You may have read on dotmusic this week about the latest promotional scam from the Manic Street Preachers who in March are to take the unusual step of releasing two different singles on the same day. Immediately this was announced the guys on the newsdesk raced to me to ask if this was a first - which to the best of my knowledge it was, at least by a mainstream chart act. In actual fact the trick has been pulled off once before albeit to a rather muted effect. Back in 1994 and well before their brief brush with fame, Lush tried the trick and released Desire Lines and Hypocrite on the same day. As their proper chart breakthrough was still two years away, hardly anyone noticed and the singles crashed out at Numbers 60 and 52 respectively. Still, this is worth acknowledging even though the Manics are set to generate far more headlines when their double release hits the shops in two months time. For the record, the last act to manage two simultaneous Top 3 hits was Madonna (Into The Groove and Holiday in 1985) - and it would be a foolish man who bets against the Manic Street Preachers emulating the feat. Anyway, this is all weeks in the future. This column is about now dammit...
1 LOVE DON'T COST A THING (Jennifer Lopez)
Although we all viewed her as a Hollywood actress with a pop career as a sideline at first, Jennifer Lopez is certainly set to prove that her musical activities are as important a part of her career as Will Smith's. Her recent promotional visit to this country may have been characterised by a series of press reports regarding her primadonna-like behaviour but this has not dulled the interest in the first single from her forthcoming new album which duly charges to the very top of the chart, giving the actress er, I mean star her first ever UK Number One hit. When you have a formula that works you can either stick to it or take it a step further and indeed this is what Love Don't Cost A Thing does. Imagine If You Had My Love with extra balls, a faster tempo, bigger beats and more guitars but other than that the same slinky latino rhythm and breathless waif-like vocals from the lady with one of the most famous bottoms in pop. A massive thumbs up from here.
2 TOUCH ME (Rui Da Silva featuring Cassandra)
His moment of glory may only have lasted a week (how often have we heard that in the last year) but Rui Da Silva can still bask in the glory of being the first ever Portuguese star to top the UK charts. The delay in the release of the single (originally due out in December) certainly didn't hurt its chart prospects but for a time there were doubts if the track would ever see the light of day. The problems stemmed from the original version which featured elements of Spandau Ballet's Chant No.1 for which clearance had not been obtained and the version that was eventually released featured subtle changes to the melody to avoid any further comparisons. Thus continues a noble tradition of chart records that originally sounded too much like others for comfort. Back in 1992 Blue Pearl's Can You Feel The Passion had to be re-edited after complaints it sounded too much like Bizarre Inc's Playing With Knives (both singles ended up in the chart together). A year later Gabrielle's Dreams only made it into the shops (and to the top of the charts) after being re-recorded so that the guitar melody was no longer the same as Tracy Chapman's Fast Car. Even as recently as last year, Black Legend's See The Trouble With Me ran into problems when Barry White objected to the use of some bootlegged live vocals of his being used on the track, the commercial release ending up using a soundalike and thus sending the value of the original promo copies through the roof. Mind you, copyright problems can work the other way. Just ask Oxide & Neutrino who sent out review copies of Bound 4 Da Reload that featured a studio recreation of Ken Freeman's Casualty theme, only for clearance for the original samples to come through at the last minute so they could be included on the version that eventually made it to the shops.
5 BUCK ROGERS (Feeder)
If this is to be the start of a long period of success [as it so happened it was, and the world was all the better for it] for Feeder then they deserve every moment of it. Their first Top 40 appearance came in October 1997 when High, a single from their first album Polythene reached Number 24. It wasn't until two years later that hits started coming regularly, the Yesterday Went Too Soon album producing four chart singles, the biggest of which was the title track which made Number 20. Now the deliciously retro indie rockers are back once more and are set to become the first breakout stars of 2001 with their first ever Top 10 single. Calling them retro isn't intended as a slur on their music, far from it in fact as Buck Rogers is a throwback to the golden days of mid-80s independent music and even contains moments that make you feel nostalgic for late 70s new wave. Consider this single as everything that was ever good about a group of blokes making twanging noises on their guitars, all wrapped up in hummable melody and a catchy chorus that makes this hit the best single of the year so far. It's like the Jesus And Mary Chain never went away.
6 INNER SMILE (Texas)
Speaking of best singles, Texas have been telling anyone who is prepared to listen that this is one of the best things they have ever released. My favourite email of last week came from a chap who wrote with deep concern and not a little outrage about the way Inner Smile sounded just like an old New Radicals album track. This is hardly surprising when you look at the writing credits and see the name of one Gregg Alexander, the former New Radicals frontman who is rapidly becoming one of the most in-demand songwriters in the business. The single is the second new hit to be lifted from Texas' Greatest Hits collection and it helps its parent album leap back to No.2 in the albums listing, behind The Beatles and ahead even of Westlife's debut album which was widely tipped to shoot to the top after being made available at mid-price this week. Inner Smile matches the peak of Texas' last single In Demand and is their 10th Top 10 hit of a chart career that now stretches back almost 12 years.
8 WHY (Mis-Teeq)
[Alesha Dixon debut klaxon] Busy old week this week isn't it? Anyone would think the music industry returned from its holidays last week or something. New entry number 4 marks the chart debut of Mis-Teeq, two girls [heh, this was actually even more wrong that in first appears given the famous trio were actually a quartet at this point] who warble a song of female attitude over a pizzicato laden garage rhythm. Presumably they are intended to be Sweet Female Attitude only not so rough looking. The single isn't actually that bad but tickle me underwhelmed in any case, wasn't garage supposed to be last year's big thing?
