Let's get the formalities out of the way first of all. There is a slightly unexpected change at the top of the album chart with Keane shooting to Number One with their new album Perfect Symmetry to maintain their 100% career record, dethroning last weeks champions Oasis in the process. In the meantime, it is Pink who remains supreme singles act with So What clocking up a third week at the summit. That it does so is itself rather impressive, due to the fascinating battle that raged just beneath her for most of the week, and it is this battle that really tells the full story of the chart week.
Can one TV special have ever divided as many people as Peter Kay's "Britain's Got The Pop Factor..." which aired on Sunday, October 12th? For every person who found it an hysterically funny satire of the whole talent show genre, you will find another who thought the jokes fell flat or were stretched far too thin or just went for the obvious targets. I suspect part of the problem was that Peter Kay's big strength has always been taking a subject and poking gentle fun at its idiosyncrasies whilst at the same time making sure he retains an affectionate nod to just why it is liked in the first place. Whilst that worked a treat for his most famous television offering "Phoenix Nights", part of the joy people got from it was a lack of detailed familiarity with the core material - a working men's club - which made it both entertaining and a revelation at the same time. "Britain's Got The Pop Factor..." was styled along similar lines, but the problem was we are all too familiar with the cliches and foibles of shows such as "X Factor" and so all the jokes about sob stories being more important than talent and bad audition performances, however funny, were ones we had seen spelled out in reviews for several years. As a situation comedy it failed to show us a new point of view to something we were already familiar with, hence the feeling of "is that it?" which many were left with.
Still, if there is one thing that Peter Kay appears to be a master of, it is creating hit singles. Tony Christie flew to Number One in 2005 thanks to his patronage and of course last year his creative reworking of I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) flew to the top and reintroduced The Proclaimers to a whole new generation of fans. Hence it should have been no surprise that the one aspect of the show that was for real was the release of The Winners Song as sung by Kay in character as Geraldine McQueen. The track itself is actually an utter joy. Penned by no less a figure than Gary Barlow it is a rather clever satire, taking the subtextual sentiment of every "my life has changed forever" song released by talent show winners (from Evergreen right through to A Moment Like This) and articulating it explicitly. You will never again listen to the victory performance of an X Factor winner without the lines "I started with nothing/now I've got something" running through your mind. Moreover, the track is the guilty pleasure you suspect Gary Barlow has always wanted to write, taking the cheese factor of the lyrics and melody to their highest level and using every emotional cliche in the songwriters' handbook to achieve the desired result. [2 Up 2 Down were robbed!]
Yes, there is some small sniping that the talk of charity in the TV show was actually part of the joke and that in unlike all other Peter Kay-sponsored singles of the past, this one is entirely lining the pockets of its makers, thanks to what amounted to a two-hour TV commercial for it on prime time Channel 4. That it has flown to Number 2 and very nearly challenged for Number One would be impressive enough in itself, but just look at what it outsold to get there...
Namely Don't Call This Love, the long-anticipated first "proper" single from last years X Factor winner Leon Jackson which he debuted live on the first results show the weekend before last. He is of course following the Leona Lewis model, holding off for almost a year after his TV victory before launching the promised recording career, this it seems more likely to pay dividend than rush-releasing the kind of substandard debut album that ensured Steve Brookstein was never heard of again and which very nearly sank Shayne Ward before he had even begun. In truth his live TV performance of the song exposed the very weaknesses that made Leon such an unlikely winner last year, his voice sounding feeble and uncertain and his stage presence non-existent. With the comfort of studio technology, of course, it is a different story and Don't Call This Love is an appealing jazz-pop track, drenched in soft focus orchestration and enough to twang the heartstrings of both teenage girls and their mothers. In any ordinary week, it would have been the biggest and most talked about release and a certified smash hit. Circumstances dictate however that he winds up at Number 3, outsold by a fat comedian dressed as a transsexual woman and merely the second half of a rather extraordinary singles chart story. Stuff happens I guess.
