1 BECAUSE WE WANT TO (Billie)
The story of Billie's rise from obscurity to Number One hitmaker is one of those cute romantic stories that the music industry throws up from time to time and unlike most teenage fantasies is absolutely true. 15 year old Billie Piper was a model, chosen from the ranks of an agency to become the face of a new advertising campaign by pop magazine Smash Hits. The pouting girl made the ads one of the most striking campaigns of the latter part of last year and she attracted the attention of Virgin records who tentatively wondered if she could sing. She could, and rather well as it turned out. The rest is history, the schoolgirl is now transformed into the new pop sensation of the summer and has now achieved the ultimate, shooting straight to Number One with her first hit single. Her appeal is obvious. Jailbait she may be but her sensuous looks count for a lot amongst the young (and not so young). Add to that her singing voice which is astoundingly deep and textured for one so young, bearing comparison with the likes of Helen Shapiro. The song she has been given to sing is a winner as well, a chanted Wannabe-inspired chorus attached to a song that evokes memories of early Madonna singles. Number One status and an extremely productive career is assured for Billie, the youngest soloist to have a chart-topping single since the 10 year old Little Jimmy Osmond in 1972.
4 3 LIONS '98 (Baddiel/Skinner/Lightning Seeds)
So the dream is over yet again and England are out of the World Cup on penalties. Acordingly there has been a falloff of support for the two big world cup songs and both 3 Lions and Vindaloo crash down the chart. Drawing a parallel with the failure of the national side to beat Argentina is fraught with danger but it is worth noting that although Vindaloo was in freefall, 3 Lions was maintaining its lead at the start of the week and indeed was at Number One on the provisional midweek chart. After England were knocked out the sales of the single dropped off dramatically to such an extent that no less than 3 singles have overtaken it in sales. We can only speculate what would have happened if Paul Ince and David Batty had scored from their penalty kicks...
7 LEGACY EP (Mansun)
One of the most eagerly-awaited new releases of the week is this EP from Mansun, the first taster of their forthcoming second album. A slew of singles from their first in 1996 and 1997 helped to build the band up into consistent Top 10 hitmakers and this is now their third Top 10 single and the biggest to date, beating the Number 9 peak of She Makes My Nose Bleed in February 1997. Despite a slight shifting of styles their ear for a melody is still intact and you can expect there to be more Top 10 singles to follow this one.
12 RENDEZ-VOUS 98 (Jean Michel Jarre and Apollo 440)
I beg his pardon for suggesting that he had missed the Top 40 last week, in fact a last minute delay in the release of this track means it finally makes its chart debut and settles once and for all the issue of who has the biggest World Cup TV theme. Jean-Michel Jarre albums always contain a token pop theme amongst all the keyboard noodlings and in the past these tracks have become hit singles as Oxygene IV and Equinoxe Part V proved in the late 1970s. For his 1986 album Rendez-Vous it was the fouth movement that was the most commercially accessible and it was duly released as a single only to stall at Number 65. 12 years on the track finally becomes a hit single thanks to this Apollo 400 remix/re-recording on which the man himself collaborated and also thanks to ITV who have used the track as their theme to their World Cup coverage. As a result it continues the Jean-Michel Jarre commercial renaissance that began with Oxygene 8 and Oxygene 10 which both made the Top 30 last year. Now with an old track that features on his current remix album the French keyboard master has the second biggest hit of his career, still short of the Number 4 peak of Oxygene 4 which was his debut in 1977.
13 THE HEART'S LONE DESIRE (Matthew Marsden)
Within the space of a few weeks two different actors from the TV soap Coronation Street have released singles. First up was Tracy Shaw who saw her cover of Lonnie Gordon's Happening All Over Again just miss the Top 40 but to redress the balance comes former Street star Matthew Marsen with his first chart single. With his smouldering looks and a quite passable voice it is quite possible that this will be the first of several singles from the actor who like all singing TV stars is keen to play down his former links with the show in an attempt to become a "serious" singer. Sounding like Gary Barlow at times and produced and co-written by Rick Nowells this ballad is nothing less than a quality release. In terms of chart position the single compares well with other releases by stars from the show, Sue 'Audrey Roberts' Nicholls having made Number 17 with Where Will You Be in 1968, some years before she actually joined the show of course whilst Bill 'Jack Duckworth' Tarmey reached Number 16 with One Voice in 1993.
