Before we start this week, apropos of nothing, I was possibly the only person that noticed that dotmusic.com was five years old last week which means by my reckoning and excluding end of year reviews, I've written around 260 chart commentaries over the years. No wonder I get sore fingers. Then again maybe those bizarre TV ads were some subtle way of celebrating this... [OMG the TV advertising campaign! This was at the very height of the first dotcom bubble and UBM (who owned the site at the time) were throwing money at projects like dotmusic in the hope of turning them into massive revenue streams. So there was a strange TV commercial for this little music website. I live in hope that one day someone will discover it on a video tape and upload it to YouTube] and if you are reading this for the first time thanks to discovering the site because of the ads... er hi. I miss the little stick man though.
1 LIFE IS A ROLLERCOASTER (Ronan Keating)
It isn't that rare an event these days but it is still worth noting that for the first time in year, one Irish act takes over from another at the top of the UK chart. It is fitting too that Ronan Keating's second solo single should be at the heart of this changeover after his first was knocked from the top by Westlife almost a year ago. So what of the second Ronan Keating solo single? Is it yet another drippy ballad, a lazily covered version of an obscure country ballad that is mind-numbing in its blandness (or: "When You Say Nothing At All" in shorthand). Happily not for this is a marvellous record. For proof of this just look at the co-writers of Life Is A Rollercoaster. They are Rick Nowells and Gregg Alexander - the former frontman of the New Radicals. Indeed Alexander's influence is all over this track as the song is a soaring anthem for positivity and happiness. The same magic that made You Get What You Give so unforgettable is much in evidence here and better still Ronan actually sings it properly. Gone is the rather affected over-enunciated style that he seemed to have slipped into towards the end of Boyzone's present chart career, instead he performs the song in a way that finally does his voice justice. So why go over the top like this? Well let's face it, this is the sixth different Number One single in as many weeks, the second straight for the singer and if one takes his Boyzone success into account his eighth in total in his career. The mere fact that the single has topped the chart is almost without sensation so the fact that it is a superlative pop record is really where the focus must lie.
5 TRY AGAIN (Aaliyah)
Strange how these things even out isn't it? After last weeks record-equalling seven new entries inside the Top 10 everything goes quiet this week, almost as if nobody was prepared to go head to head with Ronan. In the light of the mega sales from the Irishman. She was never going to be a credible challenger for the Number One position, but take nothing away from the fact that Aaliyah has crashed into the chart with the biggest hit of her career to date, her first ever appearance in the UK Top 10. A US sensation since she was knee high to a grasshopper (or so it seems), Aaliyah has never exactly managed to set the UK on fire. Until now she has had 12 Top 40 hits but you would struggle to sing along to any one of them if they came on the radio. Maybe Try Again is going to represent a turnaround, as the Tom 'Timbaland' Mosley and Siedah Garrett-penned track pushes all the right buttons to make it an instant R&B classic of the kind that TLC and Destiny's Child appear to be able to sing in their sleep. The single is taken from the soundtrack of the new film Romeo Must Die (hardly a chart factor as the film isn't due out in this country yet) and is her third soundtrack hit in succession, following 1998s Are You That Somebody? (from Doctor Dolittle) and Journey To The Past (from Anastasia).
12 I NEED YOUR LOVIN' (LIKE THE SUNSHINE) (Marc Et Claude)
Meanwhile lower down the listings, a number of potentially big new singles underperform rather badly this week. To deal with the Marc Et Claude single, let me tell you story that dates back over 20 years. James Warren and Andy Davies were the Korgis, a band who somehow steered a path through the dying remanents of punk and disco to create three albums of the most beautifully crafted pop music ever. For all of this their chart career was brief, charting just three hit singles but by far the biggest was 1980s Everybody's Gotta Learn Sometime which reached Number 5. An acknowledged classic, it was inevitable that people would want to cover it and achieve similar success. So why is it that nobody seems able to do so without doing a wrecking job? Leaving aside Yazz's 1994 version (which only made Number 56), the song stormed back into the chart in 1995 in a version performed by Baby D. Although it peaked at Number 3 the single was at times painful to listen to when compared to the original as the original melody had Baby D's trademark Drum N' Bass grafted onto it. In fairness it worked rather well but was still a shame to see the song treated in this way. It seems, however, that the dance world's fascination with the track did not end here. Now Marc Et Claude have done their own version (which inherits Baby D's retitling of the song), one which actually samples the Korgis original with the verse played out almost acappella before a mass of strings leap in and take the melody to dancefloor heaven. I Need Your Loving is the second Marc Et Claude single to chart, the first coming way back in 1998 when La reached Number 28. It may be sad to see one of the greatest records ever made taken to pieces by clubland in this manner for a second time, but at the end of the day, who doesn't get a shiver down their spine hearing James Warren croon "I need your loving... like the sunshine" once again?
