Before we start this week, a word or two about Eurovision as just for a change the Song For Europe/Making Your Mind Up/Whatever They Are Calling It These Days show has thrown up something fascinating and debatable. Britain's Eurovision entry this year is guaranteed to be one of the most talked-about in the whole contest and I'm overjoyed. It's great news for Daz Sampson who not only is a top bloke in his own right but hailed quite rightly as the king of unashamedly cheesy pop, whether it is as Bus Stop, Rikki and Daz and of course more recently as Uniting Nations. It's also worth noting that his collaborator on the so wrong it is right Teenage Life is a certain John Matthews [Ricardo Autobahn to you and me]. Given the dross that has passed for our entries in the past, it seems worth celebrating the fact that there is a distinct possibility that one of the Cuban Boys is going to win the Eurovision Song Contest for us. You suspect John Peel would have been overjoyed.
Anyway, that is to come, for we have a pretty amazing sight at the top of the charts this week. As a quality contestant, Chico Slimani was the joke of the last series of X-Factor. As a performer, however, he was top of the pile and in many ways epitomised the true spirit of the series which wasn't necessarily out to find the best singer or singers but to find the best entertainer - the person who had the X-Factor. In the event, he didn't win of course but it was almost inevitable that one way or another the former stripper would find his way into the charts in his own right. The Latino romp It's Chico Time was actually debuted on the series itself as one of his final performances and there was talk of attempting to release it to coincide with eventual winner Shayne Ward's own single. Ultimately common sense (and the small print in his contract) prevailed - and in truth, it was for the best. This week his debut single crashes to the top of the chart to make him one of the most unlikely hitmakers of the year so far. By rights, of course, the single should be terrible, but somehow it comes across as slightly less ridiculous than many of Ricky Martin's past hits. It's fun and it makes its own headlines and virtually nobody will admit to liking it. What more could you want from a Number One single?
This does, of course, mean that the Pussycat Dolls are denied for now their third straight Number One single, their latest offering Beep sliding in at Number 2. Compared to the weediness of their last hit Stickwitu this new hit is a welcome reassurance of just how good they can be, a deliciously funky single which pokes fun at itself by deliberately beeping the more explicit parts of Will I Am's rap - hence the title.
It is left to Corinne Bailey Rae to keep the British end of things up in the Top 5 this week as Madonna slips to 4 and the Number 5 slot is taken by US rock band Orson. First grabbing people's attention at last years In The City music convention, the band found themselves championed in all manner of places last year on the strength of No Tomorrow which was one of the must-have downloads of the end of last year. Q's description of the track as "one long hook" isn't too far off the mark, the track being the kind of quirky new wave-esque rock that was supposed to have gone out of fashion a generation ago. I'm being impossibly nice this week I know, but the sight of No Tomorrow in the Top 5 is nothing less than a joy. [Plucked from MySpace obscurity by Jonathan King, as he is so fond of telling people].
OK so let's dial this down a little so people don't think we're going soft. The third new entry in the Top 10 this week slides in at Number 7 in the shame of Sewn by The Feeling. The Londoners arrive on the chart via the incessant plugging of Chris Moyles on Radio 1 and in fact just like Orson they are practitioners of some deeply unfashionable music - in this case, a melodic sound that carries echoes of Supertramp. To hell with it - this is a bloody great record. And it's Top 10!
Now, remember Shakira? She was the Columbian superstar who helped define 2002 in pop music with her first ever English language album Laundry Service. The album spawned the memorable hits Whenever Wherever, Underneath Your Clothes and Objection (Tango) before she vanished on tour for two years and then set to work on the follow-up. She actually made two follow-ups, a pair of complementary albums, one in Spanish and the other in English. The Spanish one came first - Fijacion Oral Vol.1 being released last year. With our usual insularity in this country, we pretty much ignored it and international smash singles La Tortura and No weren't even promoted here. Epic UK were content to wait for the English version Oral Fixation Vol.2 which was unveiled at the Hackney Empire back in October.
