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Music

The Week in Number Ones: 'Encanto' madness and Beatlemania conquer the world

@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 finally got to talk about Bruno as Disney’s Encanto landed atop the British singles charts. Adele still reigned in the US, but her rule was about to be challenged by the magical Madrigal family as well.

Before we get into this week’s singles charts, a quick diversion: despite mostly focusing on singles, this column doesn’t actually discriminate against albums, so let’s talk about those charts for a hot second. In the UK, Years & Years officially sit at number one with their brand new album Night Call. It’s a big win for singer Olly Alexander, who pulled a Brandon Urie and just took over the whole band as a solo project once members began falling by the wayside. Night Call is… fine, as far as uncomplicated pop albums go. It’s catchy and sickly sweet, but never too demanding and terribly easy to play over a party or a game night or whatever situation you might find yourself in once the sun goes down.

Yard Act did pretty much all they could to try and reach the top spot, including putting on shows that literally gave away The Overload for free as part of the ticket package, but they only got as high as number two. That’s a shame, because The Overload is actually a really great piece of work, especially from a debut act with a lot to prove. Is it a bit disheartening that an ostensibly punk-adjacent band is trying to game the system in order to land a number one album? Maybe, but hey, sometimes you just have to play the game. Just don’t be mad when you come up short.

Over in America, people can’t get enough freaking Encanto. We’ll talk about that cultural phenomenon quite a bit down below, so I want to bring up one of Billboard‘s least important charts: the Catalog Albums chart. This is a chart that ranks the biggest selling albums that are at least 18 months old and that have also fallen below the 100 position on the Billboard 200 Album Chart. It’s a hyper-specific and often fascinating look into what old-school cultural artefact is being revisited and reappraised at the moment.

It should come as no surprise that it is often recently-departed artists and legacy albums that tend to dominate this chart. You’ll find Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon and Bob Marley’s Legend hanging around this chart all the time, but Michael Jackson also dominated this list when he passed away in 2009. In that same vein, Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell sits atop the Catalog Albums chart this week, showing off a renewed interest in the recently-deceased singer’s most famous work.

The reason why I love a chart like the Catalog Albums chart is the same reason I love baseball: there are so many obscure counting stats that it becomes a separate obsession all its own. I suck at math – I don’t think I’ve ever achieved anything above a B – in any class involving arithmetic – but I can get into the nitty-gritty of numbers if the math is connected to something else I’m passionate about. The Catalog Albums chart is wonderfully obscure and mostly pointless, but that’s why I find it so endearing.

Back on the singles front, Encanto-fever is officially the only global pandemic that most people seem to care about, and we go back in time to when The Beatles solidified Beatlemania as the world’s most infectious disease. Get out your hand sanitiser and wear your damn masks, because we’re going deep into the uncontainable outbreaks of the modern day charts and of music history’s past.

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

Well, well, well, if it isn’t Disney’s biggest hit in the UK since… well, ever. ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’ is now a certified cultural phenomenon, inspiring think pieces, YouTube breakdowns, and endless streams of shitty reaction videos. Truly YouTube is the land of no shame, and anyone with enough sense to set up a camera and make a dumb face at a song everyone loves is raking in those precious views as we speak.

Here’s the thing I’m not fully convinced of: is ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’ even that good of a song? It’s certainly not the best song from Encanto, seeing as how the movie’s best track is making its own major chart run at the moment. But ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’ is so dense, so plot-heavy, and so un-pop that I’m legitimately baffled at its success. It has about seven different melodies all stacked on top of each other, which is a great musical theatre trick but makes for an awfully confusing casual listen.

And yet there it is, reigning over the charts like it has the same brand of special gifts that the Madrigal family themselves possess. ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’ is the perfect success storm of taking over TikTok, garnering plenty of coverage in more traditional media, being critically acclaimed, and having that strange undeniable pull to it. Even though Lin-Manuel Miranda undoubtedly had a Disney executive or two breathing down his neck on every draft, this is the kind of success that you can’t manufacture or consistently rely upon.

