Can we be honest with each other for a moment? We can twist things however we want but the bottom line is that as far as chart music was concerned, September was a bit shit [looking back on the parade of established classics that charted week after week, I'm not sure I'd concur with that view in retrospect]. OK so Kanye West and 50 Cent were making the hip-hop fans happy but for everyone else, we were stuck with some half-arsed dance records and same old same old R&B. Even the biggest selling single of the month Don't Cha was tired old R&B dressed up in new clothes. This week, however, it is a different matter. The UK charts this week go POP! in quite spectacular fashion. It's as if the record industry has been holding off its best work until just this moment, to give us all a musical sugar-rush and remind us of just how good it can be at times.
POP! Biggest of the lot is Push The Button from the Sugababes who it appears have managed to put their continually hinted at mutual loathing aside to make another album. Its lead single shows you just why we should be glad of that. As is the current vogue, Push The Button is an early 80s inspired track replete with their usual close-knit harmonies, an infectious chorus and a futuristic looking video to match. There were many singles released this week that would have deserved to be Number One but I don't think there will be many arguments about the record that ultimately was to capture the minds of the record buying public. The single is their fourth chart-topper, their first since Hole In The Head scaled the heights back in October 2003. Their next challenge will be to overcome the Oasis-esque jinx that has blighted their chart record so far, none of their previous three Number One si singles having managed to hold the position for more than a week.
POP! The second biggest new hit of the week lands at Number 5 as Liberty X make their long-overdue comeback with Song 4 Lovers, their first hit single in almost two years. As ever the best bit about Liberty X is that they shouldn't really exist in the first place, the group formed out of the rejects from the very first Popstars TV series who went on to become far cooler, far more regarded and far more successful than the auditionees chosen ahead of them. Better yet, this new single takes the template of their past singles, rips it up and throws it away totally. The result is a single that is all the more enjoyable for the sheer unexpected nature of it. Song 4 Lovers is best described as "gospel-rap" as the group join their voices together for a gospel chorus around rapped verses (done by the boys with a little help from Rev Run of Run DMC). Yes, you could imagine S Club 7 having done this a few years back but since when was aping those pop legends a bad thing. The fact that the Sugababes made Number One makes the Number 5 placing for this single seem a little less unfair but in truth, this deserves Top 3 status. As it stands it does at least become their seventh Top 10 hit.
POP! At Number 8 we welcome back one of the decade's more interesting ideas - Tatu. The story of Julia and Lena (at least as far as the UK is concerned) is an intriguing one. Back in 2003, we were seduced by them in the same way the rest of Europe had been the previous year. Two Russian girls, dressing in school uniforms, claiming to be lesbians and singing exquisite pop records produced by no less a legend than Trevor Horn. All The Things She Said raced to the top of the charts with pride and the album began to sell steadily. What nobody reckoned on was the more downmarket end of the British press which at times has a paedophilia obsession that goes beyond parody. The antics of Tatu's then manager Ivan Shapovalov and his cheerful admittance that the image of his charges was designed to be a bit pervy prompted a press campaign against them. Knocking copy rather than an appreciation of their music became the order of the day. Don't believe me? Check out the scoring for the 2003 Eurovision Song Contest in which the pair represented Russia. They came third, in the end, their ultimate defeat almost certainly down to the fact that only two nations failed to give them any points - Britain and Ireland. Second single Not Gonna Get Us made a brief chart appearance, the arenas booked for their summertime concerts failed to sell and just like that Tatu appeared to be over - not least with Julia falling pregnant and thus ruining the whole lesbian chic thing (which in truth nobody really bought into anyway).
So after all of that, it is something of a joyful surprise to see them return. Shapovalov is history, replaced by a new manager and a new Russian label who swiftly realised that the Tatu brand was strong enough not to need a dodgy image. Still, it wouldn't be Tatu without a little controversy so the video for All About Us features a graphic shooting scene that has proved to be a little too hot for some TV channels. For all the fuss about their return, All About Us isn't quite as strong a single as some of their earlier ones and at times has struggled for airplay here. I was actually sceptical about its chart chances so it is a pleasant surprise to see the single vault comfortably into the Top 10 at Number 8 and put the pair firmly into the public eye once again. For those of us who are Tatu junkies, just like last time, there is an English version and a Russian version of their new album available. I'm happy to admit I'll have both on repeat for the next month.
Moving on, and oh yes I almost forgot. POP! Charlotte Church kicked off her reinvention as a pop star back in July with the Number 2 hit Crazy Chick, surely the most enthusiastically chorus-free pop record of the century. New single Call My Name would actually have been just as worthy as the lead single from the album Tissues And Issues, the single this time being a storming brass-laden pop belter which suits Churchy's powerful lungs far better than her last hit. Despite massive amounts of airplay and of course the three sizes too small bustier that she wears to perform the single [the video that launched a thousand teenage awakenings if you are of a certain age], Number 10 is the best it can manage in the space of much competition but as a tremendous pop record in a week of tremendous pop records, it is more than welcome to join the party.
