Thursday, March 12, 2009

Number 1s of 2009: March 8

As I mentioned last week, we've had five female solo artists in a row - Leona Lewis, Alexandra Burke, Lady GaGa, Lily Allen and Kelly Clarkson - in a run that stretches back to last November. But that run screeches to a halt this week, as Kelly is booted off the top after a single week, dropping to number four.

In her place, we have Flo Rida featuring Ke$ha, "Right Round."

Now, at this point, I would normally link to the official version of the video on YouTube. Unfortunately, YouTube and the PRS are currently in a big fight about royalties for the UK, so the official versions of most videos are currently blocked over here. In fairness to the music industry, they didn't actually ask YouTube to take the videos down - YouTube did that of their own accord, in what seems to be a burst of brinksmanship. No doubt it'll all get sorted out sooner or later.

Of course, all the unofficial versions of the video are still easily available on YouTube. Which the PRS presumably doesn't have a problem with, since they didn't want the videos taken down in the first place. So: if you're British, here's one of the umpteen versions of the video that somebody has ripped from MTV. And if you're American and want to watch a slightly better quality version, you can always search for it yourself. *shrug*

This is Flo Rida's fourth UK hit, following "Low" (number 2 last year) and a couple of songs you've probably forgotten about which stumbled to the bottom end of the top 20 ("Elevator" and "In the Ayer", if you're wondering). This is fairly typical for second-tier rappers in the UK - they have intermittent big hits, but they can't seem to do it consistently. Guest vocalist Ke$ha is a pop singer who's apparently working on an album with Dr Luke and Max Martin, which presumably means she'll be pushed heavily later in the year as the next Katie Perry. And yes, she spells her name with a dollar sign. Cla$$y.

The record is formula pop-rap, to be honest. Take one mid-eighties sample, blather about strippers over the top, and there's your hit single. This week's lucky sample is "You Spin Me Right Round" by Dead or Alive. To Americans, it's a relatively obscure record which got to number 11 in 1985. It did rather better in Britain, where it reached number 1 (exactly 24 years ago this week, as it happens), and kicked off the late-eighties chart domination of producers Stock Aitken and Waterman.

Ah, the eighties. To be honest, it's the only Dead or Alive song that most people remember. They actually had another six hits, but you never hear any of them. If you're curious, here's their 1985 number 23 hit, "My Heart Goes Bang (Get Me To The Doctor)". Frankly, it's not as good as the title. The Dead or Alive version was last seen as recently as 2006, when a remix got to number 5 on the strength of lead singer Pete Burns' appearance in Celebrity Big Brother.

Flo Rida is a slightly surprising number one, because last week also saw the release of the official Comic Relief single for 2009. Comic Relief is a bi-annual telethon which used to stick out a novelty record for fundraising purposes, but in recent years has settled into releasing one "proper" single and one comedy one. The comedy one is a version of "Islands in the Stream" by the cast of Gavin and Stacey, and we'll come back to it next week depending on how it does.

The "normal" single this year is "Just Can't Get Enough" by the Saturdays, Britain's number three girl band - whose video, presumably because of the charity link, is still live. There are two version of the video, one with some token outtakes spliced in to justify the Comic Relief video, but I've linked to the sub-Christina Aguilera normal version.

Making number two, this is still the Saturdays' biggest hit to date, and bodes well for their ongoing crusade to break the duopoly of Girls Aloud and the Sugababes. That may seem like a tough job for a band who, let's be honest, aren't as good as either. But Girls Aloud have been around since 2002; the Sugababes had their first hit in 2000. So a gap is emerging at the younger end of the market. To their credit, they've released four singles now, each placing higher than the last - so they're doing something right.

"Just Can't Get Enough" was a number 8 hit in 1982 for a very early pre-miserablist incarnation of Depeche Mode. It's actually written by Vince Clarke, who left the band shortly after and went on to form bands like Yazoo and Erasure. Strangely, the video isn't on YouTube at all. You'd think Depeche Mode were embarrassed by it or something. Fortunately, German site Dailymotion has tons of copies of it... just admire that dancing.