1 SWEAR IT AGAIN (Westlife)
[Pops legends debut klaxon as Louis Walsh's pension fund make their first appearance]. Surely never in the field of pop music has there been so much hype over just one band. Westlife you see are not just another group of Irish lads hoping to make it as pop stars, they are a group of Irish lads hoping to make it as pop stars with Ronan Keating as their manager [that was indeed the gimmick, history now records he was really just a marketing front. Lou-lou was running everything down to the last minute detail]. Hence the progress of Westlife's career so far has been almost completely in the spotlight, from the showcase that got them their record deal right down to their last minute name change after a band with the same name from the states objected. Just a few short weeks after their debut single topped the charts in their native Ireland the song duplicates the feat over here with a sale that is by no means spectacular but enough to give them a commanding lead at the top of the charts. Unusually for a band aimed squarely at the teen market their first single is a lushly produced harmony ballad which has led to the unusual situation of the bulk of the national airplay for the single coming from the adult-orientated Radio 2, probably the first example of a new band being sold to little girls on the strength of their looks but to their mothers on the basis of how their music sounds.
2 RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW (Fatboy Slim)
From the man who can do no wrong comes the first of two new entries on the Top 40 this week in which he has a hand, Right Here Right now being a single that makes you wonder just how he can possibly improve with future recordings. The followup to the Number One single Praise You demonstrates yet again the dramatic versatility of Norman Cook as he switches musical styles once again. Right Here Right Now will be familiar to many people as it has been used as the soundtrack to a series of TV adverts for Adidas for a number of months now. The largely instrumental track (its only lyrics are the chanting of the title at appropriate intervals) is accompanied by an innovative morphing video which cleverly tracks the progress of a single amoeba in the water through millions of years of evolution until it becomes the "I'm #1 so why try harder" boy from the cover of the album. If only you could bottle this kind of genius.
3 PERFECT MOMENT (Martine McCutcheon)
Even after three weeks on release, and now a slightly undignified tumble down the chart, Perfect Moment proved this week that it is still capable of generating headlines. Newspapers this week were full of the discovery that the song was not written especially for Martine McCutcheon at all but had in fact been recorded two years ago by Polish singer Edyta Gorniak. Those with long memories may hear echoes in this of the saga of Natalie Imbruglia's Torn which also had more of a history than the artist realised. What surprises me is why this is considered worthy of sensation. The books of music publishers are full of songs written by people lucky enough to have secured a publishing deal and they are often scoured by record companies wanting the right material for the latest starlet they have decided to push on the world and by the law of averages it is possible that they will hit upon a song that has been recorded (albeit unsuccessfully) by someone else somewhere else in the world. In the case of Jim Marr and Wendy Page (the authors of Perfect Moment) after their success in writing Billie's debut album they have suddenly found one of their older songs turned into a hit by another artist and there are plenty more undiscovered classics from the former Skin Games pair in the catalogue. Your final proof that there is nothing new and certainly no sensation involved in songs being recorded by a variety of artists consider the case of Don't Turn Around, the song that Ace Of Base turned into a international hit last year but which Aswad made into a British Number One in 1988 but which had been first recorded by Tina Turner in 1986. Tina Turner is also the subject of less well known example. Her 1989 Top 10 hit The Best is considered one of her most famous anthems and the song by which she will almost always be remembered. Shame then that the song had appeared in an almost identical form on a Bonnie Tyler album in 1986.
4 IN A LIFETIME (Texas)
After the lull of the last few weeks it is actually quite refreshing to see the chart suddenly become swamped by big new releases. The fourth biggest selling single of the week is an occasion to mark the debut of the long-awaited new single from Texas. After the massive global success of White On Blonde the band always had a job trying to follow it, hence the year out recording new material. Thanks to its saturation airplay over the last few weeks In A Lifetime should be familiar to most people, its oriental opening bars giving way to another typically rich production into which Ms Spiteri's vocals cut wonderfully, singing what is once again a suspiciously familiar melody. In A Lifetime narrowly fails to make the Top 3 this week, a shame as it would then have matched the peak of Say What You Want from 1997 to share honours as their biggest hit ever. In any case it becomes their sixth successive Top 10 hit and the seventh of their career. Some dissenting voices may point out that this new single hardly represents any progression from the tracks that made White On Blonde such a massive success two years ago. Having almost completely reinvented themselves and totally revitalised their career with that famous album, I'd suggest that giving the world more of the same is probably the best move they could have made.
5 RED ALERT (Basement Jaxx)
The second coming of the Basement Jaxx has been long overdue and with this new single they are about to become major stars. Mutant disco is the order of the day here as this huge production bursts into life and turns into a groove that is bound to kickstart any party. Red Alert becomes a deserved Top 10 hit and gives them another entry in the chart record books, one to add to their May 1997 Number 19 hit Fly Life, hitherto their only taste of major chart success.
