This week's Official UK Singles Chart

1 ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE/EVERGREEN (Will Young)

As I half-jokingly predicted last week, an over 80% decline in sales for Will Young's debut single makes absolutely no difference to its chart position. A near 200,000 copies sale this week means that Anything Is Possible/Evergreen maintains its lead over the competition by a healthy margin. Indeed the most startling thing is that the competition did not come from any of this week's legion of new releases but established hits that were already on the chart, Shakira, Enrique, Nickelback and Lasgo ensuring that the Top 5 bears a startling similarity to last week. Looking ahead, unless the Ali G and Shaggy single performs startlingly well, the path is clear for the next battle at the top to come in two weeks time with George Michael going head to head with the Pop Idol runner-up Gareth Gates. After his record-busting performance last week, Will Young has continued to make headlines thanks to the rather strange row that blew up over his Top Of The Pops performance. Whilst there quite possibly was a dispute between his management (who wanted both sides of the single to be performed) and the producers (who insisted they would not be held to ransom), you get the feeling the whole thing was milked for as many headlines as possible. Every little helps of course.

[In the end Top Of The Pops showed the Evergreen video for his first week at the top, but he performed Anything Is Possible in the studio for his second week].


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6 I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU (Rik Waller)

Out of respect to the gentleman I shall refer to him as Fat Rik this one time only but it is his story that is one of the more fascinating to come out of the whole Pop Idol TV show. Rik Waller you see is not a small chap, in fact, he is almost disturbingly obese and his size was certainly one of the reasons he turned many heads when he first showed up at the Pop Idol auditions. The other reason was his voice, for the bloke is blessed with a warm, rich and powerful singing voice that far and away made him one of the standout hopefuls. This caused the judges something of a problem, leading to a famous row between them (all caught on camera of course) where they debated whether he could ever become a "Pop Idol" looking the way he did. Still, they let him through to become one of the final 50 and in turn, he won his heat to be part of the final 10. Then fate struck a cruel blow as just before Christmas he caught a throat infection and whilst he was given a weeks grace from the competition he was eventually forced to pull out to avoid damaging his voice, his place taken by eventual bronze medallist Darius. Notwithstanding this setback, the offers of a record contract rolled in and thus Rik Waller becomes the first Pop Idol 'reject' to hit the charts with a single. Technically he is supposed to be in breach of his contract with the show for doing so, but you suspect that a deal has been reached over this issue owing to the way he was forced to drop out rather than being voted out by the public.

The song he has chosen to sing should be familiar to a great many people. I Will Always Love You was first written and recorded by Dolly Parton in 1974 although it was never a hit in this country either in that version or the one she recorded in 1982 for the Best Little Whorehouse In Texas soundtrack. Ten years later the song took on a new lease of life when Whitney Houston recorded it for her role in the movie The Bodyguard. Her version topped charts all over the world, spending a staggering ten weeks at Number One in this country and of course selling over a million copies in the process. Sarah Washington hit Number 12 with a dance remake of the song in 1993 but this week Rik Waller becomes the first male singer to have a chart hit with the song. In truth the single isn't anything too amazing, of course it shows his voice off to impressive effect but the production is lifeless, the video appears calculated to make the singer look as unpleasant as possible and you get the feeling the whole thing is little more than a quick-fire cash-in rather than an attempt to launch Rik as a serious star. Of course his main problem is the very issue that caused the Pop Idol judges to fall out over all those months ago. In his present physical condition he will never be a teenage girl's dream so the only way he can become a long-lasting star is with some strong recorded material. Some very strong material, and tired old Whitney Houston covers are surely not the way to go. Incidentally the appearance of the song in the charts is a chance once again to pose the question of just why I Will Always Love You is such a romantic standard - the lyrics are actually about the end of a relationship.

[I would love to have lived in an alternative universe where Rik Waller was healthy enough to compete, just to see what would have transpired. He had an amazing, warm and soulful voice, but his downfall was to be the defence mechanisms he'd built up to survive what were almost certainly years of cruel bullying as a child. As Celebrity Fit Club proved a short while later, he had it in him to be a supermassive dickhead on occasion and this, more than anything else, would be what derailed his career].


