I:Mreview2 Comments

Divide and Conquer: Ed Sheeran's Chart Busting Success

I:Mreview2 Comments
Divide and Conquer: Ed Sheeran's Chart Busting Success

The singles chart is broken.

You want proof? Look at the Official Charts this week. Ed Sheeran has 9 songs in the top 10, 16 in the top 20. I can’t knock him for being popular but it makes you think; what’s the point in the top 40?

For one thing, 14 of his songs aren’t singles, they’re album tracks, so why are they in the singles charts? It’s almost pointless to have a singles chart if an artist’s entire record can feature on it. Yes, his album tracks are popular but that’s why we have an album chart. It’s inevitable now that whenever a Drake, Adele or Beyoncé of the world releases a record they’ll be clogging up a good chunk of the top twenty. It’s dull.

There’s no suspense when listening to the charts. Gone are the days of Oasis vs. Blur sending teenagers of the nation into a frenzy. We can all guess what the charts will look like next week, and, likely, the week after that. Welcome to the age of knowing exactly who’s going to be number one, and two, and three, and…. Well you get the picture.

Another problem with the charts at the moment is the lack of variety at the top spot. In 2000 (an arbitrary year prior to downloads and streaming) there were 43 unique number one singles. Last year there were only 11. There is more entertainment value in a radiator than the charts when there’s a 79% chance that number one’s going to be the same as last week.  

The charts used to be a huge part of British culture, in the seventies 19 million tuned in to Top of the Pops (there were only 20 million TVs in the country), nowadays at most a paltry 1.3 million are bored enough to listen to Greg James read out a superfluous list of people who don’t write their own songs on the Official Charts Show (yes I know Ed Sheeran writes his own songs, I’m just being facetious). 

So why have the charts become so irrelevant of late? Well the problem came with the rise of streaming. How do you count single sales in a world where only the middle aged actually buy music? Exacerbating the problem is the playlists on streaming sites. Think of it this way - you’re hosting pre drinks, you’ve got a few people coming round, you want to appease everyone so to play it safe you put on a Spotify curated, party playlist. Now picture this happening every night in every kitchen in every student town all over the country. What do you get?

What you get is literally millions of people inadvertently listening to One Dance. And for every 150 of those accidental listens, Drake receives the equivalent of one sale (and 150 goes into literally millions quite a few times) and this happens week after week after unrelenting week, and all of a sudden Drake’s got the third longest stint at number one ever.

Is this fair? Drake is a huge artist, don’t get me wrong. Playlists or no playlists, being the first artist to break a billion streams on Spotify is impressive, but his domination of the charts isn’t because people are choosing to listen to him. To begin with, yes, this would have been the case. However, after a period of time success breeds success

The vicious cycle goes a little like this: One Dance is streamed a lot, so it gets featured on more playlists, people listen to the playlists, and One Dance gets even more listens, not because people are choosing to listen to it, but because it’s being forced down their throats like a bitter pill in a big orange coat.

Something needs to give. Either the way the charts are collated needs to change in order to allow more variety, or they become redundant. For fair representation curated playlist shouldn’t count towards the charts, instead only user created playlist and actual clicks on songs should count. This at least would mean there’s some vague desire to listen to the song. And of course, without a doubt, album tracks shouldn’t be allowed on the singles charts. It is nonsensical, illogical, and renders the entire chart meaningless.  

So please, Official Charts Company, change the system. Because what’s the point in listening to Radio 1 for two hours just to confirm that Ed Sheeran, the most popular musician in popular music is still popular?

Find his new album here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjGrcJ4lZCc

Article: Daniel Brashaw