FUP! Now that noise is the sound of a pop record misfiring just a little. The record in question is at Number 13 - What Hurts The Most by Jo O'Meara. Jo was the tall blonde one in S Club 7. Rachel Stevens may have got most of the glamour attention but Jo was always the closest the group had to a lead singer, her towering powerful voice being used to best effect on their slower numbers. The delay in the launch of her inevitable solo career is due to her having to take time off to recover from a back problem that resulted in her taking a literal back seat in the dying days of the S Club project back in 2003. Since then she has watched Rachel Stevens continue her rise to stardom (albeit with more second chances than most acts get) and now has the chance to establish herself as a solo star. Annoyingly she hasn't been given the best material to start off with. The nicest thing you can say about What Hurts The Most is that it is OK. Not bad at all. Quite good. Rather nice. It is a nothing pop record you see, a perfectly competent mid-tempo ballad which is well produced and sung beautifully by a really good singer. It's just that in pizza terms it is a cheese and tomato, the bare minimum you can expect and one which you consume without giving it too much thought afterwards. A singer of her calibre deserves a record that is a super supreme with stuffed crust and a side order of garlic bread. A gourmet delight that lives in the mind long after the last note has died away. That is why she isn't Top 3 with what should have been a chart event. Jo O'Meara has kicked off her solo career with a cheese and tomato Number 13 record and trust me, she now has an uphill battle on her hands.
At this point, the pop hits grind to a halt, albeit leaving the way open for some more credible music. In at Number 15 is Paul Weller with Come On/Let's Go, his second single of the year. Like its predecessor From The Floorboards Up, the new single is very much a back to basics track and is equally as reminiscent of the records he was making in the 1970s with The Jam to begin his career. From The Floorboards Up made Number 6 in July and the chart placing of this new single means that once again he has failed to manage two Top 10 hits in a row. So far in his solo career, he's managed it just the once - back in 1995 with The Changingman and You Do Something To Me.
At Number 21 are New Order with Waiting For The Sirens' Call, the third single and title track from their current album which has deservedly been hailed as one of their better offerings in recent years. What is notable about the single release is the unconventional range of formats the single is available in. Eschewing the usual range of CD singles, Waiting... was last week released as three separate old-fashioned seven-inch vinyl singles, each one with a remix of a classic track on the b-side. The intention is to flag up the imminent release of a new singles collection - just in time for the seasonal market.
Even at the bottom end of the chart the interesting tracks just keep on coming. Making a welcome debut at Number 24 are Canadian folksters Bedouin Soundclash with a single that has been picking up the odd piece of airplay for what seems like months. The lilting acoustic reggae track When The Night Feels My Song was never destined to be a massive hit but even so it is something of a shame to see it slip in so low down the chart. Top 20 would have given us an excuse to wax lyrical at what a pleasant surprise it was,
Still at the very least they have done better than the returning Ms Dynamite who is surely well and truly humiliated, new single Judgement Day limping in at Number 25. Back in 2002 she was hailed as something approaching the second coming, a talented singer with a message in every song. Her debut album A Little Deeper won the 2002 Mercury Music Prize but then motherhood came calling and she dropped off the radar somewhat. In three years of course the world has moved on somewhat and in truth new single Judgement Day has the air of same old same old about it. Her constant preaching and willingness to attach herself to just about every trendy campaign going (oh but of course she appeared at Live 8) starts to get tiring after a while. Call me shallow but I don't like my pop stars telling me how I should think, the ability to hold a note does not necessarily mean you have the answer to all the worlds problems. Is that all a little unfair? Well maybe, but the fact that her long awaited new single hasn't exactly done the business sales-wise may suggest that the second coming of the second coming may not be quite the event some had expected it to be.
Finally for this week and before we spoil what has been a wonderful week with too much negativity, let's consider two more fine pop records at the very bottom end of the Top 40. The record at Number 32 is something of an oddity, the mystery being just why such a nailed on smash hit has never been properly exploited as such. Basement Jaxx's Do Your Thing was always one of the highlights of their 2001 album Rooty - and when you consider that the same album contained classics such as Romeo, Jus 1 Kiss and Where's Your Head At that is high praise indeed. Oddly enough the energetic Charleston track never became a single proper and was instead released as a radio-only promo in early 2002 to give the album one final push. The track resurfaced last month as the soundtrack to an inventive TV promo which saw stars of TV channel ITV1 past and present appear alongside each other to celebrate the channels 50th anniversary. This has resulted in Do Your Thing finally making a long-overdue appearance as a commercial single. By now, of course, the track has appeared on two of their albums, both Rooty and their Singles compilation which came out at the start of the year. Most people who are interested already have a copy and as a result one of their best ever tracks winds up as little more than a footnote in their chart career as a whole.
Finally, this week at Number 35 is Andy Bell, better known as one-half of Erasure and who after no less than 20 years partnering Vince Clarke on record finally releases a solo project. His first offering Crazy suffers from the same problem that most recent Erasure singles have. What sounded fresh and exciting in 1988 is dated and tired in 2005. No longer a young man with an interesting voice, Andy Bell resembles a middle-aged has-been who really should be above wearing camp costumes and cavorting to Hi-NRG pop hits. OK, so we have ended on a negative haven't we? Go back and listen to the Liberty X track, that should make it better.