No, nothing worth seeing here at all, sorry. Those attempting to gain some kind of snapshot of the cultural state of the nation by glancing at the top of the music charts this week would almost certainly retreat in fear. Not only does the X Factor charity single retain its stranglehold as the biggest selling single, but the long players listing is headed up by those ultimate pushers of the musical and cultural envelope Il Divo. Truly this is Simon Cowell's world and we just live in it.
So let us move swiftly on to brighter things and the record that vaults up the singles chart to Number 2 following a brief appearance at Number 39 last week on weekend sales alone. Could you have ever believed that the most famously naff record of the decade could be used as the basis for something so instantly and effortlessly credible?
The single in question is Live Your Life by TI and Rihanna and on the surface follows the standard formula of American hip-hop star interacting with rather more famous diva and thus spawning a huge urban radio smash and transatlantic chart hit. All very straightforward so far. The aspect of the record that raises eyebrows, however, is the fact that it is based at its core on Dragostea Din Tei by O-Zone. Not that it was a hit all that long ago, but just to recap. The song is far and away the most famous Romanian pop single ever, somehow riding a wave of popular culture and charting in just about every territory in the world during the summer of 2004. One of the quirkiest tracks of the decade, it hit Number 3 here during an extended chart run (this pre-downloads as well), became the subject of endless parodies and remakes and ultimately became a source of fame for certain overweight American YouTube users. Four and a half years later it is now the core of a widely anticipated and much talked about rap hit single. Who on earth would have thought it?
For TI it is his biggest hit single as a lead artist, the Number 2 chart placing matching the peak he scaled alongside Justin Timberlake on My Love exactly two years ago this week. Rihanna is, well, Rihanna and duly scores her fourth Top 10 hit of the year, just a few weeks after her last single Disturbia began its journey down the charts.
In a sense, I'm sad that Live Your Life has dominated the sales of the week as it eclipses the entry of what might just rank as the single of the year. The line "are we human or are we dancer?" is attributed to the author Hunter S Thompson as a despairing comment on what he saw as the decline of society. It now forms the core hook of the brand new single Human from The Killers. First written during the sessions for last years b-sides and oddities collection Sawdust, the group immediately realised the song was too good to waste on a throwaway compilation and so emerges now as the first single from their forthcoming third album proper Day & Age which comes out at the end of the month.
Be under no illusion, Human will go down as their masterpiece [truth, the defining moment of the group's career and one which still gives you goosebumps to this day]. The track is an effortless fusion of 80s new wave and modern-day Vegas rock. Countless reviewers prior to me have groped around for just where the track's influences lie, citing everything from New Order to Duran Duran. Let's just cut to the core, Human is nothing less than The Killers through and through and perhaps more so than anything they have released to date is destined to go down in history as an all-time enduring pop classic. It is the kind of record that makes you glad to have become a music fan, simply so you can say you were around when a piece of music so emotionally inspiring first became a hit. The single smashes into the chart at Number 4 to become only their fourth Top 10 hit single and the first since When You Were Young scaled a peak of Number 2 in September 2006. Human deserves that kind of peak and maybe even more. Only you, the record buying public of the nation can decide if that will happen. Don't let me down.
With no other Top 10 action to speak of it is worth noting the progress of the four (or should that be five) divas from last week. The biggest loser for the moment is still Christina Aguilera who flails around at Number 17 with the increasingly inappropriately named Keeps Gettin' Better. Beyonce slips just slightly to Number 3 with If I Were A Boy, Alesha Dixon motors to Number 5 with The Boy Does Nothing whilst Britney goes in the other direction and falls to Number 8 with Womanizer. The most interesting reverse is that of Leona Lewis who falls back to Number 10 with Forgive Me as it is almost as if the label have abandoned the single already just a week after its release. Instead, they have quickly realised that in her cover of Snow Patrol's Run (released this week as a new track on the rip-off edition of Spirit) they have a potential smash hit on their hands. Hence expect Forgive Me to plummet in short order and dismissed as the R&B curiosity it always was. Expect her second Top 10 entry in the space of a fortnight next time around.
New to the Top 40 at Number 14 is Lemar with If She Knew, his first big hit single in over two years. Always worth checking out, the single is a mid-tempo R&B track that would hardly sound out of place on an Usher album. In a way that is part of its problem, without the depth and passion of past classics such as If There's Any Justice or It's Not That Easy the single lacks a reason for anyone outside his dedicated fans to care. His last Top 10 hit was the aforementioned It's Not That Easy in September 2006. In all honesty, I can't see this one joining it.
