1 BELIEVE (Cher)
The two-way battle at the top between George Michael and Cher ends once more in victory for the ladies as Believe, in spite of competition from its parent album which charts at Number 8 this week, notches up a second week at Number One, only the second single since the start of September to spend longer than seven days at the summit. As you may have read in other areas of the media last week, by making Number One Cher extended the record she has held since 1991 as the oldest solo female ever to top the charts in this country, at the ripe old age of 52 years and 5 months. Ironically this has come in the same week that Sir Cliff Richard has been leading a very vocal campaign over what he sees as 'ageism' in the radio industry. Despite his single Can't Keep This Feeling In reaching Number 10 a fortnight ago it struggled badly for radio airplay. The argument was cleanly divided, he thought it was a superb single fully in touch with modern musical trends, everyone else saw it as another Cliff Richard single with little popular appeal to anyone over 35. The truth is probably somewhere down the middle but Sir Cliff's comments that he is not getting airplay because of his age seem to ring a little hollow with the presence of the fiftysomething Cher at the top of the charts and on the playlists of just about any radio station you care to name.
3 WOULD YOU...? (Touch and Go)
From the file marked 'so weird it cannot fail' one of the most talked-about records of the moment crashes into the Top 3 as the highest new entry of the week. Would You? is one of those wonderful records which come along once in a blue moon, a fusion of jazz with modern club sounds to almost perfect effect. The production is almost ludicrously simple and calls to mind the work of US3 duo Geoff Wilkinson and Mel Simpson, thumping bass beats, a seductive female voice intoning the track's central mantra: "I've noticed you around/I find you very attractive/Would you go to bed with me?" before a wild trumpet solo takes up the tune and runs with it. Surprisingly not a Number One as the single has created the kind of buzz that would ordinarily carry it all the way but quite deservedly a massive hit. My only regret is that my knowledge of Jazz music isn't complete enough to identify exactly whose music provides the inspiration for the track. [Herb Alpert you dingus, was it really not obvious?]
5 GUESS I WAS A FOOL (Another Level)
There is no denying it, Another Level's last single Freak Me was one of the more surprising Number One singles of the year, its seven days of glory coming back in July, a full five years since Silk's original version bombed out at Number 43. For their third single the young soul act have produced what is possibly their best single yet. Alright so it is a formulaic R&B ballad of the kind that Boyz II Men produce in their sleep but as the nights draw in and Christmas parties approach such sweetly voiced ballads seem to create their own special atmosphere. One of the biggest new hits of the week and it will be no surprise if this single is still around for the Christmas charts in seven or eight weeks time.
6 BLUE ANGELS (Pras)
The first solo hit for Pras Michel proved to be a surprise runaway success, Ghetto Supastar making Number 2 in July whilst at the same time spending six weeks in the Top 3 and worldwide going on to outsell Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton's Islands In The Stream, the track on which it was based. The follow-up also takes inspiration from the past, Blue Angel being an almost total rewrite of Frankie Valli's theme from Grease, written of course by Barry Gibb who duly gets a writer's credit on this single. It becomes another Top 10 hit from the Fugees' stable, hot on the heels of Lauryn Hill's recent hit with Do Wop (That Thing) and a mere week before the new Wyclef single which is set to push the Fugees concept of rewriting classic tracks from others to controversial new heights. Or should that be depths?
12 TESTIFY (M People)
The band created in the early 1990s by Hacienda DJ Mike Pickering, M People are this Christmas releasing a Greatest Hits album, collecting together their not inconsiderable string of hit singles. As is the norm these days the package includes some new material, this new single being such an offering. Their only other hit this year was Angel Street which although it made Number 8 was a good illustration of how far the band seemed to have sunk, the single so formulaic you could sing any one of their past hits over the rhythm track. Testify is a reassuring reminder that they have not lost the plot completely, a lavishly produced ballad that may not quite hit the heights of classics such as Search For The Hero but contains enough soul to sound reassuringly like an old Delfonics track. Testify (and yes, it is all too easy to make rude jokes out of the title) may have narrowly missed out on a Top 10 placing but it still becomes their 12th Top 20 hit since 1993.
