This week's Official UK Singles Chart

1 ETERNITY/THE ROAD TO MANDALAY (Robbie Williams)

So, is a fifth single release from the album a step too far? Not if you are Robbie Williams clearly. The same marketing trick that was used in late 1999 for She's The One is repeated here - combining a popular album track with a brand new recording that is unavailable anywhere else. The Road To Mandalay is the album track, lifted from Sing When Your Winning it is indeed the fifth hit single to be taken from the long player and it follows Rock DJ, Kids, Supreme and Let Love Be Your Energy into the Top 10. Eternity is a brand new track, a bittersweet piano ballad that takes all the best bits of Angels and reworks the formula in a pleasing manner. It is enough to ensure that the double-sided release is Robbie Williams' fourth solo Number One hit, funnily enough exactly eight years to the week since he first topped the charts as a member of Take That (although Gary Barlow actually sang a solo vocal on the track in question, Pray). Robbie himself has confessed he is now at something of a crossroads, unsure of exactly where to take his career and keen to experiment (as his dabbling with Big Band covers lately has shown [ooh, I wonder if anything comes of that]). If nothing else it is worth reflecting that he is almost unique amongst the current crop of pop stars, an enormously popular entertainer with an appeal that spans generations and an accomplished performer who also (along with colleague Guy Chambers) writes most of his own material. I can't think of anyone in the last ten years save for perhaps George Michael who has managed to take their career to that kind of level. It seems almost a shame that America has remained unmoved.


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2 PURPLE PILLS (D-12)

Looks like it was all a fuss over nothing. You may well have read the news earlier in the week that this single from D-12 very nearly fell foul of the rules governing free gifts that can be given away with singles. One of the CD formats of Purple Hills contained a pack of stickers, verboten under the rules which only allow postcards and posters to be packaged with the media itself. Hence a frantic race by Interscope records to remove the offending package from the shops during the week. The speculation was that the lost sales would harm the chart position of the single. As it turns out the effect was minimal. Robbie Williams was always going to top the charts whilst the buzz around the D-12 track (thanks, one suspects, to the strong presence of a certain Mr Mathers on vocal duties) was always going to ensure a high chart placing. Robbie's gap at the top of the charts is almost certainly slightly larger than it would otherwise have been the case but D-12 have still done enough to claim the second biggest selling hit of the week. Eminem's rap proteges appear to court controversy wherever they go. Their first hit single Shit On You made Number 10 back in March and gave radio programmers headaches due to its title. For this release the group were even forced to change the title to make it suitable for commercial release, Purple Pills turning into Purple Hills.
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4 PERFECT GENTLEMAN (Wyclef Jean)

It is surely the greatest lyrical couplet of the year. "Just because she dance the go-go, it don't make her a ho, no." With this personable ode to table dancers, Wyclef Jean charges back into the Top 5, his first chart hit since 911 made Number 9 just before Christmas. Only Roger Sanchez prevented the single from becoming his third Number 3 hit, a position he has reached in the past with Gone Til' November and It Doesn't Matter. Both Wyclef and Pras have indicated that they are prepared to join together once more and make a new Fugees album. Only the increasingly erratic Lauryn Hill appears reluctant. Here's hoping.


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5 CASTLES IN THE SKY (Ian Van Dahl)

Like it or not, these trance hits just refuse to go away. Having been floating around for months and a favourite of a great many star DJs, this fluttering three minutes of dream soundtrack soars neatly up the chart to claim a place in the Top 5. Yes OK, it sounds nice but beyond that there is very little here to get excited about.
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9 POP (N'Sync)

This is where it should actually get interesting for N'Sync. Like no other act they were the defining example of the Cherion sound, their 2000 single Bye Bye Bye the sound of the Swedish producers at the height of their creative abilities. Now Cheiron are no more and N'Sync have to look elsewhere for their material. The problems this was liable to cause were neatly illustrated back in December when they released the Cheiron-less track This I Promise You as a single. It could only reach Number 21, one of their smallest hits since they made their breakthrough in 1999. Happily for the American superstars, this latest single (the first from a brand new album) fares much better and returns them to the Top 10 for the fifth time in their chart careers. A browse of the writing credits reveal that the group themselves have had a hand in this one, Justin Timberlake and choreographer Wade Robson are listed as co-writers and if anything this is the most radical sounding N'Sync single to date. European pop has been replaced by a far darker sound on this BT produced track that can also boast mixes by the likes of Deep Dish and Pablo La Rosa. When a pop group attempts to go "credible" the results can be disastrous (hello NKOTB and the Spice Girls) and it will be interesting to see how N'Sync pull this off if this is genuinely the direction they are intending to take.
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14 JUXTAPOSED WITH U (Super Furry Animals)

The first single in over 18 months for the often overlooked Welshmen serves as a pleasant reminder of just how good they are. Unseen in the Top 40 since Do Or Die hit Number 20 in January 2000, this brand new track becomes their 12th successive Top 30 hit single since 1996. In all it is their 14th chart single and one which continues their strange jinx of never quite doing enough to reach the Top 10. To date the best they have managed is the Number 11 peak of Northern Lites in May 1999. Frustrating though this streak is, it is still some way short of the all time record. Rockers AC/DC have to date had 27 chart singles but have never once climbed further than Number 12. [Neatly enough when AC/DC finally made the Top 10 in 2013 it did indeed meant the Super Furry Animals took over the record for most hits without ever reaching the Top 10. 23 at the time of writing].


