That’s nine weeks, which matches the nine week run of the record it replaced, Clean Bandit’s “Rockabye”. So we’ve had a grand total of two number one singles in 18 weeks. In itself that’s not unprecedented, but it’s tended to happen when one record stays at the top for months on end (like Drake’s “One Dance” last year). Two records in a row, both with nine weeks… that’s not happened before.
So. Last week, we established that Stormzy can release an album and get six tracks into the top 40. This week Ed Sheeran has his album ÷ out. And Ed Sheeran is a bit more high profile than Stormzy.
2. Ed Sheeran – “Galway Girl”
In fact, Ed Sheeran is a rather bigger deal than anyone right now. In its first week on sale, ÷ outsells the rest of the albums Top 500 combined. That’s not a typo. Not the top 50. The top five hundred. Granted that the albums market has been moribund for ages, this is still remarkable. And of course, if you’re playing an album track in its own right, that registers for the singles chart. So here begins the march of the Ed Sheeran album tracks.
“Galway Girl” is a hopelessly twee bit of Oirishness – “She played a fiddle in an Irish band / But she fell in love with an Englishman” – which supposedly prompted some “Are you sure?” comments from the record label. But it’s getting more play than anything else on the album, so Sheeran’s judgment is vindicated, I guess.
Number 3 is also Ed Sheeran, with “Castle on the Hill” spending its ninth week in the top 5. A clean sweep of the top three has happened before – Justin Bieber managed it a couple of years back.
4. Ed Sheeran – “Perfect”
But nobody has ever managed a clean sweep of the top 4 before. In fact, four simultaneous top ten hits is enough to match the all-time record held by Frankie Laine, which has stood serenely unchallenged since 1953.
This one is maudlin throwback balladry. Bit surprised it’s doing so well. (And before you ask, no, it’s not driven by the running order of the album. This is track 5.)
5. Ed Sheeran – “New Man”
You’ve got a new boyfriend and Ed doesn’t like him much.
6. Ed Sheeran – “Happier”
You’ve still got a new boyfriend and Ed is sad.
8. Ed Sheeran – “Dive”
Ha! Yes! Number eight! Not number seven! That’s the Chainsmokers and Coldplay! And now, more Ed Sheeran. It’s another retro love song. He’s going to dive right into you. Which sounds painful, but I’m sure he knows what he’s doing.
9. Ed Sheeran – “Supermarket Flowers”
This one is about his grandmother dying.
10. Ed Sheeran – “What Do I Know”
“We could change this whole world with a piano…” It’s one of those “let’s make the world a better place by singing songs about how that would be nice” songs. It’s quite bad. “We could change this whole world with a piano…” That kind of thing.
Number 11 is the other existing Ed Sheeran single, “How Would You Feel (Paean)”, and…
12. Ed Sheeran – “Barcelona”
This isn’t even on the regular version of the album. It’s one of four tracks which are only on the Deluxe Edition, though quite what that means given that it’s the Deluxe Version that’s on Spotify, I’m not sure. In this song, Ed Sheeran has gone on holiday to Barcelona and quite liked it.
13. Ed Sheeran – “Nancy Mulligan”
Trad and twee. It’s folk song about his actual Irish grandparents, who were from different communities – though that pretty much boils down here to “She and I went on the run / Don’t care about religion”.
14. Ed Sheeran – “Eraser”
This album’s rap track; being a pop star is hard. So that’s thirteen Ed Sheeran tracks – which matches the previous record for the most tracks by a single artist on the top 40. The previous record holder was Michael Jackson, in the week after he died.
But we’re not finished.
15. Ed Sheeran – “Hearts Don’t Break Around Here”
Another love song. He feels safe with his woman.
18. Ed Sheeran – “Bibia Be Ye Ye”
Ed does Graceland.
19. Ed Sheeran – “Save Myself”
And that’s the entire album. All sixteen tracks on the singles chart at once. New record.
Um. He’s broken the chart.
Quite honestly, Ed Sheeran is in a different league of stardom and his album release is an event that nobody else can match. We’ve had albums flood the charts before, but we’ve never had them swamp the top end like this. And in the past the non-singles have vanished after a week. The midweek chart update, released today, suggests that the Hordes Of Ed will be sticking around. This is very much a streaming phenomenon; the pure sales chart looks nothing like this.
Inevitably, this is going to renew arguments about whether the current chart rules need revised. I’m not generally sympathetic to the idea of messing about with the rules to engineer the narrative you want. If the public really is listening to Ed Sheeran to the exclusion of all else, then heck, that’s what the charts should show. But then again, when the entire album is registering this high, you do wonder whether there’s a case for reallocating a lot of those plays to the album chart.
Climbing 14 places in its third week, which is especially impressive considering the flood of 13 new entries above it.
28. Lorde – “Green Light”
Hooray! Somebody who isn’t Ed Sheeran! You remember Lorde – she had a number 1 with “Royals” in 2013. She’s not technically a one hit wonder – a follow-up “Team” got to number 29 the following year – but this is the first time we’ve seen her since then. It turns into a bit of an eighties epic, which I wasn’t expecting. Thumbs up.
39. Little Mix – “No More Sad Songs”
The next Little Mix single, which doesn’t have a video yet. The single version has Machine Gun Kelly, guesting, but so far the charts are sticking with the album credit. Little Mix’s previous single “Touch” is still hanging around at 29.
On the album chart:
÷ by Ed Sheeran is number 1, obviously. The previous albums x and + are at 4 and 5 respectively.
“Windy City” by Alison Krauss at 6. It’s a covers album. Her highest solo chart placing, though she got to number 2 in 2007 in collaboration with Robert Plant. Sample track: “Losing You”.
“Home” by Collabro at 7. Simon Cowell’s musical theatre boy band are back, just in time for Mother’s Day! Their third album, and the first time they’ve missed the top two. Album sampler.
“English Tapas” by the Sleaford Mods at 12. Minimalist grumpiness. This is roughly where the previous album got to. Single: “BHS”.