This week's Official UK Singles Chart

1 BEAUTIFUL (Christina Aguilera)

Presenting to you this week the evidence of what happens when record companies panic. Panic was what ensued in America when Christina Aguilera's new mostly naked and singing about filthy sex image went down like the proverbial lead balloon. The single Dirrty, complete with expensive guest star and deliberately controversial video, stiffed in dramatic style in the US charts, leading many to worry that the artist was in serious danger of torpedoing her own career [Number 48, which for an artist of her calibre was utterly disastrous]. Hence the rush to turn her back mainstream by picking the most accessible track on the album as the next single, the plaintive, beautiful and sophisticated ballad Beautiful.

Now of course as well all know, the exact opposite was true in Britain (and indeed in Europe). To her delight, Dirrty was a smash hit over here, topping the charts for two weeks back in November and proving that the UK audience actually got the concept of an emancipated female singing vividly and unashamedly about sex. The only question was what would happen when we ran into the marketing volte-face that was coming from America - would we be so ready to go back to the sweet and innocent Christina Aguilera? Well as it turns out yes, both are equally as appealing. Beautiful charted on import a couple of weeks ago, reaching Number 51 and now of official release it flies straight to the top, deposing Tatu after their month long reign and giving the American star her second straight Number One hit. It is her fourth career Number One in all, her third as a solo artist (following Genie In A Bottle and Dirrty), the total being made up by the Moulin Rouge hit version of Lady Marmalade. Strange though it may seem, counting that hit this is only her eighth chart single since 1999 although the only one of these to miss the Top 10 was I Turn To You which could only make Number 19 in July 2000.


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2 THE BOYS OF SUMMER (DJ Sammy)

So when does a good idea stop becoming a good idea? DJ Sammy of course was the creator of Heaven, the dance remake of the old Bryan Adams song that was realised so well that there were surprisingly very few objections when it shot to the top of the chart in November last year. Inevitably there had to be a follow-up and so here it is, milking pretty much the same concept, the subject this time being the famous Don Henley song which hit Number 12 here in February 1985 and reached the same position again in July 1998 when re-released in an extended CD version. DJ Sammy's Eurodance remake has duly sailed up the chart and challenged once again for the Number One position only this time the critical reaction to the single is slightly more muted, almost as if yes, the good idea has stopped being so good. I'd suggest the problem lies in the choice of song. Heaven in its original form was a slow, some would say droning, lighter-waving ballad which had been given a whole new lease of life by the club remake, bringing out new depths to the song without ever spoiling the mood of the original. The Boys Of Summer is a different matter, the original, of course, being a driving pop-rock song and an established classic of its era. This new rendition adds nothing to it and in the process commits the worse sin of draining some of the life out of the original song and leaving it a rather depressing shell. Heaven would have been regarded as a great pop song had DJ Sammy's version been the original. Boys Of Summer would not, and there is the crucial difference. Yes it is a Number 2 hit so people have clearly seen the appeal, but unlike its predecessor this single is far too easy to hate.
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4 MOVE YOUR FEET (Junior Senior)

Alas, some things were just not meant to be. In any other week I would have been prepared to put money on this single soaring to the top of the charts but in the event a thoroughly respectable Number 4 is the best it can manage. Junior Senior are two blokes from Denmark and as the name suggests are from two different generations. Their music, however, is nothing short of spectacular, this single being a case in point, a hugely infectious blend of funk, disco and soul that almost literally commands you to get up and dance. Everyone who has heard this since Christmas has been raving about it virtually non-stop and just for a change this is one of those records that lives up to the hype. What makes it all better is that Junior Senior are a proper live act, capable of putting on some quite spectacular performances. The travesty of 2003 will be if they do not end up as one of the biggest musical names on the planet.


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5 KEEP ME A SECRET (Ainslie Henderson)

Mark this down as the third single to be spawned from the contestants of Fame Academy and one which can actually be held up as further proof that not all reality TV music shows are actually bad for business. As time goes by the difference between the likes of Pop Idol and Fame Academy grows ever wider. Whilst Pop Idol spawned a combination of pretty boy balladeers and semi-dressed club chicks, Fame Academy has presented the charts with some acts of genuine ability and talent. First came David Sneddon (the winner but arguably the weakest), then came Sinead Quinn last week and now they are joined by third place contestant Ainslie Henderson. His debut single is, like Sinead's, quite remarkably good, a deliciously retro guitar-driven pop song that sounds for all the world like it has stepped out of the 1980s, right the way down to the loosely harmonised female backing vocals. Trust me, if Lloyd Cole had released this in 1985 you would not have batted an eyelid. When Fame Academy was first mooted for this country, there were lots of gloomy articles about how it was certain to continue to ruin the music industry. Yet already Sinead and Ainslie have hit the Top 10 with pop records that blow away pretty much anything released in the last year and this writer at least is now very keen to see what else they have to offer. [This song famously a collaborative effort between the contestants and with Sinead performing backing vocals. Despite this bold start Ainslie Henderson fell down the cracks somewhat and was reduced to self-releasing an little-noticed album three years later].


