This week's Official UK Singles Chart

1 SPIRIT IN THE SKY (Gareth Gates featuring The Kumars)

Chalk that up as two weeks at the top for Gareth Gates' charity single, sales of Spirit In The Sky having almost certainly been helped by the fallout from the exposure given to it by the Comic Relief telethon a week last Friday. When compiling the list of Comic Relief sponsored singles last week I managed to repeat a long-standing error and missed out 1994s Absolutely Fabulous single (the Pet Shop Boys under an assumed name). Whilst the single release wasn't directly associated with a television appeal, neither was the 1992 Mr Bean single and so if one is listed as an "official" Comic Relief single then so should the other. I was also wrong to state that Lady Marmalade was one of the other songs to have topped the charts three times as of course the Labelle original never did hit the top over here, doing so in the States instead. The "missing" third song to have hit the top in three different versions only does so on a technicality, You'll Never Walk Alone having hit the top for both Gerry and the Pacemakers (1963) and The Crowd (1985) whilst in 1996 it was one of three tracks listed as a triple a-side for Robson and Jerome, the package hitting the top of the charts in December that year.

Onto things that are undeniably facts though and once again a Number One hit has managed to retain its place at the top of the chart, Spirit In The Sky now being the fifth Number One hit in a row to do this. The last time the chart saw that kind of sequence was in 1995. As to why we are suddenly seeing this kind of slowdown, well the explanation (of sorts) will follow next week. We have much to get through before then...
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2 SCANDALOUS (Mis-Teeq)

The first hit of 2003 for Mis-Teeq and indeed their first release for several months, their last hit single coming back in June last year when the double-sided Roll On/This Is How We Do It hit Number 7. This brand new single suffers little trouble in flying up the charts, becoming the biggest new hit of the week. It matches the peak of their second single All I Want from June 2001 to become their joint highest charting hit ever. a Number One single one of the few honours to have eluded the threesome thus far. Only criticism? Alesha doesn't do a sandpaper rap. Sort it out ladies..[Yes, this was the first truly disappointing Mis-Teeq single. And the lack of Alesha rap was the reason for this]

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3 BEING NOBODY (Richard X vs Liberty X)

Now the proud owners of a Brit award (who would have predicted that?) Liberty X move from strength to strength with their first single release of the year. For the follow-up to Holding On For You, they have teamed up with Richard X, the man responsible for the original bootleg that spawned the Sugababes' Freak Like Me. This, however, is no bootleg but a surprisingly respectful (if slightly retitled) cover of an old hit for Rufus [no, it was a bootleg/mash-up dickhead, the 'Being' bit of the title referring to the fact it borrowed the backing from the Human League's Being Boiled. That was kind of Richard X's gimmick]. The funk group are perhaps best know for spawning the solo career of their lead singer - a certain Chaka Khan and indeed their biggest ever hit only came after she had temporarily reunited with them for a one-off live release. Credited to Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, Ain't Nobody made Number 8 in April 1984 and then returned to the Top 10 five years later in a remixed version which peaked at Number 6. In the mid-90s the song seemed to take on a life of its own and was covered by a multitude of artists, Gwen Dickey and KWS (1994), Jaki Graham (1994 again), Diana King (1995), Course (1997) but the biggest hit of all was LL Cool J's rap version which topped the chart in 1997. On that basis you have to wonder if this was the most original choice for a cover version and this seventh chart version does indeed push Ain't Nobody up the list of most covered songs (the record is currently held by Unchained Melody with 9). The appeal of the song cannot be faulted however, and it duly becomes Liberty X's fifth Top 10 hit in six releases.


