With the physical arrival of three highly regarded chart singles, plus the return of one of the most talked about bands of the decade, one could have been forgiven for expecting some kind of change at the top of the singles chart. Sadly it was not to be, although to the cheer of Madonna's legions of fans she grabs a fourth straight week at the summit with 4 Minutes. The single duly becomes her longest-running Number One single since Vogue also had a 28-day residency way back in 1990. In her entire career, Madonna has never managed a five-week Number One in the UK, a target she stands a good chance of reaching next week.
It also means that we have now had four Number One singles in a row to spend four weeks or more at the top. As you might expect this is unprecedented in modern chart history and to find the last such occasion you have to travel back as far as 1972 and 1973 when over the seasonal period My Ding-A-Ling, Long Haired Lover From Liverpool, Blockbuster and Cum On Feel The Noize all had 18 weeks between them at Number One.
As for the three big new physical singles, well in order they are Wiley's Wearing My Rolex which may well have shot its final bolt to reach a new peak of Number 2, will.i.am and Cheryl Cole's Heartbreaker which advances 8-4 (and has by no means peaked yet) and most impressively of all In My Arms from Kylie Minogue which was languishing at Number 46 as a download last week but now soars to Number 10 as a proper full release. The title track and third single from her current album, it extends her decade-long run of consecutive Top 10 singles to 16 and is the 32nd such hit of her over 20-year chart career.
The real chart headlines this week will of course not be about any of the above, but will instead focus on the group who debut at Number 8. The release of brand new Coldplay material, their first for three years, would have caused a stir no matter what, but for new track Violet Hill the group have taken an imaginative approach to marketing. Taking a leaf out of Radiohead's book, the track was made available via their website for free two weeks ago. Anyone wanting to own a copy simply had to log on and click a button with no financial arrangements required. Their label claimed an extraordinary 2 million downloads during the time it was available which like all web statistics has to be taken with a pinch of salt. Nonetheless, the truly dedicated had plenty of time to obtain a copy of the track, with those missing the boat needing only to buy this week's NME which cover mounted the seven-inch single.
Despite this mass giveaway, Violet Hill was released online for purchase last week and has duly shifted enough units thanks to those too late or unaware of the free version to register a place in the Top 10. With no physical release scheduled, the track will almost certainly end up as the highest charting download-only single to date, beating out Nelly Furtado's Say It Right which peaked at Number 10 in early 2007. Thanks to this unique form of marketing, Coldplay seem set to continue their curious form of never having had a Number One single in this country, back in 2005 famously seeing Speed Of Sound crash at Number 2 having been unable to shift the bloody Crazy Frog from the top.
Perhaps most extraordinarily of all though is the fact that Coldplay could well have charted two singles at once. As well as Violet Hill, online purchasers could also obtain a copy of the rather more commercially appealing Viva La Vida which sold enough copies to rank as the 13th biggest seller of the last week. Its absence from the singles chart is due to the group also attempting a marketing scam that is gaining popularity in the States. Purchasers were invited to place a pre-order for their new album (due out as a midweek release on June 12). In doing so they could be billed for the 79p cost of a single track and be given a copy of Viva La Vida, the rest of the album following on the day of its release. After a great deal of high-level examination of the deal, the Chart Supervisory Committee elected to disqualify the track from the singles chart, ruling that regardless of the price charged to the consumer, its sales were still just a downpayment on the album. Presumably once the pre-order offer is withdrawn the sales of the track will be allowed to count for the chart, but for now, it appears that Coldplay have achieved something that was previously thought impossible and made a legally available download track ineligible for the singles chart. [Presenting then the first ever "instant grat" single which over the next few years would cause ever-increasing difficulties with the chart rules. The saga of Viva La Vida itself has many more weeks to run].
The next notable new chart arrival appears at Number 15. The tradition for football teams playing in the FA Cup Final to record and release a club anthem to celebrate the occasion has more or less died off in recent years, a consequence perhaps of the tournament predictably throwing up the same clubs over and over again in the final. This year, however, rank outsiders Cardiff City and Portsmouth will play each other this coming weekend at Wembley and so it seems only appropriate that the novelty tradition should be resurrected too. Hence Bluebirds Flying High as performed by James Fox (last seen as Britain's Eurovision entry back in 2004) accompanied by the mass voices of the Cardiff City football team themselves. The team duly become the first FA Cup Finalists to have a chart hit since Millwall FC reached Number 41 with Oh Millwall back in 2004.
One new release which didn’t quite make the grade this week was Kelly Rowland's Daylight. A duet with Travis McCoy from Gym Class Heroes [not a typo, that is genuinely how he was billed on this single, reverting to the more familiar "Travie" for subsequent solo forays], the physical release of the track has helped it to a mere Number 14, enough to surely mean it will become her first single as lead artist to miss the Top 10 since Train On A Track stiffed at Number 20 back in 2003.
Below her there is better news for Duffy who moves up still further, Warwick Avenue advancing 29-17 with the physical release still some weeks away. Also new to the Top 20 are Nelly & Fergie whose duet Party People now ranks at Number 19, that single going physical next Monday (May 19).
Destined to be a massive future hit [called that one right] is Closer from Ne-Yo which arrives at Number 22. The first single from forthcoming new album Year Of The Gentleman, it arrives on the singles chart after being released to online stores. Don’t be fooled by the somewhat slow start, airplay and TV exposure for the track has barely begun, its physical release not scheduled until June 30 by which time you can safely expect the track to be Top 3 at the very least.
Following a more conventional release schedule of downloads one week and physical the next are the Pigeon Detectives who land at Number 24 with This Is An Emergency. They too have a new album to promote, their second album Emergency is set for the shops on May 26 and at the very least by this time next week its lead track should be a Top 20 hit.
Finally for this wee, I'll leave you with another brand new hit which has been available online for a month already but only now penetrates the Top 40. Love Song from Sara Bareilles has already been a Top 5 hit in America and now seems set to make a similar impact here. June 2 is its projected physical release date, but needless to say by the time that finally arrives the single seems destined to be a smash.