It's a fascinating Top 3 this week on the UK singles chart, albeit maybe not for the best of reasons. Now normally I'm not one to pay that much attention to actual sales figures, the chart books of the future will after all give no clue as to exactly who sold what, but the extraordinary set of figures that have resulted in this week's Top 3 cannot go without comment. According to Music Week this week, a mere 334 copies separate the Top 3 singles this week, with the Number 2 and Number 3 hits separated but just 5 copies.
The unlikely winners of this 3-way tussle turn out to be Orson who in their third week on the chart see the catchy No Tomorrow ascend to the top to give them their very first Number One single. Sad to report though that they do so by breaking an unwanted record. By selling just under 18,000 copies this week, No Tomorrow ranks as the smallest selling Number One single in chart history, a smaller total even than Elvis' Jailhouse Rock which topped 20,000 in January last year. Whilst this isn't exactly cause for alarm and is caused mainly by a lack of prominent new releases from major stars, it is still a disappointing sight and one that is certain to prompt more than its fair share of doom-laden headlines. The underlying fact remains that with online sales factored in, the market for "single tracks" is actually very healthy at the present time, the only problem being that the presence of online stores has expanded the available inventory from a hundred or so singles to several thousand. Thus most sales are spread over a wide range of product rather than being concentrated on those near the top of the singles chart - the result is the chart you see today.
[Did it ever have a proper video? In any event it is impossible to track down, so here's a dodgy cut of a Top Of The Pops performance]
Meanwhile, inside that Top 3, the Black Eyed Peas leap 16-3 as Pump It arrives in the shops on CD. As expected this then saves the single from the ignominy of becoming their smallest hit since their rise to fame began in 2003, their chart career overall, of course, dating back to 1998 when Joints And Jam rose unnoticed to Number 53.
The highest sort-of debut on the chart this week goes to Girls Aloud whose machine-gun approach to singles releases means that Whole Lotta History becomes their fourth hit single in the last seven months and their third in the last four. The single is only a "sort of" new entry as it actually charted at Number 80 last week on online sales alone and so thus technically posts a 74 place rise to land at Number 6. The one fly in the ointment is that Music Week still only publish the chart down to position 75 and it is only these positions which are considered canon by the record books. This will almost certainly mean that the 72-2 leap made by Steps' It's The Way You Make Me Feel in January 2001 will remain the biggest climb in chart history. As for the Girls Aloud record, well it maintains their 100% record, giving them a 12th straight Top 10 hit. It also reverses the decline in their chart fortunes which saw their last single See The Day hit an all time low of Number 9, although Biology remains the only track from their current album to have penetrated the Top 5.
Also new in the shops this week is Joey Negro's Make A Move On Me which makes a canonical 47-11 leap up the chart to debut in the Top 40. Dave Lee invented the pseudonym back in the late 80s in order to circumvent the inverse racism of many house clubs of the time who refused to accept that British producers could make club tracks to rival their New York counterparts. This new single marks the first chart outing for that persona since he hit Number 8 with Must Be The Music in early 2000. Lee's best run of hits came four years ago when as Jakatta he notched up three straight Top 10 singles, including the Number 3 hit American Dream which turned the 'American Beauty' theme into a club anthem.
The changing shape of the market caused by the new chart rules means that the biggest legitimate new entry of the week is at an uncharacteristically low Number 13 - but even this is a single that has already charted once before. Ray J's One Wish first came out towards the end of last year but could only peak at Number 26. Re-released now, the single makes a rather more impressive debut and helps Ray J to his biggest solo hit single to date. The R&B star's best chart showing actually came back in 2001 when he duetted with big sister Brandy on a cover of Phil Collins' Another Day In Paradise, that single hitting Number 4.
Early sales predictions suggested that Michael Jackson was finally heading for the Top 10 with his latest DualDisc re-release but it is frustration once again as Beat It can only limp to Number 15. Originally a hit back in 1983 it was the follow-up to Billie Jean and came close to emulating its chart-topping predecessor, eventually peaking at Number 3. It was the first of what came to be a regular token rock track on a Jackson album, the single featuring a famous guitar performance from Eddie Van Halen. As was becoming the habit, the single also came complete with a lavish video, this time entirely bankrolled by Jackson himself. It's gang warfare motif was one that he would revisit a few years later - or next week according to the chronology of these reissues.
Just below at Number 16 is a new entry/climber from Beverley Knight whose Piece Of My Heart vaults 93-16 as the CD single appears in the shops. Now a ten-year chart veteran, Beverley Knight's latest album is a hits collection, which comes complete with the obligatory new track or two - one of which is this single. It hits the chart exactly one year to the week since her last single Keep This Fire Burning which also hit Number 16. Forever it seems on the verge of a big breakthrough, Knight has only ever had two Top 10 hits, although it is fitting that these are two of her best tracks - Shoulda Woulda Coulda which made Number 10 in March 2002 and Come As You Are which hit Number 9 in June 2004.
The parade of mid-table new entries continues with another track taken from a Greatest Hits collection. This time the deserving recipients are Massive Attack who duly land at Number 17 with the well received Live With Me which features a vocal from folk legend Terry Callier. It's their first Top 40 single in a little over three years, last single Special Cases hitting Number 15 in March 2003. Just like Beverley Knight the group are the subject of much acclaim, have released albums hailed as classics but have always flattered to deceive as far as the singles chart is concerned. All-time classic Unfinished Sympathy actually made a mere Number 13 back in 1991 and their biggest ever chart hit is Teardrop which took them to Number 10 in 1998.
Fresh from topping the Hot 100 in America, new R&B star Ne-Yo makes a UK chart debut at Number 18 with So Sick. Just like the Black Eyed Peas single last week, this is a track which has made the chart on the strength of download sales alone, such is the anticipation for its release. The CD is in the shops this week which will almost certainly see the track gain a Top 10 placing in seven days time.
Two of the biggest female stars in US pop line up next. First up is Hilary Duff with Fly which ranks as a disappointing follow-up to the joyously catchy Wake Up which was a Number 7 hit as long ago as last November. Oddly enough the singles from her second album are following the same pattern as her first - her chart account being opened in 2003 with the Number 9 hit So Yesterday only for the follow-up Come Clean to make a more disappointing Number 18. There is a similar disappointment for Kelly Clarkson who just misses the Top 20 with Walk Away, although she does at least have the excuse that it is the fourth single from her album Breakaway, the previous three all having been Top 10 smashes.
Finally, this week marks a watershed in the chart career of James Blunt's Wisemen which upon its re-release rises 54-23 to become a Top 40 hit for the first time ever. The single first hit the chart almost exactly a year ago this week but could only reach Number 44. Last summer as You're Beautiful soared up the charts, online sales of the earlier single propelled it back into the charts whereupon it spent the next few months hovering around the cusp of the Top 75, hitting a peak of Number 63 in the week of June 18th last year. Last week the single gained a new catalogue number and appeared again at Number 54 in anticipation of its shop re-release and so this week the track at long long last becomes a Top 40 hit. It is far from James Blunt's biggest single but next to the now departed You're Beautiful it is almost certainly his most well-travelled.