This week's Official UK Singles Chart

1 IF YOU COME BACK (Blue)

With the recent demise of Five there is potentially an opening for the boy band that it is allegedly OK to like. One that makes music that can be appreciated on its own merits as well as in the midst of a maelstrom of pre-pubescent hormones. It could well be that Blue are in a position to fill that role. Things are looking good so far, their third single dutifully becomes their second Number One hit single in a row, a little over two months since their last single Too Close (which this week gets a bullet and rises 11 places to No.53). Like its predecessor, If You Come Back is produced by Ray Ruffin but this time it is nothing less than an astoundingly assured and mature ballad, just the kind of thing in fact to turn Blue into genuine crossover stars. Blue are now the fifth act this year to have two Number One singles, following nicely in the footsteps of Atomic Kitten, Hear'Say, Shaggy and of course Westlife.


------------------------------------------------------------------------

2 QUEEN OF MY HEART (Westlife)

Speaking of the fivesome, here they are in a curiously familiar position, knocked off the top of the charts with surprising ease. After the hype and plaudits come the reality and there is no escaping the fact that for all their string of high-charting records only a couple of their hit singles have actually managed to clock up decent runs on the singles chart. Of their nine Number One singles, only two have spent longer than a solitary week at the top and they have a nasty habit of spending an average of three weeks in the Top 10 with each single before dropping down the charts like a stone. By only dropping a place, Queen Of My Heart has at least done better than some of their past singles, most notably April 2000s Fool Again which made an impressive 1-8 dive and Flying Without Wings which dropped 1-4 in October 1999. In short, like few other chart acts before them Westlife's singles have a sizeable amount of their sales crammed into the first week on sale which some sharp dropoffs following soon afterwards. The fact that none of their singles have been spectacular sellers (3.5 million singles across 10 releases averages out at 350,000 copies for each) suggests that their overall appeal may not be as great as the chart listings suggest. Again this bodes ill for their long-term career. Once their core fans grow out of them there don't appear to be many people left to buy their records. [In fact, this analysis was based on the mistaken assumption Westlife were a pop band appealing solely to teens. As it turned out they had tapped so effectively into the mums and grans market it extended their career way beyond all expectations].


------------------------------------------------------------------------

3 EMOTION (Destiny's Child)

The fourth single from the album follows the first three and charges straight into the Top 3, this single being the follow-up to Bootylicious which hit No.2 back in August. Much has been made of the fact that this single is a cover version with the words "Bee Gees" being bandied around freely. In actual fact Emotion is no more a Bee Gees song than Chain Reaction was. Although Barry and Robin Gibb wrote the song it was originally a hit for Australian Samantha Sang and was a hit on both sides of the Atlantic in 1978. Just like Chain Reaction and indeed Woman In Love, Barry Gibb sang backing vocals on the track to give it that totally authentic feel. Back to Destiny's Child though and their new version stays pretty faithful to the original and proves to be an inspired choice of cover. It extends their run of Top 10 hit singles to eight, stretching back to the release of Bills Bills Bills in July 1999.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

6 FREE (Lighthouse Family)

The award for comeback of the week goes to the much-loved Lighthouse Family. The smooth soul duo made their long overdue breakthrough in early 1996 with now acknowledged classics such as Lifted and Ocean Drive. From those beginnings sprang two albums worth of radio-friendly tracks such as Loving Every Minute, High and their last hit Postcards From Heaven which was the title track of their second album and which made Number 24 in January 1999. Almost three years later they are ready to unleash their third album on the world and I guess are hoping that the appeal they worked so hard to create has not vanished in the meantime. So far so good with this new single, unusually for them a cover but in keeping with the theme of the week, what an inspired choice it is. The single is a medley, meshing together two most unlikely tracks. First comes I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free, best known to the population of Britain as the "Film xx Theme". The movie review show on BBC1 has been using an instrumental version of the jazz standard by the Billy Taylor Trio for nigh on 30 years. Too many artists to list have covered the piece over the years (most recently Dionne Farris for the soundtrack to the TV show Promised Land in 1995) but until today nobody had ever turned it into a hit single. Part II of the medley is equally as familiar as it is their rendition of U2s One, the standout track on their 1991 album Achtung Baby and which made Number 7 in March 1992 for its authors. The song has been a hit once more since then, Mica Paris taking her version to Number 29 in 1995. In short this is a fabulous comeback for the duo and sets the scene nicely for the new album. Their biggest chart hits remain Lifted and High (both Number 4 hits) but this is their fifth Top 10 single.


