Last weekend, when Jackson mania was in full swoop, I asked an industry insider how long he expected the frantic demand for his back catalogue to continue to dominate retail. "Probably until about Tuesday" he replied, to my surprise.
Well, you know what, he was bang on the money. Although early sales flashes showed a chart for the weekend potentially dominated by Michael Jackson songs and various other offshoots, including a runaway Number One for Man In The Mirror, by the middle of the week things had calmed down a little. Yes, the Jackson domination is still writ large on the story of the week, but it was far from a clean sweep and indeed the widely-predicted posthumous Number One single is simply not to be.
Step forward instead Cascada who had looked to be the unlucky victims of circumstance as their much-anticipated brand new single Evacuate The Dancefloor plodded vainly in the wake of Jackson-mania. For all the hype however it was never too far behind and the way Man In The Mirror began to plummet down the iTunes rankings (these based on the preceding 24 hours of sales) gave a strong indication that the chart by the weekend would look rather different to that which was originally expected.
So it is congratulations to Anglo-German trio Cascada who at the eighth attempt and almost three years to the week since the debut of their first single Every Time We Touch finally land themselves a UK Number One with Evacuate The Dancefloor. The first track to be taken from their forthcoming third album, it returns them to the Top 10 for the first time since late 2007, their last chart single Because The Night making a rather lowly Number 28 in August last year. Although the first Cascada chart-topper, it is by no means the first time one of their number has landed at the summit, producer Yanou having received a chart credit on DJ Sammy's Heaven which was a Number One hit in 2002.
Evacuate The Dancefloor is the kind of record that will doubtless polarise opinion up and down the land. On the one hand like much of their output, it is chav-dance of the very worst kind - a relentless and vapid synth lead pop record that positively reeks of snakebite and stilettos. On the other hand there is a strong argument for pointing out that the single is actually far and away the best Cascada single to date, mixing up the formula a little with some R&B influences, a proper lead vocal from singer Natalie for perhaps the first time ever, and even an out of the blue rap break from the world's most convincing Eminem soundalike Carlprit. Every summer needs its signature pop-dance hit and Evacuate The Dancefloor has had enough thought poured into it and strikes just the right note to ensure it will be up there as one of the defining moments of the 2009 high season. Regardless of the time of year, if this record goes down as Cascada's biggest chart hit ever, it won't actually be such a bad thing.
Aside from the summit, the rest of the Top 40 belongs naturally to Michael Jackson. Further extending the mass domination of his tracks from last week, the relentless rush for his back catalogue last week means that no less than 13 of the Top 40 records this week are Jackson golden oldies, the most total domination of the chart by any one act in history and on a scale you cannot ever imagine being repeated [Ed Sheeran: hold my beer]. It seems only appropriate to document each one in turn and not its pedigree, so here goes.
Leading the way is Man In The Mirror which may not have been the dead cert Number One it was flagged to be, but still climbs nine places to Number 2. It is a dramatic turnaround from its original chart performance in March 1988 when as the fourth single to be lifted from the Bad album it peaked at a rather surprising Number 21. As I said last week, it is a odd choice to be popularly chosen as a tribute hit, given that he did not have a hand in writing either music or lyrics and it should be noted, does not even appear in the track's video which was made when he was tied up with the opening stages of a world tour and so instead consists of little more than stock footage of starving children. Some would argue that it was badly underrated by the British public at the time - hey, I bought it - and that this finally sees justice served on one of his most emotionally laden songs. The success of the single belatedly means it becomes the fifth Top 3 single from Bad, something that not even Thriller or Dangerous can boast. [And also its record-setting seventh Top 10 hit single].
