So much for my boldly optimistic predictions that the chart battle this week would be a struggle between some very big names. From the very start of the sales race this week it was clear there was only ever going to be one winner.
Their creators can deny it all they wish, but the "genuine star" strike rate of the 21st-century phenomenon of TV talent contests is decidedly mixed. For every Will Young there is a Michelle McManus, for every Lemar there is an Alex Parks and for every Girls Aloud there is a Hear'Say. The fact is that all the phone votes in the world aren't going to guarantee you a career beyond your initial Number One hit.
Hence when Leona Lewis ran away with the 2006 series of X Factor, Simon Cowell and crew had a major dilemma on their hands. Clearly, this was a girl with a talent and a set of lungs far in excess of anything Saturday night TV had produced over the previous six years. How on earth could they ensure she didn't turn into another reality TV dud by association?
Quite simply they waited. Despite her debut single (a note for note remake of Kelly Clarkson's original US hit A Moment Like This) selling half a million copies in its first week and winding up Christmas Number One, unlike her predecessors she was not rushed into the studio to race an album of bland ballads into the shops before Doris in Huddersfield forgot who she was. Instead, she was taken away to be groomed, for the right songs to be chosen, for the word to spread beyond these shores that a potential superstar was on her way.
Only now ten months later does the newly poised, glamorous and sparkling Leona Lewis reappear in the public eye with a single that, well actually has picked up a mixed reception. Some love it, recognising the perfect match between singer and song and the way her vocal style and range has improved almost beyond recognition since her first tentative auditions the summer before last. Others have muttered about dull R&B copycat music and asked where the innovation has gone.
My take? I'm not a little in awe of Bleeding Love. A song that could so easily have been spoiled by Mariah-esque histrionics is instead approached in a subtle yet emotional manner, a production that sits unobtrusively under her vocals, edging the song along and ensuring that the raw emotion of the chorus when it comes is on display for all to hear. The 22-year-old from Islington may not have lived a single moment of the malfunctioning relationship described in the song but somehow she makes you feel as if you have yourself. Most importantly it manages to be one of those records which commands your attention whenever it comes on the radio, a performance that requires you to drop everything until the last note fades away. That my friends is the sign of an impressive, superlative pop record and one which is entirely worthy of its role as the launch of Leona Lewis - superstar.
Don't just take my word for it, look at the statistics. In just one week the single has sold almost 220,000 copies, far and away the highest single week sale of the year and indeed the biggest total for any single since her own A Moment Like This in Christmas week 2006. OK so its promotion was timed to perfection, performed on the first live X Factor show of the present series (and casting a long shadow over the mixed abilities of this year's shower of hopefuls in the process) and released neatly in half term week but this is a breathtaking sale by any standards. With sales of its predecessor (which makes a reappearance this week at Number 55) having nudged 800,000, Leona Lewis has sold a million singles in just under a year.
Perhaps more bizarrely Bleeding Love becomes the first single of the download era to have, to use the old-fashioned terminology, both a- and b-sides on the chart together. CD track 2 is Forgiveness which appears in its own right at Number 46. Nobody is entirely sure why. To register as a sale, the track has to be purchased specifically as a standalone, something that makes no sense when both tracks were available together as an online single for £1.58 (sales of which are included in that of the lead track, in this case Bleeding Love). For some reason, the Leona Lewis single has attracted a large number of purchasers who had either never used an online store before (and thus didn't get the "digital bundle" concept) or who had bought the a-side and then come back afterwards for the b-side. Go figure.
So what of the rest of the competition? Well, feel for them in a way as both Number 2 and Number 3 hits sold enough copies to have more or less guaranteed a chart-topper in any other week. Leading the pack were Take That who stormed 46-2 with the full release of brand new single Rule The World. Although the recipient of its fair share of praise, you have to wonder just how many of these good reviews were down to people who felt that a Take That track needed to be praised by default. It isn't a bad record in truth, and in chart terms is a full 15 places better than last single I'd Wait For Life. Nonetheless, it is the first time they have released a single that actually dates them, a record which sounds for all the world like a Bee Gees b-side rather than a new offering from the former boy band who engineered what is set to be the template for all decade-on comebacks of the future [a bit harsh that take in retrospect, although it helps to hear it in context over the closing credits of the movie "Stardust" for which it was recorded. At that moment it sounds like the greatest record ever made]. Let's not knock a Number 2 single too much though, and indeed Rule The World nudges six-figure sales itself, the third highest one-week sale of 2007 so far. Their only mistake it seems was not to have hit the shops a week earlier.