13 I'LL NEVER STOP ('NSync)
Another 'Nsync single, begat of Max Martin and Cheiron studios so you know pretty much what to expect here. Strangely enough I'll Never Stop is perhaps one of the less inspired tracks to come from that hit factory in recent years which may account for this less than impressive chart performance, the single failing to fly into the Top 10 in the same manner as its predecessor Bye Bye Bye. 'NSync hysteria simply hasn't reached the same heights it has in America (we have out own boy bands to get wet knickers over thanks) and I cannot help but wonder how enduring their appeal is going to be once the world begins to tire of the bangbangbang Cheiron pop formula.
19 I TURN TO YOU (Christina Aguilera)
After having its release delayed by several months, Christina Aguilera's third single finally makes it into the chart, a full five months since What A Girl Wants soared to Number 3. Following the general rule of all things pop this new single is a ballad, the writing skills of Diane Warren much in evidence here which means the single is a competent enough tale of heartache without ever really getting out of second gear. If we really must go down the route of comparing Christina to Britney at every step then Britney is way ahead on points at the moment, having made a start on the promotion of her second album and proving that her initial success is no flash in the pan. We await the next Christina Aguilera album which will be the one that proves that she is capable of the same kind of sensation that greeted her debut.
20 I WANT YOUR LOVE (Atomic Kitten)
Last week's comments on Atomic Kitten provoked a fair bit of mail so even though the single is dipping down the chart this week it is worth taking time out to talk about them again. I received a fair bit of mail asking just exactly why it is so significant that McCluskey and Kershaw are writing the songs for Atomic Kitten... so let me explain.
Andy McCluskey was the longest standing member of Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, a band he formed in 1978 alongside school friend Paul Humphreys. Although other members would drift in and out of the frame over the years the duo of McCluskey and Humphries would combine the nucleus of the band for the next ten years. One of a small wave of synthesiser-based acts that broke through in the UK in the early 80s, OMD quickly notched up a string of classic hit singles; Enola Gay, Genetic Engineering, Talking Loud And Clear, Tesla Girls... the list goes on. In the mid-1980s they even cracked America, ironically just as their British chart fortunes went into reverse. Their biggest US hit was 1986s If You Leave (as featured on the Pretty In Pink soundtrack) which made Number 5 in the States but missed the Top 40 altogether here and ranks as one of the greatest lost hits of the 80s. At the end of the decade with OMD hits having dried up, Humphries and all the other members of the time left the band, leaving McCluskey with ownership of the name. Ironically this prompted a mini-revival in 1991 when Sailing On The Seven Seas and Pandora's Box went Top 10 and sent OMD on another run of hits that lasted until Walking On The Milky Way in 1996. Hence Andy McCluskey has a 20 year songwriting pedigree that few can match. Clearly feeling he is a little old to be a pop star himself any more, he has turned his attention to creating songs for a new generation of artists and Atomic Kitten, three girls from his native Liverpool are the first beneficiaries of this magic touch. OK so as a long-standing OMD fan I'm a touched biased but as S Club 7 have nicely proved, if you have a superb team of writers assembled behind you then the sky is the limit and Atomic Kitten are performing records written by some undisputed masters.