------------------------------------------------------------------------

7 UGLY (Bubba Sparxxx)

If the stories are to be believed Bubba Sparxxx became a star owing to the desire of Timbaland to emulate the success of Dr Dre by turning a white kid into a rap star. See him as his pet Eminem if you wish. The hands of his mentor are all over this debut single which is everything you might expect although nothing that is likely to appeal if you are not a fan of the genre to begin with. The whole Timbaland family looks set to be involved in this project, Missy Elliott happily making a cameo appearance in the video and the single even featuring a small snatch of Get UR Freak On for added trainspotter appeal.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

12 HIT 'EM UP STYLE (OOPS) (Blu Cantrell)

A possibly rather understated debut for this recent US smash hit. Blu Cantrell began her career as a backing singer for Puff Daddy before branching out for a solo career. No mere music industry puppet, she co-writes many of the songs on her album, including this quite deep track about women getting their own back on men who mistreat them. Production duties here are handled by Dallas Austin who in the past has been at the controls for TLCs Creep and Unpretty as well as Madonna's Secret.


------------------------------------------------------------------------

26 HOTEL YORBA (White Stripes)

Now we have all seen hype before. Acres of print given over to a group without any previous hitmaking pedigree but who the music industry is falling over itself to proclaim as the next big thing. Never before can any band have been talked up quite as much as the White Stripes with even mainstream newspapers giving over column inches to talk about how good they are. The brother and sister [or so we were led to believe anyway] led act hail from Detroit are in fact several years into their career (their current album is their third) but a series of dates in this country earlier this year turned their world upside down and made them the most talked about act for months. After all the hype comes the reality as the Dylan-esque Hotel Yorba limps almost apologetically into the Top 30. Granted nobody was really expecting them to become mainstream pop superstars overnight but if you were waiting for them to make the charts in order to find out what the fuss was all about then this single is likely to do little more than make you scratch your head in bemusement.


------------------------------------------------------------------------

30 MESSIN' (Ladies First)

The debut single from a trio of young ladies who are yet another product of the world of garage. Messin' is best described as the best track Mis-Teeq have yet to record, a sassy slice of garage pop that has seemingly been in constant rotation on MTV for the last month. That it should make such a lowly chart entry is something of a surprise but then again we already have one Mis-Teeq - is there really a need for another, however good they sound?
------------------------------------------------------------------------

33 UNDERWATER (Delerium featuring Rani)

Ah, you know the score. Breathless female vocals, lyrics that attempt to convey some deep metaphor and a shimmering, tuneful production. Yes it is a trance track, in this case the second hit single of the year for Delerium. The singer this time around is Rami Kamal who wrote the original poem on which the song is based. This follows in the chart footsteps of Innocente (Falling In Love) which made Number 32 in July. Their biggest hit was of course the Sarah McLachlan-sung Silence which made Number 3 in October last year.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

39 LIFT ME UP (Reel)

From little acorns grow big oaks. This must presumably be the hopes of those behind Reel, a new Irish pop act who were first seen earlier this year when supporting Westlife on tour. Their gimmick is that they are a real band who do actually write the songs and play their instruments but the lack of anything approaching sustained promotion for their first UK single makes me wonder just how serious the desire is to turn them into stars in Britain. Of interest to those who study the credits on singles, writer and producer Greg Fitzgerald also contributed two tracks to Kylie's current album.