This week's Official UK Singles Chart

1 IT'S RAINING MEN (Geri Halliwell)

Before we start properly this week, a short history lesson. Martha Wash and Izora Rhodes were the regular backing singers for disco legend Sylvester, often dubbed Two Tons Of Fun on account of their size and personalities. After Sylvester's star waned they began making records of their own but without much in the way of success until 1982 when writer and producer Paul Jabara asked them to record his song It's Raining Men. The pair dubbed themselves The Weather Girls for the purposes of the song and although a flop the first time around, the single grew to become a classic gay disco anthem and eventually reached Number 2 in 1984.

17 years on and the song has been resurrected by Geri Halliwell who has as usual made sure she has been all over the printed and broadcast media in the run-up to its release, whether it by appearing at the Brit awards to show off that body, giving coy interviews about the exact nature of her friendship with Robbie Williams or simply forgetting to wear her bra when performing the song on television. Even the Flashdance aping video has caused some debate thanks to net-sourced gossip about exactly how the self-acknowledged worst dancer in the Spice Girls suddenly became able to perform such astonishing acrobatic dance moves. The track has also benefitted from exposure as part of the soundtrack to Bridget Jones' Diary, accompanying as it does one of the funniest fight scenes in recent cinema history. There have been plenty of negative reviews of the single, many comparing it perhaps unfairly to the original and suggesting it contains little of the kick of the original. Actually, I have to confess to loving this version, playing as it does to Geri Halliwell's vocal strengths rather than attempting to match the lung-busting vocal track of the original. This is the kind of record you would expect her to make and had it not been a cover version you can bet that there would be plenty of people lining up to hail it as a work of pop genius. If nothing else the single is by an order of magnitude less terrible than the 1998 remake of the track which saw Martha Wash tread all over the legacy of her most famous recording by teaming up with RuPaul for It's Raining Men - The Sequel which made Number 21.

Onto the stats and this is no less than the fourth solo Number One single for Geri Halliwell, continuing her claim of being far and away the most successful solo Spice Girl. Melanie C has only had two solo Number One hits but of course, has featured on two more Spice Girls chart-toppers than Geri so in overall terms the two women are actually neck and neck. Producer of the track is Stephen Lipson who thus celebrates his third Number One hit. Strangely enough, the other two were for Gary Barlow (Love Won't Wait) and Ronan Keating (When You Say Nothing At All) which means he is making something of a career out of taking solo members of pop bands to the top. For those keeping count, It's Raining Men is the 897th Number One hit and the second cover version of an 80s classic to top the charts this year, following Westlife's Uptown Girl back in March. Good on yer girl, and if Robbie Williams really isn't the man for you then all you have to do is ask, you know where to find me.


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3 PLAY (Jennifer Lopez)

Oh look, if you don't ask you don't get and anyway Jennifer Lopez appears spoken for again. The Latino beauty follows up her own Number One single Love Don't Cost A Thing with a second successive Top 3 hit, again lifted from the J'Lo album. Play is less of a pop single and more an out and out club hit, or at least what passes for such a thing in the States. Dance audiences here may well find the single mix a little too weedy for their tastes but that hasn't stopped the single becoming another massive chart hit. It is now her fourth Top 10 single from five releases. If this goes on any longer will we have to stop regarding her as an actress who sings and instead see her as a singer who acts?
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4 COLD AS ICE (M.O.P.)

