This week's Official UK Singles Chart

1 STOP LIVING THE LIE (David Sneddon)

Reality TV Alert. Reality TV Alert. Those of a sensitive disposition should look away now. Last autumn, having seen the way ITV had captured both popular imagination and ratings with the Pop Stars/Pop Idol formats, the BBC decided they were going to play the game as well. They imported another overseas format - Fame Academy which mixed the talent show aspect of the ITV shows with the fly on the wall nature of shows like Big Brother. 12 contestants were selected for the show and sent to live in their own private boarding school - The Fame Academy - where they were filmed being taught musicianship, songwriting (with some cameo appearances from star teachers such as Lionel Richie. Shania Twain and others) and generally being a celebrity before gathering in a TV studio every Friday night for a live show during which time one of the contestants would be eliminated. Whether because of the complexity of the format or just the staleness of the whole concept, ratings were disappointing at least at first and the series was widely blasted for its poor quality. Actually much of the criticism was unfair as far from churning out another manufactured pop star, the series was focused on finding people with real talent and the contestants were encouraged to perform their own material and play to their own strengths. For all of that we still ended up with a pretty boy male soloist, Scotsman David Sneddon was a former busker and pub singer until he ran out the ultimate winner. His prize - to live like a celebrity for a year and to release his own records.

So here he is with his first single, the song he sung on the final show to win the popular vote. Suspiciously it was not released in December to capitalise immediately on the success of the TV show (which had climbed the ratings as time went on) but instead it now comes out in January during a typically slack period of sales. Draw your own conclusions. In all honesty Stop Living The Lie isn't actually all that good, sounding for all the world like a failed Eurovision ballad but at the end of the day you cannot knock a Number One single too much. Grounds for optimism come from the fact that his talent is beyond doubt and with the right song and continued interest from record buyers there is no reason at all why David Sneddon's initial year of fame cannot turn into something more.


2 YEAR 3000 (Busted)

Well you can tell the chart year has begun for real now can't you? The big January shakeout finally gets underway with no less than 15 new entries making the Top 40 this week, six of them alone inside the Top 10, Taking the runners-up slot are Busted, who carry with them high hopes for the future of British pop music even if their three-piece skate-pop concept is American in origin. Their first hit was the catchy That's What I Go To School For which hit Number 3 back in September and this second single pretty much carries on where that one left off, a fun romp telling tales of time travel and journeying to the year 3000 where their Great-great-great-Granddaughters are "pretty fine". It's not exactly inspiring pop music but it is certainly good pop music and good pop music always has a home in the Top 3. Simultaneous jumping all round...


4 TRUE (Jameson featuring Angel Blu)

Three years after the garage phenomenon first went overground, the singles are still managing to storm in to the chart, albeit in slightly twisted circumstances. Purists will be torn over the success of this Jameson single as it was a massive underground smash last year in its original instrumental version. when picked up for major label release it was clearly decided that its commercial prospects would be enhanced by turning it into a vocal track, hence the addition of Angel Blu and in truth, hence this appearance inside the Top 5 as the single is transformed from hardcore dance track into a radio friendly popular club hit. Chalk this one up as a bigger than expected chart single but it is no less welcome for that.


This on the other hand was far from unexpected. Quite why Panjabi MC has remained a hidden treasure for so long is something of a mystery. He has been recording for close on ten years now, effortlessly fusing the desi music he grew up around with hip-hop. For years his records have sold in Asian markets and occasionally he has remixed some more 'mainstream' hits but strictly as a fun novelty. That was until about a year ago when Mundian To Bach Ke became a massive hit in East Europe, alerting labels across the continent that they may have an unexpected hit on their hands. Germany was the first Western Europe country to catch on, the single becoming a smash hit there in the autumn and now after having been an integral part of the soundtrack in just about every pub and club over the new year, Panjabi MC has a major UK hit single. So what is the appeal of the track? Well it is not so much the lyric which translates to advice for a young girl to keep her face hidden to avoid the attentions of dishonourable men. No, the appeal lies in the backing track which is actually a Bhangra version of the old Knight Rider theme tune, a piece of music that has already proven its worth when used in hip-hop records - Busta Rhymes used it as the backing for Turn It Up/Fire It Up and had the biggest hit of his career in April 1998. As for Panjabi MC, well you can pretty much guarantee that you will not hear a Top 10 hit anything like this for the rest of the year, the decade even, but as a shining example of how music from pretty much any culture can become a hit single it is worth holding up as a work of utter genius.


8 LOVE STORY (VS FINALLY) (Layo & Bushwacka)

New entry Number 5 this week is a remixed version of a track that Layo & Bushwacka took into the Top 30 very briefly in June last year. Love Story was described on these very page as "...the perfect soundtrack to a hot weekend like this one" which either proves that the track works just as well (in fact better) in the height of wintertime or that my theories about certain songs being just perfect for particular seasons is absolutely bunkum.


Making a triumphant return to the Top 10 are Feeder, a year on from the tragedy that almost saw the end of the band and three months since their last single Come Back Around made Number 14. Just The Way I'm Feeling is in fact only their second ever Top 10 single, the first of course being the stunning Buck Rogers which hit Number 5 almost exactly two years ago this week.

