This week's Official UK Singles Chart

Oh dear, this is boring. In what has to be the oddest chart week for some time there is a strange stillness about the music business. Just three records enter the Top 20 of the singles chart this week whilst things are quieter still on the albums listing with just one new album penetrating the Top 40 best sellers.

It means it is very much a case of as you were at the top of the singles listing with 2Pac and Elton John reigning supreme for a second week with Ghetto Gospel. Their closest challenge does at least come from the one big news single of the week, one which marks the final transition of one of the most famous child stars of the decade into a mature adult singer.

Discovered on a TV show singing opera in a heartbreakingly clear soprano voice when she was just 12, the little girl from Cardiff was quickly snapped up by Sony records who raced her first album Voice Of An Angel into the shops just in time for her 13th birthday. Such was her appeal that she crossed over into the pop charts with the album hitting a quite astonishing Number 4 in time for Christmas 1998. Over the next three years, she would release four albums and go on worldwide tours, becoming what her record company claimed was the world's most successful crossover classical female artist. In 2000 Billboard magazine listed her alongside the likes of Madonna and Janet Jackson as one of the biggest selling female artists that year. During this time she grazed the singles chart once, in December 1999 with the track Just Wave Hello which made Number 31 on the back of a Ford TV commercial.

During this time, of course, she was also growing up, changing from an impish pre-teen into a sexy young woman and a person who wanted to reshape her musical destiny. Her heart clearly lay in a more mainstream route. Charlotte Church wanted to be a pop star for real. The only question was which direction she would take. At first, the answer seemed to be as a club diva. Jurgen Vries persuaded her to sing lead vocals on his 2003 hit Brave New World (on which she was credited enigmatically as CMC) with the single reaching Number 3 in February that year. Then came silence musically as she instead became tabloid fodder, making headlines thanks to a series of crap boyfriends and seemingly endless foreign holidays.

This week all that changes with the release of Crazy Chick, her first ever solo pop single and one which pays off the heavy hype and promotion by soaring straight to Number 2. The record itself is actually a bit of a headscratcher, being a brass-laden Atlantic soul pastiche. The kind of record the Commitments would have made had they ever performed original material. The single has by and large been very well received but for my part, I cannot get my head around it or bring myself to like it that much. Part of the problem is that her voice is simply too good. She is far and away the best singer to have made the charts for years, but a voice that was trained to sing Ave Maria in a manner that makes old ladies weep is just simply too good, too pure to pull off the kind of raunchy, raw soul that Crazy Chick aspires to. It is the ultimate musical paradox. Joss Stone isn't half the singer Charlotte Church is but you are left in no doubt that she could pull this track off better.

Still, you cannot knock a Number 2 hit however it turns out. There is no doubt that a new star is born and the rest of her much-anticipated new album should actually be worth hearing. My only hope is that the choice of material works more in her favour. I don't think she has it in her to be a Memphis sex kitten. If she performed a Whitney Houston-esque power ballad, however, there is no doubt in my mind that the earth would move.

The rest of the Top 10 has a rather empty feel to it, free even from some unusual moves from existing hits, most of which just rearrange themselves a little. More action comes in the shape of the Number 8 new entry for the Backstreet Boys, a single that marks their chart comeback after more than three years. Between 1996 and 2002 the US quintet notched up an impressive string of chart hits, including a run of 14 Top 10 hits out of 15 releases although perhaps surprisingly this run only included one Number One hit, 1999s I Want It That Way. Their six and a half year run of fame exceeded the usual three-year statute of limitations on pop acts, a reflection on the consistent quality of their material over this period of time. In a period when everyone was scratching their heads wondering why 'NSync never became true superstars over here, the Backstreet Boys flew the flag for US pop in the UK charts with pride.

Better still, their comeback shows that they still have it. Incomplete is a towering ballad with appropriately bombastic production which suggests that they still have something to say with their brand new album Never Gone rather than this being one last nostalgic retreat. In a way, it is a shame that the single did not chart higher, particularly in such a quiet week but hey, you take what you can get. Don't say it too loud but this is actually a better single than the Charlotte Church one.

As for the one remaining new entry in the Top 20, well that honour goes to Mario who follows up Let Me Love You with the Number 11 hit Here I Go Again. Another track from the album Turning Point, the new single turns away from the slushy ballad of his high impact debut in favour of a more uptempo sound. In truth, it isn't a bad record but compared to Let Me Love You comes across as being somewhat unremarkable. As a result, an unremarkable Number 11 is probably the best it could hope for.

Ten places below are the Faders with their second single of the year. The female rockers made a big impact back in April with their debut hit No Sleep Tonight which hit Number 13. New single Jump actually crackles with far more energy than its predecessor and might even had made a better choice for a lead single. As it stands it winds up a much smaller hit than it deserves and even misses out on becoming their second Top 20 hit. This is actually a shame as the charts are clogged up with too many blokey guitar bands who all start to sound the same after a while. To hear a female perspective is quite refreshing and the Faders deserve much better than to be chart also-rans.

Also struggling a little it seems are the Tears, the celebrated reunion of former Suede stars Brett Anderson and Bernard Butler. Whilst their debut single Refugees made a deserving Number 9 back in May, their second single Lovers has failed to catch fire in the same way and limps in at Number 24. Either it isn't quite as good or the critics are right. If you want to hear 1993 Suede then go and buy their original albums. Does the 2005 retread really have anything new to offer?

One place below at Number 25 are Coldplay whose Speed Of Sound single reverses its decline briefly to climb four places. For the moment there is no real significance in this but their performance next week (along with a great many other acts) will be one to watch out for as the effect of all the weekend's Live8 performances kicks in. Although the concerts weren't supposed to be about selling records (and the rule was you performed your old hits only, no new singles) every big charity event in the past has had a beneficial effect on the sales of the acts who performed and Live8 is unlikely to be any different. The effects will be more strongly felt on the albums chart rather than in the singles market- but you can bet the charts next week will make for some fascinating reading.


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