This week's Official UK Singles Chart

1 UNCHAINED MELODY (Gareth Gates)

It's a strange chart week this one. Plenty of new singles but very few able to command the sales to propel them immediately to the upper reaches. As a result just two of the 14 new entries to the Top 40 this week make the Top 10 and only one even comes remotely close to toppling Gareth Gates from the summit. Not even Britney can manage to go that one final step however and so the Pop Idol runner-up matches Will Young's Number One run to spend a third week at the top with his debut single. Combined, all four chart-topping versions of Unchained Melody have now spent 17 weeks at Number One (3 for Jimmy Young, 4 for the Righteous Brothers and 7 for Robson and Jerome). That still isn't quite enough to make it the longest running Number One song (as opposed to recording) of all time. That honour is still held by I Believe which famously spent 18 weeks on top thanks to Frankie Laine in 1953 and which then added a further 4 weeks in 1995 - thanks to none other than Robson and Jerome.
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2 I'M NOT A GIRL NOT YET A WOMAN (Britney Spears)

Britney bashing has suddenly become a popular pastime in the press. This is largely thanks to her motion picture debut in Crossroads (general consensus: not as bad as the Mariah Carey film) and the unfortunate diva-like way she ignored the masses of fans packed behind crash barriers in Leicester Square at the premiere a few weeks back. I'm Not A Girl Not Yet A Woman is taken from the soundtrack of the film as well as being the third single from her current album and is certain to raise a few eyebrows at the way it has outperformed its immediate predecessors to blast her back into the Top 3. A glance at the writing credits will give you an possible indication as to the appeal of the song for it is co-written by none other than Dido, the lady whose songwriting talents gave her the biggest selling album of last year. OK so the concept of "not a girl, not yet a woman" sounds a little tortured and it isn't exactly the most dynamic single Britney Spears has ever released but by the same token it is no more anaemic than Stronger or Sometimes. In an instant it is her biggest hit single since the chart-topping Oops I Did It Again from May 2000.


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3 WHENEVER WHEREVER (Shakira)

Honourable mention must be made of Shakira's English-language debut which spent two weeks as the runner-up to Will Young when first released but which has maintained a healthy level of sales ever since. Now six weeks old, the single has spent five of these inside the Top 3 and this week holds steady at Number 3 after having climbed back a place a week ago. The only mystery really is why on earth the compilers of Hits 52 saw fit to include the track in its original version and not in this English-language remake. [I'm going with "cock up". The English version ended up on Hits 53 instead].
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5 HOW YOU REMIND ME (Nickelback)

The continuing fortunes of Nickelback's US chart-topper give call for comment this week. The single is one of that rare breed of tracks which defies normal chart trends and patterns, Debuting at Number 5 upon release it actually climbed the listings the following week to peak at Number 4. Two weeks ago the track had slipped to Number 9 and looked to be on its way out of the Top 10. Last week however it was on the move again, back up to Number 6 and this week the track rises once more to reclaim a place in the Top 5 after six weeks on release. With the demise of the Tip Sheet, ownership of the expression is up for grabs, so let's brand it a Real Hit. Rightly so.
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7 IT'S GOIN' DOWN (X-Ecutioners)

Back to the new entries, and the second biggest hit of the week comes straight from the world of rock patronage. X-Ecutioners owe their record deal thanks to the lobbying and patronage of Linkin Park, in much the same way that Alien Ant Farm clawed their way to success on the coattails of buddies Papa Roach. Not that nepotism has anything to do with the appeal of this track of course, although the fact that Linkin Park get a co-credit on the track makes you wonder just whose work it really is. The usual metal elements are all present and correct, and a Top 10 hit seems fair enough to this listener. M.O.P. and Pharoahe Monche make appearances on the album.


