This was always going to be an interesting week. Two stars, each at different stages of their career, but each with something important to prove releasing their long-awaited singles at exactly the same moment. Whether by accident or design, both stars began the week-long promotion of their new releases by performing within minutes of each other on national prime-time television last weekend, thus ensuring that these big new releases were exposed to the widest audience possible. Massive sales were always going to result.
The winner in this singles chart battle? Step forward X Factor 2008 winner Alexandra Burke who crashes straight to Number One with her second single Bad Boys which as per the usual schedule arrives a full ten months after she first topped the charts with her show-winning single Hallelujah. As the second power diva in three years to win the competition, the transformation of Alexandra Burke from reality winner to sophisticated superstar has followed the Leona Lewis template carefully. However whereas Leona's image was so sweet and virginal she might as well be walking around with a padlock on her knickers, Alexandra Burke is being styled as a non-nonsense temptress. Hence Bad Boys is a raucous, raunchy and quite inspired R&B club track as the singer snarls her way through a lyric which extols the animal attraction she feels for the titular men. The song is so good it would have been a smash in the hands of whoever it was handed to, be it Christina or Beyonce, but with the added cachet of being the first "proper" release from the popular TV show winner it becomes a huge smash from the starting gate, shifting enough copies in its first full day on sale to guarantee the Number One in any normal week and finishing up with a grand total of 185,000 to become the fastest selling single of the year so far.
Mention should also be made of Flo Rida who guest stars on the track and gets a co-credit. I can't have been the only one entertained by the fact that he did indeed pop up to perform his bit of the bridge on X Factor, except that he appeared from nowhere, did his verse and then vanished with barely an acknowledgement - perish the thought that the American star should overshadow the lady who everyone was there to worship. He can at least add himself to the large list of acts who have appeared at Number One twice during 2009, this single following the one week run of Right Round back in March.
What then of the man forced to play second fiddle to the true star of the week? Making his first chart appearance in two and a half years, Robbie Williams is a man with something to prove. 2006 album Rudebox was by no means the total commercial disaster it was painted to be, but it did mark the point where Robbie's desire to tinker with things like song structure and ignore the usual rules of melody finally fell out of step with the public's desire to tolerate his journey of experimentation. Creatively he may have felt on a roll, but commercially he had lost the plot and heads rolled at his label over the lack of control that had been exercised over the project. Since then Williams has retreated into semi-retirement in America where you suspect he might have stayed, but for pressure from EMI to deliver the final album remaining on his contract. Hence the imminent release of Reality Killed The Video Star from which much anticipated single Bodies is lifted.
It is fair to say his TV performance last weekend did neither him nor the song any favours, so it is best we judge it on the merits of the studio version. Bodies is the kind of lavish epic pop song that he was churning out with ease at the start of the decade and whilst there is a slight suspicion that it still lacks something of the magic that made him such a superstar to begin with this is still a long way from being the worst single he has ever made. Indeed its only misfortune was to be released when it was, despite a strong sale being stuck at Number 2 behind an unstoppable chart juggernaut. Its Number 2 chart placing may be his best performance since Tripping reached the same peak almost exactly four years ago, but you cannot argue that scoring his first Number One hit since late 2004 would have been the perfect way to cement his chart comeback. So we wait and we wonder just how well the forthcoming new album will do. Ask yourselves this - is a big selling or poor selling comeback likely to be the thing that finally persuades him to participate in the full Take That reunion that everyone still hankers for.
Whilst most chart attention will focus on the two big new entries at the top, I would respectfully submit that one of the more memorable hit singles of the week is the track that arrives at Number 9. Canadian crooner Michael Buble has for a long time been one of those artists who is beloved by a certain demographic but who has never quite translated that into high profile mainstream success. Whilst radio stations such as Magic and Heart play his music into oblivion until now his biggest chart hit has been 2007 single Lost which made Number 19, whilst it took Westlife to turn his most well-known song Home into a Top 3 hit (also in 2007).
