This week's Official UK Singles Chart
[Permit me here a tiny moment of self-indulgence as this was one of two charts that I appeared on television to talk about, the Zero 30 show on what was then BBC News 24 finally calling me up after months of using my columns for their own weekly chart rundown].
1 BOUND 4 DA RELOAD (CASUALTY) (Oxide & Neutrino)
Those with only a passing interest in all things dance may well raise their eyebrows at the state of the top end of the chart but trust me the appearance of this single at the top of the chart comes as little surprise this week. The all-encompassing touch of UK Garage rears its head once more, albeit in a rather more frantic, heavier form that those in the know prefer to refer to as Speed Garage to distingish it from the rather sweeter, gentler tones of the likes of Craig David and Sweet Female Attitude. Oxide and Neutrino are both just 17 years old and made the record out of their own pockets, going as far as to make a white label pressing and releasing it independently at the back end of last year. Reportedly over 10,000 copies were sold and it prompted a minor bidding war amongst established labels to snap up the commercial rights to the track. East West won the auction and their investment has been rewarded with a massive Number One single. Much of the tracks appeal centres around its sampling of the intense theme music from Casualty, the smash hit TV show of whom recent chart hitmaker Rebecca Wheatley is a cast member. So bemusing though it may seem Oxide and Neutrino become far and away the youngest chart-topping dance producers ever. Surely they can be no match for Britney...
2 TOCA'S MIRACLE (Fragma)
The success of Bound 4 Da Reload means that despite still selling strongly, Toca's Miracle slides down one place. Of course as many people took the time to mail and tell me last week, the single is the third this year to spend a fortnight at the top, Rise and Pure Shores being the other two. It should be noted that working from January 1st, the first four months of this year saw 13 different singles occupying the Number One slot which means the turnover of 2000 has kept exactly the same pace as in 1999, each Number One single spending an average of 1.31 weeks at the top. Does this indicate that oft-mentioned speeding up of the chart has peaked? Or is this the calm before the storm, remembering of course that by the end of 1999 the average length of time at the top had risen to 1.47 weeks. We await the year's first three week resident with some interest.
4 THE BAD TOUCH (Bloodhound Gang)
Despite a number of big new releases, several older singles are displaying more than their fair share of staying power at the top end of the chart. Bearing in mind that the position of a big new entry after its third week is a fair indication of its crossover status it is worth noting that Craig David's Fill Me In is now four weeks old and still inside the Top 3 whilst the Bloodhound Gang actually manage to turn their fortunes around. The single entered at Number 5 three weeks ago, held that place the following week before slipping to Number 7 last week. Now the single goes on the yo-yo, leaping three places to occupy its highest position to date. The appeal of doing it like they do on the Discovery Channel knows no bounds clearly.
6 CANDY (Mandy Moore)
So the second biggest new hit of the week has to settle for a place just outside the Top 5. Making her chart debut this week, Mandy Moore is of course yet another immaculately groomed American teenager dancing nicely on the lighter side of pop music. Beyond that how on earth can you comment? Yes the single is a not unmusical piece of R&B pop and she smoulders enough on the cover of the single to ensure she has a career in being poster-fodder ahead of her but aside from this there is little in the way of spectacle here. Never mind, next week the undisputed Queen of American jailbait returns to show how it should be done whilst the stage is also being prepared for the triumphant return of a chirpy British girl whose initial chart success actually predated Britney and Christina et al.
10 CRAZY LOVE (MJ Cole)
Whilst all of us in the mainstream got excited about the way Garage made its commercial breakthrough in 1999 with the likes of Shanks & Bigfoot topping the chart, most people passed over the memory of one other equally groundbreaking single. Sincere was the track, produced by Matt Coleman under the alias of MJ Cole and it sneaked to Number 38 as long ago as May 1998. Since then Coleman's reputation has been enhanced by his remix work on singles by the likes of TLC and Another Level whilst Sincere also made an appearance on the plethora of bandwaggon-hopping Garage compilations that were released at the start of this year. Therefore it is only appropriate that the MJ Cole persona is given another airing, this time on a far bigger hit single. Crazy Love is the result, a track that is as gentle and commercial as Garage is ever likely to get. Elisabeth Troy provides the vocal on a record that is probably at home on the stereo in a wine bar as it is in a club.
11 PER SEMPRE AMORE (Lolly)
Well she won't be the biggest name ever to appear on a live Dotmusic chat but it made for enlightning reading didn't it? I especially liked the way she was more than cagey about her real name although why she should be shy about being called Anna Kumble is beyond me. Or maybe it isn't. Anyway, gentle knocking aside this is the fourth single from the enormously-braided bubblegummer, the followup to the rather sweet Big Boys Don't Cry which made Number 10 just before Christmas. Per Sempre Amore sneaks in just one place lower to make it her first single to miss the Top 10 altogether, a shame in a way as the song is every bit a fun party tune as previous offerings. Having said that the song is probably stronger than her high-pitched rendition suggests and that may be part of the problem. The character of Lolly was created as a concept that could be marketed to very young children and tracks such as Viva La Radio and Mickey worked that image to perfection. Per Sempre Amore is clearly supposed to be a pop rendition of a cool Latin track along the same lines as Mi Chico Latino but somehow you suspect that it would have worked better being performed by the undoubtedly talented Anna Kumble herself. Not Lolly.