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16 SOAK UP THE SUN (Sheryl Crow)

A long overdue return to the chart this week for Sheryl Crow with a song that is co-written by former Fleetwood Mac songstress Stevie Nicks (who also supplies backing vocals). It is her first chart single since her cover of Sweet Child O' Mine (from the Big Daddy soundtrack) made Number 30 in September 1999 and her biggest chart hit since My Favourite Mistake hit Number 9 exactly one year earlier. In a way she can be forgiven for being disappointed at not making the Top 10 given that the first single from her last few albums have all done so with ease but at the end of the day she has never been a massive hitmaker, just a consistent one, this being her 15th Top 40 hit since her breakthrough in 1994. Of her four Top 10 hits to date, the biggest remains All I Wanna Do which made Number 4 in November 1994.
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18 EVERYWHERE (Michelle Branch)

Like busses, American chicks with guitars always seem to come along in twos. Hot on the heels of the return of Sheryl Crow comes the debut of Michelle Branch. Signed to Maverick records after a support slot for Hanson, the 18 year old's official site is full of the usual verbiage about how music flows through her and how committed she is to the message in her songs. What it doesn't tell you of course is that she does have a tremendous voice, a nice line in uplifting lyrics and the added benefit of a backing band consisting of most of the former members of the New Radicals. This is a Top 20 hit on merit, check it out if you haven't done so already.
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19 I CAN'T WAIT (Ladies First)

Following up the rather underrated Messin' which made Number 30 in November last year, Ladies First prove that they are more than just one hit wonders by taking a huge leap up the table to land their first Top 20 hit. Brains behind the "new Mis-Teeq" is Pete Devereaux who honed his production skills as part of Artful Dodger. Those who shudder in fear of two-step remakes of pop classics should look away now as I Can't Wait is an updating of Nu-Shooz' transatlantic smash hit which made Number 2 here in 1986. The original stands up on its own still as a fantastic pop moment and arguably didn't quite need the hatchet job that has been done to it on this version. Still, as a piece of garage pop the Ladies First version does its job reasonably well and unless my ears deceive me in a nice touch the synthesiser riff that made the original such a classic has actually been sampled and used deep in the mix of this new production. Here's hoping for a bigger hit with some original material next time around though.


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21 TEMPLE OF DREAMS (Future Breeze)

Kicking off a string of five consecutive new entries is this fairly nondescript trance single. Happily the only thing it shares with Messiah's 1992 masterpiece is the title.
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22 LEAVE IT UP TO ME (Aaron Carter)

Oh my goodness. Someone, somewhere still thinks this is a good idea. Aaron Carter you may remember is the younger brother of Backstreet Boy Nick Carter. Back in 1997 when he was 10 years old he was signed to a record deal and produced an album full of cute little pop hits, presumably in the hope that he would become a kind of Little Jimmy Osmond for a new generation. Perhaps surprisingly the concept worked and he had a Number 9 hit with a cover of the Jet's Crush On You in November 1997 before going two places better with Crazy Little Party Girl in early 1998. Two years ago he returned to the charts with a Number 31 remake of I Want Candy although the follow-up Aaron's Party flopped at Number 51. Now at age 15 he still has a record deal and is still churning out bubblegum pop singles, Leave It Up To Me (taken from the soundtrack of the animated film Jimmy Neutron Boy Genius) becoming this week his fifth Top 30 hit. That he should have managed to have a career that spans five years is actually impressive in itself. The problem with cute child stars is that they invariably stop being so cute when they grow up and rarely sustain the same level of success once they become a 'proper' artist. It can be done of course, the most celebrated example being Stevie Wonder who was just 12 years old when he had his first American hits.
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23 VEGAS TWO TIMES (Stereophonics)

Do you think when the Stereophonics covered the old standard Handbags and Gladrags they were expecting one of the most enduring hits of their career? That is certainly what they got anyway, the track charted at Number 4 in mid-December and spent the entire seasonal period in the Top 5 and spending a total of six weeks inside the Top 10. The follow-up almost seems to be suffering from a lack of energy as a result and quite by contrast fails even to make the Top 20, although given the plodding nature of Vegas Two Times you could be forgiven for wondering how it made it this high in the first place. To find their last single that charted this low you have to go back to May 1997 when their second chart hit More Life In A Tramp's Vest only reached Number 33.
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24 DREAMING (Aurora)

