1 WHOLE AGAIN (Atomic Kitten)
Just who have they sold their souls to exactly? Atomic Kitten's Whole Again is a single that surprises every week. It shocked by topping the charts when first release (more copies had to be rushed to the shops to reach demand), amazed when it held position last week in the face of challenges from the likes of Wheatus and Papa Roach and now this week it astounds with a third successive week at the summit. When you consider the number of potentially big hits that were released this week (from the likes of Jakkata, Dido and BBMAK amongst others, the fact that the single continues to dominate is even more impressive. The success of the track has prompted an almost total rethink of the promotional strategy for the band. Rather than being the final single from the Right Now album, this could well turn out to be the start of a renewed promotional push for the work of the rearranged threesome.
3 AMERICAN DREAM (Jakatta)
Tipped as a potential Number One, American Dream instead finds itself relegated to a Top 3 placing behind both Atomic Kitten and also Wheatus who prove that last week's strong debut was no first week fluke. Even if the single isn't familiar the concept behind it certainly is as the dance track takes its inspiration from the theme to the film American Beauty which swirls around under the trancey vocals of Swati Naketar. It would be tempting to wonder if this isn't part of a new trend, this single charting just a few weeks after Santos' Camels (inspired by samples from Laurence Of Arabia) hit the Top 10. Not that turning movie themes into dance hits is a particularly new concept - back in 1977 American producer Meco took a disco version of the Star Wars Theme to No.7. Back to American Dream though and the observant among you will have noticed that the label on the single actually credits "Joey Negro presents Jakatta", the track taking the alter-ego of Dave Lee into the Top 10 almost exactly a year since Must Be The Music reached No.8.
4 HERE WITH ME (Dido)
When Dido's album No Angel (first released in this country towards the end of last year, some months after its American success) topped the chart a few weeks ago she became one of a select handful of acts (amongst them Blind Faith and Wu-Tang Clan) to have her debut album top the listings without ever having had a chart single. She has of course already featured heavily on a Number One hit thanks to Eminem sampling her track Thank You on Stan, but Here With Me marks her official debut as a solo star. I spent most of the last few months of last year telling anyone who would listen that Dido would turn into the first superstar of 2001 and nothing makes me happier than to be right on this occasion, the lure of an insanely beautiful woman singing her own haunting and soothing songs is one that is extremely hard to resist. To continue the soundtrack theme, Here With Me also doubles as the theme to the American TV series Roswell High. [Strange to think really that due to Thank You popping up in Sliding Doors in 1998, and Here With Me having been used by Roswell High since 1999, and not to forget the Eminem track in 2000, Dido had actually been famous for the longest time without anyone noticing. From this moment on however she would briefly be one of the biggest selling acts in the western world].
5 BACK HERE (BBMAK)
This is actually the second time Back Here has been a Top 40 hit. First time around came in August 1999 when the single crept in at No.37. It is worth taking a look back at what this commentary had to say about the single on that date:
Not your average boy band these three. They can claim to be pretty much self-created, having worked together for a while to develop their act. Their debut single has the distinction of being co-written by Phil Thornally and is as pleasant a piece of summery pop as you could wish for but as this chart placing indicates, it hasn't quite had the hoped for impact. It could be that BB Mak will have become massive stars by Christmas, for now, the jury will have to remain out.
As it turned out they did become stars. Just not in this country. With the market saturated with boy bands and not wanting to end up being labelled as just another bunch of manufactured hopefuls, the decision was made to concentrate on the favourable noises that were coming from America. Clearly, it was the right one and whilst the guys remained virtual unknowns in this country they went about selling a million albums, toured with Britney Spears and wound up as one of the most played acts on US radio last year. Now they have come home. With the added credibility their stateside success has given them and the fact that Back Here still sounds as good as it did 18 months ago, they lads are now on the verge of superstardom in this country. Good pop music will always have a home in the Top 5 and the fact that they actually wrote and performed this track themselves makes its success all the more deserving.
For a British pop act to become more successful in the States than at home is pretty damn unusual but by no means unknown. Back in 1988 the group When In Rome had a Top 30 US single with The Promise (still one of my favourite singles ever) but the single only ever reached No.58 here. In 1990 Brother Beyond were all but forgotten in this country but found themselves with a brief second wind when The Girl I Used To Know crept into the US Top 40. After the single flopped here though the band broke up. More recently there has of course been Dido whose celebrity has only just broken in her home country but the all time champions at crossing the Atlantic divide are Bush whose mid-90s superstar status across the pond is poorly served by their miserable total of 2 Top 40 hits back in Blighty.
8 THE CALL (Backstreet Boys)
...in which the boys from Florida shed their usual squeaky clean pop (although this is still a Cheiron production) in favour of a rather gritty tale of a man tempted into infidelity on his way home from a night out but who escapes thanks to a flat telephone battery (don't ask). The knives may be out for them in the states but over here their chart placings are as strong as ever. The Call is the follow-up to Shape Of My Heart which made No.4 in November last year and extends their run of consecutive Top 10 hits to 13. The only acts who can boast a longer run are Madonna, Cliff, The Beatles, Elvis, The Stones and Abba.
