This week's Official UK Singles Chart
1 GENIE IN A BOTTLE (Christina Aguilera)
[Superstar debut klaxon] Four weeks for Eiffel 65? Twas not to be alas as after two months of dance and Latin hits at the top of the charts, pop returns with a vengeance. Genie In A Bottle will be familiar to most people, the American smash hit single that has turned Christina Aguilera into the next global pop starlet. Those who pay close attention to the lower reaches of the chart will also be aware of the way the single has put in a strong showing on import - quite unusual when you consider that Genie In A Bottle has little dancefloor appeal. Indeed copies of the track have been so readily available that the single has been floating around the bottom end of the Top 75 for the last five weeks, not quite selling enough to make the Top 40, the import copies peaking at Number 50 a fortnight ago. This week of course saw the official release of the track which as usual means that the import copies vanish from the chart as quickly as they arrived and Genie In A Bottle is listed as a new entry on the top of the table. Of course it is pertinent here to mention the inevitable Britany Spears comparisons that have been made. This is not least due to the return-to-the-80s musical style of the singles of both ladies (and Genie In A Bottle could easily have been made in Britain in 1986 - go listen to old hits from Jaki Graham and Princess for the evidence) but also because both women are former colleague after working together presenting the Mickey Mouse Club on the Disney Channel in the States. They have certainly both fared better than Mickey Mouse Club presenters from the 1980s vintage as The Party never once had a hit single over here (and whatever happened to Albert Fields, Chase Hampton, Damon Pampolina, Deedee Mango and Tiffini Hale anyway?)
2 2 TIMES (Ann Lee)
A Sheffield lass but she had to go to the continent to make this track and already it has paid dividends as 2 Times has already been Number One in countries as diverse as Denmark, Italy and Spain. If Better Off Alone was famously the tune so simple your Grandmother could play it then 2 Times is the track that a three year old could have written, a naggingly simple dance melody that whizzes around your brain long after you have heard the extended mix at high volume. Just like Genie In A Bottle, 2 Times also put in a strong showing on import, reaching Number 57 a fortnight ago before the flood of copies was successfully stemmed. I confess to being fascinated by the way many of this summer's big hits have had their releases pre-empted by imported copies steadily rising up the charts. Those who continue to bemoan the "enter high and then fall away nature" of the singles chart will note that these unofficial copies are selling according to old-fashioned habits, entering low and then steadily increasing in popularity to rise up the chart - that is until the 'proper' release and the resultant appearance of the track at the top of the chart thanks to the promotional manipulation of the record companies involved. Now I have long argued in many different forums that there is nothing wrong with heavily promoting first week sales and that at the end of the day it has stimulated rather than depressed interest in the singles chart but the evidence of the import singles is undeniable - left to itself the market for singles works the same way it has for decades. The bold record company that eschews spin control on a single and releases it without much initial fanfare may well find they are rewarded by a sustained period of growth and a long chart life for the track. Of course nobody is willing to take that risk. Are they?
4 JESSE HOLD ON (B*witched)
Headlines this week will be made not just for the feat of Christina Aguilera topping the chart but also for the way it seemingly ends the record-busting run of B*witched. The Dublin foursome you will remember set a new chart record over the course of the last year by going straight in at Number One with all four singles from their debut album - something not even the Spice Girls were able to manage. Alas with this brand new single from a forthcoming new album they fall some way short of the top and will (given the current state of things) struggle to rise to top the chart at any time with this track. Actually that is a shame as Jesse Hold On is another rather wonderful example of just why the girls have made such an impact so far. The single is a perfectly crafted three minutes of infectious pop with enough musical variation to prevent anyone suggesting that their music is at all formulaic (certainly it is the first Top 10 single for a long time to be propelled by a banjo riff). Ignore those who suggest their bubble has burst because they have "only" hit the Top 5 with this hit. B*witched are a pop force to be reckoned with - at least for this album. [Famous last words].
5 GIVE IT TO YOU (Jordan Knight)
Those of a nervous disposition may wish to skip down to the next paragraph. This is a comeback single from a former member of New Kids On The Block. And it is high in the UK charts. And it is quite good. See, I warned you that was shocking. NKOTB (as they wound up calling themselves) were arguably the first American teen band since the Osmonds to make a huge impact on the UK market. Coming as they did between the demise of Bros and the rise of Take That, they neatly filled a gap in the hearthrob market and were rewarded with a string of hits - including two Number Ones and seven further Top 10 singles - and a celebrity that actually proved more enduring over here than it did back home. All five members have remained quiet since their disastrous 1994 farewell album but now it seems the time is right for a comeback - and the oldest member of the group has picked his moment well. That isn't all Jordan Knight has picked well as Jam and Lewis [plus a then relatively-unknown Robin Thicke] have developed the ideas that first surfaced on Janet Jackson's If single and produced this track which appears to blend Missy Elliott, The Beatles and Depeche Mode together in what could have been an unholy mess but is actually a rather brilliant, adventurous single. Granted you suspect after this his next release will be a disappointment but it is nice to see that the former members of pop groups who broke up after discovering nobody liked them any more don't always have to go through the rest of their lives being showbiz failures. Instead they can have UK Top 5 hits.
