1 IT FEELS SO GOOD (Sonique)
I just love it when we can start a chart rundown with a genuinely fascinating story. The chart career of Sonique began in the late 1980s when producer Mark Moore invited her to be the new singer with his S-Express project. She sang on two Top 40 hits - Mantra For A State Of Mine and Nothing To Lose. S-Express dissolved in 1992 and Sonique drifted into spinning the discs for herself as one of the few 'name' female club jocks. Her trademark was often to start singing along to the tracks she was playing, an act which led to her picking up the threads of her recording career in 1998 with a deal for some solo records. She charted two singles that year, first a cover of I Put A Spell On You which reached Number 36 in June, followed by a Number 24 hit in December. That record was It Feels So Good. That looked to be it, until late last year a club in Florida began playing the track to a huge crowd response. Radio support followed swiftly and when the track was brought out in the States it duly shot up the Billboard charts, becoming the first British single to reach the US Top 10 since Five's When The Lights Go Out in 1998. Of course, such an opportunity to reactivate the single over here could hardly go wanting, could it? As a result, the re-released track charges straight to the top, denying no less an act as S Club 7 the Number One slot. It is no less than the third re-released single to top the UK charts this year, following swiftly on the heels of Don't Call Me Baby and Toca's Miracle. Is this a sign that good records will always eventually find an audience or a worrying sign that there simply isn't enough good new material to go round?
2 REACH (S Club 7)
When it comes down to it, S Club 7 are the greatest concept in pop music currently. Seven annoyingly good looking youngsters who star as a wannabe pop group in a TV series which follows them as they attempt to scrape a living as performers in America. In each episode they get into some kind of scrape from which they emerge unscathed, often by way of performing a song. That concept has made Miami 7 and the new series LA 7 the most popular children's shows on TV, not only here but in terms of worldwide sales. It also means there is a ready-made audience for the songs that feature in the show. OK so the Monkees did it first in the 1960s but that hasn't stopped S Club 7 becoming superstars and pinups in their own right and with a string of hits to their name. Bring It All Back topped the chart in June last year and they followed it up with S Club Party and Two In A Million, both of which made Number 2. With the first UK airing of their second series LA 7 drawing to a close it is time to promote the new album of songs from the series. The first single is the bubbly Motown pop of Reach which was widely expected to race to the very top of the charts. Said expectations didn't take Sonique into account and as it turns out S Club 7 have to settle for second place, at the very least retaining their 100% record of Top 2 hits. It was great to read the dotmusic chat session with the band as well, although the fact that only the boys took part was a little annoying as I was just waiting for the chance to propose marriage to Rachel...
3 IT'S MY LIFE (Bon Jovi)
Funny this. Just two weeks after Iron Maiden made their triumphant chart comeback, yet another veteran rock act returns to the spotlight, albeit at the very other end of the rock credibility scale. One of the original Hair Acts of the mid-1980s, Bon Jovi have survived changing fashions, the attempts of their lead singer to become an actor and various other pitfalls to remain a consistent chart threat. Most of the time this has been done with some subtle acknowledgements of the prevailing musical style, as best witnessed by the way 1992s Keep The Faith was made with one eye on the dancefloor. The first single from their first album for four years shows the same level of commercial savvy as It's My Life is co-written by one Max Martin. Yes that one, the Swedish hitmaker whose production stamp is all over the likes of 'NSync and Britney Spears and who is effectively the defining sound of American pop music at present. Consequently the single sounds like a combination of the Backstreet Boys' Larger Than Life (which let's face it was always a rock single waiting to happen) and bizarrely Bon Jovi's own Living On A Prayer, the latter thanks to the celebrated return of the talk box. With that kind of pedigree how could it miss? The single not only beats the Number 21 peak of last year's one-off soundtrack single Real Life but also pretty much anything else the band have released in the last half a decade. This Number 3 placing duly gives them their 11th Top 10 single and the second biggest hit of their career, just one place behind the Number 2 peak of Always from 1994. Be honest, if someone had told you at Christmas that Bon Jovi would have a Top 3 single by the summer, would you have believed them?
