Nothing is shifting the rap hits - either of them - for the moment it appears. Dizzee Rascal and Armand Van Helden remain firmly ensconced at the top of the singles chart as Bonkers racks up another impressive sale for the second week running. Its total of 63,000 copies represents a rather stiff decline from its six-figure total last week but it is still more than enough to chase the Black Eyed Peas into second place once again. Albums wise it is the same story as Eminem sits pretty at the top with Relapse. I hate that as I have nothing interesting to add about either, so let us instead move on to the big new hits that arrive in exciting numbers.
The biggest challenge to Eminem's album crown came from classical-rock fusion quartet Escala who crash in at Number 2 with their self-titled debut album. The group first sprang to public attention on last year's series of Britain's Got Talent where they fought their way to the final but ultimately failed to rank inside the Top 3. Notwithstanding the fact that the concept of glamorous women playing amplified classical pieces as if they were rock stars was more or less a direct copy of what Mike Batt had done with Bond, Escala were judged to be marketable enough to be signed and have now capitalised on the TV exposure to reach a mainstream audience that their multinational predecessors never quite managed for themselves. It is interesting to note that whilst bond made headlines back in 2001 when their album was removed from the classical genre chart on the grounds of being "too pop", the Escala album contains several covers of pop hits (most notably their version of Kashmir which they performed on BGT last week) which renders it unequivocally ineligible for the classical listings.
Perhaps even more impressively they grab themselves a Top 40 placing on the singles chart as well as their rendition of Palladio lands at Number 39. Written in 1996 by composer Karl Jenkins, the Allegretto piece is best known as the music used by diamond company DeBeers in their occasional television campaigns. It is the first time the instantly familiar tune has been turned into a hit single despite several people having had a go. Not entirely coincidentally I'm sure, Bond also performed the piece for their 2002 album Shine, although my personal favourite is the techno remake released by Silent Nick back in 2001 and is well worth checking out if you get the chance.
It is the world of reality TV that is responsible for the highest new entry on the singles chart, albeit not a show anyone on these shores is likely to have seen. Agnes Carlsson first sprang to fame in 2005 when she won the second series of Swedish Idol at the tender age of 17. After making the final lineup by the skin of her teeth (she was a last-minute judges wildcard selection) she stormed her way to the final and was crowned an easy winner. Two years of success in her home country followed before the old chestnut of "creative differences" led to her parting company with Sony BMG and signing instead to a small independent label, a move which now turns out to be an inspired one thanks to their decision to licence her single Release Me for international release. Picked up here by All Around The World records, the single makes a sensational splash and rockets to Number 3, shouldering some much more highly fancied new singles out of the way in quite a decisive manner. This chart performance can be put down to some creative marketing, with a set of dance mixes made available in early April to ensure the single gained a toehold in clubs before it was even serviced to radio and TV channels. Release Me is far and away the best Scandi-pop and dare I say it the best pop single of any kind you've heard so far this year. Based on its form so far it is hard to rule out a play for Number One next week.
We dive headlong into the world of the Electrogirls for the next two singles chart new entries. Arriving with a bang at Number 8 are Australian duo The Veronicas who make their chart debut with Untouched. Twin sisters Jessica and Lisa Origliasso have been stars in their homeland since 2005 and have to date released two albums. Whilst this single marks their first hit records as performers on these shores, they have already been responsible for one Top 10 single thanks to Tatu's version of All About Us hitting Number 8 in late 2005. Untouched is itself two years old already, having first appeared on The Veronicas' second album Hook Me Up back in 2007. Untouched demonstrates just why the pair have been talked about in excited tones for some considerable time, a breathless half-spoken and half-sung electronic track which neatly avoids the easy trap of sounding far too 80s and instead comes over as something fresh and new. I'd brand it the most exciting new entry of the week, but for the fact that the single that lands five places below is an event I've been waiting almost a year to write about.
