This week's Official UK Singles Chart

1 COLOURBLIND (Darius)

The story of Darius Danesh began in late 2000 when he was one of the auditionees for the original series of Popstars. Sporting long hair squeezed into a ponytail, a wonderfully foppish beard and moustache, and with an ego the size of a house, he breezed through the initial stages in an astonishingly OTT manner before finally wearing out the patience of the judges with a now famously bizarre rendition of Baby One More Time ("you did a very strange thing today" began Nigel Lythgoe when cutting him), In truth, everyone and his dog thought that despite his singing talents he was little more than an overbearing idiot who set himself up nicely for the fall that he experienced.

So in the summer of 2001 jaws hit the floor when he cheerfully showed up for the auditions for Pop Idol. In the intervening period someone had clearly taken him to one side and given him some sound advice, namely that he was tall, good looking and a phenomenal singer and that this was really all he needed to get noticed. Gone was the attitude, gone was the facial fungus and in their place was a calm, likeable man who genuinely wanted to sing and entertain. He was given a place in the final 50 only to end up in third place in his heat, denied the chance to compete for the ultimate prize. That was until Rik Waller succumbed to a throat infection and so Darius, as the runner-up in his heat, was drafted in as his replacement. This time he proved a survivor, winding up in third place behind Gareth Gates and Will Young.

Darius was determined to be his own artist though and he waited patiently until the option the programme-makers had on his services had expired. He then signed a deal with Mercury records on his own terms, namely that he could perform his own material. Here then is the product of that deal, a song that is indeed co-written by the man himself. Colourblind is a world away from the karaoke crooning of the two Pop Idol finallists, instead it is a driving slice of guitar based summertime pop in the manner of A1's Caught In The Middle. If truth be known it isn't actually the best song ever written and the undermelodied verses are only just compensated for by the uplifting chorus but hey, as always you cannot argue with a Number One single. Thus the fifth Pop Idol contestant to release a song becomes the third this year to top the singles charts. Time will tell what the future holds for Darius but if nothing else the man who caused us to snort with derision 18 months ago when he po-facedly informed the nation that he would have a Number One single and a plantinum album by the time he was 30 is now on the verge of having the last laugh.


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3 BLACK SUITS COMIN' (NOD YA HEAD) (Will Smith featuring Tra-Knox)

Five years on from the original Men In Black film, Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones are reunited on the silver screen for a sequal that has had the critics complaining that it is little more than a retread of the original plot. It is five years too almost to the week that Will Smith was topping the charts for the first time as a solo artist with the theme to the film. Appropriately enough then he today returns to the chart with the MIB-II theme tune. Black Suits Comin' is his first chart single since Freakin' It landed at Number 15 back in March 2000, breaking a run of six successive Top 3 hits. In chart terms the status quo is now restored and it means that out of the 10 singles he has released or participated on since he parted from Jazzy Jeff, 8 of them have gone Top 3 - including his 1999 co-credit on Tatyana Ali's Boy You Knock Me Out.
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4 I NEED A GIRL (PART ONE) (P Diddy featuring Usher & Loon)

After reaching a mere Number 19 at the start of the year with the catchy spelling lesson that was Diddy, the former Puff Daddy makes a far more impressive chart splash this week with this celebrity collaboration. Co-star Usher has also had a rather disappointing 2002, hitting a mere Number 16 with U-Turn back in April so this for him is also a much needed return to form. Believe it or not I Need A Girl is actually only Puff Daddy/P Diddy's third Top 5 hit. His first was the celebrated Number One smash I'll Be Missing You back in 1997 whilst his last appearance this high came in the summer of 1998 when the Gozilla theme Come With Me hit Number 2. His only other Top 10 appearance was in March 2000 when Satisfy You made Number 8. It isn't hard to see why the single has reached this high, a mellow summery rap single that sets P Diddy's rap nicely against the sensual soul that is typical of any record with "Usher" on the label. Expect to hear this blasting from the stereo of a convertible near you for several weeks to come.
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7 BOYS (Britney Spears featuring Pharrell Williams)

Poor old Britney, she does seem to have been through the mill in the press this week. Anyone would think that people were getting tired of her or something. Whatever PR problems she may be suffering from at present, there is very little wrong with her chart placings. Boys is the followup to the rather limp I'm Not A Girl Not Yet A Woman which still managed to make Number 2 back in April despite the world and his dog complaining that the film Crossroads (from whose soundtrack it was taken) wasn't actually up to much. Boys on the other hand is much more the ticket. In its original album version it was actually quite breaktakingly erotic, a stripped to the bone track that featured Britney whispering orgasmically almost as much as she sang. For this single release the Neptunes have stepped in and dragged it back slightly towards more commercial territory. The sensuality is still there but Pharrell Williams' rap gives the track a little more context and makes it sound a little less x-rated. Nonetheless this is Britney in full on sex kitten mode and it almost seems a distraction to point out that it is the second chart single to feature on the soundtrack of the new Austin Powers movie. For all its strengths, Boys is actually only her third ever single to fail to reach the Top 5, matching the peak of Stronger from Christmas 2000 but still five places higher than her all time chart nadir Don't Let Me Be The Last To Know which charted in April 2001. Most people would agree that the Britney appeal is starting to wear off (she has had her three years in the sun after all) but it will still be interesting to see where she goes from here.