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16 I DON'T WANT A LOVER (Texas)

It seems like this has been on the radio forever but at long long last the fascinating story of this single can be told. As part of the campaign to promote their Greatest Hits collection, Texas have re-released the track that brought them to popular attention for the first time. I Don't Want A Lover first made Number 8 in February 1989, back in the days when Sharleen Spiteri et al were unashamedly a sophisticated rock band and part of a Scottish scene that produced acts such as Del Amitri, Runrig and Gun at around the same time. In fact the single turned out to be something of a false dawn for the group and they spent most of the 1990s as an act with a somewhat marginal appeal, charting the odd small hit to justify their record deal. It was not until 1997's White On Blonde album that they developed the slickly produced and musically resonant style that turned them into the superstars we know and love. Hence the re-release of I Don't Want A Lover presented an interesting problem. It is an acknowledged classic alright but is it also an uncomfortable reminder of just how Texas used to sound? The solution to this lay in a remix and so this new release is a Stargate retooling of the track that attempts to airbrush away as much as possible the rock origins of the song. Ordinarily such fiddling would be regarded as a musical vandalism but in this case you suspect it was a commercial necessity, even if the single has taken so long to appear that its chart potential has been sorely dented. Believe it or not this is the smallest Texas single since So In Love With You made Number 28 in February 1994 - the final single release from the "old" Texas.
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18 FRONTIER PSYCHIATRIST (Avalanches)

Following up the joyous Since I Left You, this is the second chart single for the Avalanches, the six creative geniuses from Melbourne who are the living proof that there are always uncharted waters to explore when it comes to dance music. Frontier Psychiatrist uses the same formula to perfection, no so much a piece of music but an aural collage. A mouthwatering cocktail of laid-back grooves, more samples of dialogue than your ears can comfortably deal with and the odd heavenly choir here and there. OK so for the moment this is unlikely to deliver them a Top 10 hit but since when did music have to be overwhelmingly commercial to be any good?


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20 WE NEED A RESOLUTION (Aaliyah featuring Timbaland)

I love it when my dotmusic colleagues do all the research for me. As Chris Heath pointed out in his review of the track, Aaliyah has already had 13 chart hits of her own before now. Actually that isn't quite true as that total ignores her presence on Junior M.A.F.I.A's 1996 flop I Need You Tonight but let us not split hairs here. Silent since the marvellous Try Again made Number 5 in July last year, this single gives the sporadically recording former child star another Top 20 hit to add to her CV. Producer Timbaland gets a co-credit this time around as he contributes the rap at the end of the track, a stunt he also pulled in 1999 on Destiny's Child's Get On The Bus. But for the success of Try Again last year we would also be talking about Aaliyah in the same terms as the Super Furry Animals. Of her now 14 (or is it 15) chart singles it remains the only one to penetrate the Top 10.
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21 SOMETIMES (Ash)

Little in the way of sensation here (despite the way this single shows a softer, gentler side of the band that is normally hidden well away), just the third chart single this year for the hard to criticise Ash. As you might expect, the law of diminishing returns comes into play here and after Shining Light (Number 8) and Burn Baby Burn (Number 13) this latest single release just fails to make the Top 20. Believe it or not they have only had two smaller hit singles, their debut Kung Fu making Number 57 in April 1995 and Wild Surf wiping out at Number 31 in December 1998.
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27 SOUL HEAVEN (Goodfellas featuring Lisa Millett)

Lisa who? Lisa Millett was the singer on ATFC/OnePhatDeeva's September 2000 hit Bad Habit and this week takes lead vocal on her second Top 40 chart hit, this time in conjunction with the Goodfellas. With a set of lungs as powerful as hers, it can surely only be a matter of time before she has a solo deal of her own.
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44 FREE (Claire Freeland)

Why, you might ask is this single just outside the Top 40 worthy of comment? The reason is because Claire Freeland is none other than the Scottish girl whose talent filled the screen in early editions of the Popstars series but who was cut by the judges in fairly short order owing to the fact that she was just, well, a little on the large side. Cue a minor newspaper fuss about whether Nasty Nigel et al were discriminating against her unfairly and talk that several major labels were queuing up to sign her [and this mere months before the first episodes of Pop Idol and the saga of Fat Rick began]. In the event Claire preferred to steer her own path, arranging to record for a tiny independent label in the rather touching belief that her abilities will do the talking for her. It almost worked as well, copies of the track could be found in the shops but ultimately sales were hampered by a lack of mainstream airplay or exposure. It is a shame as there is no doubt she has an amazing voice and deserves her own shot at fame. Let's face it, if any rejected Popstar deserves the humiliation of having their singles flop it certainly isn't Claire Freeland is it?