Music

Do We Love Post Malone As Much As Michael Jackson, Or Are The ARIA Charts Kind Of Broken?

Should an artist really have 16 songs in the singles chart at once?

If the ARIA charts are anything to go by, then Post Malone is basically Australia’s new king.

The rapper’s second album, Beerbongs & Bentleys, has utterly crushed its first week of release: it’s debuted at #1 on the Albums Chart, while lead single ‘Psycho’ is top of the Singles Chart. But that’s not the most impressive part: 16 of the album’s 17 tracks currently rank in ARIA’s Top 50 Singles Chart.

The only missing track, ‘Jonestown’, is an one minute interlude — which makes it ineligible to chart.

It’s not just Australia, either. In the US, Post Malone is enjoying similar success, with each track on the album snaking its way onto the Billboard Top 100 and beating out a record previously held by The Beatles in the process.

Clearly, Beerbongs & Bentleys is a smash. But does Australia actually love Post Malone that much, or are the ARIA charts kind of broken?

Wait, How Is This Happening?

First things first: if you’re about to Google “Who is Post Malone?”, here’s the quick rundown.

Post Malone is Austin Richard Post, a white rapper from Texas just as identifiable by his barbed-wire face tattoo as his post-genre approach to rap. Recently, Post played warm-up to Beyoncé at Coachella, using the opportunity to call out critics who called him a “one hit wonder” when his song ‘White Iverson’ went viral in 2015. Evidently, he was right.

According to ARIA, Beerbongs & Bentleys now matches Michael Jackson’s record for the most songs in the Top 50 at the same time — a feat the icon achieved in July 2009, the month after his death.

If that statistic feels a little off to you, streaming is to blame.

Back in 2014, the ARIAs followed suit with their US and UK counterparts and started counting streaming numbers to make the single charts more accurately reflect what we’re actually listening to. Currently, every 175 streams equals one sale.

In theory, this is sound, given that streaming has now become the foremost way Australians listen to music.

Unfortunately, what actually happened is that the album and single charts have begun to blur. With every streamed song now viewed as a single, multiple tracks on large-profile releases are threading their way through the list.

Last March, Ed Sheeran set the precedent for Post Malone when each song on his album Divide charted. But later releases from Adele, Taylor Swift and Drake also made their multi-track mark, albeit with slightly more modesty.

Faced with a similar issue in the UK, the now-defunct music podcast UnBreak My Chart called the onslaught the “Sheeran Singularity”. Then two weeks after Divide was released, the singularity was succeeded by the “DrED Duality”, when Drake released his ‘mixtape’ More Life.

And now, it’s Malonely at the top.

Why Should We Care?

Statistics may be a little dry, but the ARIA charts remain the best metric for discerning what music our country cares about and listens to.

Behind the numbers, they tell a story of what’s connecting at this current pop culture moment. Statistically speaking, Post Malone’s album is of much cultural resonance as Michael Jackson’s death, which is absurd.

The way we listen to music may have changed, but in ARIAs attempt to keep up, the new metric is over-inflating the importance of album tracks.

“Statistically speaking, Post Malone’s album is of much cultural resonance as Michael Jackson’s death, which is absurd”

Writing for The Industry Observer at the height of Divide‘s dominance, Nathan Jolly likened the current ARIA singles chart records to comparing American baseball stats of all-time greats and the mass dopers of the 1990s.

No matter how big the release was, labels and management have never had the resources to promote 16 of one artist’s songs at once, even if they wanted to. To paraphrase Lily Allen, the current single charts aren’t fair to pre-2014 releases — and worse, it’s ahistorical.

We already have an album chart to let us know lots of Australians are listening to Post Malone. The singles chart should celebrate individual tracks, providing breathing space for new talents and local artists. It’s questionable whether that’s currently the case, given ARIA confirmed to Junkee that no Australian tracks hit #1 last year — for the first time since 1999.

Last June, the UK Official Charts changed their charting rules by restricting musicians to a maximum of three tracks at a time. They also created an algorithm to ease out songs which had overstayed their welcome, outlining that “the changes are designed to ensure the chart continues to be a showcase for the new hits and talent which are the lifeblood of UK music.” An ARIA representative confirmed that they are “constantly reviewing” the way streaming is accounted for, and are keeping an eye on other country’s solutions.

The Sheeran Singularity is over, but who knows when Australia will be post-Post Malone.

Jared Richards is a staff writer for Junkee and co-hosts Sleepless In Sydney on FBi Radio. Follow him on Twitter.