This week's Official UK Singles Chart

Hey listen, whilst many people will cast an eye over the new chart this week and go "Eminem's new single at Number One, well that was hardly unexpected", we know better than that. In fact, the race for the top slot in a week of some massive new releases by major US stars was neck and neck most of the way, with some speculating that Destiny's Child would be the ones to ease in front over the course of the weekend. Sadly in the event, they fell just short and it has been left for Mr Mathers to claim the spoils of a closely fought race and sit proudly at the top of the charts. As the first single from a long awaited new album Just Lose It was always going to be massive and so it proves, becoming Eminem's fifth UK Number One hit, his first since Lose Yourself made it to the top in December 2002. Oddly enough the track is a long way from being one of his best singles and in actual fact is a world away from the cheeky commercialism that has characterised his first singles after an absence. Nope, Just Lose It is no My Name Is, Without Me or even The Real Slim Shady but is the kind of harder edged track that is likely to only appeal to his usual fan base. Still, there are enough of them around to send the track to the top of the charts. In all this is his 11th single release - every one a Top 10 smash hit, and this is without counting his contributions to D12's hit singles.

What then of the runners up. Well in truth it would have made an even better story had the returning Destiny's Child clattered their way to the top of the charts. I don't think anyone really held out much hope of the US girl group ever coming together to record again after they took a break in 2001. This is especially after both Kelly Rowland and most spectacularly of all Beyonce Knowles became huge solo stars in their own right. Would their careers really be served by going back to being part of a threesome? It would be like Diana Ross rejoining the Supremes after being catapulted to solo stardom. Well, it has happened. With Rodney Jerkins as the producers helm, the threesome notch up their first hit single in three years and do so with a track that only failed by a whisker to become their third Number One hit single. Quite whether they will sustain this kind of success with subsequent singles releases remains to be seen, three years away is a long time in pop, but for the moment Lose My Breath shows that the old magic is still there, their voices dovetailing nicely on a typically sassy track daring their "boy" to keep up with them. Somehow I don't think another Beyonce or Kelly solo track would have sounded quite as good as this - it is great to see them back [even if this does turn out to be their final run of hits before Beyonce's stardom basically snuffed them out].

Even outside the Top 2, there are enough big new releases to merit some serious attention. Third biggest hit of the week goes to a lady who has caused more than her fair share of head scratching over the last few months - Britney Spears. First, the facts around the single, and the track is a cover version. To be honest it is an overproduced mess of a remake of the track which became Bobby Brown's first hit single on these shores in early 1989, hitting Number 6. Britney's version of My Prerogative is taken from her new Greatest Hits album which gathers together her assorted hit singles from the last five years - and appropriately enough becomes one of them in the process, her third hit of the year to follow up the Number Ones Toxic and Everytime. It is her 15th Top 10 hit in all and after 17 singles releases she has never had a single chart lower than Number 13.

The release of the track comes of course as the lady herself has made some rather interesting lifestyle choices, abandoning the sweet and wholesome image that made her, in the beginning, to instead start dressing in tracksuits and of course most crucially marrying a deadbeat that she has only known for five minutes. The reason this is significant or even relevant? Well, of course, the appeal of a pop star is as inexorably tied to their public image as it is to their music. This is why labels spend so much money on making sure their stars are groomed, glamorised and take part in as many glossy magazine shoots as possible. Britney Spears has been sold to us as the perfect flower of American youth for so long that it becomes part of who she is as an artist. Thus by turning her back on this image so spectacularly, she may well be asserting her own independence as an adult but she is also in the process stripping away much of the mystique that always surrounded her. Hence My Prerogative isn't the Number One people were expecting - and why her decision to take a career break is possibly the best move she can make. People won't really want records from the current Britney Spears, she needs to come back fresh.

Meanwhile, the lady who for so long has been painted as Britney's rival continues to go from strength to strength. Coincidentally Christina Aguilera charts this week with a cover version of her own - a track taken from the soundtrack of hit animated movie Shark Tale. Car Wash actually began life as a movie soundtrack, the title track of the 1977 comedy film. Rose Royce originally recorded the track and it became their first ever hit single, hitting Number 9 early in 1977. The track charted twice more for the group, first in 1988 when a straight reissue as part of a 70s nostalgia wave made Number 20 whilst a new recording reached Number 18 in October 1998. Christina's version has thus outstripped all of them to give the song its highest chart placing ever. This is her first hit single since The Voice Within made Number 9 for Christmas last year and extends her run of consecutive Top 10 singles to eight. Mention must also be made of the lady who appears alongside her on the track, namely the ubiquitous Missy Elliott. This is by no means the first time the pair have collaborated on record as Misdemeanor also had a cameo role on the all-star rendition of Lady Marmalade which topped the chart in June 2001. Missy Elliott's rap in the middle only actually appeared on the full-length version of the track which is why she generally was not given a chart credit alongside Mya, Lil Kim, Pink and Christina Aguilera herself.

