This week's Official UK Singles Chart

1 SPIRIT IN THE SKY (Gareth Gates)

Only those with their head under a rock will have failed to realise that it has been Comic Relief time, the regular two years having elapsed since the last charity telethon. Along with it comes the customary charity single to accompany the promotion of the event and (hope you are still following this), as is also customary the popular teen act of the moment has been drafted in to perform the song. In 1999 it was Boyzone, 2001 it was Westlife and now in 2003 it is the turn of Gareth Gates to take a Number One hit from the 1980s and take it back to the top of the charts in the name of charity. Spirit In The Sky is actually older than he is. First recorded by Norman Greenbaum, In 1970 it became his one and only hit single, topping the charts and making him a genuine one hit wonder. Sixteen years later the song was back again and topped the charts once more for Doctor And The Medics. Thus this week the song joins Unchained Melody and Lady Marmalade as only the third to have topped the chart for three different acts [uh-uh, only two versions of Lady Marmalade had hit the top] - and of course, Gareth Gates' own chart-topping version of Unchained Melody pushed it to a grand total of four. For Gates it is his fourth Number One single in almost exactly a year, Unchained Melody having hit the top of the charts on March 30th 2002.

It would be churlish not to mention the contribution of the cast of The Kumars At No.42 who also feature on the A-side of the single, contributing various comedy asides in between verses. Strangely enough, this is the first time in ten years that the official Comic Relief single has actually been a comedy record, Stick It Out by Right Said Fred in 1993 being the last. Since then we have seen Love Can Build A Bridge, Who Do You Think You Are, When The Going Gets Tough and Uptown Girl all released to promote the charity but without featuring a single giggle between them. For the record then (and again we seem to do this every time), here is the almost complete list of Comic Relief singles, not all of which were released to coincide with Red Nose Day:

  • 1986 - Living Doll, Cliff and the Young Ones
  • 1987 - Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree, Mel (Smith) and Kim (Wilde)
  • 1989 - Help!, Bananamara and Lananeeneenoonoo
  • 1991 - The Stonk, Hale and Pace and the Stonkers
  • 1992 - Elected, Mr Bean and Smear Campaign featuring Bruce Dickinson
  • 1993 - Stick It Out, Right Said Fred and Friends
  • 1995 - Love Can Build A Bridge, Cher/Chrissie Hyde/Neneh Cherry/Eric Clapton
  • 1997 - Mama/Who Do You Think You Are, Spice Girls
  • 1999 - When The Going Gets Tough, Boyzone
  • 2001 - Uptown Girl, Westlife
  • 2003 - Spirit In The Sky, Gareth Gates

[continuing my seemingly endless campaign to forget that Absolutely Fabulous ever happened it seems].


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2 ALL I HAVE (Jennifer Lopez featuring LL Cool J)

Coinciding nicely with the release of her latest film Maid In Manhatten, Jennifer Lopez hits the charts once more and proves that whatever the stories about her diva demands and tempestuous private life, little can distract from her ability to chalk up hit singles. All I Have is the follow-up to the Number 3 hit Jenny From The Block and is duly her 8th successive Top 5 smash. By hitting Number 2 it also has the honour of being her second highest charting single ever, bettered only by Love Don't Cost A Thing from 2001 which to date remains her only chart-topping single. This new release is, of course, a duet, featuring the singer matched line for line by the resurgent LL Cool J. This is the second chart appearance of the year for the veteran rapper, his last single Paradise having peaked at Number 18 exactly one month ago. This is, in turn, his own second highest charting single ever, bettered only by Ain't Nobody which hit the top in 1997.
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3 BORN TO TRY (Delta Goodrem)

So what is this week telling us about how you go about having a hit single? Well, you can either record in the name of charity, be a successful movie star with the most famous arse on the planet or alternatively you can just star in Australian soap opera Neighbours. It is this latter route that Delta Goodrem has taken, her celebrity until now having been based on her role as Nina Tucker in the teatime favourite. Actually branding her as a soap star turned single is a little unfair as by all accounts she was halfway through recording her debut album when the call to star in the show came, nonetheless the exposure afforded by the TV series can hardly have hurt her and you are tempted to wonder if this power ballad would have performed quite as well as if she was a complete unknown. Holly Valance was, of course, the last Neighbours cast member to reinvent herself as a singer but of the list of stars who have used the show as a springboard to (sometimes) greater things now approaches quite entertainingly large levels. Stand up Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan, Stefan Dennis, Craig McLachlan and Natalie Imbruglia - plus the others (ie Gayle and Gillian) who tried but failed to get into the charts.


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4 IN DA CLUB (50 Cent)

Time now for the singles chart to see what all the fuss is about. 50 Cent is the latest rap sensation about to take over the planet, coming from the Dr Dre production stable via the relentless patronage of Eminem. On something approaching pure hype alone his debut album has been a fixture in the albums Top 10 for the last month and now he finally makes an appearance on the singles listing, blasting too straight into the Top 10 first time out. Comparisons with Eminem abound of course but the subtle difference is of course that while Eminem records offensive lyrics with the aim of making a satirical point (most of the time), 50 Cent writes lyrics about violence and prejudice as a true reflection of his lifestyle. That itself is enough to make him the rebellious choice, hence the hand-wringing that has accompanied his rise to fame. In Da Club is at least a perfect example of why Dr Dre makes such great records regardless of who is performing them and word has it that the earlier non-Dre tracks on the album compare poorly to hits such as this.
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8 KA-CHING (Shania Twain)

