1 EARTH SONG (Michael Jackson)
At the start of this year, who would have thought it? Michael Jackson was apparently having to restart his career from the ground up following the scandals of recent years and was doing so with Scream, a noisy mess of a single that did little for the musical reputations of either him or sister Janet. The 'HIStory' album was not walking off the shelves in the manner expected either, until the release back in September of You Are Not Alone which shot to Number One and reminded us that when it all boiled down, Michael Jackson was simply a superstar. Now the story takes on a second twist as he scores his second chart-topper of the year, shouldering the near-duopoly of Coolio and Robson/Jerome out of the way as he does so. The towering gospel track gives him his sixth solo career Number One and indeed marks the first time he has had two chart-toppers from one album. This is despite his propensity for milking albums dry for singles - of the record-breaking seven Top 10 hits from Dangerous which charted, only Black Or White hit the top, despite several others coming close. The success of Earth Song has also turned the betting market for Christmas Number One upside down. The track had featured in the running but was nowhere near one of the favourites. All that has changed now, the track is favourite with the bookmakers and with the appeal of the song far-reaching enough to enable it to hang on for another 3 weeks until the all-important Christmas chart. Having said that, speculation of this kind fails to take into account the release this week of Free As A Bird - a single which, despite what any critic says about the way it sounds, is still virtually guaranteed a phenomenal sale. Much more about the Beatles record next week, I'm sure, but it does mean that the race for Christmas Number One is still far from over.
2 I BELIEVE/UP ON THE ROOF (Robson and Jerome)
3 GANGSTA'S PARADISE (Coolio featuring LV)
For the past month there has been a battle royal raging at the top of the charts with Robson and Jerome finding their once-massive lead over their rivals being slowly chipped away by the continuing popularity of Coolio's former chart champion. This battle reached a dizzying height last week when Coolio was just 50 records short of making a sensational return to the Number One slot. It was not to be though, and neither two this week as both records are knocked out by Michael Jackson yet with Robson and Jerome still just managing the edge over Coolio. What happens now is immaterial with both tracks about to go into decline, yet both are now clearly amongst the bestsellers of the year.
6 ONE SWEET DAY (Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men)
Christmas in the British charts inevitably means a string of novelty records released by TV celebrities or producers having a joke. Christmas in the US charts inevitably means a string of records that are the aural equivalent of drinking a tanker-load of Cola. Sometimes some of them escape over here. Having recently shot straight to Number One in America, the honeyed union of Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men makes its indelible mark on the Christmas market over here to become the second biggest new hit of the week. For Mariah this is the followup to Fantasy which reached Number 4 in September. She is no stranger to the Christmas market either, having spent last Christmas stuck frustrated at Number 2 with All I Want For Christmas Is You. Boyz II Men take the opportunity to strike gold after a couple of minor hits this year with Thank You and Water Runs Dry to score their third Top 10 hit and their biggest chart single since I'll Make Love To You in September 1994. Their best Christmastime run came in 1992 when 'End Of The Road' was still slowly slipping down the charts after a chart-topping run in the Autumn and was joined in the Top 30 by its followup Motownphilly. Odds are being given for this to be Christmas Number One but the fact that when all is said and done this is a saccharine piece of American soul slush will probably kill it off well before the festive season is over. [The longest running Number One hit single in American history. And it is bloody awful].
7 DISCO 2000 (Pulp)
If life was fair then Pulp would have had a Number One hit single by now. They have come very close with both their hit singles this year but ultimately both Common People and Mis-Shapes were held at Number 2. Now the band round off the most successful year in their long history together with a play for Christmas Number One. Their challenge comes in the shape of what is easily the best track from the Different Class album, the closest they have ever come to an out-and-out pop stormer and certainly a floor-filler at office parties this holiday with its chorus of "Let's all meet up in the year 2000/Won't it be strange when we're all fully grown." The single is actually a different version from the album track having been remixed by the surprising choice of Alan Tarney who was Cliff Richard's writing and producing partner for much of the 1970s and 80s and the man who produced many early A-Ha hits. The single mix makes no bones about the fact that the central guitar riff is clearly a homage to Laura Branigan's Gloria emphasising the song's inevitable place as this year's essential party record.
10 GOLD ("Symbol")
If I had predicted at the start of the year that Bill Clinton would be switching on the Christmas lights in Belfast and that Prince would release a classic single again I would surely have been laughed at. Nonetheless, both these astonishing events have come to pass, this particular half of the forecast coming in the form of what is effectively the title track from The Gold Experience. It gives the man in purple his 14th Top 10 hit and his biggest since The Most Beautiful Girl reached Number One in 1994. For all his self-indulgence on records, when he wants to pull the ace from up his sleeve he does so in style and 'Gold' is almost certainly destined to go down as a classic Prince record. He has released singles for the Christmas market before yet none have made quite such an impact as this. When you look back, however, all have been amongst his best songs: Diamonds And Pearls, The Arms Of Orion and I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man which were seasonal hits in 1991, 1989 and 1987 respectively.
