1 BELIEVE (Cher)
In what is almost certainly the most surprising turnaround of the year, Cher's big-selling single this week has managed to overcome a substantial midweek deficit to overtake the sales of Boyzone's new single and spent a years-best equalling sixth week at the top of the chart. Of all the singles that have been released since she began her run at the top, Boyzone's ballad was expected to be the one to ultimately overcome it. For the moment this is not to be the case. The single is now far and away the biggest seller of her career. Its sales this week have taken it agonisingly close to becoming the fourth million seller of the year and regardless of whether anything overhauls its sales next week, it will be no surprise if Believe is still in the top ten for Christmas in four weeks time.
2 I LOVE THE WAY YOU LOVE ME (Boyzone)
So no Number One for them this time round but at the end of one what is far and away the most commercially successful year of their career so far it is only fitting that Boyzone should find themselves near the top end of the chart. Of course the follow-up to the million-selling No Matter What was always going to be a slightly lesser record and this ballad, sensitively written and sung impressively by Ronan Keating, is by no means a classic [no, it is piss-poor and boring to boot. But it was Boyzone and that was all that mattered by then] but as a romantic seasonal disc it does everything asked of it and further pushes Boyzone into the realm of adult contemporary music whilst at the same time retaining the pop appeal that has served them so well since their debut. With three Top 3 hits, two Number One singles and one million-seller to their name this year there is no disputing the fact that Boyzone at present are almost unstoppable.
3 MIAMI (Will Smith)
Formulaic it may be but for Will Smith the formula is proving a very productive one indeed. His third hit of the year is based heavily around the Whispers' 1980 Top Ten hit And The Beat Goes On - the rest you can probably guess. A buoyant beat, a lyric espousing the virtues of the beaches of Florida and the city that gives the song its title, all done with a sense of humour that suggests that Will Smith knows the premise of some of his singles is just slightly ridiculous and there you have it - his third Top 3 hit of 1998. His current singles chart form is so impressive it makes the relative failure of Just Cruisin' in December last year all the more mysterious - that song could only make Number 23.
6 THE POWER OF GOOD-BYE/LITTLE STAR (Madonna)
As the current hit single from The Tamperer appropriates the rhythm track from one of her older singles, Madonna cements 1998 as the year of her major chart comeback with a fourth Top 10 single from the album Ray Of Light. As performed at the MTV Europe awards recently, The Power Of Goodbye, despite bearing a passing resemblance to Live To Tell, is the kind of classic ballad that she has produced so many times in her career and is one that is almost certain to rank amongst her best ever singles. Although her record-breaking run of 32 consecutive Top 10 hits ended four years ago her recent return to chart form has seen her embark on another run, this single being her seventh Top 10 hit in a row since You Must Love Me reached Number 10 in late 1996. How many other artists can claim that kind of form almost 15 years since their chart debut?
7 WAR OF NERVE (All Saints)
Definitely something of a disappointment for All Saints who were talking positively in anticipation of their fourth Number One single of the year. Instead they have to settle for landing somewhat lower down the chart, their lowest initial chart entry since their debut single I Know Where It's At landed at its eventual peak of Number 4 in September 1997. War Of Nerves is once more from their album, in fact the last track to be recorded for it at the tail end of last year, remixed a little to give it appeal as a single and shows the more reflective side of the girls a shows a talent for soul that they often suppress under their usual line in British R&B. All that remains is for them to look to the future and a second album. Even with five Top Ten hits and three Number Ones from their debut, they now have to prove their musical longevity.
