This week's Official UK Singles Chart

1 CAN'T GET YOU OUT OF MY HEAD (Kylie Minogue)

A few eyebrows were raised at the start of the week when preliminary sales reports indicated that by the end of trading on Monday, Kylie Minogue had actually sold more singles than Michael Jackson. This sent experts scurrying to explain it away by suggesting that Kylie, of course, had a head start over the superstar as her single was available on Sunday (this in spite of the fact that although sales on Sunday are counted towards the chart they represent a tiny fraction of the overall data [that would change once the industry went fully digital of course]). Normal service appeared to have been restored by midweek, the Michael Jackson single having taken the lead by 2-3,000 copies. Even so, this wasn't quite the lead you would expect the long-awaited new single from an international megastar to have over a pop record that had already been at the top for three weeks and whose parent album had also been available for over a week. Still, this warning sign was ignored and as it turns out the singles chart will this week attract more than its fair share of comment as Kylie Minogue sneaked past Jacko at the weekend to claim a fourth week at the head of the listings. Given the number of times she has had a sure-fire Number One hit single denied at the last gasp, it seems entirely appropriate that she should be in a position to fend off some strong challengers to her own crown. Can't Get You Out Of My Head now matches the run of Atomic Kitten's Whole Again as the longest-running Number One hit of the year. The last time there were two singles in a calendar year that topped the chart for longer than three weeks was 1998 when Run DMC and Cher had runs of 6 and 7 weeks respectively.
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2 YOU ROCK MY WORLD (Michael Jackson)

So let us take a few minutes to consider the story so far. The last time we saw Michael Jackson in the singles chart was in 1997. At the time his career back in America was on rather shaky ground, the History album had not produced either the sales or the smash hit singles everyone was expecting and it was clear that his days of being able to trade on the reputation of the Thriller album (recorded back in 1982 lest we forget) were numbered. Britain was actually a different story as not only had You Are Not Alone and Earth Song topped the chart in 1995, his Blood On The Dancefloor remix album had turned into a major success, producing yet another Number One hit in the shape of the title track. Wacko Jacko had potentially rediscovered himself as a club icon and the future looked bright. Then he vanished for four years, embedding himself in a quagmire of perfectionism whilst at the same time emerging every so often to set up strange charities, perform one-off concerts and break a few limbs along the way. Jackson the slightly strange celebrity was back, his music almost an afterthought.

It is against this background that one of the most expensive albums in history is about to be released, its arrival preceded by the first single. After all the hype people were expecting something quite spectacular. What they got in the shape of You Rock My World is nothing out of the ordinary. Sure it is a fine record, one which seems at times to hark back to the days of the Off The Wall album in the late 1970s. As a retro single it works fine but as an advert for the new, innovative and still relevant Michael Jackson it is actually a bit disappointing. That still didn't stop everyone expecting it to charge to the top of the listings with ease, but as already documented a certain Australian pop star has rubbed his brand new nose in it. Once more a note of moderation must be sounded. I'm reminded of the time in June 1995 when Scream became the long-awaited first single from History. Just like You Rock My World it wasn't as good as everyone was hoping and it only made Number 3 in this country, outsold in the week of release by Pulp's Common People and Robson and Jerome's rendition of Unchained Melody. His next two singles were much better received and both topped the charts.

Hence the headlines about the charts this week should not really be about how Michael Jackson has failed to hit Number One and has instead been humiliated by Kylie Minogue. Instead, they should be detailing how this is his 20th solo Top 3 hit, one which proves that the four years in the studio has done his overall appeal no harm at all and one which suggests that there are far bigger gems lurking in the grooves of the forthcoming new album. Write him off at your peril. [One of the more notable think-pieces I'd penned over the years and which attracted a fair amount of praise for the analysis of Michael Jackson's superstar status. Yet the promotion of what would turn out to be his final studio album was not to be a happy one].


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5 U GOT IT BAD (Usher)

Time to come back down to earth and deal with the bold, brave souls who volunteered to release records in the same week as Mr Jackson. The most successful of these is Usher who after two Top 3 hits already this year in the shape of Pop Ya Collar and U Remind Me, slows things down for the obligatory slushy ballad. Whilst it isn't quite the R Kelly bashing track that some reviewers have made it out to be the track certainly proves that Usher can get down and get mellow with the best of them.
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7 FLAWLESS (The Ones)

The who? Their names may not mean much, especially to many people in this country but the trio who make up The Ones have been part of the New York scene for some time. Vocals on David Morales' Gimmie Luv back in 1993 were provided by Paul Alexander, JoJo America has written tracks for Tenaglia whilst Nashom Benjamin starred in the film 1999 Flawless from which this hit takes its title. Their debut chart hit together began life as a much in demand white label and now shoots into the chart as a massive Top 10 hit, the kind of inspired dance record that makes you realise there is life left in the genre yet. Vocodered vocals and a production that is straight out of the post-disco era make for the most magical club hit since the last Avalanches single. [Somewhere in London, George Michael is also taking notes].


