22 years ago this week the Number One album was Tracey Chapman's self-titled debut. Had this column been around then however the chances are we would have briefly noted that fact and then concentrated on the big new chart entry of the week - Kylie by Kylie Minogue which slotted in at Number 2. Although it would take another month before it actually topped the charts, the album would wind up as one of the biggest sellers of the year and although we didn't know it at the time was only the start of a chart career for the Australian star that would stretch to well over two decades.
The reason for that bit of nostalgia is simple - this week exactly 22 years on from her debut, Kylie Minogue storms to Number One on the album chart with her latest release Aphrodite. Some would say it is long overdue. For all her undoubted appeal, Kylie's track record at topping the album chart is patchy to say the least. Aphrodite is her first Number One album since 2001 collection Fever and is only the fourth studio album of her career to hit the top. Indeed between sophomore effort Enjoy Yourself in 1989 and the aforementioned 2001 release, her only Number One album was 1992s Greatest Hits offering - a total of five Number Ones in all.
Speaking of numbers, three is the magical one for JLS as their new single The Club Is Alive marches proudly to the top of the singles chart to ensure they hit the top for the third time in four releases. Something of a radical departure in sound from their first singles last year, The Club Is Alive is an unashamedly American influenced R&B track which drenches the boys in autotune and regrettably as a result makes the track sound like a poor Chris Brown rip-off rather than something fresh and exciting. The single is either a triumph (if you are a dedicated JLS lover) or the worst single ever made (for pretty much everyone else).
I've cautioned in the past about setting too much store on the day by day performances of singles on the internal charts published by online stores such as iTunes and Amazon given that the methodology used to compile them is far from transparent and subject to arbitrary adjustments of their internal databases. That said, it can be fascinating to spot the trends that develop during the week which give a big clue as to the shape the sales of particular singles take. In the case of The Club Is Alive it is clear that its place at Number One was almost entirely dependent on the sales lead it built up at the start of the week when it was lodged firmly at the top of the day to day tables. By close of business at the weekend the JLS single had slipped markedly and was trailing some of the other competitors by some considerable margin - a position it occupies at the time of writing. The Club Is Alive may have ended up as a comfortable Number One single, neatly selling over 80,000 copies to hit the top, but you get the feeling if the sales week had been just a day or two longer it may have been a very different story.
The next highest new entry of the week lands at Number 5 and is the track which was raced into the shops a week ahead of schedule thanks to the danger posed by a spoiler cover version. The track in question is We No Speak Americano, a Top 40 hit last week thanks to the rendition by Marco Calliari (who dips dramatically to Number 63) but which now is the Top 5 smash it was always going to be in the worldwide smash hit version by Yolanda Be Cool and D Cup. The track is a neat continuation of the minor 2010 trend for taking old jazz tracks and turning them into club hits (see also Gramaphondzie's Why Don't You), the inspiration in this case being Tu Vuo Fa' L'americano as originally performed by Italian star Renato Corasone back in the 1950s. The Yolanda Be Cool track takes the original (which you can easily find on Spotify and the like) and transforms it into a latino house club stormer. Just like the JLS track above it, you will either find it a work of genius or the most instantly annoying track you have heard this year. Either way get used to it, We No Speak Americano is set to be the defining sound of your summer holiday this year.
It appears that 3OH!3 have hit on something of a winning formula. Indifferent as we were to the tracks they released on their own (debut Don't Trust Me limped to Number 21 in July last year), by teaming up with bigger name female stars they are more or less guaranteed smash hits. The trick worked with Starstrukk earlier this year which as well as being a quite inspiring pop anthem also benefitted from a lead vocal from Katy Perry which helped the single to Number 3 and a place as one of the biggest sellers of the year to date. Now they repeat the trick with My First Kiss which sees the American duo team up with Ke$ha on guest vocal duties. In actual fact this is simply a return arrangement from earlier this year when 3oh!3 had a guest slot on Ke$ha's own Blah Blah Blah. Whilst that single merely made Number 11, this latest collaboration storms onto the chart at Number 7 to give the male half of the record their second Top 10 hit in a row and giving Ke$ha her third Top 10 single as one half of a collaboration. Although 30h!3's first two singles originally appeared on their 2008 album Want, all three of their hits feature on the UK version of third album Streets Of Gold which hits the shops here next Monday.
All good things come to those who wait it seems. Some labels might have been panicked by the failure of the first release from a much hyped new act to progress beyond Number 22. Not so Parlophone who have clearly invested too much time in Eliza Doolittle to give up just yet. So whilst Skinny Genes may have missed out on the Top 20, her second release performs slightly better - Pack Up makes a much healthier chart debut at Number 12 this week. Like its predecessor the track is a lovingly made 1960s pastiche, at times coming across as Motown, Atlantic soul and Phil Spector all rolled into one. It is an unconventional but very worthwhile release and pleasingly it appears that far from charging straight back out the charts Pack Up may well be contending for a Top 10 position this time next week with her self-titled debut album hitting the stores this week as well.
This week appears to be quite the week for new records based on songs that predate even the artists themselves. The JLS track lifts lines from The Sound Of Music, Yolanda Be Cool have sampled an old jazz record whilst Pack Up contains a lyrical nod to the World War II standard Pack Up Your Troubles In Your Old Kit Bag. Not forgetting Enrique Iglesias' channelling of All Night Long on his current single, you have to wonder if there are really no new ideas left in pop music?
In an otherwise quiet week there are just two more singles of note down the lower end of the Top 40. Rising quickly from the depths is 4th Of July (Fireworks) from Kelis which arrives at Number 32. The second single from her current album 'Flesh Tone', it seems set to be one of her smallest. Despite airplay since the start of June the single simply hasn't taken off in quite the manner it should have done and this could well be its only week of Top 40 glory.
Another act rather more used to bigger and better things is Lee Ryan, formerly of boy band Blue who is making another attempt to restart his solo career. It could be an uphill struggle. His first solo album came out in 2005, the self-titled platter spawning three Top 20 hit singles, the biggest being Army Of Lovers which hit Number 3 in July that year. After the follow-up album was cancelled in 2007 after just one single Reinforce Love had been released, Ryan then participated in a little-noticed reunion with his old band, thus prompting a further delay in the progress of his solo career. As a result he is kind of having to start from scratch in terms of momentum, with only the most dedicated of overgrown Blue fans surely ready to buy his records simply because of who he is. New single I Am Who I Am, which was originally due in May but now arrives two months late, is lavish and epic in scale but hardly seems the kind of record with which to relaunch his solo career. Intended to be moving and anthemic its sweeping orchestration just manages to sound pompous and overbearing. For a far better version, check out the original by Ben's Brother on their 2007 album Beta Male Fairytales.