28 NO ORDINARY MORNING/HALCYON (Chicane)
Follow that Mr Bracegirdle... the Bryan Adams vocals on Don't Give Up worked wonders for Chicane, the single topping the charts for a week back in March. So can the celebrity-less followup maintain that level of success? No is the answer it seems. No Ordinary Morning this time featuring a female vocal in the shape of singer Tracy Ackerman whose backing vocals have been heard on tracks from the likes of Gina G and even Cher but whose only other direct chart credit came back in 1993 when she sang on a dance version of Oleta Adams' Get Here which reached Number 37. Perhaps unusually for a dance single both No Ordinary Morning and the co-credited Halcyon appear on the single in the same form that they do on the current Chicane album rather than in any newly mixed form. Speculate for yourselves whether this had an impact on the chart position of the single.
29 OOOH (De La Soul featuring Redman)
Long time, no hear. Beginning their career as one of a new breed of flower power rap acts, De La Soul grew in stature from the late 1980s onwards to rank as one of the most consistent rap groups of their era. Since their first hit Me Myself and I made Number 22 in 1989, the group have clocked up eight Top 40 hits but have been silent since 1997s Zhane collaboration 4 More which peaked at a disappointing Number 52. Silent no more, their fifth album is due for release very shortly and with the first single are rewarded with their first Top 40 hit for almost seven years and indeed their highest charting single since A Roller Skating Jam Named Saturdays made Number 22 in 1991. Their biggest hit remains The Magic Number which took advantage of the new year lull and reached Number 7 in January 1990.
30 AMAZED (Lonestar)
Now almost four months old, Lonestar's chart-boggling single slides down another four places this week and is now in danger of slipping out of the Top 30 without ever once climbing into the Top 20. It is this fact that (assuming this decline continues - which on past evidence is by no means guaranteed) means Amazed is on course to set a new standard as one of the biggest selling singles never to reach the Top 20. Although the single has sold (by my reckoning anyway) a good 300,000 copies over the last four months, it still has a little way to go to rival the all-time record holder. That honour still belongs to Evelyn Champagne King's Shame which was released in May 1978 and spent a somewhat astonishing 23 weeks (that's five and a half months) swimming around the bottom end of the chart without ever once climbing higher than Number 39, a position it reached on July 22nd 1978. Indeed it seems the song has a curious UK chart jinx around it as Zhane's 1995 cover could only make Number 66, an Altern-8 remix of the original crashed out at 74 in 1992 whilst in 1998 Ruff Driverz tried an Ibiza-flavoured version and were rewarded with a Number 51 record for their troubles.
32 PEAKIN' (Bleachin')
Now this is actually something as a shock, the second dance single of the week to be based on an old 80s track was widely expected to go in much higher than this. Bleachin' are actually Healy and Amos who have charted together in the past with Stamp! and Argentina and who have now collaborated on a concept album designed to "celebrate the lifestyles of the rich and glamorous" which is quite appropriate for a pair who have composed music for fashion shows in the past. The first single takes its inspiration from a rather unusual place, being based heavily around Fleetwood Mac's 1987 hit Big Love, originally taken from their celebrated Tango In The Night album. The actual origins of the melody are well hidden with the single entitled Peakin' and no credit being required on the sleeve as the male vocals and guitar lines used are actually a re-recording rather than being sampled directly from the original... indeed it is only a writing credit for Lindsay Buckingham that provides any clue that this is indeed the cool track based on the Fleetwood Mac song that has been all over the radio for the past few weeks. The reaction of die-hard Fleetwood Mac fans to this use of their musical legacy isn't documented, but then again they are probably too busy buying the Corrs single to have noticed.
40 DESIRE (Ultra Nate)
Long time, no hear (part 2). Ultra Nate hasn't been seen in the Top 40 since summer 1998 when New Kind Of Medicine made the Top 20. Even after two years away her distinct sound remains intact, high powered disco soul that adds guitars to the mix just for, well, added uniqueness. Sadly the single appears to have failed to make the impact required and can only just creep into the bottom end of the chart, a far cry from summer 1997 when the near-classic Free appeared to be a chart fixture. Meanwhile her original 1989 single It's Over Now remains on the shelf as an undiscovered classic just waiting to be reactivated.