All that changes now with the much-anticipated release of Haven't Met You Yet which has been more or less constantly on the radio ever since its first promotion back in August but which only now is granted a proper release in this country. The single is so delightfully twee it might as well have walked off the tracklisting of a Guilty Pleasures compilation. It is a heartwarming tale of personal optimism, based on the premise that everything you are longing for is always just around the corner and so for the moment it is simply "half time in the other half's luck". A more fun, adorable and cheesily appealing pop record you could not hope to find and for all the disgruntled comments my espousing of this record have prompted amongst friends and colleagues (and which will doubtless continue down below), it has still given Michael Buble his biggest ever UK chart hit and propelled parent album Crazy Love to the top of the US charts. He's down to perform the song on the X Factor results show during Big Band week next week, thus exposing it to an even wider audience than it has commanded already. Be under no illusion, this is the greatest record of his career. [Time and ubiquity has dulled the impact of this track since, but when it was brand new it was a genuine joy to hear].
What then of the album chart which is thankfully showing a slightly younger skew than we encountered last week. Leading the pile are The Editors who storm to the top with In This Light And On This Evening to land a second straight UK Number One (2007 release An End Has A Start hit the top in the summer of that year). In tandem, its lead single also charts with Papillon arriving on the Top 40 at Number 23, a better placing than their last few singles but still a long way short of Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors which kicked off the promotion for their last release and charted at Number 7. Then again that track did arrive several weeks ahead of the album so we are not really comparing like for like here.
Sneaking in at Number 2 is Chipmunk with his debut release I Am Chipmunk and thus easing the pain of single Oopsy Daisy being booted down to Number 3 by the big new releases of the week. Also new is Shakira with She Wolf at Number 4 which becomes her highest charting album since 2002 English language debut Laundry Service. As The Saturdays take a 2-8 tumble with misfiring single Forever Is Over, its parent album Wordshaker grabs a new entry at Number 9.
Back on the singles chart, the highest charting new single outside the Top 10 is It's Not The End Of The World But I Can See It From Here from Lostprophets which made its radio premiere as far back as August but only now is granted a proper store release. It is the first track lifted from forthcoming new album The Betrayed which perhaps sensibly is avoiding the end of year rush and will instead hit the shops in the new year sometime. For the moment the group can be satisfied with one of the biggest hit singles for some time, their highest charting release since Rooftops (A Liberation Broadcast) leapt to Number 8 in June 2006. [For those keeping track, this was the point at which Ian Watkins abandoned entirely the almost puritanical clean-living lifestyle he and the group had espoused and began moving into the rather darker areas which would lead to his very public downfall].
Also new at Number 20 is Mr Hudson with their new single White Lies. This is the follow-up to the enormously successful Supernova which as if in sympathy dips out of the Top 40 for the first time after a 12 week run during which time it peaked at Number 2. Both tracks are taken from the album Straight No Chaser which is released this week and is more or less assured of a Top 10 placing in seven days time.
Now we all know better than to underestimate the power of television exposure in helping promote a single, and it is thanks to television commercials that Dominos from The Big Pink makes a much overdue chart entry at Number 29. The atmospheric record will be instantly familiar to anyone who has sat in front of a TV set over the last month, thanks to its use on a series of TV adverts for the Xbox 360. The single has been available since early September but only now finds its sales kickstarted, enough to give the London-based duo their first ever chart single.
Speaking of television, with the live X Factor shows having kicked off last weekend, we can now start playing the chart game of noting which of the songs performed by the contestants can boast the greatest sales leap during the week that follows. Leading the charge by a country mile this week is And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going which was performed by the irritating but early crowd favourite Danyl. Jennifer Hudson's version from the Dreamgirls soundtrack makes a flying leap to Number 32 to become a Top 40 hit for the first time ever. Although one of the signature songs from the musical, the only chart appearance made by the Jennifer Hudson recording was actually just a few weeks ago when it appeared at Number 58 after a rendition by one of the boot camp contenders. By a strange coincidence, it matches the original chart peak from 1982 of Jennifer Holliday's recording from the Original Broadway Cast album. Honours for the second most popular performance appear to go to Stacey whose rendition of The Scientist helps the Coldplay track to Number 59 in its first chart outing since its original 2002 chart run which saw it peak at Number 10.
Based on this formula it is not too unreasonable to expect similar jumps for the songs sung by both performers this weekend, although this is complicated by Danyl having sung a track from the new Whitney album which has only just now been released here and Stacey's performance of At Last apparently currently prompting a sales battle between Beyonce's version from the Cadillac Records soundtrack and the rather more famous version by Etta James.