Here's something you may not have been aware of. This Sunday started like any other and just after 1pm I, along with the rest of the nation's media, received the brand new chart. After scanning past the usual copyright blurb and the threats of death by mutilation if we breach the 7pm embargo there was a rather longer than usual footnote advising of which shops had missed submitting their data in time for compilation and the recalculations that had been made to compensate.
At 5.50pm a new email arrived. This time with a slightly different version of the singles chart which crucially promoted many new arrivals to slightly better positions. Quite what the fault was with the first version is unknown at the time of writing, suffice it to say this is the first time in over a decade we have had the chart re-issued with corrections prior to official publication.
Two seemingly unconnected things happened over the last couple of weeks. First, the latest series of ITV's 'I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here" was won by a rather bemused Matt Willis, ex of Busted who even complained on the show that he hadn't actually done anything worthy of victory. Secondly, the makers of the annual "record of the year" show admitted that one of the reasons the event is not on TV this year is because it keeps being hijacked by block voting from fans of particular groups. You don't have to be a psychic to know that had the event taken place as usual this year, a McFly record would have walked away with it despite their songs being some of the poorest selling chart-toppers this year.
The lesson here is that it is in the nature of teenage pop acts to attract attention and acclaim far beyond the level that their actual popularity suggests they deserve. The Take That return could so easily have fallen into this trap and it is therefore quite satisfying to note that they have instead done exactly the reverse - their comeback single Patience sits firm at the top of the singles chart for the third week whilst the Beautiful World album remains its domination over on the long player charts. Their sales cannot be written off as twentysomething women reliving their teenage crushes, the record is selling to a far wider audience and turning the return of Take That into the sensation of the year. First time around their longest spell at Number One was four weeks, a total achieved by both Pray and Back For Good. As the seasonal rush hots up, all eyes will be on whether Patience can equal that particular record.
On then to the biggest new hit of the week, and boy this is going to be fun. There is a long history of chart hits emanating from kids TV. From the unfortunate (Teletubbies, Tweenies), through the indifferent (All*Stars) and the incredibly good indeed (Monkees, S Club 7). Now there is a new addition to the list as the charts are invaded for the first time ever by the residents of Lazy Town. Originating in Iceland of all places, the antic of Stephanie, Sportacus, Robbie Rotten and their puppet friends have swiftly grown into a worldwide phenomenon with both Nick Jnr and the BBC airing the episodes in this country. Part of the "get up and get active" gimmick of the programme is the song that features in each edition and this has led to the inevitable spin-off album and now a Number 4 chart hit.
Be warned, it isn't crap either. Bing Bang (Time To Dance) is a breezy kiddie-friendly Scandi-pop track that calls to mind the work of both Aqua and Cartoons. Admittedly it is unlikely that anyone under ten has actually bought the single (at least not to listen to themselves) but a Top 5 smash hit it is. There is no way I can come out the other side of this sentence with any shred of credibility intact, but believe it or not Bing Bang (Time To Dance) is actually one of the best and most joyously uplifting pop records you have heard all year.
As for the biggest download hit of the week, well it just goes to show that often reviewers know nothing. When Wind It Up, the brand new single from Gwen Stefani's new solo album The Sweet Escape was unveiled, there was general dismay at just how underwhelming it was. The Love Angel Music Baby album had been stuffed full of gems such as What You Waiting For and Cool and was deservedly a massive seller, and the hope was that Gwen would return with something as equally perfect. Instead Wind It Up has thrown lavishness out of the window in favour of a stripped down Neptunes produced club track which is clearly meant to be a companion to the cheerleader chant of Hollaback Girl but which instead winds up as the worst thing she has ever released. Samples of The Lonely Goatherd from The Sound Of Music only serve to drag it even further down the crapper. Or so we all thought. Just for a change, the public have disagreed in droves and the online sales of the track have propelled it to a Number 8 new entry, coincidentally matching the peak of 'Hollaback Girl' from June 2005. Expect CD sales to further consolidate its position next week and to ensure it becomes the most negatively reviewed smash hit of the year. Thankfully the rest of the album contains some slightly more inspired work.
Now if the Gwen single was hated by everyone who wrote about it, how about a track that was pretty much universally loved? Said single vaults 34-10 this week as Jamelia deservedly lands herself a Top 10 single with the inspired Beware Of The Dog. The track's appeal lies in the way it is constructed around the guitar riff from Depeche Mode's classic single Personal Jesus. The result is a track that positively crackles with an energy that compels you to dance in the very best way. Her last single Something About You was widely praised, but Beware Of The Dog is something else altogether, her transformation from R&B diva into rock chick only enhanced the other week when she joined Feeder onstage in London for a rendition of the song.
