This week's Official UK Singles Chart

[Welcome then to the start of the Yahoo! era of these chart commentaries, as everyone finally moved into their flash new offices and confirmed hell yes, the primary traffic generator on the old site was more than welcome on the new one. Launch was a service the American parent had been running for a while, its core focus an ahead of its time set of themed audio streams. The UK site of things was still a work in progress thanks to what turned out to be some never to be resolved licencing issues. So the UK version was a news and video clips service with the Dotmusic name now used for a branded newsfeed sitting alongside other content sources. Still in place was the licence to reproduce the singles chart, and with a bit of deft coding so were my words. Not knowing yet how it would be presented I just submitted this text using the old template and hoped for the best].

1 ALL THIS TIME (Michelle)

A brand new year, a brand new site and appropriately enough the charts this week bear witness to a brand new Number One single, officially the first of 2004. Michelle McManus, to give her her full name, stormed the public vote in the week before Christmas to be crowned Pop Idol 2003, the second UK winner of the series to follow in the celebrated footsteps of Will Young. Her win, and indeed her very presence in the contest, attracted much in the way of comment owing to her looks, Michelle's image being the exact opposite of the stick thin sexually provocative look that the "female pop star" cliche suggests she should be. Her win was hailed in some quarters as a triumph of talent over image although the counter argument is to suggest that she won with a sympathy vote rather than for any endorsement of her singing talents.

So what of the single then? Well it is an odd choice to say the least, a somewhat nondescript ballad that at times even she seems to struggle with. In fairness the hands of the producers were somewhat tied by the deadlines imposed by the TV series. Just like Will's debut single Evergreen, All This Time was actually recorded by the final three contestants so that it would be ready in time for release at the start of the year just three short weeks after the winner was finally chosen. As a result the song had to be as generic as possible - a task made even harder by the fact that there were both male and female voices to consider. Of course logic would suggest that getting each finalist to record a different song that was suited to them specifically would have been an equally sensible way forward but I'm not the one being paid to make those kinds of decisions. I suspect a full analysis of Michelle's talents and potential will have to wait until her second single which will of course have been chosen for her alone. For the moment, fears that she was merely the best of a rather average bunch of candidates can be put to one side. This week not only has the Number One single been chosen by the record buying public but that same public have also had a hand in choosing who gets to sing it to them. Few will argue that she doesn't deserve it.


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3 MILKSHAKE (Kelis)

By the looks of things, the music industry is taking things steady as we hit the new year, the expected flood of brand new post-Christmas songs clearly not due to take place until next week. Nonetheless it hasn't stopped a few artists taking advantage of the first full sales week of the new year to land themselves big new hits. Biggest beneficiary of this has clearly been Kelis who charges into the Top 3 with this brand new single. We last saw the US singer in August last year when she managed the unique feat of charting two singles in the same week as guest singer with two different acts. The week of August 23 saw her at Number 8 singing on Richard X's Finest Dreams and also down at Number 25 on P Diddy's Let's Get Ill. Milkshake is an unusual track to say the least, taking a leaf out of the Missy Elliot book of of minimalist production and even her rapping technique at times. Still it has done the trick and is enough to give Kelis her biggest ever hit, finally eclipsing the Number 4 peak of Caught Out There from March 2000. [Hardly needs saying that this track turned out to be truly iconic does it?]


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5 SOMEBODY TO LOVE (Boogie Pimps)

It was December 2001 when German producers Mark J Klak and Mirko Jacob were sat watching Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas and musing on the fact that nobody had seen fit to revive Jefferson Airplane's classic Somebody To Love, despite it being featured so prominently on the soundtrack. They elected to do one themselves and after much studio experimentation transformed the original hook of the song into what they thought was a sure-fire club smash. Labels in their home country were not impressed at first and it was not until the record had become a white label underground smash that it was finally picked up for release. Now with a new set of mixes the track finally arrives on these shores and as expected makes an immediate chart impact, landing nicely inside the Top 5. Somebody To Love actually began life as a track by Grace Slick's former band Great Society, the singer bringing it with her to the band she would go on to lead for over two decades. The Jefferson Airplane version was a Number 5 hit in the US in 1967 although it was never more than a turntable hit in this country. Various changes of personnel and several legal battles over the years saw the name of the band mutate from Jefferson Airplane to Jefferson Starship to finally just Starship in the 1980s at which point the band had their biggest ever smash hit, topping the charts on both sides of the Atlantic with Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now.
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6 I'M STILL IN LOVE WITH YOU (Sean Paul featuring Sasha)

Artist of the year for 2003? That surely has to be Sean Paul who over the course of the 12 month period had three solo Top 10 hits (Gimmie The Light, Get Busy and Like Glue), helped Blu Cantrell's Breathe to the top of the charts and then narrowly missed out on a second Number One hit with Beyonce on Baby Boy. Now he begins 2004 in a similar fashion with this quite delightfully retro lovers rock track which channels the spirit of Bob Marley in quite marvellous fashion, the fourth single from his own Dutty Rock album and which now ranks as his sixth Top 10 hit single in the last 11 months.


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7 THIS GROOVE/LET YOUR HEAD GO (Victoria Beckham)

OK so the single is a week old but having missed commenting on it last week [the previous column went unpublished so what follows is essentially a cut and paste from that piece. Why let all the hard work go to waste after all?], let us take a look at the significance of the performance of this long awaited Victoria Beckham single. Interest in the one time Posh Spice's singing career is very strong indeed, no so much for the way her records sound but what it represents in her role as one half of the most famous couple in the country. We all know what husband David's role is - that of the most talented footballer of his generation, England captain and OK, if we must, fashion icon. In effect there is a solid basis for his own continuing celebrity.