14 I AM BLESSED (Eternal)
A second hit of the year for Eternal who have quite clearly picked up where they left off following their first album as first Power Of A Woman makes Number 5 and now this new ballad crashes in to the Top 20. I Am Blessed was scheduled for release a few weeks ago but has clearly been delayed so that it will coincide nicely with the seasonal rush and the resultant demand for softer, slushier records such as this although a yuletide Number One looks fairly unlikely. This time last year Eternal were in the middle of something of a purple patch, both their Autumn single Oh Baby I and the new hit Crazy were inside the Top 30.
15 I WISH (Skee-Lo)
Even at Christmas dance and rap hits can still have an impact. The brilliant pop hip-hop of Skee-Lo comes via persistent plugging from Radio One and a certain degreee of dancefloor popularity.
20 FINGERS AND THUMBS (COLD SUMMERS DAY) (Erasure)
Another worryingly minor hit for Erasure. The second single from their current album follows the same route as the first Stay With Me, charting inside the Top 20 but destined to slide out rather quickly, a far cry from the late 80s and early 90s when they would hit the Top 10 almost every time. That said, their chart form is still impressive. If Fingers And Thumbs fails to climb it will still only be their joint smallest chart hit ever - every single track they have ever charted has made the Top 20 at some point (even if Who Needs Love Like That took 7 years to do so).
22 HAD TO BE (Cliff Richard and Olivia Newton-John)
Earlier this year Sir Cliff release one of his best singles for many years in the shape of Misunderstood Man. Although only a minor hit (it reached Number 19) it managed to grab him some headlines when Radio Two announced they would not be playing the record because of its 'raucous guitar solo'. For the second single from his 'Heathcliffe' musical project he falls back on the MOR ballad, teaming up with Olivia Newton-John for her first chart hit in years. Her last chart appearance was back in 1992 when her comeback single I Need Love just scraped in at Number 75. She was credited on the Top 40 for Christmas 1990 when she was one of the featured acts on the Grease Megamix which reached Number 3 but her last 'proper' Top 40 hit came way way back in 1982 when Make A Move On Me reached Number 18. This isn't the first time the pair have appeared on record together either. They reached Number 15 in October 1980 with Suddenly, a track lifted from the soundtrack of the film 'Xanadu'.
23 LOVE U 4 LIFE (Jodeci)
A third hit in 1995 for Jodeci, following Top 20 hits with Cry For You and Freek N' You which charted back in January and June respectively.
27 INSOMNIA (Faithless)
More dance, this time in the shape of the second Top 40 hit for Faithless, this following the success of Salva Mea which reached Number 30 at the start of August. [And just like that one of the most iconic club tracks of the second half of the 1990s makes a rather understated and almost unnoticed chart debut. It would be back in a few months to become a far larger hit second time around].
30 SOMETHIN' STUPID (Ali and Kibibi Campbell)
UB40 have always claimed they are like one big extended family so I suppose it was inevitable that Ali Campbell should try to include his on his solo records. He has had a pretty good year overall, charting two solo hits in the shape of That Look In Your Eye and Let Your Yeah Be Yeah as well as with UB40 themselves on Until My Dying Day last month. Now her turns back to his solo album and releases a track which could really be nothing else but an obvious play for Christmas. Somethin' Stupid is of course the most famous father and daughter duet of all time, reaching Number One for Frank and Nancy Sinatra in 1967. Ali Campbell continues that for the first chart cover of the song, with his 10 year old daughter Kibibi accompanying him all the way through. What could have sounded rather naff and embarrassing actually turns out to be quite cute and almost touching. It won't be a major hit but it does open up a whole new avenue of possibilities for rock stars and their juvenile offspring... Courtney Love featuring Frances Bean on gurgles perhaps?
31 WHAT'S THAT TUNE? (DOO DOO, DOO DOO...) (Dorothy)
Well you might ask. Believe it or not this tune is currently the Number One dance hit in clubs across the land, guaranteeing packed dancefloors the minute it goes on. All of which is simply because the tune in question is a rave version of the 'Blind Date' theme tune. The dating TV show, syndicated widely across the world by concept owners Talbot Television has for over ten years been the jewel in ITVs Saturday night programming. Presented by former sixties chart star Cilla Black it has become something of a cultural reference point, however tacky the concept may seem to some. The theme has remained the same since the programs inception, the kind of typically cheesy tune that such TV game shows use. Funnily enough it transforms brilliantly into a dance record, and as such was widely tipped to be a massive hit. Charting this low is an inauspicious start but something tells me not to write it off just yet as the party season gets into full swing. [Dorothy was an alias for Paul 'Yomanda' Masterson and admit it, you'd all forgotten this single was a thing hadn't you? Bizarrely whoever owns the rights now is very very protective of them, and YouTube is littered with "not available in your country" rips of the track].
35 FAIRGROUND (Simply Red)
The former Number One single from Simply Red now clearly in its last week of Top 40 action and so provides a nice continuity with the new single due for release this week and so set to chart inside the Top 40 next week.
36 THE BOY RACER (Morrissey)
Bringing up the rear this week comes Morrissey, with his third hit of the year, none of which have lived up to his chart form in the past. Boxers only reached Number 23 and Dagenham Dave Number 26.