[Another exciting find, because this article was missing for the longest time due to a lack of archving ability on my part. Grateful thanks them to reader Andrzej Gilek who came up trumps with a copy of the missing text].
We can talk all we want about "trends" and "predictability" but for my money one of the most wonderful things about the singles chart is that it can go off and do the exact opposite of what we are all expecting. Just when we start assuming that every single will enter the charts at Number One a record such as Cha Cha Slide will turn around and actually climb up. Similarly just as I spent most of the last year banging on about how a slippage in sales has led to a slowdown in the amount of movement at the top end of the sales listings, we end up with a rate of turnover to equal some of the worst excesses of the turn of the decade.
Don't believe me? Well, check this out. Cha Cha Slide's' week of glory turns out to be little more than that as the dance track is dumped from the top spot by another brand new Number One single. Usher's Yeah is the sixth new Number One single in as many weeks, the fastest rate of turnover since May 2002. On the brighter side, the single has also contributed to the reversal of the rather more worrying trend of low selling Number One singles. Yeah is now the fourth track this year to sell over 100,000 copies in a week - this compared with just one that had made it into six figures by this time last year.
Onto the record itself and the synth-heavy R&B track marks yet another spectacular comeback in the career of Usher. His first came in 2001 when after three years away he stormed the charts with a string of big hit singles - most memorably, of course, Pop Ya Collar which hit Number 2 in February of that year. His last chart hit came in August 2002 when he guested on P Diddy's I Need A Girl, since when he has been cloistered away preparing to dazzle with a brand new album. Yeah is his second Number One hit single, the first coming way, way back in 1998 when You Make Me Wanna stormed to the top - indeed for many years it remained his only big hit in this country, a situation only changed by the run of singles from his 8701 album three years ago. Entertainingly he is the third act this year to have a Number One single after a break of 4-5 years. U2 kicked it off (sort of) by being part of LMC's Take Me To The Clouds Above, thus breaking a four-year dry spell, followed a few weeks ago by Peter Andre who took Mysterious Girl to the top over seven years since his last chart-topper. Usher has been pushing six years since he last made it to the summit and his presence there is in truth a very welcome sight indeed.
As in most weeks, there is, of course, an unlucky loser this week and that particular mantle is worn here by Will Young. The former Pop Idol winner is in white-hot form at the moment thanks to the rapturous welcome granted to his last single Leave Right Now which topped the chart for two weeks back in December. The single went a long way towards proving that he was no TV-generated flash in the pan but an artist with considerable long-term potential. Anyone left with any doubts should really take a listen to this new hit. Will Young doesn't just do ballads you see. His Number One rendition of the Jose Feliciano arrangement of Light My Fire proved that in spades back in 2002. Now with Your Game he has gone down the smoky jazz route again albeit this time at a more mid-tempo pace. A long way removed from your average pop record, Your Game slots nicely into the Top 3 although oddly enough this will make it his smallest hit to date, his previous five hits all reaching either 1 or 2 on the charts. The whole Pop Idol/Stars franchise would have been set to be confined to history as a television curiosity but for the fact that in Will Young it spawned an artist of genuine calibre - as demonstrated wonderfully by Your Game.
In what is otherwise a sparse week for big new hits it is good to see one act getting what is, in all honesty, a long deserved Top 10 breakthrough. N*E*R*D are of course the performing alter-egos of the Neptunes but despite their occasional concert dates being a must-see their attempts at having chart hits have often flattered to disappoint. To date the pair have had three chart hits together - Lapdance hitting Number 33 in June 2001, Rock Star going to Number 15 in August 2002 and Provider making it to Number 20 in March 2003. As a solo performer, Pharrell Williams has had a better strike rate of hits, going to Number 6 last summer in partnership with Jay-Z on Frontin and last appearing on the singles chart just a few weeks ago on the 'Show Me Your Soul' collaboration which made Number 35. Therefore She Wants To Move can quite fairly be regarded as a breakthrough for N*E*R*D, taking them into the Top 10 as performers together for the first time ever. Of course with Williams and Hugo having effectively shaped the sound of US pop music for most of the last few years it seems a little unfair to define them in terms of the chart success of their own side projects but if they carried on creating smashes for other people and struggling themselves as performers it would have seemed a little out of place.
