1 WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH (Boyzone)
Far from the shock that greeted Britney Spears' second week at Number One a fortnight ago, the fact that Boyzone retain the top honours in this week's chart isn't too much of a surprise. They were actually running secong to the Steps single at the start of the week and were about 1,500 copies behind by Wednesday. What counted in Boyzone's favour was of course their association with Comic Relief and Friday night's telethon broadcast featured the song prominently. This exposure ensured the single had enough of a boost to retain its title as the nation's biggest selling single. For the first time this year it is possible to keep an open mind as to what will be at Number One next week as the next 'dead-cert' chart-topping single is still a couple of weeks away from release. Boyzone's version of When The Going Gets Tough has some way to go before matching the achievements of the original however, Billy Ocean spent four weeks at Number One with the song in 1986.
2 BETTER BEST FORGOTTEN (Steps)
Just two weeks after Heartbeat/Tragedy sold its one millionth copy in the UK and with said single still floating around the Top 20 after 18 weeks on release, Steps return to the chart with another pop masterpiece. To coincide with their current UK tour and on the back of the brief did-they-win-or-not Brits controversy, [there were rumours that public vote winners Belle and Sebastien only did so thanks to an organised mass-dial by a group of students] they release Better Best Forgotten from the album Step One. Those see the band as little more than Abba soundalikes will find plenty of ammunition in this single, easily their most derivative release so far but in actual fact it is no poorer for this. Better Best Forgotten was widely expected to become the second Number One single for Steps but circumstances have worked against them and for the moment they have to be content with the runners-up slot.
5 YOU STOLE THE SUN FROM MY HEART (Manic Street Preachers)
Also from the drawer marked "can do no wrong at present" come the Manic Street Preachers, newly decorated by the Brits voters and with the third single from the This Is My Truth... album. This is the track they performed live at the Brits ceremony itself and this has undoubtedly helped them to make a triumphant return to the Top 3 after the relative failure of The Everlasting which could only make Number 11 just before Christmas. It is now their seventh Top 10 hit.
10 AT MY MOST BEAUTIFUL (REM)
Alright, I take back everything I have said before about the Up album being REMs descent into self-indulgence. As most die-hard fans will already be aware, At My Most Beautiful is easily one of the highlights of the album, a gorgeous soulful ballad that casts more than a sideways glance towards the Beach Boys and one which scales the heights that only tracks such as Everybody Hurts have managed before. Indeed if there is any justice than this single will rank alongside it as one of the greatest moments of the decade. You only have to look at the chart placings to see that a great many people agree. After Lotus could only reach Number 26 just before Christmas the band crash back into the Top 10 for what is surprisingly only the 7th such hit of their long career.
11 WISH I COULD FLY (Roxette)
After a break of almost three years since their last releases Roxette are back and to the surprise of a great many people find themselves comfortably with a Top 20 hit. I say surprise as Roxette's trademark brand of slightly retro pop-rock was dating rapidly towards the end of their last run of hits. Indeed their last Top 40 entry came in November 1995 with a remix of The Look and their last two singles You Don't Understand Me and June Afternoon both missed the Top 40 altogether. Wish I Could Fly manages to reverse that trend, maybe due to its novelty value or maybe because Per and Marie have pushed their sound forward in just the right way to still make their music relevant. Either way the single has sold thousands all over Europe in the last month or so and now returns the pair to the Top 20 for the first time since Sleeping In My Car hit Number 14 way back in 1994.
12 HOW LONG'S A TEAR TAKE TO DRY (Beautiful South)
Yet more lyrical cleverness from Beautiful South as with typical efficiency they chart with the third single from their current set of releases. How Long... is something of a throwback to singles such as A Little Time, a vocal duel between Jacqui Abbott and Paul Heaton as they play the roles of a couple chronicling the decline of their relationship. It is a more rock-orientated and uptempo song than previous hits which may have restricted its appeal somewhat but nonetheless it becomes their 12th Top 20 hit in the UK.
