It’s now become the norm for most number ones, even the unimpressive ones, to gain a multiple week run at the top of the charts. As Kate Giff discussed when commenting on Drake’s near record-breaking tenure at the top, the addition of streaming numbers to the charts has evolved how they work significantly. The act of becoming number one simply encourages a multiple week stay without any additional notable media buzz or critical praise. Therefore I’ll be honest and say that I wasn’t particularly surprised when James Arthur succeeded in maintaining his position at number one with his comeback single Say You Won’t Let Go.
In terms of my opinion on this single I frankly don’t differ much from the previous two writers to cover it. Arthur’s vocals do definitely have a pleasing tonality to them and overall the song is an inoffensive listen, although the cutesy, realist, Ed Sheeran/One Direction’s Little Things-esque lyrics are eye roll worthy cliché. However, in general the song is just blandly forgettable, failing to establish any sort of stylistic originality.
Despite my larger ambivalence to the song itself I do in fact have a deep issue with it reaching this level of success. Although I do not have a generalised problem with artists that reach success through The X Factor, in fact I hold absolute guilt-free love for some past contestants, I find it very troubling that an artist like James Arthur can have continued success.
After winning Simon Cowell’s reality TV show in 2012 James began his career in earnest in October 2013 when he released his first You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Loves You. During the moths following his win and after the release of his first single he caused multiple controversies after releasing a diss track to an unknown rapper with homophobic lyrics, insulting fellow X Factor contestant Lucy Spraggan and sleeping with a 17-year-old fan whom he got to buy Blossom Hill for himself then cut off contact with. Though he has gone on to “apologise” for his actions on different occasions I find his contrition somewhat lacking in validity. He told BBC Newsbeat recently he is “extremely disappointed” in himself and that he makes “no excuses” for his actions all the while saying that his words were “taken out of context” which is an excuse. In fact pretty much all apologies Arthur has issued contain some sort of qualification, like when he said that his use of the term “fucking queer” was just a “rap diss” and not meant as a reference to homosexuality. How can calling someone homosexual in a derogatory manner, an insult that is sourced from the discriminatory attitude that gay people are perverse and lesser, not be homophobic?
Generally I believe there’s irresponsibility in allowing public figures that demonstrate such attitudes continued fame and success as it normalises their behaviour and perpetuates discrimination. Here’s hoping that we won’t have to put up with another week of James Arthur at the top of the charts.