10 DANCE WITH ME (Debelah Morgan)
Britain's love affair with solo female stars continues. Anastacia is locked near the top of the album chart, Jennifer Lopez and Mya have had big hits already this year and now their ranks are joined by Detroit-born Debelah Morgan. With a vocal style that is reminiscent of a young Whitney Houston, she propels her way through a pop hit that can rank as one of the more distinctive US R&B singles of recent times. This is largely thanks to the way it is possibly the first ever R&B tango. Dance With Me is based heavily on the melody from Hernando's Hideaway, a track originally written by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross for the 1950s musical The Pyjama Game. Carol Haney can claim to be the first to record the song but the hit versions came thanks to the Johnston Brothers who took the track to the top of the charts in November 1955. Johnny Ray also charted a version of the song in the same year as a double a-side with Hey There which was also from the same musical.
11 E.I. (Nelly)
Just missing out on a place in the Top 10 this week is Nelly. EI is his second hit single, this following up Country Grammar which peaked at No.7 in November last year.
12 CAN'T KEEP ME SILENT (Angelic)
Speaking of sophomore hits, this is Angelic's follow-up to one of the bigger hits of the summer of 2000, It's My Turn which made No.11 in June 2000 at the start of a nine week chart run. The wife of DJ Judge Jules sticks to a similar formula here, although the result is rather underwhelming.
18 AIRHEAD (Girls@Play)
Fascinating fact: If you try to search dotmusic for the name of these girls it causes the code for the search engine to crash [a common issue, hence they are listed on the Official Charts database as "Girls At Play"]. That aside, Girls@Play represent the ultimate or maybe just the nadir of girl group concepts. Yes, they are another bunch of bright young things brought together to sing a song but this time they have been allocated personalities in such a way as to turn them into the female Village People. Thus we have the pilot, the executive, the cowgirl, the traffic and the mechanic all singing a song that I must confess is so bad it makes the return of Vanilla seem an attractive prospect. Perhaps strangely Mike Stock and Matt Aitken are responsible for this. Maybe it is revenge for the way we all ignored Scooch.
28 FOREVER AS ONE (Vengaboys)
After that healthy dose of derision, it is hard to work up the energy to be rude about the Vengaboys. Actually there is no need as rumours are rife that the plug is about to be pulled on the whole project (although in fairness the group themselves insist they are not planning to split and say that the sentiment of the song and the final shot of them driving off into the sunset in the video has been misinterpreted) [methinks they protest too much, this was indeed their chart swansong]. The video for the single managed to make headlines when Westlife objected to the use of footage of them encountering The Vengaboys (although none of the other acts in the video appear to have a problem with it). Even this fuss has not been enough to help the single and it lands at their lowest ever chart placing, below even the No.19 peak of their last single Cheeka Bow Wow which itself was their first to miss the Top 10. That is actually a shame as the string-laden power ballad is as far removed from Venga-cheese as it is possible to get and the sentimentalist in me can't help but think it deserved more appreciation than this.
29 I'M IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE (Jools Holland and Jamiroquai)
Collaborations you never thought you would see. Jools Holland began his career as the keyboardist in Squeeze before moving on to television in the 1980s as one of the co-presenters of legendary music show The Tube. These days he divides his time between being a media personality and being the leader of Jools Holland's Rhythm And Blues Orchestra, a Big Band who consistently put on entertaining concert performances wherever they go. His debut as a chart star under his own name comes thanks to this collaboration with Jay Kay who I suspect is finally proving that the names of singer and band are interchangeable. I'm In The Mood For Love is the second song on the chart this week to date further back than most people realise. The song is an old jazz standard, penned back in the 1940s by Louis Prima and Keely Smith. In its original arrangement it was recorded by just about everyone from Fats Domino to Frank Sinatra and Louis Armstrong. In the 1960s the song was recorded in a ska arrangement by Lord Tanamo, his recording finally hitting the chart in December 1990 after being used in a TV commercial for Paxo (no joke). It is that arrangement that Jools Holland and Jamiroquai use here although the fact that a jazz band is performing the track brings it nicely full circle. Not a massive hit in any sense of the word but it is nice to see true artistry in the charts, at whatever position.
31 ALWAYS YOUR WAY (My Vitriol)
Soon to join the Manic Street Preachers on tour, My Vitriol celebrate with their first ever Top 40 single. The rock band charted two singles in 2000, Cemented Shoes which made No.65 in July and Pieces which reached No.56 in November. Welcome to the cusp of stardom guys, it has been well worth the wait.
38 ONCE MORE (Orb)
Presenting the return of The Orb, better known as the vehicle for the talents of Alex Paterson. Along with one-time collaborator Jimmy 'KLF' Cauty, he is credited with the creation of Ambient House. In the early 1990s the Orb were as big as an underground dance act were possible to get, tracks such as Little Fluffy Clouds and Perpetual Dawn were cult hits, as witnessed by the way they flew into the charts when re-released in 1993 and 1994. One of The Orb's biggest hits was Blue Room (No.8 in June 1992) which at almost 40 minutes in its full version will for ever more hold the record as the longest chart single ever. The last Orb single to chart was Asylum which made No.20 in May 1997. Now almost four years later Dr Paterson is back. The music is just as weird and gorgeous as ever, spoken female vocals drift in and out of the mix, as do the pee-inducing sounds of running water. The world may have moved on in the last ten years but hearing this track makes you wish it never had. Or maybe I just need the bathroom again...