There are very few acts whose level of fame and popular appreciation is such that an imminent new album release is treated as a huge media event. In the 1990s the honour was reserved for the likes of U2 and Oasis, their releases heralded by breathless anticipation, intensive marketing and often midnight queues outside record stores. I remember a friend going along to pick up his eagerly awaited copy of U2s Achtung Baby upon its release in 1991. He joined the queue at his local Our Price, followed it to the counter and was asked "LP, cassette or CD?" There was no question over what he wanted to buy, there was only one item being sold that day.
In the 2000s it appears to be Coldplay who deserve such status. Three years after their last release X and Y was unveiled in similarly breathless fashion they have now brought the world the followup. In this new digital age, nobody expects people to queue outside stores. Instead, we have witnessed a plethora of stunts to hype this new work up as a big deal. A digital-only single Violet Hill was given away for nothing for a short period, then released commercially and became a hit. Alongside it, another track Viva La Vida was made available to those who pre-ordered a copy of the long player online. Then last week the entire work was for a brief period streamed online, giving potential purchasers an unprecedented (and risky) chance to sample the entire album at home before paying for a copy of their own [it will never catch on]. Finally, to make it stand out even more, the new Coldplay album was released on Thursday, ostensibly to help retailers and prevent leaks but a, of course, ensuring that it received plenty of attention at the expense of just about everything else.
So it is with a sense of anticlimactic inevitability that Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends storms to the top of the album chart after just three days on sale, giving Chris Martin and his backing group their fourth Number One album in as many official studio releases. As if to emphasise how keen people were to obtain the complete body of work, the impact of the album on the singles chart is almost negligible. Lead single Violet Hill creeps back up a couple of places to Number 12, whilst the only track to penetrate the Top 75 is Lost? which enters at Number 62. The latter I suspect is due to it being a bonus track bundled with the online version of the album and so purchased as a standalone to complete the set by those who have bought the long player physically.
Still curiously missing is the semi-title track Viva La Vida which has for some weeks been one of the most popular online singles. It was previously disqualified from the singles chart owing to its status as a "free" track, downloadable as a down payment for those who had pre-ordered the album. We all expected this restriction to have lifted this week once the offer was withdrawn, but it was ruled that as the track had begun the sales survey ineligible it had to remain that way for this week's chart. Tentatively scheduled for a proper physical release sometime soon, the track should be free to chart next week which as far and away the best thing the often annoying band have ever recorded is nothing less than it deserves.
In direct contradiction to my bold predictions last week, there is no change at the top of the singles chart itself. Whether thanks to the ongoing 'Britain's Got Talent' tour or just the sheer momentum the track had thanks to its unexpected surge last week, Singin' In The Rain from Mint Royale holds steady at the top. I still stand by what I said last week, the track is there as a short term novelty only with a demise that will inevitably be swift as it is sudden. Exactly when that is likely to be however is the one bit that remains a mystery. Meanwhile, we are left to ponder just what might have been, had whatshisface the dancer stuck with Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now), the soundtrack to his original televised audition.
The only new life in an otherwise moribund Top 10 is Chris Brown who motors 11-8 with Forever a week ahead of the physical release of the single. It gives the star his third Top 10 single, following directly from last hit With You and of course his 2006 debut single Run It!
Brown also plays a large part in the success of the highest Top 40 entry of the week. The track in question is No Air which sees him guest starring alongside 2007 American Idol winner Jordin Sparks. The track is Sparks' second single release in this country, albeit the first to have a properly promoted release following the low-key push for Tattoo which crept to Number 50 back in April. Regular chart watchers may recall that No Air also charted briefly two months ago, thus raising the possibility that the track could turn into a hit way in advance of its scheduled promotion. Such fears turned out to be premature and after several weeks away from the single re-charted at Number 74 last week and now takes a flying leap to Number 22. From this, we can conclude that the chances are extremely high that Jordin Sparks will become only the second American Idol winner to chart with a Top 10 hit in this country, her rise to stardom apparently coinciding with the fading of that of Kelly Clarkson. With our stateside friends having so enthusiastically embraced the cult of Leona Lewis and treated her as the major star we have all been told she should be, it seems only fair that we should embrace for ourselves their own reality TV discovery.
Just ahead of Sparks and making steady if unspectacular progress up the chart is Beat It from Fall Out Boy and John Mayer. A cover of the famous Michael Jackson track that the group recorded after it became a live favourite, the single is the solitary studio track on their Live In Phoenix album and is a digital-only entity with no physical version scheduled. Available since mid-April, the single has moved 46-48-64-65-40-31-30-27-21 thus far and by the looks of things it still has a story to tell. The presence of the single represents yet more exposure for the Michael Jackson back catalogue, this following his salami slice re-release campaign of 2006 and the recent 25th-anniversary hip-hop redux of the Thriller album from which Beat It was originally taken. Not that Fall Out Boy are the first rock group in recent years to take on Jacko and win, Alien Ant Farm's Smooth Criminal having hit Number 3 back in 2001.
The highest chart entry of the week steams in at Number 25, We Are The People giving Feeder their first chart hit for almost two years. A good old fashioned combined release, it still rather disappoints given their previous chart pedigree. Their chances of adding to their career tally of three Top 10 hits anytime soon look incredibly slim.
Finally then as promised, let's deal with what looks like the latest career revival for Scooter who rise eight places to Number 28 this week with Jumping All Over The World. Few indeed are the dance acts who are so synonymous with a particular musical style that an entire genre borrowed its name from one of their albums. The happy hardcore formula is pretty straightforward - take an old and not necessarily obscure track, speed it up and pitch shift it a bit, add in synths, a frantic beat and some crowd noise and finally have frontman HP Baxxter shout intoxicating instructions over the top. It is devastatingly and brutally effective and makes for some of the most damn exciting club records you have ever heard.
So formulaic is the style however that their appeal outside a worryingly dedicated hardcore is brief and transient in nature. Their periods of mass commercial success have been both fleeting and sporadic and so Jumping All Over The World is thus their first Top 40 single since their last flowering of fame in 2002 and 2003. The single is the title track from the album which made a shock appearance at Number One back in May and suggests that the time is right for the latest Scooter comeback, even if the failure of the physical version of the single to push it any further up the charts suggests that the Top 10 successes of The Logical Song and Nessaja in 2002 are unlikely to be duplicated anytime soon. Nonetheless, as long as they do not overstay their welcome it is, for now, good to have them around. Dance music for 12-year-olds and the musically illiterate it may be, but as proponents of the good old-fashioned wave your hands in the air and party like you just don't care style of clubbing, there really is nobody who can touch them.