So here’s a thought… the UK top 40 music charts is an institution and has been for years. If you grew up in the nineties, there’s a very good chance that you did what I did, and taped the charts every Sunday, working hard to cut out all the talking from the presenter and only recording the 40 biggest singles at the time, perhaps not even so you could go back and listen to it all over again, but just as a project, something to do with your Sunday before Heartbeat started and you were ordered into the bath. If you never did it, let me tell you, it was great and the realisation years later that everybody else was doing it too was surreal as hell, because nobody teaches you that stuff, it’s just a good idea.
Imagine doing that now, or at least the modern day equivalent. What the hell would that even be? I’m sure the BBC releases a podcast you can go back and listen to, therefore rendering the whole idea redundant. But at the same time, with streaming being the preferred method by many for listening to or collecting music, the entire landscape of the charts has changed. This has never been better illustrated than this past Friday when the chart positions were announced and due to the fact streaming is heavily influencing the success of a track, Ed Sheeran, who had released his latest album ‘Divide’ on Friday ended up stealing a whopping 16 of the top 20 singles positions. 16 out of 20!!! He’s even got 3 more in the top 100! Now as impressive as that may seem on face value, what a boring listen the top 40 must have been. It’s obvious to anybody with a brain that a lot of people are streaming the album for free due to hype and commercial backing, just to see what it’s like, or to say they have. Not to discount Mr Sheeran at all, he’s a hell of a talent and deserving of the number one spot, both for album and single, if you’re into that sort of thing, but what a ridiculous claim, that 16 of his brand new tracks are the most popular or heavily purchased in that week. If it was down to physical single purchases, I imagine you could eliminate at least 14 of those positions.
Now, is that a problem I hear you ask? No of course it’s not, hence the title of this article. Who gives a shit? But, the thing that gets me is the massive lack of diversity in it. I mean, Radio 1 for a while now has been the most bland station on the airwaves, churning out identical track after identical track. Five Grime tracks in a row and not one of them being distinguishable. Again, not a dig at Grime, just a commentary on the safety and mediocrity of the BBC’s playlist. Also, if it’s not Ed Sheeran, or Justin Bieber, or the hottest producer of the moment, then it’ll be a combination of some or all of them as they continually feature on each other’s tracks, not even so much as a collaboration but more like a desperate sponsorship. Like, what the hell are Daft Punk doing with The Weeknd? They’re better than that. Or Coldplay and the people that did that god awful “selfie” song! Just weird. A very important by-product of this, is that up and coming talent, promising young musicians, people with a bit more substance to their efforts, aren’t going to be showcased or recognised. Who knows who might be at the number 42 spot, just because Sheeran’s entire back catalogue is taking up space on the official top 40. We could be missing out on good music, and good musicians could be missing out on recognition that is well deserved.
What’s the antidote or solution to this? I don’t know. Only count physical sales? As much as I prefer to walk away with something in my hand when I pay for music I understand that not everybody does and there are other avenues, like downloading, in which to hear new music now. Other than that though, I don’t know. Apart from as I mentioned at the beginning, do they matter, do we care? Should we be manipulated and influenced by the hype of the already successful? No definitely not.
Ignore the radio. In fact, turn it off. There we go… sorted.
(Here’s a great example, Lana Del Rey’s new song is one of the finest tracks out at the minute and it’s just about straddling the 77 spot, so here it is for you to enjoy. You can even read my review of it right here)
Words by Stuart Green (@mojo20_music)