1 MAMA/WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE (Spice Girls)
Holding firm, as it were for the third week running to match No Doubt's recent run, tieing with them for the longest run at Number One so far this year. Indeed, the turnover of Number One hits in recent months has meant that the last time we had two Number One singles staying at the top for more than two weeks apiece was exactly a year ago when Take That and the Prodigy both managed three weeks. Speculation now surrounds what the next Spice Girls single will be. They recently recorded their first new material since their album - a reworded remake of Manfred Mann's 1964 hit 5-4-3-2-1 renamed in this case er.. 1-2-3-4-5. The song is to be used as the anthem for Channel 5, Britain's new terrestrial TV channel which launches on Easter Sunday and is part of a deal which sees the Spice Girls featuring heavily in poster campaigns for the new TV station. As to whether the song is to be released, your guess is as good as mine. Given that the song takes time to extol the virtues of the new TV station it would I suspect be the first time the undoctored version of an advertising jingle has been made available. Time will tell.
2 I BELIEVE I CAN FLY (R Kelly)
'Spacejam' is the film that many people will be flocking to see over the next few weeks either because they have heard how good it is or because 'Star Wars' has sold out next door. Either way, they will be exposed to this track, released neatly in time for the film's premiere last week. R Kelly has proved in the past there is more to his songwriting than the out and out swingbeat for which is noted, and Michael Jackson's success in 1995 with You Are Not Alone is a case in point. I Believe I Can Fly is actually a distant musical relation of that chart-topper, a rather sensitively written ballad that has an appeal outside its association with Michael Jordan and Bugs Bunny. It becomes R Kelly's first UK Top 10 hit since Bump And Grind reached Number 8 in early 1995 and sails past the Number 3 peak of She's Got That Vibe to become his biggest ever UK hit. and it isn't the only 'Spacejam' related single to chart this week.
4 ANYWHERE FOR YOU (Backstreet Boys)
Hit Number 5 for the Backstreet Boys, now firmly established as teen favourites, albeit with a slightly lower profile than some of their rivals. They are on a roll at present in the charts, this single follows up Quit Playing Games With My Heart which became their biggest hit to date when it made Number 2 in January.
5 FLASH (B.B.E.)
Well if you have a formula, why change it? B.B.E.'s Seven Days And One Week exploded onto the chart in September last year as a result of intensive continental exposure to impressionable British clubbers last summer, ultimately peaking at Number 3. The followup continues pretty much where that hit left off, a well-produced piece of instrumental euro-techno, this time without the help of the memories of suncream and late Spanish nights.
7 ANOTHER SUITCASE IN ANOTHER HALL (Madonna)
The film may be fading from memory now but the soundtrack hits keep coming, Madonna, now having had three Top 10 hits with the Lloyd-Webber/Tim Rice songs. Another Suitcase is possibly the second best-known song from 'Evita', Barabara Dickson having taken the song to Number 18 in 1977. Don't Cry For Me Argentina had a good chart run over Christmas, spending nine weeks in the Top 40, five of those in the Top 10. This was of course partially due to the dance remixes which became available halfway through the record's chart run... this single does not have that benefit so expect its chart life to be as short as You Must Love Me back in November. It does of course become Madonna's 39th Top 10 hit - only Elvis and Cliff have had more.
9 RED LETTER DAY (Pet Shop Boys)
Neil and Chris admitted in interviews that this track from the 'Bilingual' album was probably closest to most people's stereotype of a Pet Shop Boys song. I suspect by that they mean it is closest to what they do best, a wonderful tune buoyed up by a vocal contribution from the Choral Academy of Moscow to brilliant effect. Remixed slightly from the album, it becomes their first hit of 1997 and returns them to the Top 10 after Single could only peak at Number 14 in November last year. One curious point is that the three Top 10 hits from the album have apparently peaked at Numbers 7, 8 and 9, meaning they are without a Top 5 hit since Go West reached Number 2 in September 1993. [It went unremarked in these pages, but this single also had the unwanted distinction of becoming the first ever to drop straight out of the Top 40 from a Top 10 position].
12 ROCK DA HOUSE (Tall Paul)
The only faceless dance single to chart from nowhere this week is this single from Tall Paul. Actually to call him faceless is to miss the point a little as he is yet another of the elite band of celebrity DJs and Mixers who can command huge fees for appearances in clubs. His first hit single charts as a result of immense club popularity in recent weeks and is no relation to the Cookie Crew's 1988 House anthem of the same name.
