Although conventional wisdom has it that the path to immortality runs via a Number One single, for every famous act that has topped the singles chart there are many others who have never quite made it. 22 years into their chart career Bon Jovi have yet to top the UK charts. There is no place in the list of Number One hits for 80s legends such as The Cure or The Smiths. Neither the Stone Roses nor the Happy Mondays turned their status as 90s chart royalty into chart-topping records and the big players from the Britpop era such as Pulp or Supergrass remain missing from the history-making lists.
Of late, the biggest act never to have had a Number One hit were Coldplay. Twice they had come close with singles that most would regard as classics of their era. In My Place in 2002 was stuck at Number 2 behind Darius and three years later Speed Of Sound came second to Crazy Frog. That notorious chart brought back memories of Vienna from Ultravox missing out to Joe Dolce in the early 80s in a classic case of a justifiably revered record locked out of Number One by a shite novelty track.
Today of course, one of music's most celebrated ducks is finally broken as Coldplay's Viva La Vida sits proudly as the biggest selling single of the week. As has been well documented here, its route to the top has been both steady and totally invisible. Made available to buy in the same week as lead single Violet Hill, the track was nonetheless disqualified from the charts thanks to a creative iTunes promotion which meant advance purchasers of the full album were given immediate access to its title track as a taster. Selling enough to make a notional Number 13 in its first week available and having nestled near the top of the online stores' own chart rankings for the last month or so, the "invisible" single has continued to climb. With the album now fully available from all outlets the illegal advance purchase offer no longer applies, clearing the way for Viva La Vida to debut in spectacular style at the top of the singles chart and give Coldplay their biggest ever hit.
It means that for the first time since the heady days of Umbrella last summer the UK and US charts are in perfect sync with Coldplay this week having also taken Viva La Vida to the top, the first British group since the Spice Girls to land a Number One on the Hot 100. As if this tale was extraordinary enough to begin with, Viva La Vida has achieved its chart success without a promotional video to accompany it. We're promised that one is coming, a big budget epic directed by Anton Corbijn, but for the moment it just isn't ready and in any case Violet Hill is officially the current single from the group, with Viva La Vida still listed in the "coming soon" section of all reliable release schedules. The only promotional clips available to promote the track are their live performance at the recent Video Music Awards and a 30 second iTunes advert that aired during the pre-release promotional period for the album.
As for the record itself, it is without a doubt entirely appropriate that it becomes their first ever Number One as the Coldplay single it is officially OK to like. A lavishly orchestrated epic replete with timpani rolls and an overwhelming sense of the majestic, the song uses the tried and tested trick of using a fantasy kingdom as a metaphor for love, Chris Martin acting as the deposed monarch whose empire has crumbled before his eyes and ears as the love of his life has deserted him. It is the kind of track that only a group at the very height of their powers could ever dare attempt and the kind of one-shot performance that if successful can imprint itself on peoples memories for generations to come. Viva La Vida is a single so good that they will almost certainly never be able to surpass it, the benefit being of course that as a Number One record they don't ever have to try. [Fascinatingly this would turn out to be but the opening chapter in Coldplay's next stage of musical evolution and subsequent to this they would deliver mini-masterpieces which were equally as epic as Viva La Vida. Nonetheless, so see one of their greatest ever compositions top the charts against what were apparently insurmountable odds was a quite joyous moment, as captured here].
As always we have to offer up a small cup of consolation to the chart runner-up whose achievements risk being eclipsed by all that is going on above. Ne-Yo ascends to Number 2 with Closer, missing out in the face of overwhelming opposition on a second Number One single. Indeed the Top 10 is kind to all most of its other visiting American stars with Chris Brown moving 8-5 with Forever and Jordin Sparks continuing her chart-storming form with a 22-10 rise for No Air (still a download-only single until next month of course). This feat also incidentally gives Chris Brown two simultaneous Top 10 singles due to his guest-starring role on No Air. By a strange quirk, it is Sparks' chart performance that denies Coldplay a Top 10 double as at the very end of the week it edged out the resurgent Violet Hill for the final place, leaving the "other" Coldplay single languishing at Number 11.
