This week's Official UK Singles Chart
1 THE MILLENNIUM PRAYER (Cliff Richard)
The Cliff juggernaut ploughs ever on as once again despite an early week challenge from the Artful Dodger, The Millennium Prayer holds firm with a comfortable lead at the top of the chart and in the process becomes the first single to manage a fortnight at the top since Genie In A Bottle back in October. Of course, questions now have to be asked as to whether Cliff can indeed cling on to claim the "ultimate" chart prize - the honour of being Number One for Christmas. On the face of it, you would have to say this is unlikely given the strong competition from major new singles due for release over the next couple of weeks. Stranger things have happened however, back in 1992 Whitney Houston topped the chart with I Will Always Love You at the start of December and was still there three weeks later, in the end remaining at the top until well in February. Cliff himself has moved into pole position early in the past, Mistletoe And Wine back in 1988 topped the chart on December 10th and duly held on to spend its third week at the top in Christmas week. Actually, I have to confess slight ignorance as to when exactly the Christmas chart is set to be unveiled as of course Christmas Day falls on a Saturday this year which logically means that the Christmas chart should be the one published on December 26th covering sales for 19-24th December. Such was the case in 1988 when the same thing happened but the waters are muddied by the precedent set in 1993 when Christmas Day fell on a Sunday but the Christmas chart was officially declared to be the one published the previous week and covering sales from 11-17 December inclusive. Certainly, this seems to be the direction in which the industry as a whole is leaning, major contenders from the likes of Steps, Westlife and Cuban Boys are set for release next week indicating that they want to be topping the chart on Sunday December 19th rather than the week following.
Back to Cliff for the moment and his phenomenal career as detailed last week is often a source of amazement to people in other countries as in most other major territories Cliff's career has been restricted to sporadic chart entries and a far cry from everything he has achieved in his native Britain. Take America for example where even Joel Whitburn's Billboard chart books have to take time out to explain the nature of Cliff Richard's stardom in Britain almost apologetically before listing his rather sparse stateside chart career. Indeed Cliff's 1950s and 60s success almost totally passed America by and his only sustained period of success over there came in a brief golden burst in the late 70s when Devil Woman made Number 6 in 1976 and We Don't Talk Anymore (to this day his biggest ever worldwide hit) made Number 7 early in 1980. Those that continue to bemoan the veteran's presence at the top of the UK chart may look to America with envious eyes, his last American Top 40 hit came with his cover of Daddy's Home way back in 1982 - since when of course he has topped the British chart three times.
2 RE-REWIND THE CROWD SAY BO SELECTA (Artful Dodger)
trange though it may seem the biggest challenge to Cliff's crown came from this dance record created by two Southampton producers and which has received a hammering in terms of radio airplay not only from dance stations but also Radio One which has made the single a big priority. It isn't hard to see the appeal as the track borrows the same two-step rhythm as pioneered by Shanks and Bigfoot and combines it with a smooth male vocal [by some chap called Craig David, but he'll never amount to anything] intertwined with snatches of ragga toasting to create one of the most popular garage singles for many months. A massive hit from a source that will baffle most people not into dance music but at a time of year when the charts are in danger of being swamped by schmaltz, blandness and annoying novelties the presence of some serious dance near the top is actually something of a breath of fresh air.
4 BACK IN MY LIFE (Alice Deejay)
A Top 10 with just three new entries this week gives existing singles a bit of a breathing space. Quick to capitalise are Alice Deejay who move up one place, mirroring the steady climb of Better Off Alone which took three weeks to reach its eventual Number 2 peak.
5 COMMUNICATION (SOMEBODY ANSWER THE PHONE) (Mario Piu)
There were two hugely-hyped dance singles released this week. Artful Dodger was one and the other is this Italian trance single which should at least win an award for the most bizarre inspiration for a dance record. Place a mobile phone next to a radio or a set of speakers and get someone to call it... as the phone detects the connection the speakers will pick up a rhythmic interference and it is this very sound that forms the bassline for Communication. Clever huh? The rest of the track is themed accordingly and there is no doubting that the single's presence this high up the chart is down to its novelty value as its popularity as a dance record. With mobile telephone sales set to go through the roof once more as Christmas presents Mario Piu's single is set to be joined in the Top 10 this week by a single which goes even further and actually uses ringing tones as a tune. The full story behind the Solid Gold Chartbusters will have to wait until next week...
