1 PURE SHORES (All Saints)
Forgive your humble commentator for swimming against the tide of popular culture but The Beach doesn't figure high on my list of essential films at the moment - the prospect of Leonardo Di Caprio running around in his swimming trunks for two hours doesn't exactly fire my enthusiasm. Nonetheless, only aficionados of Toy Story 2 would argue that the film based on the cult novel is THE movie of the moment. The same hype extends to its soundtrack and its first single release is quite deservedly a massive one, duly becoming the first soundtrack single to top the chart since Ronan Keating's When You Say Nothing At All back in August last year. Pure Shores also marks the reemergence of All Saints after over a year in hibernation (during which time three-quarters of them were also making movies) and looks set to kick off a run of hits from their forthcoming second album. Man of the moment William Orbit helms the controls of this single, probably the only time you are likely to hear an R&B track infused with the same energy as a rock anthem. At the end you are left in no doubt that the four girls are about to reach musical maturity in spectacular style. Crashing straight in at the top thanks largely to Oasis' habitual inability to sustain their sales beyond the first week, Pure Shores becomes their fourth Number One hit from six single releases, following in the footsteps of Never Ever, Under The Bridge and Bootie Call which all topped the chart between January and September 1998. Don't bet against there being at least one more before the end of the year if all rumours about their new album are to be believed. All Saints are back, and they sound bloody fantastic.
3 WHAT A GIRL WANTS (Christina Aguilera)
Funnily enough both the All Saints single and Christina Aguilera's second British hit have both arrived on the chart a week later than had originally been planned, the singles were originally set for a titanic head to head battle with Oasis' Go Let It Out - and a battle which both London and RCA wimped out from by reshuffling their release schedules. Even so, this meant a head to head battle and ultimately Christina Aguilera winds up the 'loser' and has to settle for a Top 3 entry, one which arrives exactly a week after Genie In A Bottle dropped off the bottom end of the Top 75 after 19 weeks. As a result, in a similar manner to Eiffel 65 last week, she maintains a continuous presence in the UK chart that stretches back to September 11th last year when the first imported copies of Genie In A Bottle helped it to chart at Number 75.
Incidentally, whilst we are on the subject of imports it is worth noting that last summer's phenomenon of both pop and dance singles charting unofficially a few weeks ahead of their actual release looked at one stage to have been just a passing trend. The last couple of weeks have prompted a slight revision of that view - note for example the presence of the Backstreet Boys at Number 66 this week, on import of course.
5 DON'T BE STUPID (YOU KNOW I LOVE YOU) (Shania Twain)
Fascinating facts to shock you: Shania Twain's nearly two-year-old album Come On Over was not only the biggest selling album of last year but to this day remains lodged in the Top 5 of the albums listing (including incidentally this week as one of four female acts - a chart first). Of the 16 tracks that currently appear on the UK version, five have already become hit singles (in order they are You're Still The One, When, From This Moment On, That Don't Impress Me Much and of course more recently Man! I Feel Like A Woman). Hence it is worth taking a moment to be agog at the way Don't Be Stupid duly becomes the sixth hit single to be taken from the biggest selling C&W album this country has ever known and indeed does so in style by becoming its third straight Top 5 hit. It is worth also pointing out that Don't Be Stupid doesn't so much blur the lines between genres but applies a whole raft of Photoshop filters to them. Hence the fiddle arrangement of the original US mix has been overlayed with rock guitars on the UK album version whose master in turn has now been given a not altogether unpleasant dance remix to arrive at the single version you are reading about now. To further compound matters check out the video which is probably the example of Irish dancing being performed to a song originally written as a hoedown.
