At the risk of starting two weeks running with the same theme, yes it is summer. Schools may be out but people are concentrating on jetting away on holiday, leaving the record industry treading water to a certain degree. The roadmap of the year tends to work out the same time and time again and it is a universally accepted fact that the September and October period is the best time to push your major new releases - just in time for them to be established as must-haves for that all important Christmas period. In the meantime that leaves us with August where nothing much really happens, save for the tantalising possibility that an unfancied outsider may come up on the ropes and have the biggest hit of the year. It has been known, trust me.
For this week however it is left to established stars Busted to fly the flag at the very top once more, Thunderbirds/3AM refusing to budge from its debut position last week. This is you will note something of a watershed for the three lads as it marks the first time that they have managed more than a solitary week at the top of the charts. I've criticised them in the past for being one-week wonders, their records charging down the listings with indecent haste once the initial hype is over. This single appears to be different though, although how much of a factor the Thunderbirds theme has been is something of an unknown quantity.
The biggest new hit of the week goes to the lady who has to be acknowledged as one of pop music's first ladies of the moment. Following an extended layoff to battle cancer, Anastacia returned to the charts earlier this year with a track that not only showed the quality of her material was as good as ever but that her fan base remained extremely loyal. Not only that but Left Outside Alone went on to become one of the most consistently selling singles of the year, spending a quite astonishing 11 weeks inside the Top 10 and in the process becoming her biggest hit single ever, hitting Number 3. Now she follows it up with an equally impressive sounding track, penned by songwriting giants Dallas Austin and Glen Ballard, one which storms its way into the Top 5 to give her two successive Top 10 singles for the first time in her career. Anastacia's big selling point is that she appeals to a wide range of record buyers. The teenage girls who snap up Busted singles also love Anastacia for being an inspiring, powerful woman with a range of uplifting songs to sing. The older album buying crowd go for her as an adult artist, free from the stigma of being a cheesy pop act and with some immaculately produced records. Ticking all those boxes is record company paydirt, trust me.
Another female artist clearly on a roll at the moment is Avril Lavigne who has successfully channelled the impact made by her first album into a successful sophomore effort, no mean feat in this here today gone tomorrow age of youthful hitmakers. Following on from the Top 5 success of Don't Tell Me from back in May she hits the Top 10 again with a track widely regarded as one of the best from its parent album. My Happy Ending appears to have been all over the radio in recent weeks and its reward is to become her fifth Top 10 single since she began her career in 2002. Her only problem is that My Happy Ending is another of those tracks that just sounds too angry for its own good and loses its appeal if you are not 15 and pissed off with the world. Whilst I'd hate for her to be churning things out to the same formula over and over again, another Skater Boi wouldn't hurt.
Funnily enough, female rock is responsible for the next new entry on the chart this week, an impressive debut single for Ana Johnsson. We Are would have made a credible debut in its own right but has undoubtedly been helped by its prominent use on the soundtrack of the 'Spider-Man 2' movie. This is where being a music reviewer actually becomes quite hard. After all, what else does one say about a single other than "it is really good and a big hit record." Because that is what this is. Incidentally, the Spider-Man soundtrack will come back into play later as well.
Moving into the Top 20 now and at Number 14 is a new entry for Stellar Project featuring Brandi Emma. Get Up Stand Up is actually a cut above your average dance single, a slow burning mid tempo track doesn't exactly command you to go and dance but gently persuades you that it would be a rather good idea. Yes, we have invented a new genre. The polite club track. Go out and buy Get Up Stand Up because in actual fact it would be rude not to.
When I was at school the word "project" used to fill me with dread but here we are now with two successive "projects" both with new entries. Hard on the heels of the Stellar one we have the DT8 Project, the brainchild of producer Darren Tate. Tate's name has been on the credits of any number of club tracks over the years, having worked extensively with Jurgen Vries to turn him into a hitmaker. He was also the producer on Judge Jules' Angelic project a few years back as well. In short, it is a worthy CV and he now adds to it with this mesmerising slice of Ibiza flavoured dance, awash with strings and synths but which has enough fairy dust to make it stand out from the crowd. OK so I may be influenced by listening to this with the sun streaming down on the balcony and with the docks glistening blue below me but what the heck, if music cannot touch your emotions in exactly the right way at any given moment, what is the point of listening to it in the first place?
So what of the Spider-Man 2 soundtrack which has already contributed one new entry to the chart. The second comes at Number 29 in the shape of Switchfoot's Meant To Live which serves as the main theme to the movie. The track represents a secular breakthrough for the band who until now have seen their appeal confined to the Christian rock circuit. As has been shown in the past, the most successful God-rockers are the ones who can write songs that have a spiritual message without slipping into the trap of banging on about Jesus etc. and thus alienating a mainstream audience. Meant To Live almost certainly has a deeper message if you care to read into it but can be viewed as a straightforward rock song - which of course does it no harm at all. I'm just wondering now what could become of the other song that prominently features in the film - Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head. OK, it is a tongue in cheek inclusion to the soundtrack, but who can say they did not exit the theatre humming it to themselves?
Hiding amongst the also-rans at the bottom end of the chart (in fact as the lowest new entry) is the long overdue comeback for Angie Stone. The female rapper turned soul singer has been rather quiet for the last couple of years, her last solo single coming in July 2002 when I Wish I Didn't Miss You hit a rather lacklustre Number 30. She was last seen on the chart at the back end of last year, guest starring on Blue's version of Signed Sealed Delivered I'm Yours alongside no less a figure than Steve Wonder. Her chart return on her own record comes complete with a guest performance from Snoop Dogg who himself has been absent from the Top 40 for over a year, his burgeoning Hollywood career taking priority for the moment it seems [that's a reference to his role as Huggy Bear in the Starsky & Hutch movie which was also out around this time].