From Drake to Wet Wet Wet: songs with 10 weeks at No 1 – ranked!

As God’s Plan by Drake threatens to hit 10 weeks at No 1 on Friday – making him the first artist to achieve that feat for a second time – here are the other chart overachievers

11. David Whitfield – Cara Mia

10 weeks, 1954

Before rock’n’roll, the British charts hosted music for people who had lived through the second world war and wanted not hot thrills but comfort. Hence this romantic ballad, bafflingly syrupy and excessive to modern ears. Written in 1954, it might as well have hailed from Victorian times: music with the reassuring – if false – message that nothing had changed.

10. Bryan Adams – Everything I Do (I Do It for You)

16 weeks, 1991

Bryan Adams’s passive-aggressive perennial newlyweds’ first dance presided over a chart liberally populated with ultra-modern post-acid house pop and screeching hardcore rave anthems. Perhaps it provided the same function in 1991 as Englebert Humperdink or Ken Dodd had at the height of psychedelia: a comfortingly familiar escape from the shock of the new.

Wet Wet Wet on stage in 1994.
Wet Wet Wet on stage in 1994. Photograph: Michael Putland/Getty Images

9. Wet Wet Wet – Love Is All Around

15 weeks, 1994

No 1 the week Oasis’s Definitely Maybe was released, perhaps Wet Wet Wet’s Troggs cover – from Richard Curtis’s Four Weddings and a Funeral – offered a nan-friendly counterpart to the parochialism and 60s fetishisation that fuelled Britpop. Far more eccentric than either was Troggs vocalist Reg Presley spending his royalties trying to prove the existence of crop-circle-creating aliens.

8. Frankie Laine – I Believe

18 weeks, 1953

The old shibboleth that Britain doesn’t really “get” country music is belied by the early 50s charts, which were packed with the stuff. Frankie Laine specialised in cowboy themes, although his biggest hit was less exotic: a hymn-like ballad written in 1952, and intended by its authors to offer American listeners comfort in the face of the Korean war.

Whitney Houston at Wembley Arena in 1988.
Whitney Houston at Wembley Arena in 1988. Photograph: David Corio/Redferns

7. Whitney Houston – I Will Always Love You

10 weeks, 1992

Comparing Dolly Parton’s understated I Will Always Love You to Whitney Houston’s subsequent blockbuster-isation is like comparing a sadly resigned last embrace with a 3am drunk-dialling call from a hysterical ex that leaves you considering a restraining order. Still, there’s a case to be made for the self-possessed power of Houston’s vocal at the start of the song at least.

6. Drake – One Dance

15 weeks, 2017

A little like Drake’s current smash God’s Plan, which may get a 10th week at the top this week, One Dance is an odd candidate for huge success. It’s by some distance the subtlest record in this list. Sparse, restrained and infinitely less hook-laden than, say, Hotline Bling, it’s a song that gradually works its way under your skin rather than slaps you in the face with its self-evident smash-hit quality.

Ed Sheeran on stage at Glastonbury, 2017.
Ed Sheeran on stage at Glastonbury, 2017. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA

5. Ed Sheeran – Shape of You

14 weeks, 2017

An Ed Sheeran single even his loudest detractor might struggle to dismiss as a symptom of cultural malaise, Shape of You is a fantastic piece of pop songwriting, TLC “homage” and all. If it was by anyone else, it would have been lauded: as it is, he will have to content himself with having the biggest-selling single of 2017 on both sides of the Atlantic.

4. Slim Whitman – Rose Marie

11 weeks, 1955

Not much mainstream pop from the immediately pre-Elvis era stands up today, but the signature tune of Florida-born country singer Slim Whitman remains oddly haunting. It sounds not just sparse but eerie: a wracked vocal swathed in reverb, set to a clanking, vaguely-out-of-tune piano and ghostly wisps of pedal steel.

3. Luis Fonsi – Despacito (feat Daddy Yankee)

11 weeks, 2017

A quintessential summer hit, Despacito proved the vanguard of both a renaissance in Latin-flavoured pop and the smart music industry trick of maximising a track’s global reach by repurposing it for different markets, but at its core was an undeniable pop song.

2. Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody

14 weeks, 1975 and 1991

Nudging into this list on a technicality – its two stays at the top are separated by 16 years – it’s easy to forget what a peculiar No 1 Bohemian Rhapsody is: six-minutes long, preposterously camp, utterly nonsensical, an episodic piece of prog rock released exactly as prog rock faltered. And yet, look at the YouTube video of the crowd singing it at a 2017 Green Day gig in Hyde Park: people adore it, testament to its ineffable, beguiling power.

1. Rihanna – Umbrella

10 weeks, 2007

If this list teaches us anything, it’s that a record-setting stay at No 1 is no guarantee of a single’s quality. But Rihanna’s Umbrella is a genuinely exceptional pop song. Admittedly, it begins unpromisingly, with a rotten guest appearance by Jay-Z – “Rain man is back,” he offers at one point, choosing words that convey something other than what he meant – but after he pushes off, it’s perfect: an arms-aloft power ballad repurposed as ultra-modern R&B, a coolly detached vocal at odds with the soppy You’ve Got a Friend sentiment, a delirious clouds-parting middle eight, an earworm hook. Given its title, it seems a curiously inappropriate summer smash, but that’s to forget the summer of 2007, when, in Britain at least, it tipped it down on a daily basis.


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Alexis Petridis

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