It is like going back to the good old days. Massive new releases from major big name acts, all vying for chart position and ending up dominating the whole of the top end of the market, to the exclusion of everything else currently on the market. Just like 1998 never went away. Except this time around it isn't the singles chart hosting such a mouth-watering clash of the Titans, by contrast, the single track market is relatively quiet this week. No, the real action takes place on the most extraordinary album chart for some time with the four biggest sellers of the week all brand new releases from some very well known acts indeed.
Perhaps perversely, the biggest seller of them all is by the least well-known act of the lot. Top honours of the week go to The Script who debut at Number One with brand new album 'Science & Faith' home of their current Top 4 single For The First Time which itself rises a place this week. The album follows neatly in the footsteps of their self-titled debut which also stormed to the top in its first week out back in August 2008, the album also returning for a further week of glory in January 2009.
The Number 2 album is A Thousand Suns by Linkin Park, their first studio album since 2007's Minutes To Midnight. By failing to make the top the album narrowly misses out on giving the group a back to back hat trick of Number One studio albums with both Minutes To Midnight and 2003 release Meteora debuting at the top in their first week. I stress studio albums as die-hard 'Park fans will point out that the three albums in question have all been interspersed with rather lesser selling live releases - Live In Texas limping to Number 47 in late 2003 and Road To Revolution - Live At Milton Keynes reaching a chart peak of Number 58 in December 2008. Back to the present day though, and A Thousand Suns storms the chart despite a lack of a large hit single to help promote it - the album having been preceded by the track The Catalyst which crept to Number 40 last week and which dips seven places this time around.
Hence it is all congratulations to the young guns who have managed to outsell two heavily promoted new releases from two very big veteran acts. Trailing in the bronze medal position is Robert Plant with new album Band Of Joy, radio commercials for which appear to have been all but unavoidable over the past seven days. The album is the direct follow-up to the acclaimed Raising Sand which the former Led Zeppelin star recorded with American country star Alison Krauss and which gave his entire career a brand new lease of life. The new album continues down a similar rock/bluegrass crossover path, taking Percy even further down the road to becoming a proper C&W legend.
Finally at Number 4 on the album chart is the man who had a whole hour of prime time television devoted to him last weekend, Phil Collins. His new album Going Back has thus not had time to feel the benefit of that exposure but does at least for now land on the chart at Number 4. Soundtrack albums and hits collections aside, the collection of old Motown covers is the first Phil Collins album proper since 2002 collection Testify and its chart placing marks a dramatic improvement in his chart fortunes, his last release having failed to progress further than Number 15. Number 4 is enough to match the chart peak of his 1996 album Dance Into The Light. His last studio album to go Top 3 was the chart-topping Both Sides way back in 1993.
So to the singles chart, did you think we had forgotten? Actually, there is only so much to tell here. The biggest news of the week concerns the Number One single, with Alexandra Burke and Laza Morgan finally breaking the long, long streak of single week chart-topping hits. Instead Start Without You becomes the first single since California Gurls to spend a second week at the summit, its biggest challenge actually coming from the track which was at Number One three weeks ago - Dynamite by Taio Cruz which climbs back to Number 2.
Far and away the longest runner in the Top 10 is Love The Way You Lie from Eminem and Rihanna, the single climbing back one place to Number 6 in what is its 13th week as a Top 10 single. This position is particularly significant as although I am writing this before the official figures have been concerned, it is more or less a given that the sale of the track this week will have taken it above 639,000 copies in total and so ensuring it overtakes Owl City's Fireflies as the biggest selling track of the year so far. Think about that for a moment - this is a track which despite several near-misses never once made Number One yet which has sustained its sales for long enough over a three month period to outsell every other track that has charted this year. Whether this situation persists until December 31st remains to be seen. Whilst the single continues to sell it will continue to add to its total, yet we are also entering what is traditionally the biggest sales period of the year with a string of X Factor promoted singles (not least the winning entry) inevitably set to dominate sales flashes. Nonetheless, there is a small part of me that would love for a bit of history to be made [Spoiler: it was]. Keep an eye on those numbers.