13 STYLE (Orbital)
After being silent for the whole of 1998 the Hartnoll brothers return to the fray with what is surely the most eagerly anticipated dance release of the year so far. The title Style refers to their younger brothers Stylophone which they used to make the single. Almost three decades since Rolf Harris introduced the primitive electronic instrument to the world it becomes the centrepiece of a Top 20 record. Style is actually something of a throwback to their 1990 debut single Chime, a record that was clearly made for next to nothing but which has production values that put many other dance singles to shame. Style actually comes in two versions, the first is the original version that features female vocals from Thereze Bazaar courtesy of a sample from Dollar's 1988 version of Oh L'Amour. Also available is Bagpipe Style which as the title suggests introduces bagpipes into the mix to also play the melody along with the Stylophone and with the added vocal contribution of none other than Suzi Quatro - again thanks to a sample from Devil Gate Drive. It may not be the biggest hit of their career (lets not forget their last two singles were both Top 3 hits) but unlike so many dance singles this is one track whose artistic and creative merits are immediately apparent.
14 WRITING TO REACH YOU (Travis)
About to make the step up from being everyone's favourite band who have yet to make it and transforming themselves into genuine chart contenders are Travis [one act who really did justify the never ending faith I had in them from the start as they launch the promotion of their The Man Who album and shoot from also-rans into superstars]. Their first run of hits came in 1997 when they charted no less than four Top 40 singles from their debut album of which only one, Tied To The 90s even came close to breaching the Top 30 (it reached Number 30!). Nonetheless it boded well for the future and after a year off the future is here. Admittedly Writing To Reach You doesn't sound as bubbly and accessible as Tied To The 90s but it represents an encoraging development in their sound. The fanbase they built up two years ago has come out in force for this new single and it lands nicely inside the Top 20 and gives them their biggest hit to date. Expect more to follow.
18 THE WAY DREAMS ARE (Daniel O'Donnell)
The current King of easy listening returns to the chart for his first hit single of 1999. Daniel O'Donnell records are something of a chart enigma, appearing without little fanfare and without much in the way of appeal to the normal band of people who buy singles from week to week. Nonetheless he keeps on having hit singles, at least one each year since 1992 and last year he made the Top 10 for the first time ever with Give A Little Love. No such heights for this gentle ballad but it does at least become his fourth UK Top 20 hit and the third biggest of his career.
29 WILL YOU WAIT FOR ME (Kavana)
There really ought to be a name for the Kavana phenomenon. A young artist caught in a kind of no mans land, wanting to move away from his teen idol roots and making some rather fine adult-orientated music but with his desired-for audience still seeing him as a kind of solo boy band even though most of his small band of young fans seem to have deserted him. This single is a classic case in point, released a week before his second album it is easily one of his best ever singles, Kav does his best George Michael over a wonderfully sophisticated production and yet all it can manage is a brief foray into the Top 30 on the back of some extremely limited airplay. At least it has bettered (just) the peak of his last single Funky Love which could only reach Number 32 just before Christmas.
34 SAY YOU'LL BE MINE (QFX)
QFX is the recording pseudonym of Kirk Turnbull who pops up occasionally to have the odd hit single but in recent months has been suspiciously quiet. Something tells me this is the start of a number of QFX hits due to chart this year, this high energy piece of Europop is his first Top 40 single since Freedom 2 hit Number 21 in January 1997.
39 THE WAY IT GOES (Status Quo)
To think you thought they were all in retirement homes or something. The rock legends return to the Top 40 for the first time since 1996 with another track that, well, sounds like everything else they have ever recorded, but then again running down Status Quo records on that basis has never been a valid form of criticism. The band have in recent years been part of the small band of more mature artists that complain regularly that their music is being overlooked by radio stations and that this is costing them in sales, all because of ageist discrimination of course. This, their 50th Top 40 hit has received hardly any airplay at all and will rank as one of the smallest hits of their 31 year chart career. Some would say it is best to marvel that they are still having hit singles at all after all this time rather than wondering why they aren't placing singles in the Top 10 any more.