A set of very interesting circumstances came together this week to make the weekly chart battle one of the most intriguing for some time. As expected, McFly's sales fell off the proverbial cliff following their usually impressive first week. This results in Don't Stop Me Now/Please Please taking a 1-6 tumble and out of the running altogether.
In its wake, it left five different singles all selling roughly the same amount, and with just one big new release among them, it meant that a clear cut winner had still not emerged by the time the weekend rolled around. Nonetheless, the single that emerged as the biggest seller of the week had in fact been leading from the start. Shakira's Hips Don't Lie has of course already had a spell at the top of the chart, spending a week at the top at the start of July. Since then the single has spent a fortnight at Number 2 behind Smile and last week dipped to Number 3 - all the time selling consistently. Now it achieves the ultimate turnaround, returning to Number One after a gap of three weeks.
For a single to yo-yo at the top is unusual but of course not totally unheard of. The last record to do it was Eric Prydz' Call On Me which had a five week run at the top interrupted by Robbie Williams' Radio in 2004. What makes Hips Don't Lie so unusual is that it spent three weeks away from the summit and let no less than two other singles take its place before this triumphant return. Back in 2001 S Club 7 had two spells at the top with Don't Stop Movin' with a two-week gap in between - but even then just one record replaced it, It's Raining Men by Geri Halliwell. To find a similar set of circumstances we have to go back almost a decade to 1997 and 1998. In '98 Celine Dion's My Heart Will Go On had two spells at Number One, separated by one week stays for both Cornershop with Brimful Of Asha and Madonna with Frozen but that was nothing compared to the performance of the Children In Need all-star recording of Perfect Day which spent two weeks at the top in November 1997 and then pottered around the lower reaches for four weeks, during which time both the Teletubbies and the Spice Girls each had a fortnight at the top. Perfect Day then returned to the summit in mid-January for a further week.
Two final yo-yo performances are worthy of note. First, that of the original version of football anthem 3 Lions which topped the chart for a week in June 1996 and then again four weeks later in July, following a four week run for the Fugees with Killing Me Softly. The all time slowest yo-yo however is that of She Loves You by The Beatles which topped the chart in September 1963 only to be toppled by Do You Love Me by Brian Poole and the Tremeloes on October 10th. It returned to the top on November 28th, deposing Gerry and the Pacemakers in the process after a gap of no less than seven weeks. Better yet the single stayed at Number One for a further two weeks, its run only ended by its own follow-up - I Want To Hold Your Hand. Needless to say She Loves You was at the time the biggest selling single ever and to this day remains Number 7 on the all time list.
So in a way, it is bad luck to Christina Aguilera whose achievement of leaping 18-2 is rather put in the shade by the Shakira track. Never mind, Ain't No Other Man duly becomes her biggest hit single for over three years and if it gets no further will curiously enough become her first ever Number 2 single. So far in her career, her Top 10 hits (of which this is the 13th) have peaked variously at 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8 and 9.
There is another impressive debut in the Top 10 for Madonna who follows up the Number One Sorry with Get Together. It is the first single she has released since the new chart rules came into force and as a result, the Number 45 entry point of the single last week made it her smallest debut for over 20 years. Her most recent long run of Top 10 singles came to a grinding halt at Christmas 2003 when Love Profusion only reached Number 11 so just for a change this is merely her third Top 10 single in a row and sadly one which prevents her yet again from achieving a hat trick of Number One hits. She's managed two in a row no less than four times now and oddly enough each time in the past has followed two Number One hits with a Number 4 single - leaving Get Together with a climb on its hands if it is to repeat the pattern.
The biggest totally new chart entry of the week lands at Number 9 thanks to some cute promotional work by Kasabian. Needing to make a smash after two years away to record their second album, the group decided to turn the conventional promotional pattern on its head. New single Empire remained totally under wraps until last Monday morning when it received its first ever radio play on Radio One. At the moment the track ended, the single was made available online with the physical copies hitting the shops a few hours later. Hence the single has effectively made the chart with mere hours rather than weeks of solid promotion [some kind of revolutionary "on air, on sale" stunt you might say]. Speculation mounted at the start of the week that the track would mount a challenge for the top but in the e, ent the hype surrounding its debut meant that most sales were concentrated at the front of the week. Not that Number 9 is a bad performance at all, enough to make it their third Top 10 single and their second biggest hit so far, just behind the Number 8 peak scaled by Cutt Off in January 2005.
There is a flash of 80s nostalgia at Number 13 this week with Supermode's Tell Me Why leaping into the Top 20 after a download performance gave it a Number 36 placing last week. The work of Swedish producers Axwell and Steve Angello, the track is a looped reworking of Bronski Beat's Smalltown Boy which gave the group their first hit and hit Number 3 in the summer of 1984. The stark tale of a homosexual teenager hounded out of his home introduced the world to the high soprano vocals of Jimmy Somerville for the first time, the singer leaving the group a year later to form the even more successful Communards. I believe I'm correct in saying that Tell Me Why uses Somerville's original vocals which would make this his first chart appearance since Dark Sky made Number 66 in 1997. [The vocals were actually an inch-perfect recreation of the originals by Hal Ritson, fact fans. And Supermode were Axwell and Angelo of the Swedish House Mafia].
Also taking a leap from the lower reaches this week are Snow Patrol whose second single of the year Chasing Cars moves 25-15. As I mentioned last week they struggled to match the Top 5 success of first single Run in 2004 with their next three singles not even making the Top 20. Chasing Cars does at least break that particular duck to become their third biggest hit to date - but I can't be the only one who thinks a Top 10 placing for this track would have been a more worthy honour. [Yeah, it is only going to fall down the charts rapidly after this, no other scenario is conceiveable].
I'm taking a special interest in the performance of the next new entry - Minimal by the Pet Shop Boys. For all the talk about how it was a return to their very best form, their last single I'm With Stupid followed their usual pattern when released back in May. It entered at Number 8 before charging out of the chart as if it had lead weights attached, moving 8-25-47 and out. Second single Minimal was actually originally scheduled to be the first single from the album Fundamental and has been just as well received, the duo proudly noting that it was their first single in a decade to hit the Capital Radio playlist. Sadly 'Minimal' didn't even grace the Top 75 when its downloads became eligible last week and its Number 19 entry point as a result of physical sales will almost certainly be as good as it gets. Perhaps shockingly this will make it the lowest charting Pet Shop Boys single since Was It Worth It made a lowly Number 24 in 1991. Their album may be a return to form artistically but as a singles act, they remain lukewarm at best.
So finally for this week, let's speculate on how well one of the most eagerly awaited singles of the year will perform when its physical sales are counted next week. I refer of course to Stars Are Blind, the track that proves that Paris Hilton's constant talk of becoming a recording star wasn't just a pipe dream. The inconsequential summery track (which countless others before me have compared melodically to reggae standard Kingston Town) has been surprisingly well received by more open minded reviewers, Radio One even playlisting the track for daytime. With that kind of exposure it is actually something of a surprise to see it land at Number 35 thanks to online sales. Next week's chart will prove whether Paris the popstar is a viable prospect or a huge disaster. Just remember that her tabloid enemy Lindsay Lohan made Number 27 with her single Over last year...