Monday, March 23, 2009

Number 1s of 2009: March 22

Well, I was right that the Comic Relief single wouldn't last long at the top: it dropped to number 3 in its second week. And for a while, it looked I'd be right about Flo Rida returning to the top for another run.

Instead, we get a surprise...

That's Lady Gaga, "Poker Face." And it's unexpected because it's been on the chart for ages, clawing its way up. It first charted way back on 18 January at number 30, on the back of debut single "Just Dance" reaching the top, and it seemed to have peaked a couple of weeks ago at number 3. Instead, it now makes a belated surge for the top spot, ten weeks into its chart run.

It's very difficult for record labels to control the release schedule of singles these days. For chart purposes, any download of an individual track counts as buying a single. Basically, if you don't buy the whole album, you're deemed to have bought a single. So as soon as you start promoting the second single from your album, people can download it. This has resulted in some very slow-burning climbs. It's a world away from the pre-download chart, where everything entered high and plummetted. It's also more realistic, because it reflects songs gaining popularity over time. Lady Gaga may be much-hyped, but this single made it to the top because it actually grew on people.

The record for the slowest climb to number 1 is 13 weeks, held by Celine Dion's 1995 hit "Think Twice", but 10 weeks really is exceptionally slow, and a sign of real, growing and sustained popularity. At first glance, the song feels like an exercise in taking a tenuous metaphor and battering it to death ("bluffin' with my muffin"?), but it's obviously tongue-in-cheek, and it's curiously likeable. Silly, but likeable. The video helps it enormously - evidently the time is right for eighties retro-glam.

I would normally take the video from YouTube, but thanks to their ongoing feud over UK rights, I can't. Fortunately, it's also on DailyMotion (and yes, it's the official version). However, YouTube does still have this live acoustic performance. Turns out she can actually sing.