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8 OI (Platinum 45 featuring More Fire Crew)

So now the parade of new entries begins in earnest, no less than 16 new singles arrive inside the Top 40 this week although none of them appear to have what it takes to be anything other than brief one week wonders. Plaudits at least to the More Fire Crew, three garage MCs who are of course set to be landed with the tag of being in the So Solid mould. These guys are actually from the East End and have been taken under the wing of producer Platinum 45 for this debut release. Despite the obvious appeal of singles such as this and the attention that is being paid to the likes of the So Solid Crew, the appeal of 'proper' garage tracks such as this one remains very much a regional thing, their sales being confined almost exclusively to the south-east corner of the country. Of course plenty of other styles of music have their own regional bias (just look at how man singles Ian Van Dahl sell in Scotland) but most do at least manage to cross over in some small way to the rest of the population. The sad truth is that the chances of dancefloors in Newcastle or Bolton being filled by the sounds of the More Fire Crew are minimal to say the least.
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9 CARAMEL (City High featuring Eve)

The initial promotion for City High's debut single What Would You Do may well have leaned upon the Wyclef Jean factor but it quickly became clear that the single and group were something special in their own right. Indeed, the single spent no less than six weeks inside the Top 10 (peaking at Number 3) and almost three months in the Top 40 to seal its place as one of the most memorable tracks of the latter half of last year. Sad to relate then that the follow-up doesn't quite have the same impact, barely scraping a place inside the Top 10 and certainly to these ears lacking something of the charm of its predecessor. Receiving a co-credit on the track is Eve who supplies the rap breakdown at the end of the track. It is her second chart appearance in as many weeks, thanks to her contribution to Angie Stones' Brotha which made Number 37 last week. Her last chart single proper was Let Me Blow Ya Mind which was a Number 4 hit back in August last year.
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11 BREAK YA NECK (Busta Rhymes)

The pleasant ditty Break Ya Neck becomes Busta Rhymes' first hit single of 2002 and indeed his first solo Top 40 single for close on three years. His last chart appearance was in August last year when he made a guest appearance on M.O.P.'s Ante Up which made Number 7. His last hit singles under his own steam were Get Out and Fire which were both released in 2000 but which could only make 57 and 60 respectively. To find his last hit of any substance you have to travel back to May 1999 when the Janet Jackson-guested What's It Gonna Be? made Number 6. His most famous hit single in this country was Turn It Up which made Number 2 in April 1998 thanks largely to the inspired way it used the old Knight Rider theme tune as a base. Four years is clearly the statue of limitation on recycling ideas for rap singles - just ask So Solid Crew who are about to have a hit with the exact same premise.
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12 CLOSE COVER (Minimalistix)

Typical, you wait months for a Belgian chart hit and then two come along at once. Joining countrymen Lasgo in the Top 20 this week are Minimalistix, three blokes from north-east Europe who come complete with dancer and acrobat Poison IV. They are actually men on a mission and have stated that their aim is to bring to ears of the masses some of the rich catalogue of trance music that has been produced over the years. Hence Close Cover is not entirely their own work, instead being a reworking of a track first recorded by Wim Mertons. As ever, I struggle to define exactly what it is that is supposed to make one piece of trance music more appealing than another but if it is melodic synthesised twitterings complete with the odd plaintive piano breakdown that you are after then this is the track for you. Plus of course there is no denying that the accompanying video of cloud formations is actually quite spellbinding...


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18 MY SACRIFICE (Creed)

Any hopes that the success of With Arms Wide Open was going to springboard Creed to celebrity in this country appeared to be cruelly dashed last summer. Whilst the epic ballad did indeed reach Number 13 in January last year it proved to be the only big hit for the group who had to be content with the ironically titled Higher becoming their only other chart single, peaking at Number 64. As the current success of Nickelback proves, there is still a market for US rock, even the rather downbeat gravelly type. Sure enough, Creed are back in the charts and back in the Top 20 with My Sacrifice. The question is, can they follow it up effectively this time?
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19 IF I COULD (Hundred Reasons)

This week gives reasons to be cheerful to the fans of three-piece act Hundred Reasons who appear to be about to break into the big time. Their last chart appearance was in December when EP Three gave them their first ever Top 40 hit when it made Number 37. The anthemic If I Could duly lives up to its rave reviews and becomes far and away their biggest chart hit to date.
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23 SILENT TO THE DARK II (Electric Soft Parade)

A Top 40 debut this week for the Electric Soft Parade, this chart entry is their fourth single release and comes four months after the Brighton duo had their first chart single with There's A Silence which reached Number 52. The group are placed in the same category as the likes of Elbow and Starsailor as examples of just how many potentially big guitar groups are around at the moment and there is no doubting that they have the ability to live up to that billing. So far so good, expect Top 20 or better next time around for these guys.
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26 BEEN THERE DONE THAT (Smoke 2 Seven)

Those parts of the record industry that are not tied up with trying to turn as many Pop Idol rejects into stars as is humanly possible are instead still searching for the new All Saints, an all-girl group that actually has some musical credibility rather than simply being manufactured pop. The Sugababes don't quite seem to have managed it, Mis-Teeq appear to be well on the way but here to challenge them all are Smoke 2 Seven. Jo, Bev and Nikki make up the group and their debut single has been picking up a respectable amount of airplay over the past few weeks - not enough it seems to give the track the major chart impact it was going to need. In actual fact this is something of a shame as Been There Done That is possibly one of the better singles released this week and the sort of credible sounding pop cum R&B track that would be being hailed as a work of genius if it had been given to Britney Spears. Brand Smoke 2 Seven a work in progress for the moment but they deserve much better success. [A better tag: one hit wonders].
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28 SHOT SHOT (Gomez)