4 DAY AND NIGHT (Billie Piper)
The same old story repeats itself this week, a much-hyped single charges in at the top of the chart only to itself be displaced by another equally-hyped single (and don't for a minute think Sonique is safe either as next week sees the celebrated Battle Of Boyzone). To be fair, the Top 10 shows as astonishing level of consistency this week as last weeks Top 6 records all maintain their order and all slip down three places to accommodate the Sonique/S Club 7/Bon Jovi triumvirate. As I have said before, there is nothing necessarily wrong with this climate of constant change at the top. It is after all little more than a duplication of the trend shown by the US chart in the mid-late 1980s. A string of long-awaited well-promoted singles is actually quite healthy and keeps the singles chart and the music business in general in the news. The problem is of course that this level of interest only has so much mileage before the novelty starts to wear off and the reality is that despite a number of high-profile spectacular debuts at the top of the charts this year, no one single has become a massive crossover seller since Baby One More Time - almost 16 months ago.
The facts don't lie... singles sales dipped slightly in 1999 and are already around 20% lower than they were this time last year. That isn't to say there have been no good records made this year, indeed Number One singles this year from the likes of All Saints, Craig David and even Fragma are likely to go down as enduring pop classics. Yet none of them can hold a candle to the likes of Barbie Girl, My Heart Will Go On, It's Like That, Believe or Never Ever in terms of their long-term impact on the public and their ability to tap into a market beyond the usual core of record buyers. Pop music needs records like that if it is to continue to mean something to the world at large. Such a record could be released next week, or even next month. I just hope it is soon.
10 TAKEN FOR GRANTED (Sia)
"A slightly disgruntled hip-hop anthem" is how the lady herself describes the single... Anthem it certainly is, the debut single from Sia glides subtly over the synthesised hook from Prokofiev's Romeo And Juliet as she complains about being repeatedly stood up and ignored by her man. Think Lauryn Hill with PMS and you have this single in a nutshell. [But check out the video. She's showing her face! And Maddie Ziegler hasn't been born yet.]
11 I DON'T SMOKE (DJ Dee Kline)
2SG again - or two-step garage for the uninitiated. This long-awaited release veers from some gentle acoustic guitar plucking to a main rhythm that features the kind of distorted bass that you could expect to hear on many early 90s rave tracks. File it under 'weird and wonderful', wonder where the sampled dialogue is from and move on...
15 LEGAL MAN (Belle & Sebastian)
It is funny, but the Scottish duo [well, that's a debate for another forum] are probably best known for their somewhat shocking netting of the Best Newcomer award at the 1999 Brits rather than for any of their hit singles. That might be largely because they have hardly had any. To date their only Top 40 hit has been in late 1997 when A Century Of Fakers made Number 32. It is not that they haven't been releasing singles but they have all either been limited releases or in the form of four track EPs which don't count for a place on the main singles charts. As such this new single seems almost like a comeback even though it isn't. What it certainly is, is their biggest ever hit single. Now then, do you know anyone who actually voted for them at the Brits the year before last?
19 PUMPIN' (Novy vs. Eniac)
Now here's a thing, a German dance track in this day and age that isn't a trance single. Nope, instead this is continental house at its most tedious, this track having been promoed to clubs as far back as last March. It is finally given a commercial release and marks a second chart single for Novy vs. Eniac, the duo having reached Number 32 in May 1998 with the single Superstar. I would say more but I've had to listen to far too many bad dance records in order to get a grip on this week's chart and a man can only take so much...
25 MAKE ME BAD (Korn)
You can't fault them for consistency. US Rockers Korn make their second Top 40 appearance of the year with this trademark wall of noise which lands just one place below the peak of Falling Away From Me which charted in February. As I said back then, few acts can rival Korn for the way their singles all land in similar positions. This is their seventh Top 40 single, all of which have charted between 22 and 26.
