The biggest chart headlines of the week are almost certainly going to be directed at the album chart. Not so much for the Number One position where Michael Jackson reigns supreme once again (he's dead people, please get over it and start buying something else), but due instead to the disc that enters the chart four places below.
Foot Of The Mountain is the album which gives Norwegian stars A-Ha their biggest chart success in over 20 years. Not since the release of Stay On These Roads way back in 1988 have they released an album which has made the Top 10, and they duly become the latest in a long line of veteran acts to have rolled back the years and overachieved in 2009. The success of the album comes as an even greater surprise considering the relative failure of its lead single to catch fire - the album's title track has been in the stores for two weeks now but can for the moment only limp to Number 66. This is a complete reverse of the situation the group found themselves in back in 2005 when their single Analogue (All I Want) became their first Top 10 hit since - you guessed it - Stay On These Roads back in 1988 whilst its parent album Analogue climbed no higher than Number 24.
We do at least have a changing at the guard at the top of the singles chart this week as Beat Again slips down a place, leaving the way clear for the Black Eyed Peas to finally ascend the to the top with I Gotta Feeling after two weeks locked in place at Number 3. The single duly becomes their second of the year to top the charts, following in the footsteps of predecessor Boom Boom Pow. That single incidentally is still selling strongly, holding up at Number 13 this week and is the fourth biggest seller of the year to date.
With I Gotta Feeling still reigning supreme at the top of the Hot 100 this week it means that the same single is top of the charts on both sides of the Atlantic for no less than the fifth time this year with the chart-topping runs of Just Dance, Poker Face Right Round and Boom Boom Pow also having overlapped during the year to date (although in the case of Poker Face the overlap was a matter of three days and was only due to publication dates of the two charts rather than sales periods covered). With My Life Would Suck Without You also having hit the top on these shores it means that all but two of the Number One hits in the States in 2009 have also become Number One hits here.
Staying with America for the moment, the Black Eyed Peas' domination of the top of the Hot 100 stretches back continuously to the middle of April, the 12 week run of Boom Boom Pow only coming to an end when I Gotta Feeling replaced it for what is so far a five-week spell at the top. It is the longest continuous spell of domination by one act since Usher spent 19 straight weeks at the top with Yeah and Burn back in 2004.
Back to the UK, and I Gotta Feeling does at least buck one chart trend by becoming the first Number One single in a long while to climb to the top from the lower reaches of the chart. The single first charted back on June 20th and has moved 70-68-79-39-10-3-3-1. Whilst Poker Face had a longer climb to Number One, taking ten weeks to get there, it was a Top 40 hit continuously during that time. The last single to top the charts after climbing from outside the Top 40 was All Summer Long by Kid Rock which began its chart life at Number 46 in July last year.
The rest of the Top 10 simply reshuffles itself with no new singles arriving at the upper end of the chart. For that reason alone you have to have some sympathy for Jordin Sparks' Battlefield which will probably never have had a better chance to finally become a Top 10 hit, the single instead dipping a place to Number 12.
The highest new entry on the singles chart is something of an oddity as it arrives not so much down to the musical popularity of the singer or the song but due to a tongue in cheek campaign from a high profile supporter. Although better known these days as an actor and TV host, John Barrowman began his career in stage musicals and has in the last couple of years attempted to translate his public profile into a chart career with a handful of poorly received pop albums. His latest offering Music Music Music is as lazily thrown together as the rest, featuring the odd original song amongst a clutch of sub-karaoke cover versions, but it has at least spawned his first ever chart single as his take on the Barry Manilow classic I Made It Through The Rain charges in to Number 14. This surprise popularity is all down to the urging of Radio One breakfast host Chris Moyles who has spent the past week asking his listeners to download a copy of the single to give the actor a hit.
