As I hinted at the end of the podcast last week, the chart makes up for a lack of big new hit singles by treating us to one of the most tense battles for Number One for some considerable time. Although there was a small chance that the Comic Relief single Islands In The Stream would retain its crown, early sales flashes indicated that the record it deposed from the top - Right Round by Flo Rida - was also a strong contender, the gap between the two singles as little as 300 copies at one point early in the week. By Friday Islands In The Stream was fading fast and it seemed as if Flo Rida was on course to become the first artist in almost three years to regain the Number One position after losing it.
Instead, he fails, a late surge at the weekend instead puts Poker Face by Lady Gaga at the summit of the official singles chart by the small margin of some 221 sales. Having first appeared to peak at Number 3 three weeks ago, the single suffered from the size of the market and the presence of several big selling singles, increasing its sales week by week yet actually slipping down the chart as records above overtook it. Indeed when last week the track fell to Number 4 it set a new benchmark for the highest sale for that chart position in over five years. Indeed sales of Poker Face actually slip ever so slightly this week, the single selling 53,699 copies compared to 55,293 a week ago.
Nonetheless a Number One single it is at last, giving Lady Gaga her second chart-topper in the space of two and a half months - its predecessor Just Dance still also selling well and shifting in its seat slightly to rest at Number 12 this week. Whilst it may not be directly linked to a 1980s hit unlike the two previous incumbents of the Number One position, the bouncy electropop of Poker Face means it is as 80s retro as it gets, a production that would not sound a day out of place had it been released in 1981. Indeed such is the vibe of the 2009 music scene at present that Poker Face is actually an appropriate talisman for some of the week's other new releases, not to mention the three singles below which once again either cover or sample hits of the 80s.
More on that in a moment, first we must acknowledge the passing of Islands In The Stream which slumps to an unexpected Number 3, keeping pace still with its Comic Relief twin Just Can't Get Enough by The Saturdays which rests at Number 4. As one eagle-eyed commenter last week pointed out, by topping the charts last week the single ensured that a song written by the Bee Gees has been Number One in each of the last five decades. It is a quite sensational feat, one that is unmatched by any other song-writing partnership. The most obvious other contenders for the honour are naturally one or both of Lennon and McCartney, but whilst we had Beatles-penned tracks have been Number One in the 60s, 80s and 2000s, Paul McCartney songs at the top in the 70s and 80s and John Lennon compositions at the summit in the 80s, a lack of Number One hits composed by either man in the 90s means they fall just short of the songwriting consistency shown by the Brothers Gibb. The only other songwriters with a similar record are the various members of Queen, whose songs have been at Number One in the 70s, 80s, 90s and 2000s although a case can be made for Andersson and Ulvaeus of Abba who also penned songs which made Number One in the 70s, 80s and 90s and received a songwriting credit on Madonna's Hung Up in 2005. The latter hit sampled their own Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight) so technically they didn't actually directly write the song, but if we are going on purely songwriting credits then for completeness sake we have to acknowledge it.
Just one single climbs into the Top 10 this week, Halo by Beyonce continuing its upward trajectory with a 20-9 rise. It further ensures her consistent record of Top 10 hits, being her 13th as a credited solo artist. With Listen having shoulder-barged its way to a Top 10 placing just before Christmas, her only singles outside of Destiny's Child to miss the Top 10 are now 2004's Me Myself and I (Number 11) and 2007 release Green Light (Number 12).
Back in time then to the 1980s, for just like Poker Face the single that enters at Number 11 is infused throughout by the spirit of the neon-soaked decade. Electropop duo La Roux consist of producer Ben Langmaid and frontwoman Elly Jackson, the duo having been tipped for great things following the release of their debut single Quicksand on a small independent label at the back end of last year. Having been snapped up by a major label, In For The Kill effortlessly becomes their first chart hit single. I'd share it with you to let you judge its merits for yourself, but for idiotic "this video is not available in your country" messages on YouTube. A shame really, some of the people reading this might have liked it enough to buy a copy for themselves, what a wasted opportunity. [Sometimes we have a lot to thank Vevo for. The end of daft geoblocks on pop videos for one].
Appropriately enough the next single is not so much inspired by the 1980s, but performed by one of the acts whose work from that decade informs and influences the production of both the Lady Gaga and La Roux singles. Fresh from their "outstanding contribution" gongs at last months Brit awards, the Pet Shop Boys arrive at Number 14 with brand new single Love Etc., their highest charting single for three years and a release which means they can boast a hitmaking career spanning an impressive 23 years.
