"Happy Easter to you. Chocs and the chart, can't be bad eh?"
So spake Bruno Brookes on the Top 40 show on Easter Sunday 1988, just to show how one DJ witticism can stick in your mind for 21 years. Gives one something to aspire to I suppose. Easter Sunday it is then and our reward for avoiding too much (or too little) chocolate consumption is a brand new Number One single. As its mellow and reflective introduction gives way to a thundering, storming electro melody I'm Not Alone marks its card as the kind of dance record that makes you sit up and pay very close attention. Given that Calvin Harris (for it is he) made his last singles chart appearance on the chart-topping Dance Wiv Me last summer it should probably come as no surprise that anticipation for the release of this new single was high enough to ensure it shoulders all opposition out of the way to enter the chart at Number One. More than that it is hard to say really. In an age when dance music appears to be skulking around looking for the next big thing and in the meantime recycling its past in search of inspiration, the presence of an act who can make music that is both worthwhile and intoxicating is something to cheer.
Meanwhile, it is the world of US R&B that gives us the second biggest new hit of the week on the singles chart. Two acts with chart-topping pedigree in their own right team up for a duet and in the process not only illustrate the deliciously circular nature of the music business but also give us what is frankly the best new pop record of the week. Ciara and Justin Timberlake are the acts in question, the pair crashing onto the singles chart with Love Sex Magic. It is the first chart single from Ciara's forthcoming third album Fantasy Ride and is a far from unpleasant experience, Justin Timberlake proving once more why he is the R&B guest star of choice, sounding for all the world like he has been duetting with her for most of his career. Ciara is now the fourth female star that Justin Timberlake has found himself coupled with on record, following in the footsteps of such names as Nelly Furtado, Madonna and Rihanna. The single is Ciara's first Top 10 hit since Oh climbed to Number 4 in 2005, a year she began by hitting Number One with her debut single Goodies. The circular nature of the single comes due to the fact that this is the second concurrent hit single for both stars, each appearing in their own right as guest stars on the tracks of others. In Justin Timberlake's case, he is currently at Number 14 on TI's Dead And Gone whilst Ciara effectively leapfrogs herself as her duet with Enrique Iglesias on Takin' Back My Love continues its steady chart climb and rises to a new peak of Number 13 this week. Following the precedent set in recent months by successive hit singles featuring every possible permutation of Rihanna, TI and Timberlake, I'm guessing that the world is holding its breath in fear at the possibility of a "Justin Timberlake featuring Enrique Iglesias" single. Hey, it could happen.
A somewhat poignant and unusual single arrives on the chart at Number 16: Fields Of Anfield Road, an adaptation of the popular rugby anthem Fields Of Athenry as sung by a collection of Liverpool FC supporters. The song marks the 20th anniversary this week of the Hillsborough Disaster in which 96 supporters of the football club were crushed to death at an FA Cup semi-final. The song features a brand new third verse co-written by John Power of Cast which references the disaster itself. Back in the day, as was pretty much de-rigeur for the time, the tragedy spawned its own all-star charity single. A remake of Ferry 'Cross The Mersey charged to Number One within weeks of the disaster, performed by a celebrated collection of Liverpudlian stars. Dubbed "Scouse Aid" at the time of recording, the name was rejected as being just a little too jovial and the single eventually charted with the unwieldy credit of "The Christians, Holly Johnson, Paul McCartney, Gerry Marsden and Stock Aitken Waterman". As Pete Waterman never tires of pointing out, it was his one and only chance to fulfil his ambition of producing a record for one of The Beatles.
Now then, this could get interesting. New at Number 24 is the first new single in almost two and half years from the band whose name is attached to that particular genus of chart uselessness - the Depeche Mode Syndrome. Having caused a mini-furore by rubbishing the chart prospects of the Pet Shop Boys (whose single you will note is no longer on the Top 75 and whose album sales are vanishing into the ether, on pretty much the timescale I anticipated), it is something of a relief to note that the long-standing fans of the 'Mode have a slightly more grown-up approach to the fate of their idols. The chart return of Gore and Gahan et al is a timely one given that it follows hard on the heels of the Saturdays' smash hit version of their own Just Can't Get Enough, even if that particular song dates from an incarnation of the group that is a world away from the brooding dramatists they evolved into. Wrong is the first single to be released from what will be their 12th studio album 'Sounds Of The Universe' and appears to have fallen victim to the great digital divide, selling primarily in physical form to long-standing fans and bypassing most of the younger generation who patronise the online stores. Not since the 1980s has a brand new Depeche Mode track failed to reach the Top 10 upon release, and the single is destined to become their smallest chart single since the ironically titled Useless crept to Number 28 in November 1997 (note that this ignores the limited edition 12-inch Something To Do which charted at Number 75 in December 2004 and doesn't really count as a proper "single"). The difference here is that nobody is pretending that Depeche Mode are a relevant mainstream act, so the failure of the single to enter the national consciousness will not be regarded as any great disaster. Instead, let us acknowledge that it is their 45th chart hit in a career that dates back almost exactly 28 years. That's worthy of respect no matter what generation you come from.
As far as the album chart is concerned, Lady Gaga does at least retain her Number One crown there but she is run close in second place by Doves who arrive with Kingdom Of Rust, just as their single of the same name dips out of the Top 40. There is a better correlation of singles and albums performance by the lady with the second biggest new release of the week. The much-lauded but still frustratingly underrated Bat For Lashes has the Number 5 album with Two Suns and as a direct result, she has her first ever Top 40 hit with lead single Daniel which creeps over the line at Number 36.
Finally just to prove that there is sometimes some justice in the world, although the news that X Factor runner-up Eoghan Quigg was set to release his debut album filled most of us with dread, it appears that few grandmothers were able to find their way to the few places on the high street left selling CDs and the tuneless midget has to watch his rush-released album of autotuned covers limp to Number 15. The closest he gets to a chart single is a Number 96 placing for 28000 Friends. I don't like to take joy out of the relative commercial failure of an enthusiastic teenage singer, but let's be honest- if his warblings on TV had turned him into a proper star it would have been so very, very wrong.