Posted on Tuesday, January 1, 2013
by Paul in Music
Welcome to 2013! This is the dead week of the charts, when nothing came out and virtually nothing happened. There’s one re-entry at the bottom end, but that’s just existing material filling the space left by the sales of Christmas songs coming to their habitually abrupt halt. And with the big push for the Christmas number one out of the way, the Justice Collective single also drops to 5, leaving James Arthur to return to number one with “Impossible”, thus also making himself the first number one artist of 2013.
So, since I can hardly fill a whole post with that, let’s take this opportunity to look back over the number one singles of 2012, some of which you have quite probably already forgotten about, due in no small part to a resurgence of the phenomenon of well-timed new releases with weeks of advance promotion taking turns to have a single week at number one. Most of these records, it should be said, proceeded to hang around the chart for a good long while afterwards. But records with a dominant run at the top have been rare, and the year has seen a total of 36 number one singles. Here they all are.
1 January: “Paradise” by Coldplay. The beneficiary of 2011’s dead chart, “Paradise” unexpectedly reached number one in its tenth week on the chart. (It had been on sale even before that but was ineligible for the chart because it was also being offered as a download to people placing advance orders for the “Mylo Xyloto” album.) It spent a total of 25 weeks in the top 40, six of them in the top ten. Position on the 2012 Chart of the Year: 45. But then, most of its sales were in 2011.
8 January: “Good Feeling” by Flo Rida. The first of two appearances on this list for the tedious hired gun, “Good Feeling” is similarly a 2011 hangover that topped the chart during the dead period after eight weeks out. It spent eleven weeks in the top ten and was an international hit, so it’s hard to deny its success, but it was plainly inferior to the record on which it was based – “Levels” by Avicii, which made number 4 in its own right. Chart of the Year position: 47, actually behind “Whistle” (15) and “Wild Ones” (10), neither of which made number one – rather proving how lucky this record was to snatch a quiet week at the top.
15 & 22 January: “Domino” by Jessie J. After The Voice UK conspicuously failed to propel its winner to fame, fortune, or even vaguely-well-known-ness, Jessie J may be living to regret having hitched her wagon to the show. But she did have the first two-week number one of the year, and another international hit. Twenty weeks in the chart, nine of them in the top ten. CotY position: 8.
29 January: “Twilight” by Cover Drive. Hands up anyone who remembered this one would be on the list? Yeah, thought so. This was Cover Drive’s second single and their only number one; later singles have seen noticeable diminishing returns. Thus far, there’s been no serious attempt to market them outside the UK and Ireland (despite the band themselves originating from the Bahamas), and the momentum they had at the start of the year looks to have dissipated in the cold light of day. CotY position: 75.
5 February: “Titanium” by David Guetta (featuring Sia). Guetta’s only number one of the year, which is pretty remarkable considering the volume of material he’s had in the chart. It’s a good one, though, and probably the best actual song he’s ever released, so it deserves to have stood out from the sizeable pack. A total of 29 weeks in the top 40. CotY position: 4. It’s been selling steadily all year.
12 & 26 February, 4, 11 & 18 March: “Somebody That I Used To Know” by Gotye (featuring Kimbra). The only record this year to spend a total of five weeks at the top (albeit interrupted); one of the defining singles of the year both here and abroad; and the first thus far to qualify its artists as one hit wonders in the strict sense – one number one hit and nothing else on the chart, ever. But the parent album at least went gold. “Somebody” spent 31 weeks in the top 40, and Wikipedia reports it reaching number 1 in some 25 countries. Records like this are extraordinarily hard to any artist to follow up (a story that, needless to say, will recur later on this list) but Gotye and Kimbra at least have established careers in Australia and New Zealand to fall back on, some credibly decent material to offer if they choose to release another single here once the dust has settled, and the comfort of knowing that if this is a record that is going to overshadow the rest of their careers, at least it’s a record which is generally agreed to be pretty damn good. CotY position: 1, naturally.