Victoria on the other hand is famous for being a singer, primarily of course as one of the Spice Girls but in later years as a solo performer. Her first solo album appeared in late 2001 and spawned just two chart singles - Not Such An Innocent Girl and A Mind Of Its Own, both of which made a mere Number 6 and its poor performance overall led to the entire project being aborted. Undaunted she is now about to try again, this time with a new record deal and off the back of an increasingly bizarre set of stories about the direction in which her music is going to go. The record label just wanted her to be a straightforward pop artist, Victoria on the other hand wanted to go down a more urban route and to this end recorded a series of sessions with New York based Damian Dash. There then followed moths of wrangling over whether the Dash sessions would ever see the light of day, the record company being less than keen. In effect the release of this one single has been a soap opera of almost epic proportions and the result has been an artistic compromise - a double sided single that is one half Dash and the other half pop.

It follows of course that neither is actually much cop. This Groove is the Dash produced track, not quite the comical rapping single we had been led to expect but a club track based on The System's Don't Disturb This Groove. Let Your Head Go is nothing we have not heard from Victoria Beckham before - and what failed to work in 2001 is hardly going to set the world alight in 2004. Much was made of the decision to release the single last week, the new year period is famous for seeing sales crash to the floor, for low selling singles to land further up the charts than they would normally and for fluke Number One singles to be common. In effect this was a transparent attempt to finally give Victoria Beckham the one thing she has always lacked - a solo Number One single.

Of course had the single topped the charts it would have actually had very little significance, save for making the Spice Girls the only group ever to see every one of its members top the charts as a solo act. No, what is more significant is that the most talked about, over hyped single for months recorded by a woman who is rarely out of the newspapers eventually made a mere Number 3 in the slowest sales week of the year, outsold at the time by two singles which have between them sold over half a million copies already and now this week tumbling down the chart to Number 7. Make no mistake, this is a bad thing. However much she claims that music is "just a hobby" to her, it is still the only grounds for her celebrity away from her husband. With Mel C having parted company from her record label this week as well, it looks as if that long mooted Spice Girls reunion may be the only way forward for some of them.
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9 HEY YA (Outkast)

Holy reversal of fortunes Batman. Just what is it about Outkast's Hey Ya that has made it the must-have retro track of the season? First released back in November, the single originally charted at Number 6 before sliding gently down the chart. In Christmas week it was one of a handful of singles to turn around and climb back up in the wake of the sales rush but I doubt that anyone could have predicted that it would continue to climb steadily ever since. The full chart run of the single since November 22nd now reads 6-8-10-13-22-16-13-14-9. Thus the track returns to the Top 10 for the first time in six weeks. Such a bizarre chart run is actually far from unusual in the new year although this is far and away the most spectacular performance since January 2001 when Toploader's Dancing In The Moonlight (itself a re-release) charted at the end of November and then spent the holiday period dancing around the listings, eventually peaking at Number 7 a full 14 weeks after it was first released.
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11 AS THE RUSH COMES (Motorcycle)

Their name sounds like they should be a raw greasy four piece British rock band but in fact Dave, Josh and Jes hail from San Fransisco and have made a great many people very excited at their potential to become the biggest club stars of 2004. If you went to a club over New Year or attended any kind of street parade or festival in the last few months then it is odds on that you danced to this track. Touted as a smash hit from the very start, this Number 11 chart placing is actually something of a let down - As The Rush Comes managing to be that rare kind of club track that works as a straightforward pop single as well and with female singer Jes having learned her trade as a rock singer this is a world away from the drippy trance rut that dance music has found itself in over the last few years. More from Motorcycle? Bring it on...


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12 GOOD LUCK (Basement Jaxx featuring Lisa Kekuala)

From one act who are set to become superstars to another who arguably already are. Good Luck is the second single from Basement Jaxx in the last few months, following up Lucky Star which featured the vocals of Dizzee Rascal but which could only reach Number 23. This chart placing is a little more like it, returning them to the Top 20 for the first time since their famous hit Where's Your Head At reached Number 9 in December 2001.
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20 IRISH BLUE (Flip & Fill featuring Junior)

The start of the year always seems to be a good month for Flip & Fill, for this is now the third year running that the duo have charted a single at the very start of the year. 2002 saw them break through with True Love Never Dies, January 2003 witnessing the pair hit the Top 20 with a cover of I Wanna Dance With Somebody. Their 2004 offering is their first hit since June's Number 28 hit Field Of Dreams. Of particular note is the singer on Irish Blue, going by the name of Junior. His claim to fame is that he was the singer on Force & Styles' original hardcore version of Pretty Green Eyes, a more commercial version of which was taken to Number 2 by Ultrabeat in AUgust last year.
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33 ANIMAL (REM)

Well if you want an illustration that REM's stock has fallen a long way since their early 90s heyday, just look at the performance of their singles. The first single from their current album was Bad Day which landed nicely at Number 8 back in October. Now with the album having been in the shops for several months there is little motivation on the part of anyone outside their hardcore suporters to snap up the second single - the result is Animal limping into the charts at Number 33 . It is a small hit but they have the consolation that it has at least performed better than I'll Take The Rain, their December 2001 release which could only reach Number 44.
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39 KICK IT (Peaches featuring Iggy Pop)

Just creeping in at the bottom end of the chart this week is a track which is surprisingly only the second ever chart single for Peaches, the first lady of Electroclash. Her only other hit single to date came 18 months ago when Set It Off crept in at a similarly lowly position when it charted at Number 36. For this hit she has a superstar collaborator in the shape of none other than Iggy Pop - his last chart appearance coming a full four years ago when he provided the guest vocal on Death In Vegas' Number 9 hit Aisha.