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4 U MAKE ME WANNA (Blue)

This seems to be quite the week for pop acts making their first chart foray of the year, as first Mis-Teeq then Liberty X and now Blue hit the shops with a long awaited new release. This new single of course comes hard on the heels of their chart-topping duet with Elton John on a cover of his own Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word which is still selling and this week drops to Number 49 having made a short reappearance inside the Top 40 a few weeks ago. U Make Me Wanna (despite the idiosyncratic spelling) is not actually a cover of Usher's 1998 hit but instead a brand new single and in all honesty one of their strongest releases yet. Approaching the second anniversary of their first hit, Blue have now had seven successive Top 10 hits. Who said the concept of the boy band was dead?
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7 SUNRISE (Simply Red)

For that matter who on earth said Simply Red were dead? The band (essentially Mick Hucknall and anonymous others) have been around since the mid-80s and for the most part have managed to sidestep the tides of fashion to emerge at regular intervals with some damn fine music. Just take a look at their back catalogue and classics are instantly apparent. In the mid 80s they made legendary hits such as Holding Back The Years and Money's Too Tight To Mention. In 1992 their album Stars became their biggest seller and produced hits such as For Your Babies, Something Got Me Started and the title track. In 1995 they returned once more and neatly rode the dance bandwagon to the top of the charts by using a Goodmen track as the basis for Fairground. Since then their hits have perhaps been less memorable and more sporadic, the last Simply Red hit coming in February 2000 when Your Eyes made Number 26. Now in 2003 they are back with a bang and with a simply awesome comeback single that has picked up worryingly large amounts of airplay. A large part of its appeal is the clever way it is based around Hall & Oates' 1982 hit I Can't Go For That (No Can Do) with the rhythm track of the original providing the backing for the hit and with the backing singers even slipping in the original lyrics in places. In short, it is a very worthy new hit for the group and becomes their first Top 10 hit since The Air That I Breathe hit Number 6 in August 1998.
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10 SOMEWHERE I BELONG (Linkin Park)

It is second album time for Linkin Park and the time for them to prove that hits such as Papercut and In The End were not one-offs. So far so good for this follow-up to last summer's one-off High Voltage/Points Of Authority as Somewhere I Belong confirms their status as Top 10 hitmakers, this now having the honour of being their third such single in a row.


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11 BUMP BUMP BUMP (B2K featuring P Diddy)

What a difference a few months can make. Hot new US boy band prospect B2k released their first single Uh Huh in this country back in August last year. When commenting on its Number 35 chart peak, a certain writer not a million miles away from here noted, "All that holds them back for the moment is that nobody really knows who they are." Now it seems everybody does, especially as Bump Bump Bump is now fresh from having topped the US charts. Helped along by a cameo appearance from P Diddy, this cheekily appealing single hits all the right notes and manages to appeal to both a pop and urban crowd simultaneously. I confess to being slightly disappointed to see it miss the Top 10 but given the competition it was up against this week, a Number 11 chart entry is perfectly respectable. Keep an eye on them.
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12 MESMERIZE (Ja Rule featuring Ashanti)

A little over a year after they first teamed up together on record, Ja Rule and Ashanti are back tandem. Their first single together Always On Time hit Number 6 in February 2002 and set both artists off on a run of hits for the rest of the year, Ja Rule with Livin It Up, Rainy Dayz and Thug Lovin' whilst Ashanti charted with What's Luv, Foolish and Happy. This new single perhaps doesn't quite have the appeal of Always On Time but there is no doubting the popularity of the rapper plus soul diva formula given the way it has also produced hits for Nelly with Kelly and J'Lo with LL Cool J to name but two.
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15 FLASH (Queen & Vanguard)

If you are of a sensitive disposition, look away now. The systematic demolition of the Queen back catalogue via a series of somewhat bizarre covers and remakes now reaches what is either a zenith or a nadir depending on your point of view. Queen's somewhat camp theme tune to the 1980 movie Flash Gordon was admittedly never one of their finest musical moments but still somehow ranked as one of their more famous hits, hitting Number 10 in December 1980. Now this German remix has appeared, cranking up the thunderous drums a notch to turn the single into a club stormer for a new generation. Given that the song was originally written as a throwaway bit of fun, what they have done to it is hardly going to cause a great deal of offence to die-hard Queen fans but even they must wonder just what is going to come next given that this follows on from Five's remake of We Will Rock You, the 1999 remix of Under Pressure and Wyclef Jean's version of Another One Bites The Dust, all of which have charted in the last five years. Can I suggest a drum n' bass version of Fat Bottomed Girls[I'm still claiming the copyright on that idea].
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20 PROVIDER/LAPDANCE (N*E*R*D)

