What we affectionately refer to as the "Westlife curse" (sometimes also the "Oasis curse") is the fun way in that despite their record-buggering string of Number One hits, Westlife singles tend to be rather here today gone tomorrow releases, typically remaining at the top for no more than a week before charging spectacularly to the lower reaches. Thus it is actually a matter worthy of some comment when one of their tracks actually holds on to a place at the top. Such is the honour achieved by You Raise Me Up this week which fails to succumb to any challenges from lower down and spends a second week at the summit of the singles chart. That makes it "only" the fourth Westlife single to manage more than a week at the top. I use the quote marks as of course a tally of four Number One hits would be a dream to most ordinary acts - for Westlife, of course, it is but a fraction of their overall total.
Two of their older hits managed a fortnight at the top - debut Swear It Again in 1999 and their 2000 duet with Mariah Carey on Against All Odds. Their only single to manage an even further extended stay was their 1999 Christmas Number One double-sided cover of I Have A Dream/Seasons In The Sun which held on for four weeks.
Similar plaudits are due to the Arctic Monkeys who may have only lasted a week at the top with I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor but who are demonstrating a staying power that belies the hardcore fan-inspired way they shot to the top in the first place. Their debut chart single also sees off the new releases to hold firm at Number 2, giving them a third successive week inside the Top 3.
Of course, the flip side of this particular coin is that if older hits with declining sales are outselling new releases then it must be a pretty quiet week for new songs, but let's take nothing away from the fact that the biggest new hit of the week is a combination of two big names. Gwen Stefani's relationship with The Neptunes stretches back a number of years now, Williams and Hugo having been the brains behind No Doubt's 2002 hit Hella Good. Now it is her turn to return the favour as she pops up as the guest star on Pharrell Williams' own track Can I Have It Like That which neatly charges in at Number 3. Williams is such a musical tart that we have to count carefully where this fits in with his own chart history. Counting direct artist credits this is his seventh Top 40 single under his own name, although only the second to feature him as lead artist, the first being 2003s Frontin' which hit Number 6. This is not to discount his hits as part of NERD (the name Williams and Hugo use when performing rather than producing) which number five in total. The biggest of those is the Number 5 hit She Wants To Move, all of which means that Pharrell owes Gwen a huge favour next time they meet - she's helped him to his highest charting hit ever.
Just one place below is the UK's own R&B king - Craig David. Continuing the comeback he started back in the summer with All The Way his gorgeous new single Don't Love You No More earns itself a well-deserved place inside the Top 5. Yes, it is tailor-made for the playlist of Heart FM and at times bears a passing resemblance to Gabrielle's Sunshine but at the end of the day that is no bad thing. It duly gives Craig David a tenth Top 10 hit as a solo artist and gives him back to back Top 5 hits for the first time since he made his debut back in 2000.
With its use all over the T-Mobile adverts, it is actually something of a surprise that Goldfrapp's last single Ooh La La isn't still lingering around the charts. Still, it means the way was clear for new single Number 1 to land inside the Top 10 and prove that the elevation of Alison and the other bloke into the mainstream was no one-off. Like its predecessor the new single is an affectionate modern day take on the past, this time moving to the late 70s and taking its inspiration from the birth of electronica, coming across like a very early OMD track with a subtle, haunting beauty which makes it just as appealing as Ooh La La, albeit in a very different way. Songs that mention chart positions in their title pretty much never manage to live up to such lofty predictions and the Goldfrapp single is no different. Many different singles about "Number One" have charted over the years but the closest any act has come to synchronicity came at Christmas 1999 when S Club 7 released You're My Number One and hit an agonising Number 2. Even when acts aren't quite as ambitious it never really works out. Just ask Pete Wingfield who in 1975 released the track Eighteen With A Bullet and hit Number 7 instead.
Landing frustratingly short of the Top 10 this week is the track that has actually earned itself more column inches than most of the other releases put together. Rosetta Life is not a chart performer as such but a charity which works with terminally ill people and helps them share their experiences through art, poetry, film and song. Billy Bragg has been a longtime supporter of the charity and it was during a songwriting workshop earlier this year that cancer sufferer Maxine Eggington penned the lyrics to We Laughed as a way for her teenage daughter to remember her. Bragg wrote the music and all who heard it were convinced that they had a potential hit on their hands. The result is this single, with all proceeds going to the charity and the hospices it supports. Although Bragg's name is on the credits as the main selling point, the vocals are provided by folk singer Helena, Bragg's only contribution beyond the writing being to play guitar on the track. It is far too easy for charity tracks to fall into the trap of mawkish sentimentality and Bragg himself has in the past had the annoying habit of releasing singles too busy tied up with a right-on message to be appreciated properly. We Laughed manages to be neither, a magical single with heart-breaking sentiment and given mainstream exposure for all the right reasons. I'm actually quite sad I'm not writing about this as the Number One single of the week. It's got more soul than Westlife have in their nasal hair, that is for sure.
Next up at Number 13 are Texas, who herald the release of their new album Red Book with its second single Can't Resist. It is the follow-up to Getaway which hit Number 6 back in August and if nothing else proves that their last single was no one-off. Their ability to write a tune (and Sharleen to carry it) remains intact, their only problem being the same as before. What was fresh and exciting eight years ago is now pretty much of a muchness in the 21st century. Their fans will love it (and enough of them will snap up the album to make it worthwhile) but unlike their older work, nobody will be inclined to hail this as a classic.
In at Number 14 are Eurythmics with the brand new single I've Got A Life. Dave and Annie have been giving interviews all over the place over the last week or so, promoting a new Ultimate hits collection which has hit the shops just in time for the Christmas market. Much of the press coverage appears to have centred around the novelty of seeing the pafiir recording together, their 1999 reunion album Peace it appears having vanished from people's memories. Nonetheless this single marks their first chart appearance since that comeback six years ago and the intense I've Got A Life gives them a first Top 40 hit since 17 Again made the Top 30 in February 2000. This will now be the second time Dave and Annie have released a hits collection and although their 1991 collection topped the charts with ease when released, they are to be congratulated for taking the time out to record new material to help this one on its way. The 1991 collection saw their early classic Love Is A Stranger re-released but its failure to even make the Top 40 made it a bit of a waste of time.
Next up at Number 15 is So Beautiful, the latest solo offering from former Savage Garden singer Darren Hayes. It is actually his fifth solo chart single in all, although all but one have been little more than comfortable mid-table hits, his only Top 10 single to date being his debut Insatiable in March 2002. Given that this brand new single from a forthcoming new album can do little more than limp to Number 15 I wouldn't expect him to add to that tally anytime soon.
Finally this week and to nicely round off the Top 20, in at Number 20 itself are Fightstar with their second single Grand Unification (Part I). The band are of course the new outlet for Charlie Simpson, ex of Busted. Thanks to the hype surrounding his new project, Fightstar's first single Paint Your Target made a creditable Number 9 in June but the showing of this new single is rather less impressive. It is not that it is a bad record in truth but they will still struggle to be taken seriously whilst their every move is followed by a gaggle of teenage girls who still cling to the pop idolism that Charlie formed Fightstar to try to escape. Interesting to note that the other members of his former band are set to launch their own solo projects soon and are giving interviews which reveal they are still annoyed at him for causing Busted to dissolve when they did. They all know they could have milked the Boy Band concept for another year at least.