It may be the more wrinkled and superannuated generation dominating the album chart, with new entries for The Eagles (Long Road Out Of Eden incredibly their first ever Number One album in this country), Robert Plant/Alison Krauss and er, Britney Spears, but the brightest of bright youth reigns supreme at the top of the singles chart. Bleeding Love by Leona Lewis once again crushes all competition before her to easily notch up a second week at Number One. The success of the single is particularly sweet for co-songwriter and producer Ryan Tedder who can claim a hand in two of the Top 5 singles of the week, thanks to his other life as lead singer of One Republic, the collaborators on Timbaland's Apologize which rises 7-4 on the singles chart after its own physical release. Tedder's association with X-Factor winners doesn't stop there either as he has a hand in writing and producing several tracks on Shayne Ward's forthcoming second album. The other co-writer of Bleeding Love is former American boy band star Jesse McCartney whose only solo hit to date is Beautiful Soul which made Number 16 in February 2006.
Looking at their release patterns since their 2005 'comeback', it is now obvious that Westlife are officially Foster and Allen for a new generation. With impeccable timing they release new singles and albums crammed full with sentimental MOR balladry just in time for the big Christmas market and thus guaranteeing them massive sales. With impressive regularity, they have also been responsible for reviving unjustly overlooked songs and turning them into the huge hits they probably always deserved to be. Just look at some of their most recent releases - Mandy, You Raise Me Up and of course last year The Rose.
The pattern continues now in 2007 as Home becomes the lead single from the Irish group's attempt to sew up the Granny's present market for yet another year. In its original version by Michael Buble, the song has become one of those long-running chart singles that never quite broke through to the big stage. His debut chart single in April 2005, its first release saw it inch its way to Number 31 in a four-week chart run. In December that same year, it was back, re-released thanks to copious airplay by easy listening network Magic and with its lyrics centre stage in a TV commercial that the radio station ran around the same time. Second time around it crept to Number 61 but has remained a moderate seller in the lower reaches of the Top 200 pretty much ever since. The arrival of the Westlife version has prompted an upswing in its sales once more and the original version of Home this week has pride of place at Number 52, its highest chart placing since that first release almost three years ago.
It is, however, Westlife who now make the song a major hit single although given their past track record, only charting at Number 3 will be a major blow. Not that they failed to sell, of course, it is just that they faced competition from both Leona Lewis and Take That which proved insurmountable in the end. Nonetheless, it seems almost certain that they will fail to top the charts with the lead single from an album for the first time in their 8 year chart career.
As expected the physical release of Samim's Heater gives the club track a huge boost, sending it soaring 29-12, sadly short of what should have been an easy Top 10 hit single. We can hardly complain, the rash of quality product on the market at the moment is making hit singles harder to come by than they have been all year.
Not that it seems to bother the ghost of Elvis Presley. The 12th single release of the current re-issue programme gives him his 12th straight Top 20 hit single, Viva Las Vegas becoming the third to peak at Number 15. In an odd break to the more or less chronological sequence of releases, we this time jump back to 1964 for this single, released from the soundtrack of the film of the same name and one of the few highlights of his crap movie period. The 2007 re-release actually improves on the peak of the original which only climbed to Number 17, at the time his smallest hit single for over seven years. The song has had a more modern revival thanks to ZZ Top who landed a Number 10 hit with a memorable cover version back in 1992.
One place below at Number 16 is The Crash, the latest hit single from the determinedly independent-minded Koopa. Their third hit of the year, it has the honour of being the biggest and gives them their first ever taste of Top 20 success. It is a suitable end to a successful 2007 after they began the year by making chart history, charting the download-only track Blag Steal And Borrow to become the first ever "unsigned" act to make the UK charts.