It must be revival month. Depeche Mode make a comeback, Geri Halliwell takes a 17-year-old song to the top of the charts and now hardcore rappers MOP suddenly turn commercial with a track based on a soft-rock classic. Cold As Ice was originally recorded by Foreigner and was one of their first major hits, reaching Number 24 in this country in 1978 and Number 6 a year earlier in America. MOP sample the hook of the original directly which instantly gives the track a far wider appeal than would otherwise have been the case. The rest is just a same-old kind of rap track but you can hardly knock a single that gives MOP a Top 5 smash with their first ever chart hit.
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6 IMITATION OF LIFE (REM)

The careers and artistic development of REM and U2 almost seem mirrored. Both successful rock groups who in the late 80s and early 90s reached the pinnacle of their artistry and appeal. Left with nowhere else to go they began to experiment with new sounds, new ideas and new ways of making music. Artistically satisfying it may be, it led to a sharp decline in their overall commercial fortunes and inevitably both have turned back to making the kind of music that made them so famous to begin with. Hence Imitation Of Life confirms the return to form that REM hinted at with The Great Beyond, their Top 3 single from last year. The single may not quite scale the heights of joy of anything from the Out Of Time album but it is still far and away the best single they have released in years, complete with the inspired video that was featured here on dotmusic last week. The best-ever Top 3 placing of The Great Beyond was just beyond them this time around but the track does at least give the veterans their third successive Top 10 single, a run that stretches back to the Number 10 peak of At My Most Beautiful in March 1999.


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13 STAY (Stephen Gately)

Stephen Gately can claim to be the second most famous member of Boyzone. His solo career may not have quite hit the heights of Ronan Keating's but then again neither has it plumbed the depths of Mikey Graham's. Swings and roundabouts isn't it? Anyway, his third (and as it happens smallest) solo single is something of a dramatic departure from the others. Gateley Goes Pop. Stay is written and produced by Stargate, the Danish production team who transformed Toploader's Dancing In The Moonlight earlier this year and who are rapidly carving out a reputation as the new Cheiron (given that the old, er I mean original Cheiron studios has now shut down). Hence it isn't half bad although this is probably due to the way it sounds just like a Backstreet Boys album track rather than anything that will give the star a distinctive sound of his own. Still, it is pure pop which equals an instant thumbs up from this end.
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19 WHITE BOY WITH A FEATHER (Jason Downs featuring Milk)

Rap and country. Not the most comfortable of bedfellows you might have thought, but in the case of this track, they sit together perfectly. The debut single from Jason Downs is a semi-autobiographical tale of the half-Cherokee star making his way from his home state of Maryland into the big bad world of New York city, busking for chicken feed and playing strip poker with transvestites along the way before he befriends rapper Milk. As if to prove that opposites do indeed attract, the Dylan-esque tones of Downs sit almost perfectly alongside the strident hip-hop tones of Milk to make what is easily the most innovative and yet fascinating single you will hear all year. Number 19 doesn't make it a smash, but it is certainly no less than this single deserves.

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21 STRANGE WORLD (Push)

Trance from Belgium, need you know any more? I mean I could trot out the age-old fact of how Plastique Bertrand and Jaques Brel are the two most famous stars to come from the tiny corner of North West Europe but there are far more interesting records to come.
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23 BEL AMOUR (Bel Amour)

Look at the calendar. It is only May and yet people are falling over themselves to pick out the big club hit of the summer. Hence the fuss that is being made of this French track, an admittedly rather fabulous piece of mutant disco which proves that there is plenty of life left in the formula yet. I'd happily rave about how good this makes me feel all day long but the fact remains that it has only charted at Number 23 and has been released to the shops in early May suggests that it isn't quite going to be the big club anthem of the summer. Here's hoping that the one that is, sounds as good as this though.
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27 BEFORE YOU LOVE ME (Alsou)

Hey now this is bizarre. We are just one week away from the Eurovision Song Contest, this year's British entry has charted (we shall come to that shortly) and it just happens to be the same week that one of last year's failed entrants attempts to launch their career properly. The girl being hailed as the Russian Britney Spears finished second in last year's contest, some 40 points behind eventual winners the Olsen Brothers. One year on and with a little remixing help from hitmakers du-jour Stargate the teenager is ready to take on the west in style after selling over 100,000 copies of this track in her home country. In all, it isn't a bad record, and indeed comparisons with Britney aren't too far off the mark, even if she does sing with an East European accent. Having said that it takes a little bit of extra magic to turn a Europop hit into an international smash hit (cue another Cheiron reference). This single doesn't quite seem to have had the right amount of fairy dust sprinkled on it to make it more than a Top 30 hit.
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31 REQUEST & LINE (Black Eyed Peas featuring Macy Gray)

