If Olly Murs didn't exist you suspect someone would have to invent him. From a second place finish in X Factor three years ago the singer has grown in stature with every single release, overcoming the more ridiculous aspects of his early material to carve himself a niche as the kind of pan-generational pop performer that Robbie Williams used to occupy in his heyday just over a decade ago. Credible enough to be taken seriously as a pop star yet with a charisma and a musical style which hooks in the mums and dads as well, Murs is now riding on a formula which sees him score hit singles with seemingly effortless ease.
Just like this week for example as after weeks of saturation airplay, some suitably high profile public appearances and naturally the requisite return to the X Factor stage last weekend Olly Murs crashes into Number One with his brand new single Troublemaker. Lifted from his forthcoming third album Right Place Right Time, the energetic and catchy pop record even features a suitably credibility-enhancing [friends of mine had due cause to question that turn of phrase] guest rap from Flo Rida, in effect duplicating the lift he gave to Alexandra Burke on her first post-X Factor single Bad Boys back in 2009.
Troublemaker is now Murs' fourth Number One hit single under his own steam whilst Flo Rida can now claim a similar number of British chart-toppers, even if only two of those were his own records.
Given that this year marks the tenth anniversary of the one-off 'Popstars - The Rivals' TV series which saw them formed via a series of public votes, it would have been rather odd if there wasn't any new Girls Aloud product available to mark the occasion. Something tells me that the anniversary was the only excuse that could be found to persuade the five starlets to reconvene after their career break given that they had not only achieved so much already and that Cheryl Cole arguably had no need to go back to being just one part of an ensemble. Still, they managed it and it is with no small flourish that the first brand new Girls Aloud single in almost four years Something New debuts at Number 2 this week - agonisingly short of a triumphant return to Number One for the first time since The Promise in 2008, although late week sales flashes suggest that much of their sales were front loaded and the single had slumped badly by the time the weekend rolled around. In the end the girls finished a full 50,000 copies behind the unstoppable Olly Murs.
A typically brash "we're back and still proud" musical statement, as good as it is the single only serves to pose the tricky question of just how viable a force they now are, entering their second decade as a manufactured girl group. Their original audience will have grown up and possibly even grown out of them, whilst the current generation of music fans have the likes of Stooshe and even Little Mix on which to focus their attentions. As good as it is to see the pre-eminent female pop group of the last decade back in the Top 3, the nagging feeling remains that their destiny is now to be little more than a legacy act, trading on past glories rather than forging ahead with the new. [Or alternatively this could turn out to be a one-off and their last ever hit single. Who could tell?]
With One Direction dropping to Number 3 with last week's Number One single Little Things it is worth noting that the entire Top 3 is this week made up of acts who owe their 'discovery' to Saturday night TV talent shows, the first time this has occurred since Christmas week in 2002 when Girls Aloud were at 1, their fellow Popstars creations One True Voice were at 2 and failed auditionees The Cheeky Girls at 3.
Alicia Keys is by no means a talent show product, but her own X Factor connection this week is the performance of her new single Girl On Fire on the stormy results show last weekend and which has done its part in helping it to a Number 5 debut this week. Her first release in almost three years, the track is only her fifth Top 5 hit single in this country but does at least have the honour of becoming her sixth straight Top 10 single, a run which stretches back to the Number 9 peak in 2008 of the Bond theme Another Way To Die on which she duetted with Jack White. In an era when it seems just about any star of name value is capable of placing a single at the top of the charts for a week, Alicia Keys is probably one of the biggest superstar names of the moment not to have a British Number One hit to her name, coming closest as a participant on Jay-Z's version of Empire State Of Mind which reached Number 2 in October 2009.
The biggest selling album of the week is technically Now That's What I Call Music! Volume 83 which sold 295,000 copies last week to become the fastest seller of the year to date, eclipsing its own predecessor from back in July - but as a compilation it doesn't technically count. Instead naturally the leader of the album pack is Rihanna as the burst of promotional effort for Unapologetic sends her new release straight to the top of the charts. With her chart achievements often mentioned in the same breath as Madonna, it seems only appropriate that this week she matches a record set by the original female pop legend by claiming her third Number One album in a row (following on from Loud in 2010 and Talk That Talk in 2011). The aforementioned Ms Ciccone is the only other solo female to date to pull off the trick, something she achieved just a few months back when MDNA followed Hard Candy and Celebration to the top to complete the 1-2-3.
As you might expect Apologetic scatters a handful of its more popular tracks around the singles chart this week although Right Now is the only one to join current hit Diamonds in the Top 40, the David Guetta produced track slipping in at Number 36. No, the act with the most cherrypicked hits this week are rock legends AC/DC who finally ended their reign as the most high profile iTunes absentees and made their back catalogue available for digital purchase. Hence the appearance of Back In Black at Number 27 (title track of their 1980 album and never before a chart hit single), Highway To Hell at Number 40 (a 16 place improvement on its original 1979 peak), You Shook Me All Night Long at Number 42 (originally Number 38 in 1980) and Thunderstruck at Number 44 (a Number 13 hit from 1990). The group are famously the most successful act never to have had a Top 10 hit single, the new arrival of Back In Black giving them a grand total of 28 chart entries, none of which have ever peaked any higher than Number 12 (that honour going to 1988 hit Heatseeker).
For some years the most notable digital holdouts were The Beatles with rampant speculation abounding as to where their singles might land when they finally reached the iTunes store. It is worth noting that when that happened exactly two years ago this week they placed a grand total of three tracks inside the Top 50 - that's one less than AC/DC have managed this week.