Drake, Oliver Tree and John Lennon


Welcome back to The Week in Number Ones, where all the biggest moves from the US and UK charts are condensed into one article. Last week, we welcomed Rihanna back to the realm of pop music with her addition to the Black Panther: Wakanda Forever soundtrack, ‘Lift Me Up’. In the United States, SZA narrowly missed the top ten with his TikTok smash ‘Shirt’. We also looked at how Chicago went from proto-jam band to schlockmeisters with their first number one single, “If You Leave Me Now.”

Earlier this week, we received our official nominations for the 2023 Grammys. Me personally? The only reason I don’t give a damn about the Grammys is because of my status as a professional music journalist. That being said, I spent nearly four hours hand-typing each nominee, so I’ll extract as much content as possible.

First, congratulations to the following people on their Grammy nominations: Steve Lacy, Spoon, The War on Drugs, Brandi Carlile, Lizzo, Kendrick Lamar, Wet Leg, Danny Elfman, Turnstile, Rosalía, They Might Be Giants, The Grateful Dead, Burna Boy, Willie Nelson, IDLES, Doc Watson, Wilco, Robert Glasper, Big Thief and Neil Young & Crazy Horse.

Second, shame on the Grammys for some of them: Chris Brown, Louis CK, Machine Gun Kelly, The Chainsmokers, Coldplay, David Guetta and Muse. Brown and Guetta have been featured in this column before, so my distaste for them is well documented. Everyone else probably deserves their awards because there’s nothing more embarrassing than sucking off the Recording Academy and celebrating a Grammy win.

This week, we take a look at another dominating chart from Drake and shine a light on the controversy surrounding Robin Schultz’s remix of Oliver Tree’s “Jerk.” We also revisit the only number one solo song John Lennon ever wrote in his lifetime. All of this and more as we round up the best charting news from the modern and recent past.

Current UK Number One: ‘Anti-Hero’ – Taylor Swift

What is musical plagiarism? These days, it’s hard to find a hit song that doesn’t contain remnants of past works. David Guetta currently has a terrible song that’s just a reinterpretation of another terrible song (it’s two Guetta digs so far – trying to raise my average), while Britney Spears is is emancipated by pushing a bunch of Elton John covers into a single Track.

But what’s happening right now with Oliver Tree and Robin Schultz’ number four hit “Miss You” is a fascinating case study of what you can do with modern music. This story begins with Tree’s debut in 2020, The ugly is beautiful. One of the cuts from this album is called “Jerk,” a rap-rock track with a mid-interest hook at its center.

This track was later remixed by German DJ Southstar, who released the track under his own name as “Miss You”. Basically, Southstar took the chorus of “Jerk”, sped it up, and added their own beats around it. It’s pretty much a different song, so I have no qualms about it being attributed to him. Should Oliver Tree have gotten a feature credit? Almost certainly, but I’m sure he gets a lot of royalties, so there’s nothing to cry about.

This is where it gets interesting: fellow German DJ Robin Schultz now has his own version of “Miss You”, with Tree getting an official credit. Schultz’s version of “Miss You” is almost identical to Southstar’s – same length, same rhythm, same contrived cymbal hits. It takes careful listening to hear the differences between Schultz’s remix and Southstar’s, but Southstar’s name is nowhere to be found on the version of “Miss You” currently rising up the charts.

Southstar’s version is more popular in Germany, but the Schultz version is the most successful track internationally. Does Schultz get all the credit for no work? Did Tree just want to put his name on Southstar’s remix without giving the DJ proper credit? Is there beef, or is everything overdone? It’s hard to say right now, but it’s a fascinating milestone in the continued evolution of pop music, especially in a time when originality could become a liability.

UK Singles Top Ten (week of November 16, 2022):

  1. “Anti-Hero” – Taylor Swift
  2. “Ungodly” – Sam Smith and Kim Petras
  3. ‘Rich Flex’ – Drake and 21 savages
  4. ‘I Miss You’ – Oliver Tree & Robin Schulz
  5. ‘Major Cast’ – Drake & 21 Savage
  6. “Forget Me” – Lewis Capaldi
  7. ‘Circo Loco’ – Drake and 21 Savages
  8. “I Made You Watch” – Meghan Trainor
  9. ‘Messy In Heaven’ – Venbee & Goddard
  10. “Hide and Seek” – Stormzy

Current American number one: “Anti-Hero” – Taylor Swift

The singles era is dead, completely and officially. The way all music charts count single songs hasn’t changed and has changed forever, thanks in large part to the way streaming services let listeners choose which songs they want to save as singles. No official single release is needed: any old cut album can now make it into the top 10 singles.

We saw this phenomenon a few weeks ago when Taylor Swift managed to clinch all ten places in the Billboard Hot 100despite the fact that there was only one official single released from his hit LP, Midnights. This week, we see it again as Drake and 21 Savage round out most of the top ten (and a good chunk of the Hot 100) with album snippets from their brand new collaborative album, His loss.

