We have a new Number One single this week. Just for a change, it isn't a new release that has been hyped to the hills or a record bought in bulk by a small hardcore of fans that will struggle to appeal to a wider audience. Instead, the biggest selling single of the week is a song which is no less than seven weeks old, one which has slowly but surely been increasing its appeal to the extent that it has climbed, yes climbed from an initial chart entry of Number 12 right to the very top.
You're Beautiful by James Blunt is the record in question, actually his second single and one which perhaps more than any disc in recent memory has helped to propel him from virtual unknown to being one of the biggest stars of the summer. Don't believe me? Just check out the chart performance of his debut album Back To Bedlam which was first released five months ago. In the week that You're Beautiful was released it finally completed its slow climb into the Top 10 and this week spends a further week at the very top, outselling no less a record than Coldplay's globally-conquering X & Y.
Back to the single however and by moving from 3 to 1 this week it becomes only the third single in the last five years to actually climb the charts to hit Number One. Perhaps most astonishingly it does so in its seventh week on the chart and after no less than four weeks in the Top 3 and indeed four weeks after the single first appeared to peak at Number 2 (its full chart run to date reads 12-6-2-3-3-3-1) [this may have been a factor in the way a lot of people got annoyed very quickly by You're Beautiful. The problem was it had been around for almost two months before even embarking on a five week spell at the top]. Not since Steps' double a-side Heartbeat/Tragedy took eight weeks to rise to the top has a Number One single had to make such patient progress up the listings. The fact that You're Beautiful entered the chart at such a lowly position should not be overlooked. Believe it or not the last single to enter the charts outside the Top 10 and rise to Number One was Boom Boom Boom by the Outhere Brothers which hit Number One in July 1995, four weeks after it first entered at Number 15. Incidentally, for the sake of clarity these statistics overlook DJ Otzi's 2001 hit Hey Baby which made a 45-1 flying leap in its sixth week on the chart due to having been available on import with the same catalogue number as the official release which meant that the chart computer was unable to differentiate between the two records. That was a statistical oddity. James Blunt's performance is a genuine achievement.
Changes in chart trends don't happen overnight. With hundreds of thousands of singles sold each week, buying habits turn like a mighty river over time. Nonetheless, I suspect in years to come when people look for the moment that the inclusion of downloaded sales in the singles chart started to change the shape of the market, the rise to the top of James Blunt will be highlighted. As a fun side effect his first single Wisemen (originally a Number 44 hit back in March prior to download day) has embarked on a chart run of its own in recent weeks, fuelled by its availability online and the fact it shows up alongside You're Beautiful when you do a search for James Blunt on Napster or iTunes. This week the single is at Number 71 having hit Number 69 a fortnight ago.
In a way, it is quite a relief that the Number One hit this week made so many headlines as the midweek sales reports suggested that the chart-topper would be a different single altogether and one which would have made even more headlines on its own. The record in question was Electricity by Elton John which was at one point in serious danger of helping him join the elite list of acts to have replaced themselves at Number One. In the event, the single hits the ground at Number 4 to give the legendary entertainer one of his biggest new hits for quite some time. The single is taken from the new musical version of the film 'Billy Elliott' for which Elton has written the libretto. Whilst it isn't the greatest Elton John single you have ever heard it is still one of his better offerings in recent years and well worthy of a place inside the Top 10. It is only when you look back on Elton John's recent chart performances that you realise just how significant its performance is, his first Top 10 single that isn't a re-release or remake of an older hit since I Want Love hit Number 9 in October 2001. Cynics may suggest that by its very nature as a brand new recording of a brand new song it was never going to top the charts anyway thanks to the Elton Law that says he can't have a Number One with a record that isn't a re-issue, re-recording or re-working of one of his older hits.
Credit for the high chart placing of Electricity must go to the huge amount of online sales it has made, its physical sales are reportedly only enough to guarantee it a Top 20 placing [annoyingly the Physical Singles Chart archive on the OCC website only goes back to September 2005, so there is no way of double checking that]. The single is probably the biggest selling release so far to be available through Mercury records' own 7Digital site [they didn't own it] which allows consumers to download the track directly from the website after purchasing a pin code via SMS. Such a method of distribution raises interesting questions for the future. Imagine if a charity single is made available in such a manner. If you make your "donation" with a text message but have no obligation to actually take delivery of your download is it possible that a single could fly up the charts after being bought by thousands of people who haven't even listened to it?
A curious apartheid has developed in the Top 10 this week. With the Top 6 singles all by what you might term "real" singers (Blunt, Elton, Mariah, Church and Clarkson), the remaining four are all from clubland. Joining MVP, Crazy Frog and Audio Bully's in this mix is New York club Queen Inaya Day. Although a new name in solo terms she is no stranger to the charts, having contributed to Boris Dlugosch's mid-90s hits Keep Pushin' and Hold Your Head Up High. Intriguingly her official biog also credits her as being the voice of Mousse T's 1998 classic Horny, in contrast to the official line that Nadine and Emma aka Hot N' Juicy sang on the track [it is complicated, but yes she did perform on the track without credit]. Dodgy dance music politics aside, she makes her solo debut with a barnstorming single whose release has been much anticipated. Yes, it might have done a little better given all the hype but only two records entered the Top 10 this week, and Inaya Day has done damn well to be one of them.
Clubland gives us our third new hit of the week as Deep Dish shoot to Number 14 with Say Hello. This single is the somewhat belated follow-up to Flashdance which hit Number 3 in October last year and wound up as one of the most successful club hits of 2004. The new single is a far more trippy, trancy offering than its predecessor with a breezy vocal from Anousheh Khalili that will enchant as much as it annoys. Again you might have expected better for such a big club hit. For the moment Number 14 will have to suffice, for this isn't the next James Blunt by any means.
The new music world makes a stand at Number 18 with the third and biggest chart single so far for The Editors. Blood is a fine example of just why they have received so much good press over the past few weeks, a wonderfully old school piece of rock that calls to mind the best work of Killing Joke and Joy Division. Invoking the spirit of the 80s is pretty much de-rigueur at the moment and when a band gets it right it is a joy to behold. Last single Munich saw them hit Number 22, with this single they become Top 20 hitmakers for the first time.
The unusually disjointed nature of the singles chart we have seen for the past few weeks is in evidence once again this week. For the second time in three weeks, there are just two new entries inside the Top 10 with a raft of lesser hit singles occupying the bottom end. The also-rans are a fun mixture of the old and the new. Denmark's Raveonettes get their first Top 40 hit for two years with Love In A Trashcan at Number 26, just one place above REM who for the second time this year discover that even the Top 20 is beyond them at the present time, Wanderlust failing even to match the shockingly bad Number 26 peak of Electron Blue from back in March.
Also new are Rooster with a rather unnecessary third single Deep And Meaningless at Number 29, hot prospects the Paddingtons failing to improve on their debut Panic Attack with new single 50 To A Pound limping in at Number 32 and just one place below are underappreciated aural insanity merchants Lemon Jelly who follow up The Shouty Track with Make Things Right and can find themselves thankful to even be in the Top 40. For the biggest surprise of the week, look no further than Number 41 and The Boxer, the third single this year from the Chemical Brothers which has the dubious honour of becoming their first single ever to miss the Top 40.