1 LIFT ME UP (Geri Halliwell)
I love being wrong. Not for any masochistic reason but just because it proves that no matter how many times the chart position of a particular record seems a foregone conclusion, no matter how many times people like me think we have all the answers, the singles chart always manages to have the last laugh. This is of course what makes this job so much fun. Those who saw last week's column will be aware that I suggested that the chart battle between the solo singles of Geri Halliwell and Emma Bunton was nowhere near as interesting as the press hype was making out. The thinking behind this was simple. Geri's single was the third release from an album that since its release had suffered from a rather lukewarm reception. She had already had two Top 3 singles and her new song was generally held to be one of the weaker tracks from the long player. Emma's single on the other hand was brand new, unavailable anywhere else and was a strong cover of a near-classic song and theoretically had the far greater appeal, especially given the way it was picking up the lion's share of airplay. Emma was supposed to be the easy winner.
Of course, it hasn't quite turned out like that has it? Right from the start of the week, Geri took a slight lead over Emma, one she was never to relinquish, eventually taking the crown by a comfortable margin thanks to heavy sales at the weekend. What helped was the big showbiz story of the week - was she or wasn't she making a different kind of music with a certain Ginger haired media mogul?
[Yeah, I need to interrupt proceedings there to paint this picture. From the Monday headlines "Geri dates Chris" through to Friday's "Chris dumps Geri" this was a media frenzy beyond imagination as the tabloid press trailed both halves of the couple with a desperate obsession trying to get the scoop on the story. I forget just how genuine this was, but the fact that this coincided with the release of her latest single, one which was going head to head with a former bandmate too was either the most amazing coincidence ever or the most brilliantly executed PR stunt of what was left of the century. And now back to your regularly scheduled archive commentary:]
Geri Halliwell was suddenly on every newspaper front page, dominating the spotlight. Emma Bunton was almost nowhere to be seen. Of course, it is easy to get carried away with this train of thought. At the end of the day all the free publicity in the world won't necessarily encourage people to like your single enough to actually go out and buy it. It would be wrong to blindly assume the record sold any more copies simply because she has spent the past week draped all over the national press but at the same time you cannot help but wonder whether the extra exposure gave the single just that little bit more momentum, and more importantly giving Lift Me Up the edge over What I Am.
Yes, at the end of it all is a pop record and for whatever reason Lift Me Up emerges triumphantly as the winner of the battle of the solo Spices, the most avidly followed head to head chart battle since the Blur vs. Oasis battle in the summer of 1995. Lift Me Up duly becomes Geri Halliwell's second solo Number One single, following directly from the just as surprising success of Mi Chico Latino which spent a week at the top back in August. Bizarrely enough as the one member of the group whose musical abilities were at best questionable she has for the moment proved herself to be far and away the most successful of all the Spice Girls in terms of extra-group chart performance.
2 WHAT I AM (Tin Tin Out featuring Emma Bunton)
Apparantly Geri was none too pleased to discover that Lift Me Up was due for release on the same day as What I Am. How her former colleague must wish she had put her foot down for this was supposed to be Emma Bunton's moment of glory. Feel too for Tin Tin Out (who have almost been the forgotten men in all of this) who must have felt they were on to a sure-fire winner by inviting the blonde Spice Girl to be the guest singer on this single. The record itself is an extremely faithful cover of a track written by Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians who reached Number 31 with the original in early 1989. The song has remained something of an airplay staple ever since and this new revival affords the song the appropriate respect whilst adding the necessary tweaks to bring it up to date. "First is everything, second is nowhere" according to the old saying but whilst they have missed out on a Number One by a narrow margin Tin Tin Out do at least have the consolation of their biggest hit single ever, beating the Number 7 peak of Here's Where The Story Ends (coincidentally another cover) back in April 1998. She may not have had a Number One but Emma "Baby Spice" Bunton does at least have the honour of becoming the fourth member of the group to receive a solo chart credit. The only other act in chart history to match this are The Beatles - all four members went on to have solo hits, three of them reaching Number One. Honourable mention must also go to Queen of whose ranks Freddie Mercury, Brian May and Roger Taylor have had solo hits, only John Deacon letting the side down.
Well after this titanic battle (incidentally yet another example of how the race for chart positions can still be important news, despite those who insist on running the singles chart down) anything else is going to seem an anticlimax. Good job Christmas is just a few weeks away isn't it?
5 WAITING FOR TONIGHT (Jennifer Lopez)
So we move on to the week's other big new singles, the ones that aren't by either Geri Halliwell or Emma Bunton. Amidst all the fuss Jennifer Lopez has crept nicely into the Top 5 with her second hit single this year, the followup to If You Had My Love which peaked at Number 4 back in July. More of an out and out pop song, Waiting For Tonight possibly isn't quite as distinctive a single as its predecessor but the chorus is as strong as any pop record could wish for and the video is nice and steamy. Hit singles don't come more straightfoward than this.
6 BOMB DIGGY (Another Level)
Presumably if Another Level singles were episodes of Friends, this one would be The One With The Title That Makes You Snigger. Another Level's string of massive hits continues unabated as Bomb Diggy (a piece of US slang that can apparantly have a variety of different meanings) crashes into the Top 10, hot on the heels of Summertime which made Number 7 back in September. This is now their eighth hit single of which only one, April's remix of Be Alone No More, has failed to make the Top 10.
