[Historical note: this was genuinely the week that things changed forever as far as the music industry was concerned. On June 15th 2004 the iTunes store formally launched in the UK. And the first nail was hammered in the coffin of the old fashioned physical single].
Now this is actually quite refreshing. Just for a change, the big story of the week isn't the Number One single. That is actually a non-story, Mario Winans et al holding firm for a second week without ever being challenged too severely. Good for you if you like and bought the record but really the true story is below.
The advantage of being paid to have an opinion is that you don't always have to be correct. Last week I suspected that the failure of the Farm's All Together Now 2004 track to chart any higher than Number 10 was due to the singles buying public being bored of football songs, despite the buildup to Euro 2004 and that it augured ill for the other football related singles due to come out. As it turns out we were just getting warmed up.
The two that enter the chart this week both have something in common as both have been heavily promoted by rival radio stations. In the blue corner, we have 4-4-2 with Come On England, sponsored and heavily promoted by national sports station talkSPORT. In the red corner are Twisted X with Born In England, a veritable supergroup put together by London alternative station XFM's breakfast host Christian O'Connell and hyped to the hills by him and his colleagues.
In the interests of full disclosure, I must confess that I cannot in any way pretend to be impartial in this battle. I work for talkSPORT both behind the scenes and sometimes on air, the people you see dancing around in the video are some of my best friends and I will be part of a cast of thousands (almost) due to perform Come On England on Top Of The Pops later this week [more on this in the next column]. Having said that I never in a million years expected it to do this well. The track is based on a genuine 100% classic - namely Come On Eileen by Dexy's Midnight Runners which topped the charts back in 1982 and to this day remains a party floor filler and an immediate choice for one of the best pop records ever made. It was a bold move to rewrite the lyrics as a football anthem but this is what 4-4-2 chose to do - and pulled it off magnificently. Forget the (admittedly valid) point of view that it was a lazy piece of songwriting and a bowlderisation of an established classic. The charts were clearly crying out for a football anthem to bawl along to and Come On England achieves that perfectly. Radio airplay has been almost non-existent for the track and its position in the charts owes a great deal to the normally all-speech radio station playing the track once almost every two hours and propelling it into the charts. It becomes the biggest new hit of the week and dare I say it, a possible contender to go even higher than its Number 2 placing.
Not that the official song has done that badly either, The Farm rise five places this week to place the remixed version of All Together Now at Number 5, now just one place below the peak it originally scaled back in 1990.
The loser in the battle, if you can really call it that, is Twisted X. A supergroup to rival all others, the collective consists of members from The Wheatleys, Supergrass, The Delays, The Libertines along with contributions from Bernard Butler and actor James Nesbitt, plus of course Christian O'Connell himself. The idea was to create a credible anthem for Euro 2004, born out of a desire to outdo the Football Association's official track which at one stage appeared set to be performed by Blazin' Squad. Born In England almost works - but not quite and what could have been a genuine classic ends up being a shouty mess in search of a chorus. XFM and its sister stations have promoted the track with the required sense of pride but in the event, they appear to have been outplayed by the considerably less cool but somehow more charming sound of the 4-4-2 track and can only manage a Number 9 entry.
The battle of the radio-sponsored chart songs must make bittersweet viewing for the now scandalously unemployed Darryl Denham who in 2002 was behind the England Boys track Go England (a rewrite of The Jam's Going Underground you will note, making 4-4-2's idea even less original than it first appeared). Despite the efforts of him and his colleagues on Virgin Radio the track only made a lowly Number 26.
Time we move off the football records now and backtrack just a moment as we've skipped over one other rather surprising new entry. Honours for the second biggest new hit of the week go to the Number 3 hit, a novelty track from Europe sung in what almost sounds like gibberish but which in the process has become one of the catchiest hits of the summer. O-Zone's Dragostea Din Tei has been a smash hit all over Europe already this year and the UK has turned out not to be immune to its charms. Dan Balan, Radu Sarbu and Arsenie all hail from Moldova but their track originally came out in Romania and in the spirit of the new expanded Europe rapidly spread in popularity across the continent. Perhaps more so than any novelty Euro track of the last few years, this one all but defies adequate description. Imagine the most stupid sounding, inane and incomprehensible track you can, set it to a Eurobeat, believe on first hearing that nobody in their right mind would ever buy it and you have the track in a nutshell. Quite inspired.
Lining up just below Born In England are three tracks which can feel hard done by, having missed out by a whisker on a higher placing. Kanye West at least makes the Top 10 with All Falls Down, his follow-up to Through The Wire which matches the peak of his earlier hit. Having sampled Chaka Khan for his last single, the rapper now takes on Lauryn Hill for this track, the vocal here being supplied by Syleena Johnson. Reviews for Kanye West are overwhelmingly positive but I can't help feeling a little disappointed this single did not make a stronger chart showing. Maybe if he mentioned football.
Just below are VS, charting with the follow-up to Love You Like Mad which was a Number 7 hit back in March. By missing the Top 10, even by a whisker they can be accused of having underperformed. The Scissor Sisters can feel a little more encouraged by the Number 12 success of their third single Laura as it eclipses with ease the Number 17 peak of their last hit Take Your Mama. The fact the single has done so well is all the more surprising given the way their album has been a consistent Top 10 resident since the start of the year.
Number 14 sees a chart debut for Candee Jay who loses points for having a slow loading website while her reviewer is temporarily without a broadband connection but gains points for being gorgeous and Dutch and also making music that sounds a little like early 90s Eurostars Culture Beat. No that isn't faint praise, I'm genuine.
Fans of Janet Jackson must be wondering just what she has to do to have a major hit again. April's Just A Little While actually wasn't half bad but with her music seemingly eclipsed by nipple-gate it could only make what was for her a rather shocking Number 15, shocking indeed as it was a brand new single from a brand new album. Her second release of the year All Night (Don't Stop) fares little better, admittedly still creeping into the Top 10 but at Number 19 taking over the mantle of her lowest charting single for almost eight years. It is also the first time since 1994 that she has gone more than three singles without a Top 10 hit. Don't write her off just yet but her chart performances of late are a continuing reminder that not even established superstars are immune from poor musical form.
Outside the Top 20 there are new entries for Jurgen Vries (his first hit since October last year), Mark Owen and Speedway (the follow-up to Can't Turn Back which made a rather more impressive Number 12 compared to the Number 31 of this latest hit). Bringing up the rear at Number 39 are Linkin Park but fret not, Breaking The Habit is merely charting here on import. Its full release is this week and it is set to become a massive new entry on the chart in seven days time. Dare we bring up the rear as well by commiserating with Ruslana whose Eurovision winner Wild Dances makes a derisory Number 47. Plans for her to become the East European Shakira I suspect will be put on hold for a little while. [Who cares, I still loved it].