This week's Official UK Singles Chart

1 SOMETHIN' STUPID (Robbie Williams and Nicole Kidman)

Well, it is the classic music industry tale, isn't it? Pop star records version of old swing song (Have You Met Miss Jones?) for the soundtrack of a hit movie (Bridget Jones' Diary). Song is so well received the notion of an entire album of Frank Sinatra songs is bandied around. Album is recorded and is set to become his biggest smash hit ever. Thus is the story behind Swing When You're Winning which has been lodged at the top of the albums chart ever since its release. On the back of that, its first single also sails neatly to the top of the listings. Somethin' Stupid was originally written in 1966 by C. Carson Parks and was originally meant to be a solo song for Frank's daughter Nancy. When she showed the song to her more famous father he suggested they record the song together and, notwithstanding the strange fact that it is a father and daughter singing a love song together, the record topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic in 1967. For his own version, Robbie Williams has teamed up with Australian actress Nicole Kidman whose own singing talents were first exposed to the world in Moulin Rouge earlier this year. The obvious affection that the pair developed for each other when they met to record the song has only served to add to the romantic intrigue of the song - what could be more delightful than a duet between two celebrities with a genuine chemistry with each other and who may or may not actually be bumping uglies?

That, in a nutshell, is why the single is the overwhelming favourite to be Christmas Number One. With just one week to go the track is in prime position to take the honours. Not everyone is convinced it is a foregone conclusion though. For a start, the fact that so many people already own the album or are being bought it as a present makes the single slightly less of a must-have (although a perfect stocking-filler it must be said). There is also an unexpected challenger coming up on the rails in the shape of Gordon Haskell whose single is released this week. If (and as the single is on a tiny independent label it is a big if) enough copies are available there is every chance that the battle to top the charts next week could go right down to the wire. Those who have money on Robbie and Nicole at the most slender of odds could still wind up losing their money.

Anyway, back to the present. Somethin' Stupid is Robbie Williams' second chart-topping single of the year and the fifth of his solo career. It is also the fifth cover version of a former Number One hit to top the charts this year (hot on the heels of Uptown Girl, Lady Marmalade, Eternal Flame and Mambo No.5), an astonishing total when all is said and done and of course the second remake this year of an old 1960s song to top the charts (thanks, DJ Otzi). Furthermore it is the first male/female duet to top the charts since Westlife and Mariah Carey teamed up on Against All Odds in 2000. Nicole Kidman (who is, of course, participating in her second chart duet of the year having reached Number 27 with Ewan McGregor on Come What May in October) is the second Australian female to top the charts this year, the other of course being Kylie Minogue. Thus 2001 joins 2000 in having two acts from Down Under top the listings - last year Kylie and Madison Avenue pulled off the trick.


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5 WILL I (Ian Van Dahl)

Onto the parade of singles released this week that are not Robbie and Nicole and therefore by definition did not stand a chance of becoming Christmas Number One. Biggest of these is the second single from Ian Van Dahl, the follow-up to Castles In The Sky which was a Top 3 hit in August. Those who struggled with the concept of the "man" actually being a "woman" when the first single was out will now be further thrown by the fact that the real brains behind the records have stepped out of the shadows. Ian Van Dahl are now apparently two men - Christophe Chantiz and Erik Vanspauwen - and Castles In The Sky singer and writer Marsha has now been cast aside in favour of Anne Mie who is the vocal talent on Will I. Those who want to insist that dancers Diana and Jeanine are 'members' of the group as well will be laughed at by myself. To these ears the record is just another piece of same-old European trance-pop but with two Top 5 hits to their name already, Ian Van Dahl clearly have a formula that works.
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6 LATELY (Samantha Mumba)

Is there any US R&B hit that a British (or in this case Irish) pop act cannot turn into a hit of their own? Samantha Mumba's seasonal offering is a cover version of a song that was originally a US Number One hit for all-girl trio Divine. Needless to say their version of the track bombed over here, peaking at a lowly Number 52 in October 1999. Hot on the heels of Blue turning Too Close into a UK smash, Miss Mumba proves that the song always had hit potential, you just needed to pick the right moment. Lately is her third hit single this year and impressively the fifth straight Top 10 hit single from her debut album. Never mind that if it peaks at Number 6 it will be her smallest hit to date, the young Irish girl has over the past 12 months turned herself into one of the hottest acts on the planet, even if she is starting to look more and more like Janet Jackson with every passing day.
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12 JUST A DAY EP (Feeder)

Recording the soundtrack to a video game isn't a bad move. Just ask Robbie Williams who saw It's Only Us soar to the top of the charts in 1999. Straight from the soundtrack of Gran Turismo 3 comes Feeder's fourth hit single of the year. Just A Day has the advantage of not appearing on their album and as a result makes a strong debut just outside the Top 10, a good turnaround from the Number 27 peak of their last single Turn from July. The track also comes with a fun video that does not feature the band at all but instead is a montage of what are apparently camcorder clips of their fans dancing around bedrooms whilst miming to the song. In the grand scheme of things this isn't a massive Christmastime hit but given that Feeder gave the year one of its greatest lyrics ("He's got a brand new car/It's got a CD player player player player player") it seems appropriate that they should round off the year with yet another potential classic.


