1 WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH (Boyzone)
Largely as expected, where Blur failed Boyzone have succeeded and demote Britney Spears' megaselling hit to second place. Their single should be familiar to virtually everyone by now, a shockingly faithful cover of Billy Ocean's 1986 Number One hit which was originally recorded for the soundtrack of the Michael Douglas film The Jewel Of The Nile. This new version is not from their current album but instead is a special recording to support this year's Comic Relief fundraising drive which will culminate in the bi-annual telethon at the end of this week. The tradition of Comic Relief singles began in 1986 when Cliff Richard teamed up with the Young Ones for a chaotic remake of his own Living Doll and was rewarded with a Number One single. Further releases followed in 1987 (Mel Smith and Kim Wilde's Rocking Around The Christmas Tree) and in 1989 (Bananarama and Lananeeneenoonoo's version of Help!) but it was not until 1991 that Comic Relief had another chart-topping single, this time The Stonk as performed by Hale And Pace and the Stonkers. Right Said Fred followed in 1993 with Stick It Out which reached Number 4. This was to be the last 'comic' single released in aid of the charity and funnily enough the last to fail to top the charts. The 1995 event prompted Cher, Neneh Cherry and Chrissie Hynde to cover Love Can Build A Bridge and they duly topped the charts in the week of the telethon whilst in 1997 there was no single recorded for the event as such but the Spice Girls agreed to hand over the proceeds of Mama/Who Do You Think You Are to the charity. Inevitably it was a Number One single.
As for Boyzone themselves this is their fifth Number One single and the second time they have topped the charts with a cover version (the first being Words, the Bee Gees song they took to the top in late 1996). Those who still have a slightly cynical attitude towards the trend for singles to shoot to the top of the chart in their first week on release may care to note that as the single is a charity release it was not subject to the first week discounting that attracts so much criticism in some quarters. Everyone who bought this record paid the full price for it yet it has still outsold every other record on release this week - even those which were "disgracefully" available for 99p.
2 BABY ONE MORE TIME (Britney Spears)
Her spell at Number One may be over for now but Britney Spears continues to rewrite the record books. Sales of the single are now bubbling just under the magical seven digit mark which should mean it will sell its one-millionth copy within the next week or so, the second single followong the Steps record to ease past the milestone in 1999. Already it is far and biggest-sellingt selling single of the year so far and although you can argue that a good record will sell in high quantities whenever it is released, for a single to do this well at the very start of the year is, historically speaking, a very unusual feat indeed. To think she has done all this too without ever once setting foot in the country.
3 WE LIKE TO PARTY (THE VENGABUS) (Vengaboys)
They may be proud purveyors of some of the most unsophisticated dance hits around but that doesn't stop the Vengaboys from clocking up hits, this being the Dutch foursome's followup to Up And Down which hit Number 4 in late November 1998. There is of course no escaping the fact that We Like To Party is fundamentally the exact same backing track with new vocals added but this only serves to make its popularity all the more puzzling.
4 AS (George Michael and Mary J Blige)
This is the track that caused so many copies of the European release of Ladies And Gentlemen to make their way across the Atlantic after Mary J Blige's American record company reportedly vetoed her appearance on a record with George Michael. Over here of course the track has pride of place in the Greatest Hits collection and now makes a well-deserved appearance in the singles charts. It was on Stevie Wonder's classic Songs In The Key Of Life album that As first appeared and was one of a number of tracks that he famously declined to release as a single. Until now the only version of the song to make the charts was the one recorded by Secret Life who titled it As Always and took the track to Number 45 in late 1992. George Michael has always spoken of his admiration for Stevie Wonder and regularly performed I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever) in concert in the early 1990s but this is the first time he has released one of his songs as a single. As the followup to last October's Outside it lands nicely inside the Top 5 to become his 19th Top 10 single outside of his days with Wham! Mary J Blige becomes the fourth solo artist to accompany George Michael on record, joining a list that includes Aretha Franklin and Elton John and this is of course not to forget his appearance with Queen on the Five Live EP in 1993. For Blige herself this is her biggest ever chart hit, sailing past the Number 6 peak of Everything that charted in August 1997. Curiously enough there is one other famous cover version of a track from Songs In The Key Of Life - David Parton's version of Isn't She Lovely which coincidentally also made Number 4 back in 1977.
7 NOTHING REALLY MATTERS (Madonna)
After five singles the Ray Of Light album restates its claim as one of Madonna's best albums for years by producing yet another Top 10 hit. Nothing Really Matters returns Madonna to the dancefloor with a production by William Orbit and Marius De Vries. She is currently in the middle of one of the best chart runs she has had for a long time, this being her 8th successive Top 10 single since November 1996 and quite phenomenally the 44th of her career to date. It has been said before but it is worth stating again, this is a total that beats not only all other female acts in history but most of the males as well. Only Cliff Richard and Elvis Presley can boast more Top 10 singles.
10 WHAT'S SO DIFFERENT (Ginuwine)
Exactly a year since his last hit Holler made Number 13 Ginuwine is back with the first single from a brand new album a single that equals his biggest to date. His only other Top 10 placing came in September 1997 with his cover of Prince's When Doves Cry which also makes Number 10. It is another impressve R&B release from the artist but like many other R&B acts at present he is in danger of being eclipsed by the stardom of his producer as once again this is a Timbaland record and to have his name on your music is as big a guarantee of a hit as the name of Sean Puffy Combs was back in 1997.