15 ZOOM (Dr Dre and LL Cool J)
From the same film soundtrack as Pras Michel's curent hit comes this latest rap collaboration that unites LL Cool J and Dr Dre. It is LL's first hit of the year and continues his current impressive run of singles that has seen him have four Top 10 hits in succession including his Number One Ain't Nobody from February last year. Dr Dre has a less impressive chart record, his biggest hits always having come in collaboration with other artists. In fact his biggest hit single was another rap duet, California Love which made Number 6 when he teamed up with 2 Pac in April 1996.
19 WITH ME (Destiny's Child)
Clearly a soul force to be reckoned with, the second hit single for Destiny's Child makes a strong debut to followup the Number 5 hit No No No which was released in March. [Their next hit would be a collaboration with one of the other acts featured in this commentary. And I guarantee if you did not know you would not be able to guess].
20 WORLD CUP '98 - PAVANE BY FAURE (Wimbledon Choral Society)
Making a surprising climb, the Wimbledon Choral Society land neatly in the Top 20 this week to ensure that both major TV World Cup themes have very respectable chart places, even if the BBC have lost out to ITV in this particular battle for the second World Cup running. In fact this is the first time ever that both TV networks have had their World Cup themes in the Top 40 and doubtless will set a trend for future football festivals. Classical music always seems to do well out of football events and Pavane is now the highest charting unadulterated piece of classical music since Pavarotti's Nessun Dorma made Number 2 for the World Cup in 1990. He was also responsible for the single that Pavane has overtaken as the biggest classical hit since then - the 3 Tenors recording of Libiamo/La Donna E Mobile which made Number 21 - just after the World Cup in 1994.
22 SEVEN DAYS (Mary J Blige featuring George Benson)
The current Queen of hip hop soul makes a welcome appearance in the Top 40 for the first time this year. Seven Days maintains her current run of Top 20 singles, her fourth in a row since the start of last year nad the 14th Top 40 single of her career. Despite a long string of hits she has only ever made the Top 10 twice. On this single she is joined by a notable guest star, the legendary George Benson who is making his first chart appearance for almost six years. His last single to chart was I'll Keep Your Dreams Alive with Patti Austin which made Number 68 in September 1992. To find the last time he was in the Top 40 at all you have to go back even further - to 1986 when Shiver was a Number 19 hit.
23 ONE (Busta Rhymes featuring Eryka Badu)
Admittedly Busta Rhymes' followup to the Knightrider-sampling Turn It Up/Fire It Up could never be as big a sensation as the biggest hit of his career so far but he makes a good go of it with this single. Providing the non-rapper vocals is Eryka Badu, best known for her Number 12 hit On And On from April last year.
26 I'LL HOUSE YOU '98 (Jungle Brothers)
Hot on the heels of the Top 20 hit Jungle Brother comes a chance to reappraise the single that made the reputation of the New York rappers. First released in October 1988, I'll House You was one of a number of house singles that invaded the chart at the time but the difference was it was not performed by some guy operating out of a bedroom studio but by a group of rappers, taking the elements of the most popular dance style of the time and applying it to their own music. As revolutionary as Run-DMCs union with Aerosmith was, I'll House You was something of a first - rap music that trendy clubbers could dance to and whilst hip-house has drifted in and out of musical fashion ever since but there is no denying the revolutionary nature of this single. A nice touch is the way the new mixes of the track incorporate samples from Royal House's Can You Party, itself a classic House anthem released at the same time as the original I'll House You. [No, not really "a nice touch" 1998 James, one track was indeed based around the other even at the time, and even caused a licensing issue with the release of the original. Read the full story in a book not a million miles from here].