9 CAMELS (Santos)
Here is the big debate I'm told. Can you have a massive European club hit without any discernable vocal hook? Santos seems to think so and the 21 year old Italian DJ has already burned up dancefloors with this track that sailed up the charts in Europe just before Christmas. No one hit wonder is he either, with a whole album of this due out very soon. Incidentally, to answer a question I have seen posed by a rather worrying number of reviewers, the single is called Camels as the swirling strings around which the track is based are lifted from Maurice Jarre's Oscar-winning theme to Laurence Of Arabia. Simple when you know isn't it?
11 NEEDIN' U II (David Morales presents The Face featuring Juliet Roberts)
OK now this is a complicated one. In the late 1970s and early 1980s legendary soul balladeers the Chi-Lites made an attempt to revive their career by embracing disco in a big way. One of the highlights of their work in this period was a track called My First Mistake which was produced by New York legend Larry Levan. Said track began at a mid-tempo Philly pace before spiralling upwards into a full blown disco anthem. In 1998 David Morales made a modern day dance single out of one of the track's central hooks, the plaintive wail of "Needing You". One of the big Ibiza anthems of that summer, the track Needin' U made Number 8 in this country. Then last year someone somewhere had an idea. Given that Morales' version retained most of the melody and structure of the original but only retained the hook of the original vocal line, what would happen if you reinstated the actual song? Hence this new version as David Morales' 'original' production is augmented by a new vocal from Juliet Roberts, adding in some of the original lyrics from My First Mistake. It seems a roundabout way of covering a 70s classic but whatever the method used, it works a treat. This Top 20 hit is the result.
13 WITH ARMS WIDE OPEN (Creed)
Fascinating fact: These guys can claim to have sold more records in the states last year than Eminem. The debut Top 40 hit from Creed is a gruff yet touching ballad written by singer Scott Stapp about his impending fatherhood. To these ears they sound like Hootie And The Blowfish reborn but with the Top 10 this week almost drowning under a tidal wave of dance records of varying quality, some good old fashioned stateside rock makes for a very pleasant addition to the charts. This is actually the second attempt by Epic records to break Creed in this country. The first was regarded as a dismal failure when the single Higher could only limp to Number 47 almost exactly a year ago this week.
16 DEMONS (Fatboy Slim featuring Macy Gray)
Just call me king of the segues as a song about expectant fathers is followed in the charts by a record made by a new father. Norman Cook follows up the Autumnal Top 10 success of Sunset (Bird Of Prey) with this second single taken from the new Fatboy Slim album Between The Gutter And The Stars. Just for a change the track doesn't rely on the sampled vocals of an obscure song but instead features a new recording from an established star. Macy Gray provides the Marge Simpson-a-like vocals on a track which has actually fared rather badly in the eyes of a number of reviewers. I don't actually think it is that bad myself, the problem is still that Norman Cook has made the record that he wanted to rather than blindly following the formula he laid down on You've Come A Long Way Baby. Still, the chart placings cannot lie. this could well be the first Fatboy Slim track to miss the Top 10 since Everybody Needs A 303 made Number 34 in November 1997 - before anyone had worked out exactly who he was.
31 ALWAYS REMEMBER TO RESPECT AND HONOUR YOUR MOTHER (Dusted)
Not quite everything it seems this one. Dusted is actually a small side project by Mark Bates and one Rollo Armstrong, better known as one of the leading lights behind Faithless. They released an acclaimed album When We Were Young last year and now promote their first chart hit. This rather beautifully atmospheric single arrives in the Top 40 just a few months after fellow Faithless collaborator Sister Bliss relaunched her own solo career with the track Sister Sister. Rollo is starting to rival Norman Cook for multiple chart aliases as in the mid-90s he insisted on a different billing for every track he released, hence his chart CV includes record credited to Rollo Goes Camping, Rollo Goes Mystic and Rollo Goes Spiritual. To make this a family affair, this single arrives on the chart whilst Eminem's Stan is still inside the Top 10, a track which of course features Rollo's younger sister Dido, herself set to have her first ever solo hit in a few weeks time and whose name can also be found in the credits of this single.
34 BOY IS CRYING (Saint Etienne)
It has been three years since the last Saint Etienne album which must mean it is time for the obligatory shift in styles. Their last two singles Sylvie and Bad Photographer (both hits in 1998) featured the bubbly eurobeat style which the group had been evolving into for years. Now they take on a slightly darker tone with their trademark lightly breathed vocals and masterful synthesiser lines augmented by (shock!) some jangling guitars. The release of this single is an attempt to breathe life into their latest album (of which this is the title track) which was released last year with little fanfare and whose first single Heart Failed (In The Back Of A Taxi) could only reach Number 50 in June last year. This track restores some respectability to their chart positions so don't write them off as a hitmaking force just yet - they have survived similar reversals in popularity before.
Hey, she is still hanging in there, Music actually spends a second week inside the Top 40 after re-entering in the post-Christmas shakeout last week. The single has now been on the chart continuously for 21 weeks which makes it far and away the longest continuous chart run of Nadonna's career. Before this her longest chart run was the 18 week stay of Like A Virgin at the end of 1984. Music still has a little way to go before becoming Madonna's most charted single of all time, that honour belonging to Holiday which on three separate chart runs in 1984, 1985 and 1991 has spent a total of 28 weeks inside the Top 75.
This is only the second ever solo Top 40 single for Everlast, better known of course as Erik Schrody, the former House Of Pain rapper who shifted direction a few years ago to become a rootsy bluesey rocker. His only other chart hit was What It's Like which made Number 34 in February 1999. Sadly the musical climate in 2001 isn't any more receptive to his music than it was two years ago. He remains a very well kept secret.