12 BETCHA CAN'T WAIT (E-17)
One in the eye for all the people who predicted that E-17's comeback was to be a short-lived phenomenon. Whilst the album may have struggled to sell in the hoped for quantites Brian Harvey et al are still clearly capable of churning out hit singles. The followup to the Number 2 hit Each Time may not have quite the airplay exposure of its predecessor but it is still a fine single in its own right and gives E-17/East 17 their 17th Top 20 hit.
17 CHARLIE BIG POTATO (Skunk Anansie)
Believe me it is not just the title of the long-awaited new single from Skunk Anansie that is raising eyebrows. The first single to be released from the new album Post Orgasmic Chill is far and away the heaviest the band have ever produced. Close your eyes, imagine Bruce Dickinson on lead vocals and you have the finest single Iron Maiden never recorded. For all this its commercial appeal is not insubstantial and although it falls some way short of giving Skin and the boys their first ever Top 10 hit it has sold enough to become the latest in a long line of Top 20 singles, this being their sixth in total. They may rue the momentum lost by the long period of recording that preceded this release as their last hit Brazen (Weep) was their biggest, hitting Number 11 in June 1997.
22 PARTY ALL NIGHT (Mytown)
Could this be the first pop single to be inspired by an old George Michael song? Certainly the acoustic guitar parts in this track owe not a little to his 1987 classic Faith. Still, there are worse places from which to take your inspiration. Mytown are touted as the next big thing in boy band terms, four Irish lads with a great deal of teen press support and even the endorsement of no less a figure than Sarah Ferguson ringing in their ears. Don't hold that against them, just hope they have a longer career than OTT.
24 CAN I GET A... (Jay-Z featuring Amil and Ja Rule)
A far cry from the commercial sound of Hard Knock Life means that this release from Jay-Z falls some way short of the Top 3 placing scaled by his last single. Then again commercial appeal wasn't necessarily the aim of this track, its natural home being the soundtrack of the recent film Rush Hour which also spawned Dru Hill's Number 9 hit How Deep Is Your Love from October last year. [This also marked the chart debut of Ja Rule who had five years of hits ahead of him, culminating in a Number One hit in 2004]/
28 JOINING YOU (Alanis Morissette)
Whilst I was in America last week I conducted an experiment and found that it was in fact impossible to listen to any radio station for more than 15 minutes without hearing Thank U over the airwaves. Turn to another channel and it was bound to come on again before too long. The continuing airplay appeal for her last single may well have something to do with the rather shocking reversal in chart form experienced by the second single to be released from Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie. It is another wonderfullly deep song from Alanis with the collaborative fingerprints of Glen Ballard stamped all over it but even the presence of a live version of Thank U on the CD single cannot stop this from becoming one of the lowest charting singles of her career. Indeed but for the failure of All I Really Want to make the Top 40 in 1996 this would be her smallest hit ever.
30 PLAYING WITH KNIVES (Bizarre Inc)
This is the track with which Bizarre Inc began their career. Playing With Knives was first released in March 1991 it was very much of its era, a frantic dance track featuring lots of piano and screaming vocal samples all mixed together in quite exhausting fashion. It took a re-release for it to become a hit, making Number 4 in November 1991. Unlike many dance acts of the time Bizarre Inc have had several hit singles throughout the decade, largely due to their willingness to switch styles, often to quite wonderful effect. Hence I'm Gonna Get You, a proper song with Angie Brown on vocals and of course not forgetting Surprise, the delightful Motown pastiche that hit Number 21 in July 1996 and which still appears on the radio today. Three years since their last hit their career has come full circle with a new set of mixes of their very first hit single. Actually the mixes do little to change the atmosphere of the original and in some ways this works against it as Playing With Knives is very much a track of its era and in this day and age sounds rather tired and dated. Maybe Bizarre Inc had the right idea to keep switching styles.
31 HOT SPOT (Foxy Brown)
The one-time serial Jay-Z collaborator creeps into the Top 40 for the first time in over a year with this new release. The single is notable as the first on which she has had sole credit on the label. During 1997 she appeared on no less than five different Top 40 hits, three of which were with Jay-Z and one apiece with Blackstreet and Dru Hill.
34 STOLEN CAR (Beth Orton)
It may only be a small hit but it is still good to see Beth Orton back in the Top 40 and for her to make headlines for her music rather than her medical problems. Just like Foxy Brown above her, her last hit singles came in 1997 when She Cries Your Name and the Best Bit EP both made brief Top 40 appearances, reaching Number 40 and Number 36 respectively.
36 BECAUSE OF YOU (98 Degrees)
Recently a Top 3 hit in America but clearly destined to struggle over here, this is the debut UK release from 98 Degrees who, in the mould of the Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync are an American boy band. Actually comparisons with the aforementioned acts may not be all that appropriate. Just as the Backstreet Boys took a number of releases to catch fire over here, 'N Sync have themselves discovered that patience is a virtue where cracking the UK is concerned, hitting the Top 10 a fortnight ago with I Want You Back. On that basis we can well expect to see 98 Degrees in the upper reaches of the chart in approximately 18 months time.