11 I SAVED THE WORLD TODAY (Eurythmics)
Dave A Stewart and Annie Lennox memorably reunited onstage at this year Brit Awards Ceremony to collect their gong for Outstanding Contribution To Music. Afterwards they had more shocks, they enjoyed the experience so much that they would be going back into the studio to record a new album, their first since 1989. So it is that in a 12 month period which has seen the likes of Culture Club and Madness return to the chart with brand new material we also welcome the return of Eurythmics who fall agonisingly short of a place in the Top 10. This isn't simply a retreat of Love Is A Stranger, nor is it a new take on Thorn In My Side, or for that matter a replay of King And Queen Of America. No, this new single is a gentle, string-laden ballad with a soaring chorus that creates a quite magical effect. To come back down to earth for a moment it actually wouldn't sound out of place on a Annie Lennox solo album but just knowing that Stewart is playing on the track gives it an extra sentimental kick, make no mistake this is a Eurythmics record. I Saved The World Today duly becomes their first Top 40 hit together since Angel hit Number 23 in April 1990. Since they split up Annie Lennox has had by far the most productive solo career, her biggest hit being her 1995 cover of No More 'I Love Yous' which reached Number 2. Dave A Stewart on the other hand has had more luck as a producer than performer although I still maintain that his 1994 Number 34 hit Heart Of Stone was a much underrated classic.
12 FOREVER (Charlatans)
Yes, they are back as well, and my they sound wonderful. Two years after their triumphant Tellin' Stories album and almost ten years since they first formed the Charlatans prove that they can still have hit singles and still make some quite astonishing records. Forever is as close to psychedelia as they have ever come, an epic sounding track that stirs in just about every musical element you can imagine. Needless to say the reviews have been rapturous, not only for the single and the new album but also the video directed by none other than Kevin Godley. Forever is, believe it or not, their 10th Top 20 single since 1990. For a band whose initial fame came during the "baggy" craze of the early part of the decade, to have survived this long - crime and tragedy notwithstanding - is something of a marvel.
15 EVERYTHING MY HEART DESIRES (Adam Rickitt)
So can Adam Rickitt make long-term career out of being a pop star? The jury is still out to be honest. After hitting Number 5 with his debut single I Breathe Again back in June he can only creep into the Top 20 with this followup. Dare I suggest that he is now struggling for exposure now the novelty value of first hit from the former Coronation Street star has worn off? Certainly airplay has been hard to come by and unless his next release is a marvellous revelation he may well struggle to even go Top 30 next time out.
17 JUST LIKE FRED ASTAIRE (James)
Hit number 2 this year for James who appear to have reverted to the stadium-filling sound of 1991s Seven album. This is no bad thing by the way as this new single is really the encapsulation of everything that is good about this most enduring of British bands, a strong melodic tune and an uplifting chorus that you cannot help but sing along to. Indeed this single actually beats the Number 22 peak of I Know What I'm Here For to become their ninth Top 20 hit single. The band have learned their lesson. Messing about in a studio with Brian Eno may be artistically satisfying but for popular appeal you cannot beat good old fashioned tunes and when they get it right they sound well, just like Just Like Fred Astaire.
25 STAY WITH ME TIL DAWN (Lucid)
Dance music takes something of a back seat in this week's chart but that doesn't mean there isn't room for a few new entries straight from the dancefloor. Biggest of them all is this single from Lucid, the follow-up to Crazy which hit Number 14 back in February. This new single is actually something of a revelation, a mid-tempo remake of Judy Tzuke's 1979 Top 20 hit that retains all the magic of the original. Their hits appear to be getting smaller which is actually something of a shame, this Number 25 peak a long way short of the Number 7 peak of I Can't Help Myself from August 1998.
28 GIMMIE ALL YOUR LOVIN' 2000 (Martay featuring ZZ Top)
A fun game to play on a bored evening down the pub is to compile a list of "records which did not need making." You may like to add this single to the next one you compile. Gimmie All Your Lovin' was the single that turned ZZ Top into little-known Texas boogiemen into stadium-filling superstars. A Number 10 hit in 1984 it stands to this day as one of the most exciting rock singles ever made. A true classic. For some reason people keep wanting to turn it into a dance record. I still shudder at the thought of the ham fisted way Jocelyn Brown and Kim Mazelle shouted their way through a dreadful synthesised version in 1994 and now comes this cover version from Martay complete with samples lifted directly from the original. Not that there is anything wrong with trying to turn rock songs into dance records. Done correctly you can actually transform a record into something quite magical - see the CCN remix of Motorhead's Ace Of Spades for example [hmmm] - but it is only too easy to get things badly wrong. As Martay comes close to demonstrating here - but I will grant you the record does have a certain charm. Although this is her first hit single solo she has tasted chart success before as the singer with Urban Cookie Collective who hit Number 2 with The Key: The Secret back in 1993. She must be doing something right as this single marks the first time that ZZ Top have given permission for their work to be sampled.
31 B WITH U (Junior Sanchez featuring Dajae)
OK enough negativity. Here's a dance record that deserves some respect. B With U comes from the decks of Junior Sanchez, just one part of the legendary New York trio who call themselves the S-Men. The other two are DJ Sneak who has yet to put his name to a UK hit and Roger Sanchez who hit Number 31 (spookily enough) with I Want Your Love back in February and who should make a Top 40 appearance with I Never Knew this time next week.
33 ALIVE (Heliotropic featuring Verna V)
Dance fans fill in your own commentary here as I've run out of constructive things to say other than to say this continental sounding track is actually British, Heliotropic having produced singles for the likes of Alison Limerick in the past. Better to fill the space by thanking everyone for their lists of singles that mention all the months of the year which have filled my mailbox this week. Yes, the Bee Gees' First Of May was obvious and yes, I did feel a little thick for not spotting that. Shame on those who tried to use Maggie May in that slot as she was a person, not a month so it doesn't count. This weeks challenge: listen to this and give me another job on the radio somewhere as I've been unemployed for a week and the boredom is driving me crazy. [That was a link to my radio demo, and you could hardly blame me for trying].