This week's Official UK Singles Chart

1 QUEEN OF MY HEART (Westlife)

By their own normally productive standards it has been a quiet year for Westlife, their only single release coming back in March with the Comic Relief track, Uptown Girl. The reason for the break has been their somewhat abortive attempt to crack the US market and then the recording of a brand new album. Queen Of My Heart is the first single to be taken from it and if you expected it to do anything other than fly straight to the top of the chart then I'm afraid you have really not been paying attention for the past two and a half years. Even for a group whose musical output is almost exclusively balladry, the single is quite breathtaking, albeit derivatively so. Best described as Lean On Me meets Mull Of Kintyre, it is a scarf-waving singalong weepie that (possibly due to the way it takes inspiration from the Wings classic to which it is clearly a very close musical relation) is somehow instantly and comfortingly familiar. Queen Of My Heart is duly the ninth Number One single for the Irish lads, one which puts them within striking distance of being only the fifth act in chart history (after The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Cliff Richard and Madonna) to reach double figures. Although many chart listings don't show it as such, this single is actually a double a-side. Accompanying Queen Of My Heart is When You're Looking Like That which actually first appeared on their last album. The track was originally the cornerstone of their now aborted US push but the group have kept their profile alive here by performing it on TV shows from time to time. Hence popular demand has resulted in it appearing on this single and in truth, on its own, it would have been an easy Number One. When You're Looking Like That shows Westlife in an almost totally new light, an upbeat uptempo pop song that sounds spookily like the best track Rick Springfield never recorded in his 1980s heyday. So much so in fact that you wonder how the United States was able to resist. Arguably the only cloud on Westlife's horizon now is time. History shows that the average lifespan of a pop group is around 3 years after which point even their most hardcore fans start growing up and growing out of them. With their career now rapidly approaching that moment it is entirely possible that their forthcoming new album will represent the final high point of their time together. Then again, the group that has rewritten virtually every chart record going don't seem to conform to the usual rules.


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3 THEY DON'T KNOW (So Solid Crew)

Boy, they certainly picked their moment didn't they? The followup to the massively successful 21 Seconds which topped the charts back in August has to content itself with becoming the second biggest hit of the week, albeit one that was still outsold by the four week old Afroman track. The first true UK hip-hop stars, So Solid Crew have somehow spent the past few weeks making headlines for all the wrong reasons, the series of shootings at their West End party last week being a case in point. This is actually a crying shame as the 21-strong group of friends are nothing more than an incredibly talented bunch of people who have managed to haul themselves up from obscurity to be in a position where a great many people are excited about what they can achieve in the industry. The only shame is that the more moronic element of the culture that they came from seem determined to come along for the ride. Anyway, They Don't Know is a worthy successor to 21 Seconds and proves that they are far from being one (or even two) hit wonders.
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6 WHAT'S GOING ON (All Star Tribute)

You know there was once a time when charity singles were beyond criticism. No matter how terrible you thought the record was, the fact that it was being released for a good cause meant that the quality of the music was really secondary. Not so any longer it seems if the reaction to this release is anything to go by. The All Star Tribute is a charity collaboration fronted by Bono and featuring contributions from the likes of Nelly Furtado, Destiny's Child, Michael Stipe and even Fred Durst, originally intended to benefit AIDS charities but now with a small commitment to the New York disaster fund tacked on the side. The song itself is a cover of the classic Marvin Gaye track from his 1971 album of the same name. Gaye's original was never a single in this country and to date the only versions to chart have been Cyndi Lauper's (No.57 in 1987) and another charity single Music Relief '94 (No.70 in 1994) which was in aid of Rwanda. For whatever reason the All Star Tribute record has attracted all manner of rather scathing reviews which hint at either compassion fatigue or simply fatigue from very bad collaborative records. I make no comment as to the quality of the single, suffice to point out that for it to charge into the chart at Number 6 suggests that somebody somewhere likes the way it sounds.
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8 THE MUSIC'S NO GOOD WITHOUT YOU (Cher)

Three years after Believe and just over two years since her last single Dov'e L'Amore the most energetic old lady of pop is back. Fans of the singles from her last album will find much to please them here, The Music's No Good Without You uses the same pop-dance formula albeit with even more vocoder if such a thing were possible. This still makes for an incredibly good record but inevitably is less of a revelation than her choice of this style back in 1998 turned out to be. This single returns her to the Top 10 for the first time since Strong Enough peaked at Number 5 in March 1999 and is her 11th Top 10 single since she kicked off her solo career with All I Really Want To Do in 1965.
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11 FIGHT MUSIC (D12)

