1 BELIEVE (Cher)
Absolutely incredible. All predictions were that this was to be the week that Believe's run at the top of the charts came to an end. The single has now sold over one million copies (so who can be left to buy it?) and the trickle of big new releases was about to become a torrent with just two weeks to go until the big Christmas chart. Against all the odds it seems and after being involved midweek in a two-way battle with Jay-Z, Cher once more comes out on top and claims the honour of the biggest selling single in the country for a seventh successive week. Believe is now the longest running Number One single since the Spice Girls' Wannabe also managed a seven-week run in the summer of 1996. Just to put this in perspective, of the more than 800 singles to reach Number One in this country only 20 of them have spent longer at the top of the charts. Of female soloists, only Whitney Houston and Doris Day have had a longer running chart-topppers, I Will Always Love You clocking up ten weeks in 1992 whilst Secret Love managed 8 weeks in 1954.
Serious questions now have to be asked as to whether the single can manage the unthinkable and stay on top to become the Christmas Number One. The annual game is upon us once more when the press starts to take an interest in release schedules and bookmakers take thousands of pounds from people wanting to predict just which single will be the nation's biggest seller come Christmas week. The last two years have been something of a one-horse race with the Spice Girls walking off with the honours on both occasions. Their brand new offering Goodbye is released next week [if that was the original plan it was changed in short order] to be just in time for the seasonal countdown and although it is odds-on favourite to be top of the pile it is worth remembering that releases from the likes of Boyzone and Robbie Williams has in recent weeks also been considered dead-cert Number One singles. Cher has seen off the lot of them.
2 HARD KNOCK LIFE (GHETTO ANTHEM) (Jay-Z)
OK this is actually rather worrying. My music teacher at junior school was always a fan of the musical Annie and made us learn virtually all of the songs by heart. Now someone has made a rap single out of one of them. Said honour falls to Jay-Z with the title track from his new album that is currently holding the US charts to ransom. Whilst you may wonder at the incongruity of having a group of children singing on a record that comes with a "explicit lyrics" advisory sticker there is no doubting the appeal of the song and Jay-Z's recent TV performance complete with the London cast of Annie onstage with him will have helped the singles fortunes no end. After being neck and neck all week with Cher the single eventually can only reach Number 2 but it is still far and away the biggest hit of Jay-Z's career. Bizarrely this is the first time he has charted as a solo artist. Since the start of 1997 he has been credited with seven Top 40 hits yet all but this one have been in collaborations with other artists. Although officially this is his third hit of the year he has featured on a fourth, contributing a rap to Another Level's debut Be Alone No More, a contribution that went largely unnoticed as it was edited out of the version of the track issued to radio stations. [For those keeping score, this was the track that made Jay-Z more than any other. Although the Dr Evil version should have destroyed him again].
3 WHEN YOU'RE GONE (Bryan Adams featuring Melanie C.)
After the rather understated chart performance of On A Day Like Today (Number 13), Canada's biggest ever rock star makes a return to Top Ten form with the second single from his current album. The track's main selling point of course is the presence of Spice Girl Melanie Chisholm on vocals, Bryan Adams having invited her into the studio earlier this year when the girls were on their American tour. Rather than turning the single into a two-way vocal dance she instead sings a perfect harmony vocal all the way through, as befits her status as the Spice Girl with the best singing voice. Of course the harmony could have been done by any session singer you care to name but the Spice Girl gets co-credit on the single and the resultant interest has almost certainly helped the single to land at Number 3, Bryan Adams' biggest UK hit since All For Love reached Number 2 in February 1994. This of course means two out of the four remaining Spice Girls have now appeared on Top 3 hits outside the group, Mel B having had a Number One single with Missy Elliot in the summer. If things go to plan Mel C could well find herself featuring on two singles when the Christmas Top Ten is unveiled a fortnight from now.
4 NO REGRETS/ANTMUSIC (Robbie Williams)
It was always going to be the centerpiece of the album, the song that virtually all reviewers picked up on as the perfect example of just how far Robbie Willams has come. Now released as a single, the lavish epic No Regrets makes the perfect follow-up to the Number One single Millenium but this time round has to settle for fourth place in the face of such strong competition from this week's other releases. Although a solo single in name the record is graced with guest vocals from both Neil Hannon of the divine comedy and Neil Tennant from the Pet Shop Boys who both have vocal lines in keeping with their own musical style. There are far better pop records waiting to be released from the album but Christmas is always the time for the big production number and the man who is without a doubt one of the biggest pop stars this country has to offer will go into the festive period with a massive hit to his name, and quite rightly so.
5 BIG BIG WORLD (Emilia)
Almost without anyone noticing this year has become the year of the Scandinavian female. Already this year the likes of Kristine Blond and Meja have had hit singles and they are now joined by Swedish star Emilia who has managed the biggest of them all. Already a massive hit all over Europe, Big Big World is one of those songs that could hardly fail. With its gentle nursery-rhyme melody and haunting vocal it is certain to remain on the chart for the next few weeks to become one of the big sellers this Christmas.
