In this soundbite driven world, we expect near instantaneous results. I used to work in IT support at a company where people would call me up complaining "the internet is slow" when a page they went to did not appear within five seconds or so. It is much the same with the singles chart. When the methodology was changed back in April and downloaded singles were allowed to count for chart places, people peered eagerly at the listings expecting to see a dramatic change in the way the listings behaved. Of course, it doesn't work like that. Change can happen easily but trends can only be observed from a distance and over time. Everyone knows the singles chart and the shape of the market it represents has altered since the 80s or even the 90s, but nobody can really put their finger on the exact date those changes took place.
However, the top of the chart has an interesting and decidedly unusual look to it this week. This could be an aberration, a genuine one-off thanks to some strange circumstances - or it could be the first signs of a growing new trend. I'll tell you which in about five years time.
First up Crazy Frog and Axel F which is lodged firmly at Number One for a fourth straight week. Nothing too strange about that, except of course it follows hard on the heels of Tony Christie's epic seven-week run with Amarillo. Yes, that could be a sign of some much-needed stability returning to the Number One position but of course bear in mind that we were saying the same thing back in September 2003 when Blu Cantrell spent four weeks at the top, swiftly followed by the Black Eyed Peas with a six-week run. Still if nothing else it is a relief to see a settled chart in this manner, especially when you consider the breathless run of 11 different one-week wonders with which we opened 2005.
Moving down a rung or two and we see a Top 3 demonstrating something even more unusual. Upward mobility - and upward mobility demonstrated by two records at that. In the lead at Number 2 is James Blunt's You're Beautiful which began its chart career as a moderately sized hit but which has now accelerated 12-6-2 since release, despite the presence of its parent album in the Top 3 of the albums chart. Better yet at Number 3 is Shot You Down from the Audio Bullys and the sampled Nancy Sinatra. This single was released in the same week as Crazy Frog but has now ambled 10-9-7-3. The track was already the highest charting hit single ever for its producers but it now stands as Nancy Sinatra's best chart performance since her halcyon days in the 1960s when she topped the singles chart twice.
Honourable mention should of course also go to Gorillaz' Feel Good Inc which is as old as the chart methodology itself, having appeared as a near download-only track on April 23rd. Now ten weeks old the track spends its sixth week in the Top 5 having climbed as high as Number 2 during the course of its run. The single is another example of a track seemingly immune to being available on a big selling album, Demon Days still merrily propping up the Top 10. Mind you tell that to U2 and their new-found sound-alikes Coldplay who have both seen recent singles enter high and then bomb out thanks to heavy album sales - U2s City Of Blinding Lights charging 2-13 this week.
So this week is one of those weeks when the highest new entry is a long way from being the top story of the chart. Not that this should be seen as a slight on Nelly whose single N Dey Say makes a strong debut at Number 6. The track is the follow-up to Over And Over which topped the chart back in March. N Dey Say follows the laid back MOR groove of much of his recent work, being based extensively around a sample from Spandau Ballet's 1983 classic True. Those with long memories will gleefully point out that this is a wonderful example of a hip-hop act being even less original than usual in their choice of samples, the Spandau Ballet track having been memorably pillaged by PM Dawn for Set Adrift On Memory Bliss way back in 1991.
Now into every life, a little crap must fall and as a result we tentatively welcome DJ Sammy back to the singles chart. The Spanish producer first made the singles chart back in 2002 with the straightforward Europop formula of taking an old hit and turning it into a cheesy club track. In truth, he hit paydirt first time out with a remake of Bryan Adams' 1984 hit Heaven which saw the rock track turned into a memorable club record (or if you preferred, a soothing mellow ballad on one remix) and a Number One hit in the process. Two more Top 10 singles followed, a remake of The Boys Of Summer and Sunlight. His return after two years away sees the old formula resurrected, the Number 7 single this week being a clubbed up rendition of Why, originally the debut solo single for Annie Lennox back in 1992. Whatever magic possessed by Heaven is startlingly absent from this new single which turns a long standing radio staple into a racket, the thundering pace of the chorus ruining whatever poignancy the original possessed. Trust me there is a right way and a wrong way to do a cover version. Back in 2002 Heaven got it absolutely right. This new single doesn't.
At Number 8 are Green Day who return to the Top 10 after only managing Number 11 with their last single Holiday back in March. Wake Me Up When September Ends was always one of the standout tracks on the acclaimed American Idiot album so it is no surprise to see it become such a success, even as the fourth single from an already well selling album.