You see it has finally happened - Little Boots is a proper chart star. The chart debut of Blackpool native Victoria Hesketh comes after a prolonged period of hype during which time she has been praised to the hilt as potentially the most exciting new artist of the year. The best thing of all is that it is all fully deserved. I've already written what amounts to a full-blown love letter to her talents in another place, but to summarise the endearingly geeky starlet practically oozes talent, as her numerous YouTube videos of her messing around in her room with either a keyboard or her trademark Tenori-on sequencer neatly prove. For all that the nature of her debut single New In Town has raised a fair few eyebrows for it by and large eschews the stripped to the bone electrogirl style that characterised her early work (including January's low key digital-only release Stuck On Repeat) and instead wraps her crystal clear vocals in a lavish, busy pop track which would not sound out of place on a Kylie album. You can actually see what the thinking was. Having topped numerous "artist of the year" polls at the start of 2009, Little Boots needed to make an impact for her first full commercial release just to show what all the fuss was about and so this sparky pop record serves as her statement to the world that she is here as a force to be reckoned with.
For all that it may come as something of a disappointment that New In Town can only creep to Number 13, and I wasn't alone surely in anticipating a Top 5 hit straight out of the gate. Nonetheless, her debut album Hands contains more than its fair share of gems and should be a big seller when it hits the shops next week. For the moment, we just have to note the way La Roux's In For The Kill started slowly out of the gate to eventually rise to a position where it is challenging The Fear as the third biggest seller of the year to date. In the meantime, Chart Watch UK raises a glass to Little Boots and the fact she is a bone-fide pop star at least. Professional detachment can go hang temporarily, I'm a huge fan and I'll sing her praises from the rooftops at every chance I get.
To rewind a moment, we've actually skipped over a rather important chart climber in our haste. Rising 24-12 this week is Knock You Down, the second solo single from Keri Hilson, a track which boasts both Kanye West and Ne-Yo as co-credited guest stars. The single has arrived on the chart with what seems almost like indecent haste, having first charted just five weeks since her first hit as lead artist Return The Favor made Number 19. Both tracks are taken from her album In A Perfect World which has struggled to match its Stateside success since its release at the start of May, peaking at a lowly Number 62 when first released. This week the album returns to the published chart at Number 95 having dipped out altogether last week.
Also on the rise lower down the chart is Sugar from Flo Rida and Wynter which reverses its shock decline of last week and now sits at Number 19. Shontelle's Stuck With Each Other is at Number 23, We Are The People by Empire Of The Sun is now a Top 30 hit at Number 26 but the once mighty Katy Perry is struggling to catch fire with Waking Up In Vegas which can only limp five places to Number 31.
There is a very welcome debut for alternative band You Me At Six who land their first ever Top 75 chart single as Finders Keepers arrives at Number 33. The single is one of three new tracks set to be added to a revamped version of their debut album Take Off Your Colours which will hit the stores in late July. As festival season is upon us very shortly it seems only appropriate to note their presence on the bill at many of the big summer gigs, and quite deservedly so.
Finally, it seems only fitting that the impact of the week-long series of live shows of Britain's Got Talent on the singles chart is noted. Whilst we are unlikely to see anything approaching the shock Number One appearance of Mint Royale's Singing In The Rain which followed last years series, a handful of the show's performances have resulted in some surprising chart moves. Leading the charge is With Or Without You by U2 which lands at Number 43 for its highest chart placing since it first made Number 4 back in 1987 - this thanks to Shaun Smith's rendition of the song during his semi-final at the start of last week. Interestingly enough With Or Without You last made the Top 75 in October last year following another talent show performance, that of Diana Vickers on the first live X Factor show of the last series whilst it is also the second track to return to the chart following a Shaun Smith rendition. Just watch Ain't No Sunshine rebound once again next week after he sang it in the final.
BGT also prompts the umpteenth reappearance of Beggin' by Madcon which had only fallen out of the chart a few weeks ago after returning to the Top 40 in March thanks to the halo effect of an Adidas commercial. This appearance is thanks to dance act Flawless using the track for their routine, echoing the surge in demand for the Mint Royale track after its use by George Sampson last year. Something tells me that the bespoke track used by eventual winners Diversity is going to be a little harder to track down.