It was an old roommate of actress Christina Applegate [Robin Antin to give the woman her due credit] who first formed the Pussycat Dolls dance troupe, their old fashioned burlesque routines quickly becoming a cult attraction in Los Angeles clubs such as the Viper Room and the Roxy. Part of their appeal was the fact that on any given night a "name" celebrity might join them onstage to perform and this led to them having extensive contact with the music industry (the girls ending up with a starring role in Pink's Trouble video. With such a powerful brand name behind them and with the appropriate connections it was perhaps inevitable that an enterprising producer would hit on the idea of turning them into a full blown musical act - and the result has been an instant smash hit album in the US and this week a massive Number One hit single in the UK.
First of all, it is worth commenting on just what a departure from the norm they represent. Time and again US A&R men have shown themselves to be devoid of imagination, resulting in every US girl group for a generation to be rigidly based on the formula pioneered by the Supremes back in the 1960s. Everyone, from En Vogue through Jade, TLC and Destiny's Child has stuck to the format (and all with success of course). From the moment you see them you know the Pussycat Dolls are different and at the risk of making them sound a different kind of throwback, they have "new Spice Girls" written all over them, each girl being defined with her own personality and own sense of style, all fitting into the group structure overall.
So with the image out of the way, what about the music. Well, the truth is that at the moment there is just one thing that will sell in America and that is an R&B/Rap hybrid. Hence I personally have to confess to feeling incredibly disappointed when first hearing Don't Cha after reading so much about how it had taken America by storm. Don't go expecting a chirpy pop song, this is just about as R&B cool as it is possible to get. It ain't a bad record by any stretch of the imagination but as much as their image pushes the boundaries the music of the Pussycat Dolls treads little in the way of new ground. Still, enough negatives, there are plenty of positives here. Amazingly the Pussycat Dolls are the first US group to top the British charts since the Black Eyed Peas way back in 2003 and the first American all-girl act to do so since the all-star combo of Christian, Mya, Pink and Lil' Kim hit the top with Lady Marmalade in 2001 - their retro stockings and suspenders cavortings of course not a million miles from the image of the Pussycat Dolls in the present day. For the second week running as well the Number One single features a guest starring role for a male artist who had in the past never quite ascended to the top. Step forward Busta Rhymes whose star turn on the record gives him his biggest hit ever, one place higher than 1999s Turn It Up/Fire it Up.
The second biggest new hit of the week demonstrates perhaps that inside every hardcore club record there is a pop hit just bursting to get out. Mylo's brash electronica has won him critical acclaim aplenty over the last year with his album Destroy Rock & Roll which thus far has spawned three Top 20 singles. The first of these was Drop The Pressure which hit Number 19 in October last year and it was whilst doing a gig in Brighton that Mylo was handed a CD that had been made by two local DJs, mashing up the hit with 'Dr Beat', the original breakthrough hit for Miami Sound Machine (with a certain Gloria Estefan on lead vocals) which had been a Number 6 hit here in 1984. To his credit, he not only loved it but realised he had a potential hit on his hands. So here is possibly the first example of an artist creating his own bootleg mix as Mylo himself has cleaned up the original mash-up to turn Drop The Pressure into Dr Pressure and the result is a massive smash hit Top 3 hit, the first Top 10 of his career and a chart position which beats that scaled by the original version 21 years ago. Mention must also be made of the video which directly samples the Miami Sound Machine original. A chubby faced Gloria Estefan is still overcome by the music but thanks to the miracle of technology she is swiftly taken, not to Dr Beat but Dr Mylo! Be very afraid.
Slipping in at Number 4 are the all-conquering Coldplay, fresh from spending the summer playing second fiddle to James Blunt on the album charts. The second single from X&Y is the depressingly formulaic sounding Fix You [that's "all-time classic love ballad" Fix You there] which with almost mechanical efficiency becomes their seventh straight Top 10 single. Has the backlash gathered enough steam to make it safe to admit they do nothing for me at all? [Delete your account].
After a few frantic weeks, it is something of a relief to deal with a rather quieter top ten, the three new entries already mentioned the only action of note in the upper reaches. Thus the fourth new hit of the week has to content itself with the relatively lowly position of Number 14 - yes, Goldie Lookin' Chain are back. The spoof rappers managed to generate themselves a fair few headlines last week thanks to some bright spark booking them as the pre-match entertainment at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff for the Wales v England World Cup match which gave them the perfect platform to dedicate their new single Your Missus Is A Nutter to the England captain [D. Beckham] himself. Cue sense of humour failure from the football authorities and the spread of their notoriety. As for the single itself, well you should know what to expect by now - hip hop with distinctly Welsh attitude and all done with tongue very firmly in cheek. For a novelty act they aren't half going some - this is their third Top 20 hit in five releases.
We go swiftly from the ridiculous to the sublime next and the long overdue return of Faithless to the Top 40. Greatest Hits collection Forever Faithless contained a superb new track in the shape of Why Go but despite a once seen never forgotten video the single performed poorly, peaking at a lowly Number 49. Enter then the return of an old favourite. Insomnia was the track that introduced the world to the combined talents of Rollo and Sister Bliss and of course the eerily soothing rapping skills of the coolest man on the planet Maxi Jazz. The track actually took two goes to catch fire originally, peaking at Number 27 first time out in December 1995 before a re-release a year later saw it soar to Number 3, to this day still their biggest ever hit. Now the tale of an epic sleepless night returns to the chart at Number 17 in a remixed and slightly re-recorded version (Maxi having redone the vocals a touch) to remind us just what a classic it was in the first place.
On a quirky note, this is actually the second chart run the track has had in 2005. Insomnia reappeared on the chart back in April thanks to a new limited edition 12-inch release designed to tease the forthcoming Hits collection. The re-release peaked at Number 48 but as a knock-on of course immediately made all online purchases of the track chart-eligible. As a result, the single has been an almost permanent fixture at the bottom end of the Top 75 ever since, almost totally due to online sales. As with the Kaiser Chiefs single a few weeks ago, those online sales are now merged with the remixed single and Insomnia registers as a new entry despite having been at Number 71 on last week's chart. Given the track is such an evergreen, is it possible it will chart on and off for the next year when its online sales finally stop being chart-eligible?
Slipping in at Number 19 are Arcade Fire with what turns out to be their third and biggest hit so far. The band hail from Canada and are extremely distinctive thanks to their use of instruments as diverse as accordians, harps and cellos onstage. Rebellion (Lies) is easily their most commercially accessible single to date and quite deservedly gives them their first ever Top 20 single. Check out their first album Funeral if you want to find out more, a new offering is due within weeks.
Once place below at Number 20 is Ian Brown with All Ablaze, a brand new track that is not available on last years Solarized album which was responsible for his last two singles Time Is My Everything and Keep What Ya Got. Compared to the rather samey nature of much of his recent work, All Ablaze is actually the work of a man inspired, a funky atmospheric track that suits the vocal style of the former Stone Roses frontman perfectly. It is his 11th Top 40 hit single and his third in a row to make the Top 20, making this the best run of his solo career to date.
Actually that really means we should stop mentioning him in the same breath as his former band, his solo career having come far enough to merit regarding Ian Brown as standing on his own merits as an artist. After all hardly anyone mentions Dave Grohl and Nirvana in the same breath any more, thanks of course to the continuing success of the Foo Fighters. This week they land at Number 25 with DOA, the second single from In Your Honour and the followup to Best Of You which gave them their biggest hit ever when it peaked at Number 4 back in June.