A full album of average-good disses and raps, His loss would have been massively popular no matter what. Drake and 21 Savage are currently in the top group of A-list artists, regardless of genre. Anyone who follows the charts semi-regularly has probably seen this coming a mile away.

That might not have been enough to knock Swift’s “anti-hero” out of number one, but eight of the top ten aren’t bad either. All 16 songs on the album charted in the top 30 of the Hot 100, which is quickly becoming the standard for massive album releases. Counting the success of albums by sales has been outdated for a few years; Tracking album success by number of songs on the singles chart might be a new metric.

Billboard Top Ten Singles (Week of November 19, 2022):

  1. “Anti-Hero” – Taylor Swift
  2. ‘Rich Flex’ – Drake and 21 savages
  3. ‘Major Cast’ – Drake & 21 Savage
  4. ‘On BS’ – 21 savage
  5. ‘Spin Bout U’ – Drake and 21 Savages
  6. ‘Pussy & Millions’ – Drake & 21 Savage ft. Travis Scott
  7. ‘Preferred Rappers’ – Drake & 21 Savage
  8. ‘Circo Loco’ – Drake and 21 Savages
  9. ‘BackOutsideBoyz’ – Drake and 21 Savages
  10. “Ungodly” – Sam Smith and Kim Petras

This week in issue one: “Anything that gets you going at night” – John Lennon (#1 on the Billboard Hot 100November 16, 1974)

Believe it or not, John Lennon was the fourth and last Beatle to land a number one hit in the United States. In 1974, Paul McCartney landed three number one songs (“Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey”, plus the Wings songs “My Love” and “Band on the Run”), George Harrison had two (“My Sweet Lord” and “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)”, and Ringo Starr had two (“Photograph” and “You’re Sixteen”) Lennon had zero.

That might seem odd, considering how Lennon was considered a major creative force in the early 1970s, especially compared to his former writing partner. It wasn’t for lack of quality material – “Instant Karma! and ‘Imagine’ were both top-five hits, but both peaked just short of the top spot at number three. Whether it was through stiff competition or just bad luck, Lennon seemed largely resigned to never getting a number one song in America.

Then came Elton John. 1974 was a peak year for John, with the singer-songwriter notching two number one hits with ‘Crocodile Rock’ and ‘Bennie and the Jets’. That same year, John would have two more top-five hits with “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” (#2) and “The Bitch Is Back” (#4). The following year, John would land three more number one singles with his cover of the Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds”, as well as the original songs “Philadelphia Freedom” and “Island Girl”. In other words, John was probably the most popular singer in the world.

Around this time, Lennon and John became friends. “It was the kind of wonderful two- or three-year whirlwind romance we had, and it was such a big thing in my life,” John later told Lennon’s son, Sean, in a 2020 interview. “It really helped me. It gave me so much confidence. Your dad was so kind, so generous and sweet, and we hit it off immediately.

This symbiosis finally continued in the studio. Lennon was recording his album Walls and bridges when he joined John and his backing band in the studio. Within hours, the duo had crafted “Whatever Gets You Thru The Night,” a powerful, horn-heavy boogie rock outburst that was practically a duet between the two (although Lennon was credited alone on the single). Spontaneous and energetic, John was so high on the song that he guaranteed Lennon it would be his first number one.

Lennon, knowing his background, was pessimistic. John leveled a bet to Lennon: if ‘Whatever Gets You Thru The Night’ reached number one, Lennon had to join John on stage to sing it. Lennon had never toured as a solo artist and had only performed sporadically since the Beatles went off the road in 1966, but knowing his luck with number one songs, it seemed like an easy bet to win.

To his surprise, Lennon saw “Whatever Gets You Thru The Night” climb to number one in the penultimate month of 1974. Despite his reluctance, Lennon was true to his word. On Thanksgiving Day 1974, Lennon joined John and his band on stage at Madison Square Garden. They performed “Whatever Gets You Thru The Night”, as well as two Beatles songs: “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds”, which the duo had recorded together, and “I Saw Her Standing There”. The performance would be the last time Lennon performed on stage.

Billboard Top Ten Singles (Week of November 16, 1974):

  1. ‘Whatever Gets You Through the Night’ – John Lennon with the Plastic Ono Nuclear Band
  2. ‘Do It’ (’til you’re satisfied)’ – BT Express
  3. “My Love Melody” – Bobby Vinton
  4. ‘Tin Man’ – America
  5. “Homecoming” – John Denver
  6. “I Can Help” – Billy Swan
  7. ‘Longfellow Serenade’ – Neil Diamond
  8. ‘Life is a Rock (But the Radio Rolled Me)’ – Reunion
  9. “Eternal Love” – ​​Carl Carlton
  10. “Carefree Highway” – Gordon Lightfoot

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