How does the saying go? Nothing is certain but death and taxes. Just when you think that certain things, particularly where the singles chart is concerned, are raging certainties - along comes a week just like this one to blow your preconceptions out of the water. Indeed the tale of this week can be divided into two. The things that happened as expected, and the things that didn't quite go according to plan.
Before the fabric of space/time was torn completely asunder, Take That did at least come along to rescue matters. The release of their brand new single Greatest Day ensured that no other record in the Top 10 stood even half a chance and they duly debut at Number One. In times to come, the Take That comeback will be the benchmark against which all others are measured. It wasn't ever planned this way either, a one-off nostalgia tour suddenly turned into a brand new album, a soundtrack single and now the forthcoming release of the second album of their second time around. What helped, of course, is that Gary Barlow was always a songwriter of some considerable genius. Sure, he had fallen a long way out of favour since the late 90s, to the extent when he was doubtful of his own talent, but given the right circumstances and a chance to write once again for the bunch of guys with which he first made his name, he was set free to sparkle once more. Best of all the group still have one important ace in the hole. All they have to do is persuade Robbie Williams to finally let bygones be bygones, even if it is just for a one-off reunion concert and they have the ability to make headlines all over again.
So what of the new single itself. It duly becomes their 11th chart-topping single in the UK, their first to hit the summit since Shine rose to the top in early 2007, and as if to hammer home the point the third since their celebrated return to the studio two years ago. The song itself is a none more Barlow-esque ballad, although it should be pointed out that all four members of the group share songwriting credits for a change. Having rather rubbished their last single Rule The World when it came out a year ago, only to watch it turn into an all-time enduring classic I'm not going to go out on any limbs and express a strong preference on this new record one way or another. Suffice it to say that it is the sound of a group able to effortlessly bridge the gap between modern day teenage pop fans and grown adults such as Alison Hunt of BBC Merseyside who love them just as much as they did a decade ago when they too were just teenagers themselves.
The other predictable chart event of the week was the flurry of activity surrounding Take That's back catalogue, all thanks to the last edition of X Factor which saw the group serve as "theme of the week" and giving prime time TV exposure to their greatest hits. Making the strongest leap of all is the aforementioned Rule The World which this week celebrates its 51st week as a Top 75 single having been a constant seller ever since its release just over a year ago. It leaps this week to Number 27, its first appearance in the Top 40 since mid-September when a performance by an act on the BBC show 'Last Choir Standing' gave it a brief boost. This is the first time since Easter it has climbed as high as the Top 30.
Also making its way up the chart is 2006 comeback single Patience which soars to Number 59 and perhaps most surprisingly of all 1995 single Never Forget which arrives at Number 64 for its first chart appearance since its original nine-week run 13 years ago, the start of which was needless to say a spell at Number One. Take That action on the album chart is slightly more muted, although that will change with the release of new album The Circus this week.
Speaking of the album chart, it was fairly predictable that one of the weeks big new releases was going to debut at the top, although many kept an open mind as to which it would be. In the end, it is The Killers who emerge supreme with Day & Age ensuring they maintain their 100% strike rate of chart-topping studio albums. This all comes at the expense of the near-mythical Chinese Democracy from Guns N' Roses which has to settle for the runners-up slot. This isn't quite the shock it might be - for all their massive sales worldwide and indeed on these shores, the only GnR album to top the UK charts was Use Your Illusion II which just edged out its twin brother on its first week of release in September 1991.
So what about the things that didn't quite go to plan? Most have one important thing in common, in that they have their origins in television talent shows, proving perhaps that this isn't always an instant guarantee of success.
Leading the way are last years X Factor bronze medallists Same Difference whose long-awaited debut single was performed to a rapturous audience reaction on the TV show last week but which ultimately faded badly during the course of the week and so enters at what will be considered a rather lowly Number 13. The insanely bubbly nature of the brother and sister duo means that they have gone down the obvious High School Musical inspired route for their music (indeed a cover of Breaking Free is on their album and was at one stage tentatively scheduled as their first single) and so We R One is an almost hideously perky number about self-belief and overcoming the odds by sticking together.
