This week's Official UK Singles Chart

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY (PART TWO)

Those of you who live in this country will not have failed to notice that this last week marked the 50th anniversary of the singles chart. November 14th 1952 was the date of the issue of New Musical Express which listed for the first time the 12(!) biggest selling singles in the country, a list topped by Al Martino singing Here In My Heart.

50 years on and the once venerable national instutution finds itself the subject of criticism from many angles, the market for singles having slumped this year to its lowest level since the all time nadir of 1992 even with such mega-selling singles such as the Will and Gareth releases earlier this year. As ever the old chestnut of "singles don't climb the charts like they used to any more" has raised its head - an argument that frankly gets more tiresome every time I hear it.

What people forget is that the singles chart doesn't set the agenda, it merely follows it by reporting what has taken place the week before. There is and never has been a rule that says that a record has to enter the chart low down and then gradually gain popularity. All that has happened is that the shape of the market for music has changed dramatically in the last two decades. Far from being just the beginning, the release of a record is very often the culmination of a long promotional campaign that includes TV appearances, radio plugging and airplay on the multitude of music-based TV channels that a consumer is now exposed to.

This all-in marketing is pretty much a direct result of that early 90s slump which finally woke the music industry up to the fact that it could no longer take a laid back approach to motivating people to buy what it was producing. Until now this has not been a problem and as the record-breaking sales figures of the late 1990s proved, was actually incredibly successful. Now, of course, the industry is a little hamstrung and the need to race product into the sales charts as quickly as possible is indeed hampering the growth of long-term new talent.

The real issue is that faith in the value of a singles sales chart as a barometer of popular appeal is slipping away and with that its effectiveness as the industry's ultimate marketing tool. If the singles chart is to continue performing the same promotional role as before, some hard decisions will need to be made as to how to restore the magic. I don't envy those with that task. [And as we all know now, it was the march of new technology which was about to be the transformation and ultimately shot in the arm the charts needed. There was a bright future ahead, just that nobody could see how to get there at the time].

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1 DIRRTY (Christina Aguilera)

Of course, if we are splitting hairs, the 50th anniversary chart was actually last week's, dated as it was November 15th 2002 but it makes more sense to mark the anniversary with the listing produced from sales data of the anniversary week itself. What better way to celebrate than with a misspelt title?

Dirrty is the latest stage in Christina Aguilera's transformation from clean-cut pop star to semi-clad urban minx and the promotion of this brand new single has been as much about the raunchy video and naked magazine cover shoots than about the breathless four minutes of undisguised lust that is the single. Strangely enough in the States this has been enough for the panic button to be pressed with Dirrty failing to reach the Top 20 and a rethink of the way her new album is to be promoted in progress. Here in the UK it is a different story and the track makes the most of the attention it has grabbed to give Christina Aguilera her second solo UK Number One single, three years after her debut Genie In A Bottle became her first. She has of course made one other appearance at the top since, appearing on the Moulin Rouge soundtrack hit Lady Marmalade in 2001 alongside Lil Kim, Mya and Pink. Only once in her chart career has she missed the Top 10 - I Turn To You peaking at what in retrospect seems a rather shocking Number 19 in July 2000.


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5 THE KETCHUP SONG (ASEREJE) (Las Ketchup)

In what is both at once a small moment of cuteness and an illustration of the perils of having such a high turnover at the top end of the chart, this weeks Top 5 is made up entirely of singles that have topped the charts. Starting with Ms Aguilera we then have Nelly and Kelly, DJ Sammy, Westlife and finally Las Ketchup who are the oldest single here, now spending a sixth week as one of the Top 5 sellers.
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6 LOVE ON THE LINE (Blazin' Squad)

A second chart hit single for the Blazin' Squad who scored an unexpected Number One single with a cover of Crossroads back in August. This second single follows in a pretty similar vein, urban flavoured pop music with the sting taken out of it - so much so in fact that if possible the single sounds almost comfortably mainstream. In searching for the next big thing in teen appeal terms, acts such as the Blazin' Squad and Big Brovaz clearly appear to be in vogue but whilst their appeal is clearly enough to make them Top 10 contenders to more jaded and cynical ears it sounds almost a little too forced.
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7 STRONGER/ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES (Sugababes)

A slight chart comedown for the Sugababes after two successive Number One hits already this year but don't let that put you off. One-half of this double-sided single is, of course, the title track from their current album and indeed the soundtrack to the cute little Flash game that has been circulating the web for weeks that sees the girls team up with the Powderpuff girls to fight off hordes of marauding aliens. Yes OK, I know that is weird but after spending entire lunchtimes at the office trying to rack up a high score I now can't get the song out of my head. Their fourth Top 10 hit single overall. [As corporate tie-ins go, this was actually startlingly effective].


