This week's Official UK Singles Chart

[So here it is, a genuine watershed moment in pop music history as a solo artist who has been effectively selected and nurtured by the public themselves makes his chart debut in a manner which was completely without precedent and almost certainly destined never to be repeated].

1 ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE/EVERGREEN (Will Young)

First there were the Popstars. It was a television idea that was imported from Australia and the premise was simple. Make a fly-on-the-wall series about the open auditions, the backstage dramas, the choosing, grooming and training of a manufactured pop band, release a record and watch the cash roll in. Hear'Say were the result, and the reward for all of this was massive ratings for what turned out to be compelling TV and a first week sale of over half a million for their debut hit.

Then came Pop Idol, a series searching for a solo pop star but this time with a twist. Rather than being an entirely passive experience, the audience would ultimately be the ones to choose the winner. Consequently, once the often hilarious and tearful auditions were over, the final 50 contenders were whittled down via a series of national phone votes. First to a final ten and then over two and a half months (during which the ratings for the Saturday night TV series steadily rose) one person was eliminated each week until a winner - The Pop Idol - was found. So it was that just over three weeks ago one of the biggest telephone votes in history elevated Will Young to a position of national hero and most crucially with a veritable army of fans who already had an emotional involvement in his career and a burning desire to snap up anything he recorded. In fact once the final three contestants had been chosen, all were whisked into a recording studio to record their own versions of the double a-side that had been chosen for the first release of the winner and so the morning after Will's victory the presses started rolling on his debut single. Shops ordered 1.2 million copies to place on the shelves and sat back to see what happened. [You will note the three-week gap between series climax and single release. With no way of knowing just how successful the winner would be, it was maybe too much of a risk to race copies into the shops the same week - just in case there wasn't the volume to send it rocketing to the top].

Well, you cannot fail to have seen the headlines. After just one day on sale, Anything Is Possible/Evergreen had sold over 200,000 copies. By the close of play on Friday it was up to 850,000 and on Sunday afternoon it was confirmed that Will Young's debut single had sold a staggering 1,108,269 copies in the space of six days. In the whole history of the British record industry the only other recording to race to seven figures in a similar amount of time was Elton John's Candle In The Wind '97 which shifted 1,546,688 in its first full week on release. It is quite simply one of the most spectacular retail performances of any single ever and even contemplating what anyone will have to do to top this feat quite frankly makes your head spin. To put it in perspective, when Bryan Adams' Everything I Do (I Do It For You) sold its millionth copy in 1991 it was spending a tenth week at the top of the charts and had been in the shops for three months. Until five years ago the fastest selling single of all time was Band Aid's Do They Know It's Christmas which sold 750,000 copies in a week. Will Young managed that in just four days. Of course there will be some who say "ah, but this only happened because of the TV show blah blah blah" but frankly they can kiss my nether regions. There isn't a single record on the chart this week that hasn't had some kind of promotional machinery behind it, whether it was TV appearances, live concerts, free copies handed out to club DJs or even the videos that populate the music channels on TV. All the Will Young single has had is the kind of promptional exposure that most acts would kill for. Even if you hate the way it has been done, you can at least be assured that it is the kind of buzz that can only be generated once in a blue moon.

As for the single itself, well Westlife-esque slushy ballads are the order of the day. Indeed the bulk of the airplay has been for the second track Evergreen which is actually taken from the current Westlife album and is penned by Cheiron alumni Elofsson, Kreuger and Magnusson who also wrote Westlife tracks such as If I Let You Go, Fool Again and My Love. Anything Is Possible was co-written by Cathy Dennis and it too is her fourth chart-topping composition following Never Had A Dream Come True, Have You Ever and Can't Get You Out Of My Head.

There is much to be said about Will's prospects for a career and indeed whether the idea of recording stars created from TV shows is good for anything other than short term massive sales but that can wait until next week. Will Young is in an almost unique position in that he can watch sales of his record tumble by more than 90% next week and yet still be reasonably assured of a second week on top. Of course the TV series didn't just created a single Pop Idol but instead unearthed a wealth of talent, much of which has been snapped up by Messrs Cowell and Fuller. Will's victory in the phone vote actually just meant that he got to be the first to release a track, runner up Gareth Gates has his own debut single slated for release in just a couple of weeks time. More will follow...


