There is a lovely old-fashioned streak of sexism running through the music industry, one which assumes that the business of making and selling recorded sound is still very much man's work. Hence it always seems worthy of particular comment when the fairer sex manages to achieve some particularly notable domination in this male world. We saw it a couple of weeks ago when Lily Allen became the fourth female singer in a row to top the charts, and similar notability is achieved this week as the Top 3 best selling singles are all performed by the more mysterious half of the species.
Leading the way is Lily herself who is celebrating a particular chart double of her own, with The Fear locked in place as the best selling single of the week and her second album It's Not Me It's You also racing ahead of the competition to reach Number One on the long player's chart. It is her first ever Number One album, her 2006 debut Alright, Still having stalled at Number 2 when first released.
Making up the rest of the singles Top 3 are Lady Gaga whose sales of Just Dance show little sign of dropping off just yet, and Alesha Dixon who motors 5-3 with Breathe Slow and so eclipses the Number 5 peak of The Boy Does Nothing to claim her biggest solo hit to date. Indeed so prevalent are female stars at present, and so dominant are certain ones in particular, that there are no less than 15 singles inside the Top 40 this week performed by female stars (Lady Gaga, Alesha Dixon and Beyonce all with two apiece) with all-female groups The Pussycat Dolls, The Saturdays (twice) and Girls Aloud) all helping to bring the total up to 19 hits all with ladies on lead vocals.
The fact that last Saturday was St Valentine's day will not have escaped most people's attention this week, particularly not it seems those snapping up albums as gifts. As well as the usual flood of romance-themed compilations, artists with similarly inclined collections in the shops reaped the rewards this week. Hence the Top 10 is invaded by compilations entitled Love Songs from both UB40 and Luther Vandross which land at Number 3 and Number 4 respectively, whilst two places behind Bette Midler storms up the rankings with a Best Of collection that has presumably found a home in the collection of anyone who doesn't already have a copy The Rose or Wind Beneath My Wings to slow dance to.
Back on the singles chart and it is down to the boys to provide us with the two biggest new hits of the week. Storming the chart at Number 8 are the Prodigy with Omen, their first brand new hit single in over four and a half years. The great survivors of the golden age of rave music, The Prodigy first burst onto the singles chart in 1991 with famous club anthems such as Charly and Everybody In The Place. Proving that they were no novelty act, the hits kept on coming until they reached the peak of their chart success and notoriety in 1996 when both Firestarter and Breathe both stormed to Number One. The single is taken from their forthcoming fifth studio album Invaders Must Die and with the sense of anticipation only heightened by their half-decade hiatus (only interrupted by a 2005 hits collection and re-releases of some of their older singles) Omen was always going to make a huge impact. I'd question just where their distinctive hardcore big beats style fits in with current musical trends, particularly in an era when dance music is a passing novelty rather than at the beating heart of musical culture. Nonetheless, there is something oddly reassuring about hearing Keith Flint bark manically over a scratchy mess of synthesizer lines once again and those who were part of the famous Jilted Generation will lap this up eagerly.
A veteran of a very different kind arrives at Number 21 in the form of Morrissey who charts with brand new single I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris. It is the first single from brand new album Years Of Refusal which hits the shops this week, his first studio album since 2006's Ringleader Of The Tormentors although he did, of course, score two chart hits last year which were taken from a Greatest Hits collection. Now that the initial flurry of excitement following his 2004 musical comeback has settled down, he seems to have slipped into a comfortable groove of scoring mid-table hits and selling enough albums off the back of them to keep his label and his fans happy. This isn't necessarily something to celebrate, he's dangerously close to developing Depeche Mode syndrome after all, but after 21 years as a solo star and 26 years in the music business overall the fact that his new releases still attract attention and comment is worthy of all the praise that is directed at him.
Finally, amongst the flood of burning out old hits and never will make it smaller ones, one particular Top 40 re-entry is of note this week. For the first time since early November Paper Planes from M.I.A. is one of the 40 biggest selling singles of the week as it climbs 45-33 after having returned to the singles chart five weeks ago. The renewed interest in the haunting and addictive track is thanks to its prominent use on the soundtrack of hit film 'Slumdog Millionaire' although the extra attention paid to the single following its recent Grammy nomination and her performance of the track at the awards the other week just days before giving birth will almost certainly have helped. Paper Planes originally peaked at Number 19 last autumn and it would be nice to think that isn't quite the end of the story. Not bad for a track taken from an album first released in 2007 but largely ignored by the mainstream until last year.