This week's Official UK Singles Chart

1 FREAK LIKE ME (Sugababes)

The tale of this week's brand new chart-topping single is one of two wildly different records from two different musical eras and also of a much applauded pop band who despite the plaudits rained down on them had found their career misfiring badly.

The first record is Are 'Friends' Electric? Credited to the Tubeway Army it was actually the first chart single by soon to be 80s legend, Gary Numan. Released in 1979 it quickly raced to the top of the charts and is to this day regarded as something of a classic, having reappeared in a live version in 1985 and in a remixed version as a double a-side with a new mix of its immediate follow-up Cars two years later. The second record in question is one of the biggest American hits of 1995. Adina Howard's Freak Like Me was a chart sensation stateside, peaking at Number 2 on the Billboard listings and indeed regarded as something of a classic over there. On these shores, the record struggled to find an audience, eventually limping on its second release to Number 33. Howard would have greater chart success guesting on Warren G's remake of What's Love Got To Do With It a year later whilst her most famous song has until now been better known in this country in the two-step version by Tru Faith and Dub Conspiracy which made Number 12 in 2000.

The coming together of the two tracks came during the back end of last year when a bootleg began circulating on the net and amongst club DJs. Wittily titled We Don't Give A Damn About Are 'Friends' and credited to Girls On Top it meshed the famous synthesizer line of the Numan track with Adina Howard's vocal. The idea clearly had commercial legs and the rights to it were quickly snapped up from creator Richard X by a major label only for plans for its release to be scuppered when Adina Howard (or people connected to her) refused to allow her vocal to be reused.

Enter then the Sugababes. The all-girl threesome made their debut in September 2000 with the gorgeous Overload, a Number 6 hit and a track that immediately marked them out as major talents. No manufactured pop group were they. Instead, they were the singers of some lush, immaculate soul music that had one eye on the dancefloor. For some reason things never quite worked out as they had planned, follow-up singles such as the festive themed New Year, Soul Sound and Run For Cover struggled to do any better than in and out Top 20 performances and sales of the album were sluggish at best. One year after their chart debut the band had a bust up whilst on a promotional tour and Siobahn Donaghy quit on the spot, her place quickly being taken by Heidi Range whose CV included being in a pre-fame Atomic Kitten. By this time London records had lost patience and declined their option on a second album. The group instead switched to Island records and were immediately offered the chance to revive their career with a bright idea that the record company held the rights to but which required an act to record it to overcome certain copyright issues.

Hence this week's Number One hit, the revitalised Sugababes finding themselves with the biggest hit of their career thanks to their recording of Freak Like Me set to the backing of Are 'Friends' Electric. Many former bootleg mixes have made the charts over the past few years (Toca's Miracle topping them in 2000) but for someone to have a hit with a new recording of a bootleg idea has to be some kind of first. Whatever qualms you may have about its originality there is no denying it is a masterpiece of a pop record, one that grabs your attention the moment it comes on the radio. Given that it finally elevates one of the most famous songs of the 1990s to true hit status in this country and in the process gives a very underrated group an all too rare second chance at fame, calling it a work of genius would not be too far from the mark.


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2 ONE STEP CLOSER (S Club Juniors)

This probably all began as a cute sight gag on the last S Club 7 tour, the adult group bringing out mini versions of themselves who all sang and danced in exactly the same manner. Little did we know that it would not be left at that. I guess you could call this a brand extension of sorts, as the S Club Juniors (all aged between 11 and 14 and plucked from stage schools after some extensive auditions [not all of them, there was actually a talent search played out on a CBBC show if I remember correctly]) are now pop stars in their own right. Opinion on the act is rather sharply divided. The problem many people have is that they are indeed quite disturbingly young and it is hard as an adult to watch them dressed up to the nines cavorting in the video without feeling slightly uncomfortable. 20 years ago a TV show called the Minipops which featured children performing their own versions of current pop hits was yanked from the screens over accusations of bad taste. You have to ask yourselves just how different this is to the S Club Juniors. On a more positive note the track itself is damn good, a wild, fun, disco-inspired and uplifting pop track that would not sound out of place in the repertoire of the 'real' S Club (which is probably the point) and one which fully deserves its place near the top of the charts. Musically this is actually manufactured pop at its very best. Something tells me the debate will run and run, especially with other pre-pubescent acts set to chart over the coming months. Nonetheless, as a record that simultaneously represents everything that is good and bad about the current state of pop music, it too can probably rank as a work of genius.

