1 BELIEVE (Cher)
Cher's massive hit single notches up a third week at the top of the charts, Believe is now the third record this year to manage this feat and only Run-DMC's It's Like That has managed a longer spell as the nation's best-seller in 1998. The single still has a way to go before it becomes the longest running Number One hit of her career, that honour is still held by The Shoop Shoop Song which managed a five week run in 1991. Note however that Believe has almost matched the total sales of that single after just three weeks in the shops.
2 EACH TIME (E-17)
East 17 spent most of their career being (perhaps at times unfairly) regarded as the second-placed alternative to Take That. Whereas Take That were the wholesome, smiling pleasant face of early 90s boy band mania, East 17 were the smoking, drinking, rapping alternative. If you like with a kind of Rolling Stones image to the Beatles-aura that surrounded Take That. In a way this was a shame as their 1996 hits collection proved that between 1992 and 1996 they produced a string of fantastic singles, hitting a peak with the 1994 Christmas Number One Stay Another Day. In early 1997 it all came to an abrupt end. Lead singer Brian Harvey gave an interview in which he advocated drug use, was sacked by the rest of the band and then reinstated a few weeks later. During this time their final single Hey Child reached Number 3 but after that the band more or less fell apart. Less than two years later they are back, albeit with a slight change in name and a shift in personnel with chief songwriter Tony Mortimer having failed to resolve his differences with the rest of the group. Their comeback single is something of a triumph, a powerful ballad with plenty of US R&B influences and certainly worthy of comparison with past efforts. Time will tell whether this is just a nostalgic one-off [it was] or the start of something new for one of the decade's most musically underrated teen groups. For now they have their sixth Top 3 hit.
3 IF YOU BUY THIS RECORD YOUR LIFE WILL BE BETTER (Tamperer featuring Maya)
Remember Feel It? One of the more surprising Number One hits of the year, the single based around a loop from the Jacksons' Can You Feel It became one of the few records this year to climb to the top of the charts (as opposed to going straight in) when it hit the top after several weeks meandering around the upper reaches of the Top 10. The same team now return with the follow-up and of course it is just as cheeky, this time based around the rhythm track from Madonna's Material Girl and with a powerful vocal from Maya. Whilst "If You Buy This Record Your Life Will Be Better" may not be the most succinct of pop hooks ever it is certainly one of the boldest and provided you suspend all notion that music should ever be taken seriously then you have a fine record here. If You Buy This... matches the entry point of its predecessor and bearing in mind that Feel It had fallen as far as Number 5 before topping the charts in its sixth chart week there remains the possibility that this single could also be capable of more.
5 ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST (Queen/Wyclef Jean/Pras & Free)
And so it shall pass that there shall be a record that will cause much foaming at the mouth and shouts of pain from fanatical Queen fans. Wyclef Jean's follow-up to Gone Til November was originally going to be a track called Cheated (To All The Girls) which may or may not eventually get a single release in this country [nope, it remains unreleased here]. It was pulled before it could reach the shops here in favour of this track, lifted from the soundtrack of the film Small Soldiers. The reason so many people seem to be upset by this track is because of the way it takes the Fugees' concept of rewriting and rearranging classic songs to a whole new dimension. This is not so much a sample as a splice, the original Queen track is here almost in its entirety with Wyclef and guests talking and rapping in between the original verses, the lyrics constructed so cleverly that at time it almost seems as if Wyclef and Freddy Mercury are engaged in conversation with each other. I'm often the first to complain about uninspired use of other people's songs to create your own hit but believe it or not I think this record is a work of genius, pushing the boundaries of what you can do with old recordings to integrate them with your own sound. During the course of the record Wyclef enlists the help of all manner of colleagues past and present, Canibus and Pras make brief appearances with Fugees backing singer Free also much in evidence, indeed it is only the absence of Lauryn Hill that prevents this from being a brand new Fugees record proper. Die-hard Queen fans will continue to bleat about this treatment of the original track (an American Number One and Top 10 hit here in 1980) but I'd rather the sampling and rewriting was performed by Wyclef than Vanilla Ice any day.
