This week's Official UK Singles Chart

[In what might otherwise have been a minor marketing detail, this week saw the launch of a brand new joint venture between BT (owners of the dotmusic site where these columns were published) and Yahoo! with their broadband service now co-branded. Behind the scenes, however, the telecoms giant was in the process of stepping away from the strategy of running content portals and letting the search engine take the strain instead. The consequences of this would play out in full before the end of the year....]

1 ARE YOU READY FOR LOVE (Elton John)

People forget that back in his 1970s heydey Elton John was something of a musical chameleon. No mere piano balladeer he, he had experimented with rock, disco and Philly soul to huge success, particularly in America. Hence in 1977, he found himself recording in the legendary Philadelphia International Studios under the watchful eye of producer Thom Bell who had been responsible for classic recordings by the likes of the Ojays and Detroit Spinners amongst others. The idea was that this would be Elton's own ultimate soul album. Sadly the project was aborted after just four tracks had been recorded. The only one to see the light of day was Are You Ready For Love which was belatedly released as a single in 1979 but by then tastes had moved on and the single made a disappointing Number 42.

Still, the track remained something of a cult favourite amongst Elton fans and with the single having performed so poorly copies of it were a much sought-after collector's item. The track also had its fans amongst some fairly well-known DJs who would use it as one of their end of set oddities from time to time. One of the fans of the track was Ashley Beedle, better known as part of X-Press 2. He has often admitted to being a fan of the producers of the disco era and how back in the early days of the 12-inch single they created extended edits by simply using tape loops or mixing two copies of the single version back to back. All by hand, with no technology involved. Thus inspired he set about creating his own 2003 disco edit of Are You Ready For Love - and pretty soon labels were keen to release it.

Hence this single which contains the best of both worlds, both the original version and the new 2003 'remix' Its promotion has been helped by its use by Sky Sports in adverts for their new season of football coverage, adverts which feature the modern day Elton performing the track (a contrast to the video for the single which is the original one from 1979). The result has been to make this one of the most sure-fire hits of the summer, to the joy of unreconstructed disco and soul fans like me who cannot help but marvel at the way the 26-year-old production has shot into the charts virtually untouched. It thus returns Elton John to the top of the charts, just a few short months since he was last at the top in collaboration with Blue on Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word.

It is now the sixth Number One single for the veteran performer, a fun total when you consider that for years he was famous for being unable to top the charts. Are You Ready For Love also continues his bizarre record for topping the charts on the second attempt with virtually every song. Back in 1990 there was Sacrifice/Healing Hands (a re-release of two singles which had flopped a year earlier). That was followed by 1991s live duet on Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me with George Michael. Then in 1997 there was the Candle In The Wind reworking and of course at the end of last year he teamed up with Blue on a new version of his own Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word. His only chart-topper to manage it first time out was 1976s Don't Go Breaking My Heart which perversely enough he did remake 17 years later in a new version alongside RuPaul although fortunately that particular version did not come anywhere near the top of the charts. Elton can thus boast a string of chart-topping hits that stretches back 27 years which itself is nothing short of awesome.


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3 LIKE GLUE (Sean Paul)

To think that before this year started, Sean Paul was famous for a minor chart entry and a hint of wasted promise. Fast forward nine months and he is now one of the hottest reggae stars around and this week he becomes the first artist in almost 20 years to achieve one particular chart feat. Like Glue hits the Top 3 this week to give him his third solo hit single of the year, each one charting higher than the last. First came Gimmie The Light (Number 5 in February) and then Get Busy (Number 4 in May). Not only that he has of course just spent four weeks at Number One in collaboration with Blu Cantrell, Breathe this week finally submitting to Elton John and dipping to Number 2. It does mean however that Sean Paul can boast two of the three best-selling singles in the country this week. Such a domination of the charts has only been achieved by five other acts. Frankie Laine was the first in 1953 with the Beatles following ten years later. Three acts managed it in the 1980s, John Lennon in 1981, Frankie Goes To Hollywood in 1984 and finally Madonna in 1995 when Into The Groove was at Number One with Holiday slotting in behind at Number 2. All of the above actually managed one better than Sean Paul by being at positions 1 and 2 simultaneously but let nothing take away from what he has achieved this week. Incidentally, nobody has ever managed to hold positions 1, 2 and 3 simultaneously in the UK charts [Justin Bieber: "hold my beer"]. The record for most complete domination of the Top 10 is a toss up between John Lennon who had 3 singles in the Top 5 in early 1981 and Frankie Laine who in mid 1953 had no less than four singles in the Top 6.
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5 MISS PERFECT (Abs featuring Nodesha)

