This week's Official UK Singles Chart

1 TOO CLOSE (Blue)

See, what did I tell you? After an uncharacteristic lull last week the charts have suddenly exploded in a post-holiday frenzy of activity that is likely to last for a number of weeks to come. No less than 14 new singles enter the Top 40 this week, the biggest of which is something of a surprise. Whilst Blue had firmly established themselves as a major pop act with their first hit single All Rise (a Number 4 hit in June) I don't think there were many people expecting their second single to do even better. Instead, it has done much, much better, charging to the top of the chart to give the foursome what will quite possibly be their biggest hit single ever. Too Close isn't actually an original song. It was first recorded by the American group Next who had a massive stateside hit with the single back in 1998 but who could only clamber to Number 24 in this country in June of that same year. This is by no means the first time that a British pop act has taken a underperforming US R&B track and turned it into a smash. First to pull off the trick were East 17 and Gabrielle who in 1996 duetted on a Number 2 remake of If You Ever (originally a minor hit for Shai under its original title of If I Ever Fall In Love). Going one better, in July 1998 Another Level had their biggest ever hit single when they hit the top with a new version of Freak Me, originally a 1993 hit for Silk. By a strange coincidence the single version of the Another Level track was remixed by Cutfather & Joe who just happen to have a hand (alongside Ray Ruffin) in the production of Too Close.


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3 FOLLOW ME (Uncle Kracker)

Whilst the appearance of Blue at the top of the chart might be something of a surprise the level of astonishment would have been ever higher had early sales reports been proved correct. At the start of the week it looked a strong possibility that Uncle Kracker was going to top the charts instead. As it turns out the single has to settle for being the second biggest new entry of the week but still retaining a quite unexpected slot in the Top 3. Uncle Kracker is actually DJ Matt Shafer whose day job consists of being a member of Twisted Brown Tucker who in turn just happen to be the backing band for Kid Rock. Whilst the superstar rapper himself has struggled in the UK (last years American Badass remains his biggest single) this blend of rock, funk and ever a snatch of country has propelled his DJ to some quite dizzying heights. Not that Kid Rock will mind too much as he produces both this single and its parent album Double Wide which was reportedly recorded on the tour bus. Whilst it would have been a major shock to see this at Number One I can't say it would have been that disappointing either. [Easily one of my favourite moments of 2001 this, and despite its chart placing has been largely forgotten in the years since. Sad].


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4 STUCK IN THE MIDDLE (Louise)

Welcome to the debating chamber. On today's edition we shall be pondering the eternal question "Are there some songs that should never be covered?" Stuck In The Middle was first recorded by Stealer's Wheel with a certain Gerry Rafferty on lead vocals. Released in May 1973 it peaked at Number 8 and was regarded as something of a minor classic. What made the song even more famous was of course its use on the soundtrack of Reservoir Dogs when it became the accompaniment to the famous ear-severing scene. The song is so deeply associated with that cinematic moment that Louise's video features her dressing up as Mr Brown in direct homage to the film. Ah yes Louise, the angelic-faced pop star who began her career with Eternal and who since going solo in 1995 has amassed a rather impressive string of hit singles in her own right. So many in fact that the final act of her current record deal is to release a Greatest Hits collection which this single is promoting. She is no stranger to cover versions having taken new renditions of Let's Go Round Again and In Walked Love into the Top 10 but you cannot help but feel that on this occasion she has ventured into an area where only the brave would dare tread. Well to be fair she gives the song her all and it has propelled her nicely into the Top 5 even if it can in no way compare to the original. Stuck In The Middle gives her an 8th Top 10 hit of her solo career and comes close to becoming her biggest ever, falling just one place short of the Number 3 peak of 2 Faced from July 2000. As mentioned earlier her record contract with EMI expires with the release of this album and there is now much speculation over her musical future although given that it is rare enough these days for any pop act to reach the planned end of a contract without being dropped first, one who can clearly still have Top 10 hits with consummate ease is surely not going to be out of a job for very long.
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5 TAKE MY BREATH AWAY (Emma Bunton)

Meanwhile in the debating champer we revisit a subject that has been under discussion for a number of weeks. I refer of course to the "are the Spice Girls washed up?" debate. Emma Bunton's second solo release has come under a great deal of scrutiny since the demise of Mel B's record deal and the hysteria that followed the Number 8 peak of Geri Halliwell's last single. Once again little is proved here as to hit Number 5 after your first hit topped the charts is no huge embarrassment and certainly does not suggest that people aren't interested in the former Baby Spice. At the same time there will be a great many fingers crossed that Take My Breath Away (no relation to the Berlin song of the same name) will spark some life into Emma Bunton's solo album which thus far has not exactly been flying out of the shops. All eyes are now on Victoria Beckham as she becomes the fifth and final Spice Girl to launch a solo career proper in a fortnight's time. Can she help the Spice Girls become the only act ever to have every single one of their members go on to top the charts solo? Watch this space...


