1 IF I LET YOU GO (Westlife)
Well I guess that makes it official. Westlife are the new Chicago. Their second single release follows both the formula and the sales pattern of their first - a sweet, romantic power ballad that destroys all opposition and crashes straight in to the top of the chart. In doing so the boys set a new standard, becoming the first boy band to hit the top of the charts with their first two singles. As will almost certainly be commented upon elsewhere they are also responsible for another chart first. By deposing Ronan Keating from top billing they are the first act in chart history to replace their own manager at the top of the charts. Given the unlikelihood of a chart act being managed by a still-active recording artist with strong commercial appeal himself you can bet that it will be a long time before such a feat is ever duplicated. Along with this Westlife are also the second act this year to have had two Number One hits (Boyzone of course are the first) although again then man they replaced at the top of the charts has now topped the listings three times - twice with Boyzone and once as a soloist. So where do Westlife go from here? They have now had two Number One singles with MOR ballads that break absolutely no new musical ground and which will go down as some of the safest chart-topping singles of the year. The risk is that they will be saddled with this image as granny-friendly pop stars and that the teenage audience who it is assumed form their core fan base will quickly tire of the gloss and long for something with a little more raunch. Then again maybe their next single will surprise us all.
3 DRINKING IN LA (Bran Van 3000)
The makers of Rolling Rock debuted their new TV advert a couple of months ago. Filmed in the same first-person style as the Prodigy's Smack My Bitch Up video it was one of those few television commercials that grabs your attention every time you see it. Grabbing the attention of viewers as well was the music that soundtracked the commercial - a distorted spoken male vocal that cut to a powerful, soulful female-led chorus. The track was of course Drinking In LA, the cult single from Canadian band Bran Van 3000 which peaked at a lowly Number 34 when released in June last year. So it is that once again the power of the TV advert strikes again. 1999 has undoubtedly been the year of the commercial-led hit single with artists as diverse as Mr Oizo, Lenny Kravitz, Des'ree and Andy Williams having found themselves with massive hit singles as a result of this kind of exposure. Duly re-released, Drinking In LA becomes the massive hit single it probably always should have been. For the benefit of dotmusic's large Canadian audience it is probably pertinent to point out that just as earlier this year the Barenaked Ladies had the biggest hit by a Canadian act since Men Without Hat in 1993, Bran Van 3000 now soar past to land the highest chart placing ever achieved by a Canadian group.
6 WILD WILD WEST (Will Smith)
Aside from the two big debuts at the top end of the chart, there is a mid-summer lull in the release schedules at the moment which results in a comparatively quiet Top 10 countdown. Honourable mention of the week should therefore go to Will Smith whose hit single spends a seventh week inside the Top 10 having spend the last few oscillating between the bottom few placings and now this week climbs two places to land at its highest chart position for a month. The film Wild Wild West from which the track is obviously taken finally opened in the UK last weekend, a fact which may well go some way to extending the chart life of the single even further. Already it is his most enduring hit since Men In Black topped the chart back in 1997.
13 P.E.2000 (Puff Daddy)
For a man who for the last few months has seemed to be unable to keep himself out of the headlines, Puff Daddy has kept a low profile as a recording artist of late. In fact this is his first chart hit since Come With Me, his contribution to the Godzilla soundtrack hit Number 2 exactly one year last week. This first single from an eagerly-anticipated new album may well raise a few eyebrows as it is a cover version, and not just a rap-style cover version of a classic pop hit either. As the title may well suggest P.E.2000 is a from the ground up reworking of M.P.E., the opening track from Public Enemy's groundbreaking first album Yo! Bum Rush The Show from 1987. Purist fans of one of the greatest rap groups of all time may see this as rather unnecessary but there is no denying that the effect isn't altogether unpleasant, even if the track isn't one of Puffy's most commercial offerings. Bizarrely enough every single Puff Daddy single in the past has credited a co-star on the label, his singles having featured the vocal and musical talents of Mase, Lil' Kim, Faith Evans, Notoriouis BIG, SWV, The Family and Jimmy Page. P.E.2000 is the first chart hit to be credited to Puff Daddy - and nobody else.
17 THE POP SINGER'S FEAR OF THE POLLEN COUNT (Divine Comedy)
Those of you who don't suffer from hay fever can have no concept of the misery that the onset of summer brings with it. Endless mornings of waking up feeling as if your sinuses are caked in gunk, itchy eyes, the fear of running out of antihistamine tablets and the longing for a period of wet weather and the respite that it brings. Happily Neil Hannon can relate to this and in 1993 wrote a song about it for the first ever Divine Comedy album Liberation. Six years later the band have re-recorded the track for a forthcoming Greatest Hits collection and although technically it has missed the hay fever season by a matter of weeks, The Pop Singer's Fear Of The Pollen Count has duly become a massive and well-deserved hit single. It is the second hit single of the year for the group and follows hot on the heels of February's Number 8 hit National Express which was their biggest hit single ever. This track too makes a respectable chart appearance and becomes their sixth Top 20 hit to firmly establish them as chart regulars. Ironic really, as the hits collection will mark their departure from Setanta, the label that has nurtured them for almost 10 years.