13 TELL ME MA (Sham Rock)
Combine Irish music with line dancing and what do you get? Tell Me Ma is the answer, what is apparently a traditional Belfast song set to line dancing rhythms and carried off with marginally less aplomb than Steps' debut single 5,6,7,8 exactly a year ago. Nonetheless it carries with it a certain charm and as is always the case with these singles the novelty will either be gone in a fortnight or be with us from now until Christmas. Record buyers of the nation, our sanity is in your hands.
15 BODY MOVIN' (Beastie Boys)
The second hit of the year from the politically-correct Beasties and a worthy follow-up to the Top 5 hit Intergalactic from July. it is the first time they have managed two consecutive Top 20 hits since their career-opening trio of hits way back in 1987.
19 WHAT'S YOUR SIGN? (Des'ree)
It may have had one of the most idiotic lyrics of the year but Life still became one of the most enduring hits of the summer, peaking at Number 8, spending 11 weeks in the charts and giving Des'ree's career a new lease of life after three years away. Her second single of the year is every bit as chirpy and even has a lyric which makes some degree of sense this time, even if it is about signs of the zodiac. Meanwhile the Des'ree back catalogue has begun to rival that of the Lighthouse Family for its apparent suitability for use in television commercials...
24 SHE'S GONE (Matthew Marsden)
Unlike former Coronation Street colleague Tracy Shaw, Matthew Marsden is well on the way to proving that he is more than capable of making the transition from screen hunk to pop star. Following on from his sophisticated debut with The Heart's Lone Desire which made Number 13 in July his second single sees him teaming up with Destiny's Child for this rendition of an old Hall and Oates classic [Yes, this actually happened. Whilst this was still the first four-piece pre-stardom original Destiny's Child lineup, the fact that they appear as backing singers to a single by a British soap star remains one of the most extraordinary and in retrospect incongruous sights of its time]. The original was the first ever UK chart single for the American duo but was never a massive hit, only reaching Number 42 in 1976. This new version stays faithful to the original in virtually every respect, even down to the rather understated chart position. Matthew Marsden may be an extremely fine singer but he needs bigger hits than this to sustain his new career.
25 FRIEND OF MINE (Kelly Price)
Born in Jamaica, Kelly Price is something of an industry veteran having featured on singles from the likes of Mariah Carey, Puff Daddy and R Kelly. Her debut solo single has already been a smash in the states and makes something of a lesser splash over here. Fingers crossed it should be enough for people to pay more attention next time round as this is actually a rather fine single.
26 TRUE COLOURS (Phil Collins)
One of the first Greatest Hits collections to be released this autumn was a collection of solo recording by Phil Collins which immediately became a surprise resident in the upper reaches of the album charts. I say surprisingly as Phil Collins' career appeared to be dead in the water just two years ago when his album Dance Into The Light produced just two hit singles and sold relatively few copies - relative to the multi-million sales he was able to command in the mid-80s. To help promote the collection some more this track now appears as a single, a cover of the ballad that Cyndi Lauper first took to Number 12 in September 1996. Others have covered the song in the past, most notably Aztec Camera who put the song on the b-side of the original single release of The Crying Scene in 1990.
27 NEGATIVE (Mansun)
Their third hit of the year and perhaps by definition one of the smallest but even so it is rather sad to relate that this is likely to become the first Mansun single to miss the Top 20 since the Two EP (containing Take It Easy) only reached Number 32 in June 1996.
33 GAME ON (Catatonia)
The law of diminishing returns applies even to the Queen of Indie as Catatonia register their smallest chart hit of the year and their first to miss the Top 20 since Bleed peaked at Number 46 in November 1996. Never mind, tracks like Mulder and Scully and Road Rage are almost certain to be regarded as some of the best hits of the year once the inevitable seasonal roundups begin in a couple of months time.
40 TIME TO MOVE ON (Sparkle)
This is something of a shock. Sparkle's debut single (albeit with some help from R Kelly) was a big hit, reaching Number 7 in July. By contrast the followup barely registers a place in the Top 40. Does this mean she is nothing without a superstar collaborator?