This week on the UK singles chart we had a good old fashioned race for Number One to distract us from the incessant rain, with two hotly tipped new singles entering into a three way battle with the present incumbent. Such was the neck and neck struggle during the week that it actually comes as a something of a disappointment to note that rather than a double set of new entries at the top, one of the contenders fell away badly as the week ended.
First the plaudits, and it is congratulations to Scouting For Girls who land themselves their first ever Number One single with brand new release This Ain't A Love Song crashing straight in at Number One. The three piece from London first invaded our musical consciousness back in 2007 and 2008 with a series of bubbly and chirpy pop singles She's So Lovely, Elvis Ain't Dead and Heartbeat , all three of which made the Top 10 with a further two releases going on to become minor Top 40 entries. After a break during which they were heavily promoted on mainland Europe, they have now returned with a brand new album Everybody Wants To Be On TV and a lead single which at a stroke gives them their biggest hit single to date.
This Ain't A Love Song (no connection to the famous Bon Jovi track of the same name) dials down the cheeriness somewhat in favour of angst and heartache and in the process manages to be less irritating than some of their earlier work, their first album marking their songwriting talents as a work in progress for all its widespread popularity. The single maybe falls slightly short of being the sweeping epic it aspires to be, but it sounds wonderful on the radio and with a video that manages to touch the right number of heartstrings (as well as being filmed around the corner from my house strangely enough) it manages to be the kind of package that is well worth its strong sale and a berth at the top of the charts. Those with an eye on such genre matters will also note that it is arguably the first Number One single from a good old fashioned "British boys with guitars" group since Coldplay's stint at the top with Viva La Vida back in 2008.
So what of the single that was at one stage in contention for Number One? Well in the end it failed to last the distance, being outsold by Lady Gaga at the death and having to content itself with a berth at Number 3. Step forward then She Said by the ever more appealing Plan B, his second solo hit single of the year following Stay Too Long which was a Top 10 hit at the start of the year. Continuing his transition from rapper to soulful crooner, She Said wins awards for being the most diverting single of the week, an Al Green-inspired single that wraps itself around your ears before poking you in the face with a fork thanks to its lyrical sting in the tale. There is less guitar here than is normal for a Plan B single but once more his other trademark of shifting effortlessly between musical deliveries is demonstrated to perfection. Compare the smooth sung vocals with his grime-tinted rapping on the bridge and it is hard to believe it is the same man performing throughout. She Said isn't too far off being utter genius quite frankly.
Sadly after the superlatives there has to come the grotty bit. Surely there can be few expressions more soul-destroying than "Facebook Chart Campaign", as the tribal mentality of social networking allows people to band together to persuade friends and acquaintances to mass buy one track in particular to promote it chart-wards. Reducing the cultural gift of music to little more than an empty gesture and offering to the world a false picture of the appeal of a particular act still ranks as the greatest antithesis of everything an appreciation of music of any kind it is supposed to stand for.
Ever since the debacle last Christmas when some chap in Brighton conned a few thousand people into helping impose his musical tastes upon the singles chart, a wide variety of bandwagon jumpers have periodically attempted to vote with their coins to persuade similar mass purchases of random singles. As even the most casual of observer will have spotted, the lack of any chart invasions of any kind demonstrates that such a musical hijack isn't actually as easy as it looks and requires a certain critical mass before it can even begin to make an impact. This week however we do have one such chart invasion as once again the lunatics (quite literally) attempt to take over the asylum.
The occasion in the calendar is naturally the Easter Bunny's Birthday when most of us get a four day weekend and spend part of it cursing the fact that all the supermarkets are closed. This wasn't enough for the founders of one particular Facebook group however, and they decided it would be a wheeze to raise the issue of the other largely ignored meaning of the holiday and arrange for a religious pop record to be Number One on Easter Sunday. The track chosen for this purpose was History Makers by recently disbanded Christian rock band Delirious? which originally featured on their 1997 album King Of Fools and it is that single which lands itself the third highest new entry of the week, arriving at Number 4.
Now technically the aim of campaign was to promote the track to Number One, so in a sense the rather lower entry point of the single can be roundly laughed at as a tragic failure, in much the same way we would have celebrated had the great Christmas Number One campaign resulted in nothing more than a Number 2 hit. Nonetheless the tambourine banging supporters of the Delirious? single will still be cheering the presence of their heroes in the Top 10 as vindication of their desire to propel a song than mentions Jesus into the upper reaches. Needless to say such mass chart campaigns always overstate the true popularity of both the idea and the single, and presuming most followers of the scam followed their instructions to the letter and bought all three available versions of the track, it is safe to assume that the number of individuals who actually cared about the record is but a fraction of the actual sales that propelled it from nowhere to Number 4. My views on the matter remain unequivocal. If you buy a record (or several) to make some kind of point or statement or because some guy online told you it would be a giggle to do so, you are not a music lover or even a chart fan and your activities actually serve to undermine the significance of the chart position you are aiming for.
Footnotes aside, we should at least note that History Makers by whatever means has wound up the highest charting Delirious? single of their entire chart career. In the late 90s the group were actively promoted to a mainstream audience, with the happy clappy nature of the songs reduced to enough of a subtlety to send tracks such as Deeper and See The Star into the Top 20 at the end of that decade, and indeed it is from that era of recording than History Makers dates. The group arguably had enough commercial potential to ditch the Christian rock tag and go properly mainstream for real but they instead elected to go in the other direction and confine their work to the still lucrative religious circuit. Back in 2001, upon the Top 40 entry of their best single I Could Sing Of Your Love Forever I wrote: "I'm convinced they have at least one mainstream hit single in them and indeed if there was any justice this epic ballad (complete with gospel choir) would be it. It is just a question of marketing I guess", a line which adorned one of their fansites for some considerable time afterwards. Whilst a Top 5 hit under false pretences stretches the definition of a "mainstream hit single" it is at the very least nice to be finally proved correct, even if it did take the best part of a decade to get there.
Once more we have to scratch around for activity in the rest of the Top 40, although there is a neat double just inside the Top 20 as Timbaland's simultaneous hit singles lead to Carry Out rising 13 places to sit at Number 16 whilst the still apparently evergreen If We Ever Meet Again clings on just one place below at Number 17. Speaking of evergreens, it is fun to note that of the nine singles to have reached Number One in 2010 so far, no less than seven of them still have prominent places on the Top 40. Taking them in order, Bad Romance is Number 4, Replay is Number 29, Fireflies is Number 15, In My Head is Number 11, Pass Out is Number 5, Telephone is Number 2 and naturally This Ain't A Love Song is Number One. The two singles absent from the list aren't hard to deduce - The Climb and Everybody Hurts, both singles with rather fleeting mass appeal even if they can both boast total sales of over 600,000 copies, well in excess of any of the other singles on the list.
Similarly on the subject of long running big sellers, the relentless parade of Glee singles finally comes to a brief halt this week as the UK catches up with the American airings of the series. Whilst Don't Stop Believin still maintains a place in the Top 30 (indeed both Glee and Journey versions also have back to back chart placings at 27 and 28 respectively this week) and is the 8th biggest seller of the year to date, the song that soundtracked the show's heart-warming mid-season climax charts at Number 53. The track in question is My Life Would Suck Without You, as taken to Number One last year by Kelly Clarkson and which plenty of people, myself included, expected to make a big impact when the climactic scenes aired. Maybe the 13 week parade of hits has tired people out, or maybe the ready availability of both soundtrack albums has suppressed demand. Either way, the single is far from being a hit and is now just an excuse for me to gratuitously sign off with the video.