Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Number 1s of 2008: June

We left off at the end of May with Rihanna's "Take A Bow" at number 1. That lasted through to 8 June for a total of two weeks... and then we get some very unlikely stuff.

Or, if you prefer, you can see it here without the adverts - for some reason, Mint Royale's record company is happy to put the thing up for free on YouTube but vigilant against the threat of embeddable versions.

Anyway, this is Mint Royale, "Singing in the Rain" (8 to 22 June, two weeks). As I've explained before, under the new chart rules, unless you're buying the whole album, pretty much every download counts towards the singles chart. So from time to time, an old record shows up on TV, usually in an advert, and makes the bottom end of the chart. But none of them have done this well before.

"Singing in the Rain" was the soundtrack used by Britain's Got Talent winner George Sampson, a teenage breakdancer, in his winning routine. A massive outpouring of enthusiasm from viewers saw "Singing" re-enter the chart the next week, and then shoot to number one for a fortnight. The record was originally commissioned for a car advert, which is why it sounds a bit like a thirty second idea stretched to three minutes. It reached number 20 on its original release in 2005, and everyone had pretty much forgotten about it until a few weeks ago.

Mint Royale were a production duo who had some moderate success at the turn of the decade. Until now, their biggest hit was "Don't Falter" with guest vocalist Lauren Laverne, then best known as the lead singer of Kenickie, and now inexplicably the host of BBC2's The Culture Show. It got to number 15 in January 2000, and it's really rather good.

(You won't be surprised to hear that the American record company refused to go within a mile of that video. You might be more surprised to learn that they thought this thing was an improvement.)

In fact, until now, Mint Royale were one of the rare acts who weren't even credited on their biggest hit: their remix of Terrorvision's "Tequila", which made number 2 in 1999. Let's take a minute to remember the days when Chris Evans was at his career zenith.

(For the benefit of Americans: Terrorvision normally sounded more like this.)

Despite managing two weeks at the top, Mint Royale are already plummetting their way down the charts again. This looks like a weird flash in the pan.

That's an iTunes advert featuring Coldplay, "Viva La Vida" (22 to 29 June, one week). It doesn't have a proper video yet, because technically it's Coldplay's next single. The lead single from the album was "Violet Hill", which made number 8 - but that's because they gave it away for free before releasing it for sale.

VLV's chart run has been distorted by another promotional tactic. Initially, it was available as an advance track from the album. The idea is that you sign up to buy the album, and you get the title track now, with the rest of the album upon its release. The UK chart compilers pored over the rulebook and decided that this doesn't count as a single - it's a downpayment on an album. So VLV was duly disqualified from the charts until the album was released, and it was being sold on the normal basis. As a result, the song duly enters the chart at number one, raising the interesting prospect that it could be well on its way down the chart before being "released" at all. It's also the first number one single without a video since (I believe) early 2005 when an Elvis Presley re-issue programme clogged up the charts for a few weeks.

This also begs the question of whether it's a phantom number one that should have been at the top in the preceding weeks. But I'm with the chart compilers on this one. If you're paying for the whole album, then it doesn't become a single just because they stagger the download.

The Coldplay backlash may be setting in. They've always been criticised as a polished but bland outfit, but when articles to that effect start cropping up in places like The Daily Mail, the meme is clearly spreading. But I'm sure they won't be losing much sleep over it at this stage.

Ne-Yo, "Closer" (29 June to date, 1 week and counting). Oh, this one. It's one of those songs that I always recognise when I hear it, and yet I forget it the moment it stops.

This has taken eight weeks to climb to the top, something that we're increasingly seeing with the new chart rules. It's his second UK number one, following "So Sick" in 2006 - a title I didn't even recognise when I looked it up, but the song is vaguely familiar. (It also has a video by Hype Williams, who seems to have built a career in America off recycling the same idea ad nauseam.)

American R&B acts tend to have intermittent success in the UK, and Ne-Yo is no exception: his last two solo singles missed the top 40 entirely. And I'm not sure what more to say about this, really. It's a polished record, and I can see the appeal, but it doesn't do much for me.