------------------------------------------------------------------------

2 WHENEVER, WHEREVER (Shakira)

Only the very brave would have chosen to release a single in the same week as the Pop Idol winner. Either that or they were counting on the fact that the extra rush of people into record shops in the last week may well have been enticed to part with cash for one of the other big new releases of the week (or even some of the current ones). So it is that Shakira is at once both distant loser in the Number One race but still debuts at Number 2 with a sale that in many weeks would have been enough to put her on top of the pile. The blonde bombshell can rank as the first ever Columbian superstar, her records having already sold in millions all over Latin America. She has a clutch of Latin Grammys to her name and now with her first English language album she is set to make an assault on Europe. Whenever, Wherever could hardly fail to be massive, co-writen by Gloria Estefan no less, a marvellously exotic production that proves that pan pipes are not just for yuppie coffee table albums and of course a video in which she exudes more raw sexuality than is probably legal to be show on daytime MTV. Even if she never has a hit, this single will go down as one of the most memorable of the year [make that the decade, this is a truly iconic pop record], if only for the now famous lyric about her small and humble breasts.


------------------------------------------------------------------------

4 SOMETHING (Lasgo)

On Positiva, so you suspect it is going to be good, comes this bubbling piece of Belgian euro-trance complete with the obligatory female vocal. Evi is the name of the lady on the track, better known back home than she is here and indeed a singer with a vocal style that is eerily reminiscent of Kim Wilde. The truth of the matter that Something is really just an Ian Van Dahl track with a little more energy but it sounds great on the radio and is more than worthy of its place in the Top 5. Which is all that matters really.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

5 HOW YOU REMIND ME (Nickelback)

Few indeed are the rock singles that are in enough demand to chart as import copies. Alien Ant Farm's Smooth Criminal was the last and the latest is this former US Number One hit which crept into the bottom end of the Top 75 a couple of weeks ago ahead of its full release. To the untutored ear, Nickelback don't actually do anything different musically to the likes of Staind but the Vancouver natives (currently promoting their second album Silver Side Up) are currently being hailed as the new future of rock and roll so you have to assume they have something special about them. If nothing else the success of the single over here proves once and for all that there is currently an interesting symmetry between the charts on either side of the Atlantic. With How You Remind Me now in the Top 5 it means that every single US chart-topper of 2001 has gone on to become a Top 10 hit in the UK, the first time this has happened since 1996. Sadly the reverse isn't quite the case.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

6 WORLD OF OUR OWN (Westlife)

As I mentioned last week, Westlife's glory at the top with their tenth Number One single is reduced to a mere seven days thanks in part to the all-conquering Will Young single but with the fac that four other records have outsold them this week as well. Their 1-6 drop makes this the second time one of their singles has fallen straight out the Top 5 from the Number One position. As it so happens it is one of their 'own' songs that does the damage, the Irish group having been the first to record Evergreen. Such a situation is almost, but of course not quite, unique as twice in the 1960s John Lennon and Paul McCartney found themselves on both sides of the coin. In September 1963 The Beatles ascended to the top with She Loves You at the expense of Bad To Me by Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas, written as it happens by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. A few months later in April 1964 it was the turn of A World Without Love (writers: Lennon/McCartney) by Peter And Gordon to bring the 3 week chart-topping run of Can't Buy Me Love to a close. The difference is of course that neither Bad To Me nor A World Without Love had been recorded by The Beatles at that stage. The first actual cover of a Beatles track to top the charts was Michelle by the Overlanders which hit the top in January 1966. It would have replaced Day Tripper/We Can Work It Out at the top, but for the fact that Keep On Running by the Spencer Davis Group had already done so a week earlier.

Once again Westlife prove that for all their abilities to fly to the top of the charts with just about every release they still have trouble actually staying there. World Of Our Own is now their seventh chart-topping single to spend just seven days at the summit. Actually it is a little unfair to single them out in this manner. In an era when a full 80-90% of Number One hits see their sales fall away rapidly after their initial peak, Westlife are far from unusual or even poor performers in this respect. To berate them for having no less than seven one-week Number One hits is to overlook the fact that they have had ten Number One hits in the first place. In fact the remaining three have together spent a total of eight weeks at the top of the charts since 1999. That alone is more than any other act in the last four years, save for Robbie Williams who has also clocked up eight weeks at the top since 1998.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

10 SHOULDA WOULDA COULDA (Beverley Knight)

Hey, who needs grammar and spelling when you have a wonderful soul record to sing? Following on from November's Number 17 hit Get Up, Beverley Knight scores the biggest hit single of her career with Shoulda Woulda Coulda. It is the kind of R&B track that gleefully tears down any gentre-created barriers, a single that you can take as face value as an uplifting pop hit or one that helps you appreciate a great singer with some marvellous material. Justice would probably have been better served with a Top 5 placing but those who branded this a hit the moment it landed in their laps have been proved comfortably correct. Catch her on tour later in the spring in a support slot with Jamiroquai, speaking of whom...