6 DAYDREAMIN' (Tatyana Ali)
It's not what you know... Discovered apparently by Will Smith [they were kind of co-stars, but I never watched Fresh Prince so I wasn't to know that] and a resident of Michael Jackson's MJJ label (despite the single appearing on parent label Epic over here) Tatjana Ali has her first ever UK hit after hitting the US Top 10 with this track a few months ago. To be fair Daydreamin' is a very good R&B single that in the current climate was bound to become a hit over here, despite the lack of mainstream airplay. It reminds me of a couple of years ago when Brownstone (remember them?) became the first ever act to have a hit single on Michael Jackson's own label which lead to them being labelled as proteges of the megastar despite their protests that they had only actually met him once.
8 FALLING IN LOVE AGAIN (Eagle-Eye Cherry)
The second straight hit single from Neneh's half-brother and it is quite delightfully more of the same, melodic tuneful rock with a touch of R&B here and there. Number 8 falls slightly short of the Number 6 peak of Save Tonight but there is no reason to suggest this won't go some way to emulating the 11 week run of his first hit.
13 THIS KISS (Faith Hill)
Something tells me that we are due a mini-invasion of hitherto-unknown female rock vocalists from across the Atlantic. First off the blocks is Faith Hill [who is nu-country, but I'm not sure that moniker had even been coined yet] who lands smack in the Top 20 with this rousing, uplifted and altogether rather wonderful track that has already been a smash US hit and if there is any justice will be around for some weeks to come here. Vonda Shepherd waits in the wings...
16 BRAND NEW START (Paul Weller)
It may not be making as big a splash as other hits packages this Christmas but Paul Weller's Modern Classics packages is certainly going to be worth a listen. From that set comes this brand new track with a wonderful acoustic atmosphere which lands nicely in the Top 20, a vast improvement on the Number 30 peak of his last hit Mermaids from December last year.
17 HOME ALONE (R Kelly featuring Keith Murray)
Hot on the heels of Half On A Baby comes this second single from R Kelly's epic new double album. As far as most reviewers are concerned this is one of the standout track, funky disco bassline and rap from guest start Keith Murray all included. Number 17 compared to the Number 16 peak of Half On A Baby and it is set to become one of two R Kelly singles on the chart very shortly with the imminent release of his duet with Celine Dion.
20 STRAIGHT FROM THE HEART (Doolally)
In from nowhere is this garage track which has grown in popular appeal over the last few weeks of play in clubs. Lighthearted and fun with a nod towards some classic reggae tunes the obligatory catchy female vocal line and even a children's chorus chanting the main hook. [A track which would reappear the following summer by which time everyone else had caught up with 2-step UK Garage].
24 LOVE LIKE THIS (Faith Evans)
Over a year since she appeared on I'll Be Missing You, Faith Evans makes her solo chart debut with a massive club hit that for the moment appears to have failed to live up to its hype. A long-delayed release (it was first heard on promos over a year ago) the single is produced by Sean 'Puffy' Combs once more and is based on the old Chic track Chic Cheer. Everyone expected this track to be massive but instead it can only creep into the Top 30. Something of a shame. [Spoiler alert: her vocal would eventually make Number One after being subsumed into Fatman Scoop's Be Faithful].
29 ON TOP OF THE WORLD (Diva Surprise featuring Georgia Jones)
From the moment the opening bars of YMCA blast out you know this record is going to be fun. Diva Surprise make the transition from club to chart with this track, based around the melody from the classic Village People hit but with an original vocal track over the top. Looks like it is the party season.
37 EURODISCO (Bis)
Bis first hit the headlines in early 1996 when they were plucked from nowhere to become the first ever unsigned band to appear on BBC TVs Top Of The Pops. The song they performed, Kandy Pop, subsequently charted as one track on their Secret Vampire Soundtrack EP which reached Number 25 on a small independent label a couple of weeks after that celebrated TV performance. The band then spurned the overtures of several major labels but have spent the last couple of years releasing well received singles on a variety of small labels without ever managing to break back into the Top 40. Now housed on Wiija records, the home of Cornershop, they finally get a second Top 40 hit. They still sound the same as before, like the B-52s with casio keyboards and Scottish accents but the improvement in production is obvious. Maybe in another dimension they would be massive but for whatever reason at the moment they seem destined to be an amusing, if innovative novelty act.