I never really knew that she could dance like that - dance that is, all the way to the top of the charts. With sales of the single steadily increasing week by week ever since its release, Hips Don't Lie by Shakira and Wyclef Jean this week takes the ultimate step and dethrones Nelly Furtado to become the nation's biggest selling single.
The track is Shakira's first ever UK Number One, beating the Number 2 peak scaled by Whenever Wherever back in 2002 and makes her the first ever Columbian star to top the charts in this country. Furthermore, if we apply a little elasticity to the definition of "solo artist" she ranks as the third female singer in a row to top the singles chart, hard on the heels of both Nelly Furtado and Sandi Thom. This hasn't happened since 1988 when Whitney Houston, Enya and Robin Beck all had runs at the top in quick succession, although three songs in a row featuring lead female vocals (as opposed to solo acts) has happened plenty of times in the last decade or so.
Of course technically Hips Don't Lie isn't a solo single at all due to the extensive contributions of Wyclef Jean. Indeed the track is far from original, being little more than a straightforward lyrical rewrite of Dance Like This which first appeared on the 'Dirty Dancing 2' soundtrack, Shakira simply taking the place of Claudette Ortiz who supplied the female vocals on the original. It has been ten years since Wyclef Jean was at the top of the UK charts, back then of course as a member of the Fugees on both Killing Me Softly and Ready Or Not. Those with long memories will recall that both those tracks actually featured Lauryn Hill on lead vocals, Wyclef's contributions being restricted to intoning his trademark "one time, two times" clarion call. 'Hips Like This' can, therefore, rank as his first ever Number One single as a front stage performer, even if it is as the "guest star" on his own record.
Just below the holy trinity Top 3 of Shakira, Nelly and Sandi is broken up this week by the arrival of the Pussycat Dolls' Buttons which as expected makes a flying leap up the chart following its physical release, soaring 11-3. All four of their singles have now become Top 3 hits although Buttons needs a climb next week if it isn't to rank as their smallest hit to date.
One of the more unexpected Number One hits of the year came back in March when So Sick by Ne-Yo had a brief moment of glory after an 18-1 flying leap. The R&B star is no one hit wonder either and the follow-up Sexy Love also takes a leap up the chart this week moving 21-5. If nothing else the single has demonstrated perfect timing. American R&B balladry such as his tends to have only sporadic runs of success in this country depending largely on the climate it seems. With the release of Sexy Love coinciding with a very welcome heatwave, it provides the perfect soundtrack to lazy weekend afternoons and evenings spent in riverside bars. Under those circumstances, it could hardly fail.
The other Top 10 climber this week is She Moves In Her Own Way by the Kooks which doesn't quite sustain the impact it made last week when it hit Number 14 on download sales alone. The single makes a creditable move to Number 7 this week but that is still two places short of the chart peak of their last single Naive which hit the chart back in April and which is still hanging around, this week climbing once more 26-25.
On then to the biggest new release of the week which goes to a lady who can rank alongside Sandi Thom in terms of pre-release hype. Lily Allen is the 21-year-old daughter of comedian Keith Allen but her main claim to pre-chart fame came thanks to the buzz that surrounded her myspace profile with the Observer newspaper most famously championing her as the next star to emerge from the online community. Just like Sandi Thom before her, this attention swiftly deteriorated into rows over whether she genuinely was a "community" discovery or whether the social networking platform was being used cynically as a marketing tool by a label which had planned the grassroots campaign all along. Best then that we overlook the hype and concentrate on the single itself which actually turns out to be a worthwhile experience. The single Smile is a breezy pop track [owing more than a little to Bob Marley] which although at times unremarkable has enough charm and attitude to ensure that she will live up to her billing as the next new chart sensation. The Number 13 placing of Smile is thanks to online sales alone so the chances are high that next week we'll be talking about it in terms of a Top 3 single.
The second biggest new hit of the week is also an eagerly anticipated single which flies into the Top 20 on download sales alone. We last saw Razorlight just over a year ago when after slow and steady progress they exploded into the mainstream with the one-off single Somewhere Else which shot to Number 2 and which was then swiftly added to the tracklisting of their debut album Up All Night which had first been released in 2004. The success of this late single actually caused them a small problem as the album had already been mined for four singles and there was no obvious follow-up waiting in the wings. Hence the calculated risk to wait until their new album was recorded. In The Morning is the first offering from the new long player and which bizarrely results in me having for the second time in the last few weeks to compare the lead vocal with that of classic era Bob Geldof and the Boomtown Rats. Yes, Johnny Borrell is indeed doing his best Saint Bob impression on the track, but that is actually no bad thing. There is nothing better than a single which has taken a year to arrive being well worth the wait and Top 10 status for the track is all but assured next week, especially as parent album Razorlight doesn't hit the shops for another fortnight yet.
So it turns out that the biggest new physical hit of the week is Michael Jackson's Blood On The Dancefloor. The track is Jacko's most recent Number One single in this country, hitting the top upon release back in 1997. Although not a resounding success back home it gave a clue as to how he could have remained on top of his game, Europe responding favourably to the dance remix project of which the single was the title track. Alas, four years later he returned with the tangled mess of styles which was the Invincible album, now regarded as a career low point musically and which is ignored for the purposes of the DualDisc re-release campaign which thus now comes to an end. Aside from giving him a record breaking run of 19 Top 40 singles in as many weeks, we now have to wonder whether this campaign has had the desired effect. The idea was, of course, to remind people just how good Michael Jackson could be and to rehabilitate his artistic image after his many legal problems of the last few years. Doing so would, of course, prepare the way and whet the appetite for a brand new Michael Jackson album to justify his continuing claim to be "King Of Pop".
The truth of the matter is that his back catalogue has been milked to death already over the past few years and despite a late rally in chart positions (caused more by a summer slump in sales than anything else), none of the re-releases made the Top 10 and by the end were being hoovered up by fanatics and collectors rather than the general public. Elvis made headlines with his one-a-week re-release program. Jackson just made up the numbers. It's not all bad news. The Invincible album may have been largely pish but his last proper single to date, 2003s one-off One More Chance was as good as anything he had done before. With the right material and with the right production, Michael Jackson can still be a chart superstar. As ever you have to separate Jackson the person from Jackson the performer. Nobody with a brain can condone or approve of his lifestyle choices and past behaviour but anyone who is a music fan wants his genius to manifest itself again on record - and quickly.
Finally for this week, a cautionary tale for anyone who believes the continual mining of a pop album for hit singles is a risk-free proposition. Kelly Clarkson's second album Breakaway was first released a year ago and in 2005 spawned the Top 10 singles Since U Been Gone, Behind These Hazel Eyes and Because Of You. When Walk Away became the fourth single back in March and only reached a lowly Number 21 this should have provided a clue that interest in the album had peaked. Notwithstanding that, the title track now becomes the fifth single to be plucked from the long player. Whilst in the 1980s and 1990s it may have been possible to endlessly mine pop albums for hit singles, that simply isn't the case any more. After creeping in at Number 62 on download sales last week, Breakaway the single make an apologetic appearance at Number 22. It isn't her smallest hit to date, that honour goes to November 2003s Low/The Trouble With Love Is which could only make Number 35, but her last two singles will go down as an unworthy stain on her chart record, one which could so easily have been avoided.