This week's Official UK Singles Chart
This week's Official UK Albums Chart
You could be forgiven for regarding it as the unluckiest album of the year. Released at the height of summer, at a time largely devoid of major new product, Lungs from Florence & The Machine was more or less a lock-in for a lengthy spell at the very top of the album chart, cementing the group's status as one of the most talked about acts of 2009. That was without taking into account the death of Michael Jackson last June which inevitably resulted in a summer-long spell of huge posthumous sales and a near monopoly on the Number One position. Lungs went down in history as the record denied the top of the chart by a fluke of bad health [or a muderously incompetent doctor, depending on which way you look at it], spending a full five weeks lodged at Number 2.
It looked at one stage as if history was set to repeat itself when last week Lungs received a surge of new year support and headed back to the summit, only to be denied at the last moment by a similarly resurgent Paolo Nutini. All that changes this week however as Florence & The Machine take their rightful place at the very top of the album chart after a wait of no less than 28 weeks. Lungs rules the roost over an unusually busy album chart, the Top 10 alone playing host to big new entries from Vampire Weekend (Number 3), You Me At Six (Number 5) and Delphic (Number 8).
The most extraordinary arrival of all however is the presence at Number 6 of Forever Vienna from the 60 year old Dutch violinist and conductor Andre Rieu. This surge in popular appeal, seemingly from nowhere, comes on the back of his appearance at the Royal Variety Performance which was screened on TV over Christmas and which inspired his label to throw together a compilation of some of his most memorable recordings. The result is that the veteran performer has gone from chart unknown to Top 10 star in the space of just a few short weeks.
The top end of the singles chart is unusually stable with Iyaz holding on to Number One for a second week with Replay, the first act to have a Number One single that has lasted for more than one week at a time since the start of December. As expected his nearest challenger came from Fireflies by Owl City which benefits from a full week of sales for the first time following its midweek rush release and so soars 50-2, failing by a narrow squeak to reach the very top. Owl City is a pseudonym for American musician Adam Young, his career following the now familiar path of being "discovered" posting on MySpace and being handed a major label deal. Fireflies is typical of much of his output, an exquisitely crafted and irresistibly charming pop song that treads neatly the thin line between intense artistry and outright commercial appeal. Not that his music isn't without its detractors, many critics having grumbled publicly about how his supposedly unique style is anything but - instead sounding suspiciously familiar to some of the work of The Postal Service, an early 21st century side project of Death Cab For Cutie singer Ben Gibbard. Personally I'm surprised at the bitterness this similarity has prompted. For all their critical acclaim, The Postal Service sold next to damn all in the way of records and the fact that ten years later a different artist should be taking the style of music to wide commercial success should be seen as the ultimate vindication of those who professed such love for Owl City's predecessors. Forget the grumbling and concentrate on the good parts - Fireflies is a gorgeous, glorious and uplifting pop record and it is actually a matter of some considerable joy to see it riding high in the UK charts.
Truth be told though, none of the acts I've mentioned thus far can lay claim to being the big chart story of the week. That honour belongs not so much to a musical act but instead a certain American TV show.
TV sells music. That much we all know, a fact hammered home by the endless number of talent shows that have populated the singles chart with the products of their discovery for most of the last ten years. It is a truism now set to be exploited to the full by the comedy drama Glee which if its American success last year is any indication is set to carve out a whole new set of chart feats as it begins its run on this side of the Atlantic. The premise of the series is simple - following the fortunes of the members of a typical American high school performance choir and the battles between the teachers who want to see it succeed or fail to varying degrees. Each episode of the series features the cast performing a variety of material, most of it covers of well known popular songs, with the action building towards one final climactic performance at the end. The twist is that each week the songs from each episode are released for download, week by week building into a full soundtrack of the series and perhaps most importantly encouraging multiple repeat purchases by the exact demographic that the music business needs to get back in the habit of buying its product.
