This week's Official UK Singles Chart

1 ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE/EVERGREEN (Will Young)

Comfortably on top once again, Will Young extends his run at the summit to a third week, making him only the seventh act in the last 12 months to manage more than two weeks at the top. We can be fairly well assured that this week will be his last as a chart-topper, thanks to the presence in the shops from Monday of the debut singer from the man he beat in the final pop idol vote, Bradfordian Gareth Gates. Indeed whilst we were agog a fortnight ago at the way Will Young sold over a million copies in the space of a week, there are many people anticipating his TV show rival doing exactly the same.

Of course the question for Will is whether he has what it takes to make subsequent releases as successful as this one. Amongst the more cogent criticisms being levelled at the Pop Idol concept is that it is doing nothing more than promoting short-termism, creating karaoke-level "stars" that are good for a tiny handful of hits before everyone loses interest altogether. The apparently rapid decline in the fortunes of Hear'Say (who were of course in the same position as Will Young just 12 months ago) is held up as an example of this. In actual fact the Hear'Say example is something of an embarassment to the people behind them and something they are keen to avoid being repeated. Believe it or not, the music industry hates short term acts for the simple reason that an established act does not need the same amount of money spent on their promotion as a brand new set of personalities. Steps are a good example here, a pop act who continued to sell consistently over a period of years and who made back several times over the money that was spent creating them and their image in the first place. On the other side of the coin you have Simon Cowell's most famous failures Girl Thing whose two hit singles resulted in nothing more than thousands of pounds going down the toilet. Hence I get the feeling that there is a genuine desire to turn people like Will and Gareth (and even maybe Darius and Zoe) into acts who can develop a career for themselves and who will continue to justify the efforts being made for them. The only problem Will may face is that he is still for the moment a manufactured pop act with a team of managers who tell him what to sing and how he will look when doing it. The true templates for pop idols, the likes of Robbie Williams and George Michael, have a certain degree of artistic freedom and are able to innovate and take their music in the direction their creativity inspires them to. It takes talent to ascend to that level. Will can sing and can smile on television. Is that enough? [He got his cock out in Mrs Henderson Presents, does that count?]
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2 ME JULIE (Ali G and Shaggy)

For any that are uninitiated, Ali G is the comic creation of comedian Sacha Baron Cohen. The self-styled leader of the Staines Massive was originally a part of the misfiring satirical TV series the Eleven O'Clock Show in which as the "voice of youth" and in a similar manner to Howard Stern's Stuttering John, he would fire off ridiculous questions to important people who in a fit of political correctness would take him totally seriously every time. For whatever reason Ali G was a hit and he graduated to his own TV series, a set of videotapes and a bestselling book and was now fleshed out as a wonderful caricature who remains blissfully unaware of how absurd his homeboy pretensions are. Now he is the star of his own film which hits cinemas at the end of the week and from which this soundtrack single is taken. Guest star Shaggy plays his role in this comedy record with perfect aplomb, an ode to "Me Julie", Ali's oft-spoken of but until the film never seen girlfriend. Ali himself gets to perform as well in a rapped verse where he informs her she is fitter than Destiny's Child (except for the lead singer) and how he wants to please her with his dong-dong-dong-dong-dong (think Sisqo). The single easily becomes the biggest new hit of the week although as with all comedy records its appeal is dependent on how many times you can listen to it before it stops being funny. Indeed some of the best moments come in the video in segments that don't feature on the single and which see Ali G attempting to get back to his African roots in, er Jamaica and becoming frustrated at Shaggy's prowess with the local women. A single that works better on MTV than it does in the charts? Respec'.


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4 AIN'T IT FUNNY (Jennifer Lopez)

Funny, didn't she have a hit with this track last summer? Indeed she did but do not be alarmed. The latest release from J-Lo is a remix album and whilst such flogging a dead horse concepts are not unusual, releasing a revamped version of a comparatively recent hit certainly is. Fortunately this new version of Ain't It Funny is a world away from the La Isla Bonita retread of the original production. Now the track has been transformed into a hip-hop grower, guest stars Ja Rule and Cadillac Tah help out on vocals and in truth the lady with the best bum in showbusiness has never sounded more credible, even though you will search in vain for a tune here. Ain't It Funny duly becomes her fifth Top 5 hit in a row whilst Ja Rule makes his second Top 10 appearance of the year, his last hit Always On Time still holding on inside the Top 30. [I never, ever got my head around this one. This isn't a "remix" of Ain't It Funny, it is a completely different song with different lyrics and a different melody. There is virtually no connection with the original at all, save for what we are told is using the same beat].

 
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7 A NEW DAY HAS COME (Celine Dion)

You know it is funny. I would have expected the great comeback single from Celine Dion to have been heralded as a huge event, something akin to the second coming. Instead whilst A New Day Has Come does indeed charge straight into the Top 10 it is hardly the most anticipated new release of the week. The chanteuse has been absent from the charts since her cover of The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face made Number 19 in April 2000, the gap being caused by her voluntary decision to take time off and make babies. With a 13th Top 10 hit in a chart career that is almost ten years old the layoff appears to have done her appeal no harm at all and whilst she continues to mix the big power ballads with more upbeat fare such as this single there appears to be little reason why there will not be plenty more to come.
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9 RUN TO THE HILLS (Iron Maiden)

