One of the closest fought ding-dong battles in recent memory took place at the top of the chart this week. In the red corner was incumbent Number One single I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker by Sandi Thom. In the blue corner, the newly released Maneater by Nelly Furtado which had made a strong statement of intent by charting in the Top 10 on download sales alone last week. At one stage during the week just a handful of sales separated the two singles and it was by no means clear cut who was going to emerge the winner. In the event it seems the release of Sandi Thom's own album Smile It Confuses People counted against her, hoovering up sales that might otherwise have gone to the single. Whilst she does have the satisfaction of the best selling album of the week, she is no longer the owner of the Number One single, despite posting a small increase in sales.
That honour thus goes to Ms Furtado by a margin of as little as 200 copies, a little over five years since she made her chart debut with I'm Like A Bird and a spectacular turnaround from the lowly Number 40 peak of her previous single Forca (topically enough one of the official anthems of the European Football Championships) from July 2004. To find the last time two solo female artists had back to back Number One hits you have to travel back six years to June 2000 when Sonique hit the top with It Feels So Good, deposing no less a person than Billie Piper with Day And Night. It's been eight years since we had a Canadian singer at Number One, Celine Dion the last to achieve the feat in 1998. Honourable mention has to be made of Daniel Powter who spent the whole of last summer locked at Number 2 with Bad Day but Nelly Furtado has proudly flown the maple leaf one place further. Four out of the last five Number One hits have now climbed to the top of the chart rather than going straight in, Crazy being the only single to break the sequence which also includes Ne-Yo's So Sick, Orson's No Tomorrow and of course Sandi Thom and now Nelly Furtado.
It would have been almost wrong for the biggest new hit of the week to not have something to do with the World Cup. The question of just who will record the official England anthem for major football tournaments has been a huge talking point since the 1990s. Before then football records were always unspeakably naff in their own appealing way and featured the footballers themselves attempting to sing. New Order's 1990 anthem World In Motion changed all of that and ever since then the goal has been to capture lightning in a bottle once again. Whilst this explains 1998s ill-fated union of the likes of Echo and the Bunnymen and the Spice Girls as "England United" it does, of course, highlight the 2002 choice of Ant and Dec with We're On The Ball as something of a dropped bollock.
This time the cool factor has been restored. Although never ones for the terraces as such, Embrace's back catalogue has more than its fair share of intense, anthemic tunes, their 2000 hit single You're Not Alone being used in a memorable promotional campaign for Sky Sports not long after its release. They were, therefore, a safe choice as the act to record the official song of England's Germany 06 campaign. The result is World At Your Feet, again not exactly a sing-along classic but with its "it's coming, it's coming, it's your time" exhortation in the chorus it cannot be faulted as a motivational mantra. In a month where it seemed like even the chap who runs the corner shop was releasing their own World Cup track, Embrace have beaten all the competition, for now, rising 38-3 after a full release to give them their second Top 3 hit of the year. The 35 place leap actually sets a new record as the biggest ever Top 40 leap, passing the 34 place jump registered by You Drive Me Crazy by Shakin' Stevens which soared 39-5 in 1982. World At Your Feet also matches the peak of the aforementioned 2002 anthem by Ant and Dec to become the biggest "official" World Cup hit since those heady days of 1990 and World In Motion. I'll explain the reason for the quotes in a moment.
First of all, we have to pay a huge tribute to the second biggest new hit of the week as with their third single, Cardiff rockers The Automatic wind up with a genuine smash hit. The driving and catchy Monster charted impressively at Number 23 last week on download sales and this week has shot up into the Top 5 to become the biggest hit of the week that is neither about football nor blessed with a set of ovaries. Their previous single Raoul made a mere Number 32 when released in March and the size of this hit sets them up nicely for the release of their debut album in a weeks time.
Back to the football then and in spite of the competition from some brand new songs, the next two biggest World Cup inspired hits are both retreads of established classics. We mentioned Tony Christie's single last week, the charity reworking of Amarillo now given a World Cup theme proves there is still life in the song, despite it having shifted over a million copies in its original version last year. It now rises 11-8 to give Tony Christie only his third Top 10 hit ever, albeit with the same song that became his second.
It gets better though as to general amazement the Number 10 single of the week is a reappearance for one of the biggest selling football records of the last decade. For those too young to remember, 3 Lions was first recorded by comedians Frank Skinner and David Baddiel along with Lightning Seeds frontman Ian Brodie as the official England record for the 1996 European Championships. It swiftly became the new national anthem for the month of June '96 as England swept to the semi-finals on home soil and the song (by then a Number One hit) was chanted by a jubilant Wembley stadium. Two years later the trio tweaked the lyrics slightly and re-released it as 3 Lions '98 to support the England team at the World Cup, this time as an unofficial track going head to head with the England United record. To nobody's surprise it made Number One again, holding off the challenge of Vindaloo by Fat Les and ensuring that as England went out on penalties to Argentina, the Top 2 singles were football tracks that would become enduring classics.
