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(Credit: Far Out / YouTube / Disney)

Music

The Week in Number Ones: Everything 'Encanto' and The KLF cut the cord

@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 got all sickly talking about the major causes of Encanto madness that has taken over the pop charts and recalled the first major musical pandemic of Beatlemania.

In music news, the BRITs proved that Adele is basically an unstoppable pandemic all of her own with the ‘Easy On Me’ singer taking home three of the four awards she was nominated for. She gave some lip to the new gender-neutral Artist of the Year category, wondered out loud why so many songs had to be nominated for Song of the Year, and wore an engagement ring. It wasn’t really the BRITs: it was the Adele show, and that’s pretty much the case any time she shows up.

This week, the magical Madrigals are once again at the forefront of the charts, while we hop in our doctored Tardises and ride back to the magical world of 1991, where an infamous BRITs performance meant the peak, and subsequent end, of The KLF. All that and more 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

I’m definitely starting to not want to talk about Bruno anymore, but the worldwide phenomenon of Encanto means that we’re going to take another trip with the Madrigal family this week. It’s really not all that bad: as I’ve been forced to reckon with the Disney film staying at the top for the indefinite future, I’ve started to come around to the different songs that make up this charmingly wacky film.

There’s a new song from the movie that has landed in the top ten this week: Stephanie Beatriz’s introductory track ‘The Family Madrigal’. That means that Encanto takes up three of the top ten spots this week. But it was scrolling around to see where the various Encanto tracks were situated throughout the top 100 songs where I stumbled onto one of my favourite ongoing events in all of music: the continued and unkillable relevance of The Killers’ ‘Mr. Brightside’.

For those who don’t know, ‘Mr. Brigthside’ originally came out on The Killers’ 2004 debut album Hot Fuss and topped out at number ten during the summer of 2004. But then something strange happened: the song just never went away. People kept buying it, increasingly in digital formats, and the song made repeat appearances at the lower end of the chart in 2005 and 2007. In every year since (except for 2011), ‘Mr. Brightside’ has had at least a one-week appearance on the UK Singles Chart.

This week the song sits at number 76, but more importantly, this date officially marks the song’s 300th week on the singles chart. That’s right: ‘Mr. Brightside’ has been on the UK Singles Chart for a total of more than five and a half years. That’s over 100 weeks longer than the next longest run belonging to Ed Sheeran’s ‘Perfect’. It’s beginning to look like an unbreakable record, since even in the streaming era, no song has been able to replicate the continued success of ‘Mr. Brightside’.

It’s such a bizarre phenomenon and one that doesn’t come with an easy explanation. If the song was more popular it would chart higher, but it’s consistently popular enough to stick around the chart for literal decades. We’re only two years away from ‘Mr. Brightside’ having consistently landed on the charts for 20 years. It’s a pop music mystery; a rock and roll enigma. The British public just can’t stop singing along to Brandon Flowers’ tale of jealousy and infidelity, and each new generation continues to carry the torch for the unparalleled popularity of ‘Mr. Brightside’.

UK Singles Top Ten (Week of February 9th, 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. ‘Where Are You Now’ – Lost Frequencies/Calum Scott
  6. ‘Overseas’ – D-Block Europe ft. Central Cee
  7. ‘The Family Madrigal’ – Stephanie Beatriz (from Disney’s Encanto)
  8. ‘Seventeen Going Under’ – Sam Fender
  9. ‘Make Me Feel Good’ – Belters Only ft. Jazzy
  10. ‘Down Under’ – Luude ft. Colin Hay

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

Of course, the Madrigals are on top in America as well. In a week that brought Oscar nominations into everyone’s world, the fact that ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’ wasn’t even placed up for consideration in the Best Original Song category is increasingly baffling. Part of me really wants Billie Eilish’s ‘No Time to Die’ to win, not just because it’s a good song, but because it would cause Disney to have to live with their severe miscalculation.

But in a more pressing matter, we should probably talk about Kodak Black. A few weeks back, the 24-year-old rapper landed in the top ten with ‘Super Gremlin’, the sixth top 40 hit of his young career. But Kodak Black isn’t notable for his chart success or his abilities as a rapper: he’s notorious for the baggage that he carries with him.

Drug possession and breaking and entering are relatively minor, but gun charges and false imprisonment paint a more troubling picture. It’s his sexual assault charge from an incident in 2016, however, that is the most troubling. Read the details if you like, but they’re graphic and upsetting enough that I’m not going to include them here. Everyone from Atlantic Records executives to former President Donald Trump had helped Black get out of jail before, this time it looked as though the rapper would have to face the harsh reality of justice.

Except not really, because he took a plea deal which reduced his crime to a lesser first degree assault charge, allowed him to avoid registering as a sex offender, and let him avoid prison with 18 months of probation. Black already broke that probation with a failed drug test and a trespassing charge, but any legal council who seriously believed Black wouldn’t violate his probation probably deserves to be disbarred.

Anyway, Black is basically a free man, and he’s got a hit on the Billboard Hot 100. Now the conversation over separating an artist’s work from their personal life can restart once again. Somehow, a man now closely tied to both sexual assault and Donald Trump is impervious to cancellation. Whether you see him as an admirable nonconformist figure or a drugged-up mess who can wiggle his way out of anything unscathed, Kodak Black’s story is more than just his music.

