Before the brand new countdown was revealed on Sunday evening in the UK, not one person could say for sure exactly what would be at the top of the Official UK Singles chart this week. This is all thanks to a most extraordinary seven days in which no less than three different singles took their turn at the top of the online retailers' respective live charts - and as you might expect all three line up in turn at the very top of the singles table.
Heading the pile, however, is the single which raced into an early week lead and never quite relinquished it, despite its sales struggling in the face of some strong competition as the weekend neared. Animals marks the credited chart debut of the precociously talented Martin Garrix, aged just 17 years old and hailing from Amsterdam. The Big Room House track turned heads across Europe during the summer, became a hit on just about every chart worth mentioning across the continent during the last few months and now finally escapes to the UK to give the teenager a Number One single at the very first attempt. What is most notable about Animals is that aside from two brief spoken phrases the single is entirely instrumental, the first such single to reach the top of the charts since Flat Beat by Mr Oizo reached the summit back in 1999.
It has been four years since Lily Allen released an album, the entertaining and lyrically adept singer having retreated from the music business once the promotion of her It's Not Me, It's You album was complete to focus on motherhood and her investment in a fashion business. Since then her only chart appearances have been as the guest star on a Professor Green track in 2010 and as a co-credited singer on T-Pain's 2011 single 5 O'Clock thanks to its sampling of one of her older tracks. Her appearance alongside Pink on True Love back in the summer was our first clue that her self-imposed exile was about to come to an end and this week it was confirmed that she has a new single and a new album waiting in the wings.
Except that oddly enough the Lily Allen track which debuts at Number 2 on the UK Singles chart this week after making a strong midweek play for the summit isn't 'her' new single at all. Instead it is a cover of the Keane track Somewhere Only We Know, her vocal contribution to the soundtrack of the latest seasonal TV commercial for John Lewis stores, making her the latest in a long line of singers such as Ellie Goulding, Slow Moving Millie, Paloma Faith and most recently Gabrielle Aplin to turn established pop classics into melancholy soundtracks for a department store. With the animated tale of the bear and the hare tugging strangely at heartstrings across the nation it was more or less a given that the single would fly up the charts, and so Lily Allen heralds her "official" chart return with her biggest hit single since The Fear topped the charts for four weeks in February 2009.
Keane's original version of Somewhere Only We Know was their debut hit single in February 2004 and peaked one place behind Allen's cover version at Number 3. By a strange twist of fate, the group recently announced they are to take a hiatus and have this week released a career retrospective Best Of which debuts at Number 10 on the album chart this week. Thanks to both the hits collection and Lily Allen's cover, the original version of Somewhere Only We Know shoots back into the Top 40 at Number 26. This isn't the first time a Keane song has been the subject of a Lily Allen cover, her 2006 single Littlest Things featuring her take on Everybody's Changing on what back then we used to call the b-side.
In a sense, it is a shame Lily Allen could only make the runners-up slot this week. With her official comeback single Hard Out Here in the virtual shops as we speak, she was better placed than anyone in the last 30 years to replace herself at the top of the singles charts, something which for the moment at least looks unlikely.
OK, so those were the two early week Number One contenders, what of the other one. Well, oddly enough it is a lady who is a former John Lewis singer herself, this time with a track that formed the official single of the annual BBC Children In Need charity telethon and which received a great deal of exposure during the appeal on Friday night. Hence Ellie Goulding's rather sweet How Long Will I Love You spent most of Friday and Saturday as the best selling single in the nation and duly becomes her third Top 5 hit single of the year as it slots in at Number 3. How Long Will I Love You is also a cover, the song originally penned by Mike Scott and released as the lead single from the 1990 album by The Waterboys Room To Roam although it failed to chart. Goulding's version appears on her Halcyon Days special edition album and has also recently featured on the soundtrack of the film About Time.
Lady Gaga's Artpop album finally made its public bow last week and naturally enough storms to Number One on the album chart, barging no less a figure than Eminem out of the way in the process. Those who have been following the saga of her promotional releases over the past few weeks will note that after all the fuss about chart eligibility, the only one of the instant grat tracks to make a chart bow this week is Do What U Want which belatedly appears at Number 9. [The video for the track was supposed to have followed a week or so later, but its planned release was abandoned for reasons which never quite became clear].
The final Top 10 arrival is the Robbie Williams single Go Gentle, a track which marks his return to the swing genre for the first time since his 2001 album Swing When You're Winning became far and away his biggest seller. A mix of new songs and the odd standard, Swings Both Ways is hopeful of becoming a similarly sized hit, although perhaps not quite on the same scale as its predecessor which came out at the very height of Williams' fame. Go Gentle is Robbie's second Top 10 hit of the year following his vocal turn on Dizzee Rascal's Goin' Crazy back in June and is his 32nd Top 10 single as a solo or guest performer, not counting his numerous big hit singles as an on/off member of Take That since the early 1990s.
One charity single which received rather less attention than might have been expected is The Call (No Need To Say Goodbye) as performed by The Poppy Girls, four girls all with fathers serving in the armed forces and who won the chance to perform for the Queen at the annual Festival Of Remembrance. With all proceeds going to the Royal British Legion the single was heavily promoted in retail stores from where the bulk of its sales during the week came, but this wasn't enough to lift it any higher than Number 13.
Another female act making a comeback this month is 1990s superstar Celine Dion whose new album Loved Me Back To Life benefits from her tireless promotional work to debut at Number 3, her first studio album since 2007 release Taking Chances. Following an X Factor performance last week the title track finally catches fire as well and leaps 75-14 this week, the biggest hit single for the former Eurovision winner since A New Day Has Come reached Number 7 in March 2002.
It is Greatest Hits time for The Killers as well, and they too land themselves both album and singles chart new entries with Direct Hits landing at Number 6, bringing with it the token new track Shot At The Night which was oddly not released as a standalone download ahead of the album in this country and has had to wait until now to reap the benefit of the extensive airplay it has been getting for the past few weeks. The single finally charts at Number 23 as their first Top 40 hit since Runaways reached Number 18 in 2012. Much has been made of the way the production of M83's Anthony Gonzalez has given the single a unique edge compared to some of their past material, although to my ears it sounds like the greatest Todd Rundgren tribute ever recorded. In a good way, of course.
I could go on forever as there is plenty more to tell, most of which will have to wait for the podcast. Let's finish then by wondering what the most shocking chart move of the week is. Is it the astonishing 7-37 crash experienced by Britney Spears, or is it the way that in late 2013 the album chart sees new entries in the Top 20 for Elvis Presley, Cliff Richard… and The Beatles.