Be gentle, I've only been doing this for 18 years. [Happy meaningless anniversary mate, I'm proud of you].
Sometimes you know the music industry is its own worst enemy. Release schedules have now become a mad scramble for the high ground, the belief that good albums are only released for Christmas has now meant the last part of the year is saturated with big name product, to the detriment of sales during the rest of the calendar. Inevitably this results in ever increasing portents of doom in the music press: "Q1 sales - poor, Q2 sales - poor, Q3 sales - we're doomed, Q4 sales HOORAY THE BUSINESS IS SAVED". So it will continue until someone has the bright idea of promoting some superstar product at Easter and reaping a sales bonanza.
Why is this so relevant this week? Well just take a look at the interesting part of the album chart, with seven of the Top 10 places being taken up by brand new albums. The land rush for those Christmas shopping baskets is on, and woe betide anyone who misses their footing. As a result of that we have an entirely new Top 3 rack of albums, the ordering of which perhaps offers an interesting insight into the current musical pecking order.
Leading the way: Cheryl Cole, whose status as a proper star may be slightly open to question (more on that in a moment) but who once more reaps the rewards of her association with the X Factor marketing machine. Her second album Messy Little Raindrops soars into pole position exactly 53 weeks after her debut release 3 Words did the same. Although I'm always slightly cautious of bracketing an act's group achievements in with their solo ones, for the record we should note that to date Girls Aloud have had two Number One albums, giving Cheryl Cole a career total of four chart-toppers.
In second place are Bon Jovi, who almost certainly didn't need an X Factor plug spot to sell their new Greatest Hits album but I'm sure it helped no end. Such a collection is long overdue, this being the first collection of singles from the group since their 1994 collection Cross Road, since when they have clocked up a further 12 Top 10 singles, never mind their other releases which fell slightly shorter. Greatest Hits is a double disc collection, featuring material dating back to their 1984 debut - prompting at the same time a smattering of Bon Jovi classics to invade the lower reaches of the singles chart - Livin' On A Prayer at Number 42, It's My Life at Number 62 and Always (coincidentally the token new track from Cross Road) at Number 70. A Number One album is proving particularly elusive for the New Jersey boys, their last chart-topping coming way back in 2000 with Crush, this new album their sixth Number 2 release since then.
Finally in third place is hotly tipped new star Rumer who debuts on the chart with her first release Seasons Of My Soul. Befitting the attention that has been paid to her over the past few weeks, the singer with the achingly sweet voice charts in a manner which full repays the faith put into her, putting the rather disappointing Number 16 peak of her debut single Slow rather in the shade.
To singles then, and whilst Cheryl Cole's barnstorming appearance at Number One last week rather put Rihanna's new single in the shade, this week the roles are rather reversed. Cheryl dips to Number 2 with Promise This, leaving the way clear for the Barbados superstar to ascend to the top with Only Girl (In The World). What makes this even more impressive than just a straightforward chart swap is the way Rihanna has done so with a remarkably consistent level of sales. After selling 126,000 copies of the single last week to rank at Number 2, Rihanna actually goes up a notch, shifting 134,000 units to defy all expectations and make her a worthy Number One act.
Counting last year's Jay-Z collaboration Run This Town, Only Girl (In The World) is perhaps surprisingly only Rihanna's third Number One single in this country, as we mentioned last week her personal chart history perhaps more notable for the extensive list of Number 2 singles she has amassed. When she does top the charts however she does so in style. Was the epic 10 week run of Umbrella at the top in 2007 so long ago we have to remind people about it?
The highest new entry on the singles chart, and shame we can't have mentioned it sooner, is Happiness from Alexis Jordan, a singer for whom the mantra "if at first you don't succeed" has never been more apt. Practically unknown in this country until now, Jordan first came to public attention in the United States as a contestant on the very first series of America's Got Talent way back in 2006. Although she was eliminated at the semi final stage, it was enough to garner her a sizeable following for the demos she repeatedly posted to YouTube, these recordings eventually gaining (we are told) the attention of Jay-Z who snapped her up for his Star Roc record label. Hence the appearance now of 'Happiness', a typically immaculate StarGate production which neatly meshes her rather generic R&B vocals with an elastic dance beat in a manner which would grace the best Kylie singles - and this is indeed better than any Kylie track you've heard in the last three years. Looking forward to what she can do next.