12 THE BEST IS YET TO COME (Scooch)
It seems so unfair to go on referring to Scooch as Steps-lite but at the end of the day that is quite unashmedly what they are and in truth they sound fantastic for it. Chart-wise the foursome appear to blow hot and cold, hitting Number 29 with their debut When My Baby last November and then charging to Number 5 with More Than I Needed To Know in January this year. This third single then falls between the two extremes, tucking in nicely just outside the Top 10. Not bad, but you could have been forgiven for expecting this piece of euro-friendly pop to land safely inside the 10. Maybe the inclusion of their version of Maybe Tomorrow (aka the theme from The Littlest Hobo and the NatWest TV ads) was an idea more naff than inspired. [I know I keep embedding Scooch videos, but they were my favourite pop group of the era, and this track is the one which proves Natalie Powers was the best singer ever to be stranded as part of a second division bubblegum group].
16 BIG GIRL (Precocious Brats featuring Kevin & Perry)
Comedian Harry Enfield is no stranger to the charts. He made Number 4 in May 1988 in the guise of his character Loadsamoney, a single which is now notorious for being one of the first ever production successes for some chap called Orbit. His return to the singles chart after 12 years is prompted by the new film Kevin And Perry Go Large, starring Enfield as Kevin the teenager alongside his mate Perry (played by Kathy Burke). For the theme another famous name in dance music has been recruited in the shape of Judge Jules who has knocked together this cod-Ibiza anthem featuring dialogue samples and a curious mixture of guitars and organs. Knowing that this is theme to a comedy film set in Ibiza is more or less an essential part of the record as Big Girl is quite possibly meant to be heard with tongue in cheek (if that isn't a mixed metaphor too far), Judge Jules having drawn on every cliche in the dance producers manual to quite marvellous effect.
19 CRY (System F)
13 months after Out Of The Blue made Number 14 the second System F single arrives on the chart, sneaking its way into the Top 20. Needless to say that 'System F' is just one of the many chart guises for Ferry Corsten, guises that also include Veracocha (Carte Blanche) and Gouryella (Walhalla and Gouryella).
24 DIRGE (Death In Vegas)
You see there is such a thing as an uncommercial track from a Levis advert. Flat Eric and his sta-press shirts are no more you see, this year everyone is supposed to be into twisted seam jeans which have come complete with their own 'twisted' advertising campaign. The rather intense music from the adverts was made by Death In Vegas and this is it, Dirge hitting the chart as the followup to the Iggy Pop-voiced Aisha which made Number 9 back in February. Although not as big a hit single it is needless to say another gothic masterpiece from the boys and their die-hard fans will lap it up anyway. The haunted female vocal on the track is provided by Dot Allison, one time lead singer of One Dove and who tried unsuccessfully to launch her own solo career last year.
31 RAVEL'S PAVANE POUR UNE INFANTE DEFUNTE (William Orbit)
Go on, you thought Pieces In A Modern Style was a concept that was only going to stretch to one hit single didn't you? The Top 5 and long-running chart success of Barber's Adagio For Strings has prompted the release of another track from William Orbit's album of synthesised classical pieces. Maurice Ravel's most famous composition is of course Bolero, made famous by Torvill and Dean at the 1984 olympics. Orbit however has eschewed the over-familiar and gone for Pavane Pour Une Infante Defunte (literally, dance for a deceased child). Originally written as a piece for a solo piano, the music was later orchestrated and it is from this score that Orbit's version is taken. Of course in its standard form the gentle piece of music doesn't have much in the way of club appeal and so the single is bolstered by a series of remixes, no less a figure than Ferry Corsten working the magic on the most popular of these, in much the same way that he did on Adagio...
35 DEADLINE (Dutch Force)
Oh alright, I take it back already. Trance isn't dead, it just charts lower down these days. Deadline is another 4 minutes of synthesiser wizardry, dreaming female vocals and a gorgeous atmosphere. Absolutely nothing wrong with it, but for the fact that the number of people prepared to fork out for these identikit singles does indeed appear to be diminishing.
39 VIBRANT THING (Q-Tip)
Hmm, this is a bit of a comedown, the former Tribe Called Quest frontman reached Number 12 with Breathe And Stop back in February but is unable to repeat the feat for this second solo release, the stripped to the bones rap of Vibrant Thing barely scraping a place inside the Top 40. So that's it for this week. Doesn't the chart seem quiet with "only" 11 new entries to the Top 40? Never mind, my red catsuit is almost back from the cleaners... see you for next week's Britney-fest.