ‘Like Clockwork’ – The Boomtown Rats
  9. ‘Making Up Again’ – Goldie
  10. ‘Rivers of Babylon’ – Boney M