Thus far in 2010 there have been a grand total of 30 different singles granted the honour of becoming Number One. Of that score and a half, just 11 of them have managed to stay the course long enough to land a second (or third) week at the top of the charts. Thus F**k You by Cee Lo Green is in some rarefied company, being as it is now the 11th of the 2010 chart-topping singles to spend a second week at the summit. He did so by the narrowest of margins, the gap between Green and his nearest chart challenger being as little as 2,000 copies, so I suspect therefore that speculation that the single will become only the third this year to last longer than a fortnight at Number One is probably moot. Kind of takes some of the fun out of it really.
Said Number One challenger was rather curiously the resurgent Bruno Mars. His single Just The Way You Are (Amazing) has already been at Number One once, spending seven days at the top in the w/e October 2nd. Having fallen to Number 4 last week the single now rebounds all the way back to Number 2, contending seriously for a return to the top and in actual fact selling only a few thousand less than he did to top the charts three weeks ago. As wonderful as it is to see F**k You retain its crown, the rebound of Bruno Mars would have made for a spectacular chart tale in its own right - not that the tale is quite over yet however. It is a topic we will return to before we are done this week, but it should be noted that Just The Way You Are was one of the best performed songs in the latest live edition of X Factor this weekend just gone. It came just a couple of hours before the chart window shut so too late for the full impact to be shown up here, but it will be enough to ensure that Bruno Mars gets a sales boost ready for next week's chart that could once again seem him challenging for the top.
Better still, the biggest new single of of the week is not the one that Simon Cowell would like it to be. Congratulations then to Duck Sauce who fly to Number 3 with the intriguingly titled Barbra Streisand. It is the second hit single for the pairing of Armand Van Helden and A-Trak, the follow-up to aNYway which crept to Number 22 at the tail end of last year. One of those diverting dance records that makes even the casual listener sit up and pay attention, the track is based heavily on an old Boney M track Gotta Go Home, originally one half of a double a-side that reached Number 12 in the summer of 1979 which possibly takes some of the shine off when you realise it isn't quite as original as it first sounds. Nonetheless it means that Barbra Streisand (the person) becomes the latest in a long line of former Number One hitmakers to be name-checked in the title of a hit record by somebody else, and the single received an unexpected bit of extra exposure on - yes - X Factor last weekend when soon to be eliminated act Diva Fever dropped in the Barbra Streisand chant from the Duck Sauce track whilst claiming to be performing the Boney M original.
[There was actually a bit of a backstory to this, the rumour being that Simon Cowell was taking revenge on Global Radio's stations refusing to playlist the Joe McElderry single. By plugging both the Bruno Mars and Duck Sauce singles on X Factor he was engineering it so that they would outsell the new The Wanted single - who were managed by Ashley Tabor, boss of Global. Tune in next week to see if it worked!]
OK I admit it, we are going to be mentioning X Factor a fair bit this week, simply because the start of the live shows has inevitably shaped much of the chart activity this week, although in the case of our next chart entrant maybe not as much as had been hoped. The marketing strategy for the annual winners of the talent show has changed and developed in the seven years the show has been on the air. At first the tactic was to race the victorious act into the studio and to release an album as soon as possible to cash in on the attention lavished upon them by their appearances on the series. Hence the early spring releases for albums by Steve Brookstein and Shayne Ward, although only the latter managed to move forward from that initial rush release and actually go on to make records that charted on their own merits. When the show unearthed Leona Lewis in 2006 the tactic was altered - here you see was someone with genuine star potential and it was quickly agreed that the only way to do her justice was to wait almost an entire year, grooming her and carefully selecting the very best material and to make her a high priority promotional project. Delaying the X Factor winners' journey to stardom until the autumn also means they can benefit from appearances on the new series to guarantee a huge prime time audience for the TV debut of their first ever single. Now whilst this works perfectly for acts such as Leona and Alexandra Burke about whom there are genuinely high hopes, when the winner is a dud such as Leon Jackson the tactic can backfire. Instead of striking whilst the iron is hot, a forgettable winner remains hidden from the public until everyone has forgotten about them, resulting in widespread indifference when the time finally comes to release their record.
