Well this is a bit of a head-scratcher. We're used by now to the singles chart often being like swimming in treacle, with the movement of certain hit singles being either steady or sluggish depending on your point of view. For the album chart in the UK to be displaying similar levels of lethargy is something else altogether. Before anyone floods my mailbox with examples of occasions in the past, this is by no means unknown, but taken together with a slowed down singles chart it means one has to search harder than ever for the big chart stories of the week.
At least we have a changing of the guard at the top of the album chart, even if it is to welcome back the old guard once again. Boyzone's Brother relinquishes its crown once more to leave the way clear for Lady Gaga and The Fame to reach Number One for no less than the fourth time. It has been a long time since anyone managed four different spells at the top with an album. James Blunt, Snow Patrol, Amy Winehouse and Kings Of Leon have had three bites of the cherry in recent years but The Fame is the first album since the Scissor Sisters self-titled debut made it to Number One on four occasions during 2004 and 2005. The all-time record for returns to the top of the album chart is to this day held by the Sound Of Music original movie soundtrack album which had no less than 12 different runs at Number One between 1965 and 1968.
At least the Lady Gaga and Boyzone albums are original works. The same cannot be said for the highest new entry on the chart which for the second week running goes to a collection of older material. Last week it was the Free and Bad Company combined Greatest Hits collection, this week the biggest selling new release is the new Hits collection from Doves. Entitled The Places Between, the album compiles the best of their work from their four albums released between 2000 and 2009 as well as some bonus single-only extras. The only new work the album contains is the track Andalucia which despite being released to radio a week ago has failed to tickle the Top 100 since it became available as a download. The album enters the chart at Number 12, failing to penetrate a Top 10 which has no new entries at all.
To the singles chart we look then for action, noting first of all that Scouting For Girls hold firm at Number One with This Ain't A Love Song for a second week of glory. Hard on their heels is Usher for just as OMG had a slow start when it first charted two weeks ago, the single has now raced in short order to Number 2 to give the R&B star another huge smash hit. OMG is now Usher's highest charting single since 2004 release Burn and seems almost odds on to move into pole position in the next week or so should the Scouting For Girls single start to flag. Only once before has Usher had a single peak at Number 2 - 2001 single Pop Ya Collar which was denied a place at Number One by Limp Bizkit and Rollin'.
The only single new to the Top 10 this week is Carry Out from Timbaland and Justin Timberlake which vaults 16-6. It means Shock Value 2 has now spawned three straight Top 10 hits in the space of just four months, none of which have peaked lower than Number 6. Meanwhile predecessor If We Ever Meet Again is still selling, charting down at Number 19 this week, consolidating its position as the ninth biggest seller of the year to date.
The highest new entry of the week arrives at Number 11 although it is in the shape of a single that is actually almost two years old. Ohio born singer songwriter Joshua Radin has two albums under his belt already in a recording career that stretches back to 2006. An old fashioned folk singer in the mould of Cat Stevens or James Taylor, Radin found a niche for himself as the creator of the kind of music so beloved by American TV producers looking for a suitably emotive score for a particular scene. As a result it was TV and film exposure that helped propel his second album Simple Times into the best sellers upon release in 2008, despite the label being rejected by his original record label for not being commercial enough. Radin famously took the master tapes to an independent and has not looked back since.
Now it is time for the UK to play catch up, and ahead of the first ever British release of Simple Times comes its lead single I'd Rather Be With You which can consider itself unlucky not to make the Top 10. An immeasurably pretty love song that is as much country as it is folk rock (check out those chord changes), it breezes into the chart like a refreshing breath of fresh air despite sounding for all the world like it could have been recorded in 1977 and quite simply has "potential classic" written all over it. Top 10 next week beyond a shadow of a doubt, this is one belated release that was actually well worth the wait.
Also making waves inside the Top 20 is Memories from the unlikely pairing of David Guetta and Kid Cudi which after no less than eight weeks on the chart finally appears to be catching fire, leaping 30-15 in the space of a week. The single is Guetta's first Top 40 hit since his brace of Number One singles last year and something of a return to form after his last single One Love which featured Estelle on vocals could only limp to Number 46 last November. Memories guest star Kid Cudi is back on the Top 40 for the first time since the start of 2009 when he featured on the Number 2 smash hit Day N' Nite.
