As expected, there is no change at the top of the singles chart this week, Madonna's Hung Up clinging doggedly to the top slot. Indeed perhaps more surprising is the continued presence of Westlife's You Raise Me Up at Number 2 given that their singles generally proceed to the basement at almost indecent haste after their obligatory run at the top. Hung Up is joined in the shops by parent album Confessions On A Dance Floor which dutifully charges to the top of the album chart to give Madonna the double for what is only the third time in her career. Both her previous chart doubles came back in the 1980s, Papa Don't Preach and the True Blue album both hitting the top in the same week in July 1986 whilst the album Like A Prayer joined its title track at the top of the chart in April 1989. Madonna's longest run at the top is restricted to a "mere" four weeks. Two of her singles managed a month at the top, Vogue in 1990 and Into The Groove in 1995. Admittedly it is only her third Number One since, but by landing a second week at the summit 'Hung Up' has the honour of being her longest running chart-topper since the aforementioned Vogue.
The biggest new hit of the week slides in at Number 3, the Black Eyed Peas apparently incapable of making a bad record at the moment. My Humps beats the Number 6 peak of their last single Don't Lie to give them their second Top 3 hit this year, matching at a stroke the peak of Don't Phunk With My Heart which charted back in May. Since their long overdue commercial breakthrough two years ago, the group have notched up six Top 10 hits with their last seven singles, the only break in the run being the failure of Let's Get It Started to struggle past Number 11 in July 2004.
You know if the current series of X Factor proves to be the last of the "make a chart star" talent shows it will surely be a mercy killing [to put this in context, this was as the second series of the show marched towards its climax. As I upload this in August 2017 the show is about to start airing its 14th series. No mercy killings here]. Let's face it the last few variations on the theme haven't exactly produced any superstars, the token chart careers of Michelle McManus, Steve Brookstein and Alex Parks being best consigned to the depths of our memories and it is with a sense of dread that the X Factor appears to be moving inexorably toward a climax which will see us having to choose between Chico and the sodding Conway Sisters as "winners".
Best then to focus on the fact that there have been a few chart acts with genuine talent and potential to have emerged from the TV genre, and neatly enough three of them line up in a row with Top 10 entries this week. First up are Girls Aloud with Biology, the second single from their forthcoming third album. Look around the net and you'll find opinion divided as to whether the new single is an improvement on its predecessor 'Long Hot Summer' or a bit of a step back. The truth is of course somewhere in between as Biology is less of an anthem and more of a grower with a slow building verse which OK, leads to a chorus which never quite arrives [ooh, now if there was ever a knee-jerk point of view that needed correcting. Biology is now regarded as the high point not only of their career but also of the mighty Xenomania empire. The reason the chorus "never quite arrives" is because the song is actually five different choruses bolted together. An extraordinarily bold piece of experimenting with pop music but which resulted in one of the most memorable Girls Aloud singles ever]. The bottom line is that Girls Aloud have never really released a bad record and this is yet another impressive pop single. The track reverses the alarming decline in their chart positions which saw Long Hot Summer become their smallest hit single yet and charges in nicely at Number 4 to give them a milestone 10th successive Top 10 single.
Next up is Will Young about to release his third, yes third, album, the follow-up to 2003's Friday's Child which moved him away from cheesy covers and into his own self-penned material which proved he was a performer to rank amongst the very best. Will is in the same fortunate position as Robbie Williams in that anything he releases is more or less by default regarded as a "pop record", giving him the freedom to play around with genres and get as creative as he likes with a Top 10 single guaranteed. Anyone expecting the laid back jazzy feel of tracks such as Your Game or Friday's Child will be shocked out of their armchairs by the raucousness of Switch It On which charges out the loudspeakers at 100 miles an hour as Will wails like a man with a tortured soul. It is a bold choice as a single, particularly as it is his first release in well over a year. For the moment it seems to have paid off, even if it's Number 5 entry marks it down as his lowest charting single to date.
Third up in this run of talent show acts are Liberty X who are releasing singles with what seems like indecent haste, A Night To Remember arriving just eight weeks after their last single Song 4 Lovers hit Number 5. The reason is because this single was the official Children In Need song, the BBC telethon continuing the well-established tradition of having a pop record released in its name with all proceeds going to the appeal. In a way it is a shame that Liberty X are stuck with the "honour" this year as it means a step away from inspired tracks such as Song 4 Lovers, leaving us with this almost apologetic retread of the song that Shalamar took to Number 5 back in 1982. Indeed as covers go this is as pointless as they get with the style and production fundamentally the same as the original version. Granted this is no more than Girls Aloud did with I'll Stand By You for the Children In Need appeal last year but given that in the past Liberty X have breathed new life into classics such as Got To Have Your Love and Ain't Nobody this single seems a bit of a waste. The public appears to agree, making this the lowest charting CIN record for some time.
So then to the Number 8 single, marking the triumphant return of The Darkness to the charts. Two years ago they were, of course, a phenomenon, a heavy metal act who rather than carefully eschewing all the 70s and 80s rock cliches embraced them wholeheartedly instead, the result being an album Permission To Land that brought a badly needed sense of fun back to the genre. Massive hits such as I Believe In A Thing Called Love followed and in the spirit of doing stuff you are not supposed to do any more they even attempted to land Christmas Number One in 2003 with Christmas Time (Don't Let The Bells End) only to be pipped at the post in the last week. Since then the picture hasn't been quite so rosy, the recording of their new album beset by stories of rows over their direction (some of the group wanting to avoid forever being labelled a novelty act), at one stage leaving Justin Hawkins to wind up sticking surplus tracks on a solo album (the poorly-received 'British Whale' project).
Out of the chaos comes the new single One Way Ticket and in truth, you can see the cracks showing. The formula is still the same, a Motley Crue-esque tale of drug addiction dressed up in poodle perms and Freddie Mercury style harmonies. The difference is that whereas their old material had a genuine sense of fun as the band deliberately tried to be as naff as possible, One Way Ticket sounds as if they are begging to be taken seriously whilst they use the same tricks we were encouraged to laugh at two years ago. Maybe I'm reading too much into this as after all the rest of the new album remains unheard and the b-side is called Wanker. This isn't the end of The Darkness or even the beginning of the end, but the fact that their celebrated comeback is only the fifth biggest new entry of the week should really set off alarm bells somewhere.
In at Number 10, this week are the alarmingly consistent White Stripes whose Get Behind Me Satan album has now produced one Number 9 and two Number 10 singles. Their third hit of the year duly becomes their fourth Top 10 hit, The Denial musically speaking not too far removed from its immediate predecessor My Doorbell which was a hit back in September. I still rank Blue Orchid as the best track to come from the album so far.
Just one more single sneaks into the Top 20 this week, that honour going to Green Day who see Jesus Of Suburbia land at Number 17. The track ranks as one of the longest singles to chart for some considerable time, the unedited album version (the track taken from the acclaimed American Idiot CD) running for nine minutes and eight seconds. OK so it isn't their biggest hit single ever, but as the fifth single to be taken from the album you can't really argue with a Number 17 entry.
Finally this week your sympathy for Funeral For A Friend who after six Top 40 singles are still some way short of landing their first ever Top 10 single. Number 21 single History is their third release of the year and marks an improvement over their last hit Monsters which made a mere Number 36 but even so their best chart performance to date is the Number 15 peak scaled by Streetcar back in June. As ever it could be worse. Just check out the fate of Athlete who began the year as superstars in waiting with the Number 4 hit Wires. This week new single Twenty Four Hours limps into the chart at Number 42.