I'm bored. As so frequently seems to be the case, the final sales week of November is pretty much a death slot for any new material. Either you are aiming your single at the big Christmas sales rush, in which case this week is too early, or you are avoiding it altogether in which case you will have had your product on the market by now. This year the slowdown seems more pronounced than ever, and the result is a stillwater that stretches a long way down the singles chart.
This does at least leave room for Leona Lewis to continue to shatter records left right and centre. This week there is no argument or grey area as Bleeding Love spends a sixth week at Number One, matching the 1968 performance of Those Were The Days by Mary Hopkin as the all-time longest-running Number One hit by a British female. This does, of course, mean that the two female records have both been matched in 2007, this after Umbrella by Rihanna equalled the 10 week run of Whitney Houston with I Will Always Love You. Whether Umbrella counts as a solo hit given that Jay-Z had a "featuring" credit for his two bar contribution is another argument altogether of course. Leona also holds firm at the top of the album chart, beating into second place her predecessor as X Factor winner Shayne Ward with his album Breathless. To the surprise of some, Kylie Minogue's comeback album X only lands at Number 4.
With the Rihanna and Leona Lewis singles both being such long-running Number Ones it means that 2007 is the first year for almost a decade to have two singles spend as many as six weeks at the top. The last such occasion was in 1998 when It's Like That by Run DMC had a six-week stint in the spring, followed by Believe by Cher spending seven weeks at the summit in the autumn. Bleeding Love is only the 15th different Number One hit of the year and with only three more chart weeks left in 2007, we are on course for the smallest number of chart-toppers since 1995 saw just 17 different singles hit Number One. Compare that with the 42 different singles which topped the chart back in 2000, the greatest ever level of turnover in a single year.
The record for the fewest number of Number One singles is 12 (or 13 if one counts the last Number One of the previous year), set in 1962 and equalled in 1992. Only 12 different songs topped the NME chart in 1957 although this was with 13 different singles, thanks to two versions of Singing The Blues taking turns at the top near the start of the year.
Much of the competition for Leona's Number One singles crown came from Girls Aloud and Call The Shots which was one of the few big new physical releases of the week. At one stage it came within a few thousand copies of the lead before slipping back by the weekend, the single ultimately having to settle for a Number 3 slot, behind T2 and Heartbroken which stays firm in the runners-up slot. To tell the truth I'm actually glad it wasn't in proper contention as even after repeated listens Call The Shots still sounds rather flat, uninspired and in desperate need of a proper hook, comparing poorly to some of their past work. Needless to say, the chart placing puts it on a par with most of their past singles, ranking now as their tenth Top 3 hit single. Christmas 2007 will, of course, mark the fifth anniversary of their creation as the female winners of the "Popstars - The Rivals" TV show.
So that just leaves Elvis Presley single of the week as the highest chart entry, An American Trilogy reversing the decline of his recent chart positions to land at Number 12, a chart position matched or bettered by just two of his weekly releases since August. For reasons I've never quite been able to fathom, this is one of the most consistently popular late-period Elvis releases. As the title suggests it is an arrangement of three Civil-War era American folk songs, Dixie, All My Trials and Battle Hymn Of The Republic. Maybe it means more to his fellow countrymen than it does here, but the single is actually a rather turgid march through the three classics, Elvis giving it the full-throated Vegas showman throughout. Its original 1972 release saw it become a Number 8 hit in the summer of that year, this re-release being its first appearance since then. Thankfully there is just one more of these to go - Burning Love which will hit the chart next week.
Whilst there may be a lack of top end activity on the singles chart, the lower end is a frenzy of wannabe hits, including what are potentially the big Top 5 singles during Christmas week. Leading the pack as you might expect is Soulja Boy who races 24-14 with Crank That (Soulja Boy). Some smart money is going on him being Number 2 at Christmas behind Rhydian The X Factor winner single, the only danger being that he might peak too early.