Something tells me 2009 winner Joe McElderry is about to fall down that same hole. Whilst his coronation song The Climb sold the usual three quarters of a million in the aftermath of the series last year, and indeed benefited from the debacle of the Christmas Number One race by making the eventual chart placing of his single more of an issue that it might otherwise have been, it was impossible to escape the feeling that 2009 had been an off year for the show. Joe might have been personable and humble enough, but a major singing talent? Doubtful. His coming out in the press a few months ago may have helped to keep his name in the headlines but the crunch was always going to come when his record finally came out - with the thorny question of just what kind of material he was going to perform having to be resolved. After making his name on the show singing ballads, it was decided for his album he should go in a more upbeat direction - hence his debut single is Ambitions, a sparky song about life affirmation and doing your own thing which was originally recorded a year ago by Norwegian band Donkeyboy. The production on Joe's version makes the track a little meatier and gives the song slightly more polish than the original, but in truth this is really the best thing you can say about it.
So it proves when it came to the charts. Even with the requisite triumphant return to the show last weekend to perform the song, Joe was always going to struggle against the heavy competition on the singles chart at present, but I don't think anyone would have seriously predicted he would wind up charting as low as Number 6. The facts don't lie though, Joe McElderry has not only failed to storm to Number One in the same manner as Leona Lewis or Alexandra Burke but has missed the Top 5 altogether. Heck, even Leon Jackson, the last resounding X Factor flop made Number 3 with his single Don't Call This Love in October 2008. If there is a way back for Joe from here it is going to take something miraculous. Ambitions is already proving it is going to be a one week wonder in sales terms, and whilst his album will make the contractually obligated Top 3 appearance when it is released next week, by the time the new series of the show crowns its next winner it seems almost a certainty that Joe will be swiftly forgotten just like most of the other male winners of the series. [Nah, he did OK in the end, just not in the way we all expected].
Moving on to brighter things, as was widely expected Mike Posner makes a flying leap with Cooler Than Me, the track leaping 22-9 to give the American star his first ever Top 10 hit. Not content with shattering the Top 10 glass ceiling with ease, the single seems set for an extended Top 10 run as its appeal continues to grow and grow.
Also climbing into the Top 10, and not for the first time either, is Usher who moves 18-10 with DJ Got Us Falling In Love, a full four weeks after the track first peaked at Number 7. This sudden resurgence for a track which, let us not forget has been charting since the end of July, is all thanks to his X Factor results show appearance last weekend which has apparently opened up the ears of many of the ITV1 audience to the track's existence for the first time. Usher actually performed the single as part of a medley with OMG, a track it seems he cannot resist performing on TV given that it formed part of his last prime time TV appearance on a Britain's Got Talent results show back in June (an occasion when it was billed as his "new single", a full two months after it had made Number One). As a result OMG also makes a chart return, charging 63-35 to make the Top 40 for the first time since mid-August in what is now its 30th week on sale.
Much comment was made during the week over the way the heavily touted instant downloads of the X Factor contestants' live performances are being deliberately withheld from chart returns, as was only sensible. Whilst we can't see for the moment just which acts are selling the most mp3 and aac copies, it is possible to note which of the performed songs have been the most popular thanks to the original versions making their own chart impact. Hence the 15-11 jump of Travie McCoy's Billionaire despite it being performed by eliminated act FYD, but this is nothing compared to the most curious chart return of the week. Step forward 2003 Christmas Number One Mad World by Michael Andrews and Gary Jules, unseen since April 2004 at the end of its initial chart run. After a show-stopping performance by contestant Aiden Grimshaw last week using the same stripped down arrangement, the single rockets into the Top 30 to leave us in no doubt as to who was the true winner of the week. The exposure has even helped the Tears For Fears original back up the listings, bought maybe by confused people who weren't sure who Aiden was paying homage to - the 1982 single resting at Number 95 this week. X Factor performances are also responsible for the chart return of Viva La Vida at Number 42 and When Love Takes Over at Number 59.