10 SEARCHIN' MY SOUL (Vonda Shepard)
As something of an industry veteran, the closest Vonda Sheppard has come to a chart hit until now was in a duet with Dan Hill entitled Can't We Try - a US Top 10 hit in 1987 which failed to reach the charts over here. All that changed when Searchin' My Soul, a song she recorded for an album two years ago, was selected as the theme song to the TV series Ally McBeal and along with it the lady herself as the resident singer in the bar featured in the programme. Just as in the States, the series (which has just recently finished its first run on Channel 4) has become something of a slow-burning cult and so now the spinoffs can begin. Vonda Shepard's album of songs featured in the show has been a chart resident for a couple of months and now the theme to the TV hit becomes a hit in its own right with this rather satisfactory Top 10 debut. Hit singles from TV themes are relatively rare and when they do become hits are invariably rather long-runners. A case in point is the Rembrandts I'll Be There For You - the theme from Friends has been a hit twice in the 1990s, once in 1995 and again in 1997 reaching Number 3 first time round and Number 5 on its second run. Something tells me Searchin' My Soul is no two-week wonder and may well be around to see in the new year as the highest charting TV theme since, er, the Teletubbies single last Christmas. Bring on the dancing baby.
15 TAKE THE LONG WAY HOME (Faithless)
The second Faithless single of the year is another track from the album Sunday 8PM albeit having been almost completely re-recorded for the purposes of this release. As always you either appreciate the laid-back grooves of Faithless or you don't. Once more this is a masterfully produced single with an air of sophistication that a dance-music Luddite like myself can easily appreciate. Maybe it doesn't have the same cool novelty value of God Is A DJ but its place in the chart was always going to be assured.
16 SENSUALITY (Lovestation)
Nothing complicated about this one, just a rather catchy pop tune from the foursome from London. Sensuality is the follow-up to their hit cover of Womack and Womack's Teardrops which was a Number 14 hit back in August.
19 THERE GOES THE NEIGHBOURHOOD (Sheryl Crow)
Perhaps amusingly sales of The Globe Sessions have struggled slightly, the lukewarm response being put down to casual buyers being confused with the title of the album and assuming it is a collection of live tracks. Well, if anything is going to give the album a bit more recognition it is this second single, a wonderfully uptempo and somewhat raunchy number that is Sheryl Crow at her very best. Her chart form always runs to a Top 10 single for the first track from an album and then a collection of Top 30 hits so for this single to enter at Number 19 is by no means a bad performance by her standards and it now becomes her 10th Top 30 hit in this country.
20 THE BAD DAYS EP (Space)
It may well be a three-track EP but the track that will attract the most attention is the first one. Space's rendition of the classic Animals hit will already be almost over-familiar to many people having been initially recorded for a series of hugely entertaining Honda Accord adverts on TV. Now released as a single the cover lands in the Top 20 to compare with the Number 2 peak attained by the original in 1965. The song has had a contemporary treatment before, the Angelic Upstarts having recorded a version which could get no further than Number 65 in 1980. 1998 has been a good year for Space overall, look out for Avenging Angels, their Number 6 hit from January to be labelled as one of the singles of the year once the inevitable seasonal retrospectives begin in a few weeks time.
21 BIG PANTY WOMAN (Barefoot Man)
In life there must always be room for novelty. What else can explain the presence in the chart of records by the likes of Touch And Go and Sham Rock. Adding to this list is this hit from Barefoot Man, a lighthearted Carribean-flavoured track whose subject matter can be easily discerned from the title. A bit of fun and entertaining in its own right but Judge Dredd was doing exactly the same (although maybe a bit ruder) twenty years ago. [A Radio 2 inspired hit this one, in particular via Sarah Kennedy who found it hilarious and played it relentlessly thus firing it into the Top 30].
24 IT FEELS SO GOOD (Sonique)
This is Sonique's second hit single, the follow-up to her version of I Put A Spell On You which reached Number 36 back in June. Although this self-penned track isn't as immediate as the cover version with which she opened her career it is a far better showcase of the vocal talents of the former S-Express singer [and with a rather more impressive chart placing ahead of it in a couple of summer's time].
31 WILD SURF (Ash)
The second single from Nuclear Sounds and the follow-up to Jesus Says is another raucous mess of guitars and drums that as ever contains a well-written melody line buried somewhere underneath it all. What is rather surprising is that a chart entry of Number 31 is somewhat down from the Number 15 peak of Jesus Says in early October and indeed their lowest chart entry for some time. A likely lack of further progress will mean their run of Top 20 singles that stretches back to their chart breakthrough in 1995 with Girl From Mars is about to come to a grinding halt.