1 YOU ARE NOT ALONE (Michael Jackson)
The cynical view might be that this is as a result of some clever marketing, the release of another format to Michael Jackson's hit giving it the impetus to claim Number One, but that should in no way detract from the achievement of this record. The superstar whose image appeared tainted beyond repair has not only made chart history in America but has now duplicated that feat over here and returned to the top of the charts with a record that ranks alongside any that he has made before. The R Kelly ballad becomes his fifth solo chart topper (and his sixth in all if you count the Jacksons' Show You The Way To Go) following in the footsteps of One Day In Your Life in 1981, Billie Jean in 1983, I Just Can't Stop Loving You in 1987 and Black Or White in 1991. It also means he continues to be one of the few artists to have had at least one Number One single from a succession of albums, HIStory now joining Thriller, Bad and Dangerous on that list. It is by no means an unusual feat but it is one that few modern chart artists can emulate. It will now be interesting to see how long he can hold on to the top. None of his four previous chart-topping hits have remained there for longer than two weeks.
8 I FEEL LOVE (Donna Summer)
It is a fairly quiet chart week by recent standards with only 11 new entries to the Top 40, the highest of these being a hit that is nearly 2 decades old. The Giogio Moroder-created sound of this 1977 Number One hit is of course instant recognised even today and its influence can still be heard in many places (not least in Berri's current Top 5 hit). The disco classic smashes back into the Top 10 as a result of a new set of remixes, headed up by one from dance's current Mr Hitmaker Rollo Armstrong which thank heavens chooses not to tinker too much with the near-perfect realisation of the original. The track returns Donna Summer to the Top Ten for the first time since 1989 when the Stock/Aitken/Waterman tracks This Time I Know Its For Real and I Don't Wanna Get Hurt gave her a mini revitalisation. The rulebooks don't allow remixes to count for hit tallying purposes so Donna Summer has still only ever had 9 Top Ten hits in her entire career. Still, not that it matters, one of the great disco records is back to please an entirely new generation and still sounds as fresh as the day it was made - all the more frightening when you consider it was made 18 years ago.
10 SCATMAN'S WORLD (Scatman John)
The chart this week is quite unusual in the sense that a number of records actually make significant climbs this week, Scatman John's giving him his second Top Ten hit in succession.
11 TU M'AIMES ENCORE (TO LOVE ME AGAIN) (Celine Dion)
With global stardom now clearly hers, Celine Dion takes what has to be seen as a very very bold step and reverts back to her native language for her new album. Despite starting her career singing in French, all her commercial hits have been in English - until now. In spite of the steady influx of European hits, English remains by and large the global language of pop music and so whereas the charts in most countries on the continent will see both native language and English tracks sit side by side, foreign language hits in this country are few and far between. As a result, Celine Dion's gorgeous ballad becomes the first hit single to be sung entirely in French since Desireless' Voyage Voyage back in 1988 and (although I am prepared to stand corrected on this) the first foreign language hit of any kind since Kaoma's Lambada reached Number 4 in Decmber 1989. Mention must also be made of Jimmy Somerville's Comment Te Dire Adieu which reached the Top 20 around the same time, making him possibly the only Scotsman to have had a hit sung entirely in French [which directly contradicts what you have just written above, fool].
13 DON'T LET THE FEELING GO (Nightcrawlers featuring John Reid)
With their third single the Nightcrawlers move further and further away from the pure dance they started with and into the realm of the proper pop single, pushing singer John Reid to the fore and producing a track which is danceable but is still enough of a song to make it into mainstream radio programming. All eyes will be on it now to see if it follows Push The Feeling On and Surrender Your Love into the Top Ten.
14 CAN I TOUCH YOU... THERE? (Michael Bolton)
Tut tut. Must we fling this filth at our pop kids? Michael Bolton having clearly run out of cats to strangle, turns away from the anguished crooning of soul classics and churns out a slow, almost funky track that is somehow quite unlike anything else he has ever released before. His brand new single returns him to the Top 20 after an absence of over a year to give him his first hit since Lean On Me reached Number 14 in May 1994. Full credit to him really as his main audience over here seems to be thirtysomething housewives and so to have a hit single at all is pretty impressive.
18 CLOSE TO YOU (Whigfield)
A lone piano picks out a hauntingly beautiful refrain whilst in the background the strings start up to usher in a tender ballad to rank alongside some of the classics of popular music. Then she starts singing. Was it really a year ago that Whigfield exploded straight to Number One with the interminable Saturday Night? Well yes it was actually, and now just a week shy of that debut the Danish model surfaces with her fourth hit. Few contrasts can have been as startling as this as the bouncy europop sound of her previous hits is replaced by a soaring romantic ballad which calls for a powerful voice that Whigfield just about manages to supply. This is really the problem with this record, whilst there is no denying that this is a stunning song, immaculately produced, your listening is spoiled by the fact that she is quite clearly singing at the limit of her range and you spend the entire time waiting for the flat note that in all honesty never actually comes. It's a strange kind of criticism, I realise, but to me hearing a song at the limit of being sung in tune is worse than hearing one out of tune. The track may well climb further next week but for the moment it is best to marvel that the record is not only sung by the same woman who rather weedily sang Saturday Night but that it was actually written by the same three people.
