1 LIVIN' LA VIDA LOCA (Ricky Martin)
To the surprise of almost everyone (not least myself) Ricky Martin has done what nobody thought was possible and clings on to the top slot in the chart in the face of some of the stiffest competition going. Practically everyone assumed that the brand new Steps single was going to top the charts. The midweek listings had Ricky Martin trailing by a margin of some 3,000 copies. All the weekend TV shows rated Steps as the Number One single on their own charts and the unofficial privately-compiled chart rundowns published in many Sunday newspapers were unanimous in declaring Love's Got A Hold On My Heart the winner. The lesson here is never, ever assume that record sales are totally predictable. They are not. Towards the end of the week Ricky-mania took hold. An appearance at HMV on London's Oxford Street caused chaos and held up traffic for half an hour and suddenly his sales shot through the roof nationwide, enough for him to close the gap on his British rivals. The result is that at the last possible moment Ricky Martin sold more copies and Livin La Vida Loca becomes the eighth single this year to spend a fortnight at the top of the charts.
2 LOVE'S GOT A HOLD ON MY HEART (Steps)
The assumption was that a New Steps Single = Instant Number One. Alas, 'twas not to be as the ultra-cheesy fivesome were deprived by Ricky Martin of their second Number One single. Love's Got A Hold On My Heart is the first single from their forthcoming second album and serves to confirm the rumours that the group were moving away from their Abba on acid style into more Kylie-esque pop territory. Commercially the group can do no wrong at present although on listening to this single the nagging doubt springs to mind that, shock!, it may not be as catchy as past releases. Nonetheless, Pete Waterman was never one to give away an album's best track as its first single and it is all but guaranteed that there are plenty more Top 3 hits to come from Steps before the end of the year.
6 BILLS BILLS BILLS (Destiny's Child)
So which came first. The chicken or the egg? No Scrubs or Bills Bills Bills? It is a very pertinent question as producer Sheks'pere has utilised almost the exact same formula on Destiny's Child's brand new hit as he did on the now legendary TLC track earlier this year, right down to the skipped string backing and the synthesised harpsichord line that introduces the track. Needless to say, it makes for another fabulously understated R&B track and one which helps Destiny's Child to a triumphant return to the Top 10. Their breakthrough came in March 1998 when No, No, No hit Number 5. They followed that up with With Me which hit Number 19 a year ago last week and finally teamed up with Matthew Marsden for backing vocals on his cover of Hall and Oates' She's Gone which hit Number 24 back in November last year. Now with a second Top 10 hit under their belts there is every chance the foursome will now be able to build on that consistency.
8 SYNTHS AND STRINGS (Yomanda)
Before you get excited, this Yomanda isn't the failed trio of female rappers from the late 1980s [because they were JOmanda]. It is in fact the nom de plume of producer Paul Masterson who has on his hands the latest mutant disco club smash. Synths And Strings does exactly what it says on the tin, combining a synthesised melody line with disco handclap rhythms and swirling strings - sampled directly from Liquid Gold's Dance Yourself Dizzy. Granted it is becoming something of a formula but it is one that works extremely well, as evidenced by this massive new entry.
13 WITHOUT LOVE (Dina Carroll)
...in which a great many Dina Carroll fans sit back and say "This is more like it." Universally regarded as one of Britain's biggest soul talents Dina Carroll's recent work has been somewhat at odds with the nature of her most prominent strengths. Whereas most of her singles over the past few years have been powerful ballads (giving her, it has to be said, some of the biggest hits of her career) it is her past as an early 90s dance diva that brings back the fondest memories. Her last single was a case in point. The ballad One, Two, Three was released in October last year and made a perfectly creditable Number 16 but then vanished from the chart after just four short weeks. Meanwhile, clubs were going crazy to the track Livin' For The Weekend which accompanied the promotional copies of the track. Hence this new single is a genuine case of giving the public what they want. Without Love is club diva Dina at her very finest on a thumping house track that shows off her voice at its very finest. Granted the single might as well have been made in 1992 but somehow it still sounds millennium fresh.
17 HANGING AROUND (Cardigans)
Gran Turismo's third single makes its chart debut this week, albeit to a rather muted reception. Lacking perhaps a little of the sparkle that made My Favourite Game and Erase/Rewind so memorable the single has to content itself with this chart placing just on the cusp of the Top 20. Be reassured there are better tracks on the album.
18 GROOVELINE (Blockster)
It isn't quite the smash hit You Should Be was back in January but Brandon Block has proved that there is life in his own particular formula yet - taking a classic disco song and breaking it up and adding beats to such an extent that it occupies that strange no man's land which lies between the cover version and the remix. The track that receives the Blockster treatment this time around is Heatwave's The Groove Line, a Number 12 hit from early 1978. It isn't quite as well known a track as the Bee Gees' You Should Be Dancing which may account for the lesser chart placing of this track but it is still nothing less than a pleasant sight to see the work of songwriting legend Rod Temperton in the Top 20 once more.
20 LONDINIUM (Catatonia)
Members of the academy, your Royal Highnesses. The winner of the award for Greatest Lyric Of The Year goes to Catatonia for the opening lines to their latest hit single: "London never sleeps/It just sucks/The life out of you." For the second single from the album Cerys and the boys direct their venom at the nation's capital city and bring a smile to the faces of those of us that hate the grotty, grimy, dehumanising place just as much as they do. As a pure pop song Londinium probably doesn't rate as highly as past hit singles from the band and certainly is devoid of anything approaching a singable hook. Nonetheless, their boldness of turning such a musically and lyrically challenging track into a Top 20 hit is to be applauded but I suspect it won't help to sell all that many more albums.
25 UNO MAS (Daniel O'Donnell)
Where would we be without the current King of Easy Listening? Daniel O'Donnell clocks up his second Top 40 single of the year, the follow-up to The Way Dreams Are which peaked at Number 18 back in March. Further to that, it is impossible to comment. He just keeps churning out singles which appear nicely in the Top 30 upon release with the barest minimum of popular exposure. Someday, somebody will remix him to a Top 3 hit and instant kitsch credibility. For now, he remains the one and only Daniel O'Donnell.