Leaping up the chart at Number 17 is Robyn who appears to be struggling now the novelty of Number One hit With Every Heartbeat has worn off. Handle Me has been selected as the next single from the album and having hoovered up a handful of downloads to rank at Number 43 last week it now leaps into the Top 20 following physical release. With its predecessor still hanging around (ranking at Number 51 currently) and in truth not being half as good, it is hard to see just how Handle Me was ever going to live up to what went before. All the more puzzling why novelty rap 'Konichiwa Bitches' wasn't re-released instead. OK so it flopped totally back in March, but with Robyn suddenly cool again there seems no reason not to give it another go.
Two years after he showed the nation that he was no flash in the pan, Craig David is back once more with a brand new album and what looks set to be another successful assault on the singles chart. Released online one week ahead of its CD version, his new single Hot Stuff (Let's Dance) charges into the chart at Number 19. In a move which may well prove to be the most inspired revival of the year, the single is based extensively around samples from Let's Dance, Number One single which revived David Bowie's career back in 1983 when Craig David himself was barely out of nappies. Borrowing the Rogers and Edwards bassline and brass, it makes for a track that is the best R&B single you will hear this side of Timbaland and what will inevitably become his seventh Top 5 hit by this time next week.
One single that hasn't been so lucky is Sorry Blame It On Me by Akon which despite physical release this week can only stagger up to Number 22. Whilst it is still a better performance than his last single Mama Africa which missed the Top 40 altogether in August, better things were expected of the track which was added to the "platinum edition" re-release of the Konvicted album earlier in the summer.
Two places behind is still Hate That I Love You from Rihanna which climbs to a new peak of Number 24, still two weeks ahead of its own physical release, a prospect which Avril Lavigne surely wishes she had ahead of her. Instead, her third single of the year Hot limps into the Top 40 at Number 30 on physical sales, a chart performance which is set to make it her smallest ever hit single. Prior to today, she had never been lower than Number 24, a peak scaled by Nobody's Home in November 2004.
Back to the future hits that are hits already and new in at Number 26 is Alicia Keys with download sales of No One. Marking her chart return after an absence of three and a half years, the single is as diverting as you might expect. A heartfelt ballad underpinned by a simple piano melody and a thundering rhythm track, No One isn't quite an instant classic but gets under your skin nicely after just one listen. Surprising as it may seem her only solo Top 10 hit remains her 2001 debut Fallin' although she also reached Number 6 a year later as the guest star on Eve's Gangsta Lovin'. Watch with interest whether this track manages to erase that rather unwanted record.
Also creeping into the Top 30 (just) are Elliot Minor with their third hit single of the year, The White One Is Evil disappointingly failing to build on the success of Top 20 hit Jessica from earlier in the summer. The endless parade of badly made tribute videos to them on YouTube proves that their fanbase is there and growing. Look out for a tactically released January single to build up to the release of their debut album which is tentatively set for a February release.
New Cliff Richard releases may well be little more than final footnotes to his long and distinguished career, but even his legion of fans will be rather shocked at the Number 38 entry of his new single When I Need You. Written by songwriting legend Carole Bayer Sager, the song was a Number One hit for Leo Sayer in 1977 and was more recently covered by Will Mellor who made Number 5 with a version in 1998. Cliff, on the other hand, can't repeat the feat of a Hollyoaks actor and shocking though it may seem this will wind up as his smallest chart hit since Be With Me Always hit a lowly Number 52 in early 1997.
Finally for this week, those of us with an eye on the effect popular culture has on download sales of old hits were watching avidly for the effect that the British screening of the final episode of The Sopranos would have on sales of Don't Stop Believin' by Journey which soundtracks the last five minutes of the episode. A lowly Number 62 chart single when released in 1982, iTunes currently ranks it as the most popular purchase of the 150 tracks by the California rock band yet despite this it makes a rather listless rise to a non-canon Number 94. The only Journey song ever to have been a major hit single in this country is Open Arms thanks to a Mariah Carey rendition which reached Number 4 in 1996. [More on this one over the next couple of years].
Oh yes, and just in case you were thinking of taking a short holiday from music next week, don't. The immovable rock that is Leona Lewis is about to clash headlong with the unstoppable force that is the 2007 comeback of Brave Kylie. Who will survive?