13 new entries, 4 climber and no non-movers which makes for a new Number One to be sure.
A little over a year since they marked their big comeback with their last Number One single, Westlife's Christmas campaign of promotion for their latest album kicks off in the traditional manner with yet another chart topper. The song with which they have done this is one with a long and fascinating history for it is surely one of the most well known "lost" singles of all time.
The Rose was written by cabaret legend Amanda McBroom and was first popularised by Bette Midler who had a huge American hit with the song back in 1980. Something of an MOR standard, since then the list of acts who have recorded the uplifting ballad is long and distinguished. Acts as diverse as Conway Twitty, LeAnn Rimes, Nana Mouskouri, Bonnie Tyler, Bryn Terfel and Judy Collins have all covered the track. A cursory glance at iTunes and Napster reveals you could fill two CDs with the different versions that are available. For all that it has remained a curiosity that nobody has ever been able to turn the song into a UK hit single. Michael Ball took a version to Number 42 in 1995 and he was followed by actress Heather Peace who reached Number 56 in 2000. The arrival of Westlife's version and the almost inevitable Number One that has resulted is actually nothing less than justice being served for the most famous song you have never heard of. OK so the heartfelt simplicity of the original is swamped by the epic production of this single but it is only the hardest of hearts who fails to be even slightly moved by the end.
So chalk that up as 14 Number One hits for Westlife to put them level with the total clocked up by Cliff Richard although whereas Cliff took just over 40 years to manage that many, Westlife have done it in a little over seven. They are now joint third on the all-time list of Number One hitmakers. Next in their sights is the 17 of The Beatles. Would you really bet against it? [You should, this would wind up as their final Number One single].
I think we are allowed a small degree of sympathy for U2/Green Day and All Saints who under normal circumstances would have had a tidy little battle for the top of the singles chart. In the end, their race was for runners up, the winners being the superstar charity combo who move 6-2 with The Saints Are Coming. For Green Day it duly becomes their biggest UK hit ever, beating out the Number 3 peak of American Idiot two years ago. For All Saints, they can consider their comeback to be a success for now with Rock Steady soaring 11-3 with the release of the CD single. Their chart history in their original career was an oddly polarised one, their five Number One hits being accompanied by a Number 4 and a brace of Number 7s. Rock Steady thus marks the first time they have been Top 3 without actually topping the chart.
The other two new Top 10 arrivals are also combined sales climbers. First up are the Sugababes who limped in at Number 30 last week with Easy but who now occupy a comfortable Number 8. After the failure of their last single Follow Me Home to reached beyond Number 32 this is a welcome return to chart form. It helps that Easy is a brand new track, taken from their forthcoming Greatest Hits collection (I should really have a macro to save me typing that over and over) and is their 12th Top 10 single in a career that dates back to September 2000. Strange to think it took a flop album and a record label dumping before they finally took off.
Refreshingly not pushing a Greatest Hits collection but instead milking the Confessions On A Dance Floor album for one final hit single is Madonna who leaps 59-9 with Jump. Featured in the movie "The Devil Wears Prada" it was oddly missing from the soundtrack but now makes an appropriate choice as the fourth single from her own long player. It is actually a worthwhile listen as well, as delightfully retro as the parent album and a track that for all the world sounds like she recorded it 20 years ago.
The biggest new digital single of the week flies in at Number 12, and wouldn't you know it is another mouth watering star collaboration. Smack That the brand new single from Akon's forthcoming new album features a guest appearance from Eminem, his first chart appearance since he "retired" at the end of last year. Akon's hits always dance the delicate line that straddles hip hop and R&B and the new single is a worthwhile addition. He has a 100% Top 5 strike rate to date (including the Number One hit Lonely) and you can safely assume the same for this single when CD sales are added in next week.
Also selling well digitally is Justin Timberlake whose latest single My Love arrives at Number 14 as the followup to Sexyback. Scoring over its predecessor by virtue of having something resembling a proper melody, the track once again has Timbaland all over the production and backing vocals, a rap from TI serving nicely to stir something new into the mix. Top 10 again next week without too much difficulty.
Now we get to the tricky bit as the tale of the rest of the Top 20 is taken up with a trio of hits which charted low on downloads and now arrive on combined sales. The first of these is actually something of a shock.
Eight years ago this autumn George Michael released his first Greatest Hits collection. The release of the album came at a rather tempestuous time for him, coming just a few months after his celebrated arrest in an LA toilet. He dealt with it with grace and humour, accepted his mistake and then let the music do the talking. Funk workout Outside was followed by a duet with Mary J Blige on the Stevie Wonder classic As. Both were deservedly massive hits. Fast forward to the present and George Michael has a new Greatest Hits collection out which covers not only his solo years but also his days as part of Wham! to mark 25 years in the business. It comes on the back of a rather tempestuous time for him when he makes regular appearances in the newspapers for either taking part in late night assignations in London parkland or mysteriously falling asleep at traffic lights. He deals with this with a snarling paranoia, insisting that his lifestyle is normal and that he is a victim of tabloid paranoia. A South Bank show TV special that was supposed to celebrate his career and showcase his new recordings ended up being overshadowed by a drugs rant. For someone who has been famous for 25 years he seems to have suddenly forgotten that the popular perception of you counts.
With that then, is it really such a shock that his new single isn't quite the chart triumph it should have been. A duet with former Sugababe Mutya, This Is Not Real Love limped in at a non-canon Number 79 last week on download sales and now with a CD release crawls up to Number 15. In truth it isn't a bad record at all, an impressive soulful ballad that brings back memories of George at his best is a world away from the rather tired funk tracks that have characterised his most recent output. Nonetheless, it does little to dispel the notion that Michael is a busted flush musically, this single his third in succession to miss the Top 10, his worst run of form since the dark days of the 1990s and the Listen Without Prejudice album. 'Nuff said surely.
The next climber comes at Number 17 for Kasabian who move 65-17 with Shoot The Runner. The follow-up to Number 9 hit Empire this is pretty much par for the course as far as their chart expectations are concerned and it duly gives them a sixth Top 20 hit from their first seven singles.
From the 'Could Do Better' pile, however, are Infernal who had one of the biggest dance hits of the year in the spring with From Paris To Berlin which hit Number 2 and hung around long enough to become the year's biggest seller. Now given that I spend a great deal of time rubbishing cheesy dance remakes of classic pop records I'm going to have to come across as a craven hypocrite by cursing the lack of success of their new single - but so what because it is actually rather wonderful. Self Control was one of just two UK hits for the great Laura Branigan in her lifetime, a multi-layered Eurodisco track which peaked at Number 5 in 1984. In a way, it is odd that nobody has made an updated cover before, but in the nick of time here come Infernal with a new version that just about avoids being offensive to the original. Instead, it dials the campness up a notch and turns the 'oh-oh-oh' interjections of the backing singers into the focal point of the track. Not a patch on the original for sure, but certainly worthy of hit status. Sadly it is stuck in mid table with a 61-18 rise that is unlikely to be improved upon.
Expect more superstar arrivals in the upper reaches next week as new singles from Robbie Williams, Christina Aguilera and Snow Patrol arrive near the bottom end of the Top 40, but whither Gnarls Barkley? The biggest chart phenomenon of the year in the spring when Crazy hit the top on downloads alone, this week their third hit Who Cares proves prophetic by arriving on the chart at Number 60 - and that includes physical sales as well.