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Olivia Rodrigo drives to number one
Teenage actor Olivia Rodrigo goes straight to number one with Drivers Licence. Barry Gibb has his first solo number one album.

Olivia Rodrigo makes her top forty debut at number one. Barry Gibb tops the albums chart.

For the early decades of UK chart history, it was a rarity for a song to enter the chart at number one. When it did happen, it was generally a new release from an established act. That changed in the 1990s when record companies started sending new singles to radio stations up to six weeks or so before they were actually released. The intention was to build up sufficient demand for a song to send it straight to the top of the chart and it led to a near-complete reversal of the previous trend. New entries at number one became commonplace, even for new acts.

Nowadays, songs are sent to radio stations at (more or less) the same time as they are released as singles, often with little advance notice. That, and the fact that songs generally take time to build up support on streaming sites, means that new entries at number one are rare again and generally only happen for established artists or charity singles.

This week sees an exception. While Drivers License (her missing apostrophe) is not Olivia Rodrigo’s debut single (she reached number 72 with All I Want last year), it does mark her top forty debut and it goes straight to the top by a very wide margin. With no real pre-release hype, this has to be seen as a remarkable achievement.

Who, then, is Olivia Rodrigo? She is an American actor who won’t be eighteen until next month. She has appeared in a show called Bizaardvark (no, me neither) as well as a series based on the High School Musical film franchise. At a shade over four minutes, Drivers License is actually relatively long for a modern day number one single.

If Olivia Rodrigo goes on to have a successful musical career, quiz fans would be advised to remember the existence of All I Want.

Last week’s top four all slip down one place. Little Mix are at number two with Sweet Melody, Ed Sheeran’s Afterglow is at number three, CJ’s Whoopty is at four and Justin Bieber’s Anyone is at five.

While Bugzy Malone made his first appearance in the lower reaches of the chart in 2017, he still hasn’t had a major hit. Unfortunately, he still hasn’t taken the hint and continues to inflict new material on us. This week, one of those songs has made a rare excursion into the top forty as Notorious (not a cover of the Duran Duran song) lands at number 30. It features the equally talentless Chip (previously known as Chipmunk) who made his chart debut in 2009.

There has long been an issue with some massively popular songs. The record company will want to capitalise on that success by releasing another single but are reluctant to do so while the original song is still riding high in the charts. When the chart only measured sales, there was a potential remedy; the record company could stop producing new copies, leading to its swift departure from the chart. Even in the early days of downloads that remained an option as a physical version had to be available for a song to qualify for the chart. That is rather more difficult in the age of streaming. The record company could remove the song from streaming sites but that would anger a lot of people who would lose their only means of listening to the song. Therefore, popular songs remain available - and, therefore, eligible for the chart - indefinitely.

Most songs do eventually come to the end of their natural life but others prove to be more enduring. The Weeknd’s Blinding Lights is an obvious example. The equally fabulous InYour Eyes struggled to compete against it and, months after In Your Eyes ended its chart run, Blinding Lights is still in the top forty. This week it is at number eighteen. Deciding they cannot wait forever to release a new single from his After Hours album, the record company has finally chosen to promote Save Your Tears and it is a new entry at number 34. We shall see in the coming weeks whether it ever gets to climb above a song that, apart from short gaps, has been in the top forty for over a year. It’s another fantastic song so it would be a shame if it proved to be another victim of Blinding Lights’ success.

The gap in quality between Save Your Tears and the week’s final new entry is substantially larger even than the gap between Tottenham and Marine demonstrated in their FA Cup tie last weekend. Best Friend, a new entry at number 35, is the debut hit for Saweetie and features the alleged talent of Doja Cat. The rapper born Diamonte Harper joins the list of artists whose adopted name (Saweetie) is a good deal less cool than their real one.

The Bee Gees are one of relatively few acts to have had two massively successful periods with a less successful interlude in between. Their early hits in the 1960s were heavily dependent on the harmonies of the three brothers Gibb. After a quiet period, they reinvented themselves with their disco-flavoured hits of the mid- to late 1970s. They topped up their already hefty income with the royalties from hit versions of their songs by other artists, including Diana Ross and Dionne Warwick.

The only surviving Bee Gee, Barry Gibb, has now released an album of new versions of his compositions with a string of guest artists including Dolly Parton, Sheryl Crow and Olivia Newton-John. Greenfields: The Gibb Brothers’ Songbook (Volume 1) goes straight to number one making Barry the first Gibb brother to top the chart in his own name.

Brighton-born singer Michael Rosenberg, aka Passenger, continues his battle to shake off the one-hit wonder tag. His song Let It Go and the parent album All The Little Lights were big hits in 2013 (although the album spent its first two chart weeks at number 100) but he has yet to match that success. His subsequent albums have generally reached a high peak (including a number one in 2016) but have dropped down the chart rapidly. His latest attempt to re-establish himself, the album Songs For The Drunk And Broken-Hearted, enters at number two.

Taylor Swift’s Evermore falls two places to number three. Pop Smoke’s Shoot For The Stars Aim For The Moon stays at number four. Harry Styles’ Fine Line is down three places to number five.

Last Sunday (10 January) was the fifth anniversary of the death of David Bowie, just two days after his 69th birthday. His Legacy collection climbs thirteen places to number eighteen. One of the songs on that album is All The Young Dudes. Bowie originally gave that song to the band Mott The Hoople and didn’t record his own version until after that band had turned it into their first hit. Mott The Hoople had two further top ten hits with Roll Away The Stone and All The Way From Memphis along with other minor successes. After the band split up their singer Ian Hunter pursued a solo career which produced just the one hit single, Once Bitten Twice Shy complete with its casual “Hello” at the beginning. Mott The Hoople and Ian Hunter are now the subject of the latest Gold collection which enters at number 33. Hunter, at 81, now records with The Rant Band whose latest album was released in 2016.

Finally, congratulations to readers who spotted the nine titles of Killers singles in last week’s commentary. It all stemmed from the fact that I cannot come across the phrase “in February of last year” without immediately thinking of Somebody Told Me. The titles were

Mr Brightside (Missed a bright side)
Somebody Told Me
For Reasons Unknown
All These Things That I’ve Done
Smile Like You Mean It
The World We Live In
Published on: 2021-01-15 by Suedehead2 || 2767 Views
Comments (4)
16 Jan 2021 - 13:55
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I thought Somebody Told Me was one of the nine Killers titles last week, not When You Were Young (or even "When We Were Young", unless that was deliberate and we've moved on to Adele this week - in which case I also spotted "Hello").
16 Jan 2021 - 17:52
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Oops, got my own puzzle wrong!
22 Jan 2021 - 9:31
i need you the most
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Minor correction - Saweetie made the top 40 last year at #38 with Tap In!
22 Jan 2021 - 17:34
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Thanks Joseph!
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