Once upon a time, round about the start of a new year a new band emerged. Everyone who heard their first single raved about it, shouted about it from the rooftops and declared that they were going to be the biggest thing in rock, the exciting new sound of Britain that everyone had been waiting for to inject some life into a rather stale music scene. They were called Gay Dad and alas it was not to be. Their second single turned out to be a poor shadow of the first and upon hearing it those who proclaimed them as the saviours of rock attempted to distance themselves from their comments.
On the other hand, once upon a time not long after the start of a new year, a new band began to be written about. Everyone who saw them live and heard their early singles raved about them, began speculating wildly that they were going to be the shot in the arm that British music needed. As it turns out they were completely correct. Aside from some wrinkles along the way, a decade later Oasis are rightly regarded as musical giants with some classic singles to their name and worthy of continuing debate over whether their latest album is better or worse than the previous one.
How is all this relevant to this week's chart you may ask? Well substitute "Arctic Monkeys" into either one of the two stories above and you have your answer. So much has been written about the group, so many people have laid their reputations on the line and talked them up as the greatest thing to happen to music in a generation (almost) that some of my more cynical colleagues are wondering just how much more of this they can take. For every "hot new band" that turns into Oasis, there are countless more who turn out to be just another Gay Dad and nobody is really sure into which chasm the Arctic Monkeys will tumble.
For the moment they have very little to worry about. Following on from their much-applauded debut single I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor, the group once again charge to the very top of the chart with their second single. When The Sun Goes Down is possibly not quite as catchy as its predecessor but actually stands up as a better declaration of intent of what the band are all about, a crunching rock track with more than a passing nod back to the golden age of new wave. Fans of pop will be horrified but fans of real music, blokes playing guitars very fast and very loud, will take some joy from the sight of their second straight Number One single. For the moment the jury is still out on just how great the Arctic Monkeys are likely to become but there is no denying that pretty much all of their debut album (out this week) is worthy of close attention. True greatness will come when they release a classic single which I don't think they have done so far [controversial and debatable - this one is extraordinarily good]. Part of the excitement of the next few months I suspect will be waiting for them to do so.
With the Shayne Ward and Nizlopi hegemony having held up the top end of the chart by selling in quantities some way below normal levels, it was inevitable that all it would take was a wave of big new singles to wipe their chart positions out completely. So it proves this week as the entire Top 4 is at long last taken up with some brand new entries.
Second in the queue is a record which I guess was a natural progression from the success of 2Pac and Elton John's Ghetto Gospel from last year. The equally deceased Notorious BIG is currently the subject of a new album Duets: The Final Chapter which similarly sees his old material re-cut and reworked to feature performances from some rather more sentient modern day stars. The first single to be lifted from the project now makes an impressive debut at Number 2 on the chart. Nasty Girl began life as the track Nasty Boy but now becomes a pop hit with the addition of extra vocals from the likes of P Diddy and Nelly. Unlike 2Pac whose posthumous release tally has become something of a standing joke, the plundering of Biggie's back catalogue has actually been rather more restrained since his passing in 1997. This is Notorious BIG's first chart hit since Notorious B.I.G. (complete with Duran Duran samples) made Number 16 in February 2000 and his first Top 10 hit since Mo Money Mo Problems hit Number 6 shortly after his death in the summer of 1997. Nasty Girl thus gives the late rapper his biggest ever hit single and but for the Arctic Monkeys we would have had the bizarre sight of two deceased rappers topping the charts almost a decade after they were killed within a few months of each other.
Something approaching normality returns at Number 3 with the arrival on the chart of Will Young's All Time Love. The follow-up to November's Number 5 hit Switch It On (always a bold choice of single), this new hit takes Will back to rather more familiar territory with a sweet love song that shows off the latent choirboy in his voice to full effect. The original Pop Idol clearly has his sights set on a a more adult crowd these days but it is to his full credit that he is still capable of landing a Top 3 hit with what looks like consummate ease. It's his ninth hit single (including the 2002 duet with Gareth Gates on The Long And Winding Road) and his first Top 3 hit since Your Game also made Number 3 back in March 2004. Listening to All Time Love one more time, I can't help but wonder how long it will be before the inevitable Katie Melua duet appears. Go on Sony, do it. Such a single would be unstoppable.
The fourth new entry on the chart this week slides in at Number 4 as after taking a year off for the Destiny's Child reunion, Beyonce returns to her solo career and proves that the break has done her no harm at all. Check On It proves that nobody in their right mind messes with a winning formula, Check On It being a bubbly three and a half minutes of bump-start R&B with her voice sounding as wonderful as ever and a rap from guest star Slim Thug the icing on the cake. The track actually first appeared at the end of last year tacked on to the Destiny's Child hits compilation 1's and now makes an appearance in its own right thanks to its use on the soundtrack of the forthcoming Pink Panther movie. The single duly becomes her first solo Top 5 hit since Baby Boy hit Number 2 back in October 2003.
The pair may have famously fallen out over the Beatles back catalogue, but back in the 1980s Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson were superstar pals both in and out of the studio. The meeting of minds produced two hit singles, perhaps the most famous of which was the McCartney-led Say Say Say which was a Number 2 hit at the back end of 1983. 26 years on the track returns to the Top 10 as the basis of Hi-Tack's Say Say Say (Waiting 4 U). Before you start worrying, this is a world away from the naff looping house remakes of old pop hits that scarred the club scene last year. No, this is actually a quite inspired use of the old material turning the already catchy song into a towering club masterpiece. OK well at the very least it is actually dead good. I'll take an old Jacko song as a dance record over the Baywatch theme any day.
The sixth Top 10 new entry this week slides in almost unnoticed at Number 10. Eddie's Song is the second single from Son Of Dork, the band born out of the ashes of former pop favourites Busted. Like its predecessor Ticket Outta Loserville (a Number 3 hit at the end of last year) this new single is a crunching slice of American college rock with the added twist of course that it is performed by a bunch of British lads. In a way Son Of Dork are what Busted always should have been about and although following up a Top 3 hit with a single that barely scrapes the Top 10 isn't the best of signs they can at least take heart from the fact that they have already outperformed Fightstar, the other group to emerge from the split of the former teen favourites. Fightstar's last single Grand Unification could only reach Number 20 back in November.
Can it really be two years since I spent every waking moment insisting to people that Belle and Sebastian's last album Dear Catastrophe Waitress was an undiscovered classic? I wasn't the only one who thought so, the acclaimed long player was the kind of masterpiece the group had been working towards ever since their emergence in the late 90s, stuffed with quirky little songs about life and eccentrics but which somehow never found the mainstream audience it deserved. Hence there is a great deal of hope that their forthcoming new release will manage to go the extra yard which is why the release of first single Funny Little Frog was greeted with such joy. For the moment the signs are positive as the single's Number 13 placing is enough to give them their biggest ever chart hit, just eclipsing the Number 14 peak of I'm A Cuckoo from almost two years ago. Keep your fingers crossed for them. Arctic Monkeys may be grabbing all the headlines but if the new Belle and Sebastian album The Life Pursuit becomes the sleeper hit of the spring I'll be one very happy music fan.