The Pussycat Dolls make it three weeks at the summit this week, once again all their nearest challengers just not being equal to the task of deposing the sextet from the top. What almost certainly has helped Don't Cha is that it is something of a grower. Whilst at first we may have bemoaned the understated nature of the chorus and the slightly formulaic production, after a while you begin to appreciate the hidden depths of the track - in short, it becomes more and more worthy of a long run at the top, which I'm delighted to say is just what it is managing. For the moment anyhow.
The highest new entry of the week is well, different to say the least [but also quite notoriously one of the most ubiquitous hit singles of the early years of the digital download market. This one will hang around for months]. Kanye West's new album Late Registration has already spawned a Top 10 hit single in the shape of July's Diamonds From Sierra Leone and has already been in the shops for four weeks. Its second single turns out to be far and away his biggest smash hit to date, entering with a bang at Number 2. What marks this single out is the almost laconic way the lyrics are performed, blurring the line even further between rap and simple spoken word. The result is possibly Kanye West's most accessible piece of music to date. Far too many hip hop tracks are underappreciated simply because their lyrics and message are lost in a colourful melange of argot, attitude and fussy production. Gold Digger is different, a track that works to the less is more philosophy and is all the better for it. Co-singer on the track is none other than actor Jamie Foxx. this single actually marking the second time he has appeared on a Top 40 single with Kanye West, his voice also heard on Twista's Slow Jamz which Kanye West produced.
To say that anticipation is high for Franz Ferdinand's new album is something of an understatement. After all their 2004 debut was hailed as an instant classic, won the Mercury Music Prize and spawned three hit singles including the surely destined to be evergreen Take Me Out. What helped as well is that the band haven't been shy in telling everyone they have more gas in the tank - their second album was going to be just as good if not better. Well, this week we get our first glimpse of what they have to offer, new single Do You Want To which charges into the chart at Number 4, just one place short of the peak scaled by Take Me Out at the start of last year. True, there is no new innovation here, just the tried and tested formula of insistent beats and beefy guitars over which Alex Kapranos hollers enthusiastically. Will the new album be as good as their debut? I damn well hope so.
Just sneaking into the Top 5 as well is the unlikely sight of Katie Melua. No pop star her, instead, the Mike Batt discovery sings simplistic folk-style tunes in a manner that is enough to make your granny weep. Unusually she also sells singles as well, hence her debut hit The Closest Thing To Crazy - a track almost as heartbreakingly beautiful as she is - stormed to Number 10 in December 2003, has been an airplay staple ever since and shamefully ended up flogging furniture on TV adverts. With shedloads of copies of her debut album Call Off The Search shifted she now returns with her second album and just as impressively a Top 10 single. Nine Million Bicycles is a genuine grower, one of those singles that doesn't grab you in the first 30 seconds but makes you feel at the end of four minutes that it has been a worthwhile experience. To see her riding so high in the charts is a genuine and welcome surprise and as soon as I'm finished here I'm going to sit back and enjoy the moment. But not yet, there's more work to do here.
What was the verdict on Kelly Clarkson's last single? "Job done" I think sums it up nicely. With one fell swoop, she consolidated her star status in America whilst at the same time landing herself a massive, massive European hit. Since U Been Gone peaked at Number 5 here and hung around the Top 10 for an impressive seven weeks, the Top 40 run of the single only ending this week when it finally dips out to Number 41. Efficiently enough she lands at Number 9 with the follow-up Behind These Hazel Eyes which to be perfectly honest isn't actually that good. The problem with her material is of course that the US has gone off straightforward pop so to appeal to the Top 40 market you have to either be R&B or rock - and try as she might Kelly Clarkson just cannot do the greasy guitar chick act. Still, given that in the past few weeks we've bemoaned the fact that the Pussycat Dolls are stuck doing tired old R&B we can at least be thankful that the other big US pop act of the moment is going down a different path, however well trodden.
The Stereophonics just miss out on a place in the Top 10 this week, Devil sneaking in at a frustrating Number 11. This still means that the third single from Language Sex Violence Other? has outperformed its predecessor Superman which peaked at Number 13 back in July. For those that like to keep track of these things, this is now the band's third Number 11 hit, I Wouldn't Believe Your Radio and Hurry Up And Wait both from 1999 had the same distinction.
Reggae legend Bob Marley was as famous for his reproductive skills as he was for his music and having left behind an extended family when he passed away, it was almost inevitable that his sons and daughters would continue his musical legacy. The newest member of the Marley clan to climb the charts is Damian Marley, his youngest son who was born in 1978. Rather than going for the straightforward reggae of most of his clan, Damien's forte has always been what the Jamaicans call 'Deejay', a slowed down form of toasting that owes as much to American hip-hop as it does to reggae. As a result, his first UK hit Welcome To Jamrock commands your attention from the very first bars and is easily the most hardcore ethnic hit single since Panjabi MC scaled the Top 10 and for all that is certainly well worth checking out. Damien Marley is only the second Marley offspring to have a Top 40 hit in this country and his is far the biggest. Half brother Ziggy Marley was the first, his single Tomorrow People climbing to Number 22 in June 1988.
Unusually the biggest new hit in the Top 30 arrives at the relatively high position of Number 15. That honour goes to the still frustratingly underappreciated Hard-Fi whose album Stars Of CCTV easily ranks as one of my favourites this year. They made their Top 10 breakthrough last time out with Hard To Beat which made a worthwhile Number 9 back in July. Living For The Weekend is perhaps not quite as immediate but like most of their material, the understated verse of the song is merely an appetiser for a chorus with a killer hook. OK, another Top 10 single would have been nice but in terms of sheer commercial accessibility, maybe Hard To Beat was their best shot for the moment.