This week's Official UK Singles Chart

Well, this was - not quite as expected. The major talking point of the singles chart is not the third week spent at Number One by Dizzee Rascal and crew (a fine achievement though it is) but the fact that McFly are "only" at Number 2 with One For The Radio.

The pop-rock group are of course the poster children for singles chart uselessness. They are the only act in history to have as many as five Number One hits plummet straight out of the Top 5 and their biggest hit of 2007 - Baby's Coming Back/Transylvania - was ultimately outsold at year end by a thirty-year-old Queen track. Believing that the problem was their label's insistence on marketing them as a pop group, McFly have now cut their ties with Island Records and have set out on phase two of their career on their own independent label Super.

Hence such dramatic promotional stunts as last weekend's giveaway, bundling their new album with each copy of the Mail On Sunday. More controversial however was the all the stops pulled effort to ensure that its lead single shouted to the world that little had changed by making Number One on the singles chart. The stunt was a simple stretching of the remaining physical chart rules to their very limit, capitalising on the desire of their loyal but niche teen fanbase to own a copy of everything they did. Three different CD singles were produced but tied together in a deal with retailers such as HMV to enable all three to be purchased for £5 - each of these bundles naturally registered as three separate sales. Midway through the week it was claimed that distribution issues were holding up the offer, resulting in a further deal with online stores to enable text message purchase of the track, although in the event this seems this made little impact with the single falling back from what at first was a commanding midweek lead over the competition.

Sales stunts aside for the moment, let's consider the song itself. The track is a self-aware statement by a group in a state of transition, dealing lyrically with the problem of how to make a track that fits in with everyone's expectations of how they should sound whilst at the same time heralding their imminent move towards becoming the "serious" rock act they genuinely aspire to be. It means musically that the merry harmonies and pop choruses of their previous work are all but absent and instead this single moves them closer to the territory traditionally occupied by the likes of Weezer and Blink 182. I've not heard enough of freebie album Radio:Active to properly judge, but it very much sounds as if they are on the verge of shooting themselves in the foot, trying and failing to appeal to an adult crowd whilst at the same time attempting to pull marketing scams to grab themselves unwarranted chart placings.

Needless to say, it won't matter a jot in seven days time. The single will remain their 14th straight Top 10 hit, their third Top 3 hit in a row - the best run of their career - even if an eighth Number One was denied them by a slightly cooler urban cut. Plus of course, you just know that this time next week the single will be somewhere in the region of Number 15 having already been snapped up by anyone in a training bra who actually gives a damn.

Brightening things up a little, the Top 3 is completed as expected by Kid Rock who ascends three places with the now physically available All Summer Long. His rise comes as the expense of Basshunter who won't be crying into his synths for too long with the eyebrow-raising arrival of Now You're Gone - The Album at the top of the long-players chart. This is undoubtedly the cause of its title track experiencing a new sales surge of its own, resulting in the former Number One creeping back into the Top 40 at Number 38.

The next new arrival in the Top 10 is the other big physical release of the week, Madonna's Give It 2 Me which finally frees itself from the mid-table purgatory it was stuck in as a download to safely preserve her decade-long run of consecutive Top 10 hits. Whilst I've never been a fan of the "Most Weeks On Chart" statistic given that it rewards persistence rather than actual sales success, it is still appropriate to acknowledge that this hit, along with the continuing chart run of 4 Minutes has now pushed Madonna past the benchmark of 700 weeks on the UK singles chart. She is only the third act in history ever to reach this total, needless to say Elvis and Cliff being the other two acts in question, both still some way ahead with well over 1,000 each to their name. The only other act to breach the 600 week mark is Elton John whose total was pushed to 652 when he last charted back in December.

Also new to the Top 10, this time whilst still a download is Shut Up And Let Me Go which moves 16-9 for the Ting Tings. Although one friend of mine this week described them entertainingly as "Shampoo with better marketing", the duo currently have an impressive chart domination of their own with former Number One That's Not My Name still gamely clinging on at Number 15 and previous hit single that wasn't Great DJ reappearing in the Top 75 at Number 60.

The other big new entry of the week arrives at what its supporters would consider a rather understated Number 24. Noah and The Whale are a four piece British folk band who take the genre back to its very basics, performing as acoustically as possible with nothing more than drums, guitars, fiddles and whistles. They have seen their popularity soar after a tour of the summer festivals and just ahead of their debut album now hit the singles chart for the first time ever with a re-release of a track they originally brought out last year. 5 Years Time could so easily have been embarrassingly twee and naff but instead, it walks the line perfectly and is a rather joyful heart-warming tune that will have even the most hardened cynic singing along by the time the second chorus comes around. I have literally no idea how much mainstream commercial potential it has, but the Magic Numbers have shown that a credible mid-table chart career is possible even with the most unconventional pop music. Hear this and feel good about yourself for the rest of the day, guaranteed.

Lower down the Top 40 there is one rather startling re-entry, that of the Sugababes' eight-month-old track About You Now which unexpectedly reappears at Number 34. Its renewed success is a neat example of the way alternative recordings of a track register towards a single chart position for the sales that have propelled the former Number One back up the chart are by and large not those of its original single release. Instead, it is a stripped to the bone acoustic version performed for the Radio One series Live Lounge that is selling copiously as a download, all thanks to its prominent use in a storyline in the teen soap Hollyoaks. Never underestimate the power of television to give a nudge to the most obscure recordings. Note that the live version shares the chart history of the studio recording for the simple reason that it is the same song by the same act - hence when Amy Winehouse's Live Lounge rendition of Valerie began selling it received its own separate chart placing as the studio track was credited to Mark Ronson and not the singer herself.

Finally, for this weeks wander round the more quirky end of the charts, acknowledgement has to be made of the early impact of the Abba-themed movie Mamma Mia which hit screens here in the UK this week. Both film soundtrack and the group's original recordings make an impact together with Abba's original recording of the title track arriving at Number 57, its first chart appearance since it was a Number One back in 1976. Just outside the Top 75 perhaps inevitably Dancing Queen is also on the rise, charting at Number 82. Needless to say their 1992 Greatest Hits collection Gold is also reaping the benefits and rockets up the album chart to Number 5. Back to the film itself though and its most popular track so far is Honey Honey which lands at Number 69 as credited to Original Cast Recording. The same "artist" is credited with Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie (A Man After Midnight) at Number 91 but best of all the lead actress herself gets an unexpected if still unofficial chart placing. Yes, Meryl Streep arrives as a recording star for the first time ever with her own version of Mamma Mia this week at Number 96.


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