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13 SON OF A GUN (I BETCHA THINK THIS SONG) (Janet Jackson featuring Carly Simon)

If you are looking for reasons as to why Janet Jackson's star appears to be shining less brightly than it used to be, this track is the perfect example. Indeed I'm struggling work out why Son Of A Gun is considered a JJ single when it is clear most of the work is being done by the guest stars, namely Missy Elliott, P Diddy (who is actually edited out of the radio version) and indeed Carly Simon whose voice is on the chorus (such as it is) sampled from her famous classic You're So Vain. When the youngest Jackson sister finally makes her appearance she does little more than do a bad Missy Elliott impression which only serves to illustrate that she is actually just a secondary participant on her own record. Sorry, I'm ranting but this single surely has to rank as the most pointless mess of styles since the last Mariah Carey single. Still, it is at least a Top 20 hit, charting just two places lower than her last single Someone To Call My Lover in August. The real story is actually lower down the chart. What would once have been a huge musical event (brother and sister release competing singles on the same day) has passed almost unnoticed despite the fact that Janet has won the chart battle over Michael in quite spectacular fashion. More on that in a moment...
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15 CATCH (Kosheen)

At this precise moment Kosheen were due to be supporting Faithless on their UK tour but the cancellation of said tour as a result of Maxi Jazz's car crash last week has put paid to that. As a result the followup to the smash hit Hide U (Number 6 in September) has to creep into the chart on the back of club support alone. It isn't a bad record and is at least as inspired as its predecessor. With bigger singles around for the holidays it is little more than an also-ran. I'm still waiting for a re-release of Empty Skies which was the original a-side of Hide U when first released 18 months ago.
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20 WE'RE NOT GONNA SLEEP TONIGHT (Emma Bunton)

Hehe. To think we thought Geri Halliwell had problems when she struggled to place singles in the Top 5. This week it is Emma Bunton who has the dubious honour of singing the lowest charting Spice Girls-related single ever, her third single release of the year failing even to match the Number 14 peak of Melanie B's Word Up from 1999. In actual fact We're Not Gonna Sleep Tonight has more bite and spirit than either What Took You So Long or Take My Breath Away but even before this embarrassing chart performance, it was never likely to transform the fortunes of her solo album. A the risk of doing some gratuitous grave dancing it is worth taking a moment to consider the career status of all the former Spice Girls:

  • Mel B, without a record deal and "taking time off from music to do TV work".
  • Victoria Beckham, one Top 10 solo single to her name and reportedly in a strop with the record company for picking Not Such An Innocent Girl as her first release.
  • Emma Bunton, struggling to make the Top 20, album selling bugger all.
  • Geri Halliwell, still having Top 10 hit singles but again nobody is buying the album.
  • Melanie C, reportedly has her second album in the can but is wisely staying clear of the Spice backlash that I'm contributing to by writing this [in truth she'd only just started recording it, having spent the year recovering from mental health issues].

Happy Christmas ladies.
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25 CRY (Michael Jackson)

Back in October when I wrote about Michael Jackson's big comeback single You Rock My World I received a pleasantly large number of emails from dedicated fans of the superstar who were very appreciative of what they saw as a fair and balanced writeup. A writeup you may remember which speculated that there were better singles to come from the album and that all he needed was another R Kelly ballad to give him a genuine smash hit. I confess to not having a clue how to approach this one.

Let's have a go anyway. Cry was the track highlighted by most reviewers as the standout track on the rather underwhelming Invincible album. It is indeed an R Kelly song and clearly intended to be another I Believe I Can Fly or You Are Not Alone. As a Christmas single release it was the perfect choice and was touted in some places as an outside bet for the seasonal chart-topper. Instead the single has done spectacularly badly. Forget the Spice Girls missing the Top 5, this is a Michael Jackson single, the second one from a long-awaited new album and a great song at that. For it to chart at Number 25 is unthinkable. Not that he hasn't had hits this small in the past but on those occasions excuses could be made. When Man In The Mirror peaked at Number 21 in February 1988 it was while he was on tour on the other side of the world and did not even have time to make a proper video for the track. Gone Too Soon made Number 33 in December 1993 but it was the ninth single from the two year old Dangerous album and was released on the back of the Jordy Chandler scandal. Cry has no such excuses available to it. This is a flop single.

If you want reasons, try once again referring back to what I wrote in October. To maintain his supposed status as the biggest recording star on the planet, Michael Jackson has to deliver something new and spectacular every time. With this album he hasn't, just a series of tracks that are quite good but still a bit same old, same old. For all the way sister Janet is releasing records that sound a mess, she is at least attempting to innovate and push back some boundaries. That, I suspect, is why this week she is at Number 13 and big brother is at Number 25.


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36 LULLABY (Starsailor)

After hitting the Top 10 for the first time ever with their last single Alcoholic, potential greatest things ever Starsailor come back down to earth with their fourth chart hit of the year. Lullaby is if anything an even more poignantly beautiful song than Alcoholic but you suspect the track is either a single release too far or has simply been lost in the shuffle during the Christmas rush. I'm not totally convinced all the hype is justified but if nothing else they have filled the gap nicely whilst we wait for a new Coldplay album.
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40 I COULD SING OF YOUR LOVE FOREVER (Delirious?)

Well with just a week to go until Christmas Day, what could be more appropriate than a Top 40 entry from the most successful Christian rock act ever? This is the second chart hit of the year for Delirious?, their last single Waiting For The Summer having peaked at Number 26 back in June. Their current album is a greatest hits collection and indeed I Could Sing Of Your Love Forever is a new version of one of their earliest tracks. I'm sure I've said this many times before but I'm convinced they have at least one mainstream hit single in them and indeed if there was any justice this epic ballad (complete with gospel choir) would be it. It is just a question of marketing I guess.
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Well the pieces are all in place. Christmas Number One is clearly a two horse race. Over the course of this week all eyes will be on the sales figures that stream in. Can Robbie and Nicole cling on for a second week and become the biggest selling single in what is always the busiest sales week of the year, or can an obscure single from a former progressive rock singer cause one of the biggest upsets for years? Check out dotmusic at 7pm on December 23rd for the full story...


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