No less than 15 new singles make their Top 40 debut this week, a sign that summer is over and the autumn release schedules are upon us. You can have some sympathy for Abs whose single is likely to be overshadowed by the two that chart ahead of him. The former boy band star this week follows up the northern soul remake Stop Sign (a Number 10 hit back in June) with his third solo hit single and one which catapaults him back to the Top 5. Promotion of the former Five star as a solo artist has been a slow and steady process. The first single What You Got was released as far back as last August and the release date of his solo album has been moved steadily backwards almost since the start of the year. Finally though it seems the time is right and Abstract Theory is set to hit the shops within weeks.
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6 MISS INDEPENDENT (Kelly Clarkson)

Well what better way to follow Miss Perfect than with Miss Independent. Kelly Clarkson is to America was Will Young is to the UK - that is the winner of the very first series of Pop Idol (or American Idol as the TV networks over there retitled it). On the back of her TV exposure back home she sold a frightening number of records and sold singles in a country where it was almost a forgotten art. Now it is time for her to go international and her prodigous voice wastes no time in getting to grips with this soft-rock ballad that shows it off to perfect effect. Note that the American Idol winner hasn't sung a pop song but instead a track that is perfect fodder for mainstream American radio. Place your bets on the winner of the new Pop Idol series topping the charts with a cover version not long after the show finishes.


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10 GENIE IN A BOTTLE/SAVE YOURSELF (Speedway)

Single of the week as far as most reviewers are concerned, Speedway ultimately have to content themselves with the fifth biggest hit of the week, although they can permit themselves some congratulations for at the very least creeping into the Top 10. The band are being touted in many places as the new Texas, their smooth sound evoking memories of the Scottish MOR masters. For their debut single though they have gone for a rather surprising choice of cover - namely Christina Aguilera's debut single from 1999. This is no ordinary cover however as rather than using the original arrangement it instead borrows from a well known bootleg version of the track that mixed the vocals with some Strokes guitar riffs. In the hands of Speedway the single sounds almost magical and gives a new lease of life to a song which lest we forget topped the charts just four years ago. Hear it and understand why it was the single of the week for virtually everyone.


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11 THANK YOU BABY (Shania Twain)

Mrs Lange returns to the charts with the fourth single from her current album, following up Forever And For Always which hit Number 6 back in June. This track moves away from the balladeering of its predecessor in favour of an almost delightful 80s retro sound. Imagine Toto performing a Tears For Fears track and you have something of the flavour of this single (albeit with a female voice). Its only problem really is that the sensation surrounding Shania Twain appears to have all but vanished and despite its strong chart debut this is a single that will be received with something close to indifference. Indeed, by only hitting Number 11 it is set to become the first Shania Twain single to miss the Top 10 since When could only make Number 18 in June 1998.
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16 SHAKE IT (MOVE A LITTLE CLOSER) (Lee Cabrera featuring Alex Cartana)

Summer may sort of be over but that doesn't stop the summer flavoured hits landing in the charts. The Top 20 plays host this week to this infectious Latin stomp that dovetails nicely with the presence of D Kay and Epsilon's similarly flavoured Barcelona which hit the charts last week. Producer Cabrera boasts past production credits with the likes of Madonna, Aretha Franklin and Prince.
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18 DO ME WRONG (Mel Blatt)

