It's Year Sheero for the UK singles chart
March 9, 2017 4:36 AM   Subscribe

If the problem were just “too many Ed Sheeran songs in the Top 40” then it’s easily fixable – just cap the number of tracks which can chart from any individual LP. But that’s not really the problem. (If you like Ed, it’s not even *a* problem). It’s of a piece with the sclerosis of the chart, that deathly slow turnover of new hits which started in the download era and has been accelerated by the dominance of streaming. And Ed or no Ed, there’s no real sense that the singles chart has a role to play any more.
Loathe him or hate him, Ed Sheeran's near dominance of the UK singles chart is a problem that's bigger than him, as Tom Ewing explains.
posted by MartinWisse (25 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
I read the Rolling Stone article with him and it was fascinating. (Seriously, the only song I know from him is that single "Plan A" so anything else I'd not know.)
posted by Kitteh at 5:04 AM on March 9, 2017


Remember when SoundScan went into play for the Billboard charts ~25 years ago? That caused a giant kerfuffle, too.

Honestly, if streaming is the "it thing" these days (I still buy CDs and listen to my iTunes library, plus YouTube here and there), then having the charts reflect what the populace is actually listening to during any given week. That seems as reasonable to me as what album is being most purchased in a week, or most radio-requested (kids: ask your parents) in a week, or whatever stupid metric MTV used to determine their video countdown every week.

I should give Sheeran a listen sometime. I try to remain mildly current: Lizzo, Carly Rae Jepson (don't judge me)... Beyonce's Lemonade album (video album first, then CD) blew me away. But I'm hardly listening to much of what is popular on chart-driven US radio.
posted by hippybear at 5:05 AM on March 9, 2017


O HAI
posted by lalochezia at 5:35 AM on March 9, 2017 [3 favorites]


Great Tom Ewing article.
posted by Artw at 5:58 AM on March 9, 2017 [2 favorites]


So the only non-Sheeran track in the top 10 involves Coldplay? Man, Britain is really fucked.

(ftr, I don't have a problem with Sheeran's music: it's well produced and harmless. But I'm of an age that music is supposed to mean something. It must've been a lie all along.)
posted by scruss at 6:02 AM on March 9, 2017 [5 favorites]


But I'm of an age that music is supposed to mean something.

Not being snarky, but when was this? I can't think of an era in music (even back as far as the middle ages) when music was all meaning and no fluff.
posted by pipeski at 6:43 AM on March 9, 2017 [11 favorites]


This was predictable, as when the charts started including store downloads and later streaming, there has been a number of "new album by popular artists dominates singles charts" phenomenons, and if the industry wasn't so eager to give golden anythings, unprecedented records, and things not even The Beatles accomplished to boost their artists' profile, the logical thing would have been to kill the whole Singles/Albums charts things entirely, and make a new chart where releases are all lumped together, and the "singles" are tracks that have considerable (not throwing concrete numbers because I don't have the data) deviation above the average streams/purchases of any release that qualifies as an album.

Of course, it's not like the late physical-only chart was much better - I still recall enough "to chart in [mid to late 2000s], a band has to sell just [mid-three figures] singles in a week" stories to realise it wasn't a better reflection of what were people listening, either.
posted by lmfsilva at 6:57 AM on March 9, 2017


It's interesting that the album chart formula puts albums with fewer than twelve songs at a disadvantage. Is it really that rare for current pop groups to release albums with fewer songs than that? Looking through the bestselling albums of the past couple years, Justin Timberlake and Adele have released albums with ten and eleven tracks respectively. I wonder how they settled on twelve.
posted by vathek at 7:32 AM on March 9, 2017


Call me crazy, but I don't see this as the end of civilization. What it means is that people are seeking out artists on their own and forming their own tastes, without the kind of focused intervention from industry gatekeepers that existed 50 years ago. And they're not all listening to the same artists, because the number of artists that are readily available through streaming services is vastly larger than what existed when radio and MTV were the only means of exposure.

The reason that dull-as-dishwater artists like Sheeran and Coldplay even turn up on the charts is because they're the least-objectionable default alternative for the folks who aren't off exploring their own esoteric whims on Spotify or wherever.
posted by Strange Interlude at 7:34 AM on March 9, 2017 [4 favorites]


One of my unofficial "offices" is in the dining hall of an agricultural college, which is fine except that the radio playing through the speaker system is slightly irritating. It's tuned in to a regional radio station and - my God - the frequency that they have been playing Ed's "Shape of you" song, and the increasing array of variations, remixes and whatever, makes me wonder how much of a financial lock his record label have on the station. I did count five plays in less than one hour one day.
posted by Wordshore at 8:15 AM on March 9, 2017 [4 favorites]


This isn't really that new a phenomenon: both Drake and The Weeknd each had 18 tracks on the Hot 100 last year. I'm sure other albums that debuted over streaming (Beyonce?) have done the same.
posted by The Notorious SRD at 8:26 AM on March 9, 2017


Ed Sheeran is how millennials pronounce "Richard Marx", apparently.
posted by pxe2000 at 8:54 AM on March 9, 2017 [15 favorites]


I came here to lay the sickest burn on Ed Sheeran that I could muster but I think pxe2000 has preemptively bested me.
posted by prize bull octorok at 9:05 AM on March 9, 2017 [6 favorites]


I don't know how much of a disaster this is. I hadn't heard of Ed Sheeran until The Hawkeye Song but I've enjoyed a whole lot of his stuff. I'm not a music snob though.
posted by JakeEXTREME at 9:13 AM on March 9, 2017


I'm confused, what chart are they talking about? If I go to the Official Charts website I only see three of this guy's songs in their Top 40 singles.
posted by Gerald Bostock at 9:21 AM on March 9, 2017


Pity the poor Top 40 DJ who has to narrate the run-down.