19 February: “Hot Right Now” by DJ Fresh (featuring Rita Ora). The first of three appearances on this list for Rita Ora, the most of any artist. She had something of a breakthrough year – her album has done unusually well for a singer working in dance music, and the now familiar path of starting out with guest appearances has genuinely allowed her to springboard into legitimate success in her own right. It’s not as good as DJ Fresh’s previous number one “Louder”, but it’s still a pretty good record. It’s also very much a UK hit – it had some middling success on mainland Europe, but nothing to compare with its sales here. CotY position: 24, which makes it Ora’s biggest seller (though it has the advantage of coming out first).
25 March: “Part Of Me” by Katy Perry. This is the break-up song where the video has her becoming a soldier and doing basic training. To be honest, I’d forgotten how it went until I looked it up, but it did do pretty well internationally. CotY position: 55.
1 April: “Turn Up The Music” by Chris Brown. As if it wasn’t enough of a mystery that Chris Brown continues to have a career, the UK public chooses this instantly forgettable mediocrity to be his only number one hit. It did, however, drop out of the chart after only eight weeks, which tends to confirm that its single week at the top was more a symptom of hype than popularity. CotY position: 79, making it the lowest-selling number 1 of the year. So that’s something.
8, 15, 22 & 29 April: “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen. The scale of this record’s success took most people by surprise – it spent four weeks at number one, it spent 28 weeks in the top 40, it has sold a million copies, and it is one of the defining pop records of the year (not to mention an international number one). Jepsen has already managed to get herself off the one-hit wonders list thanks to a collaboration with Owl City, though you suspect that she remains in the difficult position of being less popular than her only song. It’s an unabashed radio-friendly crowd-pleaser, but nothing wrong with that when the formula is done as well as this. CotY position: 2.
6 May: “Young” by Tulisa. Remember that brief moment in spring 2012 when the solo career of Tulisa Contostavlos got off to a strong start with this middling dance record, only for the follow-up singles to miss the top ten and the album to bomb completely? It all seems so distant now. CotY position: 43.
13 & 20 May: “R.I.P.” by Rita Ora (featuring Tinie Tempah). Ora’s second appearance on this list, a rare multi-week number one, and another successful contributor to the launch of her career as a new star (in Britain, at least – international sales have been more middling). I still think the monotone verses make it an odd choice for the solo debut of someone with a decent voice, but evidently the record company knew better. CotY position: 28.
27 May: “We Are Young” by fun. (featuring Janelle Monae). Another of the singles that seems to have become an immediate pop standard. It may only have had a single week at number one, but it spent fifteen in the top ten, and 26 in the top 40. And follow-up single “Some Nights” (which I prefer) also did respectably, taking fun. instantly off the one-hit wonder list. It’s a good record, and perhaps more to the point, it’s genuinely different from anything else in the chart – in fact, it’s as close as this year gets to a vaguely “alternative” number one, unless you’re prepared to overlook the remix contribution to “Spectrum”. CotY position: 3.
3 June: “Feel The Love” by Rudimental (featuring John Newman). An unusual soul/drum-and-bass hybrid record which similarly stands out from the crowd, though unfortunately the follow-up single was maybe a little too close to repeat the trick. The debut single from an English production outfit, this has had a degree of international success in Australia and mainland Europe. CotY position: 16.
10 June: “Sing” by Gary Barlow & The Commonwealth Band (featuring The Military Wives Choir). The official single of the Queens’ Diamond Jubilee celebrations, and I’m sure she had more fun listening to this than she did standing on a boat in the pouring rain. Its week at number one coincided with the main celebration (obviously), but it did spent eight weeks in the chart. People who read too much into these sorts of things might be interested to note that it only made number two on the Scottish regional chart, and somehow made number twelve in the Republic of Ireland. CotY position: 60.
17 June: “Call My Name” by Cheryl. The comeback single from the former Cheryl Cole got its week at number one on the strength of pre-release hype, judging from how quickly it slipped down the charts afterwards. Still, she can take some comfort in knowing that her 2009 hit “Fight For This Love” has recently been certified as a million seller – apparently continuing long-tail sales in 2012 have finally nudged it over the mark. CotY position: 34.
24 June & 8 July: “Payphone” by Maroon 5 (featuring Wiz Khalifa). Another of the rare multi-week hits, and it’s worth noting that those two weeks at number one were coupled by four at number two. I’ve never liked it, but it clearly struck a chord somewhere. CotY position: 9.
