Charts Analysis: Sam Smith surges to albums summit
by Alan Jones
Leadership of the album chart changes hands for the 15th week in a row – but instead of heralding U2's 11th No.1 album with Songs Of Experience, as most would have expected, we are instead welcoming back Sam Smith's The Thrill Of It All, which debuted in pole position four weeks ago, and returns to the summit with sales up 35.00% week-on-week at 58,299 (including 4,974 from sales-equivalent streams).
Five weeks into its chart career, The Thrill Of It All has never been out of the top two, and has sold 290,292 copies – enough for it to already rank as the year's sixth biggest-selling artist album. Smith's 2014 debut, In The Lonely Hour – which opened its account with 69 straight weeks in the Top 10 – bounces 44-37 this week, with sales of 5,748 copies raising its cumulative tally to 2,381,034, eclipsing Take That's Progress to become the fifth biggest-selling album of the 2010s.
U2's 14th studio album, Songs Of Experience posted a lead of 14,000 sales on the first of the week's sales flashes but that advantage was quickly eroded, and with many of its rivals apparently boosted by Christmas gift-buying, it eventually debuted at No.5 on sales of 40,669 copies. U2 last topped the chart in 2009, when No Line On The Horizon debuted at the summit on sales of 157,928 but missed out with 2014 follow-up Songs Of Innocence, which debuted and peaked at No.6 on sales of just 15,998 copies, having been available for more than a month as a free download from iTunes before being released physically and in expanded download form. Their best ever first week sale – and the highest by any album to that point – came in 1988 when their sixth studio album, Rattle And Hum raced to a first-week sale in excess of 360,000.
No.1 for 17 weeks already this year, Ed Sheeran's ÷ bounces 4-2, to secure its 11th week in all as runner-up on sales of 56,050 which raises its to-date tally to 2,435,062. Released 40 weeks ago, it has yet to leave the top six.
Also returning to growth inside the Top 10 are Together Again (5-3, 42,761 sales) by Michael Ball & Alfie Boe, Beautiful Trauma (10-4, 42,189 sales) by Pink, The Architect (8-7, 28,988 sales) by Paloma Faith and A Love So Beautiful (9-8, 28,775 sales) by Roy Orbison & The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
The rest of the Top 10: Glory Days (3-6, 32,644 sales) by Little Mix, Christmas With Elvis Presley & The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (6-9, 27,206 sales) and Who Built The Moon? (1-10, 27,172 sales) by Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds.
After debuting at No.7 last week, Dutch violinist, conductor and orchestra leader Andre Rieu's Amore slides to No.16 (20,797 sales).
One of the most successful albums of 2017 is Classic House by Radio One's legendary DJ Pete Tong with The Heritage Orchestra conducted by Jules Buckley. Consisting of lushly-orchestrated classical/dance makeovers of club hits, the album debuted at No.16 (17,277 sales) last December eventually topping the chart eight weeks later. It has gone on to sell 195,510 copies, enough for the same ensemble to release follow-up Ibiza Classics, which debuts at No.17 (19,311 sales). Like Classic House, it includes a plethora of guest vocalists. Some – like Seal (Crazy) and Candi Staton (You Got The Love) – revisit their own past hits, while others, including Craig David, The Disciples and Becky Hill, put their spin on revered oldies.
The Who, The Jam, The Beatles and Led Zeppelin have all made the charts this century with compilations of vintage BBC recordings. Now, after more than 50 years in the BBC vaults, 32 painstakingly restored Rolling Stones radio performances spanning 1963-1965, make up On Air, which debuts at No.27 (9,603 sales), becoming the group's 50th chart album.
Midge Ure reached No.66 with Fragile in 2014 – his first charted studio album since 1991 – and now returns to the chart with Orchestrated (No.33, 6,505 sales) which, as its title suggests, includes lushly-cushioned new versions of the 64-year-old Glaswegian's back catalogue both solo and as a member of Ultravox and Visage – though anyone coming to this set hoping to here a new version of his first No.1 single, fronting Slik's 1976 smash Forever and Ever, will be disappointed.
While 51-year-old Strictly Come Dancing hoofer Anton Du Beke's debut album fades 21-30 (7,015 sales) on its second frame, the programme's 54-year-old lead singer, Tommy Blaize, opens at No.34 (6,438 sales) with his debut album, Life & Soul.
Too soon?: 10 weeks after Belfast's leading troubadour, Van Morrison's 37th studio album, Roll With The Punches, debuted and peaked at No.4 (10,110 sales), companion release Versatile opens at No.38 (5,745 sales). Both albums contain a similar blend of original songs and covers of R&B and blues staples. Versatile is Morrison's 45th chart album in a chart career that spans more than 47 years. Morrison's fellow 72-year-old singer/songwriter Neil Young, meanwhile, has allowed 12 weeks to elapse since his Hitchhiker set – recorded in a day in 1976 but first released in September – opened at No.6. He returns with The Visitor, the second album on which he is backed by Promise Of The Real. Opening at No.65 (3,244 sales) it is the prolific Canadian's 56th chart album, and his 18th in the 21st century.
Available for eight weeks without previously making the chart, Gwen Stefani's seasonal set You Make It Feel Like Christmas finally breaches the Top 75, opening at No.55 (3,846 sales) – a fact which may be related to a massive surge in exposure of the title track, a duet with Blake Shelton which rockets 481-29 on the radio airplay chart.
Now That's What I Call Music! 98 spends its third straight week at No.1 on both the compilation and overall album charts, selling a further 89,656 copies. With 353,601 sales to date, it is 31.26% below same stage sales (514,370) of 2016 equivalent Now! 95 and selling at a similar pace to earlier 2017 releases, Now! 96 and Now! 97, which had sold 343,346 and 364,050 copies, respectively, at the same juncture.
Overall album sales are up 11.63% week-on-week at 3,081,474, 7.57% below same week 2016 sales of3,333,795, and their highest level of the year for the third week in a row. Streaming accounted for a record 878,032 sales – 28.49% of the total. Sales of paid-for albums are up 16.14% week-on-week at 2,203,442, 19.36% below same week 2016 sales of 2,732,609.
© Music Week