[The weirdest thing? All this time writing about pop music and the only chart performer I can genuinely call a personal mate is one-eighth of the S Club Juniors. Hi CeCe!].


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5 HOW YOU REMIND ME (Nickelback)
6 WHENEVER WHEREVER (Shakira)

Both Nickelback and Shakira deserve a mention this week for still hanging doggedly onto their places in the Top 10. Last week's Top 3 clearout meant that both were sent tumbling down the chart and it seemed to be that this would be the catalyst that led to their sales finally tailing off. Hold that thought for a week or so as once again How You Remind Me goes on the yo-yo, climbing back into the Top 5 in its ninth week on release. Also nine weeks old is Whenever, Wherever which is still at an all time low point of Number 6 but which becomes one of two non-movers on the Top 40 this week.
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9 YOU HELD THE WORLD IN YOUR ARMS (Idlewild)

All good things come to those who wait. Proving that to be the case this week are Idlewild who return to the charts after a two year break and launch the promotion of their fourth album with their biggest hit to date. This is their ninth hit in total and the first to ever reach the Top 10. Prior to this their only Top 20 placing was 1999s When I Argue I See Shapes which made Number 19. This track is everything that you would expect from their biggest hit ever: anthemic, powerful and memorable.

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12 INSATIABLE (Darren Hayes)

A word of praise too for the chart performance of Darren Hayes' debut single which may not have set the world on fire when first released but which is now setting new standards for Top 20 endurance. In its sixth week on the chart it holds firm at Number 12 for the second time having now spent the last five weeks bouncing back and forth between positions 12 and 13. Indeed the chart run of the single now reads 8-12-12-13-12-12. Its first week in the Top 10 may have been a brief week in the sun but it is showing more legs than many other Top 10 hits. Chalk this up as a Real Hit.
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13 HUNGRY (Kosheen)

Winning as much praise for their live performances as their records, Kosheen score with a third Top 20 single, this the followup to Catch which made Number 15 just before Christmas. Although improving on that chart placing, Hungry is still some way short of being their biggest, that honour falling to Hide U which made Number 6 in September last year.
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14 COME WITH US/THE TEST (Chemical Brothers)

Following the admittedly rather awesome Star Guitar complete with its inspired train ride video, the Chemical Brothers are back on more familiar musical ground with their second single release of the year. Debates over what should be the next release from the album are settled with this double a-side. Come With Us is the beat-laden track that opens the album and which would probably have been a hit in its own right, notwithstanding the Fatboy Slim remix that also graces the CD. The other featured track is The Test which features the much-heralded vocal contribution of Richard Ashcroft. He thus joins Noel Gallagher in having guested on a Chemical Brothers track, the Oasis frontman of course having topped the charts with the group on Setting Sun in 1996 and then returning in 1999 on Let Forever Be. Other collaborators from the rock world who have appeared on Chemical Brothers singles in the past include Bernard Sumner and Bobby Gillespie who featured on Out Of Control in 1999 and the oft-forgotten Tim Burgess of the Charlatans who performed on Life Is Sweet which made Number 25 in September 1995.
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17 THE WHEELS ON THE BUS (Mad Donna)