1 July: “This Is Love” by will.i.am (featuring Eva Simons). The first of two appearances on this list for will.i.am, this is the one where he sits at a piano and attempts to emote. Kind of respectable as a production job, a bit of a dog when judged as an actual song. CotY position: 39.
15, 22 & 29 July: “Spectrum (Say My Name)” by Florence & The Machine. Though the chart doesn’t officially distinguish between versions, this track got its three weeks at number one thanks in large part to radio support for the Calvin Harris remix, which largely demonstrates that Harris’s by now familiar arrangement can be applied to pretty much anything of appropriate pace. But it certainly served its purpose of exposing Florence & The Machine to a broader audience. We’ll be hearing from them again later. CotY position: 19.
5 & 12 August: “Heatwave” by Wiley (featuring Ms D). Grime pioneer Wiley continues his crusade to top up his pension fund with another party record, but then, why not? Two weeks at the top show the rewards for writing a decent chorus. It’s also one of the relatively small number of records on this list whose success was largely confined to the UK (though Wikipedia reports that it did make the top ten in Ireland and, curiously, the Czech Republic). CotY position: 38.
19 August: “How We Do (Party)” by Rita Ora. Ora’s third and final number one of the year can be described without fear of contradiction as another Rita Ora single. CotY position: 50.
26 August: “Bom Bom” by Sam and the Womp. This curious brass-driven Dutch-accented novelty has one-hit wonder written all over it, but it’s sure to have an exercise class afterlife measured in years. And it does have the best use of brass this year. They’ve yet to release a follow-up. CotY position: 42.
2 September: “Wings” by Little Mix. The first “proper” single by last year’s X Factor winners understandably positioned them on the Saturdays’ doorstep. It’s not a bad single, but nor was it a particularly massive hit. However, it did sell in a few mainland European markets and it went platinum in Australia, so things aren’t looking too bad for them. CotY position: 40.
9 September: “Let Me Love You (Until You Learn To Love Yourself)” by Ne-Yo. A middling to above average R&B track that probably benefitted from a well timed release as much as anything. CotY position: 51.
16 & 23 September: “Hall of Fame” by The Script (featuring will.i.am). The Voice UK may have failed to produce a viable recording artist, but it did result in this improbable sounding collaboration between two of the judges – one that saw the Script reposition themselves more as a pop songwriting outfit than the vaguely soulful, vaguely alt-rock group they’d previously been presented as. It gave them their first number one, though, and it’s one of this year’s handful of multi-week number ones, so it clearly worked. CotY position: 21.
30 September 2012: “Gangnam Style” by Psy. The zeitgeist single of the year may only have managed a single week at number one, but it’s spent three months in the top ten. While a K-pop breakthrough has been predicted for some time, nobody was expecting it to come in the form of Korean-language rap with a video that somehow managed to sell the track to audiences to whom it wasn’t being directed, and to whom the song itself was unintelligible. Given that selling records is the ultimate purpose of music videos, a strong case can be made for “Gangnam Style” having the most effective music video in history. Following this up will be hard for K-pop in general, let alone for Psy, who is, to judge from interviews, all too aware of the mountainous task that confronts him – but equally aware that he really has nothing to lose by trying. What marks “Gangnam Style” out from the typical viral video is that there is in fact a proper song behind it all, and one that’s really quite good. The novelty aspect may have drawn people in, but I don’t think you can account for this level of success without concluding that most people were laughing with him, rather than at him. CotY position: 6.
7 October: “Diamonds” by Rihanna. The lead single from Rihanna’s new album was always going to go to the top. It only had a single week there, but it’s been in the top ten ever since, which makes it a pretty big hit. CotY position: 11. In fact, from here on, we’re dealing with records that are still selling, and which ought logically to be disadvantaged by their late release date. But in practice many of them are right up there near the top, which just goes to show how sales pick up in the closing weeks of the year.
14 October: “Don’t You Worry Child” by Swedish House Mafia (featuring John Martin). The Swedish House Mafia’s farewell single (or farewell for now, at any rate) gave them their only number one, and again, it’s shown some staying power – it remains in the top 20. CotY position: 13.