------------------------------------------------------------------------

14 LOVE FOOLOSOPHY (Jamiroquai)

Top 20 hit number 16 for Jay Kay et al looks set for a customarily efficient chart run, the third single from their current album becoming the second biggest, beating the peak of December's You Give Me Something by two places. Spookily enough the backing vocals on this single are provided by none other than Beverley Knight who thus makes her second appearance on one of this weeks new singles. Beyond that it is hard to get too excited. Whilst Jamiroquai singles and albums continue to sell in solid numbers, you get the feeling the band are doing little more than playing to their established audience rather than pushing to make any new impact. Then again, after nine years of hits, is that still a possibility?
------------------------------------------------------------------------

20 TIME AFTER TIME (Distant Soundz)

A fun curiosity this one in the shape of a garage remake of an 80s pop classic. Time After Time was originally a hit back in 1984 for Cyndi Lauper and was one of the tracks that for a time made her one of the hottest female artists on both sides of the Atlantic. Although it had been turned into a TV commercial for haircare products within a year of release, the song still holds up well as a classic slice of 80s pop balladry. Perhaps incredibly this is the third time the song has been turned into a dance record. The first time was in 1993 when Hyperstate limped to Number 71 with their rendition. Five years later Changing Faces reached Number 35 with a version that featured a guest vocal from none other than Jay Kay of Jamiroquai. The 'other' famous Cyndi Lauper ballad from the 80s is her 1986 hit True Colours which has also been the subject of some interesting cover versions. Aztec Camera covered the track as a b-side back in 1990 whilst Phil Collins took his version to Number 26 in 1998.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

21 FELL IN LOVE WITH A GIRL (White Stripes)

The campaign to turn the White Stripes into the mainstream act their adoring press believes they should be continues. The duo, who enigmatically refuse to confirm or deny whether they are brother and sister (as is the official story) or actually husband and wife, had their first Top 40 hit in November last year when Hotel Yorba made Number 26. In truth, Fell In Love With A Girl is more typical of their usual output, if of course you think a record like this could ever be typical. To hear it is to understand just why so many people want them to be massive stars as this is about as bleeding edge as rock music gets with a stripped down production of guitar and drums, a wild unrestrained energy that puts most punk records to shame and a yowling hook that sounds like they have taped a mutual dental extraction all combining to make this the most, well, UNIQUE record you have heard so far this year. Whilst the likes of Nickelback drone their way into the Top 5 this does not stand a chance of becoming mainstream but if the cloying commercialism of Will Young has depressed you beyond words, this may be the track to restore your belief in the future of music.


------------------------------------------------------------------------

24 LOVELY (Bubba Sparxxx)

Mr, er Sparxxx struggles to repeat the impact that his debut hit Ugly had at the back end of last year, the November release having peaked at Number 7 upon release. I'm just tempted to wonder if having now released singles called Ugly and Lovely he will take the middle way for the next one and call it Only Average Looking.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

30 RUN (Lighthouse Family)

Ooh now this is interesting and actually a little sad. After a triumphant return to the charts with the Free/One medley back in November, the second single from the new Lighthouse Family album performs embarassingly badly and can do little more than limp apologetically into the Top 30. Their only other singles to chart lower were the original releases of Lifted and Ocean Drive (Nos 61 and 34 respectively in 1995), both of which of course went on to do much better when subsequently re-released.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

33 TOMORROW COMES TODAY (Gorillaz)

Although the Gorillaz project was unleashed on the world in a blaze of publcity one year ago with the release of the album, the website and the single Clint Eastwood complete with its expensive animated video that wasn't quite the beginning of the story. Gorillaz had begun life commercially a few months earlier in November 2000 when the single Tomorrow Comes Today was released without fanfare. Whether this was just testing the waters or an attempt to prove that the record would sell itself without any hype is unknown. Either way it is impossible to judge how well the single did as it came out in the form of a four track EP that was not eligible for the singles chart. Now with the group having capped off their year by opening the Brit awards ceremony and doing a Craig David by walking away empty handed, their debut release is presented to the world once again. Largely untouched from its album version, Tomorrow Comes Today is as typical as they come, a lovely languid track that conveys the effect of being reluctant even to come out of the speakers, Damon Albarn's voice having never sounded quite so melancholy. Of course as the fourth single from an album that is now well past its commercial peak it charts more or less as an afterthought and is far and away their smallest chart hit to date. There is no doubt that the demand is there for another album. The only question is whether what is without a doubt the most inspired concept group in history can repeat the magic a second time.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

37 BROTHA PART II (Angie Stone featuring Alicia Keys & Eve)

A second Top 40 hit for Angie Stone, this one coming almost two years since her first, Life Story which peaked at Number 22 in April 2000. Brotha Part II is taken from her second album which has been in the shops since November and also features guest vocals from both Alicia Keys and Eve. This is set to be one of two guest vocals from Eve to chart over the next few weeks as she also has a central part to play in the new City High release.

[In other watershed music industry news, this was the week it was announced that the dotmusic website had been sold to BT in a deal that reportedly netted United Business Media (who had secretly put it up for sale a year earlier) close to £1m. Nothing really changed on the surface, and I came with the deal, so all was well].