On the face of it, Nelly Furtado's continuing chart success seems almost bizarre. There have been plenty of kooky female singer-songwriters who have had a stab a stardom but few ever seem to last more than just a hit or two. Nelly is different and that is actually something of a joy. Her first hit came in March 2001 when I'm Like A Bird hit Number 5. If that had been a one-off there would have been few people surprised. Nice though it was it was light and fluffy but it helped the album into the Top 10 and the record company will have been satisfied. Therefore it was a nice surprise to see that the followup, the biting Turn Off The Light, was not only a far more memorable track but a bigger hit to boot, going to Number 4 later that same year. Then she vanished to make babies and write more songs, emerging at the dangerous time of Christmas last year with a brand new hit single. Powerless (Say What You Want) was possibly hampered a little by being released in the run-up to the holidays and was swamped by far more high profile hits. Nonetheless, it made a strong debut at Number 13 and swiftly found a home on mainstream commercial radio where it has been a playlist staple pretty much ever since. Time then for the followup and, well, you can tickle me slightly underwhelmed. Try moves back to the pretty balladry of I'm Like A Bird. It isn't bad but rather frustrating when you consider we know she is capable of so much more. As a choice of single, it sounds like a cop-out more than anything else. Few will be disappointed with this Number 15 placing and the album continues to do well but if bigger hits were the aim then this was the wrong way to go.
Following on from his debut single Bring It On, Fame Academy runner-up Alistair Griffin becomes the first artist to release two singles in 2004 and gets himself a second Top 20 hit with You And Me (Tonight). I would not be too surprised of course to see that this is his last, bearing in mind the form showed by most of his fellow contestants who generally have around two hits and then vanish. Once more there isn't anything particularly bad about this piano-led track and with the amount of coaching the TV contestants had during their stay in the Academy you would expect the performance to be at least halfway competent, but if you like your pop music to contain a spark of inspiration and magic then Alistair Griffin is little more than a man coming to the end of his 15 minutes. Not everything from Fame Academy has been a total disaster of course. I'd be shocked if David Sneddon didn't end up as a songwriter of Cathy Dennis-level fame, the jury is still out on Alex Parks and Lemar seems to get better with every hit single. I still maintain however that someone dropped the ball badly with Ainslie Henderson.
Number 19 on the chart this week is where it gets really interesting. Katie Melua is without a doubt one of the breakout stars of the year. A young performer whose talent is apparent from the moment she opens her voice, she has been the sensation of the spring and has sold thousands of records. Or at least she has sold thousands of albums. Despite much talk that the singles chart is less of a priority etc. she won't truly be considered a legitimate mainstream star until she has a major singles chart hit. It isn't that MOR female stars can't shift both formats in significant numbers - Dido, of course, is the perfect example of this - so it was with much hope that the title track from the album Call Off The Search was released this week. As you would expect from "the British Norah Jones" the single is in turn both magical and inspiring and a worthy successor to The Closest Thing To Crazy but instead of following in its footsteps and landing inside the Top 10 (or even just missing it as fellow albums star Jamie Cullum did last week) the single nervously tiptoes inside the Top 20.
Just for a change though this is only half the story. Her last single is continuing to sell as well. We've already tracked the success of The Closest Thing To Crazy as it entered the chart at Number 10 just before Christmas, meandered down the listings and then rebounded back into the Top 20 a month ago as sales of the album took off and Meluah began to make headlines. Since then the single has gone 15-16-19-21-31 but now astoundingly turns and rebounds for the second time its chart career, landing at Number 23 this week and giving Katie Melua two singles within four places of each other. It isn't that followup singles don't sometimes reignite interest in their predecessors but for this to happen to something that was at best a mid-table chart hit and one which had already sold fairly steadily for the last four months is unusual to say the least. It isn't too great a leap to wonder if some of the sales of Closest Thing To Crazy were made in error, people buying "the Katie Melua single" and picking up the wrong one. I've bashed record company strategy in deleting a long-running hit to make way for a newer one in the past but you cannot help but wonder where Call Off The Search would have landed had it been the only Katie Melua single on the shelves.
OK then, time to move along to the lower end of the chart, stopping briefly at Number 28 to welcome The Killers who are pegged by those in the know as the big rock act of 2004. Whilst not as high camp as the Darkness, they do take a leaf out of their book by realising that old school rock doesn't have to be naff and so Somebody Told Me is a full on metal wig out complete with 80s-era synthesiser lines. What it makes for is a terrifically entertaining track. Roll on the summer rock festivals.
At Number 33 are Kraftwerk, hitting the charts on the back of a series of live dates recently. Aerodynamik is the second chart hit in recent months for the German synthesiser veterans, following up the Top 20 reworking of Tour De France that they released in July last year. Just below them is Mark Joseph with his third hit single and one which shows he has yet to realise any of the enormous potential he was first credited with. Joseph, you may remember made headlines a year ago when he landed a Top 40 hit with Get Through which was entirely self-financed. A deal with Virgin records led to a second single Fly which hit Number 28 and there were high hopes for Bringing Back Those Memories - just check out his website which talks in glowing terms of a potential Top 10 hit. It is a shame he remains such an unknown as he does indeed possess a great deal of talent.
Finally, we move from an act who really should be on his way up to a band who appear to be on the way down - at least for the moment. Nickelback looked to be on form with their new album when its first single Someday had a successful foray into the Top 10 back in September. This new single has all the trademark intensity without any of the same kind of sales. Maybe another movie theme is needed...