The tale of the tape: 4 new entries, 1 re-entry, 10 climbers and 2 non-movers. The usual rules of cause and effect come into play here, a lack of major new activity means less downward pressure on the rest of the market and many of those climbers are older songs recovering chart position a little.
That doesn't apply to the songs at the top of the chart though and one of the most intriguing weekly battles for several months is resolved in a rather unexpected manner. For most of the week, it was Westlife who had the edge, with The Rose narrowly outselling its nearest competition and raising the possibility that for their second chart-topper running they would manage what is for them the unusual feat of managing more than a week at the summit. Over the weekend the picture changed however and in the event, the Irishmen are forced down to an unexpected Number 3.
In their place at the top are Akon and Eminem whose Smack That fulfils its online promise with combined sales giving the single a comfortable 12-1 chart rise. Repeated listens show just how cleverly put together the song is, with Akon singing his part of the melody rather than rapping. It means that Eminem's contribution out of the blue halfway through makes an appropriately strong impact. The track is by no means the first chart topper for either man, Akon, of course, having had a fortnight at the summit with Lonely in May 2005. It is Eminem's seventh appearance at the top in total, albeit his first as a duettist rather than solo performer. His only other directly credited guest appearance came in June 2000 when he featured heavily on Dr Dre's Forgot About Dre which was a Number 7 hit. Slim Shady also featured as a member of D12 who have twice made Number 2 with Purple Pills in 2001 and My Band in 2004.
Assuming we class Smack That as R&B rather than hip-hop, the genre manages a neat chart 1-2 with the second place single of the week going to Justin Timberlake with My Love, he took taking a leap on combined sales after hitting Number 14 with downloads seven days ago. The single is the follow-up to the chart-topping SexyBack and assuming it gets no further will go down as his fourth solo Number 2 hit (his sixth in his career if one also counts his presence on Snoop Dogg's Signs and 'NSync's Girlfriend).
Next week's Number One single is pretty much a foregone conclusion based on the first-week download performance of the week's highest new entry. A decade and a half on, it is hard to convey the impact that Take That had on pop music. Inspired by Maurice Starr's work with New Kids On The Block in the States, manager Nigel Martin-Smith and producer Ian Levine created the oh so 90s concept of the boy band and recruited five good looking youngsters to participate, carefully grooming them so they would be as much gay icons as teen sex symbols. It is also worth noting that they took almost a year to catch fire, their first three singles being frustrating flops, their chart breakthrough only coming in June 1992 when a cover of the Tavares' It Only Takes A Minute hit Number 7. After that, there was no stopping them with the songwriting talents of Gary Barlow and the charisma of a certain Robbie Williams coming to the fore. They topped the charts seven times between 1993 and 1996 but the departure of Robbie for a solo career in the summer of 1995 marked the beginning of the end and their 1996 cover of How Deep Is Your Love turned out to be their swansong.
Solo careers for all followed. Robbie became a superstar, Gary Barlow released two albums but then lost his muse and retreated to anonymity in America, Mark Owen released some well received but undersold solo work, Howard Donald became a DJ and Jason Orange turned to acting. Then a year ago the final four appeared together in a retrospective TV documentary about the group and a week later announced plans for a comeback tour. The initial 11 dates rapidly became 30 as demand for the tickets soared - and with such ready evidence that their market was still there a new record deal was all but inevitable.
Hence the Number 4 appearance this week of Patience, a song which in terms of a comeback gets everything right that All Saints got wrong. The song is a Gary Barlow anthem to rank with his best, the harmonies of the foursome sounding just as good as they did a decade ago but with a lush production that is firmly rooted in the modern day. Nobody can be in any doubt that this will turn out to be one of the most worthwhile musical comebacks of modern times. [Blimey, I pretty much called that didn't I? Go 2006 James, he can predict the future with alarming accuracy].
The one person missing from the reunion is, of course, Robbie Williams. During the tour at the start of the year he gave the project his blessing, supplied new footage of himself for use on stage but those hoping for even just one surprise cameo appearance were left disappointed. In truth he doesn't need to relive the past, doing very nicely thank you in the present. The debate rages over whether the Rudebox album is a self-indulgent mess or the work of a slightly misfiring genius, a debate only exacerbated by the title track and its Number 4 peak earlier in the autumn. For the second single the more conventional and George Michael-esque Lovelight makes its chart appearance. The track is actually a cover version although the Lewis Taylor original is obscure enough to make this the first exposure to the song for virtually everyone. Charting at 28 last week, the single rises to Number 8 to give Robbie and his former bandmates simultaneous Top 10 singles.
Also on the rise on combined sales is Christina Aguilera who follows up the Number 2 hit Ain't No Other Man with Hurt. Also from the Back To Basics album, the track is a plaintive ballad in which her powerful lungs are given their most extensive workout since The Voice Within. It is an impressive track but actually one which displays her biggest vocal shortcoming. Working at the very edge of her range, she winds up howling rather than singing, robbing the track of some of its emotional impact. The single landed at Number 33 on downloads last week and mysteriously misses the Top 10 with a Number 11 placing, potentially breaking her run of nine Top 10 hits. Her only other single to miss the Top 10 was the Number 19 hit I Turn To You way back in the summer of 2000.
There is a similar setback for Snow Patrol who follow up the career-defining Chasing Cars with Set The Fire To The Third Bar, the third chart single from the Eyes Open album. A duet with folk singer Martha Wainwright, I saw it memorably described somewhere as being simultaneously the worst Snow Patrol and best Wainwright track ever. Not a bad track but not one of their best, Number 18 probably being all it deserves.
If Take That are expected to have an easy Number One single next week, I suspect it will be joined in the Top 3 by Emma Bunton's Downtown. The solo career of the former Baby Spice appeared to finally click in 2004 with the Free Me album as she found her groove as a 60s jazz-pop revivalist, most notably with the Number 6 hit Maybe and her inspired cover of Astrid Gilberto's Crickets Sing For Anamaria which sadly suffered from being the album's fourth single and could only peak at Number 15. Her newest single is what you might regard as the song she was born to cover, Petula Clark's 1964 hit Downtown which doubles as this year's Children In Need charity single. Emma's version sensibly pays homage to the Petula Clark version of Tony Hatch's song with the most minor of tweaks to the production to bring it up to date. The magic of the original remains though, right down to the trumpet led instrumental although quite how we are supposed to interpret the choreography in the video which has Emma and the backing dancers pointing "downstairs" when the title is sung is still open to question. Petula Clark had a hit with the single twice over, originally hitting Number 2 in the 60s and Number 10 eighteen years ago when the track was remixed in dramatic 80s style. One of the all time great pop songs, it was long overdue for a revival and Emma Bunton pays it the respect it deserves. If that wasn't enough, the single also features her version of Cilla Black's Something Tells Me (Something's Gonna Happen Tonight) aka the music from the Ferrero Roche advert. Watch it soar next week.
The final new entry of note this week is another frustratingly mid-table appearance for Little Man Tate, the Sheffield pub-rock band who by rights should be experiencing Arctic Monkeys level of acclaim. Man I Hate Your Band is their third Top 40 hit of the year, the follow-up to September's House Party At Boothy's which deserved far better than its Number 29 peak. Number 26 for the new single equates to their biggest hit to date but I would suggest that if you are ticked off with R&B tracks in the Top 3 and think I've taken leave of my senses by heaping praise on an Emma Bunton single, go check out anything you can by Little Man Tate. Huge grin on face guaranteed.