7 CARTOON HEROES (Aqua)
OK now this should be interesting. Aqua quite rightly became superstars on the back of their 1997 album Aquarium which saw them sell millions of records all over the world (and also quite literally in this country) with candypop singles such as Barbie Girl, Doctor Jones and My Oh My along with tracks such as Turn Back Time which hinted that behind the bubblegum was some rather more sophisticated songwriting ability. Three years on and with the likes of Cartoons and (to a certain extent) The Vengaboys having used the same formula to similar success, can Aqua recreate the same magic? You know, on the strength of this single they might just do so, as Cartoon Heroes is once again a pop version of the greatest nursery rhyme you never learned as a child, an inspired pop record from a group who are the undisputed masters of not taking themselves too seriously. Cartoon Heroes returns them to the Top 10 after the disappointing Number 18 peak of their last hit Good Morning Sunshine. It is worth pointing out that their first three singles all topped the chart and the fact that a brand new track should only just scrape into the Top 10 may well serve as a warning that this formula, however good, relies on its novelty for a large part of its appeal.
10 STAY WITH ME BABY (Rebecca Wheatley)
The Americans may have ER but Britain has Casualty, the episodic TV drama set in the A&E department of the fictional Holby City hospital which has been the mainstay of the BBCs Saturday night schedules since it began back in 1986. Actress Rebecca Wheatley is the current occupant of the receptionists chair at Holby and a recent storyline saw her fulfil an ambition to become a singer, her debut performance of the soul classic Stay With Me Baby soundtracking an emotional storyline over the course of two episodes. It was a clever marketing tie-in of course, of the kind that TV has used to great success since the 70s, hence the appearance of this single on the chart this week. One of the greatest love songs ever written, Stay With Me Baby was first composed by Atlantic Records staff writer Bert Berns and has been covered by countless artists since Lorraine Ellison first recorded it in 1966. Bizarrely for a song commonly seen as a woman's plea to her lover, the first ever chart version in this country was by the Walker Brothers who reached Number 26 in 1967. Since then the only other artists to actually turn the song into a hit are David Essex(!) in 1978 and more recently Ruby Turner who limped to Number 39 in 1994. So whilst it may be easy to criticise Rebecca Wheatley's version as a fairly straightforward retread of a hard-to-ruin classic song as sung by a TV actress of average ability, the fact remains that she has recorded the highest-charting version of the song ever. Although this is her debut solo hit single, Wheatley was a small part of the ensemble performance of Everlasting Love which the entire cast of Casualty took to Number 5 in March 1998.
11 MR E'S BEAUTIFUL BLUES (Eels)
In as dramatic a mood swing as it is possible to achieve, the Eels have put behind them the obsession with death that characterised their early work and are now clearly born-again optimists. Hence Mr E's Beautiful Blues, a track which somehow manages to be just as beautifully compelling as earlier hits such as Susan's House and Novocaine For The Soul (both of which were Top 10 hits in 1997). The title of the track is actually a more accurate summation of the record than any reviewer is likely to come up with, the track reminiscent of John Lee Hooker or Them at their very finest. Having said that, am I the only one who finds it impossible to suppress the urge to go and listen to Game Of Love by Wayne Fontana immediately after the song has finished? [The video for the track plays up the song's link to the movie Road Trip although it was still some months from release in the UK when the single came out].
15 I FEEL LOVE (CRW)
...or should that be aka Mauro Picotto, he of Lizard fame who here helms this Top 20 dance entry. Despite the title, this track has nothing to do with the Donna Summer classic of the same name, a pity really as it would have made the single worthy of comment.
18 ANYTHING (Jay-Z)
Now when you think about it, this was an obvious step to take, but who would have thought that he would have had the brass neck to actually go and do it. I refer of course to the fact that Jay-Z's biggest ever hit single came just prior to Christmas 1998 when he raided Broadway for inspiration and welded Hard Knock Life (from the musical Annie) onto his usual style and landed himself with a Number 2 hit. So why not continue a theme and use other show tunes as a base? Why not indeed. Hence Anything, which sees the serial collaborator incongruously rapping over the top of I'd Do Anything, as performed by schoolchildren the nation over in productions of Lionel Bart's musical version of Oliver! All I can do is regret that the song's composer never lived to hear this as you suspect he would have loved it. The song duly becomes Jay-Zs biggest hit single since Hard Knock Life and returns the song I'd Do Anything to the chart for the first time since Mike Preston made Number 23 in 1960. Only one other song from the musical has become a chart hit, Shirley Bassey reaching Number 2 with As Long As He Needs Me, also in 1960 to mark the world premiere of the now classic production. It makes you wonder about further collisions between gangster rap and musicals. Wouldn't The Phantom Of The Opera make great material for Nas?