This week the first two episodes of the show aired in a double bill and inevitably the first batch of songs has swept into view. It isn't quite the "chart domination" the midweek hype was keen to suggest, but enough to ensure that the G-word is all anyone is talking about this week. The charge is led by the song that memorably ended the first episode - Don't Stop Believin - as the Glee Cast version rockets to Number 5. It means we have the rare situation of two versions of the same song sitting at back to back positions on the chart thanks to the continuing presence of the original Journey recording which holds firm at Number 6. It is the first time the same song has been a Top 10 hit in two simultaneous versions since December 2008 when Alexandra Burke's take on Hallelujah was at Number One with Jeff Buckley's famous version one place behind. I bet the X Factor producers are kicking themselves that they didn't go with a Joe McElderry version as was rumoured to be the plan at one stage.
No other Glee songs make the Top 40 but the four other Top 75 singles credited to the show represents the biggest chart sweep by a single credited act since Michael Jackson mania last summer and provokes comparison with the similar flood of new entries created by the UK debut of High School Musical back in the summer of 2006. Heading the field is the Episode 2 climax Take A Bow, the cover of the Rihanna song arriving at Number 43. A few places below at Number 49 is the cast's take on Kanye West's 2005 hit Gold Digger, the impact of the song reduced slightly by the substitution of a certain rude word by a more TV friendly one which sadly now fails to rhyme with "Digger" and thus knackers up the poetry. Elsewhere we have Rehab at Number 62 and On My Own at Number 73 to complete the set.
I suspect that the initial novelty will wear off quickly and that whilst other chart invasions of tracks performed later in the series are inevitable, few if any will have quite the impact of Don't Stop Believin which most American reviewers agreed was the high water mark of the series' performances in terms of both quality and dramatic impact. Be warned though - Glee may be given its UK premiere during the week on E4 but its main terrestrial airing on Channel 4 does not come until Sunday each week, meaning that the sales impact of each episode may well be spread across two different chart weeks. We haven't yet heard the last of it, this thing has the power to be so big it is almost scary.
We should really take time out to celebrate as well the arrival of an act who had no need of any TV exposure to penetrate the Top 10. Step forward then Plan B who arrives at Number 9 with the infectious Stay Too Long. The rapper is already a familiar chart name thanks to his guest role on the Chase & Status single End Credits which also hit Number 9 back in November. Stay Too Long is taken from Plan B's forthcoming second album The Defamation Of Strickland Banks which is scheduled for release in March. His debut long player was Who Needs Actions When You Got Words which came out in 2006 and which spawned just one chart single - Mama which briefly charted at Number 41 in July of that year.
Also climbing into the Top 10 at long last is Alexandra Burke who moves 12-10 with High Heels. The lady herself has expressed frustration at the struggle her new single has had to gain traction thanks largely to the continuing appeal of her previous single Bad Boys which continues to be a popular radio hit and which is still charting over three and a half months after release, sliding this week to Number 34.
At the very least Alexandra Burke has the honour of denying Justin Bieber his debut Top 10 hit as One Time falls one place short at Number 11. Not that the teenage star has too much to complain about as he embarks on a mini chart invasion of his own as the other tracks on the digital single Love Me and One Less Lonely Girl have attracted enough individual sales to chart at 76 and 78 respectively. Watch out for more from him next week with the release of his debut album My World which should be in the shops by the time you read this.
Keep an eye out too for the single at Number 30 this week as a certain songwriting superstar attempts to prove he still has what it takes to supply his own band with material. The man in question is Ryan Tedder who arrives on the Top 40 as part of OneRepublic as All The Right Moves becomes their first chart single in over two and a half years. Critical opinion is mixed, with the single perhaps lacking a little of the flair of Apologise and Stop And Stare and the track an almost too obvious attempt to prove that Tedder's talents aren't just confined to writing big voiced ballads for the likes of Leona Lewis and Jordin Sparks. All The Right Moves is taken from the second OneRepublic album Waking Up which despite being available online since November has yet to tickle the album chart at all.