So, What’s Popping On The UK Pop Charts These Days?
Besides, uh, "These Days"
“God’s Plan” rules the world. Drake’s dominant single is #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart for an eighth straight week, and its ubiquity extends well beyond the United States. Although the song hasn’t caught on in Asia or Africa and is only a minor hit in Latin America, it’s the most popular track globally on Spotify and has topped the chart in Australia, Canada (obviously), Denmark, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, and Sweden, hitting the top 10 in Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Spain, and Switzerland. It also continues to be #1 in the UK, where it has been since its surprise premiere two months ago.
There are other ways in which the UK charts align with what’s happening in the States. Like Drake, superstars such as Ed Sheeran, Bruno Mars, Camila Cabello, and Post Malone are doing just as well in Britain as they are here. The Black Panther and Greatest Showman soundtracks are a huge deal over there. Country crossover acts Maren Morris and Florida Georgia Line are even making moves similar to what they’re doing domestically. Speaking of country crossovers, though, here’s one significant difference between the US and UK: Justin Timberlake and Chris Stapleton’s “Say Something,” a minor hit Stateside, is a big deal overseas, clocking in at #9 on the Official Singles Chart compared to #26 on the Hot 100.
The “Say Something” disparity demonstrates how the UK chart is more of a funhouse mirror than a direct reflection of what’s going on here. Another example is “These Days,” the latest smash from proven homegrown hit-makers Rudimental, which now sits at #2 in the Mother Country. The London drum-and-bass duo teamed Macklemore with Jess Glynne, the singer best known for her euphoric turn on Clean Bandit’s “Rather Be,” in service of a piano-led paean to nostalgia for right now. Warm and poppy yet laced with melancholia, it’s deeply reminiscent of “Good Old Days,” Macklemore’s single with Kesha that has been a staple of US pop radio in recent months. “These Days” also features R&B singer Dan Caplen and focuses on a breakup, while “Good Old Days” deals with more generalized longing and regret. But side by side, they demonstrate the way the US and UK pop charts function as familiar parallel universes.
Sometimes, peering across the Atlantic in either direction can be predictive. For instance, Portgual. The Man’s surprise blockbuster “Feel It Still” peaked at #4 in the US last fall, but it’s still climbing in the UK (up to #3 this week). Conversely, Dua Lipa hit #1 in her native UK last summer with “New Rules,” but the song only took off Stateside early this year, eventually topping out at #6. It remains to be seen whether her “IDGAF,” currently thriving on the UK charts, will enjoy a similar US crossover.
With that in mind, let’s look at some of the biggest UK hits of the moment that haven’t made a splash in America yet and consider whether they might.
Marshmello & Anne-Marie – “Friends”
Unlike some of the other selections here, “Friends” is mildly successful in America, where it currently sits at #41 on the Hot 100, #25 on Spotify, and #19 at top-40 radio. In the UK it’s a legitimate smash: #4 on the Official Singles Chart and #3 on Spotify. Credit that partially to its easily marketable gimmick (everyone can relate with an *OFFICIAL FRIENDZONE ANTHEM*), partially to the way Marshmello’s production combines Destiny’s Child-era R&B-pop with modern trap and EDM flourishes, and partially to soulful Essex pop singer Anne-Marie’s rising profile in her home country. “Friends” is the third in a series of increasingly successful singles including “Alarm” and “Ciao Adios.”
Likelihood of a US crossover: I’m kind of surprised it hasn’t reached full saturation here already given we’re deep into spring break season, but give it time. “Wolves,” Marshmello’s big pop hit with Selena Gomez, took its time climbing the charts as well but has become a mainstay of US pop radio.
Mabel & Not3s – “Fine Line”
Mabel is the daughter of Neneh Cherry and producer Cameron McVey, aka Booga Bear. She had a top-10 hit last year with the Kojo Funds collab “Finders Keepers” and followed it with the successful “My Lover” remix, a duet with the young London rapper Not3s (of “Addison Lee” fame). They joined forces again for “Fine Line,” which currently sits at #11 on the Official Singles Chart and #12 on UK Spotify. It’s a sleek urban pop song carried along by a beat that does a lot with a little.
Likelihood of a US crossover: Don’t rule it out, but I am not expecting this one to traverse the Atlantic — mostly because UK rappers don’t typically crash US pop radio, but also because “Fine Line” exudes a certain English pop sound that doesn’t tend to translate over here.