22 I GOT THIS FEELING (Baby Bumps)
You know I've just looked up my comments from August 1998 when Burning, the only other Baby Bumps single to date charted. Clearly I was in a bad mood that week as I was incredibly rude about the way the single chopped up bits of Disco Inferno to make a dance single. Well, in the light of that it would possibly be hypocritical to be excessively positive about this new single, in spite of the fact that to these ears at least it is actually rather good. The same formula applies here, take an established dance classic and use it as the basis for a new track only this time the artist in question is Michael Jackson as I Got This Feeling is based around the Quincy Jones-created string swirls from Don't Stop Til You Get Enough, originally a Number 3 hit from 1979. Jacko has probably never made so much money from doing so little, not only does this single come one week after Ian Brown charted with a single that features a cover of Billie Jean but it is also just a few weeks since Scanty Sandwich hit the chart with a track that sampled his vocals from an old Jackson 5 track.
25 PLAYGROUND LOVE (Air/Gordon Tracks)
Well if you are going to make music that sounds like it belongs in a film soundtrack, sooner or later someone is going to ask you to do one for real. Hence Sofia Coppola's choice of the French wizards to create the atmosphere for her film The Virgin Suicides. Playground Love is the track that plays out over the end credits and represents something of a departure for Dunkel and Godin as it features a straight vocal, rather than their usual vocoded murmurings. Said singer is the co-credited Gordon Tracks who thus helps them to their fourth Top 30 hit and their first hit single since All I Need reached Number 29 in November 1998.
26 I'M IN LOVE (Starparty)
Ferry Corsten is the name on the producers credits of this single, the man behind Gouryella which should given you an idea of where this single is coming from. What makes this track fascinating is that it is based around a sample of the vocals from N-Joi's 1990 classic track Anthem. Said vocals were provided by a then-unknown red-haired singer called Saffron, later to become lead singer of Republica.
33 FAST AS YOU CAN (Fiona Apple)
Fiona Apple is attracting her fair share of press coverage at the moment thanks to the faintly ludicrous 75 word title of her new album. Still, every bit of hype helps and Fiona Apple duly makes her UK chart debut with this neat mix of acoustic jazz and singer-songwriter angst.
40 C'EST LA VIE (Jean Michel Jarre featuring Natacha Atlas)
In a pleasant surprise, here's a quick chart appearance for one of the all time synthesiser greats and (although I suspect some of them would be loathe to admit it) the forerunner of most of today's trance hitmakers. His first chart single in 18 months is possibly as far removed from the cliche of a Jarre single as it is possible to get (without him covering Iron Maiden I suppose), an exotic sounding piece that is as much a showcase for the Ofra Haza-alike vocals of singer Natacha Atlas as it is his own production. Brief though it may turn out to be, this Top 40 appearance is only the fifth of his long career of which bizarrely the last four have all come within the last three years. Back in his 1970s heyday when he was a live extravaganza-staging superstar he only once made the Top 40, Oxygene Part IV remaining his biggest ever hit thanks to its climb to Number 4 in 1977.
73 THE MASSES AGAINST THE CLASSES (Manic Street Preachers)
Oh boy, here we go again, right down to the bottom end of the singles chart, this time to remark on the failure of an act to do anything significant. Despite all expectations to the contrary, the Manics' former Number One single clocks up yet another week inside the Top 75 despite having been deleted since its day of release. This week is its sixth which means it is no longer in the running to become the shortest charting Number One single ever. Several readers emailed last week to point out that the actual ownership of said record is more clear cut than I suggested last week. Whilst it is true that both U2s The Fly and Blur's Beetlebum only lasted five weeks on the Top 75, both singles subsequently crept back into the lower reaches to thus clock up further chart weeks. Therefore the undisputed holders of one of the most ignominious chart records are none other than Iron Maiden whose 1991 single Bring Your Daughter... To The Slaughter topped the chart (for a fortnight no less) during a run which lasted no more than five weeks - and it has not reappeared on the listings since.