6 WHAT'S IT GONNA BE (Busta Rhymes featuring Janet)
The flood of new entries continues with Busta Rhymes making his second appearance in the Top 10 this year. After hitting Number 5 with the dark sounding Gimmie Some More back in January this most flexible of rappers teams up with none other than Janet Jackson for this single which nicely blurs the lines between rap and good old fashioned R&B balladry. For Rhymes it is his third Top 10 single (fourth if you count the Monstars' anthem Hit Em High from 1997) whilst Janet Jackson finds herself in the unusual position of having guested on two different chart hits in the last few weeks, her starring role alongside Blackstreet on Girlfriend/Boyfriend currently sliding down the Top 30. Believe it or not she isn't the only American female to appear on two different Top 40 hit this week either.
7 BYE BYE BABY (TQ)
Gangster Soul may be his label but that doesn't stop TQ pulling a few surprises out of the bag. After being launched to stardom by January's Number 4 hit Westside he follows up with this offering which if anything is even more mellow than the first. Flamenco guitars are added to the mix on another melancholy but still instantly appealing track. Another Level have enlisted his help in breaking in to the American market and hearing this record it isn't hard to understand why.
14 BRING MY FAMILY BACK (Faithless)
Reworked from the Sunday 8pm album, Faithless make great dance music seem almost effortless with this third single and one which misses the Top 10 by a narrow squeak. The usual elements are all in place, a restrained production from Rollo and Sister Bliss whilst Maxi Jazz, the man with the most beautiful voice in rap, creates a wonderfully dark atmosphere on this heartbreaking song that surely is equal to anything the likes of Tricky and Portishead have ever produced. I've held off from buying the album until now but this single has made me worry just what I'm missing. Bring My Family Back is now their sixth Top 20 hit.
18 FLOWERZ (Armand Van Helden)
As if to prove the point that you are only ever as good as your last single, Armand Van Helden follows up the Number One hit You Don't Know Me with a track that by contrast can only scrape into the Top 20. Admittedly Flowerz is a far cry from the upbeat disco of his last hit but as Van Helden's current rival in his current series of head-to-head live sets, Fatboy Slim has proved, diversity does not always mean erratic chart placings. Onto this hit then, and although not quite the commercial smash You Don't Know Me was always going to be, Flowerz is another example of just why he is held in such high esteem. Potentially a modern soul classic, the vocals on the track are taken this time by Roland Clark who spends roughly half the track sounding like Byron Stingily until the production strips down to just a bassline and he magically turns into Prince's twin brother. Clever? You bet.
23 ALL NIGHT LONG (Faith Evans)
After hitting Number 24 with Love Like This in November, Faith Evans hits the Top 30 once more with her second solo hit. Musically the track owes a great deal to the little known Unlimited Touch track I Hear Music In The Street but it would be wrong for me to pretend that I knew that without reading the record company press release. She is joined on the track by the man whom she helped to a million seller in 1997 - Puff Daddy himself.
28 GEORGIE PORGY (Eric Benet featuring Faith Evans)
Well if Janet Jackson can appear on two different singles at the same time, why not Faith Evans? This single from Eric Benet's well received album features the dulcet tones of the lady herself, undoubtedly a factor in its presence in the Top 30 this week.
30 THE TRAIN IS COMING (UB40)
Single Number 3 from Labour Of Love III and UB40 appear to be discovering that a series of covers aren't quite the route to instant chart success that they were a few years ago. After peaking at Number 31 just before Christmas with Tony Tribe's Holly Holy they scrape into the Top 30 with this version of an old Ken Boothe track which coincidentally was also recently covered by Shaggy. A double a-side with Something Different, his version peaked at Number 21 in March 1996.
34 BADDER BADDER SCHWING (Freddy Fresh)
And in case you were wondering, here is the second new entry on this week's chart in which Norman 'Fatboy Slim' Cook has a hand, helping out his friend Freddy Fresh on this frantic single. Cut and paste dance is the order of the day here and bits of everything are thrown into the mix although the effect here is curiously uninspiring.
39 EL PARADISO RICO (Deetah)
Remember Relax? It was Deetah's first hit single and one which hit Number 11 in September last year. The concept of the track was quite simply an existing melody line (in this case Dire Straits' Why Worry) with new lyrics layered over the top. El Paradiso Rico repeats the idea, this time borrowing heavily from Madonna's 1987 Number One hit La Isla Bonita. For some reason this time round most reviewers have decided the idea is a bad one and the reluctance of radio to come on board has harmed the chart prospects of the track, hence it only just limps into the Top 40. Shame really, I think it is rather lovely.