The Guetta single is by no means the only single on the Top 40 to be taking its time to turn into what you might call a "proper" hit single. Truly this is the era of the slow burners and on closer examination it is interesting to note that the Top 40 is actually rammed full of such records.
Slow Burner #1 is Gravity from Pixie Lott. As we've noted before on these pages in stark contrast to her first two hits which were more or less instantaneous Number Ones, her last couple of singles have played it slowly and carefully. After falling back to Number 26 last week Gravity now yo-yos back up to Number 23, a position it last reached three weeks ago and just three places short from the Number 20 peak it reached a fortnight ago. Don't write this single off just yet.
Slow Burner #2 is Dog Days Are Over from Florence & The Machine which makes a ten place rise to Number 24 this week. This is actually the single's second chart run of 2010 as it initially charted at Number 23 back in January as a halo hit alongside You've Got The Love which had originally appeared on its b-side when first released as a low key independent single back in 2008. Now promoted to a full fledged single at last, Dog Days Are Over began its chart comeback two weeks ago, re-entering the Top 40 after having fallen down as far as Number 56. Quite whether a single that has been subject to download attention for much of the year to date has the legs to become a fully fledged Top 20 hit (despite money being lavished on a brand new video) remains to be seen. For the moment it remains one of the chart's most understated long runners.
'You've Got The Love' incidentally re-enters the Top 40 at Number 39 this week and with the live Brits performance of You've Got The Dirtee Love still around at Number 20 it means Florence is in the somewhat unique position of have three simultaneous Top 40 hits with what is effectively an a-side and both a studio and live version of its original b-side.
Don't try to think about that too much, you will get a headache. Slow Burner #3 turns out to be Say It's Over by N-Dubz which leaps 13 places to Number 27 in what is actually the single's third week on the Top 75. The third single from the trio's Playing With Fire album, the track is clearly taking its time to grow on record buyers and may well struggle to match even the Number 15 peak of their last single Playing With Fire, never mind Top 5 hit I Need You from last year.
Finally Slow Burner #4 appears to be the mightiest of them all. Acoustic folk band Mumford & Sons are slowly but surely becoming the group to watch in 2010, their resolutely traditional and impassioned songs somehow a welcome antidote to the processed and manufactured sound of much mainstream pop. Their first Top 40 single Little Lion Man made a respectable Number 24 in September last year, despite its gloriously unashamed use of profanity which meant that the radio edit effectively muted out half the lyrics in the chorus. After seasonal follow-up Winter Winds could only reach Number 44 the group have returned to the more visible end of the charts with their third single The Cave which thus far has traced a most extraordinary chart pattern. The single this week sits at Number 31, its highest chart placing to date in a run which so far has seen it spend three weeks at Number 37 and a further two locked at Number 32. The Cave is essentially Little Lion Man with less rude words but no less appealing and altogether wonderful for that. I suspect it will take a totally brand new track from their next album to give them a true mainstream hit, but for the moment it is something of a guilty pleasure to see Mumford & Sons take up residency even at the bottom end of the Top 40 and simply refuse to let go.
Those in search of new singles which stand a good chance of going very high very fast should Keep an eye out too for the new Taio Cruz single Dirty Picture which arrives at Number 40. Featuring a guest vocal from Kesha, this single is more or less a lock to rise the charts over the next few weeks, based if nothing else on the chart form of the two acts involved. Hot new singles from Professor Green, Selena Gomez and Kelis should also make significant chart waves in seven days time.
Finally for this week, amongst the handful of also-rans outside the Top 75 there is a rather unexpected comeback for the hitherto little regarded Snow Patrol single Set The Fire To The Third Bar which makes a chart reappearance at Number 46. The single was first released in November 2006 but had the annoying misfortune to coincide with the popularity of its immediate predecessor - the record-mangling Chasing Cars which was still in the upper reaches of the chart at the time. The single peaked at a rather perfunctory Number 18 and vanished in short order soon afterwards. Its 2010 chart reappearance comes thanks to its extensive use in the new movie Dear John whose trailer has been running extensively in this country for the past couple of weeks. Could it be that the world of film has given a new lease of life to a track which was never that unpopular to begin with but which simply suffered from an unfortunate lack of timing first time around...