Back to slightly newer songs, and there is a new entry at Number 12 for Pixie Lott with Broken Arrow. The track is her sixth Top 20 single in a little over a year and is a brand new song sadly not taken from a forthcoming new album but instead the new Turn It Up Louder special edition of her debut release 'Turn It Up' which first came out a year ago. Speaking of special editions of 2009 albums, Michael Buble has one coming out too. Crazy Love Hollywood Edition is due out in time for Christmas and so ahead of it comes the single Hollywood which lands at Number 17, his biggest chart single since Haven't Met You Yet made Number 5 at the tail end of last year. The track has been in the can for some time but was felt to not fit the tone of the original album and so was apparently originally touted as a standalone bonus release. Instead it becomes the focal point of a series of bolt-ons designed to wring extra sales life out of an album it wasn't supposed to be part of. Once more the message for fans of both Buble and Lott is clear - if you bought their albums when they were first released, then the music industry thinks you are incredibly stupid.
Here's something else for you to puzzle over - is it really a good thing that certain acts appear to have moved beyond having to have hit singles? It has been a common theme over the last few weeks, with acts such as Maroon 5 and the Manic Street Preachers and yes, maybe even Kings Of Leon - groups who once upon a time could be relied upon to release massive hit singles that in their turn spawned well regarded albums but who now are content to just lob a lead single into the market seven days ahead of their latest work, safe in the knowledge that the album will go Top 3 regardless of whether anyone cares about the single.
This week the same appears to be set to happen to the Ting Tings, which given the level of their fame two years ago is absolutely astonishing. In early 2008 the duo of Jules and Katie were the name to drop and rightly hailed as the brightest new stars of the year. Their first single proper That's Not My Name was nothing less than a joy, an enormously clever single which featured three different vocal lines that danced around each other before finally merging together during the coda of the song. History will record it as one of the best records of the last decade. Other releases such as Great DJ and Shut Up And Let Me Go, plus debut album We Started Nothing all helped to cement the pair as one of the best new acts of the year. All of this should in theory mean the imminent release of their second album is a very big deal indeed. Now in fairness the album Kunst is not going to make the Christmas rush and is slated for an early 2011 release [and famously ended up being scrapped altogether, but that's a whole other story], so much of the potential fuss over the big Ting Tings comeback can wait until then. Nonetheless, the pair have been actively promoting brand new single Hands and doing their best to remind the world of their existence and just why they are so good at what they do. For all that, the single is a chart disappointment, limping to Number 29 despite radio airplay since the end of August and a generally positive reception all round. When it comes to the crunch, this won't actually matter too much. No matter when the album is released it will be guaranteed a strong first week sale and will do more than enough to justify its existence - yet with hit singles behind it, its potential could theoretically be so much more. The Ting Tings may have inadvertently morphed into another act who apparently don’t' need hit singles to sell records, but I can't help but feel that is a shame.
The final quarter release rush continues in the current albums market, the Top 10 of the long player chart playing host to no less than five brand new entries, amongst them new releases from Cliff Richard and Belle & Sebastian, two acts who also don’t need hit singles albeit for very different reasons. They are all trumped in sales terms however by Robbie Williams who storms to Number One with In And Out Of Consciousness, a Greatest Hits collection designed to encompass all of his solo work since 1996. Impressively it is his ninth Number One album since he first set out alone and his first since 2006 release Rudebox. In And Out… is notably his second Hits collection to top the charts, almost exactly six years to the week since his first Greatest Hits also stormed to Number One. The new album is home to current Top 10 single Shame, the record that formally marked his reunion with Take That bandmate Gary Barlow. Said reunion will also mean Robbie has a two-pronged assault on the Christmas market, playing a full role on the forthcoming Take That album Progress which is due out at the end of November.