Yes, I wondered why as well. Long ago, in the dim and distant past of the early 1980s Iron Maiden were already a heavy metal act of some note. Admittedly they were a little noisy for most mainstream tastes with a strange penchant for songs about people with mystical powers and lyrics that mentioned evil a great deal but they were still very good indeed and were in the process of building up a huge following which remains loyal to them to this day. One single which did rather better than the others was Run To The Hills. Released in February 1982 it rose to Number 7 and for a long time remained their one and only Top 10 single. 20 years on the track is back again, re-released to coincide with a handful of concert dates that are raising funds to help former drummer Clive Burr who is suffering from Multiple Schlerosis. As well as featuring the original 1982 version the CD single also contains a performance of the track from the Rock In Rio festival last year. Strangely enough this is the fourth time that Run To The Hills has been a chart record for Iron Maiden although only the first that it has been on the singles chart. Confused? Well, as well as the original release and this charity version, the track also appeared in a live version in December 1985 when it made Number 26. The 'missing' chart appearance came in 1992 when the band embarked on a program of reissuing all their old singles on double 12-inch and CD. These special editions were too long for the singles chart and so the double pack of Run To The Hills and Number Of The Beast was a Number 5 'album' in March 1990.
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10 WRONG IMPRESSION (Natalie Imbruglia)

I don't think I was the only one who wondered if Natalie Imbruglia was in trouble. Her big comeback at the end of last year proved almost to be as anonymous as Celine Dion's and whilst the debut single from her second album That Day was generally held to be 'quite good actually' it did little more than creep into the chart at Number 11 before dropping out of the Top 40 two weeks later. It was the kind of chart performance that nervous record companies with an eye on the bottom line love to use as an excuse for terminating contracts and the massive success of Torn seemed like light years away. Hence it is actually a welcome surprise that the followup does slightly better. Wrong Impression is, dare I say it, a better track than its predecessor, still retaining the jingling guitars and uplifting chorus but this time with a more substantive song behind the production and less of the sun-Alanis angst that she is sometimes prone to. Calling it "her best single since Torn" is normally journalistic shorthand for "I cannot remember any of her other singles" but this time it may actually be the case. At the very least it becomes her fourth Top 10 hit and the first to rise this high since Smoke hit Number 5 in October 1998.
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16 ON THE RUN (Tillmann Uhrmacher)

A debut UK hit for Tillmann Uhrmacher who may be an unknown here but is something of a well established performer back home. Indeed his press blurb proudly recounts the fact that he opened for Madonna on the Blonde Ambition tour way back in 1990. On The Run follows the school of techno that spawned the likes of ATB and which says that dance music can actually be haunting and atmospheric and indeed the whispered vocals and layers of wailing guitars achieve this to perfection. Listen to it and understand just why it is in the Top 20 this week.
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21 THE FAKE SOUND OF PROGRESS (Lostprophets)

Our first non-classic rock single of the week, this time in the shape of the Top 40 debut for Lostprophets, a group of Welshmen who sound American and have people writing nice things about them as a result. The Fake Sound Of Progress is the title track from their debut album but in the interesting title stakes it loses out to their previous release Shinobi v Dragon Ninja which made Number 41 at the start of December last year. [Video embedded here for the megalolz].


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25 TOXICITY (System Of A Down)

A small scale chart return for the rock band with a conscience but who never quite let their Message get in the way of the music. Toxicity is the title track from their second album and maybe doesn't quite have the appeal of their last single Chop Suey but sounds good enough to these ears, even if it does chart eight places lower.
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26 MY GIRL MY GIRL (Warren Stacey)

I hate to do this, but we are going to mention one of the two p-words again. Warren Stacey first came to public attention in the Popstars series that spawned Hear'Say. He was cut from the hopefuls fairly early on, largely thanks to his insistence on singing gospel songs rather than anything mainstream. His talent was enough however to secure him a solo record deal with Def Soul records, and this is the result, his first solo single. File it under 'not too bad, nice R&b but nothing to set the world on fire' and sit back and wait to see if he is another Craig David or simply Glen Goldsmith for a new generation.
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31 GET OUT (Felon)

A cute one this. Felon is actually Simone Locker whose early adult life did not start off in the best of circumstances, being one of incarceration robbery. Whilst inside she decided to make use of her singing talents and indeed this debut single was supposedly recorded whilst she was on day release. Hence the name of course, and indeed the subject of the single is her imprisonment. Of all the also-ran singles of the week this is actually by far the best and deserved to do better than this.


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35 COCOON (Bjork)

Last in the charts last November with the rather lovely Pagan Poetry, Bjork returns to the lower end of the Top 40 with another dramatically different single. Minimalism is the order of the day and indeed the production on Cocoon is little more than the Icelandic pixie's own spine-tingling warble and a rhythm that sounds like it is made up of a series of jumps by a needle on vinyl. This latter innovation actually has the quite disturbing effect of sounding like the d/a converter on your CD player is knackered and hearing the single for the first time was actually one of the more entertaining moments of my week. Of course nobody outside her own fans is ever likely to buy this (and most have the album already) but in these four minutes there is more artistry than you will find in a thousand Will Young's and its presence here is a comforting reminder that all is still well with the world. [It is also the track featuring her most notorious video in which... well, you'll see].


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37 GOOD TIME (Peran)

Hands in the air electronic trance for the debut Top 40 single for Peran. Of more note is the sweet way this single has an Incentive Records catalogue number of CENT37CDS and this week lands once place higher up the chart than CENT36CDS which is Distant Soundz' Time After Time. Deep down Masterton will always be an anorak. Until next week...


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