The reign of Eric Unspellablename comes to a glorious end as even the might of Call On Me is toppled by the biggest of a phenomenal list of new singles (12 new singles make the Top 20 alone) - and the first new material in two years for one of pop's greatest treasures. Robbie Williams may at times appear to be doing his utmost to alienate his own audience, writing tedious books about how tortured his life as a multimillionaire is for example, but somehow we still love him and flock to his every release. That said, Radio has to rank as his most "difficult" single for years. OK so this is from a man whose music is hard to pigeonhole but this is no Angels, Feel or even Rock DJ. Instead, Radio is a harshly produced electroclash pastiche which harks back to the early 1980s with the feel of an early Human League or Heaven 17 track. OK, there is a tune in there somewhere but you will struggle to find anything that you can sing along with here. At the end of the day, of course, it is hard to knock a Number One hit and the track soars to the top to finally give him a sixth solo chart-topper, his first since the Christmas 2001 duet with Nicole Kidman on Somethin' Stupid. The single heralds a Greatest Hits collection released nicely in time for Christmas so if you really hate it, just chalk it up as a one-off and hope that a new album in full is set to swiftly follow.
You know I'm glad Rachel Stevens managed to resurrect her chart career after the disasters of last year. It has meant that not only has she made one of the best singles of 2003 with Sweet Dreams My LA Ex but also has one of 2004's best singles to her name with her last hit Some Girls. This then is the follow-up, another of the new tracks grafted on to the Funkydory album to rescue it from the bargain bins. 'More More More' takes its inspiration from the 70s, a clunky cover of the disco classic by Andrea True Connection which first made Number 5 in 1976. Rachel Stevens' Top 3 version has been helped by its use by Sky Sports to promote their football coverage, resulting in the track having been all over the television in August a full two months before it finally hits the shops. OK, it isn't the best single of the week but is far from being the worst. I'm just disappointed the single doesn't repeat the trick of the full-length original which famously faded out and then back in again at the end, giving the impression the groove was going to go on forever. [That last sentence will have been swiftly deleted from the online version after everyone pointed out that it was Shame Shame Shame which faded in and out at the end].
Next up is a genuine oddity, a two-year record belatedly becoming a UK hit out of nowhere. Hip-hop star Khia had a brief flowering of fame in the States back in 2002 with an album Thug Misses and its controversial lead single My Neck My Back which recounted in explicit detail just how she wanted her man to pleasure her. A record almost guaranteed to be banned everywhere it pretty much was and the single and artist never even troubled the charts here, meaning we missed out on all the fun when rumours spread that she had been murdered by an angry boyfriend after she appeared to vanish after the release of the single. Better late than never the single finally finds its way into the UK charts more than two years after its original UK success. Why we had to wait this long for it or why it has stood more of a chance in 2004 than in 2002 is anyone's guess - but all good things come to those who wait and the track is the third biggest hit of the week and a genuine certifiable Top 5 smash.
If the Robbie Williams single harks back to a lost era of the 1980s, then one of the weeks other big hits is from an act who began their careers as part of that self-same era. 20 years ago Duran Duran were one of the biggest groups on the planet with a string of hit singles to their name on both sides of the Atlantic. Simon Le Bon was a pinup for a whole generation of teens and they had the world (and producers of James Bond films) at their feet. Nothing lasts forever in pop of course and after some personnel changes and some rather dodgy albums they vanished off the radar at the end of the 1980s, before making a spectacular and rather celebrated come back in 1993 with hit singles Ordinary World and Come Undone. All over again Duran Duran were one of the best bands in the world - or at least they must have believed it when making the 1995 album of cover versions which sank their chart prospects all over again.
