So, back in the saddle once more and good grief where to start?
Let us begin with the two-way battle at the top of the singles chart, which as we mentioned in Chart Bite last night has resulted in a victory for the all-star American trio of Jay-Z, Rihanna and Kanye West who charge to the top with Run This Town. Three is indeed the magic number here as the single contrives to become the third Number One hit for all three of the contributors to the single. Jay-Z has perhaps the most to cheer in this respect as Run This Town marks the first ever time he has had a UK Number One with one of his own records rather than being a guest on somebody else's. He has come close on two occasions in the past, hitting Number 2 with Hard Knock Life in December 1998 and with 03 Bonnie and Clyde with Beyonce in tow in February 2003.
A brand new Number One means we continue the run of quick-fire changes which means that a different record has sat at the top of the charts since the first week in August - although that pace of change is tempered somewhat by the fact that one record Boom Boom Pow made the top twice during that period. Regardless of that footnote, this is still the highest rate of turnover at the top since 2005 when between January 1st and March 26th, a span of 13 weeks, there was a different single at Number One every time a new chart was published. Indeed we have now had 21 different Number One singles during 2009 - matching the total for the whole of 2008.
[There's some weirdness going on with the video for this, entirely impossible to track down online at the time of posting. How very odd].
So what of the chart runners-up. Well in a sense you have to feel a little sorry for them as by all accounts the Sugababes were leading the chart race right up until the weekend with Get Sexy. Instead, they have to settle for Number 2, making this their highest charting single since About You Now topped the rankings in 2007. As a testament to their career longevity, it is the lead single from what will be their seventh studio album Sweet 7 which is set for release in late November just in time for the seasonal market. All the best Sugababes singles have some kind of gimmick about them and this is no exception, the chorus of the track being an unbashed callback to the lyrics of I'm Too Sexy by Right Said Fred. The novelty track famous spent six weeks locked at Number 2 in the summer of 1991 and subsequently topped the US charts the following year. It means that alongside Philip Lawrence, Ari Levine and Bruno Mars, the three members of Right Said Fred are also listed as co-writers of Get Sexy in what makes for a very crowded credits section [and isn't it funny how when Taylor Swift had the exact same idea 8 years later, everyone appeared to have forgotten this moment. Including me]. Get Sexy is by no means the most accessible Sugababes single ever and a world away from the bubblegum pop of About You Now and singles of its ilk, but it fits the vibe of the moment perfectly and to see them still sparking with such energy and with such automatic appeal after almost a decade of hits is something quite pleasing to behold.
Now for the extraordinary bit, as the next biggest Top 10 arrival is a top-selling former Number One which was first released exactly a year ago this week. Step forward Sex On Fire by Kings Of Leon which had already re-entered the Top 40 at Number 33 last week but which now rockets back to Number 6, its highest chart position since it dropped out of the Top 10 in November last year. Just for a change, the reasons for this surprise re-emergence are actually twofold. Kings Of Leon sales are up dramatically across the board this week, thanks largely to their festival performances over the Bank Holiday weekend which were also broadcast live on television. Only By The Night is up to Number 4 on the album chart with Because Of The Times a little way behind at Number 49. Singles-wise they can also point to the Number 36 re-entry of Use Somebody as an indication of an all-round surge of interest in their most recent product. For Sex On Fire to reach the Top 10 a year after release, however, there must have been another factor and for sure there was - an 'X' one.
The highlight of the show broadcast last weekend (August 29th) was the audition performance of Jamie "Afro" Archer who performed the song to a rapturous reception, and it is inevitably this primetime exposure which has driven the single into the arms and ears of a whole new audience. An incident like this does throw into sharp relief the nature of the music market and the way in which in many ways music is struggling to find its way to the casual audiences of the past.
Look at it this way. You and I are dedicated music fans. We follow the charts, and visit sites on the web such as Yahoo! Music to read about it and discuss it. Everyone else stumbles across music almost in passing and actually has less of an opportunity to do so than ever before. Yes, there is lots of music on the radio, but radio, by and large, is background noise and the most successful stations are not those which bombard their audience with the hottest new sounds but which play the most inoffensive middle of the road stuff they can. I first wanted to be on the radio so I could play music and talk about it to people, but quickly learned when I got there that my job wasn't to talk about music at all and indeed that knowing about music wasn't necessarily a career advantage. Yes, there is more music on television than ever before with an entire segment of the EPG dedicated to music services, but what this has actually done has ghettoised music to its own corner of the schedules. Theoretically, the casual viewer could surf past channels such as The Hits, but in all likelihood, they will have found something they want to watch instead long before they get to the channel numbers in the 300s.
