The Greatest Showman soundtrack has dominated the albums chart for the whole of 2018. Mark Beaumont reckons it's raising the bar for complacent pop stars
PT Barnham, it transpires, drastically underestimated the birth rate of suckers. There is one born, it can now be mathematically proven, every fifteen seconds. That’s around 40,000 a week, enough to keep the soundtrack to Hugh Jackman’s cheesy Barnham biopic The Greatest Showman at the UK Number One spot for eighteen non-consecutive weeks – it managed eleven on the trot at the start of the year, equalling Adele’s record for the most bulletproof vessel of inconsequential tosh this side of the Popemobile.
“Every year it seems that one particular album takes up residency at the top of the album charts, as unbeatable as a soul-pop Egghead”
Like so many rookie helicopter pilots taking pot-shots at Kong, on they come against it. Craig David’s ‘The Time Is Now’ was crushed beneath its twinkling toes. Fall Out Boy’s ‘Mania’ proved no match for its cane-waggling mediocrity. Camila Cabello’s ‘Camila’ was blinded into the Number Two spot by its relentless 19th Century razzle dazzle, unprepared for the fact that her R&B pop might have sold better if she’d been singing it on a rope with Zac Efron, or through a beard.
Every year it seems that one particular album takes up residency at the top of the album charts, as unbeatable as a soul-pop Egghead. We can usually see it coming a mile off, since it’s always by Adele or Ed Sheeran, and it generally serves as additional proof that between the two of them they’re ruining music for the rest of us and making the albums chart as boring and redundant as a Russian Presidential election.
But The Greatest Showman is different. This isn’t some asinine, formulaic coffer-filler written by committee and lobbed out to the dutiful, braindead masses with all the tedious predictability of a second, even sexier gaggle of half-naked morons turning up on Love Island. The Greatest Showman is a plucky underdog of a record, a bona fide surprise sensation and one, crucially, that’s never going to waste a perfectly good Glastonbury headline slot. So I, for one, think it’s performing a noble and thankless public duty so far. It’s single-handedly raising the bar, guarding the coveted Number One spot from more insidious musical inanities and forcing the complacent, entitled Timberlakes and J Coles of this world to consider upping their game.
Yes, on the one hand it kept Manic Street Preachers from a well-earned second Number One, but it’s also stopped Snow Patrol from waltzing back into the top spot with barely a by-your-leave and made James Bay realise that getting a nice new haircut is no guarantee of chart domination. This week it’s kept Kanye West’s ‘Ye’ from the top of the charts, perhaps finally waking him up to the fact that he’s going to have to try harder to connect with his audience than surprise dropping a record after a week of letting a baboon loose on his Twitter account.
It’s clearly a discerning gatekeeper too, allowing Arctic Monkeys’ acclaimed curveball ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’ its week in the sun (sorry, on the moon). And having it sit there like a top-hatted Chaser gives the albums chart a frisson of challenge for a change – it’s a giant for the Let’s Eat Grandmas to dream of the glory of toppling.
So long live The Greatest Showman, I say. Let us bask in its benevolent reign. For soon the new Florence drops, the circus leaves town and its back to the coffer-filling grind.