George Ezra – “Paradise”
Ezra got some limited Stateside exposure (including a surprise SNL gig) with the #32-peaking “Budapest” in 2015 — two years after it hit #3 in the UK — but he’s more of a mainstay back home. The Bristol-based folk-popper followed “Budapest” with the #6-peaking “Blame It On Me” in 2014 and is on the rise again with “Paradise,” a brisk strum-and-drum ramble that imagines: What if Sam Smith kinda rocked? It reached a new #12 peak on the Official Singles Chart this week and is working its way toward Spotify’s UK top-10.
Likelihood of a US crossover: Given the American success of folks like Ed Sheeran, James Arthur, and Niall Horan — not to mention that “Honey I’m Good” song by Andy Grammer from a few years back, probably the closest corollary here — this one seems like highly likely to appeal to a pop radio audience here.
Sigrid – “Strangers”
Unlike the rest of these acts, Sigrid is not English — the 21-year-old singer hails from Norway — but England embraced “Strangers,” sending it to #10 on Official Singles (it’s down to #34 at this point). It’s no wonder; the song is a rippling synth-pop powerhouse with a triumphant hook and a video showcasing Sigrid’s charmingly enthusiastic dancing — imagine Maggie Rogers filming a workout video.
Likelihood of a US crossover: Seemingly very high, especially since she’s already proven she can excel in a foreign country.
Stormzy – “Blinded By Your Grace – Pt. 2″ (Feat. MNEK)
Stormzy is basically the king of England at this point, and “Blinded By Your Grace” is the big, teary-eyed ballad to cap off his remarkably successful campaign behind 2016’s Gang Signs & Prayer. Bolstered by a hook from artist-producer phenom MNEK, it peaked at #7 late last year, his second best chart placement after the album’s #6-peaking lead single “Big For Your Boots.”
Likelihood of a US crossover: Stormzy is such a big deal in England that he may be able to make waves in America with the right hit, but not until his next album cycle.
B Young – “Jumanji”
Hackney, London’s B Young is so new to the spotlight that he doesn’t have a Wikipedia page or his own Billboard chart history archive (although there is one for his ostensible nemesis, Young B). He’s at a new #14 peak on the Official Singles Chart and #19 on UK Spotify with “Jumanji,” a sing-songy hip-hop track undergirded by bumping bass and flamenco-esque guitar arpeggios. It’s nice!
Likelihood of a US crossover: Don’t count on it unless the title catches people’s attention. It’s hard enough for non-white Americans to get a hip-hop song in top-40 rotation, and American rap/R&B radio is not very internationally inclined.
Sigala & Paloma Faith – “Lullaby”
Paloma Faith is one of those singers who’s mostly anonymous in the US despite being a household name in Britain for years. She hasn’t had a proper UK hit since 2014’s #6-peaking “Only Love Can Hurt Like This,” but “Lullaby,” her new track with superstar pop-EDM producer Sigala, looks likely to change that. It’s up to #19 on Official Singles in its third week on the chart and is rapidly gaining ground on Spotify, where it’s #48 on the weekly chart but had climbed to #19 on yesterday’s daily ratings. Sigala has been scoring massive UK hits consistently since 2015, and his track record suggests “Lullaby,” a squiggly neon electro-pop single with a big shout-along chorus, will follow suit.
Likelihood of a US crossover: US pop radio is saturated with songs exactly like this, so it could definitely happen. On the other hand, none of Sigala’s other hits have made a dent in the US, so don’t hold your breath.
Rita Ora – “Anywhere”
Although she’s struggled to break through in America without an assist from Iggy Azalea, Rita Ora remains a big star in her native England. For proof, look no further than “Anywhere,” which topped out at #2 on Official Singles a few months back (it’s currently down to #48). It’s not a particularly memorable pop single until it goes full electro-pop more than two minutes in, but at that point the song really takes off. Will it take off in the States, though?
Likelihood of a US crossover: Nahhhh. Where Ora’s career prospects are concerned, “Anywhere” is far too strong a term.
Logic prevails with his second #1 album on the Billboard 200 this week. His new mixtape Bobby Tarantino II recorded 119,000 equivalent album units and 32,000 in traditional sales to follow in the footsteps of last year’s chart-topping Everybody. According to Billboard, streaming accounts for 82,000 of the project’s units; that number derives from the album’s tracks being streamed 123 million times in its first week.
Another mixtape sequel, Lil Yachty’s Lil Boat 2, enters at #2 with 64,000 units and only 7,000 in traditional sales — the most units and highest chart position of his career. David Byrne’s American Utopia also represents his best sales week and chart placement of the SoundScan era (since 1991), debuting at #3 with 63,000 units. Virtually all of Byrne’s units derive from traditional sales, making American Utopia the week’s bestselling album by a wide margin. The booming sales can be partially attributed to one of those increasingly popular album/ticket bundles.