Back in the day, it was different. At the risk of sounding like a stuck record, the importance of Top Of The Pops was that it sat in the middle of the primetime TV schedules and offered exposure to the latest chart music to a mass casual audience. The TOTP effect of sales for a track soaring after a TV performance was largely due to huge numbers suddenly becoming aware of a song and its availability and wanting to grab a copy for themselves. It isn't too great a leap of faith to suggest that the X Factor TV audience are behaving in the same way. We know they will buy records if they are told to - the huge sales for the winner's song every Christmas prove that. Increasingly though they are reacting spontaneously to songs that are either on in the background or performed by the acts themselves. Sex On Fire may not be a new song or even an unpopular one - figures out this week show that it is the second biggest selling download of all time in this country - but to a huge portion of the X Factor audience it was in all likelihood either a song they had never heard before or were never particularly aware that they liked. All it took was some prime time exposure and bam - the single gains an appreciation it never had before. One full year after release Sex On Fire is suddenly one of the ten biggest sellers of the week. It is genuinely something to think about.
While you are thinking about it, consider the next new entry which happily is a slightly newer song. New at Number 12 is Chillin' which gives rapper Wale his first ever hit in his own right. The single is by no means his first chart appearance, that came back in February when he was the guest star on Daniel Merriweather's Change. For his first hit single proper he has a superstar of his own in tow - no less a name than Lady Gaga who lends her not inconsiderable pipes on the song's hook in a manner which plenty of others have commented is a pretty nailed on MIA impression. Nonetheless, she helps to give the song the required touch of magic which makes Chillin' a perfectly poised pop crossover. Indeed the single appears to be Lady Gaga's best hope at the moment for another Top 10 hit, as her own latest track Lovegame goes into a slight reverse and dips to Number 31.
Also new to the Top 20 at Number 16 is Say It which marks the welcome return after two years away of Booty Luv. The duo are Cherise and Nadia who were originally members of pop-rap group Big Brovaz. With the group on the verge of being dropped, the two girls were asked to supply vocals for a remake of Tweet's Boogie 2Nite for use on a promotional sampler for dance label Hed Kandi. Reaction to the track was so positive that it was given a full release in late 2006, hitting Number 2 here and becoming a smash all over Europe. From nowhere a new concept was born and a whole album was produced featuring mostly cover versions of older R&B songs redone in a club style. Hit remakes of Luther Vandross' Shine and Lucy Pearl's Don't Mess With My Man all found their way into the charts. So now the girls who put the F for fun back in R&B return with the brand new original track Say It. The rest of the formula remains the same, the single an intoxicating party track that won't win any awards for creativity but as a put your drink down and burn some energy off record is the perfect addition to any party mix. Booty Luv represent the unashamed fun part of club music and I'm quite delighted to see them return.
Turning to the album chart, and whilst the presence of the Arctic Monkeys at the top for a second week isn't so much of a surprise, the album that winds up at Number 2 almost certainly is. This week marks the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II and so to commemorate, an album of the most famous songs of the era's most popular star has been heavily promoted. Hence the 90-year-old Dame Vera Lynn finds herself amongst some unlikely chart bedfellows as her hits collection We'll Meet Again sits pretty at Number 2, failing by a narrow margin to top the charts and give her the honour of the oldest performer ever to have a Number One album. Although her greatest period of popularity predated the arrival of sales charts, Dame Vera Lynn does have one Number One hit to her name - My Son My Son which had a two week run at the summit in November 1954. Before this year she had only ever had two chart albums -20 Family Favourites which made Number 25 in 1981 and a similarly themed 50th-anniversary compilation also entitled We'll Meet Again which charted at Number 44 in September 1989. Her most famous recording is arguably The White Cliffs Of Dover and whilst her version has never appeared on the singles chart, the song was taken to Number One in a double a-side by Robson Green and Jerome Flynn in 1995.