1 FOOL AGAIN (Westlife)
To think we thought there was going to be a shock in store. You may well have read the story on dotmusic of how Mel C had edged into a surprising midweek lead over Westlife, suggesting that Fool Again stood a chance of becoming the band's first single ever to fail to reach the top of the charts. As it turned out her lead was just too slim to be maintained and what was set to become one of the chart surprises of the year has instead resulted in Westlife carving their names still further into the annals of chart legend.
Is James being too melodramatic here? Not at all, believe me. For those that are keeping count, this is their fifth chart single and the fifth in a row to go straight in to the top of the charts. Note that this is still just short of the all-time career opening stretch, the Spice Girls still holding that honour with their first six releases all topping the charts. Where Westlife score is down to the fact that all their singles to date have entered the chart at Number One, thus eclipsing the achievement of B*witched whose first four all crashed in at the top only for them to see their fifth single peak at Number 4. What Westlife have achieved here is unprecedented in the 47-year history of the UK charts.
That isn't all. How could it be? Those who were around to read this column at Christmas when I first flagged up the possibility will be aware of the other record Westlife have set. From this day onward the Irish balladeers will be the benchmark of consistency to which all other acts must aspire. They first topped the charts with Swear It Again on May 1st 1999. Their fifth single hits the top this week on the chart dated April 8th 2000. That is five Number One hits within 49 weeks, faster than anyone else in history. Elvis Presley managed five in 53 weeks in 1960 and 1961 as did The Shadows in 1962 and 1963 - an indication of how unusual it is for any one act to be so consistent in such a short space of time. Hence you won't find any comment here on the nature of the song, no attempt at critical analysis over how yet again they have stuck to the formula of sweet sickly ballads or speculation of just how long they can keep this up. Appreciate instead the way in which two different chart records have been shattered - and this incredible run may not be over yet.
3 SAY MY NAME (Destiny's Child)
As is always the way in weeks of such significance, the second biggest hit of the week is in danger of being reduced to little more than a chart footnote, regardless of how high it has landed. Hence it is with a desire to do them justice that I encourage appreciation of how the third single from the album The Writing On The Wall becomes their biggest UK hit ever, eclipsing the Number 5 peak of 1998s No No No and taking them into the Top 3 for the first time ever. Not quite a record of Westlife proportions but in a normal week this would be something to enthuse over. Treat this record as more than just a footnote.
6 SEE YA (Atomic Kitten)
The career of the wonderfully named Atomic Kitten has progressed in three clear stages so far. Stage one was the first single, the disco-rock tinged Right Now which sneaked in to Number 10 a few weeks before Christmas and then rode out the holiday period by zigzagging up and down the bottom end of the Top 40. Stage two was to be written about in glowing terms as one of the best pop prospects for the year 2000 based on their looks, enthusiasm, talent and the fact that they were being steered by the songwriting prowess of Andy McCluskey, ex of OMD. Stage three is this second single and so far everything appears to be on track. See Ya virtually defies criticism in terms of its prowess as a pop single, verse, singalong chorus and choreographed TV performance are all intact. Effectively it could hardly fail, as this chart position proves, giving the Liverpool threesome their second successive Top 10 hit. Make no mistake, this is a winning formula and there are more hits on the way before the summer. [Does it need me to point out here that Atomic Kitten became true winners only AFTER they changed the formula. Never mind, I was a fan of them from the very start].
15 GET IT ON TONITE (Montell Jordan)
Funny thing this, as a closet 80s rap fan (amongst other things) I always felt offended by the way singer Montell Jordan was allowed to release records on the legendary Def Jam label. Happily that particular bugbear has been resolved by the release of this single on the sister imprint Def Soul which actually sums the nature of the track up quite nicely. Get It On Tonite is his first hit single since Let's Ride made Number 25 in May 1998. His biggest hit single remains his debut, This Is How We Do It having peaked at Number 11 in May 1995.
16 JUMP DOWN (B*witched)
For all the raving that we do about Westlife, it is worth noting that B*witched are just 12 months removed from being where they are today. A year ago they could do no wrong and they were claiming chart records for themselves with four career-opening Number Ones and as the first act ever to have their first four enter the charts at Number One. Today their smiles are as bright as ever, they still jump about enthusiastically in their videos but their singles are peaking just inside the Top 20 and in today's fickle world the words 'bubble' and 'burst' are being bandied around. Again it is possible to be too cruel, Jump Down at least beats by two places the Number 18 peak of their last single I Shall Be There and it is by no means a bad record, if nothing else a pleasant development of the bubbly celtic pop that was their own particular pop formula. The problem is that by achieving so much early on they have set a target that they can never satisfactorily live up to. So it is that B*witched's seventh hit single maintains their 100% strike rate of Top 20 hits but for a band who topped the charts four times inside a year that simply isn't good enough. Westlife take heed.
19 THE FIRST TIME EVER I SAW YOUR FACE (Celine Dion)
Damn the woman. Wasn't she supposed to be retiring? Anyway as a kind of swansong whilst she goes off to make babies comes this single, a fairly straightforward cover of the classic song, written by Pete Seeger and turned into a worldwide smash in 1972 by Roberta Flack (who perhaps surprisingly only reached Number 14 in this country). Believe it or not this is the first time since that anyone has charted with a cover version of the song - at least in this form. Back in September 1996 Way Out West reached Number 15 with a track entitled The Gift, named after the sampled line "the moon and the stars/are the gifts you gave" which were from the first verse of The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.
20 ANGEL (Ralph Fridge)
No, it is OK you are allowed to smirk. German trance wizard Ralph Fridge adopted the name owing to his expanded girth and is apparently quite comfortable with the image of being a heavyweight of the trance world. Anyway, standard formula applies here: beautiful melody, exotic chord sequences and an otherworldly female vocal (this time around taking on the tones of an operatic aria). Heck, the single even has the word Angel in the title which surely earns it bonus points.
23 ACTUALLY IT'S DARKNESS (Idlewild)
Scotland's finest have all the cards in place for the launch of their third album to be something quite spectacular with a new tour imminent and a TV documentary about its production and promotion due to air very shortly. Maybe bigger hit singles would help, but you can't have everything. Actually It's Darkness creeps nicely into the Top 30, landing just one place above the peak of their last hit Little Discourage which was released in October last year. When I Argue I See Shapes remains their biggest hit ever (a Number 19 peak in February 1999).
32 DO IT TO ME AGAIN (Soulsearcher)
"They" apparently rather than "he", as if it is possible to keep track these days. Soulsearcher's only hit single to date was in the shape of the mutant disco groove of Can't Get Enough which peaked at Number 8 in February 1999. After a long gestation period their second release creeps into the bottom of the chart. Dance aficionados appear to have moved on from records that ape the golden years of disco, hence I suspect the rather lukewarm response to this track which is authentic enough to sound like it could claim a place in the Top 20 anytime between 1977 and 1980.
34 MIXED BIZZNESS (Beck)
The honour of bringing up the rear this week goes to Beck, here following up last November's Number 27 hit Sexx Laws. Again lifted from the Midnight Vultures album, Mixed Bizness travels along similar lines to its predecessor and is arguably the best track Prince hasn't made in years. The only problem is the size of his hit singles. If ever there was an award for 'most raved about yet underappreciated artist' then Beck would surely walk away with it.