Mind you he still has it better than The Saturdays who despite crashing into the Top 10 at Number 5 with their second single are almost certainly likely to wind up the forgotten stars of the chart this week. At the very least the chart performance is a poke in the eye for the critics who were scathing of the prospects of the new girl group, in spite of the none too shabby Number 8 peak of debut hit If This Is Love back in August. The new hit follows the electropop vibe of its predecessor with some added Eurodisco in the chorus for good measure. I can class myself as one of those who were unconvinced as to their long-term potential after the last single, but this new track is a pleasing revelation and suggesting that the Sugababes/Girls Aloud duopoly may not be as impregnable as first thought. Best pop record of the week, without a shadow of a doubt.
As was widely expected Snow Patrol move forward with Take Back This City and shoot 15-6 to land the fifth Top 10 hit of their career. Maybe more so most acts, they seem masters at playing the chart-climbing game with every one of their post-2006 singles starting low and climbing quickly. Heck, even that one about the cars only entered at Number 25 first week out and took four weeks to reach the Top 10.
The Top 10 revolution continues at speed with the arrival at Number 9 of the first chart hit in eight years for Sash! the German production trio who masquerade as a solo artist. His/their comeback single is released to mark the tenth anniversary (give or take 18 months) of the project and effectively combines the old and the new. As the title suggests Raindrops (Encore Une Fois) is a mashup of a brand new song and the instrumental track of their debut single Encore Une Fois which was a Number 2 smash hit back in March 1997. Those older ravers may actually consider the remake a rather disrespectful treatment of what remains an immensely powerful club hit, but taken on its own as a 2008 record it stands proud as a major hit single and probably the least intelligence-insulting club hit of the year. [Collaborators on the single were failed club act Stunt, whose greatest claim to fame is featuring Molly Smitten-Downs who would sing the UK's Eurovision entry in 2014].
Single movement down the lower end of the Top 40 is confined to singles that are either waiting in the wings to be big hits or those that seem destined never to be. Leading the way is 'Kids' from MGMT which creeps to Number 25 after a ten place climb, now just a few places short of the Number 22 peak of its predecessor Electric Feel. Whilst the physical release of a single may not be the bellwether of hit status it used to be, it still represents what should theoretically be the peak of its promotional push. With Kids having hit what is left of the shops last week, you suspect its further progress is unlikely. [This would for now be its peak, although it would enjoy a spectacular resurgence just after Christmas to belatedly become a Top 20 hit].
The same cannot be said for Katy Perry whose new single Hot N Cold is only just getting started, advancing 62-26 as airplay and attention begins to pick up. The second single from her One Of The Boys album, it is of course faced with the usual problem of diverting attention away from the still steady sales of its predecessor, although it may well be that this will be less of an issue as I Kissed A Girl is now starting to fall away rapidly, tumbling 7-14 this week. Hot N Cold will consider itself unlucky not to have surpassed its illustrious predecessor in sales by this time next week.
Hitting what looks like a disappointing peak following a physical release are the Ting Tings who may just have run out of steam with Be The One as it limps into the Top 40 at Number 28. Really they don't have too much to complain about, being as they are for most people one of the outstanding new acts of the year. Smash hit singles That's Not My Name and Shut Up And Let Me Go plus the further presence of single that never really was Great DJ means they have more than enough hits to their name to make them an important part of the sound of 2008. Be The One may wind up being a small blight on their chart history, but it may be they have just run out of people to impress.
We'll leave aside the miserable one place rise for Jordin Sparks at Number 29 with Tattoo as it causes me too much pain, and instead concentrate on the single which is widely expected to be challenging for Number One next week. The rather lowly Number 30 entry point of new Razorlight single Wire To Wire is down its belated store appearance, the track only escaping online at the back end of the week and thus unable to benefit from a full week of sales. Needless to say that as the first single from their forthcoming new album and their pedigree as an almost guaranteed Top 3 act, you don't have to be a chart genius to predict some impressive things for the track this time next week.