32 KID 2000 (Hybrid featuring Chrissie Hynde)
The current trend for dance records made out of the most obscure sources possible continues with what some people may regard as its zenith. This much talked about single sees none other than Chrissie Hynde give her blessing and new vocals to a high speed trance reworking of the Pretenders' 1979 hit single. All I can say is that she must have needed the money as a less worthy dance remake you would be hard pressed to find, even if the single actually manages to beat the peak of the original by one place. Still the collaboration has been taken a step further, Hybrid actually joining her onstage on the festival circuit. This single marks the first Top 40 appearance for Hybrid who had two minor chart singles last year. Funnily enough this isn't the first time Chrissie Hynde has taken a step into the world of dance music, her vocals gracing Moodswings' reworking of State Of Independence which staggered to Number 47 in 1993, two years after it was recorded.
33 SUMMER MOVED ON (A-Ha)
It was late 1985 when A-Ha first became superstars. The three Norwegians became sensations once their first single Take On Me finally became a hit on its third release. For the next two years they were easily the most popular pop act around and significantly the first ever European act to achieve heartthrob status in this country. Their peak years ended in 1988 but Morten Harket still retained a certain iconic status and this helped them in a series of mini-comebacks, the last of which came in 1994 when the single Shapes That Go Together made Number 27. Six years later they are back with a suitably epic sounding single. The sophisticated pop sensibilities that turned them into 80s superstars are still there but their more 'mature' sound coupled with the fact that times have changed somewhat means that they are likely to remain something of a passing novelty. There is nothing to stop faded 80s superstars resurrecting their career out of nowhere as Duran Duran proved in 1993... Summer Moved On isn't the song that is going to do it for A-Ha I'm afraid.
39 WHAT'S YOUR NAME (Angel Lee)
Not every 2SG single is destined to be a smash hit it seems. Not even Garage remixes from the likes of MJ Cole and Artful Dodger can help this track do anything more than sneak briefly into the lower end of the Top 40. It's a shame really as this is probably a far worthier candidate for a Top 10 hit than massacres of old Stevie Wonder songs. Maybe it is something to do with the fact that the radio mix of the song is rather dull and samey and it is only the garage treatments of the track that bring it to life.
40 DON'T WANNA LET YOU GO (Five)
Those of you who pay attention to the less salubrious end of the Top 75 will have noticed a growing trend this year for older singles coming to the end of their chart life to suddenly get second wind and either rebound back up the chart or in some cases return from the wilderness for another 2-3 week run in the lower reaches. Explaining just why this is happening is the hard part. Sales from Number 60 downwards tend to be small enough for any small flurry of interest in a record to dramatically affect its position. My own favourite theory is that certain record chains (which is journalistic shorthand for "I don't know which ones") have taken to aggressively marketing discounted batches of old singles in an attempt to clear older stock - with the result that the singles experience something of a chart resurgence.
Few of these singles, however, have experienced the bizarre chart pattern of this hit from Five. Originally released in March, Don't Wanna Let You Go hit Number 9 before embarking on a downward slide. It spent just four weeks inside the Top 40 first time round, slipping out in early April. Two weeks later it was back, sneaking in at Number 39 for the chart dated April 29th. Following that the single fell rapidly, falling as far as Number 74 a fortnight ago. Last week, however, the single rebounded to Number 55 and this week returns to the Top 40 for the third time and for the first time in five weeks. I will quite freely hold my hand up and say I cannot recall the last single to reach the Top 40 three times during the same chart run. Doubtless, somebody reading this can. Don't Wanna Let You Go was actually Five's lowest charting single for two and a half years but is now turning out to be one of their more enduring releases. The single has now spent 12 weeks on the Top 75, better than all their singles to date save for Got The Feelin' which managed 13 weeks and their last single Keep On Movin' which finally fell off the chart in February after 17 weeks. Funnily enough Five have recently been making headlines thanks to the way singer Richie dumped longtime girlfriend Billie Piper just before the release of her new album. It gives the single a wonderfully ironic ring don't you think?