Almost a decade on and is it possible they can do it all over again? (Reach Up For The) Sunrise is a step away from the mellow MOR pop of 1993 and back to the raucous, anthemic stuff of their youth, a single that would hardly have sounded out of place on classic albums such as Seven And The Ragged Tiger. Crucially it represents the first appearance in 19 years of the original lineup of the band, the famous five having set aside their differences and back as a unit for a new generation. Critical opinion appears to have been rather mixed and muted, to say the least (most writers I suspect rather snobbily deciding that the boys are really too old for this kind of thing). Well screw them, the single charges into the Top 10, their first to do so since Ordinary World in 1993 and by going Top 5 is astoundingly their biggest hit since the Bond theme alluded to earlier - A View To A Kill hitting Number 2 in the summer of 1985 and strangely enough the last single they released with the "classic" lineup. Strange to relate that in their entire career they only ever topped the charts twice - Is There Something I Should Know in 1983 and 'The Re-Flex' a year later.
Time now to add another member to that strange and exclusive club. Hitmakers who began their careers behind the scenes, penning songs for other artists before developing as a performer in their own right. The US has plenty of examples, from Kandi (writer of No Scrubs and There You Go and performer of her own Don't Think I'm Not) to Christina Milian (writer of hits for Jennifer Lopez and Ja Rule before launching her own solo career). Now there is a British performer to add to the list, Lucie Silvas. The 24-year-old has had her songs appear on albums by Rachel Stevens and Gareth Gates and has collected a tidy batch of royalties thanks to Liberty X's Jumpin'. Now the time is ripe for her to make her own mark on the music world and to hear her debut single you have to marvel that she has remained a secret for as long as she has. With a vocal range to rival the likes of Christina Aguilera, Lucie Silvas has star potential written all over her. Single What You're Made Of is an awesome piano ballad of the kind that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Imagine Dido with more glamour potential or Katie Melua without the grandma appeal or even Christina Aguilera without the piercings and you have Lucie Silvas.
Also new are Angel City with their third hit, this the follow-up to July's cover of Cathy Dennis' Touch Me which made Number 18. Like their past two hits, there is very little original about this release, this time around the track being a newly legitimised re-recording of a bootleg mash-up. The track began life as a BCD Project bootleg, mixing the music from Robert Miles' 1996 instrumental smash hit Children with the oddest of sources - Do You Know, a throwaway 1997 hit single for former soap actress Michelle Gayle. When the original samples could not be cleared the single remained a white label but Angel City took up the challenge and used regular singer Lara McAllen to re-record the vocal. The rather bouncy nature of the original vocal track would have sat awkwardly with Robert Miles' music so this new version is a rather more muted one, designed to properly convey the heartbreak of the singer. To these ears it still sounds rather odd and Children is really far too powerful to be messed around with in this manner. Still, can you argue with a Top 10 hit? It becomes Angel City's biggest hit single to date, beating the Number 11 peak of their debut Love Me Right (Oh Sheila) which hit the charts almost a year ago.
The parade of Top 10 new entries (a record equaling seven in total) comes to a close with a new entry for the aforementioned Christina Milian. Whatever U Want is hard on the heels of summertime smash hit Dip It Low which made Number 2 back in May. This new single features a guest vocal from Joe Budden, this his biggest hit since his own Pump It Up made Number 13 back in 2003. Budden is now the third artist to guest alongside Christina Milian. She opened her chart career starring on Ja Rule's Between Me And You and also guested on Romeo's 2002 hit It's All Gravy in 2002.
We drop out of the Top 10 now but the massive new hits don't stop there. At Number 11 is Brandy who will be frustrated at the way the numbers did not work out for her as she misses out by the narrowest of margins. The second single from her acclaimed album, 'Afrodisiac' is the follow-up to the Number 6 hit Talk About Our Love which hit the charts in June. All in all, it is her ninth Top 20 hit in a row, a run which stretches back to the release of The Boy Is Mine back in 1998.
Just below at Number 12 is the return to the chart of Good Charlotte, the US pop rockers who succeeded where so many of their contemporaries failed and became huge stars over here in 2003, giving us the original version of the stateside sound that Busted copied so successfully from a British point of view. Three Top 10 hits were their tally in 2003 and they open their account on a new album with yet another Top 10 single. Surprisingly Predictable is anything but, a step away from the more commercial sound of their debut. Gone for the moment are the pop choruses, to be replaced by a harder more alternative sound - effectively taking the band away from daytime Radio One and onto XFM. For the moment it hasn't done their singles chances too much harm although they too will regret missing out on a place in the Top 10. Time will tell as to whether this is a one off, both musically and commercially.
