For a long time the phrase "boy band" carried with it some negative connotations. Lucractive though the concept of four or five good looking young men performing energetic pop music had been, by around 2004 by common consensus the format was tired, overused and had been done to death. Male-led pop music had edged back towards the idea of boys writing their own songs and playing their own guitars, a la Busted and McFly. The day of the carefully assembled and choreographed pop group was for the moment over.
It was arguably JLS who set the ball rolling again. Although they were far from manufactured, appearing on X Factor as a fully formed performing act from the start, their long run in the competition and subsequent grooming for real world pop success has demonstrated that there is still an eager market of easy influenced young girls (and boys I guess) ready to be sold on the charms and trouser thrusts of some well groomed enthusiastic pop hoofers. Suddenly the race was on to propel the next big thing in boy bands into the charts.
This week we can consider that race well and truly won as the new pop kids on the block The Wanted charge neatly to the very top of the singles charts with their debut single All Time Low. There was a kind of inevitability about it all right from the very start, with the five boys being touted as the hottest new thing in pop even before their first single had been announced. After weeks of copious airplay, personal appearances and breathless newspaper articles the record was never going to do anything other than soar to the summit of the sales rankings.
Not that All Time Low is any kind of afterthought. To release a bad record after all the hard work that went in to grooming The Wanted would have been almost unthinkable. Instead the track is a carefully produced effort to make something different, eschewing cheesiness for a remix-friendly club sound. JLS taken to the next level if you like. Indeed both acts have the experienced hands of Steve Mac on production duties, man who with All Time Low can now claim to have helmed no less than 21 Number One singles in the UK over the course of the last decade.
Really the true test of this single will be what happens next. As is so often the case for single that have received the big hype treatment, its sales were largely front-loaded to the very start of the week, giving it a huge lead that it was never likely to surrender before the weekend despite the rather alarming slippage it began to demonstrate as the days wore on. Whilst I don't quite think a total second week collapse is on the cards, the chances of The Wanted grabbing themselves two weeks at the top appear pretty slim. This then is really their big challenge, to move beyond the talk of "next big thing in pop" and actually become the fully rounded mainstream pop act that only a handful of boy bands ever manage to evolve into.
A brand new Number One from a brand new act wasn't the only chart story in town this week, naturally. After a brief summertime lull the release schedules presented us with a mouth-watering selection of brand new singles, all of which meant the Top 10 plays host to no less than five brand new entries this week, the biggest chart clearout in a single week since the new digital era began in 2007.
At one stage it looked as if we were set for a chart 1-2 of brand new entries but in the final analysis the second biggest new single of the week couldn't quite overcome the still strong challenge of Yolanda Be Cool who thus grab the Number 2 slot in its place. Number 3 it is then for Billionaire as performed by Travie McCoy and Bruno Mars. McCoy may be a new name to most but he is far from a stranger to the top end of the singles charts, having had three Top 10 hits in 2007 and 2008 as the lead vocalist of Gym Class Heroes. His first solo single neatly matches the Number 3 peak of their debut hit Cupid's Chokehold which charted in April 2007. Billionaire is an engagingly and refreshingly different hip hop and reggae fusion track, taking as its base a naggingly familiar chord sequence which we are reliably told is sampled directly from a 1996 track called Sateria by Sublime. Guest singer on the track is the go-to guy of the moment Bruno Mars, hero of B.o.B.'s Number One single Nothin' On You and who is himself set for a solo chart career with his debut single 'Just The Way You Are' currently edging its way up the US charts. [One of those moments where you look back in hindsight and realise we had no idea just how big he was about to get].
New at Number 5 is the hotly tipped Club Can't Handle Me from Flo Rida and the apparently ubiquitous David Guetta. Easily one of the hottest new singles of the moment, perhaps even more so than the McCoy or Wanted tracks, Club Can't Handle Me would possibly have made an even bigger first week impact had it not been for some brief confusion at the start of the week when it failed to appear as a standalone download in the online stores. This left the way clear for a cheekily titled karaoke cover version (billed as "Flo Rida Club Can't Handle Me" to neatly show up in web searches) which at one stage on Monday lunchtime was selling enough copies to rank as a Top 40 single. It was not until later the afternoon when the proper version of the single finally became available that people stopped blindly buying the cover in error.
