1 C'EST LA VIE (B*witched)
[If you were in any doubt at all that 1998 was one of those rare golden years for pop music, this hopefully should act as the final confirmation].
Some records are just so good it is hard to know where to begin. For some reason the May/June period is when pop music starts to get good, really good, kickstarting the summer into life as it were and on this occasion this track kickstarts the charts into life, heading up a rush of quality new singles that are about to totally transform the Top 40. It is fitting that C'est La Vie should be one of them. With the Spice Girls on the verge of self-destruction the timing of B*witched could not be better with Sinead, Edele, Keavy and Linsday perfectly placed to become the next superstar girl band. The single has been described by the record company as Chumbawamba meets Aqua and that really sums it up perfectly, a swinging, bubbly Irish-flavoured pop song that bursts into a Irish jig during the instrumental and is almost flawless in its execution. It races to Number One a mile ahead of the competition to give the group (two of whom are the twin sisters of Shane from Boyzone) an instant Number One with their first release. Musical snobbery be damned, C'est La Vie is a perfect example of how great pop music can be and proves that when it is good it is very, very good indeed.
2 THE BOY IS MINE (Brandy & Monica)
Just to prove that the total can often be more than the sum of its parts, the second biggest new hit of the week is the current American Number One, the inspired pairing of two American R&B singers whose careers over here have hitherto been somewhat uninspiring. Taking Brandy first of all, her first chart hit came in 1995 when I Wanna Be Down crept to Number 36. She followed that up in February 1996 with Sittin' Up In My Room which made Number 30 but since then has failed to reach the Top 40. Monica's chart career to date has been slightly more successful, she has had no less than four Top 40 hits, the biggest of which was Before You Walk Out Of My Life which made Number 22 in June 1996. Notice neither girl has had what could be described as a major smash hit - until now. The American hit comes out of left field to land straight in the Top 3 and maybe provide something of a fillip to the careers of both singers, whether separately or together.
3 HORNY (Mousse T vs. Hot N' Juicy)
There are indeed dramatic developments at the top of the chart this week. Mousse T's dance smash becomes the third new entry in the Top 3, only the second time in chart history that the three best-selling singles of the week have been brand new releases. Don't expect the pressure to slow down any time at all in the last few weeks as the chart prepare to be invaded by a slew of records all dedicated to the summer's biggest sporting event - the 1998 World Cup.
6 COME BACK TO WHAT YOU KNOW (Embrace)
With their debut album set to be released the frenzy surrounding Embrace is building up to a fever pitch. Their last hit All You Good Good People established them as potential Top 10 hitmakers and so it proves with this epic sounding track, one which demonstrates that the comparisons with Oasis and The Verve are far from misplaced. The single could well turn out to be their anthem, a soaring ballad that is made by the superb production that features a full blown string arrangement to quite moving effect. The lads only live a few minutes around the corner from me so it is hard to be really objective but this could possibly turn out to be their greatest moment on record. [Yeah, it was].
11 KUNG FU FIGHTING (Bus Stop featuring Carl Douglas)
Three weeks on the chart now for the rap remake of the 70s classic which has registered an improvement each time, moving slowly from 13-12-11. Notice that the climb this week is quite an impressive feat with four strong new entries in the Top 10 raising the stakes near the top of the charts and causing dramatic falls for some of the hits that rallied in the face of last week's stillwater. Kung Fu Fighting rises above that and becomes the only one of last week's Top 40 hits to improve its position.
12 ICE HOCKEY HAIR (Super Furry Animals)
A remarkeable new entry for the Super Furry Animals which takes them to hitherto unknown heights. They appeared to have found their level with their four Top 40 hits last year which all peaked between 24 and 27. Seven months on from their last release and this new single betters them at a stroke and gives the labelmates of Oasis their biggest hit to date, past even the Number 18 peaks of their 1996 breakthrough hits Something 4 The Weekend and If You Don't Want Me To Destroy You.
16 HE GOT GAME (Public Enemy)
What a joy to behold, both of Def Jam's most celebrated acts both holding down Top 40 positions. As Run DMC slip down and out of the chart another set of rap veterans take their place, this time the reformed Public Enemy who duly post their first chart hit since 1995. Their more hardcore style has never lent itself to big commercial hits and nobody has ever thought (dared?) to mix them with a well known melody so it has been left for their own productions to work for them. Since their 1987 debut with Rebel Without A Pause the group have had a mere 8 Top 40 hits before this one but suddenly He Got Game has surpassed them all and is their biggest UK hit to date. It is their fourth Top 20 hit in all and the first to climb past Number 18.
