What a great, great week this is. Some of the best singles of the year so far released, some major breakthroughs for some well deserving acts and a nice bit of controversy as well.
Let's start at the top though and all our predictions were wrong. STILL there is nothing under ordinary circumstances that is capable of toppling Crazy from the Number One position. The result is a jaw-dropping ninth week at the summit for Gnarls Barkley. To put this in perspective, only eight other singles can boast a nine week run at the top, these figures only bettered by the elite six records which have made it into double figures since 1952. The big question now - can Crazy become one of these, or will it wind up as the first chart hit since Two Tribes by Frankie Goes To Hollywood in 1984 to fall off the top after nine weeks.
It is actually a bigger ask than would otherwise have been the case as record company Warner Brothers have finally thrown in the towel and this week will delete the physical single - ie remove it from the catalogue of stock that is available for high street shops to order. Now interestingly enough the last single to be deleted in the middle of a long run at the top was also the last single to have a similar kind of run at Number One - Love Is All Around by Wet Wet Wet. Back then the immediate effect was to double the sales of the track, ensuring it easily spent a 15th week at the summit just when it looked threatened. Back in the present, this action will also draw a line under the chart career of the single as it officially now has just two more weeks of chart action left before it is rendered ineligible under chart rules.
As to whether or not this is a good thing, I am torn. On the one hand, you can sympathise with the position of the record company. Crazy is in danger of becoming just too big a single, one that effectively eclipses any attempt by the act performing it to move on. The serious danger is that the many superb tracks on the St Elsewhere album will simply wind up ignored no matter how much promotional effort is put into them. Nothing they release will ever be as good as Crazy in the minds of most people. Just look at the way the summer of 2005 pigeonholed the careers of James Blunt and Daniel Powter. Both have released other singles since their summertime smashes. Neither have succeeded in living up to them either. Hence the deletion - forcibly moving people on, whatever the cost.
On the other hand, of course, this once again demonstrates the clueless nature of the record industry. Removing the single from physical sale (despite attempts by some acts in the States, you can't really delete a download without driving people to illegal sites) they are effectively saying to the public: "you don't decide what music to listen to, we tell you what you like", which is both offensive and barmy. The marketing tool of the singles chart has helped Gnarls Barkley become the most talked about act of the year, generating headlines galore and making the Number One single important just because of what it is. We the people have spoken, but the suits in the boardroom know better than you or me. We shouldn't be too surprised - this is, after all, an industry which threatens its own customers with prosecution for the heinous crime of telling other people what they have on their hard drives and which bombards people who have bought CDs with patronising inserts telling them how evil record piracy is. Are these harsh words? It is what it amounts to. Do you really think the casual record buyer (you know, the ones who have deserted the industry in droves since the late 90s) who pops into HMV to buy that Crazy song they keep hearing on the radio will bother coming back once they have been told the song isn't available for them anymore? Of course not.
Never mind, if you want proof of why this may not be a problem much longer and why record companies in their current form have about five years of life left in them [tiny bit pessimistic there, they are still around even in an era when nobody buys anything any more], check out the Number 2 single this week. Sandi Thom's I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker hits the shops and flies 15-2 on the chart to further cement the singer as one of the big discoveries of the year. Discovered by you and me of course, not by her label. Indeed the album that RCA are set to release is a virtually untouched collection of songs which she had recorded over the past couple of years and which she was performing on the infamous webcam world tour via which she became an internet phenomenon. OK, so RCA records have provided the distribution muscle and given her the opportunity to rake in thousands of "proper" sales but essentially Sandi Thom has bypassed the usual record label development process completely. She would have become famous major label deal or no major label deal. So take heart, thanks to Sandi Thom, the people who decided that you can't buy Gnarls Barkley anymore are the ones whose jobs will cease to exist in a few years time.
OK, now onto much much brighter things. Famous internet movie critic Harry Knowles has this theory that the way you react to a movie depends on how the day has shaped your frame of mind when you first see it. So let's apply this theory to a pop record. Five or six weeks ago, for reasons I won't bore you with here, I was awake on the sofa in agonising pain at about 4am [gallstones if anyone cares]. To take my mind off things I was watching VH1 classic when an ad break came on, devoted entirely to a new single by Primal Scream. There were no captions to identify it, and as I willed the painkillers to kick in, all I knew was that the record and its eye-catching video was something I had to hear again at the earliest opportunity. That's a great feeling.
It's been four years since the last Primal Scream album proper (2003s Dirty Hits collection excluded), their 2002 release Evil Heat spawned one Top 30 single and one further flop, and the new release from the hits album (their version of Some Velvet Morning) didn't even trouble the Top 40. For a group with a decade and half of hits behind them and some famous classics to their name, this was a genuine low point. All of which makes Country Girl such a joy. To perhaps the dismay of some, Bobby Gillespie and his bandmates have broken no new ground here, but instead gone back to the roots rock of their 1994 album Give Out But Don't Give Up. Hence the new single is the closest you will get to a British C&W song, full of spiralling guitars, foot stomping rhythms and a singalong chorus that is easily the most infectious of the year. Having made an impressive Number 23 on downloads alone last week, the single has now flown to Number 5 to become what is astoundingly their biggest hit ever - surpassing the Number 7 peak of Rocks from, you guessed it, 1994. It makes all the weeks spent counting down to its release seem pretty worthwhile.
