Now just about every piece you read on the UK charts this week is going to deal primarily with a certain album by a certain singer, so to be contrary I thought it would actually be appropriate to comment on activities at the top of the singles chart, for the record that arrives at Number One is actually of equal if not more significance.
For a start it represents the end (for now) of the X Factor link with the Number One position. Bouncing the You Are Not Alone charity record down to second place is none other than Peter Kay's Animated All Star Band with The Official BBC Children In Need Medley. After entering the chart at Number 18 last week on just a single day of sales, the lure of the track (and in particular its memorable accompanying video) has proved irresistible to the majority of purchasers and it soars with almost effortless ease to the very top.
As the title suggests, the track is a non-stop medley of no less than seven different songs (two of which - Never Forget and Hey Jude - have previously been Number One in their own right) which makes it one of only a handful of medley discs to have topped the UK charts. Two song medleys have generally been the most common in recent decades - the most recent to reach Number One was The Tide Is High (Get The Feeling) from Atomic Kitten which topped the charts in 2002, following in the footsteps of past examples such as Working My Way Back To You - Forgive Me Girl from the Detroit Spinners and Mary's Boy Child - Oh My Lord by Boney M. Note that to be a true medley, the track has to consist of several songs all performed back to back by the same artists, so the three Jive Bunny tracks that hit the top in 1989 don't count as they are technically multi-artist megamixes rather than medley tracks. Also distinct in this category are "one song to the beat of another" mash-ups such as Toca's Miracle from Fragma and Freak Like Me by the Sugababes which both topped the chart at the start of the decade.
Still, all of the medleys listed above consisted of no more than two songs. The Children In Need track is in fact only the second multi-song record to hit Number One in the whole of chart history. To find the other you need to scour the record books for Let's Have Another Party by Winifred Atwell which was the Christmas Number One in 1954. Not that we haven't come close in more recent decades, the Stars On 45 project that kicked off the 1981 medley craze produced two successive Number 2 hits.
With the single featuring a whole host of singers, most of whom are the original voices of the characters featured in the song, it means many of them renew a link with the charts after some considerable time. De-facto lead singer on the track is Peter Kay himself who thus manages the unique feat of singing on a Number One single for the first time whilst being credited with his second. The anomaly is due to the 2005 chart-topping success of (Is This The Way To) Amarillo which was credited to Tony Christie featuring Peter Kay despite the comedian only featuring miming along in the video. Also singing on the Children In Need Medley is Neil Morrissey, aka Bob The Builder and who thus returns to the top of the chart for the first time since Can We Fix It was Number One in December 2000. Similarly, the voices of the Teletubbies are heard (briefly) on the single, representing their first spell at the top since their own theme tune topped the charts in December 1997. Honourable mention must also be made of Bernard Cribbins who turns up to voice The Wombles for their portion of the track. His own chart career as a performer dates back to 1962 when he had a trio of hits, the highest being Hole In The Ground which reached Number 9.
There is much more we could say about the single, but I suspect some of it will have to wait for the podcast. It is worth adding at least that the track tops the charts with a sale of 138,000 copies, making this the seventh week in a row that the sale of the Number One single has reached six figures - a run not seen since the closing weeks of 1999 at the very peak of the golden age of the CD single.
[There seems to be a weird rights thing going on with this now as the official video has long since vanished from YouTube. Fortunately Dailymotion cares naught for such matters].
So what of the album chart then? Well it is Susan Boyle, naturally. A year which has seen the Hairy Angel experience a meteoric rise from frumpy auditionee on Britain's Got Talent to transatlantic superstar, now culminates in the release of her debut album I Dreamed A Dream which outsells more than the rest of the Top 5 put together to debut at Number One. In doing so she sets a brand new benchmark for the fastest first week sale of any debut album in history. Her total sale this week of 411,000 is higher than the 364,000 copies shifted by the Arctic Monkeys in 2006 and higher than the 376,000 sales clocked up by Leona Lewis in 2007, the two previous holders of the record. It is enough to ensure that I Dreamed A Dream is at a stroke the fifth biggest selling album of the year to date.