Second in the queue is a track that some would argue is a far better choice of signature Jackson hit, Billie Jean which vaults up the chart to rest at Number 10. The track that put the Thriller album over the top as a phenomenon, it was released as the second single from the legendary album in January 1983 and swiftly climbed the chart to reach the very top in its sixth week. It was the only track from Thriller to make Number One. Billie Jea' returned to the chart in March 2006 as part of the dualdisc re-release programme embarked upon by the star that year, the third to be released it made Number 11 that time around. The track is the only Jackson single to spawn a directly referencing answer record, thanks to Lydia Murdock's Superstar which continued the story using the same backing track from the point of view of Billie Jean ("I'm mad as hell") and which climbed to Number 14 at the end of 1983.
Speaking of Thriller, its title track is at Number 12 this week. One of those hits that is perhaps justifiably more famous for its video that what it did as a hit single, the track was the fifth single to be lifted from Thriller at the end of 1983. On its original chart run it found itself charting concurrently with Paul McCartney's Say Say Say on which Jackson had a starring role and indeed the two singles were both in the Top 20 in the week of November 26th 1983. Thriller was the lesser of the two, able only to peak at Number 10. Recent years has seen the track become something of a chart perennial, regularly charting each year in time for Halloween. Consequently, it made Number 35 in 2007 and Number 23 last year.
Once place behind at Number 13 is Smooth Criminal, originally plucked from Bad as its seventh single release to coincide with the cinematic release of the film Moonwalker from which its gangster-themed video was taken. First time around it peaked at Number 8, returning to Number 19 in April 2006 as a dualdisc. In one of the more bizarre cover choices of recent years, nu-metallers Alien Ant Farm can boast the biggest hit version of the song, taking theirs to Number 3 in September 2001.
At Number 19 is Beat It, and the track which kicked off the tradition that every Jackson album should contain one heavy metal style track with a superstar guest guitarist. Eddie Van Halen was the axeman in question here, and he helped the single reach Number 3 as the follow-up to Billie Jean in April 1983. The track was last seen on the chart in March 2006 when its dualdisc version made Number 15. The song also has the honour of being celebrated parodist Weird Al Yankovic's one and only hit single in this country, his reworked rendition Eat It hitting Number 36 in May 1984.
The metal theme continues with Black Or White at Number 25, the track carefully selected as the first single to be taken from Dangerous in November 1991. Slash was the axeman of choice this time around and needless to say the single flew straight to Number One where it remained for two weeks. The first signs that the facade of invincibility that had surrounded the star until now were cracking came when the track's obligatory expensive video came in for criticism thanks to the self-indulgent sequence at the end where the star danced around a deserted street, smashing up cars, breaking windows and feeling himself up in a manner which suggested he was enjoying himself enormously. The sequence was swiftly relegated to late-night airings and re-edited to add racist graffiti to the windows, thus in some way justifying the vandalism. Still doesn't explain the frottage, mind. Black Or White returned to the chart in May 2006, reaching Number 18.
Hard on its heels at Number 26 is Dirty Diana, another cod-metal track with Steve Stevens (better known as Billy Idol's songwriting partner) proving the accompaniment. Arguably one of the high points of the Bad album, it was released here in July 1988 to coincide with the British leg of his world tour. The resultant publicity helped the track to Number 4, thus restoring his chart fortunes after the dismal performance of Man In The Mirror a few months earlier. A dualdisc re-release? Number 17 in April 2006.
Just outside the Top 30, no less than four Jackson singles line up in a row. Leading the pack is They Don't Care About Us at Number 32, a surprising addition to the parade given the rather more famous hits that have to content themselves with even lower chart placings. The single was the fourth to be lifted from the part Greatest Hits, part new album HIStory and smashed its way to Number 4 in April 1996, with the 2006 version making a rather more lowly Number 26. Point of controversy this time around were the lyrics "Jew me, sue me, everybody do me" which were taken by many as being antisemitic, causing Jackson to re-record the track for later pressings of the album to sidestep any possible offence.
Earth Song lands at Number 33, again a surprisingly low position for what on paper is actually Michael Jackson's most popular single ever. The Christmas Number One for 1995 no less, it is his biggest selling single in this country and his only release to ever top one million copies. Earth Song gained further notoriety thanks to his performance of the track at the 1996 Brit Awards ceremony which featured the star debuting what is now commonly known as the "Jesus routine" and which famously prompted Jarvis Cocker to invade the stage midway through. This is one track that beats out its 2006 chart run, having made Number 34 as a dualdisc.