The fourth new entry of the week is more of a surprise. Part of the demise of boy band Busted was the desire of core member Charlie Simpson to move away from the cheesecake of the band and make, well, "proper" rock music. Such was his desire to do this that he even formed a new band whilst his old one were still active. With Busted having gone the way of all flesh it meant he could devote all his energies to the side project - Fightstar. When the group made their live debut earlier this year, amongst the de facto presence of Busted fans were plenty of critics who had to admit that the new project actually sounded quite good. A world away from the teen angst of the boy band, Fightstar took Nirvana as their cue, played Nine Inch Nails tracks as an encore and had enough good material to make them a viable prospect. Hence this new single which defies expectations and flies into the Top 10. OK so the Busted factor still has to play a part here, you tell a 14-year-old girl that their favourite pretty face is in a band and they will snap up their records regardless, but there is enough in Paint Your Target to appeal to the more adult rock market, even if it takes a while to get past the fact that the singer is the same person who sang Crashed The Wedding.
Next up at Number 16 is find of the year Jem with the second single from the awesome Finally Woken album. Her last single They hit Number 6 back in March but hung around long enough to demonstrate that she had a fair number of online fans, its decline being spectacularly halted by the arrival of download sales on the chart, the single loitering in the Top 20 for several weeks after that. New single Just A Ride ups the tempo a little and in truth is maybe less appealing than her debut, but she will hardly complain about a second Top 20 hit single. Jem is now officially Heather Nova with hits.
At Number 20 is a record that really deserved better but even with this chart placing is enough to be regarded as a spectacular comeback. In pure chart terms the most successful act of the 1980s was not Duran Duran or Madonna or Phil Collins or M****** J****** but a Welshman in a denim jacket who churned out his own versions of rock and roll standards. Shakin' Stevens was he, between 1980 and 1987 landing 22 consecutive Top 20 hits with four Number Ones along the way. For whatever reason, the hits dried up at the end of the decade and although he soldiered on at the bottom end of the chart for a few years his 1992 Greatest Hits album saw his record deal end with a miserable Number 35 peak for his final single Radio.
Then came the TV series Hit Me Baby One More Time which saw a string of pop acts of yesteryear take to the stage performing first of all one of their classic hits plus a remake of a more up to date track in their own style. Could there have been any more perfect stage for Shaky to make his barnstorming return? Having walked away with the final the stage was set for his chart comeback which he does with this double sided single. On one side is This Ole House, made famous in the 50s by Rosemary Clooney but which actually predates the rock era altogether having been written in 1949. Shaky's version became his first ever Number One hit in February 1981. The icing on the cake, however, is the lead track, the storming rendition of Pink's 2003 hit Trouble which Shaky infuses with a new energy, making the song his own. In fact, if you want an example of just why he had so many hits in the 80s, Trouble is utter perfection. OK so there is a certain novelty value inherent here and the chances of another epic Shaky run are pretty slim. Still, thanks to the power of television it seems only appropriate that one of pop's greatest entertainers should have one final spell in the sun.
Lower down amongst the also-rans in the Top 30 and in the middle of new entries from the likes of Garbage and Basement Jaxx is an old single which is spectacularly gaining a second wind. I See Girls by Studio B was released at the start of April and hit Number 12 first week out. It was always a stayer, hovering around the Top 20 for six weeks before starting a downward journey which took it out of the Top 40 altogether four weeks ago. Since then however the single has been on an upward journey, moving 44-40-32 and the track now re-enters the Top 30, hitting Number 25 to land its highest chart placing since it occupied the Number 23 slot five weeks ago.
The one final talking point of the singles chart this week isn't even a Top 40 single. A few weeks ago I noted that although Geri Haliwell's career appeared to be over with a dismal Number 22 showing for Desire, there was still hope for the former Spice Girls with Melanie Brown about to release a spectacularly good new single. How wrong can one man be? In actual fact there is a sense of injustice here as the sparkling Today is actually the best single released by a Spice Girl for many many moons but despite a big promotional effort the track limps into the chart at Number 41, thus making it the first ever solo single by a former Spice Girl to miss the Top 40 altogether. Now if you were Melanie C (last single Next Best Superstar, Number 10 in April), wouldn't you be bricking it at the thought of your next single doing equally as badly?