A titanic tussle at the top that lasted almost the entire week is eventually resolved in favour of the modern generation as for the third week running Elvis Presley is beaten to the top by someone of the current generation. For the second week running the Number One single is a track which has been doing good business online since the start of the year, Jennifer Lopez' Get Right having first hit the online stores back in January. If you want the honest truth this is actually one of her worst singles to date, a tuneless bump and grind track that manages the remarkable feat of failing totally to complement her singing voice. Nonetheless, it benefits from being her first new material in quite some time and becomes what is surprisingly only her second ever Number One single, her biggest hit since Love Don't Cost A Thing topped the charts back in 2001. Since then she has had no less than 8 other Top 5 singles but none which advanced past the Number 2 position.
Elvis single du semaine is Surrender which duly becomes his third Number 2 hit in a row. The track originally came out in May 1961 and quickly advanced to the top of the charts, giving him his fourth Number One hit in a row, far and away the best form of his entire career. The track was a retread of the formula that made It's Now Or Never such a success, an English language rewrite of an old Italian ballad - in this case, Torna A Sorrento written in 1911. These last few Elvis tracks are a neat illustration of just what a dire state pop music was in by the early 1960s with the one time King of cool reduced to performing 40-year-old songs in a manner that would not upset your grandparents. 1930s Jazz music had even made a comeback with the likes of the Temperance Seven and Acker Bilk clogging up the charts for weeks on end. It was into this gaping void of inspiration that the Beatles were to arrive a year later - but for the moment the painfully sanitised Elvis reigned supreme.
There is an especially warm welcome back to the chart this week for LL Cool J with his biggest hit single for quite some time. The veteran rapper can legitimately lay claim to being one of the genre's longest serving performers, his association with Def Jam records stretching back to the mid-1980s. His first hit single here was arguably the track for which he will always be remembered, the tender ballad I Need Love which hit Number 8 in October 1987 and showed the entire world that rap did not always have to be about ego and machismo. In chart terms his biggest hit single came in 1997 when in a slow sales week his rap retread of Rufus' Ain't Nobody spent a week at the top. His last Top 10 hit came back in October 2002 when Luv U Better (Steely Dan the inspiration this time) made a comfortable Number 7. So it is that the laid back groove of Hush gives him his biggest hit single for quite some time, only his second Top 3 hit ever and his best chart performance since that chart-topping week in the late 90s.
There is more rap to follow in the shape of the debut single from The Game, the latest West Coast sensation from the Dr Dre stable that has of course thus far spawned the likes of Eminem and 50 Cent (both of whom make attention grabbing cameos on his debut album 'Documentary'). This is of course where it falls down slightly as the end result is actually nothing we haven't heard before. Debut single How We Do is a case in point as it is actually a two headed duet with 50 Cent that for all the world might as well have walked off one of his own albums. Instead of demonstrating what a hot new talent he really is, The Game ends up as little more than a guest on his own record. OK, so I'm coming at this from the point of view from someone who isn't exactly deeply into hip-hop and at the very least the single serves as a nice counterpoint to the sanitised soul fusion of the LL Cool J track above. I've never been good at damning with faint praise but I'm happy to announce that How We Do is as good as all the others.
Next up is a single which actually gained momentum during the week as unexpectedly Angel City have a new entry at Number 9. Thus far the group had had three hit singles with the successful formula of reactivating old songs with a new twist. Thus they began by turning Ready For The World's 1980s US chart-topper Oh Sheila into a millennium club anthem with Love Me Right, swiftly followed by a straightforward cover of Cathy Dennis' 1990s hit Touch Me. Both were Top 20 hits but they made the Top 10 for the first time at the end of last year with You Know (I Go Crazy) which mashed up Michelle Gayle's 1997 hit Do You Know with the instrumental noodlings of Robert Miles' chill-out classic Children to land a Number 8 hit single. Sunrise is therefore actually something of a departure as the soaring pop hit is a totally original track, performed by the group themselves with Lara McAllen on lead vocals as usual. Judging it is actually tricky for whilst Angel City have proved themselves to be more than just a novelty covers act, their own material doesn't really push any pop boundaries even if it is an inch perfect pop record. The single gives them a fourth hit single, their second Top 10 success in a row and nicely heralds the release of their album at the end of the month. What more could you ask for really?
OK now bear with me for the next bit because this is a bit complicated. Atomic Kitten split up last year, sorry no, they are "resting" at the moment having rounded off this stage of their careers with a Greatest Hits collection that came out a year ago. Their "final" single was Someone Like Me which hit Number 8 in April last year at which point we sat and waited for the inevitable solo careers of one or more of the three girls. Except that the solo deals have been a long time coming so in the meantime the girls have banded together one last time to keep their names in the spotlight. Cradle isn't exactly a new track, having also featured on Greatest Hits [and also on debut album Right Now if you were paying close enough attention James] but it now emerges as a single a year later as a one-off charity release in aid of World Vision. In truth it is actually a much better swan song than the drippy Someone Like Me was, a good old put your arms around each other and sing along to the chorus track in a similar vein to If You Come To Me. Despite our cynicism, the solo deals are apparently imminent but for the moment the Kittens add a further explanation point to their career as a group with a tenth successive Top 10 hit single. I miss them in a way.
Continuing their comeback roll are Embrace who return to the Top 20 with Looking As You Are, the follow-up to Ashes and which matches the Number 11 peak scaled by that single back in November. The single release comes as the Yorkshiremen announce a series of concert spectaculars over the summer which includes two nights performing in Leeds' Millennium Square as well as a headline slot at this years T In The Park festival. A clever marketing strategy has helped this single into the chart (frustratingly missing out on the Top 10 once more), all three formats of the single featuring a brand new b-side common to all and a further new track that can only be found on that particular format. The idea is that die-hard fans will buy a copy of all three (one store even offering a discount to punters who did just that). Hey, in days of depressed sales you have to do all you can.
To follow up on some of the themes of the last few weeks, the Top 40 has a little more room to breathe this week with a mere three Elvis singles hovering around (last weeks entry Wooden Heart suffering the biggest fall yet with a 2-24 tumble) but there is still a place in the Top 20 for Out Of Touch, Numb/Encore and Boulevard Of Broken Dreams, the remaining three pre-Christmas hits still holding on doggedly.
Worthy of a special mention at the lower end of the Top 40 is Oxygen, the debut hit single from Willy Mason which makes a good debut at Number 23 this week. Aged just 19, the Martha's Vineyard-based singer has had critics falling over themselves to praise his sound - best described as Queens Of The Stone Age singing Jonathan Richman. Oxygen chugs its way through four minutes of whimsy in search of a chorus which never quite arrives but in a manner that you cannot help but warm to. Pop music it most definitely isn't but after having bashed The Game and Angel City for serving up polished records that offer something new, Willy Mason is nothing less than a breath of fresh air. His last (non-charting) single Hard Hand To Hold is actually a better introduction to his sound so don't write him off totally if Oxygen isn't exactly to your taste.