All change this week then, and in quite a spectacular style too with last weeks Top 3 all maintaining their order and shifting down three places to accommodate three massive new hit singles.
Leading the pack by some distance is, well, another stroke of genius to be honest. As we all know, rapper Nelly had his greatest chart success at the tail end of 2002 when he teamed up with Kelly Rowland on the mellow love ballad Dilemma. The track topped the charts, made his co-singer a solo star for a brief period and made the man himself a bona fide hot property in the mainstream, despite the fact that he had been clocking up Top 10 hits for two years prior to that. Following it up wasn't quite so easy though. For all the hype surrounding yet another superstar collaboration, the Justin Timberlake duet Work It charted at a surprising Number 7, the P Diddy collaboration Shake Ya Tailfeather was in at Number 10 and out just as quickly and then to cap it all last Christmas he suffered his smallest hit ever when Iz U bombed out at Number 36. Just where could he go from there?
The answer was to go back to the style of his biggest hit single. My Place is effectively Dilemma retrodden, a sweet rap ballad featuring a female co-singer. The result is an equally irresistible track that sounded a smash hit from the word go. It gives him a second Number One hit single and helps him to become (P Diddy's credit on I Don't Wanna Know notwithstanding) the first rap artist to top the charts since Fatman Scoop almost 12 months ago. Nelly's latest album release is, in fact, two, the star taking a leaf out of Guns N' Roses and Bruce Springsteen's books by releasing two albums simultaneously. My Place is taken from Sui' whilst its double a-side is the Neptunes-produced Flap Your Wings which is lifted from its twin long player Sweat.
Sliding into second place this week is hot new soul discovery JoJo. Her marketing twist is that she is just 14 years old, her talent coming to the fore via TV talent shows back home in America [America's Most Talented Kids was the show in question] which led to a record deal despite her startlingly tender age. For all that she has the talent to back up the hype with a voice that belongs in a body ten years older. Leave (Get Out) is a fine debut and a worthy new entry - and she was just one step away from becoming one of the youngest females ever to top the charts.
At Number 3 is Twista, the machine gun speed rapper clocking up a third hit single of the year. Sunshine matches easily the peak of his debut single Slow Jamz - thanks, I suspect to the appeal of the song on which it is based. The track borrows heavily from Bill Withers' soul classic Lovely Day which has been a hit twice over in this country, hitting Number 7 first time out in 1978 before climbing to Number 4 when released in remixed form ten years later. Just for a change, the Twista track is one of those which is worthy of sampling such an accepted classic. Consider this a respectful rather than lazy reworking.
Number 7 marks a welcome chart return for West Yorkshire's finest Embrace. The group made their name in the late 90s with a string of anthemic scarf-waving hits such as Come Back To What You Know and You're Not Alone, the hits gradually drying up a few years ago when the formula began to get a little tired. This dramatic return to form is almost certainly due to the superstar power behind their brand new single, as has been well documented Gravity is co-written by no less a figure than Chris Martin of Coldplay. The result is the groups first Top 10 hit for over six years and a track which at a stroke becomes the second biggest of their career. Of all their previous 11 hits, only the aforementioned Come Back To What You Know in early 1998 charted higher, the single hitting Number 6.
Now to the record at Number 8 and the worrying sound of a cute idea being done to death. I suppose it was inevitable given the unprecedented success of Frankee's FURB that someone else would attempt to come up with an answer record to a popular hit single. So it is that Mario Winans' I Don't Wanna Know (itself the track that ended the run of the Eamon/Frankee saga at the top of the charts) gets the role reversal treatment in the shape of You Already Know. Basically, you don't need to hear the record to know what it sounds like and without the novelty value such an idea had at the start of the summer, the record can only make Number 7 - although this is still a credible position for a record that is basically someone else's idea. The single is perhaps most notable for having the most convoluted set of credits of the year. The Pirates produced the track so they get a billing. Fallen Brit star Shola Ama gets her first Top 10 credit in five years alongside Naila Boss (last heard on 2Play's It Can't Be Right back in May. Note also that Enya's publishers have also pushed for the singer to be given a co-credit on the track, just as they did with the Winans original thanks to her track Song For Bodecia being raided for the key sample on both records. As for Mario Winans himself, he follows up his Number One hit with an entry at Number 44 this week. Ah well, you can't win them all.
