1 I BELIEVE I CAN FLY (R Kelly)
In a time when all it takes is a bit of skilful promoting by a record company to ensure a record enters the charts at Number One, it is refreshing to discover that there is still time for the unexpected and for chart records to buck trends and defy marketing analysis to acheive genuine success. Such is the case with I Believe I Can Fly which entered the chart a fortnight ago at Number 2, unable to defy the still all-conquering Spice Girls. Last week it made a not unexpected drop to Number 5, about par for the course for a record successfully marketed into the Top 3 but not expected to sustain sales for more than a couple of weeks. This week the rules are broken as R Kelly's film soundtrack ballad makes an astonishing turnaround and climbs to give him his first ever UK Number One single. it is the ninth chart-topper of 1997 and only the second to actually climb the charts to Number One, Tori Amos' Professional Widow being the first. Whilst it may be currently rare for singles to make the ascent to the top, for one to do so after having fallen down the chart previously is even rarer. Only two other singles have done so in the last three years, Celine Dion's Think Twice in early 1995 and Gina G's Ooh Aah Just A Little Bit in May last year. Pedants will probably wish to point out the two-way tussle of last summer which saw 'Killing Me Softly' and 'Three Lions' climb back to Number One but as both singles had previously entered the chart at the top neither really count. The fortunes of I Believe I Can Fly compare extremely favourably with the other singles released from the 'Spacejam' soundtrack. The all-star rap effort of Hit Em High slides to Number 13 after entering at Number 8 last week whilst Seal's Fly Like An Eagle which was released at the same time as 'I Believe I Can Fly' this week vanishes from the Top 40 altogether.
2 RICHARD III (Supergrass)
Remember Supergrass? The three lads who had such a massive international smash with Alright, the Number 2 hit which came complete with a fun video filmed in Portmerion and which found its way onto a number of film soundtracks and sent the accompanying album I Should Coco to the top of the charts. Just as No Doubt's Don't Speak has recently illustrated, a general rule of pop is that an unexpected smash hit single from a band is often totally unrepresentative of their usual material. Such was the case with Supergrass as the rest of I Should Coco proved. The point was further made with Going Out, the one-off single released in March 1996 as a stop-gap whilst they recorded a new album. That track, tinged with psychedelia, shot to Number 5 but departed the charts extremely quickly. The reason I make this point is to prevent people from jumping to conclusions about this brand new Supergrass single which heralds the release of their long-delayed new album. It charges immediately to the runners-up slot in the charts to match the peak of Alright but the two hardly stand comparison. This is not a happy-go-lucky single from the bunch of lads who Steven Spielberg allegedly wanted to turn into the new Monkees and is thankfully all the better for it. It is a rather wonderful new single from a band who deserve more than to be eclipsed by one international smash hit and for whom the rave reviews of their new album are well-justified ['In It For The Money' is one of my favourite albums of this period, the sound of summer 97 for me]. The single is almost certain to tumble out the charts and be forgotten as quickly as it arrived but a valuably point has been made.
3 DON'T SPEAK (No Doubt)
Still selling long after it should have gone the way of all flesh, the former Number One single from No Doubt continues to hang in doggedly, now spending a third week at Number 3 after having previously fallen down to Number 4.
4 UNDERWATER LOVE (Smoke City)
If I said this record had a great deal in common with debut hits from the likes of Stiltskin and Babylon Zoo you would immediately know how this track from a hitherto unknown act could come to land inside the Top 5. The soundtrack to the latests Levi 501s advert is a wonderfully spaced out piece of jazz-rap (for want of a better moniker) which will be familiar to anyone with a copy of one of the 'Rebirth Of Cool' compilation albums where it first saw the light of day and came to the attention of the Levi's advertising consultants. Mass television exposure never does anyone any harm and so it turns out for Smoke City who find themselves with a smash debut hit and the somewhat harder task of proving that they are worth more than Stiltskin and Babylon Zoo and that they can actually develop a chart career off the back of it.
5 IT'S NO GOOD (Depeche Mode)
Ah, would that Depeche Mode could have made a record worthy of the title. The potential for any number of jokes at the expense of a band who still sell records despite sounding like a bunch of faded stars making more of a racket than music. Sadly that isn't possible as It's No Good is a perfect example of just why Depeche Mode are still around 16 years after their first chart debut. Easing back on the cod-grunge guitars and concentrating on a more electronic sound, this single is one of the best they have released in recent years. It charts just two months after Barrel Of A Gun reached Number 4 and I suspect has more staying power than its predecessor which spent just two weeks inside the Top 40.
8 BLOCK ROCKIN' BEATS (Chemical Brothers)
Few expected the minority appeal of the Chemical Brothers record to sustain more than a brief week of glory but even this tumble from the top has taken people by surprise. Indeed, the trend this year appears to be for singles of limited appeal to shoot to Number One first week out and then make spectacular tumbles a week or so later. The trend was set by the Spice Girls just after Christmas when 2 Become 1 fell straight out of the Top 5 to Number 6 in the face of a clutch of new releases. A few weeks later Blur's Beetlebum topped that by falling to Number 7 a week after debuting at Number 1. U2's Discotheque also fell from 1-6 but now they all have been outdone by the Chemical Brothers which makes the ninth biggest tumble in history from the top of the charts. It is the third single to fall from 1-8, sharing the honours with Hello Goodbye by the Beatles and Lonely This Christmas by Mud. Both of those you will note were Christmas Number One singles with limited appeal beyond the big sales of the holiday period rather than a disjointed series of banging noises which will have alienated the music lovers who have avoided Block Rockin Beats like the plague. The undisputed King of the spectaclar tumbles is Harry Belafonte's Mary's Boy Child which fell 1-12 in January 1958.