The second highest new entry of the week is a single which can be seen as an attempt to recapture lightning in a bottle. The decision of Linkin Park to team up with Jay-Z for a hip-hop remake of their own Numb resulted in one of the most enduring hit singles either act are ever likely to have, the Numb/Encore single in this country having been a constant seller in the three and a half years since its release, the Number 14 hit still to this day an occasional Top 75 visitor. Now the group renew their association with the non-singing world as they team up with Busta Rhymes on We Made It which crashes into the chart at the same position that represented the peak of Numb/Encore all those years ago. The lead single from Rhymes' new album, it may not be the instant classic its illustrious predecessor was but there is no doubt it has crossover potential carved all the way through, containing enough of Busta Rhymes' machine-gun vocals to satisfy his own crowd but with Chester Bennington and Mike Shinoda having enough mic time to make this a worthy addition to the Linkin Park cannon. A download smash way ahead of its projected June 30 physical release date it once again doesn't take a chartwatching genuis to expect to see this in the Top 10 in fairly short order.
Just two places below we have another chart debut for a similarly celebrated if rather more musically distinct American import. Pop-rock group the Jonas Brothers make their British chart debut at Number 16 with SOS, a track which was a hit stateside as long ago as last summer, their self-titled second album (released this week) now the focus of breaking the trio in Europe. As a group you can see your potential, three fresh-faced young guys making harmless teen-friendly rock and doing it with a credibility that somehow British equivalents such as McFly always seem to lack. I remain to be convinced just how much of a market there is for them on these shores at present, but at the end of the day there is never enough summery feelgood pop on the singles chart to go round so SOS for all its lightweight nature is a welcome addition to the ranks.
Those who thought the boy band concept was dead in the water clearly don't include the people behind Billiam whose single My Generation arrives at Number 23. It is the second single for the group after their debut Beautiful Ones had a brief moment in the spotlight with a Number 32 entry in September last year. As befits their none more 90s music and image they are promoting themselves the good old fashioned way, encouraging word of mouth "street teams", doing nightclub and school PAs, supporting acts such as Girls Aloud and cultivating an image that means they neatly straddle both the gay market (check out the naked flyers) and the ranks of boy-hungry teen girls who busily bombard their MySpace page with badly spelled messages of adulation. Their only obstacle is the very nature of their music. Based as they are on a template that wore out its welcome some years ago, true stardom will only come if their music is so spectacularly good that their marketing becomes almost an irrelevance. As fun and inoffensive as My Generation is, the new Take That they sadly are not.
Three more future hits penetrate the Top 30. Leading the pack is Madonna with new single Give It 2 Me which is slowly but surely picking up speed as its release proper as a single approaches. For now, the album track is at 25 with a proper single release still a month away. Also rising steadily is Flo Rida who moves 40-27 with Elevator ahead of its physical release this week (June 23). Its lack of progress to date suggests that a physical move may not even catapult it into the Top 20, despite a co-credit for producer Timbaland whose magic clearly doesn't work for absolutely everyone. Also newly arriving is Photograph from Nickelback. The unexpected and frankly quite staggering success of Rockstar has clearly convinced their label that there is life yet in the now three-year-old All The Right Reasons album, hence the reactivation of the track which started out as its lead single in late 2005. Second time around it matches its original peak, one week ahead of being physically re-released, although bearing in mind that most physical singles are snapped up by dedicated fans and collectors who presumably already have the original issue, is there anyone around who is still interested?
Finally, for this week I'll leave you with the single that enters the chart at Number 40 this week, giving Weezer their first Top 40 single in over three years. Much talked about new single Pork And Beans kind of falls into what has become known as the OK Go trap, a song that has an eye-catching and instantly memorable video which almost - but not quite - covers up the fact that there isn't actually much substance to the music itself. Never mind for the video is at the very least one of their finest moments ever, the stars of just about every internet meme of the last five years - from Tay Zonday through Chris Crocker, Caitlin Upton, Star Wars Kid and the Evolution Of Dance guy, most of whom reappear to mime the song in the situations that made their original videos famous in the first place. Only the very churlish would point out too loudly that Barenaked Ladies had a similar idea a couple of years ago (with many of the same cast appearing), the video to Pork And Beans is one of those you have to see at least once, if only to reassure yourself that your life isn't so tied to the online world that you get every single reference it contains.