Back in the 1980s, the jazz-funk group Level 42 were led by the virtuoso bassist Mark King. After several albums of quite satisfactory success, King famously announced to his manager that now that everyone knew he was the best bass guitar player in the world, he wanted to become the richest. To minor grumblings from some of their more hardcore fans, the group then proceeded to create an album of out and out commercial pop music and sold millions around the world in the process.
I'm reminded of this story thanks to the transformation of the chart fortunes of Dizzee Rascal who, after spending most of the decade making some well received (and award-winning) gritty urban hip-hop albums has now announced he has paid his musical dues and wants instead to become really incredibly famous by making some cracking pop records. Last summers Dance Wiv Me was the first product of that new approach and this week he duly scores his second Number One single in a row with the manic yet appealing Bonkers. The track may not be to the tastes of all but it enters the chart with an astonishing sale, shifting over 114,000 to become the first single this year to break the 100,000 weekly sales barrier. Quite simply nothing else on the market this week stood a chance. For those that care about these things it is fun to note that for some unexplained reason the Radio Edit of the single vanished from the iTunes catalogue towards the end of last week (although it remained readily available in other stores) and resulted in a surge of sales for the slight longer Club Mix of the track. The three-minute version is now restored to the store but it means both versions are occupying places in the daily chart online and vying for consumer attention.
Mention must also be made of the man who gets a co-credit on the track, namely Armand Van Helden. Bonkers was originally his creation, the musical base existing before Dizzee Rascal rhymed over the top of it. As I mentioned in Chart Bite on Sunday night, depending on your point of view this is either Van Helden's second or third Number One single. Going purely on credited records it is his second and arrives over a decade after the first - You Don't Know Me which had a week of glory at the summit in February 1999. Technically he had topped the charts two years before that, thanks to his radical reworking of the Tori Amos track Professional Widow which was released in its own right as a single and soared to the summit in early 1997. For contractual reasons, the track was credited to Amos alone, even though her only contribution to the record was the two sampled lines from her original song. In truth, the track was a Van Helden creation from start to finish so it only seems right to acknowledge him as the true creator of Professional Widow and thus allow Bonkers to go down as his third Number One hit.
The success of Bonkers now means we have had three rap singles top the charts in a row, Dizzee Rascal following hard on the heels of the Black Eyed Peas and Tinchy Stryder, all three singles lining up together in the Top 3. It makes for a rap clean sweep on the charts as almost inevitably Eminem's first album in five years Relapse blasts away the competition and debuts at the top of the long player's chart. It maintains his extraordinary strike rate of chart-topping albums with every single one of his releases (be they studio albums or hits collections) since 2000's The Marshall Mathers LP soaring straight to the top. His only album not to top the charts was his major label debut The Slim Shady LP which was released in February 1999 and has never charted higher than Number 10 on these shores.
The second biggest new single of the week is Red from Daniel Merriweather which neatly gives the Australian singer his second solo Top 10 hit in a row. The single enters at Number 5, three places higher than his last single Change which was released back in February. Both tracks are taken from his album Love And War which hits the shops this week and whilst this may potentially impact the continuing sales of Red, the powerful ballad deserves far more than to be a one-week chart wonder. Here's hoping it sticks around for a while.
Now to the Eurovision song contest which thanks to the new download era and the fact that every single entrant gets a CD and digital release the week after the pan-Europe telecast always manages to make some unexpected chart waves. This year the headlines all go to the winning Norwegian entry which ran away from the voting from the very start and became the biggest winner in the history of the contest. The single began selling online in huge quantities from the moment it hit the stores and although the initial surge of interest died off later in the week, it was still enough to ensure that Fairytale by Alexander Rybak storms the UK chart at Number 10. It is the first foreign winner of the contest to reach the UK Top 40 since 2006 winner Hard Rock Hallelujah by Lordi reached Number 25, the first to reach the Top 20 since 1999 winner Charlotte Nilsson with Take Me To Your Heaven and is the biggest hit for a foreign Eurovision winning act since 1987 when Johnny Logan took Hold Me Now to Number 2. Honourable mention must also be made of 2000 winner Fly On The Wings Of Love which failed to become a hit at the time for the Olsen Brothers but subsequently hit the charts in a Eurodance remake by XTM and DJ Chucky, the single hitting Number 8 three times in an extended chart run during the summer of 2003.
It almost certainly means that the 2000s will end as the first decade since the 1950s without a Eurovision song contest track topping the charts. The last such record was Gina G's 1996 UK entry Ooh Ah Just A Little Bit whilst no foreign winner has taken their song to the top of the UK charts since the winning German entry A Little Peace by Nicole in 1982. Her Top 5 finish may have been our best for six years but 2009's UK entrant Jade Ewen is struggling to become a commercial success in her own country. Despite being co-written by both Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Diane Warren, It's My Time manages to limp to a mere Number 27 this week, a position you suspect will be its final resting place.
Lower down the chart a handful of the other entrants make appearances. Leading the charge is Icelandic entry Is It True by Yohanna which enters at Number 49. German entry Mr Kiss Kiss Bang Bang from Alex Swings Oscar Sings is at Number 85 whilst Lose Control from Finnish entry Waldo's People rests at a nice round Number 100.
Two other new singles arrive on the chart just on the cusp of the Top 20. First at Number 19 is Candy from the returning Paolo Nutini. His first single hit for over two years, the track is taken from his forthcoming second album Sunny Side Up which arrives in the shops in June. The new single is something of a departure from his previous work, eschewing raw soul for a more gentler country and western style which at times rather disturbingly threatens to turn him into a Daniel O'Donnell soundalike. The track grows on you eventually but I don't mind admitting there were some scary moments here and there. [You just wait until his next single].
Two places below at Number 21 is In The Heat Of The Night which gives Swedish pop act Star Pilots their first ever UK hit. The single is a glorious Eurodisco throwback of the kind you didn't think was made anymore and in truth shows Tommy Sparks just how it should be done. Appropriately enough for a record that sounds like it would sweep the board in the Eurovision song contest c.1984 the group did indeed attempt to enter as the Swedish representatives in this year's bash. Their song Higher failed to make the grade but has already become a Top 10 hit in their native land. Assuming In The Heat Of The Night performs adequately enough for their UK label we should get to hear it ourselves later in the year.
So that was the chart for this week. Looking ahead to next time I'm looking forward to the Susan Boyle factor sending Memory by Elaine Paige back into the chart and I will finally get to worship Little Boots in the most nauseating and star-struck manner ever when her single arrives in seven days time. Just wanted you to have advance warning, this could get messy.