I don't think I've heard any Ed Sheeran. And I don't think I've seen a MetaFilter post before about a musician that has no links to the musician himself playing music. But then, all the music I haven't heard before comes from here, poking around on Spotify, obscure corners of the music Internet, Radios 3 and 6 Music, WFMU and a worryingly accelerating number of friends who try to turn me on to folk (I fear this may turn to jazz in the next decade).
posted by Devonian at 10:11 AM on March 9, 2017


my God - the frequency that they have been playing Ed's "Shape of you" song, and the increasing array of variations, remixes and whatever, makes me wonder how much of a financial lock his record label have on the station. I did count five plays in less than one hour one day.
Global Radio, which runs most of these semi-national semi-regional Heart/Smooth/etc type stations, does have a record label and an artist management arm but Sheeran's not on the books. Hearing endless interviews with mediocre artists who just happen to be on the radio company's label brings to mind the, er, good old days of pirate radio payola. A lot of the time, you'll hear different versions of the same song by the same Global artist on different stations - a soft mix on Smooth, a bangin' remix on Capital, etc.

Personally, I got tired of pop music radio around the time I turned 31, which is pretty par-for-the-course I believe. I mostly listen to Radio 4 these days, but when R4 gets a bit depressing and I do tune to music radio it tends to be the local AM oldies station. It's never Heart or Kiss or Capital or Magic or any of the other hot rotation pop channels - I just don't understand the sort of person who wants to hear a song by, say, Ed Sheeran five times in an hour who wouldn't just put on an Ed Sheeran album.
posted by winterhill at 10:51 AM on March 9, 2017


In any case, BBC Radio 1 dropped the Sunday afternoon chart show (which had been a mainstay of the schedules for decades) a year or so ago and moved it to a truncated Friday afternoon slot where "selected" chart tracks are played. Commercial radio still runs a Sunday afternoon network chart show, but it's a gimmicky affair where listeners can "change the chart live" by buying songs from iTunes while the show is airing. It largely survives as a three-hour ad for a mobile phone company.

The chart as a thing people outside the music industry care about is dying and has been for some time. Look at the almost complete lack of public interest in the most recent Christmas number one for instance. Can anyone even name the artist?
posted by winterhill at 11:17 AM on March 9, 2017 [1 favorite]


Clean Bandit.

I only know this because their first single, Mozart's House, was a novelty-sorta thing with a chunk of Mozart to a house beat, and a friend found it by accident and used it (to good effect) because it worked as a slightly surreal part of a radio something they were making and absolutely nobody would have heard it.

Then came this Christmas, and said pal was mortified - 'my god,' they said, 'everyone will think I'm still listening to the pop charts'. But since it was the lowest-selling Christmas Number One ever, nobody heard that either, and my friend escaped with their dignity intact.

And that is all I know about Clean Bandit.
posted by Devonian at 12:19 PM on March 9, 2017 [1 favorite]


Pity the poor Top 40 DJ who has to narrate the run-down.
At least Casey Kasem didn't live to see this.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:50 PM on March 9, 2017 [1 favorite]


It takes real balls to write a song as stunningly fucking witless as "Galway Girl", so, you know, credit where it's due.
posted by Zeinab Badawi's Twenty Hotels at 1:41 PM on March 9, 2017 [3 favorites]



So the only non-Sheeran track in the top 10 involves Coldplay? Man, Britain is really fucked.


Dude, Coldplay is the artistic high point in that song, too.
posted by papayaninja at 2:12 PM on March 9, 2017


To be honest, I still think there's a legitimately good band in Coldplay. Except they don't have any incentive to dig deeper because they are far more successful this way than they'd be if they kept being the band I was curiously watching late night on a french music channel once.

At least I still give their albums a chance to see if their sound is less wallpaper. With discount Queen Muse, I already gave up hope.
posted by lmfsilva at 2:40 PM on March 9, 2017


I'm confused, what chart are they talking about? If I go to the Official Charts website I only see three of this guy's songs in their Top 40 singles.

Midweek vs Main singles charts.
posted by Lanark at 5:13 PM on March 9, 2017 [1 favorite]


Gosh, reading all the comments here makes me understand why he decided to take a year off from all things social network last year!

I guess it might feel a bit different if you're in the UK and your chart is filled with his songs and you can't get away from them, but I'm in Tokyo and our charts are filled with AKB/Johnny's/Exile crap and boy do I love Ed Sheeran. Shape of You I'm not such a fan of, but his recent album was otherwise quite good.

And I agree with Kitteh the Rolling Stone article is interesting.
posted by misozaki at 1:41 AM on March 10, 2017


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