Oh, and what about the music? ‘Super Gremlin’ is fine, I guess. It’s got a good beat, and the whole haunted house vibe works, but it’s certainly not good enough to elevate it above the noise that Black has surrounded himself with.

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. ‘ABCDEFU’ – Gayle
  7. ‘Shivers’ – Ed Sheeran
  8. ‘Surface Pressure’ – Jessica Darrow (from Disney’s Encanto)
  9. ‘Pushin P’ Gunna & Future ft. Young Thug
  10. ‘Need to Know’ – Doja Cat

This Week in Number Ones: ‘3 a.m. Eternal’ – The KLF (#1 on the UK Singles Chart, February 9th, 1991)

As an American, I didn’t really have any grasp of The KLF for most of my life. The London-based electronic duo were anarchic sample fiends with highly specific philosophies that often took the form of gleefully profane public stunts. This was a group whose most enduring hit is a dopey novelty mashup of the Doctor Who theme and ‘Rock & Roll Pt. II’ by Gary Glitter. The United States were not ready for The KLF.

But I wouldn’t blame them: the early 1990s were a bizarre time for music on both sides of the pond. When The KLF were reaching their peak, the number one hits that immediately proceeded them on the UK Singles Charts included Iron Maiden’s ‘Bring Your Daughter… to the Slaughter’, Enigma’s ‘Sadness’, and Queen’s ‘Innuendo’. The song that took over The KLF’s spot at number one is even more insane, but we’ll be talking about that next week. It was a hectic and eclectic time for popular music, but at least the Brits were getting wacky with it.

The same can’t be said for the US. When The KLF were crowned kings of the pop charts, the number one song in America was C+C Music Factory’s ‘Gonna Make You Sweat’. Both were ostensibly dance acts, but the cultural gap that separated C+C and The KLF could not have been bigger. On one side was an act that antagonised the music industry so much that it led to a quite literal attack, while the other was so focused on accessibility that they replaced the singer of their most famous track with a younger, thinner woman in the music video.

America was ready for the shake-up of grunge, but if it was anti-authoritarianism that you were looking for, The KLF had it in spades. After ‘Doctorin’ The Tardis’ his number one in 1988, KLF brain trust Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond released a book called The Manual (How to Have a Number One the Easy Way), which advocated getting on the dole and ignoring traditional musicianship in order to get a number one single. It also functioned as a send up of the music industry, something that The KLF were always eager to do.

But despite their constant middle fingers to traditional success and their unwillingness to adhere to any traditional rules, The KLF kept getting more popular. They changed their name frequently, used unauthorised samples, and initially refused to sign with a major label, but it didn’t matter. They kept landing hits, and by the early ’90s, they were in demand as remix artists. Their desire to blow up the industry was backfiring, and they were beginning to be looked on as part of the monoculture. Something had to change, and luckily The BRITs were only a few weeks away.

The duo’s choice of song for the performance, ‘3 a.m. Eternal’, was originally released in 1989, but a remixed version of the track in an acid house style was a number one hit for the band in 1991. The ‘Live at the S.S.L.’ version even managed to land at number five on the Billboard Hot 100, representing the pair’s first real crossover success in America. 1991 was the group’s biggest year, and if they wanted to, they could have forsaken all of their ethics to become rich and famous as trip hop and house music began its global ascension. Instead, The KLF cut the cord in spectacular fashion.

At the 1992 BRITs, the duo elected to perform with hardcore band Extreme Noise Terror, rendering the hit version of ‘3 a.m. Eternal’ unrecognisable. At the conclusion of the song, a hobbled Drummond fired rounds of machine gun blanks above the crowd’s heads as their announcer proclaimed “The KLF have now left the music industry”. It was a ferocious and stunning performance, but nobody seemed to take the announcement terribly seriously.

That was until three months later when the duo officially announced their retirement. Just to take it one step forward, they also announced that their entire back catalogue would be deleted. Instead, the duo focused their attention on the K Foundation, which staged spectacular stunts including burning the last of their KLF royalties totalling one million quid. For the next three decades, Cauty and Drummond occasionally staged events and brief returns, but the desire to destroy everything they had created was complete and a nice sense of finality hung over perhaps the most iconoclastic pop act of all time.

That was until the group decided to start reissuing their music to streaming services in 2021. While it might seem antithetical to what The KLF had stood for back in their initial heyday, the reissue campaign also seems important so that future generations have a reference point back to when an electronic duo could make an entire music industry look ridiculous.

UK Singles Chart Top Ten, February 9th, 1991:

  1. ‘3 a.m. Eternal’ – The KLF ft. The Children of the Revolution
  2. ‘Do the Bartman’ – The Simpsons
  3. ‘Wiggle It’ – 2 in a Room
  4. ‘(I Wanna Give You) Devotion’ – Nomad ft. MC Mikee Freedom
  5. ‘Only You’ – Praise
  6. ‘I Believe’ – EMF
  7. ‘What Do I Have to Do’ – Kylie Minogue
  8. ‘Hippy Chick’ – Soho
  9. ‘Cry for Help’ – Rick Astley
  10. ‘Play That Funky Music’ – Vanilla Ice