Heck, the half term singles surge means that in all conscience we can't even give McFly their traditional kicking. Their new single The Heart Never Lies sold more copies last week than their last single Baby's Coming Back did when it topped the charts in May. A brand new track, taken from their seasonal Greatest Hits offering, it becomes their 13th straight Top 10 hit single, all but two of which have gone Top 3. Like most of the rest, it is actually a far better pop record than anyone will give it credit for but speaking purely from the point of view of someone who would like to be proved wrong, you will be hard-pressed to find it in the Top 30 three weeks from now.
One inevitable consequence of the flood of big new arrivals has of course been downward pressure on otherwise good selling singles already in the chart. Hence the unexpected tumble from 3-6 of Gimmie More from Britney Spears, despite the track selling far more on combined sales than it did on downloads alone last week. Timbaland also is knocked back briefly, Apologize sliding a place to Number 7. That single, of course, is still a download-only track with full release coming today (October 29).
The next new entry arrives at Number 10 as Lord Don't Slow Me Down by Oasis lands on the chart with a splash at Number 10. Previously unreleased, the track was originally recorded during sessions for the Don't Believe The Truth album but was ditched from the final running order. It appears now as the title track for the documentary film that was made about the tour for the album. Originally shown on TV last year, an extended 90 minute version is to be released on DVD next month. What is set to make Lord Don't Slow Me Down unique is that it is Oasis' first ever download-only single with no physical release planned or scheduled. This may well account for the chart placing which for them is rather lower than normal. In fact if it climbs no further it will be the lowest charting Oasis single since Live Forever also peaked at Number 10 way back in August 1994 and will bring to an end their phenomenal run of 18 consecutive Top 5 hit singles. Still, where one record comes to an end there is always another to be broken and it is worth noting that Lord Don't Slow Me Down matches the peak scaled by Nelly Furtado with Say It Right earlier in the year to become the joint highest charting download-only single to date. All they need is one more chart place and the record will be theirs alone.
As I mentioned last week, the Elvis Presley re-issue programme skips ten years this week with the release of If I Can Dream which lands at Number 17. It is an appropriate choice of single as its original release marked the rebirth of Elvis' career after he had spent most of the 60s making really bad plotless films and recording nothing but the naff soundtracks to said movies. If I Can Dream was the song chosen for the finale of his 1968 comeback special, a concert broadcast by NBC in the USA which was his first live performance in seven years. His rebirth as an entertainer towards the end of his life can be pretty much traced back to that one performance. For all of this the gospel-inspired single didn't perform so well chart-wise. in America, only reaching Number 12 on the Hot 100 and becoming a Number 11 hit here in 1969. Nonetheless it was still his biggest chart hit in over two years and prepared the ground for the next few re-releases which rank as some of his all-time greatest singles.
Not all comebacks are worth persevering with of course. The Backstreet Boys first reunited in 2005 after a four year break and scored a brace of Number 8 hits with Incomplete and Just Want You To Know. Two years on the American boyband are still at it with another brand new album on the way. This time around the UK public appears to have lost interest. With a combined release, new single Inconsolable lands at a rather miserable Number 24, bringing to a close their run of 18 Top 20 singles which stretches back to June 1996.
Finally for this week, watch out over the next seven days for Heater by Samim which lands at Number 29 on download sales. Based out of Berlin, the Swiss-Iranian producer has created one of the most unusual club tracks you will hear all year. It is based around an old Columbian track if online gossip is to be believed and is almost entirely centred around an amazingly catchy accordian line. Marry that to some up to date Euro beats and you have a track that may not end up as a smash hit but is diverting enough to pick up its fair share of sales. Top 20 next week is more or less a given.
I'll leave you with one thing to ponder for the next seven days. In their eight year career so far, Westlife have never failed to top the charts with a single released in November. This week their new single Home arrives in the shops. Has it got what it takes to knock Leona off her perch?