Now as we all know, the 1950s were a very different age, both musically and socially and particularly in terms of the way the music market operated. Comparing chart facts and figures from back then can be quite tricky given that certain things were possible which would certainly never be the case today. Nonetheless one particular feat achieved by Elvis Presley during his golden period at the turn of that decade always stood head and shoulders as a benchmark that theoretically it would be possible for others to reach but which nobody ever quite could. Between 1957 and 1963, The King had a Number One hit in every single calendar year, spanning seven years in total. Since then no other solo act has come close to that level of chart consistency. For groups, The Beatles matched him, naturally, notching up seven years of Number One hits in a row between 1962 and 1969 whilst more recently Westlife clocked up five straight years of Number Ones between 1999 and 2003. It was female stars that always seemed to fall short. Even Madonna during her own 1980s golden period missed out thanks to her lack of musical releases in 1988 - otherwise she would have gone 1985-1990 in a six year run. Doubtless many will point out that she did at least make Number One in every year during this period that she actually released records, but her lack of hits in the middle means she doesn't quite qualify for the honour.
This week a new record for female stars is set as one particular lady finally becomes the first of her gender ever to top the charts for five years in a row. She is of course Rihanna who ascends to the top of the chart with What's My Name, her first Number One single of 2011 to go with the chart-topping hits she managed in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010. It is a mark of her own consistency both in terms of musical output and its enduring quality that she has sustained this level of popularity over and above what you would normally expect to be the top level lifespan of your average overseas musical star. There is of course one tiny caveat to this, in crediting Rihanna with this five year run we are kind of overlooking the fact that her 2009 chart-topper was as the guest star on Jay-Z's Run This Town rather than one of her own tracks - but if the record books presume a co-credit is as good as appearing on your own record then who are we to argue really?
Naturally you haven't come here to have regurgitated the facts and figures you've seen elsewhere, so where does What's My Name fit in with Rihanna's personal chart history? Well curiously enough it is indeed the fifth Number One hit of her career, the star yet to quite achieve a chart-topping double during the course of a calendar year. What's My Name first charted at the end of November as low down as Number 18, making this her first Number One single to climb to the top from outside the Top 3, her previous chart-topping singles having either debuted at the top or climbed there from Number 2. In the process it has traced the most graceful arc of all of them, finally making Number One in its eighth week on the chart. What's My Name tops the chart just seven weeks after her last single Only Girl (In The World) slipped from the top. Both singles are taken from her current album Loud which itself spends a second week at Number One on the album chart giving her a singles and albums double for the second time in her career.
If that wasn't enough superlatives, the David Guetta single Who's That Chick climbs three places back to Number 10 this week, one place behind the aforementioned Only Girl (In The World) to ensure that Rihanna repeats the once in a generation chart feat she managed just before Christmas by appearing on three Top 10 singles all at once.
Whilst we as a fraternity of chart nerds take our own pleasure from watching chart benchmarks tumble and new records set, the fact that a big mainstream superstar is doing things in the singles chart that is considered worthy of real world attention is something to be welcomed - showing to the world that there is still life in these things we call "the charts" and that week after week there is new music to be found, life in an industry which keeps being written off and something to eagerly anticipate week after week - even in a world without Top Of The Pops.
Now with last week another truncated bank holiday week as far as offices were concerned, the music industry Christmas pause has extended for a further seven days, leaving a marked lack of big new releases to clear out some of the seasonal deadwood that still litters the bestsellers charts. That has left the way clear for some of the already available sleeper hits to take advantage and fight their way into public view. Hence the 7 place climb for Katy B and Ms Dynamite who charge 11-4 with Lights On, the single matching the peak it first scaled two weeks ago. However they still don't quite have the most talked about new-ish single of the week.
That honour goes to Jessie J whose debut single Do It Like A Dude moves 18-5 as the rather cleverly paced promotional campaign for the single finally kicks into high gear. A priority name for her label, the initial digital release with little fanfare of Do It Like A Dude at the end of November last year may have seemed an odd way to introduce her to the world, but it has meant the hot new star has taken on the air of a well kept secret that somehow we dedicated music lovers have been privy to for the last few weeks. Suddenly the "Jessie J is a big deal" marketing has kicked into gear, the track has become a proper "single" for the first time and the singer has this week been unveiled as the winner in the annual "Sound of 20xx" poll of music writers run by the BBC. Jessie J is suddenly in our faces as the first star of 2011 with the inbuilt advantage of her single being already in the charts and effectively in pole position to be one of the biggest hits of the first weeks of the year. Truly you could not have planned that better if you tried.
The one other major new release last week was Me And You from Nero which makes a reasonably strong debut at Number 15. It is the first ever mainstream chart single from the Dubstep duo from London who have been releasing music since 2008. Me And You has had the benefit of airplay from Radio One, with certain DJs on the station having been spinning the track since as long ago as September, and it heralds the release of their long awaited debut album Welcome Reality which for the moment is slated to hit the stores in April.
Other new singles activity is confined to a sprinkling of tracks at the lower end of the Top 40, of which the most notable is possibly Cee Lo Green's It's OK which moves 44-24 this week. The follow-up to his recent Number One single, the track is best described as "F-You without the swearing" which means it treads the line neatly between being more of the same successful formula and yet somehow a slightly lesser track at the same time. Its main issue is the continuing and undiminished popularity of its predecessor which goes back up a place to Number 11 and shows little sign of burning out just yet.
Cee Lo's album The Lady Killer is also making chart waves, charging back up the chart to Number 4 this week, its highest chart position to date after it sank to the depths shortly after debuting at Number 10 back in November. Another winner of the traditional "what can we buy with our gift tokens" new year surge is Rumer who benefits from some gushing press for her in reviews of the best albums of the year and so moves 21-6 with Seasons Of My Soul, just three places short of the Number 3 peak it managed on its debut also back in November.
Plenty more new activity to come next week as the new year cobwebs are finally dusted off. Meanwhile if you need something to fill the long hours between chart releases, you can do worse than check out the Twitter stream for the OCC @officialcharts - their new year resolution has clearly been to "get out more" meaning they are now enthusiastically posting chart updates, posing trivia questions and engaging with the audience in a manner hitherto unknown. It is like discovering they are all human after all. [Or found the budget to hire a social media consultant for the first time, the first step in the gradual and welcome transition to a more consumer-facing entity].