The lower end of the Top 40 also plays host to the front-runners in the expected invasion of the Christmas classics, fuelled by the release over the last few weeks of the now customary crop of seasonal compilation albums. The charge is led by - what else - All I Want For Christmas Is You from Mariah Carey which has steadily grown in stature over the past few years as the modern day Christmas classic of choice. At this point, before it has been overplayed on the radio in over the PA systems in the shops, it is hard not to crack a smile and be singing along by the time the climactic chorus arrives. The Motown flavoured romp was first released in 1994 and was only prevented from being Christmas Number One that year by Stay Another Day by East 17. Part of the reason for its recent surge in popularity can be attributed to the use of the song in the closing sequence of holiday feelgood film 'Love Actually' although Olivia Olsen's rendition from the soundtrack is not available online, leaving Mariah to hoover up the sales.
New to the Top 75 at Number 26 are The Editors with their new single The Racing Rats. It is their third hit of the year and following its release as a CD single last week it has now charged past the Number 27 peak of their album title track An End Has A Start which was scaled by the track back in September. One of the most universally acclaimed releases of the year, the hope is that this single release will give sales of An End Has A Start one final boost to push it into the list of the Top 50 bestsellers of the year.
Fans of alternative music will be cheering the appearance at Number 29 of Aussie expatriates Pendulum who land their biggest ever UK hit with Granite. The Drum & Bass stars have only once before penetrated the Top 40, reaching Number 34 with Slam/Out There in late 2005, a chart placing which coincided with the re-release and chart run of Voodoo People from The Prodigy which they had remixed. Granite heralds the release of an eagerly awaited new album from the trio which is due in the new year.
Now how does the saying go? "You are only as good as your last hit". Just tell that to Sean Kingston, feted as the most exciting new international talent of the summer thanks to Number One smash Beautiful Girls but now potentially the owner of a "one hit wonder" tag as the follow-up Me Love limps to Number 32 after a full physical release. In truth there isn't much wrong with the track, another bright fusion of R&B and reggae but as has so often proved to be the case, timing is everything. As the nights draw in and gales and rain lash the windows outside, who on earth wants a song that reminds them of sipping cocktails on the beach?
More Christmas music arrives at Number 33 as Fairytale Of New York from the Pogues and Kirsty McColl reappears for the third year in a row, and just in time to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its first release. This is now the fifth Christmas the single has appeared on the chart, having also made Number 36 when re-released in 1991, four years after it first made Number 2. Having made Number 3 in 2005 and Number 6 last year, the track is on course to become the first Christmas song ever to make the Top 10 three years in a row.
Other seasonal hits jockeying for position are Last Christmas at Number 50, I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday at Number 65 and just outside the official placings Merry Christmas Everyone at Number 78, Do They Know It's Christmas (the 1984 and 1989 versions being bracketed together by the chart) at Number 82 and Driving Home For Christmas at Number 98. They are all beaten to the punch however by one golden oldie which has never before been a UK hit. It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year from Andy Williams has been released to coincide with its use in the current series of TV commercials from M&S and duly lands on the chart at Number 43. Andy Williams' Christmas TV specials were for many years an annual tradition in the States and it resulted in the easy listening star having a vast catalogue of Christmas albums, but this is the first time he has ever charted a seasonal hit in this country. At the age of 79, he is almost the oldest man ever to have a UK hit single, beaten only by Larry Adler who had just turned 80 when he duetted with Kate Bush on The Man I Love, a Number 27 hit in 1994.
Finally for this week two more notable appearances right at the bottom of the Top 40. New in at Number 36 on downloads is the other single on which the smart money is going to be Number 2 for Christmas - Change by the Sugababes. This will be the fourth year they have made a direct play for the top of the charts in December, hitting Number 3 with Ugly in 2005, Number 10 with Too Lost In You in 2003 and Number 12 in 2000 with New Year, considered by many fans to be a lost classic and destined for rediscovery somewhere down the line. Change is a worthy addition to that canon, an exquisite ballad that ranks as one of their best ever singles and which should hopefully peak just in time to take the crown, hitting the shops on CD on December 17 alongside both Soulja Boy and Rhydian The X Factor winner single.
Speaking of X Factor, the ability of the TV show to inspire sales of songs performed by the contestants goes on. Hope may have warbled the song badly out of tune the week before last but their performance was enough to persuade people to seek out Hurt by Christina Aguilera which duly charges back into the chart at Number 39, almost exactly a year since it first peaked at Number 11. Their elimination this weekend should bring an end to these quirks, I can't really see anyone racing online to buy tracks on the strength of performances by the Scary Twins, can you?