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8 IN THE END (Linkin Park)

Amongst all the acts that have invaded the chart as part of this year's metal revival, Linkin Park have perhaps been the most underrated. Sure they have had three singles to their name already this year but none have been what you might call smash hits, even though Crawling and Papercut made the Top 20. Instead, the focus has been on Limp Bizkit, Papa Roach and now even Alien Ant Farm. Hence it is something of a pleasure to see them finally have what might be regarded as a proper mainstream hit. In The End charges the Top 10 to give them their biggest hit of the year (and indeed their career so far) with their fourth Top 40 single.
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18 HAS IT COME TO THIS (The Streets)

With a name like that they must be some kind of streetwise hip-hop collective or a collection of South London club producers yes? In actual fact, Streets are effectively just one man, Mike Skinner who hails originally from Birmingham but now makes dance records out of London after having previously spent time in Australia. Proving that garage is still far from dead, the single is nothing short of magical as Skinner recites what is nothing short of a piece of poetry over the top of a piano-driven skipping garage backbeat. I'm tempted to suggest this deserves more than being a here one week and forgotten the next Top 20 hit. An album entitled Original Pirate Material is scheduled for release in the new year. [As I will note in later pieces, Mike Skinner was an extraordinary performer, managing a string of chart hits that were essentially one man reciting his poetry].


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23 SUNRISE/THE TREES (Pulp)

I felt for Jarvis Cocker and Pulp. Really I did. After a decade of toil, they finally hit commercial paydirt in 1995 with the Different Class album and classic singles such as Common People and Disco 2000. The only problem really was where to go from there. Their answer was the 1998 album This Is Hardcore, a deliberately dark affair that was a world away from the commercial smashes of the past. As a result, their singles struggled to make their mark, only Help The Aged going Top 10 and the title track the Top 20 although most die-hard Pulp fans will confirm, the Number 22 hit A Little Soul from June '98 is up there with some of the best things they have ever done. Still, if the intention was to release a record that was deliberately less commercial and to avoid it being labelled a failure next to the albatrosses of 1995 then it worked a treat. Hence with the troubled recording of the new album over, an album which Jarvis Cocker admits is brighter and more accessible than the last, the world is ready for one of the great British bands to be hailed as geniuses again. For some reason though despite a well-received series of festival dates over the summer, this comeback has misfired slightly. Both sides of the new single are wonderful creations, Sunrise, in particular, containing some moments of classic Jarvis and with production contributions from sixties legend Scott Walker. What should have been a massive hit has turned out to be something that has limped into the Top 30. I'm hoping that later releases manage to do better. We need Jarvis Cocker to be a star again, as proved by his horrified reaction when it was pointed out that the single was coming out on the same day as the new release from old nemesis Michael Jackson.
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28 DRAWING RINGS AROUND THE WORLD (Super Furry Animals)

A second hit single of the year for the SFA, admittedly one which lacks the slap in the face brilliance of Juxtaposed With U although in fairness it can rank as the single the Beach Boys need to record to restart their own career. Strange to relate that if this single gets no further than Number 28 it will be their smallest chart hit since God! Show Me Magic made Number 33 may back in May 1996.
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29 BROWN SKIN (India.Arie)

Despite the hype, Britain for the moment appears to be immune to the charms of India.Arie, the lady on whom Motown's hopes appear to be pinned on at the moment. Her first single Video was well received enough but could only reach Number 32 back in May. The single version of Brown Skin differs slightly from that on the album, the Bedroom Rockers having beefed up the production slightly. Sadly it seems that when it comes to slightly quirky female singer-songwriters for the moment this country prefers them to be Nelly Furtado shaped.
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31 WHEN IT'S OVER (Sugar Ray)

At last, they can rid themselves of the tag of one-hit wonders. Sugar Ray's one and only Top 40 hit came in May 1999 when Every Morning made Number 10 and spent most of that summer as an airplay staple. The follow-up Someday failed to chart at all and that seemed to be it for the UK career of Sugar Ray. Until now of course, as this track from their fourth album slides nicely into the Top 40 to finally give them a second hit single proper.
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36 PLEASE SAVE ME (Sunscreem vs Push)

Are they still around? Apparently so. Sunscreem are one of the great underrated club acts of the early 1990s, thanks largely to their 1992 hit Love U More which had the honour of being covered by Steps on their first album. Their biggest hit was a cover of Marianne Faithfull's Broken English which made Number 13 in January 1993 but they have been silent for almost four years, their last Top 40 hit coming in March 1996 - Secrets which reached Number 36. Now they are back thanks to the soundtrack of the new film SW19 from which this single is taken. Co-credit on the track is given to Belgian trancemeister Push, himself a hitmaker earlier this year with Strange World which made Number 21.
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40 SINCE I MET YOU LADY/SPARKLE OF MY EYES (UB40 featuring Lady Saw)

Sadly it won't be their biggest hit single ever but UB40's return to the Top 40 marks their 21st anniversary in hitmaking business. Britain's greatest reggae band ever first made the singles chart in March 1980 with the double-sided hit King/Food For Thought. Since I Met You Lady is their 46th chart single (the 47th if you count 808 State's remix of One In Ten) and the first to make the Top 40 since The Train Is Coming hit Number 30 back in May 1999. Quite why it has been 8 years since they had a Top 10 hit with one of their own songs is one of life's little mysteries I guess.


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