[Welcome then, to what I would eventually dub the "curate's egg" era, thanks to my use of the phrase in a BBC news report about the imperfections of the system. A messy, but necessary stage in the industry's own transition from physical singles to an almost entirely digital proposition and which for the first time allowed download-only singles to chart just as long as a physical edition was to follow a week later. But I'll explain all that as we go along].
It's STILL Chico time. It will annoy as many people as it delights, but the Number One single holds firm this week as Chico spends a second week at the top of the chart. Entertainingly some people misinterpreted my comments about the record last week and wondered if I really believed that Chico was a brand new star in the making. Of course, he isn't, he's a novelty act on the same level as the Cheeky Girls. Nonetheless his Number One single is still a worthwhile event and as I said last week, he was a worthy contender on the X Factor. He may not have been the best singer but as an entertainer he was outstanding. Just try sleeping through this record in the same way you do one by, say, Shayne Ward.
Taking the runners up slot this week is not a new entry but actually one of last week's older hits. No Tomorrow by Orson continues to grow its appeal and its sales hold firm, giving the single a useful leg-up to the Number 2 slot.
That means that the biggest new hit of the week has to creep in at Number 4. Red Dress effectively marks the chart debut for the Sugababes Mark III. For those not familiar with their history, the Mark I version consisted of Keisha, Mutya and Siobhan and lasted for one well-received album on London records back in 2000. After they were dropped by their label, Siobhan left and was replaced by Heidi. Island records picked the girls up and the rest is pretty much history, a string of Number One hits swiftly following. Last December, of course, Mutya left the group just prior to the release of their last hit Ugly, her place swiftly taken by new member Amelle - and thus leaving Keisha Buchanan as the only original member left.
The only complication, of course, is the fact that the girls were in the middle of promoting the Taller In Many Ways album, recorded with the Mark II lineup. Easily sorted - buy the album now and you will pick up a new version which features several tracks with re-recorded vocals featuring Amelle. Red Dress is one such track and lands on the chart now with ease. Naturally, you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference unless you heard both versions side by side, the whole point of replacing the singer being to ensure the brand stays alive and their fan base intact.
Those with long memories will recall that this isn't the first time a girl group has replaced one member with another in the middle of a promotion. The first Atomic Kitten album Right Now had been in the shops for several months in 2001 when Kerry Katona left the group to make babies. Replaced by Jenny Frost, the album was also re-released with a combination of old tracks and ones remade with new vocals. Going further back, in 1988 Bananarama replaced Siobhan Fahey with Jacquie O'Sullivan and released a re-recorded I Want You Back as a single, the original version remaining on the Wow album which had come out a year before.
Back to the present then and the only other new song in the Top 10 this week is Kanye West's Touch The Sky the fourth single to be taken from the Late Registration album and the follow-up to Heard 'Em Say which made a comparatively disappointing Number 22 back in December. The single is still in direct competition with Gold Digger which continues to hand around the Top 40, this week rising to Number 38 a full 25 weeks since it was first released [and which would remain on the singles chart for many more weeks, immune from the new chart removal rules as the label cannily never deleted the physical version].
Meanwhile just outside the Top 10 the Michael Jackson re-release programme moves up a gear - slightly. This week we leave the Off The Wall era behind and move onto the Thriller years. The promotion for what would eventually become the biggest selling album of all time actually got off to a low-key start at the end of 1982 with the strange decision to release the rather wimpy The Girl Is Mine as the first single. Indeed the album was in danger of sinking without a trace when Jackson was invited to perform at a special concert to mark the 25th birthday of Motown records. His performance is now the stuff of legend as he remained on-stage after his brothers had left and performed the intense Billie Jean in black fedora and jacket, debuting the dance move that would become his trademark - the moonwalk. The single shot to Number One on both sides of the Atlantic and received even more attention thanks to its famous Steve Barron-directed video which escaped even MTV's famous reluctance to air songs by black acts. The track's reappearance this week actually marks its first time on the chart since those heady days of 1983 and although it may not have returned to the Top 10 its presence is a very welcome one indeed. The idea that an expensive video could help sell a song is one that Jackson would return to...
Just behind Jackson at Number 12 are the Shapeshifters. The duo topped the charts back in 2004 with the memorable Lola's Theme, following it up with the slightly less inspired Back To Basics almost exactly a year ago. Their third hit is Incredible which sadly fails to emulate the Top 10 success of the previous two. I can't really explain why, which is annoying as I'm supposed to know these things.
In at Number 13 this week are the forever underrated Placebo with a new single in advance of what will be their sixth album. The album made headlines earlier in the year after an online leak threatened to derail plans for its release. Despite this, the lead single Because I Want You makes a solid chart debut this week, its placing enough to make it their biggest chart hit since Bitter End made Number 12 back in 2003. Their last Top 10 hit seems ever further away of course, You Don't Care About Us their last single to break into the upper reaches in late 1998. The album Meds is set to hit the shops this week and is well worth the money - assuming you weren't one of the ones to pick up a pirate copy in January of course.
Now take a note of this next hit for in years to come it will be the subject of pub quizzes. What was the first single to make the UK charts before it was even released? The answer is Pump It by the Black Eyed Peas which actually hits the shops this week but which becomes the first beneficiary of the new chart rules which have allowed its online sales to count towards the chart a week early. Thus while for the moment it appears the single could rank as their smallest to date, the distinct possibility exists that it will rise into the Top 10 next week once the CD single becomes available.
If the Black Eyed Peas are the highest profile beneficiary of the new rules, the most high profile "victim" is James Blunt, whose long-deleted You're Beautiful vanishes from the chart in what would have been its 41st week. I'm being bombarded with mails from people berating the Official Charts Company for causing this to happen, misguidedly so as if you want to paint anyone as villains it is the record company who deleted the single last summer. You'll note that many other long-running hits from last year are still kicking around as they remain on the catalogue. Daniel Powter's Bad Day is this week at Number 77, and better still I Like The Way by the Bodyrockers which is at Number 98 this week and looks set to only vanish when the 52 week rule catches it at the end of April. Note as well the appearance of James Blunt's Wisemen at Number 54 which has its "weeks on chart" count reset to one and appears with a new catalogue number. The reason? It is re-released next week and charts on online sales thanks to, er, the new chart rules.
Released for real this week is Like You, the latest single from the not so little anymore Bow Wow, here in tandem with former Number One hitmaker Ciara. It is the rapper's first chart hit since Let Me Hold You hit Number 27 in October last year and his biggest chart single since he appeared on JoJo's Baby It's You which went Top 10 in 2004. Ciara hasn't been seen on the chart since August last year when Oh made Number 4. In her four chart hits so far she hasn't actually had a proper solo credit, appearing either alongside another act, or in this case as the guest star on someone else's single.
Finally in the Top 20 this week, Craig David grabs a new entry with Unbelievable which for the record (I get the feeling that we're going to have to note this for every new entry from now on) did hit the shops last week. It's Number 18 placing thus makes it a rather disappointing follow up to Don't Love You No More which hit Number 4 at the back end of last year. At the very least it maintains his 100% strike rate of Top 20 hits although a failure to climb next week will make this single his smallest ever chart hit.