See, I told you things were about to get busier. Seven Top 20 new entries are capped off by a brand new Number One single this week - and who else could it be?
Hard on the heels of Hung Up, (itself still a Top 20 hit) comes Madonna's second single from Confessions On A Dance Floor in the shape of Sorry. The track continues her current disco vibe albeit without any Abba samples this time around and despite the acclaim heaped upon its predecessor this in some small way is actually the superior pop record. The track gives the legendary star her 12th Number One single in all and for the second time this decade she clocks up back to back chart-toppers (American Pie and Music in 2000 being the last occasion). As any chart student should know, only four other acts have had more Number One singles than Madonna. Westlife are just ahead on 13, Cliff has had 14, The Beatles 17 whilst Elvis remains the all-time King with his run of three last year taking him to 21 in total. As a curiosity do you know who is counted as the second most successful female artist in terms of Number One singles? It's Mel C whose combined Spice Girls and solo totals gives her 11 chart-topping singles.
Whilst Madonna then doesn't really need any more Number One singles it is actually a shame to see her this week outsell someone who really does deserve one. Corinne Bailey Rae began her career as a member of mid-90s indie rockers Helen but in recent months has been the name to drop just about everywhere as potentially one of the biggest new stars of the year. Her first single Like A Star barely grazed the Top 40 when it was released back in October but since then her stock has risen somewhat. Second single Put Your Records On charges into the chart to land smack at Number 2 and in a very nice way proves all the hype correct. The single itself is a fabulously breezy slice of British soul, Rae's voice eerily reminiscent of Macy Gray's but with the added benefit that it is less grating to listen to over a period of time. This isn't pop or even R&B but somehow manages to be far and away the coolest Top 3 hit we've heard so far this year.
The tedium of every single Westlife release flying to Number One is now long behind us but the Irish group still have an amazingly consistent chart record. This week they reach yet another milestone with their 20th consecutive Top 5 hit as Amazing becomes the third single from their current album Face To Face to hit the charts. Yes, the single is nothing we haven't heard before and in fact set against the Corinne Bailey Rae track just above it sounds almost cloyingly plastic, not that their many fans seem to care.
The final Top 10 new entry this week goes to The Darkness who it appears to have some catching up to do if they are to live up to the success of their 2003 debut album Permission To Land. Despite the title track managing a solid Number 8 chart placing when released last November, their album One Way Ticket To Hell And Back has sold next to bugger all in comparison with its predecessor and is currently sitting comfortably at the very bottom of the album chart. Hence you suspect a lot is riding on its second single Is It Just Me which this week also slips into the chart at Number 8. The single sees the group in reflective mood on a mid-tempo rock track which sees them sounding more like Queen than ever and comes complete with their usual tongue in cheek trademarks - right down to the lavish video that winds up with Justin Hawkins marrying himself. It's nothing that is going to set the charts on fire though and you can't help get the feeling that whilst we still like The Darkness we don't find them as amusing as we did - and that is to the detriment of their appeal.
After opening his account with two rather fine Top 5 singles (his last single No Worries being the kind of underrated pop song that has the capacity to send chills up your spine) Simon Webbe has to content himself with a minor Top 20 placing for third single After All This Time which lands at Number 16. In truth, it is as much as the single deserves for whilst it attempts to play up the sotto voce strengths of the voice of the former boy band star, the production errs on just the wrong side of dull to have anything more than a passing appeal.
Just below Simon Webbe though is possibly one of the more fascinating releases of the week. Aside from the more fanatical element of his fanbase (those who mistakenly believe liking his music has to go hand in hand with an unquestioning approval of his lifestyle), Michael Jackson has a huge problem on his hands. Not even the very worst elements of the "Wacko Jacko" character the press created for him in the 80s came close to the damage done to his personal reputation by his child abuse trial last year. Acquitted he may have been but the questionable nature of his friendships with little boys and the revelations into his personal habits would normally be more than enough to finish the career of any celebrity.
His one lifeline is the fact throughout his career it was always possible to set aside Wacko Jacko the man and concentrate on Michael Jackson the performer who through most of the 80s and 90s was sublime. He didn't become a superstar through sleeping in oxygen chambers and keeping chimps, he did so by making some of the best selling albums of all time. Hence a neat way of reminding people of this is to take a leaf out of his late father in law's book and re-release much of his back catalogue one week at a time in some form of collectable set. So it is that last week the "MJ Visionary" series launched.
As with the Elvis collection last year, the opening week of the campaign saw two releases. First came Thriller which as it was accompanied by a box to collect the entire set of discs in was chart ineligible. Alongside it is Don't Stop Til You Get Enough, originally a Number 3 hit in 1979 and the first release of his post-Motown solo years, kicking off the campaign for his first solo album proper Off The Wall. However whereas all the Elvis Presley re-releases charged into the Top 10 at the very least, this first Jackson single limps rather miserably into the Top 20 with barely 6,000 copies sold. Whilst at first sight this doesn't bode well for future releases, it is worth remembering that the major selling point of these reissues is that they are all on double-sided discs with the CD single on one side and the DVD of the video on the other. Once we get into the 80s and see the likes of Beat It and Bad start to appear, the appeal of the singles is likely to grow. Here's hoping anyway - Jackson needs people to forget the little boys and concentrate on how good he used to be before he can even consider asking the public to buy some new material. This should be an interesting few months.
Before we finish this week it is worth noting the activity at the lower end of the Top 40 which sees a sprinkling of new entries from the rather more credible end of the musical spectrum. First up at Number 19 are Reading band Morning Runner who finally make the Top 20 with their third [fourth actually] single release Burning Benches. Debut hit Gone Up In Flames hit Number 39 back in August but their second single Be All You Want Me To Be could only limp to Number 44 back in October. This breakthrough chart hit bodes well for the release of their debut album which is set for release next week.
Just below at Number 21 are Maximo Park who are still struggling to break out of the midrange. Their last single was the re-released Apply Some Pressure which hit Number 17 but their latest single (the sixth of their career so far) I Want You To Stay now becomes their first to miss the Top 20 since their chart breakthrough at the start of last year. Graffiti remains their biggest hit for now, charting at Number 15 back in May 2005.
Just below are The Delays who must surely have been hoping for a slightly better showing for new single Valentine. The single is taken from their much-anticipated second album and is their fifth Top 40 hit so far. Their best run of hits to date came back in 2004 when the Faded Seaside Glamour album yielded a string of hits, the biggest being Long Time Coming which hit Number 16 - a chart peak which must surely at the very least have been the target for Valentine.
Finally just to give the Americans a look-in are We Are Scientists who notch up a second UK Top 40 single with the follow-up to The Great Escape which sneaked a look at Number 37 in October last year. Just to prove that you should never try to be too prescient with your song titles, It's A Hit does only slightly better and breaks the Top 30 with a Number 29 entry point.