Two singles, both housed at Atlantic records, with catalogue numbers just two apart, and both with physical versions finally hitting the shops, formed the heart of the singles chart battle this week. To the surprise of none, Estelle and Kanye West emerged the winners, American Boy holding firm at Number One for a second week.
Taking pride of place in the runners-up slot after an eight-week climb is Low from Flo Rida and T-Pain. After being pushed back what must have been three or four times (it was first scheduled for a March 3 release) the US Number One hit finally gets the boost of a physical version and so makes a four place leap to occupy what is inevitably its highest chart placing yet. With a great deal of press attention here currently focused (for obvious reasons) on the single at the top of the US Hot 100 at the time of writing [Mariah Carey, equaling Elvis' all-time record for most Hot 100 Number One hits], it is worth noting that Low spent a colossal 10 weeks at Number One stateside, succeeding No One by Alicia Keys (a Top 10 hit here in November) and ultimately dethroned by the record that debuts here in the UK at Number 19 this week - of which more later.
Indeed the Top 75 currently hosts six of the last seven singles to top the US charts. This is thanks to the reappearance this week of Kanye West's Stronger at the very bottom, giving him the rather unusual distinction of appearing on both the Number One and Number 75 singles in the very same week. The only single missing from the sequence is Kiss Kiss by Chris Brown featuring T-Pain which rather underachieved here and could only reach Number 38 at the tail end of last year.
If chart momentum was all you needed to become a Number One then Sam Sparro's Black & Gold would almost be a lock to top the singles chart in fairly short order. Having begun its chart life slowly at a non-canon Number 181 two weeks ago, the single has rapidly become the hottest track of the moment and this week makes a 19 place leap to claim a place at Number 4, all of this whilst still only available as a download. The UK-based Australian star even has the honour of leapfrogging no less a figure than Madonna who still moves 7-5 with her new offering 4 Minutes. The Madonna single still has another three weeks to go as a download-only single, with Black And Gold hitting the stores for real a week earlier on April 7. [We are rapidly approaching the point in the growth of the market where tracking the distinction between digital and physical releases becomes pointless].
My pleas on the chart podcast for people to pay attention to Chris Brown's With You have finally been heeded as after suffering a slight reverse last week, the single makes the most of physical sales to advance 17-8. As I mentioned above, this is a welcome turnaround after Kiss Kiss failed even to make the Top 30 and finally gives the American star his second Top 10 hit single, two years after Run It! peaked at Number 2. To continue the American theme, Chris Brown currently has two singles on the US Top 10 with With You joined by No Air, a single from 2007 Idol winner Jordin Sparks on which he duets. Sparks herself is almost on the verge of becoming only the second American Idol winner to bag a UK chart hit, although her debut single Tattoo is struggling to find an audience at present and has moved 117-90-85 as a cut from her debut album in the last three weeks. No physical version is scheduled but an e-single is set to hit online stores this week which may finally give it the lift it needs.
The highest new entry on the singles chart is indeed the single that Leona Lewis dethroned at the top of the pile Stateside, Love In This Club by Usher and Young Jeezy. Leaving aside his duet with R Kelly on Same Girl last summer, this is Usher's first single as a lead artist for almost three years. Last time around he was firmly held up as one of the hottest R&B stars of his age, storming to two consecutive Number One hits in 2004 (Yeah and Burn). Arriving a full month before the physical version, Love In This Club pretty much picks up where he left off, a pleasingly melodic pop/R&B crossover that will arrive as a breath of fresh air for those tiring of all R&B records sounding as if they are plugged into the Timbaland formula. This year marks the tenth anniversary of Usher's first Number One hit You Make Me Wanna. Co-star on Love In This Club is Young Jeezy who can now boast three star collaborations in as many hits, his only other chart entries coming in 2006 alongside Akon on Soul Survivor and Christina Milian on Say I.
Also new to the Top 40 at Number 20 is James Blunt with the token second hit from the All The Lost Souls album, following on from 1973 which was a Number 4 hit back in September. Technically it is the third single from the album, the second being Same Mistake which ended up lost in the Christmas rush and could only peak at Number 57. To counter this flop, Carry You Home has a selection of exclusive live tracks (with his own take on Young Folks on CD1) across all its physical formats, thus making it a fairly essential purchase for die-hards and completists.
Also new this week is Sensual Seduction from Snoop Dogg which was granted a combined release but which ultimately can land no higher than Number 24. Although no stranger to the top end of the chart, his biggest hits have for the most part been as guest stars on other people's tracks - most recently Akon's I Wanna Love You which was a Top 3 hit in March last year. As lead artist he's had just two Top 10 hits, Drop It Like It's Hot (Number 10 in December 2004) and perhaps most famously 'Signs' which charged to Number 2 in the summer of 2005.
Finally, for this week, the anything-goes download rules have thrown up yet another seemingly random oldie in the shape of I'm A Man from the Spencer Davis Group, sitting proudly this week at Number 70 and charting for the first time since its 1967 release when it peaked at Number 9. This mini-revival is thanks to an impenetrable TV commercial for the VW Polo which features a dog singing enthusiastically to the track - this presumably an altogether natural progression from drumming gorillas. At a stroke it spoils the perfect record of the Spencer Davis Group for having all their hit singles confined to the 1960s, their last chart appearance coming in January 1968 when Mr Second Class gave them their final hit. Lead singer Steve Winwood has been in the charts rather more recently than that, although it is still 20 years since his last hit Roll With It crept to Number 53. I'm A Man has been a hit for three different acts, the SDG original being followed by Chicago's version which hit Number 8 in 1970. Its last chart appearance came in 1989 when Hi-NRG dance outfit Clubhouse turned it into a surprisingly entertaining medley with Ye Ke Ye Ke but which could only limp to Number 69.