When it all changes, it will be like a cork coming out of a bottle trust me. For the moment however the singles chart sets a benchmark of consistency, one which just a few weeks ago would have been utterly inconceivable and the like of which has genuinely not been seen for over a generation.
This week the entire Top 6 singles line up in the same order as last. Every single one of them, from Duffy at the top to Adele at the bottom is a non-mover. All static Top 3 charts are relatively common, and a Top 4 made up of non-movers has been known to happen from time to time. For the Top 5 to remain static from one week to the next is altogether quite rare, the phenomenon only happening 20 times in the history of the singles chart before today. The last two static Top 5 charts both came over the Christmas and New Year quiet periods, on January 3rd 1998 and January 1st 1994 and so to find the last time we had a static Top 5 during a "normal" sales week you have to go back as far as the chart of April 1st 1989 (Like A Prayer by Madonna the Number One single that day).
Only once before in chart history has the lack of moment extended even further down the chart. That was on July 9th 1955 on the old NME chart when the entire Top 7 remained static, with two different versions of Unchained Melody (by Jimmy Young and Al Hibbler respectively) holding down the Top 2. Week Ending March 8th 2008 will thus go down in history as only the second chart ever to have an unmoving Top 6 [there was another one in the early 1980s, which gets referenced next week], the run only broken by Rihanna's Don't Stop The Music which climbs a place to Number 7.
This week's chart situation has largely come about due to a lack of public interest in the contents of the release schedule for the last week. Of the newly released physical singles in the last seven days, the only one to sell anything close to respectable quantities was Mercy which effectively doubles its sales and duly extends its lead at the head of the pack. The rest of the Top 6 are singles which came out several weeks ago (several months in the case of the Nickelback single) and which are continuing to outsell the rest of the market quite comfortably. It isn't that the singles released this week were by a bunch of nobodies either, some big-name acts hit the shops this week to widespread public indifference. Among them Alicia Keys (Like You'll Never See Me Again landing at Number 53, with her previous hit No One holding firm at Number 26), Katie Melua (following up a Number One no less but still seeing If The Lights Go Out limp to Number 96) and even REM (who limp to Number 65 with Supernatural Superserious). It isn't just the established stars who had trouble either. Sunshine In The Rain by BWO hit the stores this week but only charts at Number 69, Up All Night from the Young Knives stiffs at Number 45 and Tiny Dancer from Marco Denmark hobbles to Number 54.
It would be all doom and gloom but for the fact that these new releases are all being put in the shade by the parade of future hits which continue to march up the listings. Heading the pack is Taio Cruz featuring Luciana who move 23-11 with Come On Girl. Already it is far and away Cruz' biggest UK hit to date, his two other hits I Just Wanna Know and Moving On struggling to break out of the Top 30 in 2006 and 2007 respectively. Luciana is best known for her vocal turn on Yeah Yeah by Bodyrox which made Number 2 in late 2006. Come On Girl finally gets its physical release this week (March 3) which you would think puts it in pole position to smash its way into the Top 5 next week.
One place behind is the similarly download only Low from Flo Rida and T-Pain which moves 22-12 after entering at Number 40 a fortnight ago. The single marks the chart debut of 28-year-old rapper Flo Rida, his hit single having topped the Hot 100 in America at the start of January where it has remained ever since. It is the fifth (well actually, sixth) hit in total for collaborator T-Pain, albeit his fourth as a featured artist. His only solo hit to date came back in 2006 when I'm Sprung reached Number 30. Since then he's appeared on singles with Kanye West, R Kelly and Chris Brown, but the Flo Rida single marks his best chart performance to date. Curiously he does have his own single scheduled for release shortly as well, Church entering the Top 75 this week at Number 71 with a physical release scheduled for March 10. As with the Taio Cruz hit, Low gets its physical wings this week (March 3) which makes Top 10 next time around more or less a lock.
Still on the climb at Number 16 is Timbaland whose new single Scream finally outsells its predecessor and becomes his largest hit of the moment. His two co-stars on the track are both well known to the public already. Keri Hilson sang on last summers Number One hit The Way I Are while of course Nicole Scherzinger is best known for her work with the Pussycat Dolls and latterly her own solo career. Scream still has another week around as a digital hit, physical sales arriving on March 10.
Even further away from proper release, however, is With You from Chris Brown which doesn't hit the shops until the end of this month but which surges to Number 19 on the singles chart. It is the third single from his album Exclusive and by common consent is set to be far and away the biggest. Its first two singles Wall To Wall and Kiss Kiss were standard formula R&B tracks and in this country could only make Number 75 and Number 38 respectively. With You is, by contrast, something rather magical. Produced by pop wizards Stargate it is a breezy acoustic guitar-led track that works as both pure pop as well as hard-edged R&B. His domestic audience love it, the single currently locked at Number 2 on the Hot 100, unable for the moment to shift the Flo Rida track. Since he shot to Number 2 in early 2006 with his debut hit Run It, Chris Brown has struggled to live up to his early potential but with this new single he may just have captured the lightning in a bottle once more.
If you are tiring of American future hits, then look no further than Number 23 and the Top 40 debut of Fascination from Danish pop rock band Alphabeat. Feted by everyone from Popjustice to NME, the group have even managed the holy grail of playlisting on Radio 1 and Radio 2 and appear to all intents and purposes to be on the verge of proper international stardom. Full release for the single once again comes this week (March 3) and I watch its chart performance next week with what can only be described as fascination.
"So where then is the British pop" I hear you cry? For the moment at the bottom end of the Top 40 although that will soon change. Coming up on the rails are Girls Aloud with Can't Speak French which enters the Top 40 at Number 35 (released on March 17) and no less a figure than Leona Lewis whose third single Better In Time sneaks in at Number 38 a fortnight ahead of its own physical debut. Not quite as British, but still pop are Westlife who also sneak it at Number 40 with Us Against The World, their housewife fanbase surely enough to propel the single skywards when it hits the shops this week.
So if anyone looks at the singles chart this week and says "where are all the new hits?" you will know what to tell them. At first glance, the top end may look astoundingly stagnant and lifeless, but at the same time, these are strong, well-established hit singles that are selling in very respectable numbers. Ready to challenge them are a list of potential new smashes across a range of genres and musical styles. Several weeks of barren release schedules do not a musical crisis make. I've a feeling things are about to get very interesting indeed.