Time for the second All Saints spin-off project and the signs are not good. Just a few short weeks after the Appleton sisters kissed goodbye to the charts with the flop single Everything Eventually, their former bandmate makes her own bid for solo stardom. This single lands on the chart a full two years after her first post All Saints project, her collaboration with Artful Dodger on the single Twentyfourseven which made Number 6 in September 2001. There is nothing at all wrong with Mel Blatt's debut solo single aside from the fact that as the member of All Saints who was not songwriter Shaznay nor the headline grabbing Appleton sisters her marketability is a little on the slim side.
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23 ARE YOU GONNA BE MY GIRL (Jet)

A debut Top 40 single for this four-piece Australian band whose gritty and raucous tones sound like they have come straight out of the 70s - like Mick Jagger singing Iggy Pop. For all that the single sounds great and there is hope yet that Down Under can find a new set of international rock heroes to fill the void that has hung in the air since the demise of INXS. Mind you, we all thought the same about Silverchair although it is worth pointing out that Jet have now had a bigger chart hit than their countrymen ever managed in the mid-90s.
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27 HOUSE OF JEALOUS LOVERS (Rapture)

More rock, this time in the shape of New York based Rapture whose USP is the unique way they combine some hardcore funk elements with the usual heads down and charge guitar riffing. Not necessarily ones for the future but we have heard far worse this year.
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31 EYE FOR AN EYE (Unkle)

A long overdue return to the Top 40 for Unkle, the underground trancemakers whose one and only foray into the mainstream came back in 1999 when some added Ian Brown vocals helped the instrumental album track Be There into the Top 10. Since then they have graced the sales listings just once, creeping to Number 66 in March 2001 with the track Narco Tourists. Eye For An Eye is taken from a long awaited brand new album entitled Never Never Land which is due out before the end of September.
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33 SANTA CRUZ (YOU'RE NOT THAT FAR) (Thrills)

If there was any justice in the world then the Thrills would be massive. Instead they have to content themselves with a string of well received and very pretty and melodic minor hit singles. Santa Cruz nips lightly into the Top 40 giving the group a bit of a comedown fronm the comparatively heady Top 20 peaks of One Horse Town and Big Sur. This new single is every bit of good but the law of diminishing returns suggests that everyone who cares already has the album - what they need is a song like this to become a hit to make them mainstream stars but sadly you just do not see that happening.
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34 THE POWER (OF BHANGRA) (Snap vs Motivo)

The Snap revival which has already seen both Do You See The Light and Rhythm Is A Dancer return to the charts in remixed forms over the past year now takes a rather interesting twist. The Power was famously their first ever hit single, storming to the top of the charts in April 1990. It made a brief chart reappearance in 1996 in a brand new version which replaced Turbo B's original vocals with ones from Einstein but perhaps thankfully this re-recording missed the Top 40. This new 2003 version actually began life as an Italian bootleg before being given the seal of approval by the group themselves. As the title suggests, the original beat has been replaced by a new Bhangra track that slides effortlessly under Turbo B's original rap vocals to put a fascinating new spin on the dance classic. You can be forgiven for seeing this land so far down the charts, all this proves is that sometimes a sure thing is anything but.
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35 MAKE THE DEAL (Ocean Colour Scene)

Suggesting that possibly their return to Top 20 hitmaking form back in July with I Just Need Myself was little more than a flash in the pan, Ocean Colour Scene drift into the lower end of the Top 40 with their second chart hit of the year. Make The Deal now has the honour of being their third smallest chart single ever.
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40 PASSION (Amen UK)

Finally then, the last of no less than 15 new entries this week is yet another blast fronm the past. Amen UK's Passion was first released in February 1997 when it hit Number 15. The collective were an early project for a certain Paul Masterson in collaboration with Greek producers Panos Liassi and Luvain Maximba and aside from Passion they also charted with People Of Love later that same year. This 2003 reappearance for the track comes with the obligatory set of new mixes but the track still remains the embodiment of everything that was wrong with 1997 vintage dance music. Trust me things have got much better since then.


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