17 HEAVEN'S WHAT I FEEL (Gloria Estefan)
Another artist returning after a long break is Gloria Estefan and she does so in inspired form. This uptempo pop stormer is exactly what she needed to give her career a shot in the arm and it lands neatly inside the Top 20, her first chart hit since Christmas 1996. It is her biggest hit since Reach made Number 15 in May 1996 and her 15th Top 20 hit since 1984, including all her hits with Miami Sound Machine. Interestingly it was back in the MSM days that she had her biggest hits, hitting the Top 10 four times between 1984 and 1989. Since the band faded into the background Gloria Estefan the solo singer has struggled to hit the higher reaches of the charts. Her first solo hit Don't Wanna Lose You made Number 6 but since then her only Top 10 appearance was at Christmas 1992 with the Miami Hit Mix, ironically a restrospective megamix of her early hits. Of all her chart hits since only 1994s Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me has come close to breaking into the Top 10, peaking at Number 11.
18 BOOM BOOM (N-Tyce)
The fourth hit for N-Tyce and seemingly the fourth in succession to land quietly inside the Top 20 before slipping just as quietly away again. The followup to February's Telefunkin' hits Number 18 to become their second smallest hit to date, only their debut Hey DJ peaked lower, making Number 20 in July last year.
19 WISHING I WAS THERE (Natalie Imbruglia)
The law of diminishing returns ensures that Natalie Imbruglia's third hit single falls some way short of the Number 2 peaks of both Torn and Big Mistake. This new hit treads the same path as its predecessor, written by Natalie herself apparantly from a poem she wrote several years ago. Unlike seemingly everyone I work with I won't pretend to be a massive fan of her music, to me she is just another sub-Alanis clone with little to offer beyond the hype that has surrounded her looks and her TV background. I await the response to her second album with a great deal of interest.
23 CURIOUS (Levert/Sweat/Gill)
The second hit single for the R&B supergroup threesome follows the same path as the first, slotting nicely into the Top 30 without looking likely to generate any more widespread appeal. It peaks two places lower than My Body which charted back in March. The major selling point of the single is the guest rap featuring LL Cool J, Busta Rhymes and most interestinly of all MC Lyte. Lyte was hyped to the ends of the earth in the late 1980s and even appeared on a flop Sinead O'Connor single I Want Your Hands On Me in 1988. Her only Top 40 apprearance under her own name came in 1996 when Keep On Keepin' On reached Number 39.
27 BEEN A LONG TIME (Fog)
Here is something of a blast from the past, Been A Long Time first emerged as a club hit in the early 90s, nobody I know is quite sure when but 1992 seems to be the consensus. It didn't gain full commercial release until 1994 when it peaked at Number 44 but now becomes yet another lost dance hit to benefit from a revival and a new set of remixes. Sounding more like a piece of classic rare groove from the early 80s than a modern day club hit the track finally becomes a Top 40 hit a full six years after it was made.
29 RUNAGROUND (James)
James notch up their 15th Top 40 single with the release of this track, lifted once more from their current Greatest Hits collection but which has struggled for airplay exposure and looks unlikely to match the Number 17 peak of their last hit Destiny Calling. As the still-charting hits collection proved, despite the sometimes lowly chart positions of their past hits they have never really made a bad record and have been remarkeably consistent with it. Since their chart breakthrough with How Was It For You in May 1990 they have only once missed the Top 40 with the Seven EP which itself was maybe a consequence of one single release too many from the album.
34 DRINKING IN LA (Bran Van 3000)
Canadian readers will recognise this hit, a smash hit in their country last year and one which now escapes over here to give the wonderfully titled Bran Van 3000 their first ever UK chart single. [A track which would do far better second time around just over 12 months later].
36 I WOULD FIX YOU (Kenickie)
Back with a new album and apparantly a new desire to prove that their musical skills are equal to their looks, Kenickie immediately discover that the big chart success that has been predicted of them for so long is still going to be a struggle to achieve. Their three hit singles from 1997 all charted lower and lower and this brand new single barely struggles to top the Number 38 peak of the re-released Punka, their last hit in July last year. Maybe if they learned that a good song needs more than just a pleasant sounding chorus...
39 THE ABBEY ROAD EP (Spiritualized)
This new single from Spiritualized is a collection of tracks recorded during spare studio time when the band were at the legendary Abbey Road studios to contribute to the new Doctor John album. Whilst there they produced several new songs plus the lead track, a complete re-recording of the album track Come Together and the resultant EP gives them their second Top 40 hit of the year - I Think I'm In Love made Number 27 in February.