Overall it is an odd kind of week as the big movements on the singles chart are almost inextricably linked to events on the albums listing. Take Susan Boyle herself for a start. Not only does she have the Number One album but said long player also instantly spawns two Top 40 singles. By far the biggest is lead single Wild Horses, her cover of the famous Rolling Stones song. Originally written for their 1971 album Sticky Fingers, the track was never released as a single here but did make Number 28 in America. Although many acts have covered the song since, Susan Boyle becomes the first person to take it into the singles charts, hitting Number 9 with consummate ease. Her other Top 40 hit is the title track of her album I Dreamed A Dream, famously the song which she performed at her original TV audition, the footage of which made her a superstar all over the world thanks to YouTube. The chance to actually buy Susan Boyle's recording of the song (which originally featured in the stage musical 'Les Miserables') is something people have been demanding for some time, resulting in the album cut appearing on the singles chart at Number 37. In the wake of her original TV appearance back in April, Patti LuPone's version from the 1985 cast recording of 'Les Miserables' made a chart entry, peaking at Number 45.
Also making album and singles chart waves is Lady Gaga whose album The Fame is still for the moment the biggest seller of 2009 so far and which this week makes a 55-7 chart leap thanks to the new arrival of The Fame Monster deluxe edition whose sales are now combined with the original. It results not only in current single Bad Romance reaching its highest chart position to date with an 8-5 leap but also the spontaneous chart arrival of no less than three of its other tracks. Joining Bad Romance on the singles chart are Telephone at Number 30, Monster at Number 68 and the standout track Alejandro which oddly makes the smallest impact of all, creeping in at Number 75. Add to that the continuing chart presence of Paparazzi and Poker Face and the result is six Top 75 hits for the eternally underdressed star, giving her an 8% sweep of the official singles chart. Add to that the presence just inside the Top 75 of So Happy I Could Die and Dance In The Dark and it means that no less than six of the eight new tracks from the deluxe edition of her album have charted as singles in their own right.
What should theoretically have been two of the bigger new album releases of the week make some rather more understated bows on the chart, but they too drag hit singles along in their wake. Leading the charge is Rihanna who finally follows up the smash Good Girl Gone Bad album with new release Rated R. In an unusual promotional move both the album and its lead single were released to the market simultaneously but neither appears to have made quite the impact they should. The album limps into view at Number 16 whilst lead single Russian Roulette is the highest new entry on the singles chart at Number 6. Yes, Number 6 is far from a disaster (and a vast improvement on the Number 16 peak of her last single Rehab a year ago) but this is the lady whose last album spawned two Number One hits. Anticipating her entering in the Top 3 wasn't too great a flight of fancy. Still, the single does have the benefit of a potential boost next week - guess which TV show she performed it on at the weekend. Barbed Wire does at least have the honour of its own halo hit, with album track Wait Your Turn also charting at Number 45.
Then again even an X Factor performance can't help you if your record is patent rubbish. Just ask Shakira (down at Number 34 with Did It Again) and take a look at no less a star than Mariah Carey. Appearing on X Factor last weekend to promote her own simultaneous album and single release, she disappoints on both counts. Her album Memoirs Of An Imperfect Angel limps into view at Number 23 whilst its lead single I Want To Know What Love Is makes its chart debut at Number 19, an extremely poor performance given the lavish staging to which the track was treated on television. Worse still, it has a lot to live up to because as the title suggests, the track is a cover of one of the most famous Number One hits of the 1980s. The gospel inspired I Want To Know What Love Is was originally recorded by Foreigner and was the first Number One of 1985, famously the single that knocked the original version of Do They Know It's Christmas from the top of the charts. Mariah Carey has done well with cover versions in the past, topping the charts in the past with her versions of Without You and Against All Odds (the latter in conjunction with Westlife). Nonetheless her version of the Foreigner song demonstrates her usual lack of production restraint as she dominates the track with hoots and trills, swamping the already emotional and powerful song with a level of vocal bombast it simply doesn't require.
In a quiet week for other new hits, that is pretty much the only chart action of note - not that we didn't get plenty out of it. With three weeks to go until the official Christmas chart, the holiday favourites are naturally starting to begin their annual chart climb. Leading the charge, just as it seems to do every year, is Mariah Carey again with All I Want For Christmas Is You which sits at Number 51, closely followed by Fairytale Of New York from The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl which makes its annual appearance at Number 58.