The Way You Make Me Feel follows at Number 34. Single Number 3 from Bad, it charted in November 1987 and just like its predecessor eased nicely to a Number 3 peak. April 2006 saw the single return to the chart at Number 17.
At Number 35 is You Are Not Alone, a famous single from the HIStory set which effectively saw Jackson reborn as an R&B balladeer of some note. This was thanks to a masterful composition from newfound songwriting muse R Kelly who handed Jackson this tearjerking ballad which rivalled the very best of his own work. The single flew to Number One in September 1995, his first chart-topper for four years and paved the way for a string of big hits singles in the mid-90s. The 2006 re-release made Number 30.
The only pre-superstardom Jackson single to make the Top 40 this week is Don't Stop Til You Get Enough which creeps to Number 38. The lead single from Off The Wall, the track hit Number 3 in late September 1979 and was also the single that kicked off the 2006 re-release programme when it made Number 17.
Bringing up the rear at Number 40 is Bad, the second single taken from the album that shares its name. Designed as the formal start of the promotional campaign for the follow-up to Thriller, this single came complete with a famous Martin Scorsese-directed video that saw Jackson and his crew running riot in a suspiciously deserted subway station. What postcode they were from is not documented. Legend has it that the track was originally intended to be a duet with Prince, a fact confirmed by Quincy Jones a few years ago. The 2006 re-release made Number 16.
Needless to say, the Jackson story doesn't end there. 14 more Jackson-themed tracks occupy the rest of the Top 75, with I Want You Back from the Jackson 5 leading the charge at Number 43. In all the full Top 200 features 49 different singles all with Michael Jackson on lead or co-vocals. What is perhaps most fascinating aside from the singles that sold in quantity, are the supposedly classic tracks that fell by the wayside. The limp nature of 2001 album Invincible is demonstrated by its lead single You Rock My World peaking at a mere Number 60, disastrous follow-up Cry is nowhere to be seen at all. More surprising are the three Number One hits that are a long way from duplicating their original success. I Just Can't Stop Loving You from 1987 is at Number 78, One Day In Your Life from 1981 is at Number 94 whilst his most recent chart-topper Blood On The Dancefloor from 1997 scrapes in at Number 132.
Needless to say, there is more history made on the album chart as five of the Top 10 are Michael Jackson long players. Oddly enough the three biggest are all Greatest Hits collections covering much of the same ground. 2008 compilation King Of Pop is at Number 5, 2003's Number Ones (its stock soon to be depleted thanks to better margins being available on the other versions) dips to Number 3 whilst its place at the top is taken by 2005 collection The Essential Michael Jackson which tops the chart for the first time ever and thus becomes more true to its title than when it was released and peaked at Number 2. This changeover means that Michael Jackson is the first artist to replace himself at Number One on the album chart since Mike Oldfield way back in 1974, although there is also a case to be made for the incident in August 1982 when The Kids From Fame deposed the Fame OST from the top, the two albums featuring many of the same personnel although the acts were far from identical. Nonetheless, it is an odd succession, given that the UK version of The Essential contains all but three of the tracks that were on its predecessor at Number One.
So there you go, Number One single aside the chart this week is more or less about Michael Jackson - with at least one honourable exception. Let us at least end by acknowledging the new entry at Number 15 of Sticks And Stones by Jamie T which arrives at Number 15 to give him his first chart hit since Calm Down Dearest made Number 9 in January 2007. The single is effectively Number 11 on a Jackson-filtered chart and you suspect may well have made greater waves had the disposable income of the singles buying set not been diverted to slightly less contemporary sounding material. Next week I suspect will be like January with the mass of posthumous singles vanishing almost as swiftly as they arrived. Stick with it if you are hating this, normal service isn't too far away I hope.