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Music

The Week in Number Ones: Post Malone, George Ezra, and Rihanna rule 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 went all-in on the Kate Bush renaissance, made a formal apology to Lizzo, and saw how Paul McCartney went from a critically reviled solo artist to a critically acclaimed solo artist with ‘Band on the Run’.

Speaking of Bush – it’s time for Kate Bush Chart Watch. Log date: June 15th, 2022. Status report: ‘Running Up That Hill’ has now gone all the way up to number four on the Billboard Hot 100 and has reached an astonishing position of number two on the UK Singles Chart. Who would have thought a month ago that Harry Styles was going to get major competition at number one thanks to Kate Bush of all people?

So this begs the question: does ‘Running Up That Hill’ have a real chance of reaching number one? Here’s the case for it: ‘As It Was’ might be dominating, but it’s been dominating for at least two months now. Surely audiences will be looking for something new, and with the return of Stranger Things just over two weeks away, it’s looking like fervour for ‘Running Up That Hill’ could be hitting fever pitch.

The case against is remarkably similar: ‘As It Was’ has been number one for weeks, and we live in an age of extended stays at number one. We’re still a few weeks away from Stranger Things’ return, and I doubt Nancy is going to be snapped out of her spell by a Kate Bush track the way Max was (whoever’s nabbed that needle drop is probably already counting their incoming royalty cheques). This moment right now is probably the peak moment for ‘Running Up That Hill’, and it has probably topped out at number two.

Still, that’s an amazing run for a four-decade-old song. Sure, the chart resurgence of ‘Running Up That Hill’ might raise some concern among alarmists who want their current hits, uh, current. But it’s the same alarm that comes with ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ topping the charts every year around Christmas. Who do you want to have a gripe with – Mariah Carey or Kate Bush?

This week, we look into the new “adult” world of Post Malone, take a trip through rapid chart rises with George Ezra and LF System, and officially appoint Rihanna ‘Queen of Everything’ thanks to the dominance of ‘Umbrella’. All that and more as we round up all the best chart news of the modern-day and recent past.

Current UK Number One: ‘As It Was’ – Harry Styles

Sure, Harry Styles is continuing his monster ten-week run at the top of the UK Singles Chart, and sure, Kate Bush is making a remarkable push for a number one 40-ish years in the making. But you know what’s more exciting than both of those things combined? George Ezra!

OK, you got me, George Ezra isn’t exactly posing a huge threat to either of those artists. That being said, Ezra’s ‘Green Green Grass’ did manage to stage a pretty impressive leap from number 17 last week to number nine this week. Those kinds of jumps aren’t all that uncommon on the UK Singles Chart, but they are when it comes to top ten hits. After a couple of weeks of steady progress, Ezra manages to land his seventh top ten hit, and it’s not even with a good song. Good for him.

Do you know who had a more impressive jump, though? Unknown electronic duo LF System, who managed to leap from not being on the chart two weeks ago to landing at number 69 last week to now getting all the way up to number 13. That’s some major movement for an act I’m not even sure is real. I figure this could be a TikTok song. That’s a safe guess these days. Maybe they’re an industry plant? They are signed to Warner Music. If they go top ten, some real investigative work is in order here.

It’s not quite on the same level as P!nk’s one-week jump from number 38 to number one with ‘So What’ in 2008, or Puff Daddy and Jimmy Page’s ‘Come With Me’ from number 75 to number two in 1998, but hey, it’s impressive none the less.

UK Singles Top Ten (Week of June 10th, 2022):

  1. ‘As It Was’ – Harry Styles
  2. ‘Running Up That Hill’ – Kate Bush
  3. ‘Go’ – Cat Burns
  4. ‘About Damn Time’ – Lizzo
  5. ‘Space Man’ – Sam Ryder
  6. ‘IFTK’ – Tion Wayne & La Roux
  7. ‘Late Night Talking’ – Harry Styles
  8. ‘First Class’ – Jack Harlow
  9. ‘Green Green Grass’ – George Ezra
  10. ‘2Step’ – Ed Sheeran

Current US Number One: ‘As It Was’ – Harry Styles

Post Malone’s unique brand of pop-rap was originally viewed with raised eyebrows. Not that the Beerbongs and Bentleys rapper was ever that much of a serious gangster to begin with (white guys in rap either tend to embrace their whiteness or try to forsake it. The former is always more palatable, and Malone definitely knows it), but it still seemed like a major jump nonetheless.

That was before we got songs like ‘Circles’ and ‘Sunflower’ and ‘Goodbyes’. Now, the softer and cuddlier and more heavily tattooed than ever Post Malone is something of an American treasure, hanging out with Ozzy Osbourne and covering Hootie and the Blowfish for Pókemon. He largely comes off as a guy who unexpectedly got famous and is just doing whatever the hell he wants to do, which is admittedly pretty cool.

That’s what most of Twelve Karat Toothache is: a couple of candy-coated pop-rap singles, followed by whatever Posty wants to do. That includes collaborations with everyone from The Weeknd to Robin Pecknold of Fleet Foxes, solidifying Malone one of the biggest cross-genre unifiers in all of music. The more Post Malone stops trying to act like a rapper, the more beloved he seems to become.