The next new hit of the week is a single that at one stage wasn't even being considered. Traditionally the task of performing the theme tune to a James Bond film has gone to an established big name, Madonna, Garbage, Tina Turner and Sheryl Crow having done the honours in the past decade with the likes of A-Ha, Duran Duran and of course Sheena Easton and Shirley Bassey having featured in older films. As befits the back to basics nature of 'Casino Royale', the producers this time around chose someone who whilst not a complete unknown is hardly a familiar name. Chris Cornell's chart career stretches back over a decade, first as lead singer of Soundgarden (biggest hit 1994's Black Hole Sun) and then subsequently with Audioslave (biggest hit Cochise in early 2003). His solo debut You Know My Name opens the movie and whilst the intense rock single is a world away from your traditional Bond theme it fits the bill just perfectly. Available online since the end of last month, the track at first wasn't being considered for a full single release which would have potentially made it the first Bond theme since Shirley Bassey's Moonraker to not appear on the singles chart. Fortunately, sense prevailed and with the CD due a belated release next week, the track duly appears at Number 12 to reflect its position as one of the biggest selling online singles of the moment. The delay in its chart appearance almost certainly means that by next week we will still be waiting for a Bond theme to top the chart, Duran Duran's A View To A Kill having missed out by one place in 1985.
Morrissey rounds off a satisfying 2006 with I Just Want To See The Boy Happy, the fourth single to be lifted from the Ringleader Of The Tormentors album and its fourth Top 20 hit. It lands at Number 16 this week which further ensures it is not the smallest, September's In The Future When All's Well having only made Number 17.
Having in equal measure annoyed and entertained people with the summertime smash Number 2 hit Everytime We Touch, German dance act Cascada return to the singles chart this week with a follow-up. Those looking for a reason to hate them need look no further than this week's Number 17 hit Truly Madly Deeply because yes, it does indeed appear to be a trance cover of Savage Garden's 1998 hit single. Now admittedly, as well regarded as it was, the original was still one of the weediest love songs of its era but in no sense did it deserve the treatment it has got here, what little emotion the song possessed is now trampled by the shrieking vocals and multi-layered synths to make a record which on the surface is utterly, utterly vile. Having landed where it has on downloads alone you can more or less guarantee it will go Top 10 next week, so in searching for a saving grace it is worth pointing out that whilst the trance version is the one being promoted on the single as the "radio edit", the track does exist in an "original mix" which by contrast keeps the song as a ballad, beautifully rendered by singer Natalie Horler and which if anything actually surpasses the Savage Garden version for emotion. Is that a first? A single which is available in two contrasting versions but which are both in their own way utterly astonishing.
There is a downside to selling thousands of albums, as the Scissor Sisters have discovered this week. At the same time that I Don't Feel Like Dancing was topping the singles chart a couple of months ago, parent album Ta Dah was finding its way into its fair share of homes. The immediate knock-on effect has been to effectively smother the follow-up Land Of A Thousand Words which arrived at Number 68 on downloads last week and now can only move to a rather lowly Number 19 on combined sales. If this ends up being a "lost" single it will actually be nothing less than a tragedy as the track is a lavish ballad with its roots once again firmly in the mid 70s. Mention must also go to the accompanying video which is the most glorious James Bond title sequence pastiche you will ever see. On past form the performance of this track actually shouldn't come as a surprise, their second single from their first album was, of course, the well regarded Take Your Mama which could only reach Number 17 and was until now their smallest hit to date. Nonetheless, Land Of A Thousand Words would have made the perfect Christmas Top 5 hit and it is to be regretted that it will get nowhere near.
One track that should be Top 10 at the very least next week is P Diddy's Tell Me, the follow-up to the Top 5 hit Come To Me which charted back in September. With no less a star than Christina Aguilera on vocals, the rap hit lands at Number 20 on downloads alone this week, so expect the usual combined sales boost in seven days time. Also worth watching is Lil' Chris' second single Gettin' Enough which arrives at Number 33 thanks to digital sales. His album appears to have bombed which will make the performance of the single next week a good indication of whether he is seen as anything more than a novelty one hit wonder.
Finally for this week, with the season of joy fast approaching, the Christmas classics are out in force on the radio and also doing business online. This being the last Christmas where they will be dependent on a CD release to be able to chart, it is nice to see two famous old hits inside the Top 30 already. At Number 23 are the Pogues with Fairytale Of New York which, as I mentioned last week, is chart eligible due to its Christmas 2005 re-release although this actually means it will vanish from the listings in Christmas week itself [it was given an exemption in the end]. A new arrival is Slade's Merry Xmas Everybody which is a "new" CD release and duly moved 54-22 to give it its highest chart placing since it made Number 20 for Christmas 1983. The track has now been a Top 40 hit on five separate occasions and has made the Top 75 chart ten times. Hitting Number One in 1973, it reappeared in 1980 in a live version, in 81, 82, 83, 84, 85 and 86 in the original and in 98 in a remix version which limped to Number 30.
Outselling all the other Christmas classics however is a track which pulled off the same trick last year as well. Mariah Carey's All I Want For Christmas Is You is Top 20 in the official downloads chart and incredibly Top 5 on iTunes. Originally a Top 3 hit in 1994, I suspect its continuing popularity is due to its use at the climax of the film 'Love Actually' which received its terrestrial premiere on ITV1 last week. The version from the film is by child star Olivia Olson yet despite being readily available online it is still Mariah's original which is being snapped up for download. For the moment, however, without a corresponding CD release, neither version will tickle the main singles chart.