Is it churlish to point out that unless you are in on the joke, it is impossible to get the point of the whole exercise? This isn't the first time Moyles has used his not inconsiderable clout to hype a random single up the charts, although back in January 2007 his promotion of the Billie Piper single Honey To The Bee was an attempt to see if the new chart rules did indeed mean that any random single could penetrate the listings if enough people rallied round. Since then there have been countless tracks that have become hits of varying sizes thanks to spontaneous public support - it isn't exactly a new concept anymore. When you consider that we are just four weeks away from an overwhelming chart domination of the back catalogue of one artist in particular thanks to an outpouring of popular sympathy, the act of hyping a rather poor record by an annoying TV star seems something of an exercise in pointlessness given that it fails to make a point of any kind other than "look how clever we are".
Let us put it this way - given that a radio host has clearly demonstrated that for good or ill, his audience will respond to a request to engage in a mass purchase of a particular song, would it not be a far more productive use of that power to express such patronage in the direction of a new and upcoming act who deserved the rub and could actually make something of the exposure. The career of John Barrowman is unlikely to be affected one way or another by the success or failure of I Made It Through The Rain, so really its only purpose on the singles chart this week is to satisfy the already gargantuan ego of one radio presenter. Needless to say, this stunt is likely to prompt all manner of online "let's all club together and download single x by act y to get it to Number One" chatter on a message board near you [prescient]. When you consider that Moyles has an audience in the millions and can only get a single to Number 14, that should give you some idea of the chances of success anyone else has [until everyone goes a bit berzerk at Christmas of course].
Onto discs that actually do deserve to be there, and the next entry to the Top 40 is way down at Number 31 as Eminem climbs 11 places with Beautiful. It is the second time the single has entered the Top 40, the track one of several from the album Relapse that was drip-fed to the market ahead of the release of the full collection. Following its Number 38 appearance back in May, the single is now back for what you suspect will be a proper chart run now it has been elevated to what is (depending on your point of view) either the second or the third single from the album. Don't be fooled by this slow start, Beautiful is one of the standout tracks from the album and presents the rapper as a stadium rock performer for the first time, the track taking the form of an epic and intense ballad that is based heavily around a live sample of Queen and Paul Rodgers performing a live version of the track Reaching Out.
Now to the single at Number 33 and a chance for a proper analysis on these pages of what is best called the Little Boots dilemma. A large part of the huge swell of grassroots support Victoria Hesketh built up during her year-long rise to fame was the sweet simplicity of her music, as best expressed by the famous series of online videos she posted featuring her developing and singing the songs that would form her repertoire on nothing more than a keyboard set up in her bedroom. Hence it was something of a shock to see her dispatched to America to collaborate with producer and songwriter Greg Kurstin on a series of lavishly produced tracks that were at times a huge leap away from what her fans were expecting of her music. As a result, her debut album Hands could be divided neatly into two - the Kurstin-helmed tracks which were overproduced and overwrought and the rest of the tracklisting, helmed by a series of other producers and which allowed the simple beauty of her voice to shine through once again. Her first single New In Town was one of the former and although it made a respectable enough Number 13 debut it swiftly vanished into oblivion, taking the album with it and making a mockery of all the predictions that she was set to become one of the biggest stars of the year.
Since then Little Boots has been treading the festival circuit, performing at just about every major ensemble concert going. It all sets her up nicely for the promotion of what is easily the most outstanding track on the album. Remedy is everything its predecessor was not, an inspiring pop record with the most fatal of killer choruses and presented in a production that is no less lavish and multi-layered but which this time allows her voice and self-generated harmonies to be pushed to the fore in a quite delightful manner. Number 33 is a good start and Remedy is already flying up the online charts to suggest that this second bite at the cherry may be the one to take her properly mainstream at last. The principles of full disclosure mean I have to admit to pushing the work of one of my own favourite acts, but unlike other chart hypers my audience only numbers tens of thousands rather than millions so I can't guarantee anyone a Top 20 hit. If it heads in that direction next week, it will simply be because people have woken up to what a superb hit this is.