It is good to have a winter break isn't it? You know, take a week out, relax a bit and catch up on a few DVDs and films you've been meaning to watch for a while.
It is pretty much what the music industry did this week in the UK, with one of the quietest charts for some time characterised by not a whole lot happening at the top and with only the odd interesting movement lower down to keep things interesting.
Mention first of all must be made of a chart listing that doesn't often get mentioned on these pages - the Compilations Chart to which all multi-artist albums are relegated and which barely merits a second glance under normal circumstances. This week is different for the best selling compilation of the week is pretty much unique in UK chart terms, topping the sales rankings on digital sales alone. The album in question is Hope For Haiti Now, a collection of the best live performances featured on the MTV sponsored charity telethon which aired in America on January 22nd. Airing here in the middle of the night due to time differences, the broadcast itself attracted little attention but the subsequent online only release of the soundtrack has meant that the album has spent most of last week lodged at the top of the iTunes daily rankings - sales which were enough to ensure it outsold every "proper" compilation CD in the shops at the present time.
Inevitably a handful of the tracks from the album also make singles chart debuts. Leading the way, and falling agonisingly short of a Top 40 entry is Stranded (Haiti Mon Amour) as performed by Jay-Z and Rihanna with contributions from Bono and The Edge and which enters at Number 41. Not far behind is Beyonce's rendition of Halo which she performed with Chris Martin accompanying her on piano. The single arrives on the chart at Number 45 although its has inherited the chart run of the original studio version and so may well appear as a re-entry on many chart listings you see this week. Other singles from the album pepper the positions just outside the Top 75, amongst them A Message by Coldplay at 88 and Justin Timberlake's take on Hallelujah three places below.
Needless to say that most attention here is on the UK industry's own response to the Haiti earthquake, the charity recording of Everybody Hurts which is released next week and will inevitably be dominating proceedings two weeks from now.
Remaining top of the singles chart for the moment is Fireflies by Owl City which spends a second week as chart king. Its nearest challenger as expected was Don't Stop Believin from the Glee Cast which continues its steady rise by hitting Number 2, although you can safely assume this is the last hurrah of the single which now seems unlikely to grab even a token week at the top - it was a full 30,000 sales off the pace this week alone. The latest episode of the TV series to air hasn't prompted any major new sales from the cast performances but has instead given a small chart fillip to the recording that featured prominently in the storyline. Hence the arrival at Number 60 of Beyonce's Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It) which inspired the school gridiron team to their winning play.
But for the swapping of places between Iyaz and the Glee Cast, we would have had another all-static Top 5 with both Sidney Samson and 3OH!3 holding steady. In the case of Starstrukk this means the single has now spent three straight weeks at Number 4 after peaking at Number 3 on January 16th.
If there is any one act that can point to some significant movement across the sales universe this week it is Alicia Keys who is suddenly reaping the benefits of a well received appearance on Friday Night With Jonathan Ross the week before last. It helps her current single Empire State Of Mind (Part II) to its highest chart placing yet, the single rising to Number 7 and well on its way to emulating the Top 3 success of the Jay-Z single to which it is a direct answer. Speaking of the "original", it reverses its chart decline this week and moves back to Number 18, as does Keys' own previous single Doesn't Mean Anything which is now back to Number 23. The song she actually performed on the TV show was the track widely assumed to be her next single - Try Sleeping With A Broken Heart which begins its chart journey at Number 71. Naturally the parent album The Element Of Freedom benefits as well, charging up to Number 2 to reach its highest chart placing to date and indeed to rank as her highest charting albumn ever. Denying the chance for now to become her first ever Number One album in this country is Paolo Nutini who returns to the top for a third run with Sunny Side Up.
Not that there aren't two other American-based ladies who can lay claim to having had a good week. One of them is Katy Perry who is not only at Number 4 with a co-vocal on Starstrukk but who also supplies co- vocals for the highest new entry of the week, Timbaland's If We Ever Meet Again which debuts at Number 17. The second UK single to be taken from the superstar producer's album Shock Value II, it follows hard on the heels of Morning After Dark which peaked at Number 6 back in December. If We Ever Meet Again is by his own admission Timabaland's attempt to create a track with something of the party vibe of I Gotta Feeling and uniquely features a lead vocal from the man himself as Kanye West-style he drenches himself in autotune to wrestle his voice into something approaching musicality. Needless to say as a pure pop record the track works quite magically and indeed it is only its open aping of the smash hit Black Eyed Peas single that prevents it being something of a classic.
The other victorious lady of the week is Rihanna who has singles all over the Top 75 at present. In order they are: Russian Roulette (back up one at Number 24), new single Rude Boy (climbing 52-28 on the way to becoming another huge hit), Stranded (Haiti Mon Amour) at Number 41 and album track Hard which was the second US single lifted from Rated R and is having a minor chart run of its own, sitting at Number 43 this week.
I therefore make that four entries apiece for Alicia Keys and Rihanna with just two for Katy Perry although she sits higher up the chart than either of her two rivals. Sort it out amongst yourselves ladies.
The only other real chart entry of note sits at Number 51 as More Than A Feeling by Boston arrives for an unexpected chart run. Originally a Number 22 hit back in1977 but a staple of soft-rock compilations ever since, the new surge of interest in the song is thanks to its use on the soundtrack to a TV commercial for Barclaycard. Those speculating on its future chart fortunes may care to note that the advert is itself the follow-up campaign to the one that used Let Your Love Flow and which helped the Bellamy Brothers track of similar vintage back to Number 21 in November 2008.
That's pretty much that for this week, and if the podcast ends up with a running time of just six minutes this week you'll know why. Given the horrors that await in seven days time, next Sunday we may be looking back at this reassuringly familiar chart with something approaching regretful nostalgia. Be prepared.