1 I BELIEVE I CAN FLY (R Kelly)
Well full respect to R Kelly. After a few months in which it appears no single stands a chance of remaining at the top in the face of a flurry of new releases, this track withstands last week's assault by U2 and now denies Robbie Williams a place at the top. Ironically enough the strongest challenge next week is likely to come from the man who once took one of his songs to the top... Michael Jackson.
2 OLD BEFORE I DIE (Robbie Williams)
Amidst all the wild parties/confessions of addictions/more parties/sacked managers/how-Elton-John-saved-me revelations and general all-round celebrity it is easy to forget that Robbie Williams is a nascent solo singer, and at that one who has so far only released one record. Last summer's cover of George Michael's Freedom did as you would expect from anyone with 'Take That' attached to their CV and shot straight to Number 2 but since then the singer has generated more column inches than record sales. Fingers crossed all should be back on tack and he now releases his second single and his first original material. 'Old Before I Die' is actually quite a revelation, it has guitars in it for a start, and belts along in a similar manner to Mark Owen's Clementine... just on the wrong side of cool but enough to show the world he is more than just a posturing teen rebel. Numerologists will be agog at the consistency shown by singles from former Take That stars... Mark Owen's singles have both peaked at Number 3. Robbie Williams now has a brace of Number 2 hits. Gary Barlow has so far only released one single... Forever Love which reached Number One. Anyone going to bet on a chart placing for his long-awaited followup?
3 STARING AT THE SUN (U2)
My first reaction on hearing this was why would U2 name a song after an old Level 42 album? Possibly that is to miss the real point which is to wonder why they always seem to turn the weakest track from their albums into the second singles. It happened before with Achtung Baby when the chart-topping The Fly was followed by Mysterious Ways, a song which paled into insignificance when compared with later singles. The same is the case with the second single from Pop. After the inspired lunacy that Discotheque revealed itself to be after repeated listenings, they follow it up with this rather pedestrian track that sounds like it was produced in a ten-minute jam session. The album contains far bigger gems than this track so its presence as a single must really be a mystery. Still, never underestimate the ability of a U2 fan to buy a record no matter how bad it is, Staring At The Sun becomes their 17th Top Ten hit and only the sixth to reach the Top 3.
5 AROUND THE WORLD (Daft Punk)
More continental dance noodlings from Daft Punk, following hot on the heels of Da Funk which peaked at Number 7 earlier this year. [I literally could not have undersold this more could I?]
6 DON'T LEAVE ME (Blackstreet)
Getting bigger and bigger all the time all the time are Blackstreet and here comes their biggest hit single to date, surging past the Number 9 peak scaled by No Diggity last year and neatly in time for a series of concert dates, bizarrely confined to the London area (somebody tell these people that it is not the centre of the universe, please!). Far and away one of their best singles ever, Don't Leave Me also uses the same loop as 2 Pac's Ain't Mad Atcha from last year although I confess I've never been able to place the song from which the original instrumental track came. Anyone? [Happy to help 1997 James, it is A Dream by DeBarge dating from 1983].
8 YOU SHOWED ME (Lightning Seeds)
Finally. After almost eight years of sporadic but never less than brilliant trying, the Lightning Seeds finally have a Top Ten hit, football records aside, but what a curious way for it to come about. You Showed Me was written by the Roger McGuinn of the Byrds but was given to the Turtles to record. They had a US Top 10 hit in 1969 with the track but it failed to chart in this country. The first chart hit version of the track over here came from the rather unlikely source of Salt N' Pepa who took their rap reworking to Number 15 in November 1991. Ian Broudie of the Lightning Seeds recorded his version as something of an afterthought, intending it for use as a b-side. The result was far better than he had hoped and the track was promoted to the album and now finds its way out as one of the band's most unusual single releases ever. A far cry from the storming candy-sweet pop of their usual output, this is a laid-back stripped to the bone track that is West Coast psychedelia meets trip-hop. It is easy to understand why it should be so popular but it is still a shame that their biggest ever UK hit single should be a cover version, however inspired the performance.
10 REVERENCE (Faithless)
Why all dance music isn't like this I will never know. Now that the world has woken up to Faithless, the hits just keep on coming from the most astonishingly varied dance album of the decade. Rollo, Sister Bliss, Maxi Jazz and Jamie Catto mine yet another gem from the album in the shape of the laid-back piece of mysticism that is the title track. Less of an out-and-out dancefloor stormer that previous hits such as Insomnia and Salva Mea but still a masterpiece of production. With three Top Ten hits in a row now the time must surely be ripe for the classic in waiting Don't Leave to be reactivated, their only single so far not to have climbed to the upper reaches. Not all dance music is as depressingly bad as the Chemical Brothers turning on their drum machines and Faithless are the living, undeniable proof.