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7 HERE IT COMES AGAIN (Melanie C)

Speaking of quality pop music, this week the charts welcome the return of one of its finest exponents. Of all the solo Spice Girls, Melanie Chisholm can lay some claim to being the most successful. Sure, Geri may have had more Number One hits but Mel C's 199 album Northern Star was by far the most critically acclaimed and over the course of a year spawned some memorable hit singles such as the title track and chart-toppers Never Be The Same Again and I Turn To You. Of course not long after the promotion of the album ended, the Spice backlash began as first the third Spice Girls album bombed and then the solo careers of all her former bandmates charged down the dumper. Mel C was suddenly left with a strong reputation in danger of being stigmatised simply because of the failures of the people she used to work with. Hence you suspect this long delay in the release of her second album, allowing enough time to pass for people to forget just why Victoria Beckham and Mel B were so crap and allowing her work to be judged on its own merits. So far so good as Here It Comes Again has been phenomenally well received, helped not a little by the fact that it is an uplifting song belted out by the one late 90s pop star who did actually have a real singing voice on her. Not quite Number One material maybe but certainly worth of a Top 10 placing and her first hit single since If That Were Me charted in December 2000. Her only problem really is the perverse fact that the long gap between her releases may have killed off the momentum she did indeed have after her wildly successful 2000 - oh and of course from the growing pressure from the other Spice Girls to reform for a Greatest Hits tour given that it is the only way the rest of them can now pretend to have a career in the music business. Melanie C can be forgiven for not wanting that kind of distraction,
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13 HEAVEN IS A PLACE ON EARTH (Soda Club featuring Hannah Alethea)

*sigh* and so it continues. Soda Club and Hannah Alethea charted back in November last year with an emasculated remake of Berlin's Take My Breath Away and now they return to the Top 20 with a squiddly-bonk retread of the song that Belinda Carlisle took to the top of the charts in January 1988. The same arguments used for DJ Sammy can be applied here, especially as Heaven Is A Place On Earth despite being a rock song could actually be danced to very easily to begin with. This new version adds nothing to that and takes away even more without even stopping to apologise. I'd get upset, but for the fact that the presence of Junior Senior, Ainslie and Melanie C in the Top 10 renders throwaway junk like this quite deservedly irrelevant.
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15 SPECIAL CASES (Massive Attack)

A warm welcome back to the singles chart for Massive Attack, missing in action so to speak since 1998. The group's chart career dates back to 1991 when they made a stunning debut in the shape of the single Unfinished Sympathy (which has a habit of topping "best-ever" polls even to this day). In the mid-90s they rode the wave of the Bristol-based trip-hop boom that included Tricky and Portishead, their 1995 album Protection still holding up as a masterpiece. They were last seen almost five years ago when the album Mezzanine gave them their first ever chart-topper and in the process spawned Teardrop, their only Top 10 single. Now they return in 2003 with the album 1000th Window and this standout single, proof positive that the four years of recording that the album ate up have done nothing to diminish their creativity. Vocals on the track are provided by none other than Sinead O'Connor, herself making her first chart appearance since 1997.
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16 EPLE (Royksopp)

The problem with making popular instrumental tracks is that whilst everyone recognises the song, very few will actually be able to work out what it is called [a problem this particular piece of music actually suffers from to this day]. Chances are that if you have heard a synthesised instrumental, based on an ever descending cycle of notes sometime in the last month, this is the track you were hearing. Eple was actually released back in 2001 long before Royksopp had generated enough attention to start having hits. This 2003 re-release comes complete with a set of remixes but the original is enough of a standout track to finally become the hit it probably always deserved to be, even if my ears keep wanting it to turn into Jean Michel Jarre's Magnetic Fields Part II. At the very least it becomes Royksopp's biggest UK hit to date, soaring past the Number 21 peak of Remind Me/So Easy from August last year.


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28 HONESTLY (Zwan)

The first ever hit single for Zwan, the new project of former Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan. The creative decline of his final years with his old band appear to have been put behind him and although anyone expecting Pumpkins Part II will be disappointed, this is a hugely appealing comeback. Chart anoraks will, of course, love the fact that the name of this new band ensures that they replace Zucchero as the penultimate act alphabetically speaking in the chart reference books, a place they are likely to retain until an act called the Zyantics or something hit the listings. ZZ Top as ever remain at the back, a position they took over from the Zombies in 1983.
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29 HIT THE FREEWAY (Toni Braxton)

Another chart comeback, this time for Toni Braxton, missing in action since 2000 and the rather fine He Wasn't Man Enough which made Number 5. This rather lowly chart entry means that Hit The Freeway is actually her smallest chart hit since Love Shoulda Brought You Home made Number 33 in December 1994, the year of her first ever chart hits.
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33 LOVE ON THE RUN (Chicane featuring Peter Cunnah)

Now this could have been an interesting few weeks for Chicane as they almost ended up competing with themselves on the charts. This strange state of affairs came about when a remixed version of their 1999 hit Saltwater made Number 43 at the start of the month before vanishing as quickly as it came. In its place comes this new track, notable if nothing else for the name that joins the list of past collaborators of Nick Bracegirdle which includes the likes of Maire Brennan and Bryan Adams. Peter Cunnah's past chart career came as the lead singer of D:Ream, the pop-dance group whose purple patch came in 1994 when the anthemic Things Can Only Get Better topped the charts. Their last brush with fame came in 1997 when the aforementioned track was used as a Labour party anthem in the 1997 general election and was re-released, peaking at Number 19.
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35 WHAT MY HEART WANTS TO SAY (Gareth Gates)

Lucky recipient of the bargain bin surge in sales this week is Gareth Gates, his Christmas release having re-entered the Top 75 two weeks ago as shops look to clear their old stock. The single peaked at a comparatively lowly Number 5, leading many to wonder if the Pop Idol bubble had burst for the spiky-haired one. This was of course before he recorded the Comic Relief single which is almost inevitably going to return him to the top of the charts, mere days from now.


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