Just below at Number 6 is a record which inspires joy of an entirely different kind. First, we have to backtrack a little to a couple of years ago when the big new UK rap prospect was a pram-faced teenager from Wembley called Louise Harman. Under the moniker of Lady Sovereign she became the darling of the grime scene and with a deal with Island records signed last year, she was set to cross over and become a proper pop star. The cheeky rap of 9 to 5 was to be the single which did it, a tongue in cheek account of the promotional slog she was forced to undertake when she'd rather just be in bed. Released as her second single in August last year it limped to Number 33 and then vanished, to the horror of the Popjustice forums. Followup Hoodie failed to make the Top 40 and then Lady Sov herself seemed to vanish. In fact what she'd done was go to America where just like Monie Love a generation earlier the New York hip hop community thought she was some kind of new genius. Def Jam records snapped her up and put her to work with Missy Elliott. Screw the UK and the ignorant press who saw her as a chav.
Then something weird happened. The Ordinary Boys got famous thanks to Preston and Big Brother. Due to the ska-influenced production on the original 9 to 5, the group had been invited to contribute to a "remix" of the track which appeared on the 12-inch single and which even had an alternative video created for it. In search of a follow-up to Boys Will Be Boys, their mutual labels suddenly realised they had a win-win situation on their hands. Hence a new version of the single tweaked slightly in post production and now rebranded as a joint performance by the Ordinary Boys and Lady Sovereign. Retitled Nine2Five and after several TV appearances, the single is suddenly a smash hit, rising 32-6 this week. The label was right. Everyone is a winner here. We get to hear a record that was an undeserved flop become the hit it always should have been. The Ordinary Boys release a credible single that undoes any of the damage done by the ubiquity of "Prestelle" in Heat magazine, and Lady Sovereign - the girl from a North London council estate whom America was hailing as a hip-hop genius is suddenly a star in her own country, even if she did have to end up as guest star on her own record to do it. [Ordinary Boys videos seem impossible to find on YouTube, including this one, hence the Top Of The Pops performance from the dying days of the show. This gave the amazing Lady Sovereign a hit though, and deserves love for this alone].
Now, when Busted called it a day, did anyone expect all three members of the group to go on to other musical success? We'll it's happened. Already we've had hits from Charlie's Fightstar and James' Son Of Dork so now it is time for Matt Willis to prove there is life after a teen group. Eschewing the "my new band" approach of the others, Matt has instead shot for solo glory. His first single Up All Night this week shoots into the Top 10 (actually making a 52-7 leap after appearing online first). Matt has the advantage of having been the de-facto lead singer of Busted, making his voice instantly recognisable even if his new single is a little under-melodied in its chase to be a storming rock track. It's actually the last record you'd expect a teen audience to go for, but with the single an easy Top 10 hit you have to conclude that just like Fightstar and Son Of Dork, the old Busted fanbase is still loyal to their idols and willing to snap up their music. Still, if the fans of a pop band are now being weaned on a diet of rock, is that really such a bad thing?
As if to stick two fingers up at the people of Europe who rejected him, British Eurovision hopeful Daz Sampson is on the move and this week climbs four places to take Teenage Life to Number 8 and into the Top 10. Not only does this make the song the first Eurovision-related Top 10 hit since Precious' Say It Again in 1999 it actually becomes Daz' joint biggest hit as a performer, matching the chart position he scaled as a member of Bus Stop with Kung Fu Fighting back in 1998. I know both Daz and his manager Joe Taylor read these pages avidly. If I'm wrong gents, you know where to write.
Effectively this week there are six new hits in the Top 10, even if none of them are actually new entries as such. The final place is filled by The Feeling who soar 28-10 with the physical release of second hit single Fill My Little World. The track if anything is the superior follow-up to Sewn which made Number 7 back in March. If you can listen to this single without the Beatles and Jeff Lynn-esque harmonies bringing a smile to your face then I fear for you.
The other big gainer of the week is Nerina Pallot who leaps 37-14 with her first ever hit single Everybody's Gone To War. Her tale is a lesson in perseverance, a struggle for fame dating back to 2001 when she released her first album Dear Frustrated Superstar. The title proved prophetic as first single Patience made a lowly Number 61 before her label got cold feet and pulled the entire album just as she was about to go on tour with Bryan Adams. It was also around this time that an incident occurred that has since become the stuff of music industry legend, Pallot posting a message on the then quite influential Tipsheet message board blasting the incompetence of her A&R manager. Needless to say, she didn't remain on her label for very much longer. Her "new" album Fires actually came out first time around last year on an independent label with Everybody's Gone To War available as a download only single. Now with a major label signing the album has been remixed to give it a little more kick and it seems as if long, long last Nerina Pallot is about to get the commercial attention her long-suffering fans have always yearned for. OK so the single is only Top 20 but there is better to come you can guarantee.
The biggest new entries proper inside the Top 20 are new singles from Keane and Pink, both of which chart on download sales only and can be expected to find a berth in the Top 10 next week. The exception is the single at Number 22, Sin Sin Sin from Robbie Williams which actually did have a physical release last week and so, as a result, can be considered a genuine flop in Robbie terms. No single he has ever been involved with, right the way back to his Take That days, has ever failed to make at least the Top 20. Worryingly a fifth single from the Intensive Care album is set for release in the summer - could that wind up charting even lower?
The Michael Jackson single of the week is his 1992 seasonal release Heal The World which originally rounded off Side 1 of the Dangerous album and which actually had most critics sniggering at the time for its blatant resemblance to the USA For Africa charity single We Are The World (which Jacko also wrote). It's the lowest charting DualDisc re-release to date, slinking in at a mere Number 27. Are these records going to be missing the Top 40 altogether by the time we get around to the HIStory stuff?