At the risk of sounding like a stuck record, the story of the UK charts this week is all about the Special Editions. In particular the "Deluxe" edition of Leona Lewis' debut album Spirit whose release has neatly propelled the year-old long player back to the top of the album chart for its first appearance at Number One since its seven-week spell at the top exactly one year ago.
The new version of the album with just three extra songs added has shot to Number One, partly due to intense fan loyalty that extends beyond common sense and partly because the tactic of repackaging albums in deluxe editions in time for the present buying season is suddenly a core part of record label marketing strategies. Most of all I suspect it is because it contains the most sought-after recording of the moment, one which at the present time is only obtainable through a purchase of the new CD.
In a highly unusual move, the new tracks have not been added to the version of the album available through online stores, nor will they be for another week yet. This means that despite an ecstatic public reaction and despite near saturation airplay ever since she debuted the recording on the X Factor TV show last weekend, her emotional and career-defining rendition of Snow Patrol's Run is for the moment unavailable to purchase in its own right as a single track. During the summer we marvelled at the tales emanating from America that related how the Kid Rock smash hit All Summer Long had been removed from single purchase on iTunes and the like and could only be obtained by purchase of his album in its entirety. How we marvelled and thanked our lucky stars that British labels were above pulling idiotic stunts like that. How wrong we were.
Whilst the most obvious effect of the stunt has been to focus demand on the album, it has had one other unexpected impact on versions of the track that are available. Hence the arrival at Number 28 on the singles chart of the original Snow Patrol version, one which in truth has been knocked out of the park by Leona's version but which by virtue of being the only one available for purchase, has benefitted enormously. Their second chart single, and first to become a major hit, Run first peaked at Number 5 in February 2004 and in spite of the long-running success of certain other singles of theirs I could mention, this is its first Top 40 appearance since that original release. Most bizarrely of all however, and a credit to some clever keyword seeding on iTunes, people have also been snapping up the karaoke version of the song. Hence at Number 54 this week is Run (In The Style Of Leona Lewis) and credited to karaoke specialists Ameritz who make a point of quickly turning around instrumental remakes of popular hits and flogging them online. The fact that people are so desperate to get their hands on a piece of music that they are prepared to buy a cheaply made singalong version in lieu of the proper product is nothing short of staggering.
It feels a little odd to only get around to talking about the Number One single of the week halfway down the page, but the fact of the matter is this is one of those weeks when it seems nobody has bothered with much in the way of quality new product. We're just too close to Christmas to risk releasing a single that will grow in appeal, and too far away for those tracks which are expected to make an instant impact. So sparse is the release schedule this week that not one single track penetrates the Top 10 with every single one of last week's biggest sellers simply rearranging themselves a little.
Crucially the most important rearrangement is at the top as 'Hero' by the X Factor Finalists finally relinquishes its crown, allowing Beyonce to sneak in with If I Were A Boy to land herself a deserved Number One hit single. It is the tracks third week on the chart and after it actually fell back a place to Number 3 last week becomes an all too rare example of a single that has reached Number One after suffering a reverse in its chart fortunes. Technically speaking If I Were A Boy is actually Ms Knowles' first ever solo Number One hit, her other chart-toppers all having come in a variety of collaborative guises. Beautiful Liar was a duet with Shakira in 2007, Deja Vu from 2006 was a collaboration with her other half Jay-Z and whist back in 2003 Crazy In Love was credited to her alone for single release, it did once again feature Jay-Z in a supporting role and the track was credited to them both on the album. We must also add to her total the two Destiny's Child chart-topping hits Survivor and Independent Women (Part One) which means she can legitimately claim a starring role on six different Number One singles, even if on most of them it was done with a little help from her friends.
The lack of singles chart movement makes it harder than usual to spot the standard cases of "Now Bounce" where existing tracks gain for themselves a minor sales boost thanks to the availability of the latest Now That's What I Call Music album. Indeed its lead track The Promise actually goes down a place this week, although the Top 10 also plays host to climbers Hot N' Cold and Infinity 2008 which both improve their chart placings. Careful examination of the Top 75 does at least show that tracks such as Viva La Vida (Number 51) and All Summer Long (Number 58) have experienced sales boosts which cannot be explained any other way. The compilation also hosts the weeks highest new entry, Dream On from Christian Falk featuring Robyn which makes its chart debut at Number 29. Whilst the club track may well have charted under its own steam anyway, its presence as the one totally new track on the compilation will have done its sales prospects no harm at all.
Whilst on the subject of the compilation series, I'm intrigued by the forthcoming 25th anniversary re-release of the first ever volume (due in the new year we are told), which will result in its release on CD for the first time ever. The chances you would guess are fairly high for a resultant sales bounce for the 30 tracks it contains, although it should be noted that 29 of them are already available online for anyone with a mind to construct their own home-brewed version of the collection (although at almost £23 for them all it is an expensive way to do it). The identity of the one track from Now 1 which at the time of writing isn't listed on iTunes is left as an exercise for the curious.