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8 COME INTO MY WORLD (Kylie Minogue)

One week after little sister has her moment of Top 10 glory anew, the Queen herself is back to show us how it should be done. Come Into My World is Kylie's third chart hit of the year, the followup to Love At First Sight which hit Number 2 back in June. With nothing new to add to the formula, this single doesn't quite hit the heights of her last few hits and indeed is her lowest charting single since Please Stay hit Number 10 in December 2000. Nonetheless it is still her 24th Top 10 single. Amongst female artists only Madonna (50) has had more.
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10 THE SCIENTIST (Coldplay)

Do you get the feeling we are close to Christmas? Christina Aguilera aside, the top end of the chart has been filled with second third or fourth releases from acts who have all had their moments of glory earlier in the year and who are now just in the business of giving people a gentle reminder of the fact that they have product in the shops. Potentially big seasonal smashes are being held off for just a few weeks longer in time for the annual Christmas Number One race (of which more nearer the time). Not that there is any reason to complain when it means we get a Coldplay track in the charts, The Scientist acting as the followup to In My Place which charged to Number 2 back in August, an achievement that was rather undermined of course by the single dropping straight out of the Top 10 immediately. Never mind, The Scientist is every bit as melancholy and lovely and make an efficient chart appearance to graze the Top 10. Now that Aqualung has copied their style almost note for note, shouldn't we be coming up with a genre name for this type of music? [No mention of it here, but this single was also blessed with one of the most famous pop videos of its era].


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13 HAPPY (Ashanti)

You can possibly chalk this one up as a failure for Ashanti as with a few more sales she could well be celebrating her fourth Top 10 hit of the year. As it stands the followup to July's Number 4 hit Foolish can only creep into the Top 20.
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16 THE GAME OF LOVE (Santana featuring Michelle Branch)

Back in 1999 Carlos Santana was a hero of yesteryear, a guitar legend whose chart success had been several decades before and whose chances of having any more hit singles looked rather slim. That was of course until the release of the album Supernatural which got around the problem of making him sound relevant by teaming the axeman up with a variety of contemporary stars to supply vocals. A worldwide smash hit, the album actually flopped first time around in this country and it required some major promotional legwork to help it take off - which of course it finally did in the summer of 2000 with singles such as Smooth (with Rob Thomas) and Maria Maria (with Wyclef) racing into the Top 10. Now it is time to see if lightning can strike twice with a brand new album that again features contributions from contemporary singers. First out of the blocks is this track featuring a vocal from Michelle Branch, the 18 year old singer who made her chart debut earlier this year with Everywhere (Number 18 in April) and who was last seen in the charts back in August when All You Wanted made Number 33. Thus far then her impact hasn't exactly been huge but since then of course the likes of Avril Lavigne and Vanessa Carlton have shown that female American singer-songwriters can find their niche in this country and this Santana collaboration could indeed be just what she needs to tip her over the edge. No matter that the single has only made the Top 20, it is still a welcome sight indeed.
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17 OBJECTION (TANGO) (Shakira)

A few eyebrows will be raised as this one as Shakira's third single falls some way short of the Top 3 peaks attained by Whenever Wherever and Underneath Your Clothes. Objection (Tango) has the slight disadvantage of not being quite as immediate as her previous releases but repeated listens prove that this accordion-strewn single is as good a slow burner as you are likely to hear. Plus of course the added bonus that she sings about her tiny bosom yet again. Does she have a fixation or is this some kind of inside joke on the part of the people that help her translate the original Spanish versions of her songs? Get some implants girl, we won't tell anyone. [Vevo only has the Spanish language version of the video, but it is still more than worthwhile].


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DON'T WANNA KNOW (Shy FX/T Power/Di & Skibadee)

Token dance entry of the week is this second single from Shy FX & T Power, creators of Shake UR Body which filled dancefloors nicely around Easter time and which hit Number 7 back in April. Don't Wanna Know features a machine-gun rap from the wonderfully named Mc Skibadee and although it hits the speakers like a blast of dynamite the first time you hear it the elements that made Shake UR Body such a crossover success (ie a proper tune) are all present and correct, making this a worthy followup.
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34 WONDERBOY (Tenacious D)

Ooh, now here is a concept and a half. Tenacious D are Jack Black and Kyle Gass who hail from LA and style themselves as the Greatest Band On Earth. Essentially they are masterful satirists, raising from the dead the vocal excesses of late 70s pomp rock and performing it with a knowing and affectionate wink. Hence Wonderboy details the story of a character called Nastyman whose powers appear to know no limits, most reviews having delightedly picked up on the line about killing yaks at 200 yards with mind bullets. Taken on its own this is actually a rather fine rock single in its own right but somehow the appeal is so much greater when you understand where these guys are coming from. Then again, does this chart placing mean nobody else does?
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35 FEUEUR FREI (Rammstein)

Making their second chart appearance of the year are German noise merchants Rammstein whose Number 30 hit Ich Will from May marked an all too rare chart appearance for a German language hit. Just like this one in fact.