It's like magic isn't it? No sooner do we comment on how turnover at the top of the singles chart has sped up over the last few months than a record goes and breaks the chain. Usher is the man to do this, his single Yeah becomes the first since February to manage two weeks at the top. The single has also had a positive effect on sales of its parent album, the long player Confessions also racing to the top of the charts this week, shouldering no less a figure than George Michael out of the way in the process. This is his second Number One album, his last release 8701 also topping the charts back in 2001.
The success of Yeah also represents an unusual synergy between the UK and US singles charts. The track is, believe it or not, only the ninth single since 2000 to top the listings on both sides of the Atlantic. Just one single had the honour in 2003 - Beyonce's Crazy In Love whilst the most successful year in this respect was 2001 when a brace of tracks by Shaggy plus Lady Marmalade took the honours on both sides of the Atlantic.
With DJ Casper clinging on to the runners up slot, honours for the biggest new hit of the week go to the act at Number 3 on the singles chart. Left Outside Alone is Anastacia's first single release since December 2002, her absence during the last year due to her well-publicised fight against breast cancer. Now fully recovered it is pleasing to see that those famous lungs of hers have not been affected by the treatment. As befits such a triumphant comeback it is pleasing to note that the single charges its way into the chart to give the singer her biggest ever UK hit. Perhaps surprisingly given her popularity and the radio-friendly nature of her singles, she has only ever had one Top 10 hit before - that, of course, being her debut single I'm Outta Love which hit Number 6 in October 2000. Left Outside Alone smashes that peak easily. Isn't it nice when the highest new entry just happens to be the one that deserves it the most?
Just below her at Number 4 are Blue, following up their seasonal collaboration with Stevie Wonder on a remake of his own Signed Sealed Delivered I'm Yours. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the holiday period was the rather disappointing chart performance of the track, Number 11 as good as it got in Christmas week itself. Breathe Easy sets them back on track quite nicely, returning them to the Top 5. It will be interesting to see what happens to their career from this point on. Thanks to their R&B direction they have always occupied a comfortable niche as the boy band who don't actually sound like a boy band and are thus OK to like (and you will find few people who will argue that tracks such as All Rise, One Love and U Make Me Wanna are anything other than top drawer slices of pop music). Nonetheless, their core audience has always been the teenage girl market and with the third anniversary of their first single rapidly approaching they are about to hit the point at which their fan base either grows up along with them or grows out of them altogether.
A busy Top 10 makes for a string of new entries, the third of these arriving at Number 5. It is by none other than multiple Brit award winners The Darkness with their first single release of 2004. Love Is Only A Feeling is the follow-up to Christmas Time (Don't Let The Bells End) which you may remember made headlines of its own by being pipped at the post in the race to be Christmas Number One. Oddly enough the release of Love Is Only A Feeling attracted none of the hype and speculation about its potential as a chart-topper and although it duly becomes their third successive Top 10 hit single this is still nothing less than their most underwhelming release since their success levels went through the roof last summer. Put this down to the fact that this Rainbow-esque power ballad may not be their finest moment on record so far and that fact that the album Permission To Land has sold so many copies leaving this single a less essential purchase than their one-off Christmastime release. It seems odd to pour cold water on a Top 5 hit but we've been conditioned to expect The Darkness to be challenging for the top of the charts every time and to see them not do so is something of a shock to the system.
Three new entries down and we are still only halfway through the Top 10. New entry no.4 arrives at Number 7 on the charts and once again it is an impressive but in some ways less spectacular debut than we might have expected. The Way You Move is Outkast's follow-up to Hey Ya, the astoundingly long-running single that had two different chart peaks either side of Christmas and which only now after no less than 20 weeks around finally vanishes from the Top 40. The Way You Move has already topped the US charts and so it would not have been unfair to expect it to go at least Top 3 here. No, Number 7 is as good as it gets for now, four places below the eventual peak of Hey Ya.
Funny story about the Sugababes. So nervous are the record company about the constant "babes to split" rumours that when colleagues of mine were photographing them as part of a meet and greet it was insisted that any shots that did not feature all three members together were accompanied by an explanation of where the others were [no word of a lie, that genuinely happened]. Yes, the Heidi and Keisha fight rumours continue to overshadow their music, at times to quite ridiculous levels. Happily, that doesn't seem to be affecting their record sales and with In The Middle the three girls clock up their third successive Top 10 single from the album Three. This new track even beats the Number 10 peak of their Christmas release Too Lost In You but falls some way short of the chart-topping form of the albums first release Hole In The Head. In all this is their seventh Top 10 single since their debut back in September 2000. [YouTube copies of Sugababes hits take some tracking down, even their Vevo channel doesn't seem to have rights to a lot of them and substitute TV performances instead].