20 YESTERDAY WENT TOO SOON (Feeder)
The third hit single of the year for Feeder and the biggest of their career to date as they prepare for what will almost certainly be show-stopping performances at a number of late-summer music festivals. Easily their most commercial single release ever, it makes you hanker for the good old days of rock when wearing your hair long and playing your guitar long didn't preclude you from writing a melody to go with it.
21 BEAUTIFUL STRANGER (Madonna)
Beautiful Stranger is clearly demonstrating more staying power than you would credit. Having spent five weeks in the Top 10 you would expect the single to have gone into freefall by now but here it is remaining static at Number 21 for the third successive week. Although periods in the same chart position are fairly common high up the chart, for a single in midtable to manage this is extremely unusual. Indeed the last single to achieve a similar feat was the re-release of Diana Ross' Chain Reaction which held at Number 20 for three weeks in October 1993. The all-time record for non-movement outside the Top 10 is held by Robert Palmer's Looking For Clues which spent four weeks locked at Number 33 in December 1980. Those who are about to click on the link to mail me and tell me that it was actually five weeks should bear in mind that in those days no chart was compiled for the week immediately following the Christmas break and that what British Hit singles lists as the first chart of the year is actually an assumed listing which has every single on the countdown holding firm.
25 FIRE IN MY HEART (Super Furry Animals)
Eyebrows raised to the roof for this new single from the Super Furry's, the follow-up to the Number 11 hit Northern Lites from back in May. Fire In My Heart is possibly the most laid back single you are every likely to hear them release, a slowly building brooding track that begins with a solitary guitar picking out the melody before climaxing in the whole band joining in with harmonies. Quite deservedly their 10th Top 30 hit.
29 ALL THAT I CAN SAY (Mary J. Blige)
A welcome solo return to the chart for the first lady of cool. Mary J Blige's chart career seems to be one of ups and down as she intersperses her many mid-table chart hits with the odd massive smash. Last time around of course she scored with a smash, duetting with George Michael on As which hit Number 4 back in March. Sadly with this new single she is back down to the lower leagues, barely scraping into the Top 30 with what as far as I am concerned is one of her best singles ever. Look to the writers' credit on the label for the inspiration for this as More Than I Can Say is written and produced by none other than Lauryn Hill.
32 BETTER DAYS (TQ)
Has the novelty worn off for TQ? After two massive Top 10 hits with Westside and Bye Bye Baby his third single, despite following the same gangsta soul formula, fares much worse and barely scrapes a place in the Top 30.
33 MAMBO NO.5 (Lou Bega)
As if last week's appearance in the Top 40 for Mambo No.5 wasn't enough of a surprise the single manages to astound yet again by climbing up another seven places - still on import sales alone. Although they were never commonplace import singles first started charting in the 1980s. Back then they were usually continental or American releases by bands with large, fanatical followings who were keen to pick up tracks that for one reason or another were not scheduled for release over here. The first and most famous of these was also the biggest and until last week the only import single ever to reach the Top 40. That's Entertainment made an astounding Number 21 for The Jam in 1981 despite never being officially released in this country. Other notable import-only singles in that decade included U2's In God's Country (Number 48, 1987) and Depeche Mode's Little 15 (Number 60, 1988). With the music industry having become so much more global, singles that are due for release in one country or continent only are few and far between although they do exist - in 1995 the Beautiful South's version of Dream A Little Dream and which featured on the French Kiss soundtrack was only released as a single in mainland Europe. That didn't stop copies flooding this isle although the track never sold enough at once to hit the singles chart. These days of course imported singles are invariably dance tracks such as 9PM and Mambo No.5 which have arrived here in advance of their official release. Just occasionally they can cause the rewriting of release schedules. Back in 1997 the Fugees were set to follow up their cover of No Woman No Cry with a re-release of their first single Fu-Gee-La which had underperformed first time around. This was scuppered when imported copies of Rumble In The Jungle arrived in huge numbers in stores and resulted in the soundtrack song being given an official release much earlier than had been anticipated.
39 LOW FIVE (Sneaker Pimps)
After two years away it is good to see Sneaker Pimps back in the Top 40 but by the looks of things the delay may well have killed off the momentum they had before. Tracks such as 6 Underground and Spin Spin Sugar (both Top 30 hits) will almost certainly go down as some of the best singles of the decade but this rather more raucous offering will struggle to have even half of their appeal. Maybe the forthcoming new album will contain more surprises but for the moment a Number 39 hit does not bode well for their future chart prospects.