It has been some weeks coming, but the brand new version of the Saturdays single Higher finally hit the online stores last week. As a result the track charges 22-10 in its best showing to date, but what an utter balls up this whole affair has been. To recap: Higher started life as a track from their mini-album Headlines, but for single release it has been reworked to feature a brand new rap from Flo Rida (this itself a kind of inside joke based on the fact that the rapper has been responsible for blocking no less than two of their singles from topping the charts to date). The problem was that the new version has been given such a promotional lead in that for the last two months Higher has been selling in respectable quantities in its original album version, bounding around between numbers 22 and 25 for the last six weeks. So yes, now the "proper" single version is out, but the damage to its potential sale has been done. Higher I am reliably informed sold around 32,000 copies last week to reach Number 10 - more or less a third of the 90,000 it had already sold to date in its original form. Had the single been marketed correctly in the first place, it could well have sold this grand total of 120,000 in a single week - meaning we might well have been talking about a first ever Number One for the Saturdays rather than merely their 8th Top 10 single.
Narrowly missing out on the Top 10 at Number 11 is the second biggest new hit of the week, Check It Out from will.i.am and Nicki Minaj. Despite the billing, the track is actually one recorded for Minaj's debut album Pink Friday which is due in the shops imminently although the marketing has clearly noted which of the two artists is the bigger star and flipped the credits accordingly. As an extra twist, the UK version of the song features an additional vocal from a certain Cheryl Cole, making this the third time she has appeared on a will.i.am record, following his Heartbreaker and her own 3 Words, both Number 4 hits. Check It Out is Minaj's second Top 20 hit in the space of two weeks, her guest starring role on Jay Sean's 2012 (It Ain't The End) having helped it to Number 9, the single slipping this week to Number 23 in its third week on the chart. Check It Out is based heavily on a sample from Buggles' 1980 hit Video Killed The Radio Star, a Number One single in that year and famously the first ever song played on American MTV a couple of years later.
We mentioned last week that an X Factor performance was on the verge of sending an old song rocketing back into chart contention, and so it proves. As a direct result of Cher Lloyd's tearful rendition of the track the weekend before last, Stay by Shakespear's Sister gatecrashes the Top 40 at Number 12. Not quite the Top 10 hit its initial surge suggested, but still its highest chart placing since April 1992 at the tail end of its original chart run. 'Stay' was a massive Number One smash hit first time around, occupying the top of the charts for an epic 8 weeks.
Plenty of other new singles arrive on the chart this week, some making more of a splash than others - and that fact alone has made its own headlines as well shall see. Dealing with them in order first, Ne-Yo enters at Number 20 with One In A Million, the follow-up to the Number One hit Beautiful Monster. Both tracks are from Ne-Yo's album Libra Scale which is one of the many new entries on the album chart this week, landing at Number 11. Two places below at Number 22 is what one would expect to be a mouthwatering collaboration between two of the biggest British urban stars of recent months. Second Chance unites both Tinchy Stryder and Taio Cruz on a track that is lifted from Stryder's new album Third Strike, the follow-up to In My System which made Number 10 in August.
Both these singles pale into insignificance however behind the single which arrives at the last place you would expect - Number 26. This you see is the entry point of Insatiable, the debut solo single from Nadine, best known as "Nadine from Girls Aloud", a lady whose superstar power you would think would have guaranteed her a strong debut. Now a word of caution here, you may have seen some rather cheeky press stories in the week noting that Nadine's single had sold only a few hundred copies - this actually relates to her exclusive distribution deal with Tesco which saw copies of the single stocked in their supermarkets. Whilst such tactics have been shown to work in the past, it appears this time it was less successful and those CDs remained nailed to the shelves. We cannot entirely blame that on the chart position for the single though, free and unrestricted were the digital sales of the track and it too has turned out to be a somewhat uncompelling commercial prospect. Word is that it is Nadine's desire to strike out on her own that is causing the entire Girls Aloud project to be on its current hiatus. Any more single flops like this one and we could see the fivesome reunite sooner than you think.
Would that she had Cheryl's TV exposure, although once again there is proof that even prime time TV slots are no guarantee of instant success. Strictly Come Dancing judge Alesha Dixon is back on the Top 40, way down at Number 29 alongside Roll Deep on their new single Take Control, whilst the rather awkward nature of Jamiroquai's X Factor performance last weekend has only lifted their new single White Knuckle Ride to Number 39 - a poor showing for their first single proper since 2006 and aside from the flop 2006 remix of Space Cowboy this is the lowest charting single for Jay Kay et al since the first release of their debut single When You Gonna Learn way back in 1992.
See you later this week for a packed podcast, and as for next week, well stand by for the proverbial Flood of sales...