Now assessing any new work by Tennant and Lowe in chart terms is actually something of a minefield, for had a certain other set of 80s veterans not set the standard a few years earlier, our benchmark for chart uselessness might well have been called "Pet Shop Boys Syndrome". Here's the problem: it doesn't matter how much work they put into their new album, how much press they do to promote it or how well received it is critically. This new single and new album Yes (released this week) will sell to absolutely nobody outside their long-term hardcore of fans. This blunt statement isn't just based on the perfunctory in and out performance of just about every single they have released in the last ten years, but the utterly dismal sales performance of their albums. Of all the records they have released since 1999, Greatest Hits collection Pop Art is the only one that can boast a shelf life beyond a month.
Just check out the stats. 1999's Nightlife spent two weeks on the album chart, 2002's Release just one. Their 2006 offering Fundamental may have been hailed as an impressive return to form when first released but it too just had a four-week chart run before vanishing forever. It saddens me to see it, as the Pet Shop Boys were my favourite group growing up and I avidly collected every single one of their releases during the 80s and 90s. I don't point this out from the position of someone who dislikes their music but the sad truth is that the cultural and creative contribution of their music these days is almost precisely zero. Love Etc. may well be one of the most fun, pop-focused and commercially appealing records they have made in a long time, but I can almost guarantee that you won't find it on the Top 75 within a fortnight and whilst Yes may well have a Top 10 debut on the album chart next week, you won't find it in the shops by Easter. That my friends is Depeche Mode syndrome, and you have to wonder why they continue to bother. [The above bit of truth-bombing ended up being one of the most infamous pieces I'd written for some time. It prompted an outpouring of *fume* amongst Tennant and Lowe fans online that some were still stalking me with abuse up to three years later. My objection wasn't so much to the music (which remained fine) but for the fact their commercial days were by now a distant memory yet each new album was treated by their many fans in the press as the return of the all-conquering pop Gods. More than any other act they generated a cognitive dissonance in reviewers with a wide gap between the fawning coverage they attracted and the true level of their mainstream appeal. Although Love Etc. was one hell of a pop record].
It's been seven years since the winner of the Oscar for Best Original Song has been a chart hit of any note, but that changes this week with the arrival of Jai Ho (You Are My Destiny) at Number 20. The centrepiece of the soundtrack of "Slumdog Millionaire', the song was written by A.R. Rahman and on the soundtrack of the film is performed by Sukhwinder Singh, Tanvi Shah, Mahalakshmi Iyer and Vijay Prakash. For this new commercial version, the vocals are performed by the Pussycat Dolls in what is being promoted as a new interpretation of the original. Credited to the composer himself with the girls relegated to guest stars, the track will feature on Doll Domination 2.0' a re-released version of their second album (which first came out last year) which features a mixture of new songs and a handful of tracks from the original. With their last single Whatcha Think About That having been a Top 10 hit just two weeks ago (and still on the Top 40 at Number 26) this is the speedy follow-up to end all others, but as a world away from the R&B sludge of some of their other releases it is an inspired and uplifting breath of fresh air. You may have to take my word for it, as "this video is not available in your country" [not any more, hooray!] (although it is on Spotify if you look hard enough) but I'd love to think this has "future Number One" written all over it.
Charging their way into the Top 40 after first entering just outside last week is No You Girls by Franz Ferdinand which lands at Number 27. The follow-up to Ulysses which made Number 20 back in January, the single is yet another example of the band possibly milking the formula further than necessary. As jaunty, bouncy and catchy as everything they have ever released, the overwhelming feeling that we heard it all five years ago is hard to escape.
He may have blown hot and cold at times, but there is no doubting the impressive consistency of Enrique Iglesias who this year marks ten years as a chart star. His current Greatest Hits collection marks this decade of hits and obligatory new track Takin' Back My Love grabs itself a Top 40 place at Number 30 this week. The single features a guest vocal from Ciara, making him no less than the sixth different artist with which she has had a chart duet. Both artists have Number One hits to their name, Ciara having hit the top with her debut single Goodies in January 2005 whilst Enrique Iglesias had his own moment of glory three years earlier when Hero replicated its worldwide success and topped the UK charts. Whilst he has spent most of his career trying to downplay his family connections and has a notoriously distant relationship with his superstar father, I can't be the only person hoping that one day we get to hear a Julio/Enrique duet on record. Done correctly, it surely has the potential to be massive.