Not that Disney is ever going to forget it. If I had to guess, we’re about to see a major boom in green-lit musicals from the Mouse House. Who knows, maybe the studio can tweak the upcoming Strange World to include some songs before its release in November. God forbid we have to face the ‘Under the Sea’ barrage that will come with the live-action adaptation of The Little Mermaid in 2023. But once Disney gets a hit, they never forget it. Encanto is a cross-media smash, and now all we can do is wait for the cheap cash grab imitations that are bound to follow.

UK Singles Top Ten (Week of February 2nd, 2022):

  1. ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’ – Disney’s Encanto Cast
  2. ‘Peru’ – Fireboy DML & Ed Sheeran
  3. ‘ABCDEFU’ – Gayle
  4. ‘Surface Pressure’ – Jessica Darrow (from Disney’s Encanto)
  5. ‘Easy On Me’ – Adele
  6. ‘Seventeen Going Under’ – Sam Fender
  7. ‘Where Are You Now’ – Lost Frequencies/Calum Scott
  8. ‘Overseas’ – D-Block Europe ft. Central Cee
  9. ‘Pump 101′ – Digga D/Still Brickin’
  10. ‘Fingers Crossed’ – Lauren Spencer-Smith

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

In Britain, a Disney song had never reached number one on the singles chart. But in America, ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’ was the second song to sit atop the Billboard Hot 100. Any guesses as to what the first one was? ‘Beauty and the Beast’ from the film of the same name, which was the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards? ‘When You Wish Upon A Star’ from Pinocchio, which was the first Disney song to win Best Original Song? The Little Mermaid‘s ‘Under the Sea’? Frozen‘s ‘Let It Go’?

No to all of the above: it was ‘A Whole New World’, the love theme from the 1992 blockbuster Aladdin. Written by legendary songsmiths Alan Menken and Tim Rice, it was actually the cover version by singers Peabo Bryson and Regina Belle that played over the film’s end credits that reached the top spot, not the in-film version sung by Brad Kane and Lea Salonga. Why did they need two versions of ‘A Whole New World’? It doesn’t matter, because this doubling down turned out to be a genius move.

Also dominating pop culture at this time was Whitney Houston’s then-record breaking 14 weeks at number one with ‘I Will Always Love You’, another seismic movie ballad. Side question: has The Bodyguard held up? I’ve never seen it the whole way through since I tend to get most of the gist just by hearing Houston belt out those spine-tingling high notes at the end of this Dolly Parton-penned classic. It had to take another legitimate major crossover sensation to dethrone what might be Houston’s greatest single vocal performance on record, and it turned out that Aladdin wound up being said crossover sensation.

Disney were the kings of nabbing Best Original Song Oscars for their theme songs and movie tunes: ‘When You Wish Upon A Star’, ‘A Whole New World’, ‘Let It Go’, ‘Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah’, ‘Chim Chim Cher-ee’, ‘Under the Sea’, ‘Beauty and the Beast’, ‘Can You Feel the Love Tonight’, ‘Colors of the Wind’, ‘You’ll Be In My Heart’, ‘If I Didn’t Have You’, ‘We Belong Together’, and ‘Remember Me’ all took home the award, and most of those you don’t even have to look up to know which films they were featured in.

But chart dominance was always elusive for the Mouse House. Most of those songs did well, no doubt boosted by the Oscar buzz, but only ‘A Whole New World’ managed to reach the top. Weirdly enough, Disney opted to push ‘Dos Oruguitas’, the Spanish-language folk ballad sung by Colombian singer-songwriter Sebastián Yatra, for Best Original Song consideration at this year’s Oscars. ‘Dos Oruguitas’ currently sits at number 36 on the Hot 100, but I doubt it’s ever going to eclipse the overwhelming power of ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’. It’s a strange miscalculation from Disney, and ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’ won’t have the opportunity to take home Oscar gold, even if Encanto does.

