Sunday, June 01, 2008

Number 1s of 2008: May

"4 Minutes" lasted a total of four weeks at the top, all helping to give 2008 the slowest turnover of number one singles in quite some time. But here's something to break the pattern.

The Ting Tings, "That's Not My Name" (18 to 25 May, 1 week). The Ting Tings are an indie duo from Manchester, and this is officially their chart debut. There's actually a bit of fudging going on there - the Ting Tings have waged an intensive promotional campaign in indie circles for quite a while, but until now (and the release of their album) they've kept themselves largely invisible from the mainstream. So when their first single, "Great DJ", was released earlier this year, they deliberately broke the packaging rules to ensure that it would be disqualified from the chart.

Thanks to that act of intentional self-sabotage, the Ting Tings technically go straight in at number one with their first "real" single, and it's a fun little eighties throwback. The album also entered at number one the next week, and two of its tracks made the chart as album downloads. One was "Great DJ" (ironically, now eligible for the singles chart because it isn't a single any more), and the other was "Shut Up And Let Me Go", because it's been in an iPod advert. So, a beautifully executed leap to the mainstream for these guys. And a meticulously calculated one, but hey, nothing wrong with that.

Rihanna, "Take a Bow" (25 May to present, one week and counting). This is a little bit of a surprise, to be honest. It's her second number one, following "Umbrella" a year ago. Since then, we've had "Shut Up And Drive" (number 5), "Hate That I Love You" (15) and "Don't Stop The Music" (4). And... the mid-tempo ballad is the one that gets to number one?

Well, one factor is that this is new material. And more to the point, it's new material which the fans have to buy in single format, because it won't be on the new album either. It's going to be a bonus track for the "Special Edition" of "Good Girl Gone Bad", the album she released last year. So even if her fans only download the lead track to complete the album, that counts as a single purchase for the chart.

Apparently the midweeks are predicting the song will stay at number one today. I can't see it lasting much beyond that - it's just so wimpy - but you never know.

Also on the charts in May...

Wiley, "Wearing My Rolex." Wiley's an elder statesman of UK garage (despite his best efforts to get the genre re-named "Eskibeat", which never really caught on), and this is by far his biggest hit, reaching number 2. The video is a remarkable illustration of how you really can beat a lame joke into the ground in only two minutes eighteen seconds.

Gabriella Cilmi, "Sweet About Me." I've mentioned before that the introduction of downloads has seen a return to records making a slow climb up the charts, but this is a truly extreme case - after three months on chart, "Sweet About Me" is at number 18 and still climbing. Obviously, it helps that the song has been picked up for an advert. It's a nice enough summer pop record, although the video is one of those eyebrow-raising affairs that would probably send Dave Sim through the roof. (Make the same video with the genders reversed and see how far you get offering it for daytime airplay. Although, of course, that argument ignores tons of cultural context...)

Meanwhile, over on the album charts, there was, er, general surprise when Scooter's new album showed up at number one. True, there's a greatest hits album attached, but... Scooter? These guys?

Scooter are huge in Germany. They've been making essentially the same video for years: high-pitched vocals, sugary tunes, standard euro beat, mad blond German yelling incongruous gibberish. Garnish with random references to the KLF. They're best known in Britain for their, er, sensitive interpretation of Supertramp's "Logical Song." And if you're in the right mood, there's something vaguely endearing about their unabashed nonsense. Of course, if you're in any other mood, you'll want to kill them within thirty seconds.

It's a particular odd album hit, because the lead single - "The Question is What is the Question" - didn't even make the top 40. Experts say it's a combination of the greatest hits CD, good use of TV advertising, and a very quiet week for albums. But still... SCOOTER?