Back again, for the obvious reason at this time of year – somebody did it on X Factor. Specifically, it was Lucy Spraggan, though since she wrote completely new verses for it, it’s more a kind of sampling job.
Originally a number 10 hit last year. Kye Sones did it on X Factor (and nearly got eliminated for his troubles). Meanwhile, current single “Don’t You Worry Child” is holding up well at number 2.
23. The Lumineers – “Ho Hey”
A proper new entry! Colorado’s answer to Mumford & Sons, basically. This apparently topped the US alternative and rock charts earlier in the year, which suggests a remarkably broad definition of rock. It’s been available since August, but it’s climbing now because E.On are using it in an advert. After all, nothing says “electricity tariffs” like folk music.
21. Bastille – “Flaws”
Indie! Radio 1 are very keen on this bunch. Despite the Coney Island video, they’re actually from London. Originally a stage name for singer-songwriter Dan Smith, Bastille are now a proper band, but they’re still named after his birthday. It was at 14 in the midweeks, so sales were evidently a bit frontloaded. “Flaws” is a pretty and intricate song, though there’s something a little calculated about it, a sort of emotional detachment between music and lyrics.
10. Naughty Boy featuring Emeli Sande – “Wonder”
This is the first of two Emeli Sande new entries in the top ten, though that’s more by accident than design, as we’ll see. It gives her a total of five hits this year – the others being “Next to Me”, “My Kind of Love” and “Read All About It (Pt 3)”, still hanging in there at 27 this week – and she’s still got a couple of months to go.
Naughty Boy (producer Shahid Khan) is a regular collaborator of hers – he had a hand in her album “Our Version of Events”, and he’s used her as a guest vocalist on other people’s records before. This time he gets the lead credit, because “Wonder” is the first single from an upcoming 2013 album that will try to launch him to the mainstream as an artist in his own right. You can also get it on the deluxe edition of “Our Version…”
In fact, Naughty Boy has three previous chart credits. The others were Emeli Sande’s “Daddy” (number 21 last year), where he had a featured artist credit; “Never Be Your Woman”, awkwardly credited to Naughty Boy Presents Wiley Featuring Emeli Sande (number 8 in 2010); and the largely forgotten “Phat Beach”, which made number 36 back in 2006, and doesn’t even seem to be on YouTube, except in a remix by the dreaded Uniting Nations that bears their signature leaden touch and isn’t worth the bother of linking to.
3. JLS – “Hottest Girl In The World”
One of the most successful X Factor groups have helpfully timed their new album promotion to coincide with this year’s series! Who’d have thought!
This is effectively the first single from upcoming album “Evolution”. Technically it’s the second, since the album will also feature the charity single “Proud” from the spring, but this is the first one released to promote the album proper.
JLS escaped the X Factor ghetto by positioning themselves from the get go with one foot in boy band territory and the other in R&B. This single, supposedly an illustration of the group’s new direction, nudges them into the latter camp, with stripped-back staccato arrangements and harmonies, to reasonably successful effect.
1. Labrinth featuring Emeli Sande – “Beneath Your Beautiful”
Emeli Sande gets her second new entry of the week, but perhaps more to the point, Labrinth gets his first number one, with a track that surely cannot have been expected to get there.
Labrinth (Tim McKenzie) is mainly a writer/producer, known principally for rap/dance crossover material with the likes of Tinie Tempah. His album “Electronic Earth”, which came out in March, ranges rather more widely than that, though there’s room for argument as to whether it’s refreshingly eclectic or just rather unfocussed. He is certainly the most atypical artist signed by Simon Cowell, having somehow slipped under the radar during what one can only assume to have been an interlude of tasteful lucidity.
“Beneath Your Beautiful” is the sixth single from the album, and by this point in the promotional cycle, we’re normally on to bonus tracks from the deluxe edition. Not so here – this was in the original track listing, and as such, it’s been available since the spring. Traditionally diminishing returns have long since set in by this point, and until this week, that seemed to be the case here. Debut single “Let the Sun Shine” came out way back in 2010 and can be ignored for these purposes, but the other singles follow the usual pattern: “Earthquake” made number 2, “Last Time” number 4, “Express Yourself” number 12, and “Treatment” missed the top 40 entirely, peaking at 55. “Beneath Your Beautiful” isn’t even getting a separate release – there’s just a video to promote it as an album track download, and that came out three weeks ago.
As a ballad duet, it’s not a typical number one, nor is it anything that most people would associate with Labrinth in the first place. It’s suddenly at the top because, being a Simon Cowell act, he got to perform it on the X Factor results show – let’s leave aside for now the whole range of issues concerning X Factor‘s understandable slant towards booking acts in which its producer has a financial stake – which, even though ratings are down this year, is still as good a shop front as a song is going to have when it comes to reaching a mainstream audience. Even so, it’s far from a guarantee of a number one single – just ask Rebecca Ferguson – so the fair reading is that an awful lot of people heard the song for the first time and really, really liked it.
Yes, the title really is “Beneath Your Beautiful”. No, that isn’t a deliberate misspelling, and yes, he really is using “beautiful” as a noun. The lyric is on the old standard theme of imploring someone to drop their facade and let you in, and if you really want it to make literal sense, imagine air quotes around “beautiful”. I’s a cleverer piece of songwriting than I first thought – the mangled grammar of the chorus at least forces the listener to pay attention and try to figure out what he’s saying, and where you’d expect Sande’s verse to offer a reply, instead she obliviously blanks everything Labrinth has just said and delivers exactly a parallel request back at him. It’s two people singing at each other while ignoring what the other one is saying, a bittersweet subtext that seems to have fed through to the video, which makes sure to keep them on opposite sides of the video screen.
Let it also be acknowledged that Labrinth has the voice to actually pull off a proper duet with Emeli Sande, something that not many producers would dare to attempt with resorting to copious amounts of autotune.
Over on the album chart, it’s the familiar story of big pop acts entering in the top ten, while a rather broader selection fill out the lower new entries:-
“Red” by Taylor Swift is, given the success of the promotional tracks, an unsurprising entry at number one. “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” is still at 9,
“Chapman Square” by Lawson, the boy band with guitars or vice versa, enters at 4. Their current single “Standing in the Dark” drops to 11 in its second week out, which is par for the course for their fan-heavy, frontloaded sales.
“Bad Intentions” by Dappy is at 6. He’s been releasing singles from this since last September, though none are actually out at the moment.
“Songs From The Movies And More” by Daniel O’Donnell is at 7, and what charming neighbours he and Dappy make. O’Donnell is a tea-and-jumpers, almost surreally bland Irish crooner who is remarkably popular with a certain demographic of older ladies. Whatever you may think of him, O’Donnell had two top ten albums last year, and I’m sure his listeners loved them dearly.
“House of Gold and Bones (Part 1)” by Stone Sour is at 13. Their only hit single in the UK was “Bother”, which scraped the top 30 in 2008.
“Good Kid M.A.A.D City” by Kendrick Lamar is at 16. It’s the major label debut for a rapper who has unconventionally eschewed making up a stage name. The single “Swimming Pools (Drank)” peaked at 63 earlier in the month. It’s a concept album about his upbringing, and the acronym apparently stands for both “My Angry Adolescence Divided” and “My Angel’s on Angel Dust”.
“20” by Kate Rusby at 22. The folk singer celebrates twenty years in the business by re-recording some of her old tracks with guest stars.
“Genesis Revisited II” by Steve Hackett at 24. Ex-member of Genesis re-records some songs by Genesis (again).
“The Lumineers” by the Lumineers at 29. Self-explanatory album released to little attention in August, and given impetus by the hit single.