The third D12 single becomes the first to miss the Top 10 but don't let that put you off. More than any of their other hits, Fight Music is more of a collaborative effort vocally with Eminem taking a back seat to the other members of the Detroit crew. Possibly not as commercial as the Number 2 smash Purple Hills but confirmation that out of nowhere they have made some of the best rap singles of the year.
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14 LAST NITE (Strokes)

The most hysterically hyped band of the year return to the Top 20 with their third chart single, the followup to their Number 16 hit Hard To Explain which charted in July. Those who have bought into the "wow these guys are good" cult will find plenty to please them here as this bounding and naggingly familiar rock track assaults your ears in a none too unpleasant fashion. Everyone else will continue to wonder just what the fuss is about and hope and pray that they work it all out before the White Stripes make everyone repeat the process all over again.


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17 GET UP (Beverley Knight)

The most underrated soul singer in Britain, Beverley Knight finally achieved some modicum of success back in 1999 when her earlier classic Made It Back finally became a Top 20 hit and Greatest Day gave her the biggest hit of her career when it reached Number 14. Almost two years since her last single Sista Sista she is back with a new album and a new single that has won admiring reviews in many places. Mainstream exposure and acceptance still is proving elusive and whilst this track may nicely whet the appetite of soul fans for her new long player she still has a little way to go before becoming the household name her talent suggests she deserves to be.
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19 FREELOVE (Depeche Mode)

The third single release of the year from Depeche Mode follows the previous two into the Top 20 and extends their 20 year run of chart singles even further. Freelove shows the band in reflective mood, a minimalistic production that allows the ballad room to breathe and quite possibly elevates it up amongst some of their best tracks. It seems such a shame that there are so few people around to care about that fact. Despite their long-awaited comeback single Dream On crashing into the Top 10 in its first week back in May, the truth is that it has been a long time since the Mode had what could be called a real hit - one whose appeal extended beyond their ever loyal fanbase and became a mainstream success in the shape of extended popularity and extensive airplay. Just take a look back at their chart statistics of the last ten years or so. Their only single to spend longer than eight weeks on the Top 75 was 1990s Brit Award winning Enjoy The Silence. When I Feel Loved managed a six week Top 75 run in August it was their first single to chart for that long since 1993. In that sense they are the Iron Maiden of electronic music - both of them acts with a long history of selling records and an amazingly loyal set of fans but at the same time acts whose actual cultural impact is less than their longevity suggests. [Not yet named as such, but this was essentially the moment I identified what I refer to as Depeche Mode syndrome, the point when an act makes music entirely and exclusively for their established base without ever attracting new ones].


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25 HARDER BETTER FASTER STRONGER (Daft Punk)

The fourth single from the Discovery album and the third to actually make it to the chart, Harder Better Faster Stronger continues the vocodered disco theme of previous hits such as One More Time and the fabulous Digital Love and of course comes complete with the latest episode of the animated video. Sadly it isn't one of the strongest tracks from the album and by all accounts seems a strange choice for a single. Hence you suspect this rather disappointing chart position, although it is by no means their smallest single ever, that honour falling to Revolution 909 which could only make Number 47 in early 1998. [Meanwhile, Kanye West is making notes].
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35 MAKE IT LAST (Embrace)

The best band in West Yorkshire return with their second hit of the year, this a comparatively rapid followup to Wonder which reached Number 14 back in September. The usual anthemic formula applies here although the inescapable truth appears to be that their appeal is a tiny fraction of what it was 3 or 4 years ago. Sad really as their songs are as good as ever. Just think, if Westlife had released Make It Last it would have topped the charts for months.
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36 MY FRIEND (Groove Armada)

Well they will be sad that this one did not do better. After triumphantly returning to the chart in August with the ragga-flavoured Superstylin', Groove Armada have returned to more conventional club sounds for this second single from their second album. For whatever reason it has failed to catch the imagination of the general public and looks set to become their smallest chart single to date. Still, those with exceptionally long memories will find something comfortingly familiar about the single as it is based on a sample from the Fatback Band's Gotta Learn How To Dance - first recorded back in 1975.
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38 PAGAN POETRY (Bjork)

Creeping into the bottom of the Top 40 is the second single of the year from Bjork, a rather small followup to Hidden Place which reached Number 21 in August. If anything this is actually a far better track, a rather haunting piece of music laden with harps and strings over which her never quite out of tune yodelling fits beautifully. May there always be music this unconventional in the British charts.


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