Sure, Malone is still talking about hoes and flying around in hot cars in the lyrics to his latest top ten hit ‘I Like You’, but the super chill summer vibe of the track keeps the heaviness to an absolute minimum. Malone’s entire MO is about having a good time, and with an equally relaxed verse from Doja Cat backing him up, Malone goes for full sweetness on ‘I Like You’.

Perhaps it’s strange that the paragon of wholesomeness in American music is a guy who looks like the walls of a punk club bathroom, but even that’s a major part of the appeal now. Malone just recently got engaged and became a father, so maybe the wholesome feel-good jams are just getting started. The “mature” Post Malone era is here, and that’s something we should all celebrate with a beer. It’s just the way Posty would want it.

US Billboard Hot 100 Top Ten Singles (Week of June 18th, 2022):

  1. ‘As It Was’ – Harry Styles
  2. ‘First Class’ – Jack Harlow
  3. ‘Wait For U’ – Future ft. Drake & Tems
  4. ‘Running Up That Hill’ – Kate Bush
  5. ‘About Damn Time’ – Lizzo
  6. ‘Heat Waves’ – Glass Animals
  7. ‘Big Energy’ – Latto
  8. ‘Me Porto Bonito’ – Bad Bunny & Chencho Corleone
  9. ‘I Like You (A Happier Song)’ – Post Malone ft. Doja Cat
  10. ‘Titi Me Pregunto’ – Bad Bunny

This Week in Number Ones: ‘Umbrella’ – Rihanna ft. Jay-Z (#1 on the UK Singles Chart, Week of June 16th, 2007)

Editors Note: This section contains references to the UK Singles Chart, even though the chart used is from the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. During the writing of this column, the Official UK Singles Chart would not provide this week’s chart on their website. ‘Umbrella’ was number one in both the US and the UK on June 16th, 2007, but only Billboard’s online archive is working as of the writing of this article.

Coronations don’t have to be boring. When it’s the right ruler coming in at the right time, or someone who is actually signalling change for the better, then coronations can be what they’re actually supposed to be: a celebration. There are no pop coronations since there’s no official line of nobility or royal system for music, but goddamn if Rihanna didn’t get crowned the Queen of Pop in 2007.

Usually, that requires a bit of a run-up to the throne, and Rihanna was no exception: she landed a number two hit with her debut single, ‘Pon de Replay’, in 2005. At that point, she was only 17 years old. Two more number two hits in ‘SOS’ and ‘Unfaithful’ set the stage for a major breakthrough, but plenty of artists had squandered better opportunities before her. What Rihanna needed was a world-conquering hit, something that would leave any doubt of her superstar status behind her.

That’s exactly what ‘Umbrella’ was. ‘Umbrella’ wasn’t just a cross-continental number one hit – it was number one for ten straight weeks in the UK. For virtually the entire peak of summer in 2007, ‘Umbrella’ was inescapable. It’s still the longest-tenured number one hit of the 21st century in the UK, and Rihanna became only the seventh artist in the history of the chart (at the time) to stay at number one for ten consecutive weeks.

More than a commercial hit, ‘Umbrella’ was a goddamn phenomenon. Covers were widespread, with everyone from Taylor Swift to Manic Street Preachers getting in on the action. Rihanna nabbed her first of eight Grammys for the track, and ‘Umbrella’ set a record for iTunes sales just as the digital revolution was fully taking hold. Even a massive influx of rain in the UK seemed to indicate that ‘Umbrella’ was more of a force of nature than a piece of music.

Oddly enough, ‘Umbrella’ wasn’t the highest-selling song of 2007 in either the US or the UK, despite being the longest-charting number one in both countries that year. ‘Irreplaceable’ by Beyoncé sold more in America, while ‘Bleeding Love’ by Leona Lewis took that honour in the UK. But even though the chart geeks might not have given Rihanna her crown, she decided to take it anyway.

It might be easy to forget now that it’s officially been over half a decade since her last album, but Rihanna was the closest thing that pop music had to a King Midas throughout the late 2000s and all of the 2010s. Nine number one hits, four number one albums, literal billions of streams and hundreds of millions of digital sales, massively successful tours, and even political appointments from her home country’s government in Barbados.

The strangest part: ‘Umbrella’ still holds up 15 years later. Rather than sounding stuck in a specific era of popular music, ‘Umbrella’ seems to transcend music, like an ancient sound that’s always been floating around the earth. This was a whole section where we didn’t even talk about the song’s arrangement, because what’s the point? I know it, you know it… it just is. It’s never easy to put your finger on what will be a massive hit, but ‘Umbrella’ was probably the most obvious number one song to ever top the chart. It’s the pure embodiment of a hit song, and it made Rihanna immortal the second that it hit the airwaves.

US Billboard Hot 100 Top Ten Singles (Week of June 16th, 2007):

  1. ‘Umbrella’ – Rihanna ft. Jay-Z
  2. ‘Party Like a Rockstar’ – Shop Boyz
  3. ‘Buy U A Drank (Shawty Snappin’) – T-Pain ft. Tung Joc
  4. ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’ – Fergie
  5. ‘Makes Me Wonder’ – Maroon 5
  6. ‘Girlfriend’ – Avril Lavigne
  7. ‘Home’ – Daughtry
  8. ‘Summer Love’ – Justin Timberlake
  9. ‘Pop, Lock, and Drop It’ – Huey
  10. ‘Before He Cheats’ – Carrie Underwood