In truth the single only serves to highlight the huge problem that Same Difference face - that brother and sister singing duos are incredibly hard to market. Think back a little - can you remember the last time such a family grouping was successful? OK so The Carpenters were global superstars, but for the most part, she sang and he sat behind her playing piano. Sean and Sarah "Same Difference" Smith both dance about and sing with and to each other, meaning their choice of material is rather limited. They can't sing songs about love or desire lest they become even more creepy than they are already, so all they can do is perform cloying records like We R One which sound more like self-improvement seminars than pop records. [That reads like such a harsh analysis, but it is indeed why they ultimately failed long-term as pop stars. They had a weird intensity in their chirpiness which made them very hard to relate to in any way. Plus records like this were just so try-hard it was impossible to love them].
So if they were third last year and Leon Jackson was first, who was second? Rhydian Roberts of course, the peroxide blonde rugby-playing Welshman with the extraordinary acne scars who sings like Mario Lanza. Marketing him as a pop star was always going to be a little tricky, but Syco Music have had a go anyway, and he too performed his single on the X Factor show last weekend. In truth, it wasn't up to much, a rather stodgy walkthrough of famous show tune The Impossible Dream which sucked every last bit of life and passion out of it. To be honest it is to the surprise of nobody that the track arrives at Number 91 on the singles chart. Really its only purpose was to serve as the promotion for his album, a granny-friendly collection of standards delivered in his cheerful booming tenor voice and one which lands at Number 3 on the long players chart behind the two biggest rock releases of the week. If he had become a singles star it would have been a nice bonus, but as labelmates Il Divo prove, the pop opera audience tend not to hit iTunes in any great numbers.
Also from the world of TV talent shows comes George Sampson whose victory in Britain's Got Talent earlier in the summer must have led to some creative thinking in certain quarters. After all, once you've cast him in his own stage show, how else do you tap into the market for a good looking 14-year-old teenager, given that his only claim to fame is recreating someone else's breakdancing routine. When the music that he danced do - Mint Royale's Singing In The Rain - shot to the top of the chart in the aftermath of his victory, it clearly gave them an idea. What if he could sing (or at least rap) as well. So it is that the first George Sampson single Get Up On The Dance Floor/Headz Up was released this week accompanied by some breathless tabloid newspaper prose (all of which avoided mentioning what the record actually sounded like) and a whistlestop signing tour that involved a branded jet and crowds of nicely moistened girls. The end result of all that effort is a miserable Number 30 entry which given the amount of promotional effort thrown at it, can be considered little short of a disaster. Actually the single isn't really that bad, but Sampson's vocal contributions are little more than a series of brief raps, the main body of the two tracks carried by the backing singers and the seemingly endless parade of samples around which they are constructed. Truth be told, this is a record made so we can watch him flail around in the video, rather than appreciate his vocal talents. Of all the acts on the chart this week, he is probably the one who features on his own record the least.
There is an unusually low new entry for McFly who arrive at Number 18 with their new double-sided single. Although Do Ya is the lead track, much of the focus for the marketing of the release has been on its twin, a faithful romp through the Faces classic Stay With Me. The record served as the official Children In Need single this year and was performed live by the boys on the charity telethon a couple of weeks ago. Herein lies the problem, given that the charity event was effectively last month, why was the single not available the moment it was performed on TV? Effectively this has limped out after the fact and with the impact of the event all but forgotten. With Do Ya yet another release from an album which was given away for free earlier in the year, it is hardly surprising that this is the least essential McFly single ever and is well on the way to becoming their first release ever to miss the Top 10. Incidentally the single also falls foul of the double a-side rules that afflicted Leona Lewis earlier in 2008. Stay With Me is effectively listed twice on the chart, as its physical sales are combined with the downloads of lead track Do Ya at Number 18, whilst its individual downloads are cast adrift with their own chart position. Mind you, it is clear that McFly fans were hardly out in force downloading it, the standalone track arrives at a miserable Number 79.
Finally, for this week there is another lowly new entry for an artist who is rather more used to the upper reaches. Madonna appears at Number 39 with new single Miles Away, the third single from the album Hard Candy. Its lowly chart performance is something of a puzzle, the single released not only as a digital bundle but also in physical form as well for those collectors amongst her fans. For some odd reason, this seems to be the "lost" Madonna single, with airplay and promotional activity for it at a bare minimum. In her entire career, she has never had a single that has ultimately peaked lower than Number 16, a record which could well wind up being broken before the year is out.