It is about time we got back to normality really. The tally of Michael Jackson singles in the Top 40 is reduced to a more manageable five (although he still retains 50% of the Top 10 albums, including The Essential at Number One) which opens the door once again to some rather fresher and more interesting new singles.
The biggest headlines of the week have to be reserved for harmony boy band JLS who outsell the competition by some considerable margin to rocket to Number One with their debut single Beat Again. The foursome first came to attention on last year's X Factor and although I never personally rated any of their performances they clung on to the end, eventually finishing runners-up to Alexandra Burke and thankfully prevented the tuneless midget from coming anywhere near the final reckoning. In that respect, we have much to thank them for. To the surprise of many, Syco and 19 Entertainment passed on the option they had to sign them anyway, leaving the group free to sign with Epic records and be duly promoted as potential new superstars.
Much of the talk surrounding Beat Again during the week was not so much down to the single itself (which had opened up a 3:1 gap at the top after just one day on sale) as to the rather shock sales flashes that suggested that the single's b-side (their shot by shot remake of Rihanna's Umbrella) was selling enough in its own right to potentially grab a Top 10 placing of its own. As we discussed on the podcast in the week, there was actually no rational reason for this, the track available as part of the digital bundle and on the accompanying CD single, removing any need for people to buy it as a standalone with any urgency. As it turns out, the listing for Umbrella was a nothing more than a database error, a consequence of sales for the digital bundle being misallocated to the wrong track and its Top 10 ranking was a one day wonder. Umbrella did sell enough standalone copies to chart but sits just outside the Top 100 in a far more sensible reflection of its actual popularity. Needless to say, this was a salutary lesson to all (myself included) to never get too excited over early sales flashes that may actually bear little resemblance to the way the chart actually looks.
One accolade JLS do grab for themselves at least is to become only the non-victorious X Factor act to subsequently top the singles chart. The only other act to manage this feat was second series contestant Chico who finished in fifth place in the series itself but subsequently topped the chart with his track It's Chico Time in early 2006. The strange thing is I really don't get the appeal of the track. It has reached the top with a phenomenal sale, selling over 105,000 copies inside a week to become the second fastest selling single of the year to date. Yet for all the fuss, Beat Again is a rather poor single and fails to show off the talents of JLS in the best light, sounding for all the world like a carbon copy of anything from Timbaland or even Ne-Yo. Strange though it may sound, the now uncharted cover of Umbrella has more passion, soul and enthusiastic appeal than its a-side.
With last week's Number One from Cascada dipping a place to Number 2, the Top 3 is rounded off by the Black Eyed Peas who make a comfortable seven place rise with the enormously appealing I Gotta Feeling. The single is now their seventh Top 3 hit.
Now to the single that enters at Number 7 for Chicane, although to tell the story properly we have to acknowledge the work of a completely different act. Icelandic wizards Sigur Ros first recorded the track Hoppipolla for their 2005 album Takk..... Released as its second single towards the tail end of that year, the inspirational piece of music would have probably languished in the same obscurity as much of their work until that point, but for its selection by the BBC for use in a series of trailers promoting their Planet Earth TV series in early 2006. The trails featured just 20 seconds of the signature piano melody, but it was enough to inspire new interest both in the single and the hitherto little-known act who performed it. Having first charted at Number 35 in December 2005, the track returned to the singles chart the following spring for an extended wander when, assisted by downloads, it spent ten weeks hovering around the chart, peaking eventually at Number 24. Since then Hoppipolla has evolved into a musical shorthand for "climactic moment", recycled in endless ways by the BBC and used in film trailers and by sports teams looking for a suitable run-out song.
Now, almost four years after it was first recorded the track is a Top 10 hit, not thanks to Sigur Ros themselves but thanks to Nick "Chicane" Bracegirdle who has done what apparently nobody else has thought to do, and respectfully turned the music into a club track. Spooneristically retitled Poppiholla, the iconic piano melody is re-imagined as a sun-soaked chillout trance track in a manner which dare I suggest is even more appealing than the original. The single gatecrashes the Top 10 with ease, giving Chicane his/their biggest hit single since the Tom Jones-voiced Stoned In Love also ascended to Number 7 in May 2006 - around the same time coincidentally that Hoppipolla was making its own bid for chart glory. Nick Bracegirdle first made his chart debut as Chicane in late 1996 with the Ibiza classic Offshore, his biggest chart success coming in 2000 when Don't Give Up with Bryan Adams on lead vocals hit Number One. I'd be tempted to suggest that this single had similar designs on the summit, but for the fact there is just so much competition around.
New to the Top 40 at Number 13 is Beyonce with Sweet Dreams. The track is yet another taken from the I Am... Sasha Fierce album and whilst hardly the greatest single she will ever put her name to, appears to have been seized on by radio stations desperate for some interesting new material to play. Hence this surge up the chart, giving her comfortably yet another Top 20 hit. On her present form, expect this to be Top 10 next week.
Climbing back into the Top 20 are the Pussycat Dolls with Hush Hush; Hush Hush which continues its pleasing second wind, climbing the chart for a second successive week after falling back as far as Number 27 a fortnight ago. The single now sits at Number 17, eclipsing the Number 18 position it locked at for two weeks at the end of June. It is one of my favourites of the moment, so long may this new momentum continue.
If pop isn't quite your thing then the single that enters at Number 21 may be a little more to your taste. The craze for 80s revivalism has reached the States as well with 3OH!3 leading the charge as part of a new wave of alternative rock bands who use electronics just as prominently as guitars. Already a Top 10 hit in their native country, Don't Trust Me now makes a strong debut here, missing the Top 20 by the narrowest of margins. Part rapped and part sung, the single is an exciting and infectious way to announce their presence to the world and somehow manages to sound up to date whilst at the same time wearing their Devo influences proudly on their sleeves.