7 IF I COULD TURN BACK THE HANDS OF TIME (R Kelly)
The other Top 10 single to benefit from the lack of pressure from new singles above it is R Kelly's ballad which continues its extended run in the Top 10. The single has now travelled 3-2-4-5-5-8-7 and with the departure of Macy Gray this week can now claim to be the longest running single in the Top 10.
10 RIGHT NOW (Atomic Kitten)
Get ready for a mini invasion of girl bands over the next month or so as the race to find the next Spice Girls and/or All Saints which kicked off with Thunderbugs, 21st Century Girls and Hepburn this year starts to heat up. Latest out of the traps are Atomic Kitten, three teenagers from Liverpool who charge the Top 10 with this energetic debut single that is best described as Phats And Small meet, well any girl band you care to name. Number 10 is good enough for a debut, the acid test of course will be whether they can turn this start into a consistent run of hits in 2000.
12 THAT'S THE WAY IT IS (Celine Dion)
Kudos to whichever of my dotmusic colleagues elected to lead a news story about Celine Dion announcing her temporary retirement from performing last week with the headline "There Is A God" but joking aside the presence in the Top 10 of a Greatest Hits collection from the lady herself is - for now - the end of an era of power ballads. Lifted from that collection is this new single which actually finds Ms Dion in upbeat pop mode for the first time in aeons. Check the writers credits for this single and you will see why for this is a Max Martin creation, the latest smash from the man who has written hits for the likes of the Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears amongst others. Heck there are even elements of Latin pop in the production but the amazing pipes of Celine Dion rise above it all. The single returns her to the Top 20 thus reversing the dip in her chart fortunes that led to the Number 29 peak of Treat Her Like A Lady back in September but nonetheless this single is likely to wind up as only her fifth single to miss the Top 10 since 1994.
15 TURN YOUR LIGHTS DOWN LOW (Bob Marley featuring Lauryn Hill)
As big a Top 3 smash as the Funkstar remix of Sun Is Shining was back in the summer there were a fair number of Bob Marley purists who were none to happy at what had been done to that classic track. The same people will quite possibly be fizzing with fury at this latest reworking from the King of Reggae despite the praise that has been lavished on it by reviewers. Turn Your Lights Down Low is a more recognisable Marley classic than Sun Is Shining, the track having first appeared on his classic Exodus album in 1977. This new version fuses Marley's original vocal with a new one from Lauryn Hill making this one of those marvellous beyond the grave productions which have been raising questions about musical ethics since Natalie Cole first duetted with her late father at the start of the decade. Of course no Lauryn Hill chart entry (her fourth hit single of the year incidentally) is complete without a link back to the Fugees so note if you will Lauryn Hill was leading her colleagues exactly three years ago this week on a rendition of Marley's No Woman No Cry and that Pras and Wyclef teamed up last year on a version of Another One Bites The Dust which itself featured a contribution from Freddie Mercury in the shape of his original vocal.
18 RADIO (Corrs)
There is apparently a brand new studio album from The Corrs set for release sometime in the new year, one of many big new albums that have been delayed to avoid being swallowed up by the yet to arrive millennium madness. In the meantime, the gap in the schedules of last year's biggest-selling album act is filled by the old trick of releasing a live unplugged album. Of course given the acoustic nature of most Corrs tracks and the family's superlative live performance skills the new versions of the tracks don't differ too much from the studio originals but The Corrs Unplugged does at least contain one or two new songs - of which Radio is one. Said track duly appears here as a single albeit one which charts rather disappointingly low down given their usual consistency hitting the Top 10 - only a cynic would wonder how well it would have done had it been given to Tin Tin Out to remix of course. Still as an exercise in promoting a stopgap album the single has done its job and does at least whet appetites for a new studio album which as far as I am concerned cannot come soon enough.
