Yes, I think we can be satisfied with the state of affairs at the top of the chart this week. OK, so there was a great deal of hype surrounding the release of Robbie's new single and much speculation did ensue about whether it had the legs to make it to the top. The thing is of course that the Sugababes' Push The Button is a damn good record. Far too good in fact to just have an in and out chart performance, spending a single week at the top. No, better that it spends at the very least a second week at the summit to ensure that as many people as possible catch onto it and succumb to its charms.
Not that the Robbie Williams single isn't without its charms of course. When we last saw our hero it was late 2004 and he had a Greatest Hits collection to promote. Two singles were released, Misunderstood which made Number 8 just before Christmas and before that, of course, the eclectic single Radio which hit the very top. New single Tripping is brand new from a yet to be released album and that fact, coupled with heavy airplay meant that it was an almost dead cert Number One. Well almost (the single lands at Number 2 instead). Just like Radio it is penned by current songwriting partner Stephen Duffy and those familiar with his own recorded opus from the 1980s will recognise his hallmark immediately. Tripping is a gloriously inventive song that toys with the very boundaries of what makes a pop record. The full range of Robbie's voice is shown off here as the song forces him to sing in falsetto before breaking into a rap in that oh so English manner of his. Some may bemoan the lack of the kind of arms in the air singalong chorus that he's given us before but given that he is fast approaching the tenth anniversary of the launch of his solo career, you can hardly knock him for a continual drive to innovate. Fear not, the mainstream pop Robbie can't be far away (especially as he admitted this week that he has healed the rift with former collaborator Guy Chambers) but for the moment the Williams/Duffy partnership looks set to produce some quite awesome records - of which Tripping is actually a very worthy example.
The honour of the second biggest new hit of the week goes to an act whose legendary status is twice even that of Mr Williams. Our last glimpse of Depeche Mode was almost exactly a year ago when they too were promoting a hits collection, their singles chart offering being a remixed version of their classic hit Enjoy The Silence. The new mix launched them to Number 7, their first Top 10 hit for four years. Now they outdo even that with brand new single Precious storming the chart to land at Number 4 - equal to their highest chart placing ever. Yes, Depeche Mode are victims to an odd quirk which means that despite a career spanning two and a half decades and a string of chart singles (of which this has the honour of being their 40th) they have yet to land themselves a Top 3 single. As a result Precious shares the honours with People Are People from 1984 and Barrel Of A Gun from 1997 as their highest charting hit ever. Describing the track itself is no easy matter as it comes complete with a whole family of remixes from some very big names, all of which take it in wildly differing directions. Still with a Depeche Mode single you always know what you are going to get, moody synths, Martin Gore's haunting vocals and an effortless style which makes them sometimes underrated but never to be underestimated chart royalty.
Next to play at Number 7 are a band who could never be accused of resting on their laurels. Having plundered the well regarded Silent Alarm album for singles for the best part of a year now, you could forgive Bloc Party if they had taken time to recharge their batteries. Not a bit of it as they charge back into the Top 10 with the chirpy new hit Two More Years which was, of course, more or less guaranteed a high chart placing thanks to its unavailability anywhere else. Perhaps annoyingly it cannot quite make the grade as their biggest hit to date, settling instead for a Number 7 position two places below the peak of So Here We Are/Positive Tension which kicked things off for them back in February. Actually, you know I find listening to Bloc Party a frustrating experience. Everyone says they are good, and to be honest I can understand exactly why. The fact that they don't ring my personal bell means I worry that I am missing out on appreciating something special. Maybe on the next album.
Let's move on to Mariah Carey who my word had an interesting summer. After all the dung that had been showered on her career over the past few years, it must have given her enormous satisfaction to turn around and watch the second single from her Emancipation Of Mimi album become a major worldwide smash hit. Said single was, of course, We Belong Together, a record-knackering Number One smash in the States and a Number 2 hit here - her biggest solo hit single in well over a decade in this country. The fun thing was the track was hardly her greatest work ever (a pale shadow of some of the ballads she had flung out in the 90s) but for whatever reason, it managed to become one of the urban soundtracks of the summer and went a long way to restoring her superstar status. Her new release plunders the album again for a double sided release and in truth both Get Your Number and Shake It Off are maybe a little more representative of where she is at artistically, a pair of under-melodied R&B pop hits that if nothing else are exactly what the US audience is dying to hear at the moment. Get Your Number is actually the better track - thanks maybe to its passing resemblance to 80s hit Body Talk and the chart placing is enough to give her a third successive Top 10 hit - her best chart run since the turn of the decade.