A long-overdue return to the chart for the production team of Sacha Collisson and Simon Greenaway, better known as Aurora. They were last seen in the Top 40 way back in September 2000 when they teamed up with Naimee Coleman for a trance cover of Duran Duran's Ordinary World. This new single marks the debut of 18 year old single Lizzie and features (gasp) an acoustic guitar line that makes it sound like an incredibly good Natalie Imbruglia song rather than a tired old piece of trance. Mark this down as a very pleasant surprise.
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25 LETHAL INDUSTRY (DJ Tiesto)

A second Top 40 single for DJ Tiesto to follow up Urban Train which made Number 22. This is actually his third chart single in all, the first being Flight 642 which peaked at Number 56 in May 2001 and which surprisingly has not been considered a candidate for re-release thus far. Lethal Industry takes the tempo down a notch and the music down an octave but the infectiousness is still intact.
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29 LET ME BE THE ONE (Cliff Richard)

Following up his Christmas single Somewhere Over The Rainbow/What A Wonderful World which made Number 11, Cliff Richard clocks up yet another hit single. Let Me Be The One is penned by well-known Christian songwriter Chris Eaton who has written songs for the likes of Amy Grant in the past. The failure of the song to pick up much in the way of airplay has stirred up once again the debate over whether radio stations are blanking Cliff for ageist reasons or simply because they don't think it is cool to play a Cliff Richard song. I'm tempted to wonder if the fact that he is picking some crushingly worthy yet dull songs to sing has something to do with it. The bemusing success of the Millennium Prayer in December 1999 seems to have given him the idea that he can churn out more MOR pseudo-religious music and automatically be guaranteed an audience. Sadly it doesn't quite work like that. Just remember that this is the same Cliff Richard who was once able to release singles like My Pretty One, I Just Don't Have The Heart and even Wired For Sound and Devil Woman without anyone giving a damn about how old he was.
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33 IN THE BEGINNING (Roger Goode featuring Tashia Baxter)

South African club hits? You'd better believe it, Roger Goode being something of a name back in his home country. Thanks largely to the cultural boycott prompted by the apartheid years, South African hits have been few and far between in the British charts. The most celebrated South African group are of course Ladysmith Black Mambazo who arrived thanks to the patronage of Paul Simon and had a small string of hits in the late 1990s, most notably the rugby anthem Swing Low Sweet Chariot which went Top 20 in 1995. Having said that, detailed study of the biographies of a number of rock stars reveal their roots in the country, notably Manfred Mann, Dave Matthews of the Dave Matthews Band and even Bill Drummond of the KLF. Sixties crooner Danny Williams was also born in South Africa despite many reference books listing him as British.
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37 JUST BEFORE YOU LEAVE (Del Amitri)

Is it really 12 years since the Top 40 was first graced with the presence of Del Amitri? Never mind that, it is a full three and a half years since they were last in the charts at all, their last hit being Cry To Be Found which was taken from their Greatest Hits collection and which made Number 40 in September 1998. This comeback single does at least improve on that chart placing but you suspect it is hardly the triumphant return that they would have wanted. Just Before You Leave is their 17th chart single yet in all that time they have never had a Top 10 hit, coming closest in January 1990 with Nothing Ever Happens. Fortunately they are a long way short of that particular record, AC/DC having to date had 27 chart hits without once climbing higher than Number 12.
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39 ORIGINAL SIN (Elton John)

Elton John charts this week with the third single from the Songs From The West Coast album following the rather surprising failure of This Train Don't Stop Here Anymore to chart any higher than Number 24. At the risk of stating the obvious, this isn't one of his biggest hits either, his lowest charting track since Simple Life missed the Top 40 altogether in 1993.