10 I KNEW I LOVED YOU (Savage Garden)
This seems to be quite a week for pop masterpieces. As catchy as Savage Garden's more upbeat singles manage to be, where they really shine appears to be in the realm of the epic ballad. They proved it back in 1998 when Truly Madly Deeply made Number 4 as part of a six month stay in the charts and now they follow up The Animal Song with this epic sounding piece of unabashed romanticism. The single reverses their recent chart decline (The Animal Song only peaked at Number 16) to give them their third Top 10 hit following in the footsteps of To The Moon And Back and of course Truly Madly Deeply. Wonder how they voted in the Aussie referendum?
14 TURN IT AROUND (Alena)
Presenting once more a perfect example of a dance record that works on several incredible levels. The debut single from Jamaican born Alena is another slice of European trance, produced in this instance by Dutchman Carlo Resoort. Not only that but this also has a proper tune and a song that tells a story, Alena's vocals acting as a plea from a lonely girlfriend. Several prime movers in the world of dance have stepped up and declared this track one of their favourite releases of the year and you can perhaps understand why. The only puzzle is that why with all the buzz surrounding the record it has only manged a place in the Top 20.
15 BULLET IN THE GUN (Planet Perfecto)
There is an indefinable magic about the Perfecto sound isn't there? This new single is no exception, a strong female vocal leading an upbeat tempo track that someone seems to sound all the better when staring out of the window at the lights of the city below. Dance music as she is meant to be. Oakenfold does it again.
16 HEADS HIGH (Mr Vegas)
Dedicated reggae fans will be rejoicing at this, an all too rare appearance for dancehall music in the charts proper. Mr Vegas' Heads High has been highly regarded in underground reggae circles for some time now and crept to Number 71 when first released last year. Having recently picked up a Mobo award and with the track remaining popular legendary reggae label Greensleeves records has been prompted to give the track another full commercial release. Radio One obliged by playlisting the track and the single duly arrives in the Top 20. Now granted it will have limited appeal to those not fully conversant with the scene and the naggingly repetitive track is one of those which really does have to be heard in the proper environment to appreciate it fully. Despite this reggae music has been conspicuous by its absence from the charts for far too long now and any hit single from the genre makes for a very pleasant surprise.
18 HOOLIGAN (Embrace)
The pride of West Yorkshire are back. Having wowed the charts with their own brand of string-drenched indie balladry in 1998 the McNamara brothers have been holed up for the past few months writing and recording a brand new album. Hooligan is the first single to be released and eschews the epic production of old in favour of a stripped to the bones semi-acoustic strum, recorded in just one take in the old mansion which doubled as a studio for the sessions. Much has been made of the fact that the single features a rather distinctive instrument, namely a kazoo, making this the most curious sounding record this side of Gomez. A better chart placing might have been expected here, Embrace's last three singles all made the Top 10 with ease which in turn makes Hooligan their smallest hit single since the One Big Family EP made Number 21 in July 1997.
28 ALL I NEED TO KNOW (Marc Anthony)
Although he can claim to be the biggest selling salsa artist in the world today, Marc Anthony remains a comparative unknown on these shores. Until now that is. To date the only UK chart appearance for the star (who also boasts a number of acting credits to his name) was as singer on Ride On The Rhythm, the Louie Vega single which was first released to all round indifference way back in 1991 but which became a small Top 40 hit when given the Perfecto treatment in January 1998 which helped it to Number 36. His first ever solo hit possibly comes a little too late to ride on the coat tails of this summers Latino craze which goes some way to explaining this rather low chart position. Could there be better things to come next time around?
30 DON'T CALL ME BABY (Madison Avenue)
Aussie dance? You'd better believe it. The record that has the honour of becoming one of the most successful singles of all time down under finally arrives on these fine shores. Quite underwhelmingly too as it turns around, the single barely able to scrape into the Top 30. Despite the title, this has nothing to do with the Voice Of The Beehive hit from 1988 although I can't help but wonder if it would have been far more successful had this been the case. [A future Number One hit you will note, just not this time around].
36 KARAOKE QUEEN (Catatonia)
Dear me, is this how far Catatonia have sunk? From peaking at Number 7 with Dead From The Waist Down back in April this represents a fall from grace of almost biblical proportions. OK maybe that is being melodramatic and the writing seemed to be on the wall when Londinium only made Number 20 back in July but nonetheless the appearance this low down the chart of what is only the third single to be lifted from Equally Cursed And Blessed comes as something of a surprise. Then again maybe it doesn't - just look at the way their single Game On could only manage a palty Number 33 almost exactly a year ago. Something tells me Cerys will be further up the chart before the end of the year. Her duet with Tom Jones, Baby It's Cold Outside is set to be released as a single in time for Christmas.
38 GIN SOAKED BOY (Divine Comedy)
Following on from the Top 20 hit The Pop Singer's Fear Of The Pollen Count comes this new single, lifted once more from their Greatest Hits collection. Neil Hannon's latest wordy opus has the honour of containing the best chorus Pulp haven't written in years but also contrives to be a rather smaller hit single than those Divine Comedy have been accustomed to. A major label beckons for the group. Here's hoping for a return to the Top 10 in the not too distant future.