There are some songs that almost seem to have an irresistible draw. Artists from all genres flock to them like bees round a honeypot. Sometimes they are obvious (such as Yesterday) but just occasionally comes along a track which you would have thought was the last on the list of potential cover versions. Personal Jesus was written by Depeche Mode and was originally a Number 13 hit for the group in late 1989. It returned to the chart last year as one of the last singles recorded by C&W legend Johnny Cash. Part of a double a-side with a similarly eclectic cover of Nine Inch Nails' Hurt, the single crept to Number 39 in November last year following the sad death of the singer. Now less than 12 months later it is back once again in an astounding version by Marilyn Manson. The inspiration for Manson's version clearly comes from his 2002 cover of Tainted Love which gave him his biggest hit ever by reaching Number 5. Personal Jesus doesn't quite manage the same impact (although in a quieter week than this it may have stood a chance) but does at least give him what is only the fifth Top 20 hit of his career, nicely matching the peak of Mobscene which was the follow-up to Tainted Love last year.
At Number 15 is Free, the second single from hot new talent Estelle. Much praise was lavished on her debut single 1980 when it was released back in July although the track underperformed slightly by only making Number 14. The failure of this track to do much better will be a source of some frustration to many but she has the backing of her label and a great deal of goodwill from elsewhere. This won't kill her off by any means. [This was randomly and briefly resurrected ten years later thanks to James Corden using it in a lip-synced ad for chocolate bars. And which is actually more entertaining than the original video].
Sadly just below is a single that probably deserved to be throttled at birth. DJ Casper follows up the Number One smash hit Cha Cha Slide (which seems like an eternity ago even though the single only hit the charts back in March) with a badly advised cover of a 1980s classic. Oops Upside Your Head is one of those enduring party classics which will never go out of fashion. Nobody but nobody has been to a teen disco, Christmas party or wedding reception without the DJ banging it on and encouraging everyone to line up on the floor and row back and forth to the track. Originally released in 1980, the single reached Number 6, reappearing seven years later in a rather unnecessary remixed version which limped to Number 20. Now the Gap Band themselves have collaborated with DJ Casper on this new version which has to rank as the biggest waste of the planet's resources going. I mean come on, everyone knows the original, everyone still loves the original. The whole point of covering tracks is to add something new to it or to pay tribute to a classic. The Marilyn Manson record is a great example of a cover version that does something worthwhile to a song and adds a whole new spin on it. DJ Casper's record, on the other hand, is a lazy excuse to get performance fees out of someone else's work rather than coming up with something genuinely new and original. The daft thing is that Cha Cha Slide stands a good chance of being a party stalwart for a good few years. Nobody is going to play his new single beyond next week, trust me on that one.
With all of that said, we still have only dealt with the Top 20. Five more singles enter the chart in the bottom half, although most notable of all is the single at Number 27 which once again proves the old saying that you are only as good as your last hit. Just a few short months ago Eamon was the hottest R&B star on the block, with a smash Number One single based around a few sweary words. Fast forward to today and his second single Love Them makes an almost apologetic appearance on the chart. Seeya Eamon, wear that one hit wonder tag with pride won't you.
Also creeping into the bottom are two musical contemporaries of Good Charlotte who for one reason or another have not quite managed the same level of success over here. At Number 35 with the nostalgic 1985 (surely a companion track to Estelle's 1980) are Bowling For Soup, this only their second Top 40 hit after Girl All The Bad Guys Want which hit Number 8 in August 2002. Just below at Number 38 are Jimmy Eat World, Pain being their third Top 40 single after a brace of hits in 2002, the biggest of which was The Middle which hit Number 26 in February that year.