Before Macy Gray lent her voice to Fatboy Slim's Demons she had also helped out rappers Black Eyed Peas on this track which first appeared on their album Bridging The Gaps last year. After having flopped once, the single now is re-issued and this time around does a little better, scraping this place in the Top 40. Request & Line is only the second chart single for Black Eyed Peas, their first was Joints And Jam which made Number 53 in October 1998.
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32 NO DREAM IMPOSSIBLE (Lindsay D)

Just for fun, I went back through the archives this week. This is what I wrote on the subject of the Eurovision Song Contest in April 1994:

It's that time of year again. The annual media circus that is the Eurovision Song Contest has reared its head upon the chart landscape once more. The premise of the annual event is that each European country selects by various means a song which is then entered in a televised contest for the winner to be voted on by juries from each country represented. As a barometer of popular music trends it fails miserably but yet is somehow never less than compulsive viewing.

Strangely enough, it is an analysis that never fails to be appropriate. This year's contest takes place in Norway [Denmark!] this coming Saturday and flying the flag for the good old UK is teenager Linsday Dracass. Her song could hardly carry a greater pedigree, penned as it is by legends Russ Ballard and Chris Winter and produced by Peter Van Hooke. Fred Bronson in Billboard has suggested that the song was originally earmarked for Russell Watson. Strange to relate then that it isn't exactly a classic. In fact, No Dream Impossible is yet another attempt by Britain to turn established Eurovision trends on their head. We tried it once in 1995 when we entered the rap single Love City Groove and Linsday's single is just as radical, a standard pop song about making the world a better place which suddenly breaks down into a hi-NRG rap section in the middle. You can bet your life it won't win. Indeed the bookmakers who are usually falling over themselves to install the UK entry as the favourite have us way back in the market for a change. One thing that is certain is that the chart story of this single will extend further than this initial entry. Expect the chart life of No Dream Impossible to be extended for a couple of weeks yet. See you in front of the TV this weekend, if only to see if she manages to hit the top notes she has failed to in every single performance of the song I've witnessed so far. [Despite my cynicism she did actually nail it perfectly on the night. Yet we still only scored 28 points].


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35 CRAZY (K-Ci and JoJo)

Cast your mind back to last summer when K-Ci and JoJo found themselves turned briefly into club stars. The occasion was the club remix of their 1999 hit Tell Me It's Real which was transformed into a storming Agia Napa anthem which duly made Number 16 towards the end of the holiday season. Now the brotherly duo are back, and back to their more laid back tempo. Strange to relate then that they have kept the vocodering that was used to such dramatic effect on the remix of Tell Me It's Real. I can't work out if this is a good or a bad thing.
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38 BACK UP (TO ME) (Wookie featuring Lain)

One of last years greatest mysteries was why there was never a proper follow-up to Wookie's Battle, the Number 10 hit that proved that garage beats did not always have to end up on the dancefloor and that they worked well will good old fashioned smooth soul as well. Finally, we have a second Wookie hit, this time in the shape of a track that began life in an instrumental version on the album Back Up, Back Up, Back Up. The vocal from Lain (also the star of Battle) turns it into another irresistible soul groove, albeit one that more people found possible to, er, resist.
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39 UNDERDOG (SAVE ME) (Turin Brakes)

Turin Brakes are Olly Knights and Gale Paridganian and have attracted critical acclaim for their debut album The Optimist LP which has seen them secure a support slot for the Stereophonics, as well as some well-received dates of their own. Slowly but surely the semi-acoustic duo have been climbing the singles charts as well. They made Number 67 with The Door in March and now creep into the Top 40 for the first time with this gentle yet rather moving single. Oh yes, and it namechecks WD40 as well. What more could you wish for?


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