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16 LOVE IS THE KEY (Charlatans)

In a career that spans over 11 years believe it or not, this is now the 21st hit single for the Charlatans, their first since Impossible made Number 15 in May last year. Whilst the current health problems of keyboardist Tony Rogers will cast a shadow over the promotion of their new album Wonderland one cannot help but marvel at the way the group of lads from not-Manchester have become much respected veterans of the music business without anyone really noticing. The new album was recorded with Black Grape producer Danny Saber in the Hollywood hills, not far from the current home of frontman Tim Burgess.
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18 I'M ALL ABOUT YOU (DJ Luck & MC Neat featuring Ari Gold)

This is the fifth hit single for DJ Luck & MC Neat and the followup to Piano Loco which made Number 12 back in March. The real surprise comes here when you study the credits of the track which reveals that I'm All About You was written by none other than soft metal legend Desmond Child who has written songs for the likes of Bon Jovi and also Ricky Martin who of course took the D.Child song She Bangs to Number 3 in November last year. Whatever next, Diane Warren writing a rap hit?
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21 PLAYAS GOIN' PLAY (3LW)

Sophomore hit time for 3LW who made a good impression back in June when No More (Baby I'ma Do Right) made Number 6. This new single may lack the impact of the first and in truth doesn't quite have the crossover potential but it is good to know that they are more than one hit wonders. At least not in the Mary Mary sense anyway.
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22 21ST CENTURY (Weekend Players)

Although only a relatively minor chart entry this is one of the big club hits of the moment. Singer on the track is Nottingham-based Rachel Foster whilst production duties are handled by none other than Andy Cato, best known as one half of Groove Armada.
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25 HANGING BY A MOMENT (Lifehouse)

A UK Top 40 debut for the Californian 3-piece who are currently the proverbial next big thing in Stateside rock. I can't say I will be complaining if they are although they aren't the only emerging rock act to have their first hit single this week.
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27 OH YEAH (Foxy Brown)

A welcome return to the chart for Foxy Brown, silent for far too long after spending the last few years of the 1990s appearing alongside just about every artist on the Def Jam roster. Since she made her chart debut alongside Case in 1996 she has also appeared alongside Blackstreet, Jay-Z and Dru Hill. It was Jay-Z that helped her to her biggest ever hit I'll Be which made Number 9 in June 1997. This is her first chart single since Hot Spot made Number 31 in March 1999 and both this single and its predecessor are the only times she has had a solo chart billing with no other act appearing on the label.
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31 FLAVOR OF THE WEEK (American Hi-Fi)

There isn't much cogent to say about this new entry aside from the fact that it marks the UK chart debut of the US four-piece who if, this wonderfully appealing rock track is anything to go by, deserve to be scaling Wheatus-level heights very soon. The video for Flavour Of The Week is reportedly a tribute to the cult film Heavy Metal Parking Lot which documented the mayhem outside a Judas Priest concert in 1986.
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32 PEACHES & Cream (112)

The second UK hit for 112 is the recent Top 5 American hit Peaches & Cream, here following up their long-awaited UK chart breakthrough that came with It's Over Now which was a Number 22 hit back in June. For the moment though it appears that the UK is unimpressed, at least until a pop act covers this single and tops the chart with it in five years time. Hey, it could happen.
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35 SKYDIVE (I FEEL WONDERFUL) (Freefall featuring Jan Johnston)

More bubbling yet unmemorable trance although the appearance of this single on the chart actually has a story behind it. This is no less than the third time that Skydive has been released. First time around came in November 1998 when it could only make Number 75. A second attempt to turn the song into a hit came in July 2000 when it could only reach Number 43. One suspects that this second re-release is promoted by the emergence of singer Jan Johnston as a solo act in her own right, her debut single Flesh having made Number 36 back in April although the follow-up Silent Words could only reach Number 57 a fortnight ago. Whatever the reason the patience of the record company has paid off, this long lost trance classic finally becoming a Top 40 hit three years after it was made.
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40 BEAUTY DIES YOUNG (Lowgold)

..and finally what better way to end than to celebrate the long overdue Top 40 debut of a quite fabulous act. British 4-piece Lowgold have been waiting for people to pick up on their genuine potential for some time now. The lovely Beauty Dies Young was first released in September last year when it could only reach Number 67. Now re-released the single isn't quite the massive hit single that it deserves to be but if it makes Lowgold register on the radars of just one or two more people then this is no bad thing.