Worthy of another quick mention this week is Daniel Powter's Bad Day which has largely survived the post-summer shake out to still be resident in the Top 10 almost three months after it was released. Now 11 weeks old the single slips to Number 10. The distinguishing feature of its chart run is the fact that to date the single has yet to spend less than a week at any chart position it has occupied. Since it was first released the single has moved 2-2-2-3-3-3-5-5-6-6-10 so if it is still at Number 10 next week, don't say you weren't warned.
Those of you who have been reading this column in its various forms for the past 13 years will know that I am never one to resist an obvious joke. Thus it is with childish delight that I report that Ricky Martin's new single is appropriately titled I Don't Care, thus putting him in the same boat as most of the British population. Just what has caused the Latino heartthrob to land at a comparatively lowly Number 11 with his new single? Could it be the fact that he has been away for four long years, long enough for people to forget just how good he can be (classics like She Bangs and of course Living La Vida Loca to name but two). Maybe it is the fact that I Don't Care is worryingly poor. In spite of being loaded up with guest stars like Fat Joe and Amerie, the track is a world away from the fiery spirit of old releases and sounds for all the world like he is trying to become Usher. OK so Number 11 maybe isn't a total disaster but you do get the feeling someone needs to have a word in his ear. We already have one Usher and some would argue that is one too many. The pop world needs Ricky Martin to make storming, faintly ridiculous, tequila-laden party tracks. Go back to doing what you are best at my friend, please.
From a record that just sounds wrong to a record that is very badly in the wrong place. Chart-wise that is. After two successive Number 10 singles this year, Rachel Stevens needed a massive smash hit to justify her continuing existence. Hence the release of I Said Never Again (But Here We Are), a towering disco record that comes across like Waterloo crossed with Knock On Wood with more energy than most of the last few Girls Aloud releases have managed to show. In short, this was a gift-wrapped smash hit single that has effectively wimped out at Number 12.
Another music website that I can't mention [Popjustice I think] has made the point far better than I can. The pop world needs a favourite empty vessel in which the cream of songwriting talent can work their magic. For years that was Kylie but with her magic starting to fade, even before her illness, they needed someone else. Hence the number of chances given to Rachel Stevens. She was perfect for their needs, a glamour puss with a personality, a better than average voice and a tremendous amount of goodwill. Pop records are expensive things to promote though, and to justify the spend they need to at least show signs of a return. Two Number 10s and now a Number 12 is way below the gold standard an act like Rachel Stevens should be achieving. No matter how much we love her (and how good this single is), I get the feeling she's just run out of second chances. [Mystic Masterton strikes again, this was indeed to be her final hit single].
Now imagine you've recorded the smash hit Number One single of the summer. Where would you like your next release to chart? Yes, I agree. Top 3 or at the very least Top 10 would be nice. James Blunt, however, has to content himself with an almost lacklustre Number 16 for High, the follow-up of course to the towering You're Beautiful which thumbs its nose at its follow-up by rising seven places to Number 33 this week, its download sales holding up nicely. Not that singles are really a part of the James Blunt strategy any more of course. More importantly is the spectacular performance of the album which, lest we forget, spent the summer outselling Coldplay. Even today Back To Bedlam is still kicking around the Top 3 as part of a hegemony of easy listening (one which also includes Katie Melua, Jamie Cullum, David Gray and KT Tunstall) which is currently clogging up the long players listing. No, High has done enough to remind people that he exists - although the fact that Franz Ferdinand have stormed to Number One on the album chart this week will relieve those who were worried that the nation's grannies had laid siege to HMV of late.
Finally, for this week the chart welcomes back an old favourite. The Prodigy may have ballsed up their last album Always Outnumbered Never Outgunned by having to record it twice and forgetting to make it any good on both occasions, but their back catalogue contains some quite famous classics. Hence the forthcoming release of Their Law, a singles collection and the re-release of this double a-side of two Prodigy classics. Leading the way is Voodoo People taken from their second album Music For The Jilted Generation and which first hit Number 13 in 1994. Better yet is the second track Out Of Space which hit Number 5 in December 1992 and was the first clue that Liam and Keith et al were more than just a quirky novelty act. Hear it and enjoy, I'm off to pretend I'm 18 again until next week.