12 TREAT ME LIKE A LADY (Zoe Birkett)

Reality TV alert... Reali...oh never mind we've done that already. A year later and the chart hits from the Pop Idol contestants are still arriving on the chart. Zoe Birkett was far and away the youngest of the final 10, being just 16 years old when the show aired. With an appealing innocence and a heart-meltingly good voice, she battled through to take fourth place in the contest, behind Will, Gareth and Darius but did enough to demonstrate that she too was set for a hitmaking career. Oddly enough it has taken almost a year for her first single to appear, rumours abounding that her contractual demands were too much for many labels to feel she was worth the bother signing although maybe a desire to distance herself a little from any stigma the TV show may have carried also came into play here. A video was made for her performance of Get Happy which appeared on the Pop Idol Big Band compilation album and it was in heavy rotation on The Box and Smash Hits back in the summer but a commercial release was never forthcoming. In her time away Zoe has undergone something of an image transformation. Gone are the bubble curls and the little girl grin and in their place are straight hair and a veritable sex bomb attitude. Also making headlines is the fact that Treat Me Like A Lady is penned by none other than Sarah Whatmore, the rejected Pop Idol contestant who launched her own solo career back in September with the Number 6 hit When I Lost You. After all this the failure of this single to do any better than Number 12 will raise more than a few eyebrows but yet again you have to hope that the focus remains on the fact that this is a singer with proven talents performing some original material. That alone has to be worth some positivity.


The best act nobody has ever heard of continue their softly softly approach to grabbing the stardom that is so clearly theirs to take. After creeping to Number 32 last August with the still memorable Do You Realize, the group take advantage of the new year lull to land nicely in the Top 20 with their third chart single. Mixing acoustic guitars and beats along with Wayne Coyne's warbled vocals about battling cartoon robots this single manages to be a gem and one that it is hard not to love. Do me a favour, if the preponderance of reality TV-inspired singles is depressing you (and admittedly six of this week's Top 20 are from the genre) then please don't sit around complaining. Go and purchase something by the Flaming Lips instead and remind yourself that there is still hope.


19 A LITTLE BIT (Rosie Ribbons)

Or you could just sit and moan I guess, it is up to you. Reality TV Single Number Six is the second single from (you guessed it) Pop Idol reject Rosie Ribbons, this the followup to the actually not altogether bad Blink which hit Number 12 back in October. Once again this new single isn't actually a bad record, more an indistinct one and in a week when there are 15 new entries on the chart, the last thing you need is to fail to stand out from the crowd.

20 TIME FOR HEROES (Libertines)

Just sneaking in to the Top 20 are the Libertines, they too this week with their biggest hit to date. 2002 singles What A Waste and Up The Bracket made Nos. 37 and 29 respectively and their upward mobility seems set to continue. Former Clash star Mick Jones produces although for some reason he has them sounding exactly like The Jam.


The first single in almost a year for Nas, his last chart single coming in February 2002 when Got UR Self A made Number 30. This single is taken from his current album God's Son but sadly falls a long way short of returning him to the Top 20 hitmaking form he enjoyed in the late 1990s.

28 MISSING YOU (Lucy Carr)

Now we really shouldn't be encouraging this. Lucy Carr is a model cum singer cum bit of totty from Wales who is a, ahem, "protege" of club impresario Peter Stringfellow. With his backing he has set up a label on which Lucy has released her debut single. Missing You isn't actually all that terrible even if it is little more than a throwaway club track over which she pipes her just about average vocals but if I tell you that there is more musical merit in a Rosie Ribbons track then you will probably understand the level on which we are operating. This actually isn't the first time in recent months that a good looking female singer has been 'helped' into a recording career by a sugar daddy with the clout to get her records into the shops. Back in August a single called Joy and Pain by Angelle limped to Number 43 following two months of promotion during which she had her own TV channel - Vibe TV - broadcasting on satellite and devoted to airing her video and a handful of documentaries about the singer 24 hours a day. All paid for by her, "backers" of course.

33 THE BEAT GOES ON (Bob Sinclar)

One of dance music's favourite Frenchmen makes his return to the singles chart for the first time since April 2001 when Darlin' made Number 46 (aided and abetted by soul legend James D-Train Wiliams). The Beat Goes On explodes in a frenzy of flamenco rhythms and has proved itself to be a popular club hit over the past few weeks. Chart success it seems is another thing altogether and it falls a long way short of matching I Feel For You, Sinclar's biggest hit under his own name which hit Number 9 in August 2000.

35 COME ON OVER (John Silver)

A single from Cream records and one which was clearly hoped to be the equally successful successor to Who Da Funk's Shiny Disco Balls. The problem is they forgot to make this disco house track any damn good. Fools.


Finally and at long long last we come to the end of the new entries on the Top 40 this week. Bringing up the rear are Dario G with their first single release since the World Cup cash-in of Carnaval 2002 made Number 34 back in the summer. Heaven Is Closer follows the pattern of their last 'original' single Dream To Me which was of course a remake of Dreams by the Cranberries, the Dario G version hitting Number 9 in February 2001. Heaven Is Closer is in similar fashion a reworking of (Feels Like) Heaven which was originally recorded by the Fiction Factory and which hit Number 6 back in 1984. To this day it stands up as a magical and rather special record of its era and in truth deserves far far better than this travesty. On that note I'm afraid we must leave it for another week. Remember, if you are blonde and want to become a pop singer, please don't shag Peter Stringfellow. It really isn't worth it.