It’s often said that the UK charts mean nothing these days. After all, when rules on streaming and sales are constantly changing, what even matters anymore? That’s not strictly true, though. It’s not that they mean nothing—they actually just mean anything, like Mr Brightside being permanently tacked onto the Top 100, or the national (false) treasure Bradley Walsh producing the fastest-selling debut of last year.
This year’s stand-out contender for being an outstandingly confusing success is The Greatest Showman (Original Motion Soundtrack). The film itself did really well, telling the slightly true story of a circus leader called P.T. Barnum, played by Wolverine. But the numbers behind the showtune numbers are off the wall. Since its release last Christmas, the album has flogged almost 1.4 million copies in the UK alone and has been at the top spot for 21 weeks. But how? Why?
I fucking hate musicals. To the point of physically wanting to cauterize my retinas and mutilate my eardrums at the sight or sound of them. Spontaneous saccharine songs mixed with quattro formaggio levels of cheesiness just isn't the one for me.
Clearly, though, I’m in the minority. It’s led to a spin-off LP (The Greatest Showman: Reimagined) featuring James Arthur and Sara Bareilles and now a world tour with Hugh Jackman himself. In a weird way, maybe it has made the charts mean something: bizarrely, 46% of sales were actually hold-in-your-hand copies (vinyl or CD), plus the film’s record-breaking 1.4m sales by July included nearly a million sales of actual DVDs.
To find out more, I spoke to six Greatest Showman fanatics, to see why they think it’s done so well:
Richard Dunbar, 35
So, what's the deal with the hype over the Greatest Showman?
I think the hype is partly to do with the state of the world at the moment. With the harsh realities of austerity, the rise of the far right and the increasing gap between rich and poor, people not only need a bit of escapism but also need to believe things can be different.
Can you convince me why I should like it?
Everybody needs a bit of joy in their lives—even journalists! Seriously though, as well as a form of entertainment and escapism this musical can educate and certainly make you ask questions about many issues around class, discrimination and access to the arts to name but a few.
Kostas Xarmpeas, 28
How much on a scale of 1 (Hugh the hell is he?) to 10 (he's the jackMAN) do you like Hugh Jackman?
It's a 10 for Hugh. Definitely. I love that he combines the manly look with such a beautiful voice and generally the musical love that he has. I love that he doesn't want to label himself as one thing.
What do you love about the soundtrack?
Well I love everything about the soundtrack. First of all the lyrics. Inspiring beautiful lyrics that send your mind to places you wish you could visit. Or the better version of yourself you're trying to become. Or just you. And the lyrics with that music is a perfect combination. Perfect beats that makes you want to stand up and sing really loud and get everything that's eating you inside on the outside.
Kristeen Cantillo, 47
How many times do you reckon you've listened to the soundtrack?
I honestly couldn’t count. It was like everyday, for three months on repeat.
Wow, that's a lot! So at least over 100, right?
Yes. That’s about right. I thought it was too much but I’ve seen some friends post on Facebook and did the same.
The film got quite a lot of shit reviews from critics—what would you say to them?
Come down from their high horses.
Sophie-Jayne Bridgens, 21
When did you first cop a copy of the soundtrack?
I have a radio show on University Radio York (URY) where I discuss and play songs from Hollywood films, West End cast recordings and Broadway. We started playing their songs when the first singles came out, in early December last year.
There's been a load of musical soundtracks released this year, from Mamma Mia to A Star Is Born. Why has this done so much better?
Mamma Mia is ABBA, people love ABBA, and I love ABBA – I’ll dance to it till the cows come home. I haven’t listened to or seen A Star Is Born. This, to me, is better, because it’s a new musical with new songs, and with Hugh Jackman.
What do you think of the world arena tour? Are you planning to go?
I think yeah I’ll try to, depending on ticket price and when it is. But yes, because Hugh is a showman and I know he’d put on a proper show.
…uh, interesting, I guess.
You can find Kyle on Twitter.
This article originally appeared on Noisey UK.