This week's Official UK Singles Chart
So go on then, hands up who was surprised? Early reports indicated that two records were in contention to replace Madonna at Number One this week, those same early reports suggesting that one particular track held a lead over the other. As it turns out it was a lead that simply could not be sustained.
Thus the winners in this particular chart battle, and winners by a larger margin than many were expecting, are the Pussycat Dolls who open their chart account with two consecutive Number One hits, new single Stickwitu stepping nicely into the shoes of first single Don't Cha (which is still selling strongly and this week merely dips 12-17 on its 13th week on release). This is enough to make them the first American group to have two Number One hits in the same calendar year since the Fugees did a double back in 1996 (although honourable mention must go to Destiny's Child who had two chart-toppers within a 12 month period in 2000 and 2001). That's the good news. The bad news comes if you haven't actually heard the new single yet. Now Don't Cha had its critics (I was one of them) but it certainly had its merits, a slinky yet infectious slice of stripped down R&B and funk bolstered by Busta Rhymes' rap with effortlessly dovetailed with the main melody. After repeated listens it was hard not to conclude that it was damn good. In an ordinary world, the Pussycat Dolls would have followed it up with something similar, just to hammer home what their music was all about. Sadly for us their primary market is, of course, America so they simply had to go with what would sell the best. Thus Stickwitu is like being drowned in a sugar avalanche, the single a sickly sweet dose of Mariah Carey-esque balladry which suffers badly from the group being packed with girls chosen primarily for their looks rather than their singing talents. I'm breaking my own rules by rubbishing the Number One single here (plenty of people must like it after all) but I feel hard done by. Don't Cha made me expect something different, something intriguing or even maybe slightly novel. Instead, we get four minutes of insipid balladry. Doesn't anyone else feel slightly cheated here?
So what of the single that was first Number One but then ultimately wasn't. That happens to be Let There Be Love by Oasis which had it maintained its early week lead would have given the group three straight Number One hits for the first time in their career. Ah well, another Top 3 hit is nothing to be miserable about and this acoustic ballad is another fine addition to their songbook and further proof that Don't Believe The Truth is the first Oasis album for some years to have avoided being labelled "disappointing" by the end of its first year on release. Indeed their last two albums have now produced an impressive run of hits and Let There Be Love ranks as their sixth straight Top 3 single, a run stretching back to the release of The Hindu Times back in April 2002. The slow start they experienced to their chart career back in the 1990s means that they don't have a completely unblemished record of chart success but nonetheless they haven't missed the Top 5, never mind the Top 10 since the summer of 1994.
The third biggest hit of the week becomes the third Top 10 hit this year for Kelly Clarkson. Her legions of fans will perhaps be frustrated that even in this, her big breakthrough year in the UK, she still hasn't managed a Top 3 single, July's Since U Been Gone being her best performance to date, peaking at Number 5. Because it is simply that time of year, Because Of You is Kelly in full on power ballad mode - but before you shrug your shoulders and move on, consider that a strong ballad in the hands of someone who can actually tear the walls down with her singing voice is actually a joy to experience. The three biggest new hits of the week are all seasonally-inclined ballads. Sad in a way that the smallest one happens to be the best of them.
At Number 8 is the reminder that Pete Doherty also makes records in between his love/hate/love/hate/hate/hate/hate/love/love/hate relationship with both the press and Kate Moss. Albion is the third Top 10 single to be lifted from the Down In Albion album. If you've read or heard anything about Doherty you will be either of the opinion that he is a worthless junkie or a misunderstood musical genius. I doubt anything I can say will swing people one way or the other.
Rihanna just misses out on a place in the Top 10 this week, new single If It's Lovin' That You Want nipping in at Number 11 as the follow-up to the summertime smash Pon De Replay. Sadly the truth is that had it still been summer the new single would have been just as massive, a fun lilting breakbeat-ed calypso track filled with sunshine and happiness. Listening to it on a grey December morning just sounds completely wrong somehow.
Funnily enough, once place behind is a man who also had a big Number 2 hit back in September (two weeks after Rihanna in fact). Sean Paul has something of a pyromaniac theme going on here, following up We Be Burnin' (which is still selling, down at Number 33 this week) with Ever Blazin'. Sadly his chances of continuing the theme look slim as album The Trinity doesn't appear to contain any other long form tracks on a combustible theme - unless you count 'Temperature'.
The final new Top 20 hit of the week slides in at Number 18 in the shape of Area from the Futureheads. The Jam-alikes first hit the Top 10 back in March with Hounds Of Love, following up with a re-release of first single Decent Days And Nights in May which bizarrely matched the Number 26 peak of the original. Area is a brand new track, not available on their self-titled debut album which spawned their first singles. That actually makes this Number 18 entry point rather disappointing.
Still, if you want disappointing, then you just have to check out what has happened to three acts at the bottom end of the Top 40. Blink 182, having announced their parting of the ways at the start of the year watch what may well be their farewell single Not Now limp in at Number 30, Jamie Cullum finds that the purchasing power of Michael Parkinson's fans isn't enough to give him anything more than a Number 32 hit with Mind Trick whilst David Gray follows up the Number 8 hit The One I Love with Number 34 entry Hospital Food - although given he's sold a bazillion albums this year already he isn't exactly going to be crying into his presents this Christmas.