Now in a sense you have to have some kind of sympathy for Duffy, leading the year to date table since almost the start of the year with Mercy only to see Hero overhaul it at the start of the week to claim the crown as the biggest selling single of the year so far. I say "in a sense" as regrettably she and her label lose many brownie points by becoming the latest act to pull the con-trick of the "special edition" album repackaging. So it is that her album Rockferry, far and away the biggest seller of the year to date with over 1.3million copies sold, is set for a re-release just in time for the festive season with the original disc of ten songs neatly augmented by a second disc of new tracks. Once again the same arguments that we used last week can apply - if you are one of the 1.3million people who have loyally bought the work of the most exciting new star of the year, you are perfectly entitled to feel just a little bit conned by the prospect of having to effectively repurchase music you have already bought just to ensure your collection is up to date.
Duffy arrives at Number 22 on the singles chart with Rain On Your Parade, a brand new track released as a single ahead of the Special Edition re-release. Aside from the politics of its release it is a magnificent new offering, epic in scope and concept and allowing her powerful and distinctive voice to let rip and make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. We always knew she was good, and Rain On Your Parade hammers home the point. Nonetheless, I'm torn. It is exciting to hear some brand new material from her and a privilege to hear it, but packaging it up alongside older work that has already sold in significant quantities is disrespectful and lazy. On that basis, I'd encourage you to snap up the single and leave the album to rot on the shelves where it belongs.
Just inside the Top 30 are two much-anticipated brand new rock singles, both for wildly different reasons. Leading the charge are Nickelback who find themselves in the strange position of following up a piece of work they recorded three years ago whilst it is still fresh in the minds of most consumers. This is all thanks to Rockstar, the all but forgotten single from 2005 album All The Right Reasons which found itself reactivated in late 2007 to become the biggest global smash of their career. Such is its appeal on these shores that it has barely been out of the charts in the last year, to such an extent that its 2008 sales of 456,000 are enough to make it the third biggest seller of the year. Along with re-released follow-up Photograph, it has ensured that far from being a comeback, the new Nickelback album will simply be the continuation of an up to date story. Hence it is perhaps no surprise that new single Gotta Be Somebody has struggled to make a chart impact at first. The fact that most loyal fans will already own a copy thanks to a 24 hour free giveaway promotion at the end of September doesn't help of course, but nonetheless you get the feeling that the group are still competing against themselves and dare I suggest it, a public at large who are for the moment a little bored of anything Nickelback.
Then, on the other hand, we have at Number 27 a single which many never thought would see the light of day. Many music fans weren't even born when Guns N' Roses last released an album, the intervening period having seen frontman Axl Rose sack band member after band member, scrap session after session and drive his label almost to despair in what has been an almost generation long quest for perfection. Most record companies would have given them up as a bad job years ago, but as time went on people still retained the glimmer of hope that the hype around the album would be self-feeding and that when (if) it finally came out it would be one of the most spectacular releases of all time. Well, it has finally happened. November 2008 will see the release of Chinese Democracy, the first full album of new material from the group since 1991. To herald the release, the title track arrives on the chart as its lead single, the first hit for the group since their cover of Sympathy For The Devil hit Number 9 in January 1995. To pass comment on the record itself would be to miss the point entirely, this isn't so much what the music sounds like as about the amazement we should feel that it was ever released at all.
Finally, for this week, a quick shuffle around the TV-assisted hits that are floating around the lower reaches of the chart. Still leading the way is Let Your Love Flow from the Bellamy Brothers as the Barclaycard advert helps it to Number 28. Mariah Carey week on the X Factor last weekend has given her catalogue the requisite boost. Despite seemingly having forgotten the tune in the 15 years since she recorded it, her live performance of Hero has helped her original version rise to Number 67, its first Top 75 appearance since early 1994. As what I suspect is a worrying herald of things to come, however, the highest charting Mariah single this week is none other than All I Want For Christmas Is You which appears at Number 59 at the start of its annual wander around the singles chart.
Best of all though, cast your eyes to chart position Number 50 where Hallelujah from Jeff Buckley climbs to its highest chart position ever. The latest revival of the song comes thanks to the BBC of all people who are using the track in a series of promotional trails for their iPlayer service. 2008 has of course been something of a renaissance year for the 14-year-old recording, having now charted on three separate occasions and most famously charging into the iTunes Top 10 in America following a performance of the song by an American Idol contestant. Possibly the greatest cover version of any song in history, it may never be a smash hit but it still a joy to see it continually reaching out to new audiences even after all these years. [Oh believe me it will do more than that before the year is out].