7 TAKE ME THERE (Blackstreet/MYA featuring Mase)
The Rugrats movie will not open here until the new year but that hasn't stopped the theme already becoming a massive hit single. Anyone familiar with the antics of Anjelica et al will be familiar with the melody of Blackstreet's single as it is heavily based on the theme to the original TV cartoon. It is the first hit for Teddy Riley's group this year, and comes exactly a year since their last single (Money Can't) Buy Me Love reached Number 18. Mya who shares the vocals, is on her second hit single this year, the first of course being in collaboration with Pras Michel on Ghetto Supastar. Although not a novelty single as such any record based on the theme to a TV series will have a certain amusing charm that can only benefit it at this time of year. Be warned... Kyle, Cartman, Kenny, Stan and Chef are just days away from invading the UK chart as well.
11 THE EVERLASTING (Manic Street Preachers)
During the course of this year it has been quite entertaining to witness the bleatings of the writers and readers of magazines such as NME and Melody Maker as they scream that the Manic Street Preachers have moved so far from their original pseudo-punk roots that they are apparently guilty of the biggest sell-out in British music history simply by making well-produced records that are selling to enormous amounts of people. This is of course patent rubbish. The truth of the matter is that the Manics have matured in the eight years since their first single was released into a shining example of everything that is good about British music. One only has to listen to the current album to hear all the evidence you need of this. Their first ever Number One single is now followed up by this second single, another superb piece of songwriting, beautifully played and movingly sung. To find a record not to your personal taste is one thing, to scream blue murder because a band is now making sophisticated records to appeal to a mass audience rather than slashing themselves with razorblades is inverted snobbery at its very worst. Just to leave you in no doubt, I bought the Manic Street Preachers debut Generation Terrorists when it first came out. Little Baby Nothing and Motorcycle Emptiness rank as two of my favourite singles ever. The Everlasting ranks alongside both of those in terms of its quality and capacity to move me. Long may they go on making records like this.
12 I WANT YOU '98 (Savage Garden)
I Want You was first released in June 1997 as Savage Garden's first single in this country. Few people knew anything about the duo but the track sounded great on the radio and it made a respectable enough Number 11. Sadly their career appeared to have peaked there as the followup To The Moon And Back failed to reach the Top 40. 1997 was not to be Savage Garden's year. Happily their year turned out to be 1998 instead as Truly Madly Deeply made Number 4 and spent 11 weeks in the Top 10 whilst a re-release of To The Moon And Back sent it flying to Number 3. The next logical move was to re-release the single that first came out when the duo were relative unknowns, despite the fact that it was far from a flop first time round. With a new remix to beef it up slightly the single still sounds like one of the best songs Roxette never wrote and dutifully lands back in the chart, one place behind its original peak from 17 months ago.
13 HAVE YOU EVER (Brandy)
After two successive Number 2 singles which saw Brandy go some way to approaching the superstardom she enjoys in America, she has to settle for a slightly less impressive Top 20 placing for this single, despite the presence of Diane Warren on songwriting duties.
23 BLUE (LeAnn Rimes)
It would be wrong to assume that she will never again have a big hit single but for the moment LeAnn Rimes will find anything she releases eclipsed by the runaway success of How Do I Live which, as has been well documented elsewhere, set new standards for chart longevity in the 1990s, spending over 30 weeks in the Top 40 and winding up as one of the biggest selling singles of the year despite never climbing higher than Number 7. This is actually her third single to chart this year, Looking Through Your Eyes was the second, that single making a belated and somewhat brief appearance at Number 38 in September, during which time How Do I Live was still in the Top 30. Blue is a cover of the Patsy Cline song, a faithful version of the country standard complete with slide guitars. It makes a respectable showing at Number 23 and will doubtless inspire many a middle-aged housewife to shed a few tears over the Christmas holidays. No prizes however for guessing which LeAnn Rimes song will feature heavily in year-end retrospectives in a few weeks time.
32 FUNKY LOVE (Kavana)
Something tells me Kavana is discovering that the move away from cute looking teen idol into sophisticated musician isn't always an easy path to tread. His last single Special Kind Of Something was largely well received but only made a brief chart appearance at Number 13. The follow-up fares much worse despite again being actually a rather well sung, well produced pop-funk track. It is just that it sounds like a George Michael b-side. Maybe the world isn't yet ready for Kavana the funky urban artist. He should talk to Peter Andre sometime.
33 ALARM CALL (Bjork)
By her standards this has been a rather disappointing year for Bjork and one that appeared to culminate a few months ago with her worst chart performance for a long time, the single Hunter only reaching Number 44 in October. Happily the balance is redressed slightly with Alarm Call, another single culled from the album Homogenic, lifting her into the Top 40 for the first time since Bachelorette reached Number 21 exactly 51 weeks ago. It is a far cry from this time three years ago when It's Oh So Quiet was in the process of becoming her biggest hit ever but the way this single evokes memories of classic Sugarcubes singles from years ago means its audience was always bound to be restricted.
34 GHETTO GIRL (Simply Red)
Mick Hucknall rounds off the year with the third single to be lifted from the album Blue and one which debuts at a surprisingly low position. For many artists this would be a time to panic but past history will reveal that Simply Red singles have always performed rather erratically. One only has to point to three years ago when Fairground gave the act their first ever Number One single only for the follow up Remembering The First Time to only reach Number 22, coincidentally a few weeks before Christmas. Even so, Ghetto Girl is the worst performing Simply Red single for many a long year. Maybe it is the way the reggae influences in the single would be better suited to UB40, maybe it is the fact that it is the third single to be released from an averagely-selling album but Ghetto Girl is set to become their lowest charting single since You Got It could only reach Number 46 in October 1989.