Mrs Lange is back and with another example of why just reading the tracklisting of her latest album is enough to put the fear of God into you. The whole thing screams "kooky" and "fun" and if there isn't an exclamation mark in the title of the song ("I'm Gonna Getcha Good!") then it has a wacky title like this one - Ka-Ching. Still whilst the fun pop-country approach is good for hits then it is hard to knock it and indeed her last single, the aforementioned Getcha Good, used its three different choruses to fine effect, hitting Number 3 back in November and clinging on for a 15 week run in the Top 75. Ka-Ching actually isn't half as fun as its predecessor and in fact is just sitar away from being classed as middle-eastern and at the very least sounds like a slowed down version of Kiss Kiss. The track is now her sixth straight Top 10 hit although she has yet to top the charts in this country and on the performance of this single so far, such a feat may well be beyond her for a while yet.
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9 GOSSIP FOLKS (Missy Elliott featuring Ludacris)

Missy Elliott's hitmaking powers appear undimmed as she notches up yet another Top 10 hit single. The selling point of Gossip Folks is the fact that it appears in single form in the shape of a Fatboy Slim remix that turns the track into a big beats club and pop extravaganza that it is actually hard to dislike and if nothing else makes it her most appealing single since 4 My People (which of course had Basement Jaxx all over it). Almost forgotten in all of this is Ludacris with a cameo appearance on the track, thus reprising his guest starring role on 2001s One Minute Man which represented his only other Top 10 appearance until now. [Missy's greatest pop moment, coming thanks to as noted above Fatboy Slim although the official video online is set to the rather dull original album mix. Fun fact: this was one of the last CD singles I ever bought].


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11 SHAPE (Sugababes)

Missing out on the Top 10 by a whisker this week are the Sugababes although the peaks of their last few singles (1, 1, 7 and now 11) suggest that this is nothing more than the law of diminishing returns in operation. The selling point of this single at the very least is a cameo appearance from no less a figure than Sting who may wonder how he ended up helping girls young enough to be his daughters when once he was one of the biggest stars on the planet [by essentially interpolating his own song Shape Of My Heart for this track. Beating to the punch Craig David's Rise And Fall which had exactly the same idea]. Their next big challenge appears to be the imminent solo career of a certain former member who by all accounts has a very large chip on her shoulder and is not afraid to use it.
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12 BITTER END (Placebo)

A welcome return to the charts for Placebo and lead singer Brian Molko who almost seems to be performing as if he is on the verge of tears. This is their first chart hit since Slave To The Wage reached Number 19 in October 2000 and in all is their 8th successive Top 20 hit. Their biggest hits just for a change are justifiably their best singles, 1997s Nancy Boy and 1998s Pure Morning, both Number 4 hits.
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18 ONE HORSE TOWN (Thrills)

The second single release from the Dublin four-piece becomes their first ever chart single, Santa Cruz having missed the Top 75 last year. Having done a quick scan of all the reviews of the single it appears that opinion on them is decidedly mixed, Their gimmick is a modern day take on Beach Boys-esque West Coast pop and hence the single is filled with thundering pianos, Hammond organs, chiming guitars and intricate harmonies in an enormously appealing mixture. Despite this the single seems to fall some way short of achieving the uplifting feelgood summertime effect that the production is clearly desperately striving for. It seems a shame to be ambivalent about a record that is a thousand times better than many other hits this week but there is nothing more annoying than a record that is clearly not quite as good as it should be for reasons you cannot put your finger on. That is its only failing...
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21 GET OVER IT (OK Go)

On the other hand here is a single that is every bit as good as it intends to be but which for some reason hasn't quite caught fire in the way its airplay levels on rock stations have suggested it should be. OK Go are a four piece from America who have built up a name for themselves over the past few years with the kind of tongue in cheek fun rock that British groups like Busted are desperately trying to emulate. If Get Over It lacks anything it is a verse to go along with the singalong chorus but if nothing else this track makes me smile more than One Horse Town does. [A notable period piece this, the biggest UK chart hit for OK Go and one which came pre-viral video notoriety in the YouTube age but which potrays them as just another nerdy post-teen American rock band. They subsequently carved out their own niche, but as this review presciently noted - forgetting to make their actual songs any good was a common failing and would be their overall commercial downfall].


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28 SHAKE YA SHAMMY (Porn Kings vs Flip & Fill)

New in the shops! Club music collaborations from hell! Featuring just the one track for the moment, Flip and Fill (True Love Never Dies and Shooting Star) remixing this track from the Porn Kings (Up To The Wildstyle). The Porn Kings have not been seen in the Top 40 since the aforementioned hit gave them a Top 10 smash in 1999 and as one of the earliest hitmaking acts on the All Around The World label back in the mid-90s it seems somewhat appropriate to see them back on the chart in this manner.
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31 FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH (Cardigans)

Presenting the return of Sweden's best export, the Cardigans having over the last 8 years demonstrated an impressive ability to reinvent themselves with every passing year and along the way spawning hits such as Sick And Tired, Lovefool and My Favourite Game. This time around they appear to have turned into Fleetwood Mac with Nina doing her best Christine McVie on the vocals to this single. This is their first chart appearance in quite some time, the group last making the singles chart in September 1999 when duetting with Tom Jones on Burning Down The House. Sad to relate though that in the intervening period their chart fortunes appear to have fallen off a cliff, this single set to become their first hit to miss the Top 30 since Your New Cuckoo made Number 35 in September 1997.