1 BARBIE GIRL (Aqua)
Still the novelty appears not to have worn off, Aqua now spending a fourth week at the top of the UK charts with a potential for the millionth copy of the single to be sold in the next couple of weeks. With the gap between Aqua, Natalie Imbruglia and the rest of the chart slowly closing, expect a new Number One single next week... which will make it a Perfect Day for some.
3 NEVER EVER (All Saints)
With very little hype and without even the sacking of a manager, All Saints have slowly emerged as one of the class discoveries of the year. Although many, myself included, fell into the trap of labelling them Spice Girls clones with September's I Know Where It's At single they are on the verge of proving they have abilities far beyond any perceived formula. A perfect example is Never Ever, easily one of the most outstanding pop records of the year, a glorious collision of Motown and Blues, complete with a lengthly spoken introduction. Unsurprisingly their second single vaults immediately into the Top 3 and I would be very surprised if it isn't still a Top 10 fixture come Christmastime. Suddenly their debut album is one of the most eagerly anticipated releases of the year. [One of those singles you remember exactly where you were when you first heard it. I was listening to the radio on a bus weaving its way through Leeds City Centre].
5 I WILL COME TO YOU (Hanson)
This could have been predicted couldn't it? Wait a minute, let me look this up in my book of pop cliches.... page 5... ah yes here we go, "Release a ballad as your third single, particularly if it is just in time for Christmas." The logic is of course that it shows the versatility of your musical talents and the depth of your songwriting. Notwithstanding the lack of lyrical sophistication that is a characteristic of most Hanson songs, I Will Come To You is a thoroughly competent single if not quite the lighter-waving anthem it aspires to be. It goes without saying this is their third Top 5 single in a row.
6 YOU SEXY THING (Hot Chocolate)
The success of the film 'The Full Monty' over the summer called new attention to Hot Chocolate's classic recording of You Sexy Thing. On the downside it encouraged Clock to drag it through the gutter with their recent outrageously bad remake. On the upside, it has resulted in the track being reissued to charge back into the Top 10. Incredibly enough the song is now almost exactly 22 years old, having first been released in November 1975 when it reached Number 2. A slightly remixed version made Number 10 in early 1987 and now ten years later the track becomes a Top 10 smash for the third time. Between 1970 and 1984 Errol Brown's band chalked up an impressive string of hit singles, charting at least one every year for all of those 14, a run of consistency matched by few other acts. They included 12 Top 10 hits and a Number One smash in the shape of So You Win Again in 1977. Proof of the timelessness of their music comes in the way a Hot Chocolate Greatest Hits collection seems to come round every few years. 1987 was the first, followed by another in 1993 when It Started With A Kiss made the Top 40 again. Now just in time for Christmas 1997 the cult of the bald head and moustache can begin all over again.
8 HELP THE AGED (Pulp)
Over two years on from the award-winning Different Class album, Pulp set out to prove that the wait has been worthwhile. Whilst tracks like Common People and Disco 2000 have gone down as mid-90s classics Jarvis Cocker et al appear now to be moving away from that kind of commercial, anthemic sound. Indeed, Help The Aged, their first single since March 1996 is more of a throwback to their earlier days with a meandering, narrative feel that is by no means immediate. However their large following has meant that Jarvis Cocker's ode to his fear of growing old becomes their fifth Top 10 single in a row but it remains to be seen whether others will necessarily follow.
9 BETTER DAY (Ocean Colour Scene)
It's official. Ocean Colour Scene are the new Wings. Their third single of the year follows the other two straight into the Top 10 to continue their consolidation as one of Britain's best rock bands. The lilting Better Day is far more accessible than tracks such as One Hundred Mile High City but all the time there is a feeling that it is the best song that Wings never recorded.
13 THE MEMORY REMAINS (Metallica)
Another new Metallica album and another quick run of hit singles begins with The Memory Remains. It is now ten years since their commercial era began with the release of the $5.98 EP and since then they have charted with remarkeable consistency, largely to their hardcore of fans but with occasional singles such as One and Nothing Else Matters quite deservedly crossing over to a wider audience. Number 13 is an unusually low chart position for a brand new track from a band such as this but even to the ears of a non-metal fan, this appears to be one of the most uninspired singles they have released for a long time.
14 EARTHBOUND (Connor Reeves)
Even if My Father's Son didn't touch you, this new single should confirm Connor Reeves as one of the soul discoveries of the year. Still frustratingly short of a Top 10 placing, his second single is a beautiful, haunting song that surely deserves more than to simply peak two places below his first release.
18 5...6...7...8... (Steps)
[Pop legends debut klaxon!] This is the debut single from Steps, a mixed sex group formed as a result of an advert in stage publications and set to make their assault on the popular senses by dragging country music onto the dancefloors. All well and good of course but for the fact that Rednex did it all almost three years ago. 5..6..7..8 could almost be a distant cousin of Cotton Eye Joe and whilst it will inevitably find an airing at a few Christmas parties it could hardly be regarded as pushing the musical boundaries. It almost makes you wish for a new Woolpackers single... no wait, forget I said that.
24 BENEDICTUS (Brainbug)
The second chart single for Brainbug, albeit one that fares slightly worse than Nightmare which was a Number 11 hit back in May.
28 I BELIEVE 97 (Happy Clappers)
A funny tale this. Back in early 1995, a gospel-tinged dance single called I Believe picked up enough support to justify a commercial release. Made available in June 1995 it reached Number 21. Good, but not quite good enough and so later that same year it was duly reissued, making a more impressive Number 7 in November. Really that should be the end of the story as at the end of the day I Believe is a little more than a typical slice of mid-90s formula dance but for some reason someone has clearly felt the track has deserved another airing. Thus here come a new set of remixes and a corresponding reappearance in the Top 30 but the somewhat muted response from even DJs and dance commentators suggests that there are few who can figure what on earth the point of it all is.
30 THE ONE I GAVE MY HEART TO (Aaliyah)
Aaliyah's third chart hit of 1997. Although she began the year with the re-release of If Your Girl Only Knew becoming her biggest hit to date (it made Number 14) she has now slipped back into her usual routine of charting increasingly minor hits. Some may regard her as a major R&B force but for the moment she will continue to be a bigger force on US black music stations than she is in the UK charts.
39 DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER (David McAlmont/David Arnold)
Whilst On Her Majesty's Secret Service, the first single from David Arnold's Shaken And Stirred project was a massive Top 10 smash, the second release from the album fares more than slightly worse. This is actually a crying shame, Shirley Bassey's 1972 Bond theme was clearly the song David McAlmont was born to cover and it is a beautiful rendition of what was always a powerful ballad. Sadly it seems destined to become just a footnote in the inevitable retrospectives of the year which are just a few weeks away. Maybe it is the song, even the original only peaked at Number 38.
40 FEELIN' INSIDE (Bobby Brown)
Here is a curious fact... Bobby Brown's forthcoming new album will be only the third of his solo career. Not since Alexander O'Neal has one artist been such a master of spinning out hit singles from such few recordings. The reason he has managed this is thanks to the series of remixes of tracks such as Two Can Play That Game and Humpin' Around, originally recorded in 1992 but which dominated the charts in 1995 and 1996. The remixing then stretched back even further, his last chart hit coming in February 1996 when a revamp of Every Little Step (recorded 1988, first released 1989) made Number 25. All of this is merely to attempt to distract you from the fact that this brand new solo single, New Edition recordings aside, is his smallest chart record since 1993s That's The Way Love Is peaked at Number 56. I'll just wait until the year 2000 for the remix before writing it off completely.