The '98 version of the track was wheeled out once again in 2002, this time hitting Number 16 and it appears now to have become a tradition. Despite referencing players who haven't played for England since it was first written, the universal appeal of the single remains undimmed. After landing at Number 48 thanks to downloads last week, the single soars to Number 10 to give it its highest chart position in eight years. I'm going to save this column somewhere as it may well save me a lot of typing when the South Africa 2010 festivities are in full swing.
One place below them the ugly side of football tie-ins rears its ugly head as Crazy Frog shoots 50-11 with We Are The Champions. I'm sure you can guess the story here, the track being a massacred version of the classic Queen track, replete not only with the occasional "ding ding dong" from Mr Ringtone himself but a cheesy Eurodisco rap that merely adds extra shovels onto the compost heap burying the original. Officially it is the fourth Crazy Frog hit and heralds sadly a brand new album, funded I suspect by thousands of unwitting subscriptions to the Jamster Ringtone Club. Before you get too caught up in the moment, dare I point out that the Crazy Frog tracks are all made by Bass Bumpers who just happen to be German.
...Which actually leads us nicely to the tongue in cheek xenophobia of our next new entry, Who Do You Think You Are Kidding Jurgen Klinsmann by the Tonedef Allstars. This particular World Cup track comes thanks to the relentless patronage of The Sun newspaper and which features such luminaries as former boxer Frank Bruno and Geoff Hurst, he of the famous hat trick in the 1966 final. The song itself is a reworking of Who Do You Think You Are Kidding Mr Hitler, the theme to the 1970s comedy series Dad's Army and which remains familiar to all thanks to its endless television repeats. The Jurgen Klinsmann referenced in the title is of course the famous German striker who now serves as manager of our old rivals (and tournament hosts) Germany, the song attempting to stoke the rivalry between the two football sides despite the fact that a meeting between the two in the World Cup is by no means guaranteed.
The newspaper will be particularly pleased that its promotion of the track has paid off to this extent, particularly as attempts by other areas of the media to push their own World Cup songs onto the chart have failed spectacularly. Hoping to repeat the Top 3 success of their Euro 2004 single, my own other employers talkSPORT gave a huge push to We're England which is a rewrite of the mod classic Tom Hark. This time the talkSPORT Allstars can only make Number 37 despite the track being played on the sports station every few hours in the build-up to the World Cup [we even had a songwriting competition in the office to pen the lyrics to the damn thing. Mine didn't make the cut]. All eyes will now be on Sham 69's Hurry Up England which carries with it the patronage of Virgin Radio and which hits the shops for real this week.
Two eighties veterans make up the numbers in the rest of the Top 20, even if their chart placings are somewhat lower than they are used to. First up is Morrissey who has gone from registering his joint biggest chart hit ever (You Have Killed Me, a Number 3 hit in April) to a single that for now is his smallest since he began his 21st century comeback, The Youngest Was The Most Loved possibly suffering from not having anything to do with football and landing at Number 14. Four places below are Depeche Mode with John The Revelator/Lilian who only just maintain their recent run of Top 20 singles with a Number 18 single, although as the track is the fourth single to be lifted from the Playing The Angel album we should really marvel that it has done so well at all.
Indeed you could make a long list of the singles released this week which represent a recent career nadir for some well-established artists. The Streets' Never Went To Church limps in at Number 20, not quite his smallest hit ever but a rather disappointing performance given that it is the follow-up to the Number 8 hit When You Wasn't Famous. Mariah Carey also struggles with her new single Say Somethin' rather apologetically appearing at Number 27, her lowest chart placing since her celebrated 2001 career nadir. Outside the Top 30 the Sugababes enter with Follow Me Home, and this after a full store release as well. If the single goes no further it will take over the unwanted mantle of being their smallest hit ever, charting lower even than Soul Sound, the 2001 swan song of the Mk1 lineup.
Another single for which there were high hopes was the 2006 Eurovision Winner. Hard Rock Hallelujah from Lordi was rushed into the shops following its victory a few weeks ago, but it looks as if even the headlines their shock win generated will not translate into huge sales. Despite this, the Number 25 placing of the single does at least grant it the honour of the highest chart placing of any Eurovision winner since Charlotte Nilsson's Take Me To Your Heaven made the Top 20 back in 1999.
It seems appropriate this week to finish on one final football song, albeit from a rather different angle. Those non-British readers may struggle with the concept, but whilst English football fans regard the performances of the Scottish football team with something between ambivalence and affection, north of the border it is de-rigeur to loathe the English in football terms. With their side not playing in the World Cup due to not being very good, they pass the time enthusiastically supporting whatever opposition England are playing. The Number 30 single this week celebrates the fact that by a happy coincidence a player called Jason Scotland will line up against England for Trinidad and Tobago this week. Thus every proud Scotsman can cheer on the men from the Carribean and cheer for Scotland at the same time. Scotland Scotland Jason Scotland by the Trinidad & Tobago Tartan Army is reported to have sold a mere 12 copies south of the border this week. I'll leave you to guess where the other 6,000 or so came from.