Gomez are interesting. The lads from Stockport first emerged around five years ago during which the dying embers of the Britpop boom were still being fanned. As if to avoid being labelled as part of that movement they eschewed full on rock in favour of a more laid-back blues sound that actually gave them a distinctiveness that I suspect many bands would kill for. Awards and accolades duly followed along with a fervent hope that their cult appeal would transfer itself to the mainstream. Thus far that hasn't quite happened although when we last saw them in 1999 they were making good progress, breaking into the Top 20 for the first time in September '99 with Rhythm & Blues Alibi. This week they become one of two groundbreaking acts to return to the charts after an extended absence and at first glance it appears they have fared somewhat better than Cornershop. Shot Shot represents another slight progression in their sound, the production allowing itself the luxury of a stabbing brass line to provide the hook but purists can be reassured that underneath it all is the kind of guitar work that made the late John Lee Hooker send them a note saying he was a fan. Still major success appears to be eluding them and all the rave reviews in the world cannot stop this from being anything more than just another Top 30 hit, the third of their career.
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30 SEXUAL GUARANTEE (Alcazar)

You know it is funny. The world isn't exactly looking for the new Steps but if we ever need them they are right in front of us in the shape of Alcazar. The pieces are all in place, a group of people with fixed on smiles and a set of records that are not only campy 70s throwbacks but also enormous fun at the same time. Their first single was, of course, Crying At The Discotheque which had been a smash hit all over Europe in the summer of 2001 but which only managed a mildly diverting Number 13 at the start of December. The follow-up utilises the exact same formula (unashamed lifting of classic disco sounds, intoxicating beat, close harmonies on the chorus and of course a big smile) and effectively has hit written all over it. Except of course it doesn't and Sexual Guarantee is guaranteed nothing more than a quick trip to the bargain bins on the basis of this chart performance. They could easily be the new Steps except for the fact nobody seems desperate for replacements... and don't forget this is Britain where we didn't get the joke of the Army Of Lovers.


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32 SUGAR FOR THE SOUL (Steve Balsamo)

A chart debut this week for a Welshman whose career to date has been on the stage, starting out in Les Miserables and then taking the lead role in a touring production of Jesus Christ Superstar. His debut single is a competent enough pop track that has echoes of Robbie Williams in his more epic moments. For the moment he is little more than a chart also-ran but he has potential.
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34 GET OFF (Dandy Warhols)

Well after Bohemian Like You became a hit last November thanks to its use in a TV commercial it was only logical that other older tracks from the Dandy Warhols would be reactivated in an attempt to expose them to their newfound audience. The track chosen for this honour is in fact the single that preceded the original release of Bohemian, Get Off having first been released in June 2000 and indeed it actually crept into the Top 40 first time around, peaking at Number 38. Any hopes that the equally catchy track would go on to become another Top 10 hit for the group are cruelly dashed as the single makes an almost indifferent entry, peaking just four places higher than it did first time around. Something tells me the best tactic will be to wait until the group record some brand new material and then to promote the hell out of it as the new work from the band who did Bohemian Like You. Pushing older songs may not do them any more favours.
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35 PULSAR 2002 (Mauro Picotto)

The first chart single of the year for Mr Picotto, his last Top 40 appearance coming in August last year when Like This Like That reached Number 21. Yes, that is the only interesting thing about the single.
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37 LESSONS LEARNED FROM ROCKY I TO ROCKY III (Cornershop)

Yeah, you remember these guys. Cornershop are the Asian duo led by the charismatic Tjinda Singh who were transformed from little-known cult success into chart-topping hitmakers early in 1998 thanks to the work of Norman Cook who transformed their underperforming 1997 single Brimful Of Asha into a storming pop smash hit. After Brimful Of Asha had topped the charts just over four years ago the group released Sleep On The Left Side as a single, saw that peak at Number 23 and then went into hiding. Well, maybe it wasn't quite as dramatic as that but there is no denying that the length of time it has taken to record their new album has had many people hoping that they have something special up their sleeves. Well in truth this comeback single is actually impressive, a delightfully retro rock track that wears its 70s influences on its sleeve, right down to the cooing female backing singers. Just like Smoke 2 Seven, this is an example of a group releasing some quality material but seeing it fall far short of expectations. Cornershop don't need to have a massive hit single to sell albums but it would have been nice to see this return them to the Top 10 rather than becoming their third and smallest hit single to date.


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