This week's Official UK Singles Chart

1 MANDY (Westlife)

For the first time in just over a year, the UK charts play host to at Number One single from Westlife. Previously something of a foregone conclusion, Westlife singles no longer appear to have any immediate guarantee of topping the charts (just witness their last single Hey Whatever which made a lowly Number 4) so just for a change, it is quite refreshing to see them score yet another Number One hit. Although maybe rather unfamiliar to the generation buying their singles, Mandy is a cover version of a very famous song indeed. Originally titled Brandy it was first a hit for Scott English in 1971 but was then reworked into its current form by no less a chart legend than Barry Manilow. It gave the former jingle writer his first ever hit single, hitting Number 11 in 1975 and indeed to this day it remains his second biggest hit ever. Westlife's version comes hard on the heels of it being memorably and coincidentally used by one of the current crop of Pop Idol contestants although you suspect that news that it would become Westlife's next single helped the production team steer the singing hopefuls towards the potential of the song.

Meanwhile, the statistics just keep on growing, this is now Westlife's 12th Number One single since they debuted in 1999, thus consolidating their fourth position in the all-time table behind Cliff, The Beatles and Elvis and now putting them two ahead of Madonna who is still struggling to reach her 11th. I do have to take my hat off to what they have achieved and how they just keep on notching up hits. The post 3-year decline that seems to befall most pop acts and for which we have been waiting for in respect of Westlife for some time now appears not to have happened. They may not be guaranteed a Number One hit every time out (and let's face it that did get a bit boring after a while) but as Mandy proves, they are still more than capable of dominating the charts given the right material. I may have said this before but the only likely end to their career will be when the members decide to go their separate ways a la Boyzone. It certainly won't be because they have stopped being able to sell records.

Just as an aside, it is also good to see a Barry Manilow song being covered so successfully. The veteran entertainer is still justifiably a legend amongst a certain generation of women and can still command huge audiences whenever he appears on tour. In this country he always seemed to struggle to become a major chart star, as I mentioned before Mandy is his second biggest hit and his only Top 10 success ever in this country was a 1982 hit I Wanna Do It With You which made Number 8. Despite the fact that everyone knows the words to Copacabana it was actually never a Top 40 hit first time around (it took a 1993 remix to actually turn it into a hit) and most mentions of Barry Manilow will to this day be met with nothing more than a plethora of big nose jokes. Funnily enough Westlife aren't the first teen act in recent times to spot the value of the Manilow back catalogue. Back in 1992 Take That took a storming rendition of Could It Be Magic to Number 3 (incidentally giving Robbie Williams his first ever Top 10 hit as a lead singer) and so inspired the songs author that he released his own re-recording using the Take That arrangement a year later. No, it is time to set the record straight. Barry Manilow is far from the joke that everyone assumes him to be - and the re-appreciation starts here.


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2 JUMP (Girls Aloud)

.It is cover version time yet again as Girls Aloud arrest the slow decline in their chart placings (which have seen their first three singles peak at 1,2 and 3 respectively) and land nicely in the runners up slot with this song that features in a memorable scene in the seasonal smash hit movie Love Actually. Jump was originally a hit single for the Pointer Sisters back in 1984, hitting Number 6 and taken from their shamefully almost forgotten album Break Out which also spawned the 80s classics Automatic and I'm So Excited. I'm a big fan of the original version but always felt it to be slightly underproduced in retrospect and lacking that extra something that would turn it into a guaranteed floor filler. Hence this new version from the Popstars group is actually quite welcome, the beats beefed up nicely although maybe at times at the expense of the vocals. As an out and out party dance track it certainly is a contrast from the more guitar based tracks they have released prior to this but the record buying public appears to have lapped it up. The reality TV hits don't stop there either.


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3 MAYBE THAT'S WHAT IT TAKES (Alex Parks)

Now this should actually be interesting. Alex Parks emerged last month as the winner of the second series of the BBCs Fame Academy, the best of what was widely regarded as a greatly improved crop of contestants. The first series of course recovered from a slow start in the ratings to become an underrated success and led hit singles from many of the contestants - not least of all the winner David Sneddon. Sadly Sneddon could not keep up the momentum of his first hits with his last single Baby Get Higher only managing a derisory Number 38 when released earlier this month. With this in mind, you wonder what the prospects for Alex Parks are, a lady whose talent is not in question by any means. Say one thing for the Fame Academy contestants, they all know how to write songs. Alex Parks is no different and her debut single is a track she penned herself whilst taking part in the show. Having the misfortune to be released in the same week as both Westlife and Girls Aloud, she can only manage a Number 3 hit but that is more than good enough to be going along with. Her only challenge will be to avoid the fate that has befallen both David Sneddon and most of his fellow first year intake.


