[Superstar debut klaxon!] Throughout the whole of the 2009 series of X Factor I referred to Olly Murs as "nicebloke", his show gimmick being purely and simply that he was the nicest person around. He was also one of the series' better entertainers, a man who made up for whatever vocal shortcomings he may sometimes have had with a sense of showmanship and a winsome personality that meant even when duetting with Robbie Williams in the final he always seemed perfectly at home in front of a crowd. A more worthy winner than sweet little Joe? Quite possibly, but fate had other ideas and Olly was reduced to the runners up slot just before Christmas but was naturally always set for a career far beyond the TV talent show.
So it proves. Cheekily beating his winning rival to the punch with his first post-show single proper, Olly Murs storms to the top of the singles chart this week with his, debut single Please Don't Let Me Go. The track may not be the most revolutionary single of the year, nor the most immediately catchy, but the lilting pop record set to a reggae beat and with the requisite Heart FM friendly chorus was never going to do anything other than hit the mark with some considerable style. Hard on the heels of not only Joe McElderry but also JLS and Diana Vickers, Murs is no less than the fourth X Factor alumnus to hit Number One so far in 2010, a total that is almost certainly going to have increased before the end of the year rolls around.
Those keeping count will note that yes, this is indeed yet another new Number One single, arriving just seven days after the last. This is now the ninth week in a row that a different record has topped the UK charts, making ten different Number One singles in as many weeks. This is most frantic rate of turnover since the opening weeks of 2005 when we had a non stop run of 11 different one-week Number One singles making for an astonishing 13 different chart-topping singles in as many weeks. Whilst we are still a couple of weeks from equalling that particular run, it should be noted that Olly's prospects for a second week at the top are even at this stage in the proceedings pretty slim indeed.
Now whilst he ended the week comfortably in the lead, dear old Olly was by no means assured of the Number One single this week. His nearest rival was the lady who as it so happens has the honour of being the last artist to spend more than seven days at Number One in the UK - a certain Miss Katy Perry. Her aim last week was to achieve a rather unique chart double, as she had released both a single and an album with identical titles this week and had a shot of topping the charts with both. In the end it was not to be, Teenage Dream (the single) has to content itself with the runners up slot as the follow-up to the July Number One hit California Gurls. The new single is a rather lesser track than its predecessor, as follow-up records so often are. Nonetheless with the same bubbly vibe and air of sunshine and fun times it is clear that for the moment Katy Perry has hit on a winning formula and for now her chart performances have a consistency that she lacked with hits from her previous album.
Denied a second straight Number One single, Katy Perry does at least have the honour of a long playing chart-topper as Teenage Dream (the album) storms to the top of the album chart. As I mentioned in Chart Bite last night, her debut release One Of The Boys limped to a rather less impressive Number 11 during its chart run two years ago, so to see Katy Perry confirmed as an act who can sell just as many albums as she does singles is quite reassuring to see indeed.
The two-way tussle at the top of the singles chart rather distracted attention from another big selling single this week, one which may not quite have lived up to its initial hype but which does mark a rather unusual chart first. It is doubtful that the Sky One talent show "Must Be The Music" has had quite the mainstream impact that its creators had hoped, but the rather strange hybrid of X Factor and BGT has at least managed to invade the wider public consciousness thanks to a stunt which so far the other TV talent shows have shied away from - releasing the music of the acts involved before the contest is even over.
With the TV series having reached the live semi final stage, the producers elected to make the original songs performed by the acts on the show available for immediate public purchase, thus at a stroke rendering them eligible for chart placings. Far and away the most popular act on the first semi final last week were Pepper and Piano, two talented girls whose gimmick was the fact they had never before performed together before entering the competition. When their recording of their song You Took My Heart shot up the iTunes rankings last weekend it was observed that the pair possibly stood a chance of becoming the first ever unsigned act to top the single chart, hence a brief online flurry of attention that quickly died out when it became clear the pair were going to fall a long way short of the target. Nevertheless the single has done fantastically well, landing on the chart at Number 7 to effectively turn Pepper and Piano into stars [easy now] before the winner of the series has even been announced.
This fact alone does actually highlight the flaw in such marketing stunts in the first place, as by opening up the contestants on the show to potential chart success you kind of spoil the whole point of the final voting by revealing just which acts are the most popular before the final has even taken place. It is for this very reason that the week by week running totals for shows such as X Factor are kept strictly secret until right at the end - knowing who is in the lead to start off with can only serve to skew what is in theory supposed to be an open contest. Would you want to be any of Pepper and Piano's TV rivals knowing that the duo had already had a Top 10 single and are surely runaway favourites before anyone else has had a chance to perform? A constant rumour is that Simon Cowell wants to allow the weekly X Factor performances to be released for download in Glee-style batches this year. If it happens I suspect that just like on American Idol which has been doing the same for years, the downloads will be voluntarily withdrawn from the singles chart, just to preserve the mystique.
Needless to say Pepper and Piano aren't the only Must Be The Music acts to sneak into the charts this week, although they are far and away the most successful. Also picking up votes from the public wallet were Daithi with Carraroe at Number 67, Flow Dem with Get What I Want at Number 72 and Legion Of Many with Now We Are Stars at Number 98.
Now with all this talk of a rival talent show, you wouldn't expect X Factor to sit back and let its thunder be stolen that easy would you? Sure enough the audition stage of the talent show manages to inspire one of the more unexpected chart moves of the week. The auditionee in question was Annastacia Baker whose turn on the stage a week ago involved a moving rendition of Make You Feel My Love, originally written and recorded by Bob Dylan but most recently taken into the charts by Adele who took the song to Number 26 in November 2008. This week on the back of the X Factor airing, Adele's version is back again and quite extraordinarily soars to Number 24 to beat by a whisker its original peak from two years ago. It isn't quite the most spectacular X Factor inspired comeback - that honour going to Kings Of Leon's Sex On Fire which exactly one year ago this week leaped back into the Top 10 a full year after first topping the charts - but it once again proves the impressive power of the TV show to put songs in front of unfamiliar ears and seemingly give them a whole new lease of life. Here's hoping the new series puts that power to good use and steers clear of the usual MOR cliches which have bogged the show down for far too long.
To wrap up this week, a brace of hip-hop tracks which make rather lowly appearances just inside the Top 40. Leading the way is Kanye West who arrives at a rather surprisingly understated Number 36 with Power, the introductory single from his forthcoming fifth album Dark Twisted Fantasy. The single is notable at the very least for being based around a sample from an old King Crimson track 21st Century Schizoid Man which dates back to 1969. One place behind at Number 37 is Right Above It from Lil Wayne featuring Drake [this not exactly his chart debut, but the first time the biggest star of the late 10s merited a mention in these pages], surprisingly his first Top 40 appearance as the lead artist since Lollipop made Number 26 in April 2008. The rapper has had six Top 40 hits since that track, but each one has been as the guest star on someone else's record - most notably Jay Sean's Down which hit Number 3 last November.
Now we don't normally do too many spoilers here, but I have to tell you I can't wait to see how things unfold this week. Alexandra Burke trying to make it an X Factor double? McFly returning with an astonishing new sound? Yet more "Must Be The Music" acts storming the Top 40? You'd better believe it...