This week sees the unveiling of the 1000th album chart topper, after 57 years of chart history. The Beatles have dominated over those years, with fifteen number one albums (dominating 174 weeks), with close followers being Madonna, The Rolling Stones and Elvis Presley. Who will be the 1000th victor?
The very first number one album was claimed by Frank Sinatra with Songs For Swingin’ Lovers in 1956 and initiated the birth of ‘the album’. Although individual tracks proved instantly popular, the study of the albums indicates a sense of what musical styles were supported by society on a more permanent timescale. The purchase of such a list of music showed a certain commitment to the artist; this encouraged the start of ‘personal collections’ of music. Martin Talbot, Chief Exec of the Official Charts Company explains that singles charts reflect the variety of music tastes, but the album chart indicates a long-term trend.
The commencement of the album chart in 1956 is directly linked to the accessibility of music. The vinyl record facilitated the purchasing of music to be played in the home, giving music a whole new role. The vinyl allowed music to be more personal and not just a generic playlist supplied by radio DJs. The swinging 60s saw the music industry explode, especially in the UK, where the revolution of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll was paramount. The Beatles – understandably – are present in the album chart for six decades, and are clearly not willing to relinquish the throne.
One act hoping to claim the 1000th album top spot is Jake Bugg, who has perhaps a similar sound to the Beatles in terms of genre. Nowadays the culture of the album is somewhat abandoned. The invention of the internet perhaps hinders the appreciation of an artist’s work as a whole, with tracks often skipped unthinkingly with ‘shuffle’ functions on most computers. It is this change in listening to music that will affect the most popular album to be crowned this weekend.
Other front runners include, JLS, Robbie Williams and Lady Gaga, with Robbie Williams seen to be in the lead at the halfway mark this week. Lady Gaga’s Artpop demonstrates yet another outrageous cover which could give her the edge in winning the place; is the album cover still as prominent in affecting the consumer?
Iconic albums are landmarks which act as signposts in history. Albums such as Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of The Moon or David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane, reflect the year they were released and the issues within society at that time. Album covers affected the sale of albums as much as the music behind them in early music history. Of course, no one can forget the Fat Bottom Girls album cover by Queen for example, which is a popular collectable. But again it seems our society has changed. Albums are now often bought as MP3 downloads and don’t appear to appeal to the masses unless featuring a semi-naked woman. Could it then be assumed that the music is become the main driving force for the popularity of modern music?
Accessibility still seems to be the deciding factor. One click means a successful sale of a collection of songs and the numbers are instantaneously crunched by the computer. Publicity – often via television – grants music a greater audience; acts such as JLS, who were conceived by Simon Cowell’s X Factor, for example. JLS hope to steal the show with their Greatest Hits album, showing an amalgamation of successful singles which led to their sudden rise to fame.
The album doesn’t seem to have the same significance anymore. The development of music and technology has changed the response of audiences, especially the connection established between the audience and the artist. Acts work at a different pace and deliver a different product so it is hard to hold the consecutive winners to the same standard. The continuation of the album chart through tradition means there must be a winner to hold the 1000th place, but who will it be? Let’s just hope it’s an original artist who will uphold the tradition of good music and can be immortalised as the 1000th top album, making The Beatles proud. As long as Lady Gaga doesn’t claim her third consecutive chart topper and Robbie Williams loses 40,000 sales figures, then – my choice – Jake Bugg will be able to clinch the top spot. Tune in to the Official Chart Show on Sunday to find out…