With two big new singles jostling for popular attention it was almost a given that we would see a changing of the guard at the top of the singles chart this week. Surprisingly enough, however, the winner of the race is not Mark Ronson but instead the newly physically released Give It To Me by Timbaland which climbs seven places to grab the chart pole position.
The single is, of course, a three-way performance, with guest stars Nelly Furtado and Justin Timberlake both getting mic time. For both stars it this is their second Number One hit single, Justin's SexyBack and Nelly's Maneater both having hit the top last year - and wouldn't you just know it a certain Timothy Z Mosley co-wrote and produced both of them. For all his massive success this decade as the man credited as defining 21st-century R&B, Timbaland has only ever produced one other UK Number One single besides those two - Aaliyah's More Than A Woman which hit the top in 2002.
Picking your way through just how many chart hits he has actually performed on is a tricky process as his vocal contributions don't always receive a direct chart credit. Going on the singles for which he has been directly credited as a performer however, this is actually only his second Top 40 hit as lead artist, the first being Cop That Disc (a sanitised version of Cop That Shit from his 2003 solo album) which reached Number 24 in March 2004. Searching databases for the hits he has performed with other artists is a deceptive business. Everyhit.com lists just five Top 40 hits with a "Timbaland" performer credit, but of course, he can be heard on backing vocals in many of his most famous productions, most recently Nelly Furtado's own Say It Right.
So after all of that it is only a Number 2 for Mark Ronson and Daniel Merriweather and their Smiths cover Stop Me. The DJ/Producer does at least have the consolation of staging his own mini chart invasion this week. Thanks to its presence as Track 2 on the EP, Coldplay cover God Put A Smile On Your Face lands at Number 63, Track 3 No One Knows is just a few paces behind at Number 66 and even his 2003 single Ooh Wee gets in on the act, creeping into the chart at a non-canon Number 82.
The only other Top 10 climber this week is another superstar collaboration, Beautiful Liar from Beyonce and Shakira moving 10-5. I was on the receiving end of a wonderful two pronged barrage of hate mail from fans of both ladies who were outraged that I'd denigrated the work of their idols. I remain resolutely indifferent to the charms of the single as even a week later it remains a groove in desperate search of a melody but there is no disputing that the star power of both performers is turning it into a massive international hit. The physical release arrives this week and you never know this could well be enough to propel it to the top in seven days time.
Also hitting the shops as of April 16 is Brianstorm from the Arctic Monkeys which on its second week on the chart remains resolutely locked at Number 11. I genuinely don't know what to make of that, all logic dictating that a brand new single from an act as widely feted as the Arctics should slam instantly into the Top 3. Maybe their fans are confined to the ever shrinking band of people who prefer their singles on CD - the chart next week should contain some answers.
The second biggest new physical release this week soars to Number 12 as Fall Out Boy follow up This Ain't A Scene It's An Arms Race with the idiosyncratically titled Thnks Fr Th Mmrs which like its predecessor is taken from the album Infinity On High. By remaining vowel free they join a short but distinguished list of acts who have taken it upon themselves to mangle the English language in the titles of hit singles. Slade most famously took the scissors to their mother tongue in the 70s with offerings such as Coz I Luv You, Look Wot You Dun and Sqweeze Me Pleeze Me whilst in the 80s Prince took to mnemonics with titles such as I Would Die 4 U, U Got The Look and I Wish U Heaven. Fall Out Boy I think are the first act to chart with a hit single titled in vowel-dropping txt speak, a move which could so easily have left them looking like twts.
The highest Top 40 climbers in a good old fashioned way are the returning Linkin Park who rise 39-13 with new single What I've Done, the single not due for physical release until April 30 suggesting it is more or less assured a Top 5 place by the time that date arrives. Already it is their biggest hit since Somewhere I Belong hit Number 10 in March 2003, beating even their most celebrated hit Numb which could only reach Number 14 both in its original 2003 version and the 2004 Jay-Z collaboration with saw it teamed up with his own Encore. It is Numb/Encore which remains to this day one of the most consistent sellers in the online catalogue. Returning to the chart when download-only singles were allowed on at the start of the year, it has been in and out of the Top 75 ever since. This week it stands as the 79th best selling track of the week and if What I've Done continues to raise the profile of Linkin Park, would you bet against it edging even closer to the Top 40 over the next few weeks?
There will be a mixed reaction to the arrival of the biggest new hit of the week as none other than Gareth Gates makes his much trailed comeback with Changes at Number 14. Famously runner up to Will Young on the original UK series of Pop Idol, Gates had his own brief flowering of initial fame on the back of the competition. Indeed he has his own place in music history with his first single, a remake of Unchained Melody is the 38th biggest selling single of all time in this country. Despite never missing the Top 5, and his last single Say It Isn't So making Number 4 in December 2003, SonyBMG elected not to take up their option on his third album and he was discretely dropped last year. To the rescue (as they always are with their dropped clients) are 19 Records who are set to unleash the brand new album from the new and improved Gareth Gates. I say "new" as gone is the spiky haired Bradford choirboy with a stammer and a neat line in cover versions. In his place is the mature, confident, outspoken qualified speech therapist Gareth Gates with a new album of songs co-written with some very big names indeed.
Changes is certainly a fascinating single. With a melody line that brings to mind, of all things, Radiohead's No Surprises, it is a slow building anthemic ballad which builds to two separate climaxes during the course of the song. It is certainly as far removed from his sweet natured pop roots as you could wish and if we're being honest is one of the best things he has ever put his name to. For all of that, it sold next to nothing as a download and as a CD single has crept into the chart at Number 14. Spin it however you want, unless his next single is a pop record of Take That level of genius, this comeback just isn't going anywhere.
Let's instead turn to other Top 20 hits which are going places. Natasha Bedingfield's bloke-scaring I Wanna Have Your Babies moves 25-15 and hits the shops this week, as does Ne-Yo's Because Of You which moves 35-18. Hitting the stores last week was Bloc Party's I Still Remember which duly flies 74-20 to give them a neat followup to Number 4 hit The Prayer and the 6th Top 20 hit of their career. One place below them are Muse who arrive on the chart with Invincible, a bold fourth single from Black Holes And Revelations and needless to say the smallest hit single the album contains.
Finally for this week, as yet another example of the way one-off moments of popular reference points can propel the most unlikely of songs into the chart, the much-anticipated finale of BBC series Life On Mars produces two hits at the lower end of the chart. The David Bowie hit from which the series took its name and which featured once again in the final episode lands at Number 55, almost 34 years since it was first a Number 3 hit. Also featuring prominently in the final episode was an acoustic rendition of Somewhere Over The Rainbo' as performed in a 1993 recording by the late Hawaiian folk artist Israel Kamakawio'ole. Ten years after his death he lands at Number 68 on the chart, echoing the posthumous discovery of Eva Cassidy with her rendition of the song in 2001.