Now think back nine weeks if you can. Back at the end of July we noted the arrival of DJ Got Us Falling In Love by Usher at Number 20 and suggested that whilst the fact it was being released at all was due to the panic of his American label (who had essentially thrown away all the potential singles from the Raymond vs Raymond album to widespread indifference Stateside) we should not be too alarmed by its initial low entry given that Usher singles traditionally get off to what is known as "a slow start". If only we had known just how slow. DJ Got Us Falling In Love spent an impressive four weeks locked at Number 20 [the significance of which escaped me there, this was the first time since 2002 that a single had spent four weeks in a row at the same chart position below the Top 10] before appearing to lose heart and die off. Three weeks ago the track had fallen to Number 24 and looked to be dead in the water. Not any more. In the last few weeks, the track has moved 24-17-14 and now this week makes a brand new leap, rocketing to Number 7 to finally and belatedly become a Top 10 single. The boost this week can only be put down to his performance at the track at the MTV Video Music Awards, maybe just maybe waking people up to just how good a record it actually is.
The highest new entry of the week creeps in at Number 10, Impossible landing Shontelle a second hit single after a considerable wait. The young star was hailed at the start of last year as "the new Rihanna", purely by dint of the fact that she too hails from the shores of Barbados. Despite debut single T-Shirt nicking half its tune from Jordin Sparks' Tattoo and peaking at Number 6 she found further big hits hard to come by. Stuck With Each Other limped to Number 23 and third single Battle Cry missed the Top 40 altogether in the summer of 2009. Her debut album Shontelligence was a similar flop and failed even to chart on these shores. Hence there is a sense of pushing the reset button for her soon to be released second album 'No Gravity', the artist's own description of it as "experimental" a tidy euphemism for "we have nothing to lose by changing things around a little". Well praise be for taking a risk say I. Impossible is a show-stopping ballad designed from the outset to showcase just what a good singer she actually is, its narrative style sounding for all the world like it has been lifted from a Broadway musical [If only I'd written "like an X Factor coronation song". Hindsight, eh?]. In short, the perfect track to finally and properly put an underappreciated star on the map.
A series of odd chart moves characterise the mid-table section of the Top 40. For a start, there is the former Number One single All Time Low from The Wanted which makes a seemingly random 24-14 leap back up the listings, the highest it has rated for three weeks. After its initial 1-5 plummet which raised worrying questions as to whether the hotly tipped new boy band were going to slide into McFly levels of short-termism, the single has demonstrated a refreshing amount of staying power, suggesting that the underlying quality of the song does have the power to win through. All Time Low despite our first impressions is something of a grower.
Also back in the Top 20 unexpectedly is Enrique Iglesias with I Like It which moves 34-20, its first Top 20 appearance since the end of August and with the single now 12 weeks old since it first hit Number 4 back in July. Last weekend's Help For Heroes concert which was shown live on TV can claim credit for this move, along with the otherwise inexplicable appearance of not only his forthcoming new single Heartbeat at Number 50 but also the superannuated Hero which returns to the chart at Number 63.
The phenomenon of a newer single frustratingly being outshone by its predecessor is hitting Example too at the moment, his new track Last Ones Standing rises 43-27 this week, but it is still somewhat in the shadow of Kickstarts which just refuses to go away - lifting 35-33. Meanwhile, the current lack of singles interest in rock or indie acts appears to have caused a large hiccup in the career of the Manic Street Preachers who land what is for them an astonishingly low new entry at Number 28 with the brand new single (It's Not War) Just The End Of Love. Approaching the 20th anniversary of their first ever chart singles next year, the group have now missed the Top 20 with their last three singles chart entries, their worst chart run since 1994.
Not that American pop heroes have it any easier either - Maroon 5 are, ahem, marooned at Number 30 with new single Misery, their first single release since 2008. If this track fails to progress further it will be their fourth release in a row to effectively flop. Even the star power of Rihanna could not help their last single If I Never See Your Face Again advance further than Number 28 two years ago. [Somebody call Christina Aguilera!]
Finally, for this week, your talent show hit list looks a little like this: The last "Must Be The Music" semi-final failed to spark quite as much interest as the first two with only Sing For The Deaf by Missing Andy making any kind of chart inroad at Number 36. Meanwhile the latest round of X Factor auditions throw up a reappearance at Number 35 of the old Script single The Man Who Can't Be Moved whilst an auditionees use of the words "I'm going to perform Pixie Lott's version of Use Somebody" does indeed prompt said rendition of the track to land on the chart at Number 41. Originally the digital b-side of her debut single Mama Do, the cover of the Kings Of Leon track had a brief chart run alongside its parent track, peaking at Number 52 in June 2009. This new chart appearance marks the closest it has come to making the Top 40 in its own right.