10 TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A. (Makaveli)
As is well documented, 2 Pac's last act before he was murdered was to finish the recording of an album that represented such a divergence from his normal style that an alternative moniker was considered appropriate. The last 2-Pac single Ain't Mad Atcha reached Number 13 just before Christmas and this new single now goes a stage better, landing inside the Top 10 to become his biggest hit since California Love reached Number 6 exactly a year ago. We await the first posthumous Notorious B.I.G. single with interest. [Coming in less than a month as it happens].
11 SOMETIMES (Brand New Heavies)
A long break for Britain's premier Acid Jazzers has meant a change of singer but thankfully no change of direction. Gone are the dulcet tones of N'Dea Davenport and in comes former Michael Jackson collaborator Siedah Garrett who also wrote this new single. Someday the Heavies will have a massive hit single and that day gets ever closer. Sometimes is one of those wonderful records which gets further under your skin with ever play and becomes their biggest hit single ever. May there be many more to come over the next few months.
12 WE HAVE EXPLOSIVE (Future Sound Of London)
The second single in recent months from the Future Sound Of London beats the peak of its predecessor to land one place higher than My Kingdom and thus becomes their biggest hit single to date. Utterly uncommercial their aural soundscapes always have a curious beauty to them and hence will always find an audience.
18 CAN WE (SWV)
A return to chart form for SWV after the relative disappointment of It's All About You which could only peak at Number 36 just before Christmas. This single becomes their first Top 20 single since You're The One reached Number 13 just under a year ago.
25 NAKED EYE (Luscious Jackson)
The all-girl group with a name like a Disco Diva have taken time to produce their second album. Since the release of Natural Ingredients in 1994 they have appeared on a Lollapalooza tour and supported acts such as REM. Now they are back with avengeance and reach the UK Top 40 for the first time with this single which bodes well for the album due out soon. [Sadly this was their one and only UK Top 40 hit, sadly meaning they remained a well kept secret to British audiences].
26 HONDY (NO ACCESS) (Hondy)
The craze for semi-instrumental techno continues with this dance hit from Hondy. ["This is a single, it is at Number 26 this week"].
27 2 BECOME 1 (Spice Girls)
Stranger and stranger still. 2 Become 1 was released in the last week of December and shot straight to Number One. After three weeks it was deposed, dropping instantly to Number 6 and from there to the lower reaches of the chart. It's progress down was slower than that initial tumble might have suggested and so it finally fell from the Top 40 a fortnight ago after a thirteen week stay. Last week it climbed back up, re-entering the chart at Number 31. Such acts of second wind are rare but by no means uncommon, often caused by record shops discounting old stock which they don't have on sale-or-return. Now the Spice Girls' third single proves it is by no means dead as it climbs yet again to re-enter the Top 30 four weeks after it appeared to have dropped out for good. I suspect this second wind will prove to be short-lived and certainly not as spectacular as some celebrated examples. Back in 1978 Rivers Of Babylon by Boney M spent five weeks at Number One before making a steady descent. It had almost fallen out of the Top 20 when radio stations suddenly focused attention on the hitherto ignored b-side Brown Girl In The Ring. The resultant exposure led to the single climbing back up the charts, right the way to Number 2 with many people speculating that some had bought the single twice, not realising both tracks were on the same record. Similarly in 1984 Relax by Frankie Goes To Hollywood had fallen out of the Top 40 altogether when the followup Two Tribes was released. In the absence of any other product available from the sensation of the year, Relax began to sell again and it too climbed back up to Number 2, just behind Two Tribes at the top. The most recent example of this phenomenon came in early 1985. Ray Parker Jnr's Ghostbusters had reached Number 2 in September 1984 before the film of which it was the theme had been released. By the time the movie hit the cinemas just before Christmas the single had dropped out of the Top 40 altogether. Notwithstanding the single re-entered the upper reaches just three weeks later, was Top 10 by Christmas and ultimately peaked at Number 6 second time round.
29 FOREVER MORE (Puff Johnson)
The second hit for the rather ludicrously named singer, following on from her new year single Over And Over which reached Number 20.
31 MR BIG STUFF (Queen Latifah)
Film soundtrack time again, this time the parent is the new Whoopi Goldberg film 'The Associate'. Queen Latifah's contribution to the soundtrack is this cover of Jean Knight's 1971 American Number 2 hit. It marks a welcome return to the Top 40 for one of rap's most celebrated female characters. Her last taste of chart action came in 1993 when she duetted with Shabba Ranks on the Top 30 hit What'cha Gonna Do.
34 FOOTPRINT (Disco Citizens)
From the same team that brought you Chicane's Offshore comes this single from Disco Citizens. 'Footprint' uses the same pizicatto string effect used by people like Faithless and Sash! and is yet another example of melodious electronic instrumental dance which compares with the popularity of synthesiser wizards such as Vangelis and Kraftwerk in the early 1980s.
40 U16 GIRLS (Travis)
A welcome debut single for Travis, the Glasgow band who have spent most of the last year building up a strong following on the back of supports for acts such as Mansun. Their first single is a wonderful revelation and deserves far more than this fleeting Top 40 appearance. If half their future material is as appealing as this their singles are destined to just get bigger. [Think I called that one right].