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12 SHOOT THE DOG (George Michael)

Presenting George Michael - political satirist. After the rather underwhelming response to his last single Freeek (a Number 7 hit in March lest we forget) George Michael clearly needed something provoke a response from people. As a result he has elected to release this wonderfully controversial single about the relationship between the leaders of the UK and the US and which comes complete with a frankly quite hilarious animated video that sees the cartoon George leap out of a toilet in the oval office, boogaloo with George Bush, parade on Tony Blair's bed in a thong and play his own backing singers in drag. If he wanted publicity then he certainly got it, declining to release the track in America and prompting some national newspapers to decide that it represents the end of his career. The single itself (let us not forget the music after all) carves a funk groove so deep you could fall down it. It is based on Love Action (I Believe In Love) by the Human League and actually wears the sample so prominently on its sleeve that Philip Oakey's original vocals break through into the mix during the playout. For my money it isn't actually half bad and it is certainly far from the career ruining slice of garbage people are too quick to make it out to be [opinion still holds, people were shitting all over this right up until the day he died, but it is actually magnificent slice of funk - and hilarious to boot]. Nonetheless when Freeek was released I pointed out that his superstar status rested on his next single being much much better and in that sense Shoot The Dog actually falls some way short. Number 12 is far from the worst chart position of his career but it is nonetheless his first to miss the Top 10 since his all time nadir Cowboys And Angels missed the Top 40 altogether in March 1991. It is clear that his new album (when he finally finds a record company to release it for him) won't produce any smash hits but you can guarantee that causing a few American DJs to have a sense of humour failure isn't going to be his chart swansong, no matter what a few ignorant newspaper journalists would have you believe.


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15 ROCK STAR (N*E*R*D)

Chalk this one up as the second chart appearance of the week for the Neptunes as not only did messrs Williams and Hugo remix and perform on the Britney Spears single but they also make their Top 40 debut in their N*E*R*D alter-egos. The pair performed something of a musical innovation with their album In Seach Of... which was first releaed a year ago featuring entirely synthesized backing tracks. After putting together a band and performing live, they vowed to re-record it featuring live instruments and thus the nu-metal aping Rock Star is the first single to be released from this new version. The only single to chart from the 2001 version was Lapdance which reached Number 33 in June 2001.
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23 FALLING (McAlmont & Butler)

This seems to be quite the week for acts with a long story behind them. Bernard Butler began his musical career as lead guitarist with Suede, putting in virtuoso performances on tracks such as Metal Mickey and So Young. After a bust-up with the other members he left the band in 1994 in search of other outlets for his much-feted talents. He teamed up with black singer David McAlmont, a man with a sweet, soulful voice that could melt the heart of angels and together they produced Yes, a track that stands up as one of the finest records of the 1990s. A Number 8 hit in May 1995, the track was almost unique, combining a Phil Spector-esque wall of sound, McAlmont's song of heartbroken defiance and the crunching guitar work of Mr Butler. It sounds crazy but it worked. On the back of the success of this single, the pair set to work on an album but during its recording the partnership fractured, both men falling out with one another in a big way. When it came out later that year the long player had "contractual obligation" written all over it and sounded for all the world like a series of tracks recorded by two people who wanted to get out of the studio and out of each others sight as quickly as possible [they've rowed back from that since, insisting there was never an issue between them. That wasn't what was reported at the time, believe me]. Only the second single You Do came even close to the towering heights of Yes and music fans everwhere wept over what could have been.

In the seven years since both men have recorded solo. David McAlmont made an ill-advised attempt to become Robert Palmer (the 1997 single Look At Yourself) whilst Bernard Butler learned to sing and recorded two moderately successful solo albums in 1998 and 1999, reaching Number 12 in January 98 with the single Stay. Finally though, cooler heads have prevailed. The two men have buried the hatchet and are now set to show the world what the original album should have been like. Falling is essentially Yes Part II... crashing drums, thrusting guitars and a sweet vocal that stirs in some sixties harmonies for good measure. Many will suggest that it deserved a far better chart placing that this Number 23 hit but do not forget that this is a single that nobody ever thought they would see - for that it is worth celebrating wherever it happens to chart.
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24 SAFE FROM HARM (Narcotic Thrust)

A discovery of Pete Tong, Narcotic Thrust are currently burning up a storm on Ibiza dancefloors with this track which now makes a non too shabby appearance in the UK Top 40. Chalk it up as catchy progressive house, and that's all I have to say about that.
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32 PUT YOUR ARMS AROUND ME (Natural)

A debut chart hit single for Natural, a brand new American boy band with the usual "we play out own instruments" spin that actually seems to have no bearing on the chart success of not of the act - it is all about the songs after all. File this one under "quite good actually" but a lack of proper promotion may have hurt the single this time around as for the moment not many people are actually aware who they are. Still, all that could change and remember that the first few 'Nsync hits were little more than minor Top 40 entries in this country first time around.