19 I LEARNED FROM THE BEST (Whitney Houston)
This time last year Whitney Houston made a fleeting appearance in the Top 10 on a one-off duet with Mariah Carey on When You Believe. The track was actually on albums by both women but the attention was focussed on Mariah's Greatest Hits collection rather than My Love Is Your Love, the first studio album from Whitney Houston since 1990 and which had been released at the same time as the single with little or no fanfare. 12 months later and the album is credited with transforming her career, burying the ghosts of her glamorous 80s past and reinventing her as a modern R&B diva who has producers like Wyclef Jean queueing up to work with her. It's Not Right But It's Okay and My Love Is Your Love both went Top 3 and spent 11 weeks combined inside the Top 10. Whitney rounds off a very successful 1999 with a slightly smaller hit and ironically one of the few tracks from the album which hark back to her old style, this lush heartbreaking ballad sounding like it could have been made ten years ago. A small hit it may be but it still sneaks into the Top 20 to extend a run which stretches back to 1991 when her single My Name Is Not Susan became her chart nadir by peaking at Number 29.
20 KING FOR A DAY (Jamiroquai)
A notable release this one as this is probably the closest Jamiroquai will ever come to a ballad. The single still has Jay Kay's trademark funk rhythm but the rest of the instrumentation is nothing more than a nagging piano riff and what sounds suspiciously like a string quartet. King For A Day is easily their most downtempo release to date but just manages to squeeze past the disappointing Number 22 peak of their last single Supersonic which charted back in September.
21 SUPER TROUPER (A Teens)
Just when you thought it was safe to look lower down the chart, up pop the manufactured Scandinavians with another facsimile Abba cover, the follow-up to Mamma Mia which made Number 12 in September. Ignore what British Hit Singles says (or rather doesn't say), the original version of Super Trouper was Abba's final Number One single, topping the charts just before Christmas 1981 and this new version comes just a couple of weeks before Westlife's own cover of I Have A Dream. As a marketing concept the A Teens cannot be faulted but musically, well that is a another matter altogether. Indeed with the Abba Gold collection still freely available and almost permanently resident in the albums Top 20 these new A Teens versions of the songs may we well produced and highly polished but they all lack one important, nay crucial factor. A point.
22 THE BRICK TRACK VERSUS GITTY UP (Salt N' Pepa)
This is something of a pleasant surprise, a return to the chart for the pre-eminent female rap duo who have survived all manner of ups and downs over their 12+ year career. Cheryl James and Sandy Denton first rose to prominence in 1988 with Push It which hit Number 2 and remains their biggest hit single to date, holding the honour jointly with 1991's Let's Talk About Sex. Their last Top 10 single came in 1994 with Whatta Man which featured guest vocals from En Vogue. A sporadic string of smaller hits followed of which this is yet another, their first chart entry since R U Ready hit Number 24 in November 1997. This is actually a track that will have purists throwing their hands up in horror, an old track of theirs in a remix which began life as a bootleg but which now gets a full commercial release. Said "remix" is to actually fuse the track with a recreation of the guitar part from Pink Floyd's Another Brick In The Wall (the "brick track" of the title). Love it or hate it you cannot deny that it works a treat.
28 DUSTED (Leftfield/Roots Manuva)
Of course there is no Phat Planet on the b-side this time around so Leftfield find themselves with a chart single somewhat smaller than Afrika Shox which charged to Number 7 back in September. Even so the reversal in their chart fortunes is nothing short of dramatic this single set to wind up as their smallest chart single since their debut Song Of Life made Number 59 exactly seven years ago this week.
32 THAT SOUND (Michael Moog)
Hmmm, how did dotmusic's dance reviews page describe this single again? "Stardust meets Prince with Duane Harden on backing vocals and Nile Rodgers twiddling the production knobs" (thanks Martin!) More than that is it had for me to add suffice it to say that New Yorker Michael Moog's single comes to the chart after being released for a second time but when compared to the likes of Artful Dodger and Mario Piu can be said to be lacking just a little something in the inspiration department.