Download-Only Hit Song 'Crazy' Tops U.K. Charts



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The hit song "Crazy" by the duo Gnarls Barkley — a collaboration between singer Cee-Lo and producer Danger Mouse — has topped the British pop charts, based exclusively on download sales. Madeleine Brand speaks to DJ G-Money about the historic hit.

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And finally, on today's program, a musical phenomenon in Britain.

(Soundbite of song, “Crazy”)

GNARLES BARKLEY BAND: (Singing) I remember when--I remember, I remember when I lost my mind. There was something so pleasant about that place. Even your emotions had an echo.

BRAND: This is the song, Crazy, by the band, Gnarles Barkley. This week, Crazy became the first song ever to hit No. 1 on the UK's singles chart based on download sales alone. That's right. The CD single is only now in stores today, and the album won't be out for another month. Crazy is yet another sign of the changing times, and the power of digital downloads over more traditional ways of selling records.

(Soundbite of song, “Crazy”)

GNARLES BARKLEY BAND: (Singing) Does that make me crazy? Does that make me crazy? Does that make me crazy? Possibly.

BRAND: Joining me to talk about Gnarles Barkley and their song, Crazy, is DJ G. Money. He's from BBC 1Xtra, and, G Money, welcome to the program.

DJ G. MONEY (DJ and Television Host, BBC 1Xtra): How's it going?

BRAND: Okay, it's going well, and so you've been a big champion of this song, playing it all the time, right?

DJ G. MONEY: I mean, the BBC, in general, like Radio 101, that's where we been playing that record. It's different. It's got something melancholy to it, almost that, you know, it kind of just reaches down and grabs you. You have to listen to that record.

BRAND: It sounds kind of like Al Green.

DJ G. MONEY: Yeah, almost Al Greene, but also, it's got a very Outkast kind of feel as well. They have a track Roses, which sounds very, in terms tempo and beat, very similar to Gnarles Barkley.

BRAND: Okay, who is Gnarles Barkley? It's two guys, right?

DJ G. MONEY: Right, Gnarles Barkley are basically a DJ by the name of Danger Mouse. He's well known on the backpack scene as we say over here. The sort of more organic sound of hip-hop, and he's worked with people like The Gorillas, who you may have heard of over there.

BRAND: That's right.

DJ G. MONEY: Yeah, Cee-Lo Greene; he's more of a southern sort of a rapper, originally, from the (unintelligible). And, basically, he's been in this thing for a minute as well.

BRAND: So what's interesting here is that this single was just released today, but it's already a No. 1 hit.

DJ G. MONEY: Right. Okay, well we have some new chart rules over here, where songs are made available for download the week before they are physically released into the shops, so what you'll tend to find that in the first week, you'll have a song going that may be No. 20, just on strength of downloads alone. And then, when it comes out a week later, everyone goes into the stores and buys the CDs or whatever, then you get the actual chart placement. But what's so unique about Gnarles Barkley is that it's been bought so much on download, that it's gone to the top of the charts.

BRAND: So, this is the first time that's happened?

DJ G. MONEY: The first time it's ever happened, and I think it kind of signals the way in which people are purchasing their music now. It's like, you know, we live in a--I want that song, I want it now kind of society, so it's like no one--the days when we were younger, and we'd say, I can't wait for that record to get released and go down to the shop on the day or release. Right now, the kids are saying, want it now? Buy it now.

BRAND: And the record companies have no choice? They're just saying, okay, I'll do it. I'll give it to you?

DJ G. MONEY: Well, if I was a record company, I'd be very happy right now, because this shows that people are willing to buy music downloads. You know, you always hear about record companies--oh, downloading's going to be the death of us, but, no, this record has demonstrated that people are willing to buy music by a download.

BRAND: Because they're getting the money from the download?

DJ G. MONEY: Definitely, and then, it's like Christmas twice, because all the people who are not technically savvy, they'll go out and buy the physical single next week.

BRAND: Okay. DJ G. Money. He has a music show on BBC 1Xtra, and that's the network's digital music channel, and we've been speaking about the new hit song, Crazy, by Gnarles Barkley, and DJ G. Money, thank you very much for joining us.

DJ G. MONEY: No problem. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.