The origins of this single begin with an American educational company called Mother Goose Rocks. They specialise in making CDs for children that feature nursery rhymes and other songs of that ilk performed with a new twist - done in the style of contemporary songs and featuring some uncanny vocal mimics. They have a website at mothergooserocks.com which features samples of the CDs and also a handful of Flash animations of some of those songs. One of these is a track from their third release which features the old favourite The Wheels On The Bus performed by a Madonna sound-alike in the style of Ray Of Light with quite astounding accuracy. The animation became something of a cult hit on the web at the end of last year and links to copies of it began appearing in weblogs across the planet. The idea reached the desk of independent record label All Around The World who for the sheer hell of it decided to try licensing the track and releasing it commercially, complete with the original Flash animation as a video. Perhaps cleverly the promotion for the single has avoided mentioning the origin of the track and as a result a whole culture of rumours has sprung up around it, early reports even suggesting that it was Madonna herself who recorded the track as a present for her children. Sadly the truth is actually far more mundane and predictions that the single would be a chart-topping smash were slightly wide of the mark, but if you have been casually browsing the charts and were wondering why an old nursery rhyme is now a Top 20 hit in the UK I hope this has enlightened you. Incidentally the mothergooserocks.com site is well worth a visit, if only to check out some of their other potential classics such as Ba Ba Black Sheep performed in the style of Mark Germino's Rex Bob Lowenstein, If You're Happy And You Know It done in the style of Blink 182s What's My Age Again and my own personal favourite, Three Blind Mice as if performed by Shania Twain in the style of That Don't Impress Me Much. A work of genius? Of course...


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28 TIL THE END (Haven)

A second Top 40 hit for Johnny Marr proteges Haven, this the followup to Say Something which made Number 24 back in February. Although Til The End tries its best to be a soaring, epic track it never quite manages to become the kind of song that is worthy of the intensity of the performance. Still, if nothing else we can celebrate the return (or is it debut) of the falsetto vocal in alternative rock even if it still doesn't move them from the "next big thing" category into that of "contender". For now.
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31 TRANZY STATE OF MIND (Push)

The first hit of 2002 for Push, Belgian trancemeister of the Top 40 parish. He charted with three singles last year, the Top 30 hits Strange World and The Legacy and also a remix of an old Sunscreem track Please Save Me which grazed the Top 40 late in the year. His past hits also include 1999s Universal Nation and Til We Meet Again from September 2000 which is his only chart single to date to fall short of the Top 40.
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34 THERE GOES THE FEAR (Doves)

Well there had to be a catch. The Number 3 debut of the Doves single last week was of course partly due to the quality of the single but was also down to the fact that it was a cheap limited edition. Unusually the CD only featured one track and retailed at 99p. It was also a one day only release, being deleted on the day of release. Of course that didn't mean the single was only in the shops for one day, simply that the only copies on the shelves were the ones ordered by shops before it was released, after that there was no way to replenish stocks and the limited numbers available were certain to vanish quickly. So it proves as There Goes The Fear makes a spectacular 31 place fall, a tumble on a scale which makes me wonder if there are enough copies left to even give it a Top 75 place next week. Only one other Top 3 single has spent as little as two weeks inside the Top 75 before - Shut Up And Dance's Raving I'm Raving which had a limited release owing to legal difficulties with Mark Cohn. If nothing else the track is destined to equal that rather unwanted record. Of course deleting a single after just one day is nothing new, the Manic Street Preachers pulling the same stunt in early 2000 for The Masses Against The Classes whilst in 1993 the Shamen hit the Top 20 with a one day only issue of their epic spoken work track Re:Evolution. There is no denying the cut-price promotional strategy worked for Doves, giving them a high charting hit single when a normal release may not have quite had the same legs but it is still a shame to see record companies deciding to manipulate the listings in this way, however legitimate the methods. Britain is one of the few countries that still has a vibrant and exciting commercial singles market and the only way that will change is if record companies work to deliberately kill off the single. Given that the likes of Celine Dion and Barbara Streisand are currently charting high on the albums listing I can't say I'm keen to see that happen any time soon.
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35 YOU MAKE ME GO OOH (Kristine Blond)

The final hit of the week is the second chart single for the Danish singer who was touted as a major star when she first appeared but whose career ever since appears to have consisted of endless rehashes of her debut. Love Shy was the song in question, a bright three minutes of European pop that made Number 22 in April 1998. After several runs in the clubs, the track appeared again in November 2000 in a radically new garage style mix that limped to Number 28. Now signed to WEA she finally has some new material and a chance to make use of her multi-octave voice on some big hit singles. OK, well maybe next time then. You Make Me Go Oooh is a first. A two-step garage track that is entirely lacking in credibility and as such could be considered a work of gen...oh will you look at that. We're right out of time.