21 October: “Sweet Nothing” by Calvin Harris (featuring Florence Welch). The mirror of the Florence & The Machine single from earlier in the year, as Florence Welch returns the favour by pitching in to provide a guest vocal for Harris. This one, it must be said, hasn’t shown quite the staying power of some of the tracks around it; frankly, it’s not as good as “Spectrum”, so if you want a collaboration between these two, why not just by that? Still, it’s yet to leave the top 40. CotY position: 48.
28 October: “Beneath Your Beautiful” by Labrinth (featuring Emeli Sande). Ballad time – there’s quite a few of them as we enter the closing months of the year. This was the first number one for Labrinth, and the only number one single of the year for Emeli Sande, who has had a great year on the album chart thanks in no small measure to the BBC’s unbridled enthusiasm for wheeling her out to perform at major sporting events. Again, that single week at the top understates the degree of the record’s success; it took two months to leave the top five. CotY position: 12.
4 & 11 November: “Candy” by Robbie Williams. A successful comeback for an artist who by this point has to be filed under “veteran”. Radio 1 may have stopped playing his singles, but that’s probably a fair reflection of his audience these days. “Candy” isn’t the best thing he’s ever released, but it’s been widely regarded as a return to form, and a break from his solo career to tour with Take That clearly helped. CotY position: 22.
18 November: “Little Things” by One Direction. One Direction sing the offcuts of Ed Sheeran. Catapulted to number one several weeks early after the X Factor producers panicked over falling ratings and aired a recorded performance of this song ahead of schedule, it’s at least a superior boy band ballad. CotY position: a surprisingly low 65, which gives you some perspective on what being Britain’s biggest boy band actually means these days.
25 November & 2 December: “Troublemaker” by Olly Murs (featuring Flo Rida). Vying for the title of worst number one of the year, this is a bit of a phoned-in effort across the board, but the sheer ridiculousness of pairing Olly Murs with Flo Rida really pushes it over the edge. CotY position: 29.
9 December 2012: “The Power of Love” by Gabrielle Aplin. This year’s token song from an advert (though come to think of it, “Bom Bom” was in an advert too). It’s a lovely, delicate version of the Frankie Goes To Hollywood classic, which loses the camper and more bombastic aspects of the original – whether that’s a good thing is a matter of taste. It also adds Aplin to the one-hit wonders list; while she has plenty of well-received material to offer, acts from John Lewis adverts have not traditionally had great success in following up their hits. CotY position: 53.
16 & 30 December 2012: “Impossible” by James Arthur. This year’s X Factor winner, and one of the better efforts in some time. It helps that this time it wasn’t assaulting a respected classic, but an underappreciated record from an act, Shontelle, that had dropped off most people’s radar. Deposed for Christmas, it returns to the top in the dead final week of the chart year, and it’s not inconceivable that it could stick around for another week beyond that. CotY position: 5. Yes, that’s in three weeks on sale.
23 December 2012: “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” by The Justice Collective. The now traditional big campaign record for Christmas, a phenomenon which has if anything killed off the “traditional” race for Christmas number one more thoroughly than Simon Cowell ever did. You can’t begrudge the success of the campaign, but while the record is certainly better than many charity records gone by, it’s still essentially a one-line-each cover version, more notable for what it symbolises than for what it sounds like. CotY position: 49.
And for those wondering, here are the tracks that made the top 20 of the year without reaching number one in any single week: “Starships” by Nicki Minaj (8), “Next to Me” by Emeli Sande (14), “Whistle” by Flo Rida (15), “Mama Do The Hump” by Rizzle Kicks (17 – it came out in 2011 and has been selling steadily all year), “Too Close” by Alex Clare (18), and “Skyfall” by Adele (20 – which had a midweek release and would probably have been number one otherwise).
Next week, there’s probably not going to be anything happening either! There are a few singles out this week, but nobody’s paying any real attention. What usually happens in the new year chart is that the Christmas singles fade away and a few major hits of the year re-enter because of year-in-review airplay, so, yeah, we’ll probably be talking about that.