After the Black Panther soundtrack at #4 comes another career-best debut at #5: Judas Priest’s Firepower, which tallied 49,000 units and 48,000 sales, also largely powered by album/ticket bundles. The Greatest Showman’s soundtrack follows at #6, then come Migos with Culture II at #7. The week’s final top-10 debut is the latest posthumous Jimi Hendrix album, Both Sides Of The Sky, at #8 via 37,000 units/35,000 sales. Ed Sheeran and Post Malone close out the top 10.
The top three spots on the Hot 100 singles chart remain unchanged this week: Drake’s aforementioned “God’s Plan” at #1 for an eighth straight week, Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect” at #2, and Bruno Mars and Cardi B’s “Finesse” at #3. Reaching a new #4 peak is Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line’s “Meant To Be,” a new career best chart placement for Rexha. At #5 is Post Malone and Ty Dolla $ign’s “Psycho.”
At #6, Zedd, Maren Morris, and Grey’s “The Middle” also reaches a new high; it’s the best career placement for Morris and Grey and Zedd’s best as a lead artist. Rounding out the top 10 are Camila Cabello and Young Thug’s “Havana” (#7), the Weeknd and Kendrick Lamar’s “Pray For Me” (#8), BlocBoy JB and Drake’s “Look Alive” (#9), and Kendrick Lamar and SZA’s “All The Stars” (#10).
The Chainsmokers – “Everybody Hates Me”
A little on-the-nose, don’t you think?
Shawn Mendes – “In My Blood”
Shawn Mendes is still a teenager and he already feels like a pop-music veteran. Some of his singles from last album cycle were borderline jams, too, so I had high hopes for “In My Blood.” What we actually get, a howling paint-by-numbers power ballad with shades of Mendes’ mentor Ed Sheeran, is merely fine. It’ll probably be a massive hit, but it’s not knocking “There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back” from the low-standing pedestal in my heart.
Halsey – “Alone (Remix)” (Feat. Big Sean & Stefflon Don)
The production on “Alone” already sounded like producer Ricky Reed’s best impression of a Just Blaze beat, so the sound of actual rap verses on it makes a lot of sense. The way the rhythm switches up for Stefflon Don’s part is lovely, and so is Halsey’s big spotlight moment on the chorus. Give this song a retro-glamorous video and watch it take over the world.
PRETTYMUCH – “Healthy”
How mad are Florida Georgia Line that they missed out on this song? It’s unmistakably boy-band material once that chorus hits, but up until then it basically sounds like a country single with futuristic R&B production.
Echosmith – “Over My Head”
The band that brought you “Cool Kids” and “Bright” is gone and has been replaced by songwriting robots. It’s possible they are world-conquering songwriting robots, though.
NEWS IN BRIEF
- The Weeknd shot a video for a new song that will reportedly be out before Coachella. [TMZ]
- Though he previously denied it, Jimmy Iovine apparently will be stepping away from his day-to-day role at Apple Music. [NY Post]
- All five members of *NSYNC will appear as the group receives a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame next month. [Billboard]
- G-Eazy, Lil Uzi Vert, and Ty Dolla $ign announced The Endless Summer Tour. [HNHH]
- Justin Bieber joined Craig David onstage in Los Angeles, saying, “So this guy right here supported me from day one, came to my shows. I got so much love for him.” [Instagram]
- “Gucci Gang,” now with 100% more Gucci Mane. [The Fader]
- For World Water Day today Pitbull is addressing the UN General Assembly in NYC on behalf of the Clean Water Here Foundation. [ABC]
- Producer/songwriter Poo Bear’s Poo Bear Presents Bearthday Music album will feature Justin Bieber, Jennifer Lopez, J Balvin, and more. [Billboard]
- Sting & Shaggy, Shawn Mendes, & more will perform for Her Majesty The Queen’s 92nd Birthday next month. [Sting]
- Logic announced a split with his wife Jessica Andrew. [People]
- Taylor Swift sent a box of Reputation merchandise to Amber Rose and Wiz Khalifa’s son Sebastian. [E!]
- Iggy Azalea has obtained permanent residency in the US. [Twitter]
- Selena Gomez responded to people body shaming her bikini photos with a vacation video soundtracked by Alvvays. [Instagram]
HOLD ON, WE’RE GOING HOME
I think about this mads mikkelsen quote at least once a week pic.twitter.com/e5LDgFOPAJ
— sophie (@nbcwiII) March 20, 2018