If I told you Russell Brand had made me late this week, you would never believe the half of it. [Less thrilling than I made it sound, I'd just been at work all Sunday evening playing out the tape of his big post-scandal radio comeback].
Things remain static at the top of the singles chart as the commanding lead of Calvin Harris remains unassailable despite a strong challenge from La Roux who advance to Number 2 with the slow-burning In For The Kill. It means I'm Not Alone grabs the honour of a second week at Number One. The single is taken from his as-yet-unnamed second album, although I suspect the success of the single may well cause plans for its release to be advanced rather more rapidly than had previously been the case.
There was a time when a brand new single from Eminem would have been challenging for the top of the chart itself, but these are different times we are living in. Still, a Number 9 entry is not to be sniffed at and it is here that we find We Made You, the official comeback track from the most notorious rap star of the decade. We have to emphasise "official" thanks to the appearance earlier this year of Crack A Bottle, the Number 4 hit which despite appearing on the singles chart and despite now confirmed as appearing on the forthcoming album Relapse does not count as what his label class as "a single from the album". It is apparently a "promotional track". Go figure.
Hence I suspect the lack of what would otherwise have been a huge deal, the official return of Eminem from his three-year retirement from making his own records. Not that this hasn't stopped him making plenty of appearances on other people's records of course, and he most notably hit Number One in late 2006 alongside Akon on Smack That. Endless hair-splitting aside, it is clear that however it manifested itself, the break was the best thing that could have happened to him. It means he returns in 2009 with something new to say for himself and a clutch of new stories to tell. We Made You is Shady in classic form, ranting at the state of celebrity culture and life in general. The single may not quite have the same sparkle and impact of past classics such as The Real Slim Shady and Without Me but it serves its purpose as a statement of intent. Plus it namechecks Amy Winehouse so it surely can't be all bad. I'll be fascinated to see just what happens to the single next. Eminem has traditionally been the kind of artist whose singles make their biggest impact in their first week. Does this relatively lowly entry mean that in the new digital age, he still has gas left in the tank?
Exactly twice the chart further on comes the second biggest new hit of the week as No Time For Tears gives The Enemy their first Top 40 hit since late 2007. It is the first single from their forthcoming second album Music For The People which hits the shops next week. Once again this is one of those head-scratchers where you wonder if this is just the start of better things for the single or something of a comedown after their first two singles Away From Here and Had Enough both were Top 10 smashes in the spring of 2007.
Also making its Top 40 debut is The Climb from Miley Cyrus which is helped to a Number 24 place by some hefty promotional work. Once again with her, it is fascinating to note the gap between her publicity which paints her as a major star amongst the pre-teen demographic and her apparent failure to turn that into major chart success. The Climb is now her fourth Top 40 hit single but she has yet to penetrate the Top 10 with any of her releases, and even this track has taken a full four weeks to lift itself up from the lower reaches of the chart. There is nothing wrong with making and marketing pop music for a younger generation - these, after all, are the future consumers the industry wants to grow up with a love of music and most importantly a desire to buy it later in life. However, in the past, such singles would be racked in supermarkets and other large stores where they would be susceptible to pester power, generating easy sales from harassed parents. Now the tracks are all but invisible to the casual eye, tucked away on online stores and reliant almost entirely on television exposure to remind the target audience of their existence. The Climb does have in its favour the fact that it is taken from the soundtrack of the Hannah Montana movie (in which she stars as the titular character) and so has a better chance of exposure than her usual pop records. The film appears to have at least some ability to shift records, hence the appearance of Hoedown Throwdown at Number 55 this week, also taken from the film soundtrack. [We'll hear more of this song later in the year in a most infamous manner].
One place below Miley and climbing ten places is Britney Spears with the now notorious single If You Seek Amy which has radio stations tying themselves in knots trying to skirt around the scarcely concealed obscenity in the title. It is the third single from her current album and the follow-up to the title track Circus which peaked at Number 13 earlier this year. The fuss over its naughty title aside, the one thing that may hold If You Seek Amy back is its frustrating resemblance to both its immediate predecessors. It is one thing to have a winning formula, but to use it to render half the album as a set of soundalikes smacks somewhat of desperation to me.
New in at Number 26 is Better Off As Two, giving much-praised electropop musician Frankmusik his first ever chart hit single. The 24-year-old star began his musical career as a beatboxer before turning his talents to slightly more conventional sounding work. He's been releasing singles since 2007 but this rather captivating track marks his first ever venture into the mainstream. Picking your way through the plethora of remixes of the track is a job in itself but the main radio edit of the track casts the record as a joyful and inspiring pop track and that alone is enough to ensure it deserves a chart rise next week. Check it out if you can.
Four places below at Number 30 are Green Day with new single Know Your Enemy. It is the first chart hit for the American alternative band since they set a memorable new benchmark with their rendition of The Simpsons Theme which crept to Number 19 in August 2007. This autumn will mark the 15th anniversary of their first Top 40 hit in this country so it seems only too appropriate that they kick off the promotion of what will be their first album in five years with a Top 30 hit. They have a lot to live up to, new album 21st Century Breakdown which comes out in May will be their first studio release since 2004s acclaimed American Idiot although early reviews suggest it is even more ambitious than its predecessor. Know Your Enemy may have had a quiet start but I suspect there are bigger singles to come.
Speaking of quiet starts, the progress of new Girls Aloud single Untouchable will be fascinating to watch. Now six years into their career, they have reached the stage where an underperforming later single from an album would be forgivable rather than a disastrous sign of the end, but there is still a morbid fascination in waiting for that to happen. The problem is you can never quite tell just how their singles are going to behave. Last single The Loving Kind had a slow and nervous start at the lower end of the Top 40 before rocketing to the Top 10 when their ever loyal fans snapped up its physical release. The third single from the Out Of Control album is following a similar pattern, only making the Top 40 after four weeks at the lower end of the chart. Needless to say, this isn't quite the full story as the only version of Untouchable available for purchase at the moment is the six and a half minute album version. The remixed single edit won't appear for a couple of weeks yet and it is more or less a given that it is this version that will send the track skywards. Much as though it would be fun to see them falter, when immaculate Xenomania tracks such as this one are what they have to offer, it is as much a joy to see them continue to rack up the hits.
Finally this week, yet another example of how the power of television can propel the most unlikely of singles into the charts. Much has been made of the performance by the mousey Susan Boyle on Britain's Got Talent of I Dreamed A Dream (taken from the musical Les Miserables) with the video of her unexpected show-stealer having been circulated all over the world and leading to American chat shows queuing up to interview her. The renewed interest in the song has led to people racing online to snap up Patti LuPone's rendition from the 1985 Original London Cast Recording. As a result the track charts at Number 45 giving the 59-year-old star her first ever chart hit in this country. It is a strange curiosity that despite the musical laying claim to being one of the most performed of all time and despite many of its songs having become standards over the years (songs such as On My Own and Empty Chairs At Empty Tables often being karaoke stalwarts) I Dreamed A Dream is its only song ever to become a chart single.