Britney Spears isn't the only act following up a brace of Number One hits this week, Usher rounds off the full Top 5 with a new entry of his own, the follow-up to both Yeah and Burn. One word titles appear to have been his thing this year but despite saturation airplay, Confessions has to line up neatly behind all the other big hits of the week - and in fairness how many acts could have handled the kind of competition he was up against? Chalk this up as his seven UK Top 10 hit, all of which have gone Top 5.

Spare a thought this week for Ja Rule and R Kelly who find their Number One single from last week dumped down all the way to Number 6, making Wonderful the second single in recent months to suffer this fate after Brian McFadden's Real To Me did the same back in September. Just below him is a man who picked a hell of a week to make his singles chart debut. Michael Gray is best known as one half of remixers Full Intention, creators of memorable floor fillers for artists as diverse as George Michael, The Sugababes and Jennifer Lopez. His debut hit single The Weekend appears to have been in the clubs and all over the radio since the end of the summer and in truth its appearance only now in the shops comes just as many people are becoming burned out on it. Still, let us not quibble as The Weekend is a far from unpleasant pop-dance crossover hit featuring sentiments that I'm sure we can all relate to. Except those of us whose job requires us to work all weekend *mutter* *grumble*.

Five, six years after it first happened, and after many were predicting that one day we would see a Top 10 made up entirely of new releases, the record for "most Top 10 new entries in one week" has remained locked at seven. This week said record is equalled once again as Jamelia's DJ/Stop double header becomes the seventh new hit single of the week. DJ has a fun history behind it as it was originally recorded by Samantha Mumba only for the singer to get dropped before her album could be released. Jamelia finally turns it into a hit and the track duly becomes her fourth Top 10 hit in a row and her third this year, the follow-up to See It In A Boy's Eyes which hit Number 5 back in July. Jamelia also has a rather distinguished honour of her own this week as she is rather surprisingly the only UK representative inside the Top 10 this week. Alongside her are eight US stars plus one Swede in the shape of Eric Prydz.

With so many singles having been displaced from the Top 10 this week it is no wonder that the rest of the Top 20 is rather sparse when it comes to new releases. The single entering at Number 14 is however significant for its own reasons as it marks the start of yet another chapter for a group who appear to make comebacks their speciality. Glaswegian band Wet Wet Wet first appeared on the charts in 1987. Led by the permanently smiling Marti Pellow their sound was perfectly crafted blue-eyed soul. So well done in fact that they found themselves (to their annoyance) portrayed as a pop act (their debut album was indeed entitled Popped In Souled Out). This worked to their disadvantage when they attempted a more mature sound for later releases but every time they appeared finished they bounced back in spectacular style. Over a ten year career, they notched up 12 Top 10 hits, including three Number Ones. The final one of these, of course, being their rendition of Love Is All Around which spent 14 weeks at Number One in the summer of 1994. Some well-publicised drug problems on the part of Pellow caused the band to dissolve in 1997 but he returned as a solo act in 2001 and hit Number 9 with his single Close To You. Now the foursome are back with a new Greatest Hits collection and a set of tour dates to follow with a whole new album planned for the new year. New single All I Want shows that much of the old magic still remains. As good a prospect as Marti Pellow was as a solo act, nothing beats his voice with the sound of Tommy and the rest of the lads harmonising behind him. No way is this a mainstream pop record but it is a welcome return for a bunch of guys who truly deserve the label of chart legends.

Speaking of legends, there is another at Number 20 in the shape of Elton John, here with his first single since the re-release of Are You Ready For Love topped the charts last year. In fact given that his two singles prior to that were his remake of Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word with Blue and the Alessandro Safina duet on his own Your Song, new single All That I'm Allowed (I'm Thankful) is actually his first completely brand new release since Original Sin limped into the Top 40 in April 2002. Number 20 isn't the most spectacular of entries for the legend but with a musical pedigree such as his, he can afford the odd bit of mid table mediocrity. Somehow you just know that one day he will return with a smash.

Elton can at least permit himself a wry smile at the way he has outperformed a man with whom he once had a chart-topping duet. George Michael once milked his 1996 album Older for a record six Top 3 hits but now finds himself failing to make the Top 30 with what is only the third single release from his current offering. Round Here is the follow-up to Flawless (Go To The City) which hit Number 8 back in July but a lack of airplay and the rather downbeat bluesey nature of this new single means it makes an almost apologetic chart appearance. In actual fact, in his entire career, George Michael has only had one single chart lower than this one - 1991 release Cowboys And Angels which made a mere Number 45.