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Ed Sheeran penalised by new chart rules

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    Ed SheeranImage copyright Atlantic Records / Greg Williams
    Image caption Ed Sheeran has the number album, despite his songs being muzzled in the singles chart

    The chart rules may have changed – but Justin Bieber is still number one.

    Last week, the Official Charts Company overhauled the way it compiles the Top 40 in an effort to stop A-list artists elbowing newer acts out of the way.

    The move was prompted by Ed Sheeran, whose new album ÷ [Divide] proved so popular that it propelled 16 tracks into the top 20 in March.

    Appropriately, he is the main victim of the new rules, with five of his records vanishing from the top 100 this week.

    That’s because artists are only allowed a maximum of three songs in the chart under the new system, meaning lower-ranking Sheeran songs like Happier and New Man have been excluded.

    Top five singles
    1) Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee and Justin BieberDespacito
    2) DJ Khaled ft RihannaWild Thoughts
    3) French Montana ft Swae LeeUnforgettable
    4) Jonas Blue ft William SingeMama
    5) Liam Payne ft QuavoStrip That Down

    Some of his other songs took a massive tumble down the charts, apparently the victim of a second rule penalising tracks that are “well past their peak and in steep, prolonged decline”.

    For those songs, the Official Charts Company is applying a new formula, whereby 300 streams count as one sale (for newer songs, the ratio is 150:1).

    The idea is that the longer a song has been in the charts, the faster it will fall out of the top 100.

    As a result, Sheeran’s former number one Shape Of You, which has been in the Top 40 for 26 weeks, suddenly dropped 12 places after weeks of steady decline.

    Similarly Clean Bandit’s Symphony, which has been in the chart for 16 weeks, dropped 10 places.

    Image copyright Getty Images
    Image caption Justin Bieber sings a verse on the Spanglish number one single Despacito

    Songs that benefited from the move included Selena Gomez’s Bad Liar, which jumped nine places to reach a new peak of 25.

    Alma also saw her single Chasing Highs rocket from 54 to 30, giving the Finnish singer her first ever Top 40 hit.

    At the top end of the charts, the new rules made little difference.

    Luis Fonsi’s Spanish-language smash Despacito, which features a guest verse from Justin Bieber, remained at number one for an eighth week.

    DJ Khaled and Rihanna’s Wild Thoughts, meanwhile, held steady at number two.

    ‘Desperation and panic’

    According to the Official Charts Company, the new rules were designed to “ensure the chart continues to be a showcase for the new hits and talent which are the lifeblood of UK music”.

    But chart analysts questioned the need for the changes.

    “It’s a really odd situation, because it feels like an artificial re-swizzling of things,” said Fraser McAlpine on the Top 40 podcast Unbreak My Chart.

    “Part of the fun of the chart has always been that it reflects what people’s listening habits are.”

    Image copyright Reuters
    Image caption Prince scored six hit singles in the week after his death – but that would be forbidden under the new system

    “If you’ve managed to iron out the possibility that everybody in Britain is suddenly really excited by four songs by the same artist, that seems like an odd way of hammering down on enthusiasm.”

    McAlpine noted that a situation like last April, when six Prince songs entered the Top 100 in the week after his death, would no longer be possible.

    “The charts have never been a pure system,” added his co-presenter Laura Snapes. “But never before have the rules felt like such a blatant attempt to ensure the relevance of the singles chart at a time when it is less relevant than ever.

    “It just seems like desperation and panic”.

    Top five albums
    1) Ed SheeranDivide
    2) Calvin HarrisFunk Wav Bounces Vol 1
    3) Rag N Bone ManHuman
    4) Royal BloodHow Did We Get So Dark
    5) Stone SourHyrograd

    On the album chart, where the system was unchanged, Sheeran remained at number one, closely followed by Calvin Harris’s fourth album, Funk Wav Bounces Vol 1.

    Rag N Bone Man’s Human rose two places to number three, which means it will spend its 21st week in the top five.

    The Bee Gees’ greatest hits album Timeless jumped to number six, bolstered by Barry Gibb’s recent appearance at Glastonbury.

    And TLC saw their final, self-titled album enter the chart at number 40 – an impressive placing given that fans who crowd-funded the project two years ago received their copies for free, making them ineligible for the chart.

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