Stand by for another attempt to give the hitmaking alter-egos of the Neptunes a push towards mainstream acceptance. They didn't appear to be doing too badly last summer when Rock Star hit Number 15 but since then no N*E*R*D singles have been forthcoming. Now that situation changes thank to this Zero-7 remix of a track from the In Search Of... album that is a world away from the jazz feel of the original. The single is also backed with a new version of Lapdance which became the first N*E*R*D chart single when it hit Number 33 in June 2001.
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26 MIDNIGHT (Un-Cut)

A chart debut for Un-Cut, a threesome from the UK who are currently clublands next big thing. The rather gorgeous Midnight is a commercial release for a track that the group released in a limited release over a year ago and which is one of those glorious club records where the vocal melody appears to bear no relation to the music that is going on underneath but which somehow seems to complement in perfectly. Singer on the track is a lady by the name of Jenna G who combines her singing work with some TV acting roles as well. A major label signing should help them no end, look out for them they have potential. [This is the very definition of an underrated classic. Drum n' bass meets jazz and it is extraordinary].


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28 TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE HEART (Jan Wayne)

Do you know what the most disturbing thing on the television is at the moment? It is the infomercial that runs on the EMAP music channels which promotes Jan Wayne's album, track after track of cheesy dance remakes of famous pop tunes which is somehow being sold as the perfect party companion, suggesting that these are "improved" versions of all your favourite hits. It is scary because people may start believing that this is the case. Following on from his Number 14 remake of Patti Smith's Because The Night comes this utterly hideous club version of Bonnie Tyler's 1983 Number One hit, best known as one of Jim Steinman's greatest ever productions but now reduced to an emotionless four minutes of bubblegum. The appeal of such music is doggedly regional, Scotland and the north of England accounting for most of the sales of these songs, in a similar fashion to the way garage hits only ever sell in the south. Maybe I'm just wrong to try listening to this with an adult perspective. When I was 14 years old I used to love everything Stock Aitken and Waterman produced, baffled by the howls of outrage from music writers who poured scorn on the cheesiness and formulaic nature of the productions. Listening back to old Hit Factory compilations 15 years later I can hear the flaws, spot the shortcuts and note the throwaway nature of most of the productions. At the time it didn't matter so much as I was part of the audience it was being aimed at. Somewhere up in Carlisle are groups of record buyers who think this is how pop music is supposed to sound and will snap up Jan Wayne albums by the carload. If that bothers you, just have a long bath and listen to Coldplay.
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30 WONDERING WHY (MJ Cole)

A welcome chart return for one of the original UK garage pioneers, MJ Cole's 1998 single Sincere being widely credited as the first ever 2-step single ever to reach the Top 40 although it took a 2000 remix to turn it into a large hit when it finally reached Number 13. This is his first chart single since those heady days of 2000 when the album Sincere spawned several hits. The only question is whether three years on time has now passed him by.
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33 PUNK ROCK PRINCESS (Something Corporate)

Another chart debut this time for this five-piece rock band whose tender years (most age around 18-20 years old) belies the enormously appealing nature of their music. Punk Rock Princess inspires comparisons with the likes of Feeder with its catchy chorus and thundering drum and piano rhythm. If you need a reminder that Jan Wayne doesn't have to represent the destruction of music as we know it, then this does the job perfectly.
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36 DANCIN' TONIGHT (Stereopol featuring Nevada)

Best dance single of the week? Well it would have to be this one I'm afraid, a gloriously retro energetic disco track from France that arrives on the chart thanks to a set of Love II Infinity remixes that turn it into a floor-filling stormer. Or something.
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40 SOFT LIKE ME (Saint Etienne)

One day, someday Saint Etienne will have a big hit again. For now it seems they are reduced to slipping the odd single into the bottom end of the Top 40. Soft Like Me is their first chart hit of the year, bettering by one place the peak of Action which charted in September last year. Their last Top 40 hit came back in 2001 when Boy Is Crying made Number 34. Although their biggest chart successes and most famous singles came in the early-mid 1990s they retain a terrifically loyal fanbase who will doubtless flood me with outraged emails wondering why their hits simply cannot seem to get any higher.