This singles chart just seems to swing wildly in all kinds of directions doesn't it? One week there will be a flood of new entries, kicking sales up to one of their best levels of the year, the next week very little activity of note, prompting headlines about low selling Number Ones and with the death of the single being predicted (again). This week we are back to the busy times again as the chart is invaded by more new entries than you can shake a stick at.
For the second week running though everyone has been caught out big style as there was every expectation that the Manic Street Preachers would storm to the top of the charts thanks to a very clever marketing ploy. Yet again Eric Prydz has surprised us all and after returning to the top of the chart last week, Call On Me holds firm yet again to spend a second straight week at the summit and its fifth in total, putting it ahead as the most successful record since Where Is The Love by the Black Eyed Peas managed six weeks at the top in September last year. In spite of this, the fact that its success has come at a rather flat time for sales has meant that Call On Me is still a long way from being one of the biggest selling singles of the year. Current estimates have it as having sold around 225,000 copies so far - enough to make it around the tenth best seller so far. Best seller Eamon's F**k It has sold more than half a million to date. [To put this in context, 2004 was the 21st century nadir for singles sales and indeed only the 9 biggest of the year managed to top 250,000 when the final tally came in. Just two sold over half a million. The second we'll get to at Christmas].
So what of the Number One single that wasn't? The Manic Street Preachers have not been seen on the chart for two years now but this week storm back with a single that may not have been the Number One everyone was expecting but which still becomes their biggest hit single in almost five years, their first Top 3 hit since The Masses Against The Classes topped the chart in January 2000. Of course fine artists that the Manics are and the quality of the single notwithstanding, they are never shy of using every gimmick in the book to promote their singles. Thus The Masses was released in a strictly limited edition almost five years ago - essentially if you didn't buy it in the first week of release you would have had trouble finding it. This factor alone helped it to the top. 15 months later they were at it again, becoming the first mainstream act to release two singles on the same day, resulting in Found That Soul and So Why So Sad hitting Nos 9 and 8 respectively in March 2001. The Love Of Richard Nixon adds a new trick to their canon, one which is perfectly legal in chart terms but which has been deliberately designed to encourage multiple purchases. The single came complete with a special offer whereby you could go to most major high street record chains (and many independents too) and purchase all three formats (2 track CD, 3 track CD and DVD) for just £5. You don't have to be a maths expert to work out what the effect of this has been - an instant smash hit for the Welsh wizards. Had they made Number One of course they would have made a fair number of headlines I will wager. Perhaps they should have worn leotards. [This was the first of what would end up as a curious trio of Number 2 hits for the group, even if it took three years to get there].
Honours for the second biggest new hit of the week go to Kelis and Andre 3000 who crash in to the Top 5 with Millionaire. The single is taken from Kelis' album and ranks as her third hit single of the year, a followup to her two Number 2 hits Milkshake and Trick Me. Kelis first duetted with Andre 3000 on the Outkast track Dracula's Wedding and the rapper/singer now returns the favour on this single, a world away from what you would expect it to be, the single oozing out of the speakers in a manner that is far from unpleasant.
This mini invasion of R&B stars continues in the shape of R Kelly who has been absent from the chart since November last year when Step In The Name Of Love hit Number 14. His return to the Top 10 comes thanks to the title track from his latest double album offering (such is his ego or his productivity that he can never release just a single album it seems). Fortunately Happy People is well worth the wait, a bouncing disco track that harks back to a simpler age of dance music when all you needed was a voice, a bassline and the urge to get up and dance. OK it is not his greatest hit ever and hardly a masterpiece but it still sounds incredibly good to hear. Chalk this up as his 8th Top 10 hit single, a surprisingly low total given his long standing appeal.
Now for a single that comes a little out of left field but which in the light of other recent chart events seems to make perfect sense. After all we are only a few short weeks away from their 80s contemporaries Duran Duran having their biggest hit for years and Marilyn Manson having a hit single with his own take on one of their old hits - so why not Depeche Mode themselves back in the Top 10? The latest album from Depeche Mode takes the surprising form of a remix album. Rather than just trotting out another Greatest Hits collection they have instead gathered together some of the more famous contemporary remixes of their old hits and added to them some new mixes from some familiar and rather unusual names. To promote this the first single is a newly mixed version of their award-winning 1990 hit Enjoy The Silence, hailed by most as one of their best ever singles. Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda has mixed the track for the lead single on the CD, transforming it from the sparse but haunting electronica of the original into revolutionary nu-metal style. The sense of melancholy of the original still remains but this is essentially the most unique sounding Depeche Mode single you will ever hear. I suspect there will be some hardcore fans disgusted by this treatment of it, but having said that the remix culture that surrounds Depeche Mode tracks (hence the album) means that most will listen to it with an open mind. The track is their first Top 10 hit since Dream On made Number 6 in May 2001 but cannot quite beat the peak of the original version of Enjoy The Silence which also made Number 6 in February 1990.