29 THE CUP OF LIFE (Ricky Martin)
Funny to think that by this time next week the World Cup will be over isn't it? That doesn't stop the tie-in singles from flowing and bringing up the rear is this effort from Ricky Martin, the man responsible for last year's post-holiday hit 'Maria' which reached Number 6. The Cup Of Life is a similarly formulaic single that holds the distinction of being the Official Anthem of the tournament. Just be thankful that most people appear to have ignored it and we haven't had to hear it more than a few times at the games.
30 ROCK YOUR BODY (Clock)
Clock's 13th single and second hit of the year thankfully deviates from their usual formula of bowlderising a classic dance tune and instead becomes one of their few original tracks to chart, despite its eerie familiarity. Even so the chart position is rather disappointing, breaking their run of four successive Top 20 hits and could well become their lowest charting hit since their debut Holding On bombed out at Number 66 in October 1993, their only single ever to miss the Top 30.
32 FEEL THE BEAT (Camisra)
Camisra is the current alias of DJ Tall Paul and he has already had a Top 5 hit this year with Let Me Show You which was released in February. The new single is hardly new at all as it was originally released in 1995 as a white label promo under the name of Sunglasses Ron but it was never picked up for commercial release. Newly mixed for '98 and using a name that now has some chart credibility Feel The Beat finally becomes a hit single, albeit a rather minor one which is something of a surprise as it is equally as inane and annoying as Let Me Show You was. I won't pretend I will ever understand the appeal.
37 LOVELY DAZE (Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince)
Remember this: Will Smith arguably owes his entire career to the men who ran the tiny North London record label Jive records [cool story bro, but it was Jive's American branch who discovered them] who were the first to spot the chart potential of two young teenagers barely out of high school rapping about teenage angst. That was the premise behind Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, DJ Jeffery Townes and his soon to be movie star rapping friend. This was the mid-1980s when most rap stars were mature adults, rapping about 'the street' and would never touch down to earth subjects with a bargepole. Hence Fresh Prince singles were a revelation with lines about unfinished homework and girls that were out of reach whilst DJ Jazzy Jeff incorporated samples from cartoons and TV shows in the production. Although an instant smash hit in America the pair failed to take off over here with just one Top 20 hit Girls Ain't Nothing But Trouble from 1986 to their name. It wasn't until the 1990s by which time the Fresh Prince had starred in his own TV sitcom that the hits began to flow, including the 1993 Number One Boom! Shake The Room. The rest is history, Smith reinvented himself as, well himself, and went on to make smash hit films before returning to the rapping career that helped to make his name. The time is ripe for a reminder of where he came from and so a new Greatest Hits collection of Jazzy Jeff/Fresh Prince tracks is due for release. To promote it the old track Lovely Daze has been released as a single. A track that never made it onto any of their albums it follows the classic formula, a gentle breezy rap based on a familiar classic, in this case Bill Withers' Lovely Day. Perhaps surprisingly it makes a weak debut and will struggle to make the Top 30, something which may come as a relief to Will Smith as it is in serious danger of clashing with his new single Just The Two Of Us, the release of which is imminent.
38 WANNA GET UP (2 Unlimited)
2 Unlimited can possibly lay claim to being one of the most consistent dance acts of the 1990s. Between 1991 and 1995 the Dutch act had 13 hit singles, none of which ever peaked lower than Number 22. Include amongst those 8 Top Tenner and of course the worldwide Number One hit No Limit from 1993 and you have an enviable chart record, especially when you consider that the singles were all based on the same formula, a thumping techno rhythm combined with a sung hook and the often rather risible rapping of Ray Slijngaard. It wasn't sophisticated music, just loud brash and colourful and sold millions of records. The unseen faces of 2 Unlimited were producers Jean-Paul de Coster and Phil Wilde who disbanded the project in 1995 after sales began to slide away but always kept in mind the idea of reviving the most successful dance name of the decade. True to their word, here come the new revitalised 2 Unlimited, now with singers Romy and Marion and with arguably one of the best Hi-NRG techno singles of the year. Sadly the sensation is absent and this looks like being the least successful 2 Unlimited single ever.