13 FLY LIKE AN EAGLE (Seal)
No less than two of this week's new entries are from the same film soundtrack. The film is of course 'Spacejam' and as well as R Kelly's hit it also contains this track from Seal. Film work has helped Seal no end, as the armful of Grammies he received for Kiss From A Rose which could only reach Number 20 when first released here in July 1994 but which shot to Number 4 a year later when re-released thanks to its use in 'Batman Forever'. His first single since is this contribution to the Michael Jordan film, a cover of the Steve Miller Band's 1977 Number 2 hit. The song will be new to most British audiences as the original never charted over here.
16 I BELIEVE IN YOU AND ME (Whitney Houston)
Whitney Houston has had smash hit singles, lesser Top 10 hits and hits that seemed to miss the mark completely. She must surely have never had a chart hit like Step By Step which spent an impressive seven weeks inside the Top 20 without once ever climbing higher than Number 13, its lengthy chart run helping it to outsell some of her other hits which have managed higher chart positions. I Believe In You And Me, the third hit (and her second) from the soundtrack of 'The Preachers Wife' sees her back in torch singer mode with a plaintive, if pedestrian, ballad that shows her voice off to wonderful effect but will probably fail to progress further. Whitney is another supposed superstar artist whose singles have underperformed in recent years, her last Top 10 hit was I Have Nothing which made Number 3 in April 1993.
19 CAN'T NOBODY HOLD ME DOWN (Puff Daddy featuring Mase)
[Superstar debut klaxon!] This is him. This is the single that knocked the Spice Girls from the top of the American charts and it follows up that feat by crashing straight into the Top 20 here. The single is a curious hybrid of two classic hit records. In the first instance, it is based on one of the most famous rap hits of all time - Grandmaster Flash's The Message. It's a nice idea but it has been done before of course - in the shape of Ice Cube's Check Yo Self (a Number 36 hit from 1993). The chorus borrows the lyrics and tune from Matthew Wilder's Break My Stride which reached Number 4 in early 1984. Wilder is no stranger to recent chart action having produced No Doubt's Don't Speak and indeed the whole of the Tragic Kingdom album.
22 HARD TO MAKE A STAND (Sheryl Crow)
Hit number 3 from Sheryl Crow's current album, following hot on the heels of If It Makes You Happy and Every Day Is A Winding Road although the law of diminishing returns suggests that this will be the smallest of the trio.
23 BLACKBIRD ON A WIRE (Beautiful South)
...and the hits just keep on coming. The third single from 'Blue Is The Colour' becomes the 18th hit single since 1989 for Heaton, Rotheray and Co. Blackbird On A Wire slows the tempo down to one of the wonderfully plaintive ballads that they do so well, they are currently one band for whom a hit is assured every time they release a single.
27 TODAY'S THE DAY (Sean Maguire)
It may have little to do with the single but Sean Maguire is a genuinely lovely bloke. I spent most of one afternoon with him last week, interviewing him and then accompanying him to a meeting with a competition winner, much to the surprise of the customers of the cake shop in Bingley, West Yorkshire where the competition winner worked [no word of a lie, this actually happened]. Since turning his back on acting the former 'Eastenders' star has notched up a string of hit singles, many of which have deserved rather more than their chart placings, his biggest hit being Good Day which made Number 12 in May last year. The new single is a curious change of style and has a wonderfully retro feel to it, sounding like the best record Amen Corner never made back in their 1960s heyday. It is worthy of far more than a lowly Top 30 placing like this, hopefully justice can be done next week.
28 KING OF NEW YORK (Fun Lovin' Criminals)
A third hit single for the Fun Lovin' Criminals, one rap act who never take themselves too seriously and whose reputation is all the better for it. They are still waiting for their first really big hit, their first hit Scooby Snacks was their best shot, reaching Number 22 in August last year.
30 GORECKI (Lamb)
The first Top 40 single after a number of near-misses for Lamb. Their breakthrough is finally made with this inspired piece of balladry, based around Gorecki's Third Symphony. It is by no means the first time that classical motifs have been incorporated into pop music but there are few new bands who could do it with the aplomb that Lamb manage here.
31 THE BOSS (Braxtons)
Destined for the moment, it seems, to remain in the shadow of their more famous sister, the family grouping continues to notch up minor hits. This is their second hit this year, following on from So Many Ways back in February and is a cover version of Diana Ross' 1979 Top 40 hit.