Those chart watchers of a certain age who have spent the last decade or so foaming at the mouth over the shape of the singles chart appear to have finally had their prayers answered. The chart as a whole has a refreshingly old school look to it, with last weeks big sellers maintaining their positions, by and large, joined by some newcomers on the rise and the new entries confined resolutely to the bottom end of the chart. To those more used to the recent past this may look depressingly slow but I could show this listing to my two-year-old self and he would not be surprised. He wouldn't be able to read it anyway.
Indeed it is on the albums chart where most activity takes place with no less than five new entries inside the Top 10, including Norah Jones' Not Too Late which enters at the top to become the UKs 800th Number One album according to the revised canon introduced by Warwick, Kutner and Brown which counts the Top 5 chart published by Record Mirror from 1956 onwards before switching to the Melody Maker chart in 1958. We last hit the century mark back in 2003 when Magic And Medicine by The Coral was Number 700.
Back on the singles chart Mika easily extends his lead over the competition with the physical release of Grace Kelly helping it to clock up its biggest sale to date and to give him a third week at Number One. Coming as this does off the back of four week Number One hits by Take That and Leona Lewis, if the single stays where it is next week (very likely) then this will be the first time we have had three consecutive Number One hits spending at least a month at the top since the start of 1992.
Both America and the UK have the same Number 2 single this week as Fall Out Boy further cast off their emo roots and soar 6-2 with This Ain't A Scene It's An Arms Race. Their climb comes at the expense of both Just Jack who falls to Number 3 and Mason who dips to Number 5, shouldered out of the way by Bloc Party who move 13-4 with The Prayer to land their biggest ever chart hit, bettering by one place the Number 5 peak of So Here We Are exactly two years ago.
Also climbing the Top 10 are Akon and Snoop Dogg with I Wanna Love You, that single still being two weeks away from a physical release. The unstoppable rise of The Fray continues apace as well as the download only How To Save A Life is now a Top 10 hit with a 16-10 rise. I'd love to see this locked into the Top 3 by the time it finally hits the shops properly at the end of the month.
The highest Top 40 climber is Kelis' Little Star which moves 37-19. Due for a shop release on February 19th, this single could well make the Top 10 before then. As far removed from Milkshake as you could possibly get, the song is a gospel tinged ballad which shows off her voice to fine effect. She's been absent from the Top 10 since 2004's Millionaire which went Top 3 and it would be wrong to bet against this track finally restoring her to the upper reaches.
The highest new entry of the week lands at a comparatively lowly Number 22. Me Plus One is the third single to be taken from Kasabian's Empire album and arrives here this week thanks to combined sales, its downloads last week not even enough to give it a chart placing. This, of course, means that further progress for the single is unlikely and it will have the honour (or lack of) of becoming their lowest charting hit to date.
Also new as far as the Top 40 is concerned is Gwen Stefani who alongside Akon moves 43-23 with The Sweet Escape. Despite lukewarm reviews for her last hit Wind It Up it still became a Top 3 hit just before Christmas and whilst I'm struggling to warm to this second single its prospects for the moment look good. Not hitting the shops for real until February 26, the single is already a sizeable hit and gives Akon a 10% sweep of the Top 30 with both Smack That and I Wanna Love You at 17 and 9 respectively.
Also climbing into the Top 40 at Number 26 is Lady Sovereign with Love Me Or Hate Me, the single which has already given her her first toehold in the US charts. When the new chart rules were introduced her record label announced they were going to take full advantage by drip feeding a new mix of the single online every week until it finally hit the shops. If the plan was to bolster her chart position it sadly didn't work as effectively as they had hoped as during its download life so far it has drifted 86-48-46 and only now reaches the Top 40 with a CD release. Quite why she still isn't the huge star most people expect her to be remains a puzzle. Love Me Or Hate Me takes her out of the grime world into pop territory for real and yet is destined to remain a minor hit. For the moment, however, any hit is better than none and the single takes her into the Top 40 in her own right for only the second time. Her only other hit to date has been there twice, 9 To 5 making Number 33 in her original version in August 2005 and then rising to Number 6 in May last year when the Ordinary Boys' "remix" duet version was promoted to a-side status. She deserves better than to be a guest star on her own records and I still have my fingers crossed.
New in at Number 28 is the returning Sophie Ellis Bextor, the singer picking up the threads of her career after time away to make babies. Her first single release since 2004, Catch You sees her turn rock chick for the first time, her trademark posh vocals sitting above an energetic yet infectious guitars n' beats production that is hard to dislike. There is plenty of time for this single to join her five solo Top 10 hits to date so watch it climb some more ahead of a physical release.
Take That's last single, the Number One hit Patience is still selling comfortably and holds firm at Number 15 this week but it is now joined in the Top 40 by the follow-up. Shine rises to Number 30 this week as its increasing level of airplay inspires ever more digital sales. Like so many of the new arrivals this week, physical sales are still several weeks off and at the risk of sounding like a stuck record, watch this rise still further.
Moving 57-35 this week are Nas and will.i.am with Hip Hop Is Dead, the title track from Nas' current album and the first to appear as a single the track has attracted very few solitary downloads and still few CD sales, this chart placing coming after the single hit the shops. It is Nas' first Top 40 hit since he appeared on Kelis' Bridging The Gap in April 2005 but his long wait for a UK Top 10 hit is set to go on.
Two more "future hits" creep into the Top 40 at the bottom end. Nelly Furtado is new at Number 37 with Say It Right (out on March 5), Beyonce's hit from the movie Dreamgirls' is Listen which arrives at Number 39 (out on February 19). The final new entry is, unfortunately, the end of the road for a single that really deserved to have been a bigger hit. Sadly High School Never Ends by Bowling For Soup failed to catch fire online and its CD release this week can only help it squeak into the Top 40 on the bottom rung. I've never failed to emerge with a smile after hearing one of their records but as time goes on their 2002 Number 8 hit Girl All The Bad Guys Want seems destined to be their one and only big hit single.