The parade of new entries just keeps on coming with the great Paul Weller going two places better than he did back in June with The Bottle and hitting Number 11 with Wishing On A Star, the second single from his covers album Studio 150. This time his choice of cover is a rather more famous track, the soul classic having originally been recorded by Rose Royce, their version hitting Number 3 in early 1978. Weller's startlingly good remake is actually no less than the sixth version of the track to hit the charts, the song having been covered by the likes of Fresh 4, Cover Girls, 88.3 and most recently by Jay-Z who had the help of original Rose Royce singer Gwen Dickey on his version which reached Number 13 in February 1998. Believe it or not, this means that more versions of Wishing On Star have charted than versions of Yesterday - famously the most recorded song of all time.
Number 12 marks the return to the chart of Darren Hayes, the former Savage Garden lead singer here with his first chart hit since Crush (1980 Me) hit Number 19 in February 2003. Hayes seems to be one of those artists with a fanatic fan following who worship his every move regardless of the banality and quality of his releases. All I have to do is give the track a remotely lukewarm review and watch the hate mail flood in. I'm ready for it.
Moving down the Top 20 we find Armand Van Helden at Number 15 with My My My, a better performing follow-up to his last hit Hear My Name which made a derisory Number 34 back in May. Just below him is Kanye West whose star appears to be dimming somewhat after he started the year as the greatest thing to hit rap in a generation (well not quite but you get the idea). Still, he won't be whining too much after appearing on three Top 10 hits already this year (including two at once when his own All Falls Down appeared alongside his contribution to Brandy's Talk About Our Love both back in June). All this on top of his work producing Twista as well...
Just below the Sugababes at Number 17 (who we missed talking about last week - oops) come The Killers, following up their Top 10 breakthrough Mr Brightside from back in June. One step below at Number 19 are The Prodigy who have been testing the patience of their fans somewhat by turning a five-year wait for a new album into a seven year one. Their July 2002 single Baby's Got A Temper was supposed to herald the release of their first album since 1997's The Fat Of The Land only for the group to decide their work just wasn't good enough. The long player Always Outnumbered Never Outgunned finally hit the shops two weeks ago and shot to the top of the charts, leaving this hit single Girls to be little more than an afterthought. Believe it or not, Number 19 will make it their smallest chart single ever.
The award for best underperforming single of the week though I think has to go to The Thrills who herald their forthcoming second album with the endearing single Whatever Happened to Cory Haim. One of those groups whom critics love but who have frustratingly failed to catch fire commercially, the Irishmen produce four-minute slices of Beach Boys-esque harmonies wrapped up with a wink and a smile. One Horse Town and Big Sur both went Top 20 last year and there will be a few tears shed tonight seeing this brand new single fail to see them hitting the chart heights and only enter at Number 22.
At Number 23 are Ultrabeat with what is only their third chart single Better Than Life, their big success coming of course in the summer of 2003 with Pretty Green Eyes. They must be sitting watching the success of O-Zone with rueful smiles on their faces. Finally the parade of new singles draws to a close with a new entry at Number 26 for Pop, the ironically titled Can't Say Goodbye probably ensuring they won't be releasing too many more singles and finally a solo debut for Shifty who has lost both the Shellshock from his name as well as former Crazy Town bandmates. This is effectively his fourth Top 40 hit single, Shifty having, of course, appeared on Crazy Town's two Top 40 hits Butterfly and Revolving Door in 2001 as well as Paul Oakenfold's Starry Eyed Surprise which hit Number 6 back in 2002.
Finally, before we wrap things up at the end of a very busy week it is appropriate to at least acknowledge the first ever official download chart which was unveiled last week. Despite my constant rantings that integrating the means by which many people are actually consuming music into the singles chart proper should happen sooner rather than later, the D/L listing proved that for the moment online purchases need to exist in their own separate bubble, if only until stunts such as Westlife releasing a live version of a five-year-old song as an online exclusive cease to have any meaningful impact. Mind you, just imagine how things would look if Maroon 5's obvious online popularity was combined with the number of physical singles they have managed to sell already this year.