Lead single is Don't Bother and its appearance at Number 9 on the chart this week will come as a huge relief to her fans who watched the single appear on playlists shortly after Christmas only for the release date of the single to be put back again and again. Thus given the amount of TV airplay it has received already it is actually quite a surprise to find that people aren't already tired of it. Her familiar yodelling tones are present and correct on the track which actually ploughs a more conventional rock furrow than some of her past hits. It gives the Latino wonder a third Top 10 single, although one that comes some way short of the Top 3 smashes that were her first two UK singles.
Now let's be honest. Releasing the horrible Even God Can't Change The Past as Charlotte Church's Christmas single was a really stupid idea, threatening to undo all the hard work that had been done last year in portraying her as a proper pop star instead of a child soprano. To redress things slightly here is Moodswings (To Come At Me Like That) which is actually far and away one of the best tracks on the Tissues And Issues album and which in all truth should have been the first single. The closest she gets to the killer rock chorus you feel her voice deserves, Moodswings is another rather fabulous pop record in a week full of them and yet as the fourth single from the album is destined to struggle slightly and land at a rather sad looking Number 14. Mind you, that's still three places higher than Even God...
Well this Michael Jackson re-release programme still hasn't really caught on yet has it? After Don't Stop Til You Get Enough limped in at Number 17 last week, his latest re-release Rock With You fares little better. Penned by Rod Temperton, the track was originally the second single from the Off The Wall album and first peaked at Number 7 in this country in early 1980. All I can do is repeat what I said last week, these early Jackson singles are actually the ones that have dated the most (and which don't have the lavish videos which defined his later work). It won't be until we get to the Thriller years in a few weeks time that we can judge just how successful this project is going to be.
In at Number 17 is what everyone hopes is going to be the breakthrough single for Keisha White. First heard of back in 2003 when she appeared on Paul Oakenfold's single The Harder They Come and on the Desert Eagles Discs track Bigger Better Deal, the R&B singer has been waiting in the wings as Britain's next big star ever since. Following a support slot with Mis-Teeq she released Whatcha Gonna Do in March 2004 only to see the single make a disappointing Number 53. In February last year, she reappeared with Don't Care Who Knows which did slightly better, peaking at Number 29. The release of her debut album was a bomb however and its second single Don't Fool A Woman In Love didn't even make the Top 75. Thankfully she had a patient label behind her and after a rethink, she is set for a relaunch. Originally scheduled last year, The Weakness In Me [a cover of an old Joan Armatrading song, although I was clearly oblivious to this] now arrives on the chart thanks to some steady Radio 2 support, and the sense of relief is palpable. Parent album Seventeen is set for a re-release soon, the irony being that she is now nineteen years old, her journey to the charts having taken a little longer than originally planned.
The token club hit of the week slips in at Number 19 - Watchin' by the Freemasons and Amanda Wilson. It is the similar sounding follow up to Love On My Mind which hit Number 11 in September last year.
The latest stage in the solo career of former Blur guitarist Graham Coxon is the appropriately titled Standing On My Own Again. It is the first single taken from what will actually be his sixth solo album Love Travels At Illegal Speeds. His last album came in 2004, Happiness In Magazines which turned out to be his most successful to date, spawning four Top 40 singles, the biggest of which was the fourth one Freakin' Out which hit Number 19 and which but for one chart place remains for the moment his biggest solo hit. Mention, of course, must be made of Blur's 1999 single Coffee And TV on which Coxon took lead vocals for a change and which peaked at Number 11.
The final new single of note this week lands right the way down at Number 28 and concerns the fascinating career to date of Jack Johnson. His album In Between Dreams is actually his third but it was the release of it early last year that brought him to people's attention in this country - so much so that he memorably won the "Best International Newcomer" award at the Brits last month. This immediately propelled the album to the top of the chart and brought to people's attention that he had so far failed to have a Top 40 single, Good People being his biggest hit reaching Number 50 early last year. All that changes this week as Better Together becomes the fifth single and fourth track to be taken from the album and now sneaks in at Number 28 to become his biggest hit to date. Fascinatingly the record company is now also taking the opportunity to re-promote his 2003 release On And On, running a series of TV commercials in the vein of "hey, this guy doesn't have just one great album out - he has two!"
That's all for this week, but watch out for the chart in seven days time. This week a series of tweaks to the chart rules kick in - most crucially the one which allows singles to chart on the basis of digital sales only in the week before they are physically released to the shops.