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5 50:50/LULLABY (Lemar)

Most that is, but not all. Whilst David Sneddon, Sinead Quinn, Ainslie Henderson and Malachi Cush all appear down the proverbial dumper, former Fame Academy-ite Lemar appears to be reaping the rewards of having waited patiently for the chance to launch his own solo career. Hard on the heels of his first single Dance (With U) which was a Number 2 hit back in August. Lemar now follows it up with a second Top 10 single which leads with the Marvin Gaye inspired 50:50. Of all his classmates, only David Sneddon actually managed a second Top 10 hit which puts Lemar way out in front in terms of chart consistency. If anyone can break the apparant jinx of the first series, it may well be this guy.
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10 MIRACLES (Pet Shop Boys)

Years ago Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe would joke that as soon as they became too old to play at being pop stars they would recruit people younger and better looking to become the Pet Shop Boys and concentrated instead on just making the songs. For now that has yet to happen and the duo this week mark the 18th anniversary (almost to the week) of the release of their first hit West End Girls with this brand new track from a forthcoming Greatest Hits collection. Part of the reason they have outlasted, well, just about every other 1980s synth-pop group you care to name is their ability to keep pace with modern trends and to not be afraid to branch out a little where required. Hence Miracles is produced and co-written by club legends Adam F and Dan Fresh, giving this single a dance-floor kick that many of their recent singles have maybe lacked. Exactly how relevant the duo are in this day and age is open to some question (and I say this as a longtime lapsed fan) but Miracles does at least return them to the Top 10 for the first time since January 2000. In all it is their 36th chart single (37th if you count the Absolutely Fabulous track), all but two of which have made the Top 20. During the course of this last week the pair spent the entire day at the studios where I work and I didn't even know about it. Even a lapsed fan can regret that enormously.
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11 ADDICTED (Enrique Iglesias)

Effectively the second hit this year for Enrique Iglesias, following on from his collaboration with Lionel Richie on the disappointing To Love A Woman which hit Number 19 in April. This lustful ballad is taken from his third album and dutifully becomes his fourth successive Top 20 hit single, Top 10 status having eluded him since Escape was a Number 3 hit in May 2002. This man gets to see Anna Kournikova naked a lot so you are allowed to hate him.
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13 STYLE (Mis-Teeq)

Ooh dear, this isn't good. For so long the golden girls of the more credible end of the girl group scene, Mis-Teeq this week find their run of consecutive Top 10 hits comes to a shuddering halt. Their 8th single fails to follow the previous seven into the upper reaches. In fairness maybe this change of style was a little too much for their fans to swallow as Style is a rather more mellow track, produced by StarGate and entertainingly borrowing the baseline from West End Girls, the debut hit single for the Pet Shop Boys. Such was the importance placed on this track that it is being added to a new edition of their second album Eye Candy but in retrospect maybe it wasn't worth all the effort. Bring back Alesha's raps, that is the way forward.
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15 2 + 2 = 5 (Radiohead)

2+2=5 is, as any die-hard Radiohead fan will tell you, the opening track to this years Hail To The Thief album in which the group were clearly attempting to throw as many musical curveballs as possible as people tried to guess what the musical direction of the new album was. The single efficiently becomes their third hit of the year, following on from Go To Sleep which hit Number 12 back in August.
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21 WHEN YOU KISS ME/UP (Shania Twain)

Hit single number 5 from the Up! album sees the upbeat title track paired with the lush ballad When You Kiss Me but the inevitable law of diminishing returns appears to have confined this single to a slot outside the Top 20. Believe it or not this will be enough to make it her lowest charting single ever, falling short of the Number 18 peak of When from 1998 which previously held the honour.
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23 THE HARDEST BUTTON TO BUTTON (White Stripes)

A third hit of 2003 for Jack and Meg, this, of course, the follow-up to their memorable rendition of I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself which hit Number 13 back in September. The Hardest Button To Button was widely hailed as one of Elephant's better tracks when it was first released but sadly fails to become one of its bigger hit singles.
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32 STEP INTO MY OFFICE BABY (Belle and Sebastian)

A welcome chart return for one-time Brit award winners Belle and Sebastian, here in anticipation of their fourth album due for release soon. Step Into My Office Baby is the first hit for the group since I'm Waking Up To Us charted at the base of the Top 40 in December 2001. The new single comes agonisingly close to breaking their long-standing chart jinx which has seen just one of their singles - 2000s Legal Man - enter the Top 30. [I genuinely thought the Dear Catastrophe Waitress album (from which this is taken) was going to be the one that turned them into superstars].


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35 LOW/THE TROUBLE WITH LOVE IS (Kelly Clarkson)

Don't you just love ironic singles titles. American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson appeared to be on to a good thing when her first international single Miss Independent made a strong appearance at Number 6 back in September. Despite Pop Idol fever gripping the nation once more, it appears that this cannot rub off onto international stars and her second chart hit will go down as a major flop.
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37 SWING LOW (UB40/United Colours Of Sound)

Now this re-entry was fairly predictable. As I write the country is still recovering from the hangover that has resulted from a day of partying following England's success in the Rugby World Cup Final on Saturday in an edge of the seat performance that was worthy of any Hollywood screenplay. As the anticipation of the final built up, it resulted in a kick to the sales of UB40s England anthem which first charted at Number 23 three weeks ago. Oddly enough this is an exact duplication of the fortunes of the original World Cup version of Swing Low Sweet Chariot as performed by Union back in 1991. Back then the single was at first playing second fiddle to Kiri Te Kanawa's World In Union and so it charted at a lowly Number 39 when first released, dropping out of the Top 40 the following week. Two weeks later it was back at a more impressive Number 19 as England reached the final, hitting Number 16 the following week. Sadly on that occasion, England lost but with the celebrations likely to continue into this week, it is possible that Swing Low may creep up the charts again in seven days time?