Billboard Hot 100 Top 10 (Week of February 5th, 2022)

  1. ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’ – Disney’s Encanto Cast
  2. ‘Easy On Me’ – Adele
  3. ‘Heat Waves’ – Glass Animals
  4. ‘Stay’ – The Kid Laroi & Justin Bieber
  5. ‘Super Gremlin’ – Kodak Black
  6. ‘Shivers’ – Ed Sheeran
  7. ‘Pushin P’ Gunna & Future ft. Young Thug
  8. ‘ABCDEFU’ – Gayle
  9. ‘Surface Pressure’ – Jessica Darrow (from Disney’s Encanto)
  10. ‘Cold Heart (Pnau Remix)’ – Elton John & Dua Lipa

This Week in Number Ones: ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ – The Beatles (#1 on the Billboard Hot 100, February 1st, 1964)

The Beatles didn’t want to go to America until they had a number one hit. That would be a bonkers business strategy for any other artist, then or now, but The Beatles had reason to bet on themselves. The Fab Four had landed three number one songs in the UK in 1963, and plenty of their songs were scraping the upper reaches of the Billboard Hot 100 as 1964 began to come into focus. In November of 1963, Brian Epstein had booked the band to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show, hoping that one of the group’s singles would reach number one by the time they arrived in the US in February.

Originally, Capitol Records planned to release ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ in January of 1964, hoping that the band’s appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show would boost sales of the song. But The Beatles’ singles were already landing in America by the end of 1963, and demand was so large that Capitol opted to put out ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ the day after Christmas. In a reversal of expectations, the success of the song actually bolstered the band’s appearance on the show, not the other way around.

When The Beatles landed at JFK Airport on February 7th, they were greeted with mobs of fans waiting to see the first band of the British Invasion. ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ was already at number one, and America was dying to get a glimpse of these four Mop Top rock stars from England. Beatlemania was officially on, and it became a worldwide pandemic shortly thereafter.

What followed was beyond what anyone could have imagined: 73 million American viewers watched the band’s first performance on The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9th. From February 1st to May 2nd, The Beatles stayed at number one for four consecutive months with ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’, ‘She Loves You’, and ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’. ‘Love Me Do’, ‘A Hard Day’s Night’, and ‘I Feel Fine’ also hit number one that year, and when ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ landed at number one for the first time on April 4th, The Beatles were the first artists to occupy all top five positions on the Billboard Hot 100, a feat that was only matched six decades later by Drake in 2021.

‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ would be crowned Billboard‘s number one song of 1964, and the magazine would later list it as the 48th biggest hit of all time in 2018. It’s still The Beatles’ biggest selling single of all time, with an excess of 12 million copies having been sold worldwide. It currently has over 200 million streams on Spotify, and the official Ed Sullivan performance currently sits at over 80 million views on YouTube. ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ was a contemporary cultural phenomenon, but it also had the staying power that few other singles ever had before or since.

One day, the last embers of the sun will flare up and explode. It will likely be long before that point when human life will fully cease to exist. But even when the cosmic expanses have been completely eradicated of humans and their silly noises, somehow, somewhere, ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ will still be playing. A few songs are simply unkillable, and ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ might be the single most unkillable song in existence.

Billboard Hot 100 Top Ten, February 1st, 1964:

  1. ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ – The Beatles
  2. ‘You Don’t Own Me’ – Leslie Gore
  3. ‘Out of Limits’ – The Marketts
  4. ‘Surfin’ Bird’ – The Trashmen
  5. ‘Hey Little Cobra’ – The Rip Chords
  6. ‘Louie Louie’ – The Kingsmen
  7. ‘There! I’ve Said It Again’ – Bobby Vinton
  8. ‘Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um’ – Major Lance
  9. ‘Anyone Who Had a Heart’ – Dionne Warwick
  10. ‘For You’ – Ricky Nelson