Roll up, roll up, ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the continuing saga of singles chart silly season. As the seasonal offerings fall away and as we wait for the big new priority acts of 2008 to have their music released, the resultant void is filled by the random, the overlooked and the incredibly lucky.
How else do you account for the brand new Number One single as Now You're Gone by Swedish dance act Basshunter charges up the listings with a 13 place leap. A club tracks go it is as inoffensive as they come and whilst some of us may bemoan its slight lack of innovation (the track might as well have been released five years ago for all the invention it shows) it actually works on many levels as an enormously appealing pop record. Basshunter is the brainchild of Jonas Erik Altberg and whilst this is his first ever commercial release in this country he is already well known across Europe and Scandinavia for his 2006 single Boten Anna which topped the charts in many countries [as I note next week once clued in, the two tracks are actually one and the same. Now You're Gone is basically Boten Anna with a new English lyric]. One such country was Sweden, from where Altberg hails and indeed it was the Scandinavian nation that was the origin of the last club track to top the UK charts - With Every Heartbeat by Robyn and Kleerup.
By way of no small coincidence, it is a bunch of Swedish songwriters who are behind the success of the surprise Number 2 single of the week, a single which just so happens to feature Robyn on backing vocals. The track in question is Piece Of Me from Britney Spears for whom it seems there is no such publicity as bad publicity. The followup to Top 3 hit Gimmie More, the ability of Britney Spears to sell pop records in the face of what is becoming an increasingly disturbing tabloid-fuelled meltdown is something at which we can only marvel. Whereas once she was feted for her looks, her personality and her talent as a performer, virtually all her media coverage at the present time is focused on her declining health, her fractured personal life and her deteriorating state of mind. Her promotional work for her music is precisely zero, yet for all of this, her records are selling in such a way that chart books of the future will record this period as one of her most artistically fruitful ever whilst the newspapers tell a story that is quite the reverse. Piece Of Me is now her biggest hit since Everytime topped the singles chart in 2004 and at this point, I'd normally make some comment about how the track compares musically to past endeavours. On the face of it however, it hardly seems to matter.
Returning briefly to the real world, the 2008 silly season allows Rockstar from Nickelback to advance still further up the listings. A Top 40 single since last November, the track now moves four places to a brand new peak of Number 4 in what is now its 13th week on the Top 75. This is now enough to equal the biggest ever hit single for the US rock band, matching the 2002 peak of their debut single How You Remind Me. The success of the single is all the more impressive considering that the track appeared to have peaked in mid-December, rising to Number 19 and then falling back as far as Number 25 before its unexpected new year revival.
The link between chart success and physical release of a single is stretched still further by Rihanna and her latest hit Don't Stop The Music. No matter that it will not become a CD until February 11 or that it has been available as a track on her Good Girl Gone Bad album since the summer, the track this week makes a six place leap to grab a place as a Top 10 hit at Number 6. In doing so it has now outstripped the Number 15 peak of its predecessor Hate That I Love You and becomes the album's third Top 10 hit, the sixth in total of her short but productive chart career to date. Don't Stop The Music has now also eclipsed the chart peak of the track on which it is based and which it samples heavily, Wanna Be Starting Something by Michael Jackson having only reached Number 8 in June 1983 as the fourth single from the famous album Thriller.
The highest new entry of the week goes to the digital sales of Superstar from Lupe Fiasco, suggesting that 2008 becomes the year the hip-hop star moves from bit-part player to mainstream act in his own right. The first single from his second album Lupe Fiasco's The Cool, it becomes his first ever Top 10 hit single under his own name as it enters at Number 7. His only other appearance to date in the upper reaches was as the guest star on Kanye West's Touch The Sky, a Number 6 hit in March 2006. He followed that single with two more hits as lead artist in 2006 but both Kick Push and Daydreamin' peaked just inside the Top 30. Physical sales get added to the mix next week which should theoretically spur him on to a Top 3 place, but with such an open market at the top end at the moment and with the spectacular opening week performance of the track in mind, don't rule out a push for Number One.
Also new to the Top 10 is the welcome sight of Scouting For Girls with Elvis Ain't Dead. As I mentioned last week, this track is one of the bold pre-Christmas releases which was sneaked out in the final week before the holidays but which is now benefitting from the burnout of the singles that stood in its way during the holiday rush. Their 7 place leap now means the band have a second Top 10 hit to sit proudly alongside She's So Lovely which hit Number 7 at the end of September last year.
Following on from Lupe Fiasco's Kanye West connection, the man himself pops up at Number 14 as forthcoming single release Homecoming surges into the Top 40 after landing just outside last week. Chalk this one up as another track making chart waves as an album cut way ahead of its theoretical release, this track not promoted to a single proper until February 4. Already it is a bigger hit than its predecessor Good Life which could only sneak to Number 23 in early November. Meanwhile his last but one hit, former Number One Stronger shows little sign of burning out for good. It slips seven places to Number 38 this week as part of a new year second wind that saw it charge back into the Top 40 a fortnight ago.
Also on the climb, although making fewer waves as they do so are both Mika and Booty Luv. Almost one year on from his elevation to stardom, Mika climbs two to Number 18 with Relax Take It Easy, the single still with some way to go to avoid becoming his smallest release to date. Just behind him Some Kinda Rush from Booty Luv also rises two places to land at Number 19, giving the girls their fourth Top 20 hit and I suspect in some way justifying the sneak release of the single on the Monday before Christmas.
Not content with singing backing vocals on the Number 2 single, Robyn also has a new entry of her own as latest single Be Mine enters the Top 40 at Number 23. Released properly this week (January 14), the single is the follow-up to Handle Me which made a rather understated chart appearance at Number 17 back in November last year. Meanwhile, her Number One hit With Every Heartbeat continues to sell, drifting to Number 49 this week.
There is a genuine oddity at Number 25 as I Fought The Law from Oystar makes its chart debut. The download-only single comes from fans of financial website moneysavingexpert.com and relates to their ongoing campaign against what they perceive to be unfair bank charges for overdrafts etc. The track is an entertaining novelty acoustic ditty, loosely based on I Fought The Law from the Bobby Fuller Four and which has been covered by a variety of acts in the past, most famously The Clash. Eyebrows were raised when the single registered a Top 20 placing earlier in the week, falling back a little once the initial rush of purchases slowed down. As with all such campaign tracks, dreams of it being Number One to highlight their issue were as wide of the mark as their rather bitter little campaign, but to give them their due the single is marketed as a not-for-profit exercise, the text download through their website priced so that it does nothing more than cover the costs of its distribution.
The silly season doesn't just extend to the singles chart of course. Shooting back up the albums chart and this week hitting Number One for the first time ever is Amy MacDonald with her well-received debut release This Is The Life. As if in sympathy, the title track also moves up the singles chart, jumping twelve places to land at Number 28. She thus finally has a second Top 30 hit to sit alongside her debut hit Mr Rock And Roll which made Number 12 back in July and in truth deserved far better than that. OK so I'm an unashamed Amy MacDonald fan and if she can't have big hit singles, I'll settle for a Number One album any day.