In an age of streaming, it can feel as though the Official Charts have lost their magic touch. Dominated by big names, the Number One spot is largely a predictable affair. Hearing them non-stop on the radio, watching them sell out the O2 or reading their Twitter trending name; chances are, they will be the ones to secure the title.
However, every so often, something special happens and puts the spark back into the chart race. Last week’s events exemplified this. In a contest that no-one saw coming; the Official Album Chart battle between a pop-megastar and a group of indie newcomers.
In lane one was Lady Gaga with her sixth studio album, Chromatica. Released the previous week, Chromatica had already become the fastest selling album of 2020. A huge amass of 53,000 streams and sales in its first week. In lane two was Sports Team with their debut album, Deep Down Happy. With their tongue in cheek lyrics, the band made their middle class upbringing their muse. Having been pushed by Vevo DSCVR a mere six months ago, the two contenders could not be more different.
All in all, the battle came down to a mere 600 sales. It was Lady Gaga, for the second week running, who managed to maintain her place at the top of the charts. They may have been the runners up, but Sports Team secured the most physical and digital sales. By 2015’s standards, the group would have been the overall winners. Ultimately, it was the so-called ‘stream factor’ that secured Chromatica its crown.
Considering the small number of guitar-fronted bands that make their way into the top of the charts, Sports Team’s fight persists to be a huge success. By deviating from the norm and showing how indie music can challenge mainstream pop, the story of Deep Down Happy should be a lesson for music executives everywhere. If 600 sales are all that separate a global sensation with 53,000,000 monthly listeners on Spotify and a group of friends whose stats are closer to 355,000, there is legitimate justification as to why record labels should stop being so risk-adverse in their signings.
As highlighted by the Reading and Leeds Festival Twitter account, no group has achieved a debut Number One album in four years. With record labels favouring the manufacturing of popstars and established artists, there is little room for up and coming bands to make their way to chart success. With support from Tim Burgess, The Wombats and DIY Magazine, Sports Team’s plight embodies community and excitement inherent to music.
Although the band’s social media campaign to Number One brought on an onslaught of hatred from Lady Gaga stans, a huge corner of Twitter were really rooting for the band. From people exclaiming that they’d “dye their hair pink” if Deep Down Happy went to Number One, to people stating how they’d bought the album multiple times. The general consensus appeared to indicate that plurality within the charts is what music fans want.
So, while the underdog may not have won this time, Sports Team’s success is a lesson for individuals neck-deep in the industry. Who knows, soon we may enter a period whereby the Top 40 is not so heavily weighted towards pop music. The charts are not completely redundant just yet.
Words by Lucy Robinson