20 LIVING NEXT DOOR TO ALICE (Smokie featuring Roy Chubby Brown)
The most curious covers battle in recent years hots up again this week as Smokie's version of the rude hit makes an impressive 8 place leap to reach the Top 20 whilst Gompie's 'original' interpretation of the track shifts up a few notches to Number 29 this week. It is a curious situation as the popularity of the record can quite clearly be traced back to hordes of holidaymakers having heard it on the continent this summer, yet the version that is being bought in the greatest quantities is one which is unique to this country. Mention must also be made of the guest curser on the hit, comedian Roy 'Chubby' Brown. Brown has been renowned for years as the foremost proponent of the style of comedy which involves telling the bluest jokes in the most offensive language possible, a tactic which has propelled him to semi-stardom and fortune. I say semi-stardom as the very nature of his act means he has remained a cult success, despite a succession of collectors item cassettes and live videos his constant refusal to tone down his act means that his television appearances can be counted on the fingers of one hand. He, and comedians of his ilk remain firmly a genre of comedy whose popularity far outweighs its public exposure.
21 PARTY UP THE WORLD (D:Ream)
A second hit single in recent months for Peter Cunnagh, but he is now falling into the trap of appearing formulaic as each dance-pop hit appears to be smaller than the last. It is a trap he has no need to fall into as past hits like Star and Blame It On Me prove that the band can produce big ballads just as well as the out-and-out pop hit. In the meantime Party Up The World may struggle to match the Number 7 peak of Shoot Me With Your Love earlier this year.
22 ROCK AND ROLL IS DEAD (Lenny Kravitz)
Arguably on of the most prodigious talents in music at the moment, Lenny Kravitz returns to the chart after a gap of almost two years. So much has been written about him that it is often hard to pick through the hype, yet there is no denying the genius of the man as he writes, produces and plays all the instruments on his latest hit single. It gives him the sixth Top 40 hit of his career but will struggle to match the Number 4 peak of Are You Gonna Go My Way in 1993 which remains his biggest hit to date. The range of music he produces is quite impressive ranging from the smooth growers like Let Love Rule to the soulful ballads such as Believe. It is enough for most to forgive him his worst excesses, such as producing sub-Hendrix guitar cacophonies - such as this one.
25 '74-'75 (The Connells)
One hit by now well on its way out, but it is interesting to note that this week its burnout is momentarily halted and the record becomes one of three non-movers on the Top 40 this week. This is all the more surprising given that sales of the track should have been adversely affected by the arrival of its parent album which charts at Number 36 as can be seen elsewhere.
27 LIFE IS SWEET (Chemical Brothers)
Life does indeed appear to be pretty sweet for the pair as the album Exit Planet Dust is quickly becoming one of the dance albums of the year. Quite whether it was intended that way I am not sure but the album gained so many good reviews in the quality press as well as the music publications that they find themselves in the curious position of being one of the few dance acts to be selling more albums than they are singles. This is their second hit single though, following on from Leave Home which reached Number 17 in June.
33 THE THING I LIKE (Aaliyah)
A fifth smallish hit single for the most alphabetically pronounced act in chart history. Aaliyah has yet to have the impact here that she has had in the states. Interestingly enough her succession of small chart hits is showing remarkable consistency. Assuming this track gets no further it will mean that all 3 of her Top 40 hits so far this year have peaked at either Number 32 or 33.
34 R TO THE A (C J Lewis)
CJ Lewis, remember him? He was the artist who appeared to be building his career in the laziest way possible, his first three hits being straightforward reggae covers of classic pop songs such as Sweets For My Sweet and Best Of My Love. Not that a reggae cover of a classic hit was anything new, but simply that he had the temerity to produce three in a row at the start of his chart career. The pattern was broken with Dollars which made Number 34 in December last year and now he returns to the fray having gained a startling amount of dancefloor popularity with this ragga track, although a popularity which is not borne out by his chart position. A pity really as the record is probably worthier of a chart position of than any of his previous hits.
36 THIS SUMMER (Squeeze)
To round off the bottom end of things this week comes a pleasant sight indeed. Over the past few years Squeeze have undergone something of a renaissance, Difford and Tilbrook having given up trying to recreate the quirky pop hits of their chart heyday and have instead settled down to making some wonderfully sounding albums that are lapped up by MOR radio stations and their listeners. The tactic even produces the occasional hit single, as this pleasant track proves, giving them their first Top 40 hit since Third Rail reached Number 39 in July 1993. By no means a major hit, but give me this over a nasty piece of anonymous dance to prop up the lower rungs of the chart any day.