14 SENSATIONAL (Michelle Gayle)
She may never receive good reviews from the trendy music press and will never shake popular music to its foundations, but as long as she continues to release perky pieces of pop brightness like this, few will be complaining. The followup to the Top Ten smash Do You Know lands nicely inside the Top 20 to give Michelle Gayle her sixth such hit single.
16 WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE (2 Pac and Snoop Doggy Dogg)
It seems no film soundtrack is complete these days without a rap ensemble record. Hot on the heels of the all-star cast of Hit Em High lifted from the Spacejam soundtrack comes this new single from the forthcoming film 'Gridlock'd'. What makes this record stand out is the sheer, tragic, painful irony of the title... a song called Wanted Dead Or Alive performed by two artists, one of whom is very much alive and the other who... well you get the idea. For Snoop Doggy Dogg it is his first hit single since Snoops Upside Your Head reached Number 12 just before Christmas. As for 2-Pac, it is his first hit under his own name since Ain't Mad Atcha made Number 13 shortly after his death last year and just a fortnight since the first single from his final Makavelli project, To Live And Die In LA made the Top Ten.
20 HIT (Wannadies)
After a last week's frightening appearance of seven new entries inside the Top 10, here is a nice antidote to the trend, every single one of Numbers 20-25 are new entries this week, the first being their third hit single from the Wannadies, and their second biggest to date, just falling short of the Number 18 peak of You And Me Song exactly a year ago this week.
21 CRAZY YOU (G.U.N.)
Pop history is littered with groups withdrawing singles because their titles might be considered in bad taste and some have even changed their names for the same reason. During the Gulf War in 1991 Massive Attack became simple "Massive" whilst Bomb The Bass delayed their record releases until the end of the year. Now in an astonishing sop to political correctness Scottish band Gun have decided that in the wake of public hysteria over weapons their name needs to be turned into an as-yet undefined acronym. Such cosmetic adjustments to their name aside, it is good to report that they are sounding as good as ever, this single their first hit since Something Special reached Number 39 exactly two years ago. Their biggest hit single of course is their barnstorming cover of Cameo's Word Up which made Number 8 in July 1994.
22 REQUEST LINE (Zhane)
The first hit single in a long long time for Zhane. Given the right circumstances the career of the duo could easily match that of fellow US swingers such as SWV or En Vogue. As it turns out they have spent most of the 1990s having the occasional small hit and nothing more. Believe it or not this is only the third time they have reached the Top 40 following Hey Mr DJ which made Number 26 in September 1993 and Groove Thang which reached Number 34 in March 1994.
23 SMILE (Supernaturals)
Smile indeed lads because you are far and away one of the most inspired bands of the year yet still without a major hit. Slowly but surely the hits are coming, this single following on from The Day Before Yesterday's Man and following it in being tantalisingly short of the Top 20. [Later to find semi-immortality as the theme song to TV and radio adverts for an online bank].
24 STEP INTO A WORLD (RAPTURE'S DELIGHT) (KRS-One)
Refreshingly the first ever hit single for one of rap's elder statesmen. Having been making records since the mid-1980s it is curious that none of his projects have ever come near the upper reaches of the charts. All that changes now with this single which delightfully samples from Blondie's Rapture, one of the first mainstream commercial singles ever to feature a rap as an integral part of the tune. It is somewhat appropriate that in a time when the main powerhouses of the rap industry are threatening to tear themselves apart in an orgy of violence which has already left two of its biggest stars dead that KRS-One should emerge into the spotlight. For a long time his music has preached an anti-violence message, most especially in the shape of Boogie Down Productions tracks such as Love Is Gonna Getcha and My Philosophy/Stop The Violence which reached Number 69 in 1988 and was hitherto his only brush with UK chart action.
25 I'LL BE YOUR FRIEND (Robert Owens)
Scary. One of the first ever singles to be released on Paul Oakenfold's Perfecto records was this track from Robert Owens. Despite being something of a dance classic its chart career consisted of entering at Number 75 (the very bottom of the chart) at the start of December 1991, staying there the following week before vanishing completely. All good things come to those who wait and now after five and a half years chart justice has been done.
32 DEAD MAN WALKING (David Bowie)
Bowie's second hit single of 1997, released to follow Little Wonder which made Number 14 back in February. Given the poor chart placing of this track it will be a surprise if any further singles from his current album reach the Top 40.