Now you know me, I am a singles man at heart. Countless people have asked over the years why I never do full commentaries on the albums charts, and I always give the same answer - I simply have no interest in the long player market whatsoever. Still, people are always fascinated by the relationship between the two listings and are forever attempting to work out the formula by which success in one translates to the other, and by the same token if singles and albums appear to be selling to two entirely distinct groups of people whether that is a good or a bad thing.
The simple truth, of course, is that there is never a hard and fast rule which you can apply to all situations, and the events of 2008 thus far have proved this nicely. On the face of it you could argue that the albums chart has followed the singles market closely, particularly as far as the young female generation of stars are concerned. Smash hit singles from the likes of Leona Lewis, Adele and Duffy have all within weeks translated into huge selling albums as fans of their initial tracks race to find out what else they have to offer.
Events this week of course stand that on its head. Six weeks ago superstar group REM released Supernatural Superstitious, their first brand new recording in three and a half years. Whereas the first single from their last album was an instant and almost automatic Top 5 hit, this new offering crashed out at Number 54 to widespread public indifference. One correspondent asked me if there was any reason why this should be, and I just shrugged my shoulders and guessed that nobody cared about them anymore. Fast forward to this week and the album chart inevitably tells a different story, with the new REM album Accelerate storming to the top to give them a third successive Number One album and the seventh of their long career. Of course, this chart placing is almost entirely down to their loyal following snapping up the much-anticipated new album in the moment of release and will ultimately prove unsustainable, but it is a nice illustration of how extrapolating success in one chart to another can be an extremely hit and miss process.
If you are thinking all of the above is a diversion to avoid having to wring a story out of the top end of the singles chart, then you would be absolutely correct. The Top 2 remain locked together with no change from last week, Estelle and Kanye West at Number One for a third week with American Boy and Flo Rida and T-Pain at Number 2 for a second with Low. Indeed the most entertaining aspect of it is a detail that you won’t see on most chart listings, the fact that both singles are issued with near sequential Atlantic Records catalogue numbers, American Boy listed as AT0304CD and Low as AT0302CD. Missing from the sequence is AT0303CD which belongs to Nine In The Afternoon by Panic At The Disco which is at Number 20. For completeness, I guess we should catalogue the fact that AT0301CD is allocated to Hypnotized by Plies featuring Akon (Number 68) and AT0302CD to Carry You Home by James Blunt which itself rests at Number 41 this week. [Record label catalogue number nerdery was a lost art once the physical single died out altogether. Based on the above paragraph you may draw your own conclusions as to how much of a bad thing this was].
The relative calm of the Top 10 is however shattered by two welcome new arrivals although it is good old British whimsy that wins out over Stateside superstar diva. The Kooks were easily most people's choice as the breakout act of 2006, their debut album Inside In/Inside Out selling in the thousands and spawning a series of radio-friendly yet still entirely credibly singles such as Naïve and She Moves In Her Own Way. After a few leaked sales gave it a Number 71 placing last week, brand new single Always Where I Need To Be storms to Number 3 on combined sales in a manner that will surprise few who have been loving it since it first appeared on the radio in February. Everything you expect from a Kooks single is here, the track all at once breezy, jangly, uniquely English and pressing all the right commercial buttons with its do-do-do-do-do singalong chorus. File it under annoyingly good and of course, it is far and away their highest charting single to date.
All of this does of course rather overshadow the arrival at Number 6 of the lady who has spent the last week making what is for her an unusually thorough promotional tour of the UK. Now apparently a long way removed from her previous commercial disasters, Mariah Carey is once again being acclaimed as a superstar and as her new single Touch My Body draws her level with none other than Elvis in the States for Number One singles, it arrives on these shores to become her first Top 10 single in two and a half years and her biggest hit since 2005 smash We Belong Together which can be seen as the moment she finally restored her musical reputation. I've said in the past (although it was a long time ago) that really there are two Mariah Careys. Whiny ballad Mariah and hip-hop Mariah and you generally have a preference for one or the other. The new single falls into the latter category and hence as far as my own tastes are concerned is appealing rather than annoying.
That is pretty much it as far as Top 10 action is concerned, although the main casualties appear to be Madonna and JT who slide 5-8 with the still download only 4 Minutes. I'd call this a vindication of my suspicion that the single would run out of steam even before it was properly made available, but for the minor quirk that the video for the track has only been released this week, the result being the single will now get TV airplay that had hitherto been denied to it. Don't underestimate the impact of this, and write its further chart prospects off at your peril.
Two other new entries arrive just on the cusp of the Top 20. At Number 19 appropriately enough are the Courteeners with Not Nineteen Forever the followup to January's Number 20 hit What Took You So Long. It will serve as a nice warmup to the release this week (April 7) of debut album St Jude but other than that doesn't interest me enough to inspire an opinion. Two places below at Number 21 are Radiohead with the second chart single from In Rainbows, this time near legendary track Nude which spent much of the last decade as a development work after the band failed to work out just how they wanted it to sound on record. It beats the Number 30 peak of Jigsaw Falling Into Place but doesn't quite manage to give them their first Top 20 hit in five years.
The final Top 40 entry of the week is a re-released club smash which is set to follow in the footsteps of Something Good 08 and become a hit for an entirely new generation. Toca's Miracle is actually one of the most-fascinating stories of the decade and actually deserves a higher profile platform than I can currently offer it, so let us for the moment note that it lands at Number 29 on download sales this week. The full tale to come next week when it seems all but certain the remixed former Number One will be charting much, much higher. [Rather facscinatingly this intial entry for the single inherited the chart run of the original as the remix hadn't officially been released at that point].