The fifth new entry inside the Top 10 is one which proves that it is still possible for old Pop Idols to have hits. Darius Danesh was of course one of the stars of the first Pop Idol series, bouncing back after making a fool of himself in the original Popstars series to become one of the contenders for the solo crown, eventually being beaten into third place behind Will Young and Gareth Gates. Still, it gave him the chance to make good on his long standing promise to have a Number One hit single, Colourblind topping the charts in August 2002 and kicking off a run of four hit singles from his debut album. Two years down the line he is back with a second album and a brand new hit single which defies many expectations and flies nicely into the Top 10. Darius' main problem is the sheer overpowering self-confidence that saw him through the TV talent shows in the first place. All his singles appear to drown in their own lyrical cleverness to the extent that you sometimes feel you are listening to a man determined to show off to the class bullies rather than simply entertain. Simon Cowell of all people once said that Darius' problem is that he simply isn't as good as he believes himself to be, the net result of this being in my view that you want to avoid his records just to rub his nose in it, regardless of how tuneful they happen to be. For the moment of course nobody has their nose rubbed in anything, Kinda Love is his fourth Top 10 hit single.
Another long string of new entries line up inside the Top 20, the list headed by rapper Lil' Flip whose debut hit Sunshine lands nicely at Number 14. A popular radio hit for the last few weeks, Sunshine is straight out of the Nelly songbook, a laid back pleasant rap augmented by a breathy female vocal hook. Formulaic it most certainly is, but not a bad single for all that in all honesty.
Next up are the Zutons who suddenly turn potential into reality. Don't Ever Think (Too Much) is their fourth single release of the year and their biggest to date. They had appeared to be suffering from diminishing returns after making a Number 19 splash with their debut single Pressure Point back in January. Their last single Remember Me which came out in July barely scraped the Top 40 but this time they are back with a bang, back in the Top 20 and in sales terms within an ace of having a Top 10 hit for the first time.
At Number 18 are Placebo who can also have cause to celebrate this week. Brian Molko's band had managed 8 consecutive Top 20 hits between 1997 and 2003 but saw that run come to an end last year when This Picture made a lowly Number 23. Since then they have not managed to chart any higher, last single English Summer Rain also only to make Number 23. Twenty Years is thus something of a return to chart form for the group. The single is taken from their Greatest Hits collection which is released this week.
If only the same kind of consistency could be acknowledged for Travis. Remember in 1999 when they were the greatest band on the planet, being showered with awards and with an album which was the definitive sound of the summer of that year? Now they are limping along attempting to recapture lost form. A measure of just how far they had declined came in April when their long awaited new single Love Will Come Through made a miserable Number 28, their smallest hit single since they were relative unknowns back in 1997. Second release Walking In The Sun does slightly better but still only just scrapes a Top 20 entry point, being outsold in the process by the debut single from Scottish electro-wizard Mylo.
Just below them at Number 21 is one of the more notable singles of the week. The Dualers are brothers Si Cristome and Tyber O'Neil and are a celebrated presence on the streets of South London as some of the capital's most famous buskers. Their mix of doo-wop and ska has led to them playing some more formal concerts as well, but out of the sheer love of it they still regularly take to the streets to perform. Now they have taken their brand of DIY music a step further, recording a single for real and then persuading local record shops to stock it. Hence Kiss On The Lips hits the chart this week, thanks to sales almost totally concentrated in the Croydon and Bromley areas. Ordinarily such geographically focused marketing sets alarm bells ringing at chart compilers Millward Brown but just for a change a sale of this kind is totally legitimate. Just by playing and promoting themselves in their local area the brothers have become fully fledged chart stars.
Elsewhere on the chart there are new entries for Bjork (Who Is It duly becoming her first single to make the Top 30 since 2001), Slipknot (following their concert tour over here and with their second hit of the year) and even German metal legends Rammestein who sneak in at Number 38 with Amerika, only their third ever Top 40 hit in this country following a brace of singles in 2002. One act who will be cursing their luck at having missed out on the apparent nostalgia boom that has overwhelmed the charts lately are the Cure. Number 39 new entry Taking Off is their second single of the year, the followup to The End Of The World which hit Number 25 back in July. They must be asking why if Duran Duran can go Top 10 and if Depeche Mode can do the same with a remixed version of an old song, why are they stuck down the bottom as an afterthought?
We haven't had a look at the d/l chart for a few weeks but with news that the OCC are experimenting with combining the sales and downloads listings ready for a launch next year, it is worth taking a look at what the more electronic side of the market is doing [the answer? Bearing no resemblance to the physical one thanks to the growing number of online-exclusive releases]. U2's embracing of the digital age is serving them well with iPod advert track Vertigo holding firm at the top. Fellow online pioneers Marillion have the second biggest hit of the week with The Damage whilst also having a presence in the Top 10 is William Shatner's extraordinary rendition of Common People - a cult airplay hit but for the moment not scheduled for a physical release. If nothing else this shows the power of the download market - giving people the power to buy the songs they want regardless of the wishes of the marketing men [the shape of things to come]. Bring it on I say.