Hence Flo Rida had a little bit of ground to make up and the misfiring start appears to have cost it dear, at leas for the moment. Truth be told though this is the most exciting and electrifying single you will hear all month. Lifted from the soundtrack of the movie 'Step Up 3D', the track is yet another David Guetta masterpiece, fusing both Flo Rida's rhymes and his own infectious Gallic beats in a package that is very hard to resist. In the absence of any other strong competition, it seems almost inevitable that this track will be topping the charts in seven days time.
We've had new entries at 1, 3 and 5 so far so it seems almost obligatory that the next should arrive at Number 7 and once again it is a unfamiliar branding for some very big names indeed. The Swedish House Mafia consist of three Swedish (naturally) club DJs and producers: Axwell, Steve Angello and Sebastian Ingrosso. Along with fellow countrymen Eric Prydz, the group have been known as the Swedish House Mafia for several years, but this marks their first ever mainstream chart hit using the collaborative title. With no less a figure than Pharrell Williams supplying a guest vocal, One (Your Name) is a typically lavish floor filling house track and of a kind which was always destined to find a larger commercial audience. Shooting straight into the UK Top 10, it instantly becomes one of the most successful chart singles for any of its collaborators, save perhaps for Axwell who can boast a Number 6 single with his own I Found You which charted in 2007. Although he has been far from quiet as a producer, this is Pharrell Williams' first chart appearance as a credited performer since his own single Number One reached Number 31 in August 2006.
Bringing up the rear then and perhaps rather spoiling the neat progression of odd numbered entries, the fifth new hit of the week lands at Number 10 for Magnetic Man featuring Angela Hunte with I Need Air. Another collaborative act, Magic Man are dubstep producers Skream, Benga and Artwork whose gimmick is to perform together onstage with the laptop computers that doing their sequencing front and centre as part of the act. As its chart placing suggests, I Need Air is maybe the least immediate club record of the week although it is hard to ignore and there is much to like in the way Angela Hunte's vocals tumble over each other in a frantic stream of consciousness over the intense dub beats.
If this feels like a week filled with superlatives then so be it. Just when you think pop music has started to wear you out comes a week like this with a parade of new singles, virtually all of which have much to recommend them in terms of creativity, innovation and appeal. Oddly enough it is only the biggest of them about which it is possible to be briefly cynical, maybe more a product of marketing than necessarily true musical appeal.
For a chart that is so front-loaded it seems slightly odd to note that activity down the lower end is pretty minimal. Of the other theoretically "upcoming" hit singles, only Jason Derulo's What If makes any kind of significant move, rising 19-15 to land its highest chart placing to date. More notably Usher's traditional slow start with his latest single DJ Got Us Falling In Love appears to be even slower than usual, the single holding firm at the Number 20 position at which it debuted seven days ago.
Even the album chart has its fair share of frustrations as the big storyline of the week simply failed to emerge. All eyes were on Tom Jones and his much talked about new album Praise & Blame which at one stage appeared to be on track to top the charts. Had it done so it would have been the Welshman's first Number One album since 1999 and at the age of 70 would have instantly made him the oldest man ever to have a Number One album, snatching the prize from Bob Dylan who set the record last year. In the event it was not to be and Tom Jones has to be content with an entry at Number 2 behind an apparently immovable Eminem. Recovery has now spent a total of five weeks at Number One, matching the chart run of his own The Eminem Show and Curtain Call - The Hits. One more week at the top and Recovery will become in pure chart terms his most successful album ever.
The Jedward album incidentally arrives at Number 17, but to point that out would be like kicking a small puppy wouldn't it?