This week's Official UK Singles Chart
The point has been made before by far superior music writers than me, but it never hurts to repeat it. Aren't Girls Aloud such enormous fun? Their continual and endearing novelty stems not so much from the talents of the five themselves but from the continually inspired creativity of production team Xenomania who are effectively given free reign to use the group as their personal plaything. The result is always something fresh and unexpected, each new Girls Aloud record featuring styles switching wildly from one era to another and their songs at times refusing to conform to conventions of structure and form, playing around with the very concept of what a pop record should sound like.
Case in point - brand new single The Promise which sounds like nothing they have ever performed before and is all at once one of the most joyful refreshing pop records of the year. It is actually a lovingly constructed Tony Hatch pastiche, lovingly wrapped in brass-heavy orchestration and with a decadent 60s cabaret vibe running throughout, one which is reflected in the accompanying video and the outfits the girls themselves wear to promote it.
Speaking of its promotion, one can't ignore the fact that they very nearly knackered it up completely when they debuted the single on the X Factor Results show just over a week ago, putting in a halting and at times disturbingly off-key performance that all at once cast into question Cheryl Cole's ability to sit in judgement of the vocal skills of the wannabe stars on the show - the same concept that less we forget led to the public selecting them to form the group in the first place.
Not that this affected the prospects of the single it seems, and quite refreshingly The Promise does something that Girls Aloud singles don't actually do that often, and charge straight to the top of the singles chart. In actual fact, this is only their fourth Number One hit single and perhaps most crucially their first with an original song since their 2002 debut hit Sound Of The Underground. Since then, for all the praise and admiration heaped upon their Xenomania-penned original material, their only chart-topping singles have been two charity covers - I'll Stand By You in 2004 and Walk This Way in 2007. I'm guilty in the past of being lukewarm towards Girls Aloud singles, mainly as a reaction to the fanatical devotion of some of their online supporters who refuse to acknowledge any negative point of view towards their idols. On this occasion, however, when they have appeared with such feelgood new material and bolstered their chart record as a result, really all you can do is watch with admiration.
Superlatives aside, the fact does remain that their stint at Number One is for the moment likely to be restricted to a single week, thanks to a certain charity release coming from - you guessed it - X Factor. In the meantime lets take time out to note that the two big talent show releases of last week turn out to be seven-day wonders, Leon Jackson's Don't Call This Love tumbling 3-11 (although his album is at Number 4) and to its eternal shame still winding up outsold by its spoof equivalent Geraldine's The Winners Song which takes a 2-10 fall.
Now to the second biggest new hit of the week and to something I would frankly never have believed was possible. Keyboardist Paul Walden found himself transformed from nightclub entertainer to rave wizard Guru Josh in early 1990 thanks to his hit single Infinity. Subtitled "1990s: Time For The Guru", it had more than a touch of the Jean Michel Jarre's about it, tweeting saxophone lead and all, but somehow it slotted in quite neatly with the dance-rave invasion of the singles chart at the time and peaked nicely at Number 5.
Then he made the fatal mistake of giving interviews to the music press, interviews where he broke what seems in retrospect to be a rather childish taboo, daring to express a point of view that was sympathetic to the Conservative government of the time and willingly engaging in discussions on the merits of the various methods of local government taxation. Back then, just as now, the "credible" music press were unable to deal with a point of view that did not coincide with their own narrow worldview and any chance of positive coverage of further Guru Josh releases was blown out of the water. Follow-up single Whose Law Is It Anyway made a relatively lowly Number 26 and although the Guru Josh concept was good for a couple more European hits, Walden found himself unmarketable as a performer and retreated instead to the world of production. For years Guru Josh was a byword for dancefloor naffness and a lesson to all acts in how not to pen your own career suicide note.
This cautionary tale makes the Number 3 record this week all the more astonishing because yes, Guru Josh is back, now as the Guru Josh Project and with a bona fide smash hit single thanks to an up to the minute remix of his most famous recording. Infinity 2008 adds new lyrics and a 21st-century beat, but underneath the original saxophone melody remains intact (although the funky piano bit in the middle has been binned which is a shame), cutting in at regular intervals to remind us just where the single came from. A full generation after he first ballsed it up, Guru Josh is a superstar hitmaker once more, the icing on the cake coming from the presence lower down the chart of the original 1990 version which hovers at Number 70 this week.
To think this time last week we were talking up the Top 3 potential of brand new Razorlight single Wire To Wire which does indeed benefit from a full week of sales but in the event can only limp to Number 5. At the very least it does give the band their first Top 10 hit since America shot to Number One exactly 25 months ago this week. The success of that single, of course, prompted Johnny Borrell to start believing his own hype a little too much, prompting more than his fair share of critical derision. Hopefully, now we are beyond that as Wire To Wire has much to recommend it, an atmospheric piano-led ballad that in the right circumstances could easily wind up as a classic. Top 3 status would perhaps have given it the mainstream attention it deserves, so make up for that by appreciating it here.
Also shooting up the charts as we expected is Katy Perry with Hot N Cold which moves 26-7 this week, or as iTunes spent the week insisting thanks to its now notorious profanity filter bug 'H*t N Cold'. In honour of that I should point out that it is nothing less than g***t that she has overcome the potential p*****m of previous hit 'I K****d A G**l' hanging around too long and prevented her from having the followup hit she truly deserves. Let's face it had it flopped the British public would have ended up looking a complete bunch of c*****s.
That's "cretins" by the way, before you reach for the screen cleaner. Kanye West is also new to the Top 10, the once misfiring Love Lockdown now it seems well on its way to mainstream popularity with a 11-8 rise on what is now its fifth week on the chart. It is his first Top 10 hit under his own steam since Homecoming peaked at Number 9 at the start of the year, although of course his starring role on American Boy means he has a Number One hit to add to his 2008 chart tally.
Another single which started slowly a month ago but which now seems to be picking up steam is Alicia Keys and Jack White's Bond theme Another Way To Die which this week finally escapes what I guess we must call development hell and moves 27-18. The imminent release of the film which it soundtracks is almost certainly the cause and as I said when it originally charted, seeing the track in its proper context over the opening credits of "Quantum Of Solace" will surely do its prospects no harm at all. Story not over for this one yet.
Over on the album chart, a sense of ordered chaos reigns as no less than six brand new albums enter the Top 10. Leading the way are AC/DC whose first new album in almost a decade proves that the time away has not dulled fans' appetite for their sound, with Black Ice storming to the top to give the uncompromising but never less than entertaining rock group only their second Number One album ever in this country. Their only other offering to scale the chart heights was 1980 classic Back In Black which had two weeks at the summit in August of that year.
The one startling Top 10 arrival amongst the long players is Michael Jackson's hits compilation King Of Pop which hurtles back into the Top 10 after his songs formed the weekly theme on the October 18 broadcast of, you guessed it, The X Factor. In what may be a huge clue as to the relative popularity of each performance, many of his songs used on the show also take a flying leap up the singles chart, none more so than 1988 hit Man In The Mirror which lands at Number 55, its first chart appearance since it first peaked at what at the time was a shockingly low Number 21 just over 20 years ago. Big Band week this weekend just gone means that the performances of the Barefoot Barbie, Nostril Lady, Los Pechos and Tiny Tears et al are unlikely to have much of an effect on the singles chart, but next weeks Number One is act the very least all but guaranteed to have an X Factor connection, and if Josh Groban's To Where You Are doesn't find itself somewhere in the Top 75 next week then we have all badly underestimated the British public.