This week's Official UK Singles Chart

1 BABY ONE MORE TIME (Britney Spears)

Boy was this one close. Having matched the new Blur single almost sale for sale over the course of the last week, Baby One More Time now achieves what we all thought was impossible and becomes the first single since Cher's Believe to spend more than seven days at Number One. It is no mean feat as well, after all, the single has now become the fastest-selling debut release ever and was widely predicted by most (including myself I have to admit) to be unable to sustain the momentum and last any longer at the top than any other record has this year. That it has done so is undoubtedly a testament to the quality of the single and the mass appeal it is commanding. I should point out that this is a commentary with a difference this week as I am not in the UK at all to write this but rather I am in Seattle near the West coast of America where I can confirm that Britney Spears is just as big over here and by the looks of things can only get bigger.


2 TENDER (Blur)

Once again a new single proves that talk of the ability of record companies to manipulate the charts for their own agenda is at best fanciful talk. The evidence this week comes in the shape of the epic new single from Blur which was widely expected after all the hype, all the anticipation and all the praise to charge straight in at Number One. Of course this is only possible if you get enough people to buy the records in the first place and as it happens, although Tender sold more copies than some Number One singles this year, it has to settle for landing at Number 2. Not that it matters, the seven and a half minute track is already a candidate for the single of the year. Blur have moved the goalposts once more and produced a gospel-tinged track that is as far removed from the raucousness of Beetlebum and Song 2 as it is from the cheery pop commercialism of Country House and Parklife. Produced by William Orbit (whose substitutes planks of wood for proper drums) and featuring the voices of the London Community Gospel Choir on the singalong climax to the track. You wonder if this is how John Lennon would have wanted Give Peace A Chance to sound had he been recording it today.


3 IT'S NOT RIGHT BUT IT'S OK (Whitney Houston)

Although her duet with Mariah Carey on When You Believe was also taken from the album, as far as most people are concerned this is the first official single release from Whitney's new studio album My Love Is Your Love which was quietly released just before Christmas and is now beginning to grow in appeal. This is the track she performed at the Brit awards a fortnight ago and a track that proves Whitney is able to perform on a modern R&B track and match the abilities of all the young pretenders that have come along whilst she has spent most of the decade making movies. It's Not Right But It's OK may be far removed from the pop brilliance of her work in the late 80s but it is still an astounding record and in crashing straight into the Top 3 becomes her biggest hit single since Run To You and I Have Nothing from the Bodyguard soundtrack both made the Top 3 in 1993. The slow-building, brooding nature of the song provokes comparisons with The Boy Is Mine, perhaps unsurprisingly both tracks were written by Rodney Jerkins who also sits in the producer's chair on this recording.


4 JUST LOOKING (Stereophonics)

The follow-up to The Bartender And The Thief (Top 5 in November last year) makes a similarly strong debut in this week's chart and can be chalked up as another major success for the Stereophonics. A less immediate track than its predecessor but still a rather impressive advert for their new album.


5 STRONG ENOUGH (Cher)

Here in America Believe is finally beginning to gain a toehold and is on the playlist of just about every mainstream station you care to mention. Cher's performance of the track at the Brit awards last month was probably the song's final burst in the UK and she now moves on to the second single from her current album. Strong Enough is every bit a worthy successor to her record-breaking Number One. This time Cher goes disco and makes the kind of record she never really got round to recording in the 1970s. Essentially this is I Will Survive Part II with a slow building start, swirling strings and a joyful singalong chorus. Just for a change a record highly derivative of another does not suffer for it at all and this is surely another potential classic in the making, even if it won't sell a million this time around.


7 ERASE/REWIND (Cardigans)

Hot on the heels (well it seems like it given all the airplay it is still getting) of My Favourite Game comes the second single from the Gran Turismo album and it follows its predecessor straight into the Top 10 (their third such hit). More restrained than the aforementioned single Erase/Rewind is still another example of the Cardigans as they are at present, at the height of their songwriting abilities.


9 LULLABY (Shawn Mullins)

This guy is all over the radio in the States at present and his debut single has also made an impact in the UK that most other new artists would kill for. Sounding both spookily and joyfully like Lou Reed, Shawn Mullins growls his way through this modern rock ballad and in the process finds himself with a Top 10 hit first time out. Given the current chart climate this is actually one of the most unexpected hit singles of the year yet as this chart entry proves, its appeal is incredibly widespread. A man to watch in future. [Needless to say, he ended up pretty much a one hit wonder].


10 WRITTEN IN THE STARS (Elton John and LeAnn Rimes)

Having in the past recorded duets with just about anyone you care to name, Elton John now teams up with someone entertainingly young enough to be his Granddaughter. Written In The Stars is taken from the forthcoming Disney version of Aida and once again sees him renew the writing partnership with Tim Rice that was formed when the two worked on the soundtrack to The Lion King. The song returns LeAnn Rimes to the Top 10 for the first time since the 30+ week chart run of How Do I Live began just over a year ago.


14 MYSTICAL MACHINE GUN (Kula Shaker)

So finally the new album is upon us. Peasants Pigs And Astronauts is the title and following up last year's one-off release The Sound Of Drums this is officially the first single from the long-overdue work from Kula Shaker. Musically and lyrically it is pretty much what you would expect, the band taking elements of classic Prog Rock and turning it into a song which clearly lacks the widespread appeal of some of their previous work but is almost certain to satisfy their existing fans.


19 ANYTHING BUT DOWN (Sheryl Crow)

Another Sheryl Crow single taken from the Globe Sessions album. For all her grammy success earlier in the week and for all the lyrical cleverness of this latest track there is no escaping the feeling that this track is merely following a well-established formula. Brimming with attitude and sounding great on the radio, nonetheless it can only scrape into the Top 20.


24 A TOUCH OF LOVE (Cleopatra)

After a short gap, Cleopatra return with their fourth hit single and one which dramatically underperforms compared to the way their first three all easily landed inside the Top 5. Maybe the gap between their releases is to blame, maybe it is the way this ballad lacks the sparkle of their more uptempo work but to miss out on the Top 20 altogether is a major blip on their chart record. In the event the single is serving its purpose, bringing them back to people's attention in time for the premiere of their new cartoon series, spookily enough an honour that was afforded to the Jackson's, the band who the girls cite as the main inspiration for their music.


25 FOOLS GOLD (REMIXES) (Stone Roses)

Just to show you can never keep a good track down. Fool's Gold was arguably the track that kickstarted the whole Madchester scene in the early 1990s and the record that transformed the Stone Roses from just another late 80s indie band into a major but short-lived phenomenon. A Top 10 hit when first released in November 1989, the track returned to the chart a year later as part of a series of re-releases of virtually everything the band had recorded up to that point. This latest reappearance of the song is thanks to a new set of remixes, part of a new project at Jive records to breathe new life into past releases. The single is headed by an uptempo drum and bass reworking by Grooverider but of course not being a dance aficionado I can't help but feel that the original mix was perfect enough as it stood and that this tampering adds nothing to the song.


36 PRECIOUS TIME (Van Morrison)

To celebrate a new contract with Virgin records, Van Morrison makes an all too rare appearance inside the Top 40. For all the classic songs he has made in the past, it has fallen to other artists to have hits with them, most notably Rod Stewart who took a version of Have I Told You Lately into the Top 10 back in 1993. Aside from his 1960s hits with Them, Van Morrison's only major hit single to date came in December 1989 when his duet with Cliff Richard on Whenever God Shines His Light was a Top 20 hit.