[Superstar debut klaxon!] The final new entry in a rammed full Top 10 is actually the highest charting debut of the week. Through The Wire is the first ever chart single for Kanye West, at least as a performer. As a producer, he has been behind hits for Jay-Z but now makes his debut as a rapper in his own right. The title of the track refers to the fact that his vocals were recorded with his jaw almost completely wired shut, the result of injuries sustained in a near fatal car crash. Far from being just a gimmick, this is turned into the concept for the entire track as the star talks (as best he can) about how to communicate when the normal means of doing so are removed from you, for whatever reason. The title also contains a clue as to the samples used on the track, the wicked funk rhythm having been lifted from an old Chaka Khan single entitled Through The Fire.
The singles chart this week is very much a chart of two halves. Six new entries in the Top 10 means that many of last weeks big selling hits are displaced further down and indeed positions 11-16 on the chart are all taken up by singles that have been knocked out of the Top 10. This results in a 12 place gap between new entries, the next brand new hit arriving at Number 21. Nearer Than Heaven is the second release of the year from The Delays, the follow-up to Long Time Coming which gave them a Top 20 breakthrough when it hit Number 16 back in January. They can feel hard done by for not at the very least matching that with this new hit as Nearer Than Heaven is easily one of their finest moments on record to date. The only downside of this track really is the long-standing frustration of hearing the music of a band you know are surely destined for great things but who for whatever reason continue to slip between the cracks.
Just below them at Number 22 is Missy Elliott who enjoys a sizeable fanbase, makes so terrific rap records but who always annoyingly seems on the cusp of proper mainstream stardom. Disappointingly I'm Really Hot could bring all of the progress she has made over the last few years to a screaming halt. Not since January 2000's Hot Boyz single has she had a single miss the Top 10, but here it is the second single from her album This Is Not A Test failing even to make the Top 20. In fact, this is set to become her lowest charting record since Hit 'Em With Da Hee reached a derisory Number 25 in August 1998. Maybe her problem is the same old same old Timbabaland production which covers this single like a bad rash.
The most welcome comeback of the week arrives at Number 25. Neil Hannon's Divine Comedy have been quiet ever since 2001 when the album Regeneration spawned an indifferent run of hits, none of its three singles charting higher than Number 26. Not that Come Home Billy Bird has performed much better of course but after three years away I guess you take whatever you can get. Never quite the chart superstars you always felt they deserved the be, the biggest Divine Comedy hit was the catchy National Express which made Number 8 in February 1999.
When it comes to fallen heroes however you need look no further than Travis, limping in at a rather disappointing Number 28. The reception to the album Twelfth Memories has been lukewarm to say the least and although lead single Re-Offender easily went Top 10 in October last year they suffered the indignity of missing the Top 40 for the first time in seven and a half years when The Beautiful Occupation got caught in the Christmas rush and made a derisory Number 48. Most people would regard Love Will Come Through as one of the weaker tracks on the album making it an even stranger choice as a single. Could the band who gave the 2000s some of its most memorable singles so far be in danger of winding up as chart also-rans? Say it isn't so.
A final mention this week must go, not to a new entry but to a far older hit which continues to raise eyebrows. Yes, it is Katie Melua again who last week you may remember not only saw her new single Call Off The Search enter the Top 20 but her older single Closest Thing To Crazy march back up the chart to come close to joining it. This week the tale takes another bizarre twist. Both singles fall but it is the newer Call Off The Search which charges out of the Top 40 altogether leaving Closest Thing To Crazy to outsell it by some margin, landing at Number 33. At the very least this is the first time the track has been out of the Top 30 since its release just before Christmas so you suspect it is on its way out at long last.
Are we clutching at straws to find something else interesting to say about the chart this week? Well in all honesty yes. Six Top 10 new entries aside, very little makes much of an impact. Time to scan the release schedules for the week I think - and with new releases from Alicia Keys, Beyonce and the Scissor sisters, the first single from hot new pop prospects McFly, the Pet Shop Boys with one of their best records for ages plus the tearful farewell from Atomic Kitten I think we can safely expect some action seven days hence.