Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Number 1s of 2009: 30 August, 6 September and 13 September 2009

Something of a backlog has built up while I was away. The turnover of number one singles has been exceptionally high this year. Record companies seem to have finally got the measure of the new chart system, and figured out that they'd rather release several singles before an album comes out, thus ensuring control of the release date, and making sure they can build up anticipation more effectively, instead of having it spread over several weeks of sales.

So we've had a string of records, each spending a week at number one. In fact, this makes the seventh straight week that the number one single has changed - though to be fair, that includes the Black Eyed Peas returning to the top with "I Gotta Feeling." (And it's also worth noting that the same acts are cropping up repeatedly. There have been 21 number one singles so far this year, but from only 15 different artists.)

This is the sort of thing we used to have in the days before download sales were included, when the charts had insane levels of turnover. But the rest of the chart remains fairly steady; most of these single-week number ones are duly sticking around for months. It's all a bit odd, and I'm intrigued to see how this is going to settle down.

Anyway. Three more to add to the list.

Dizzee Rascal featuring Chrome, "Holiday" (30 August to 6 September). Remember when Dizzee Rascal was the voice of the grim, urban underclass? Well, now he's soundtracking Club 18-30 holidays, apparently. I've got no problem with his decision to go or a more commercial sound, but this isn't the most inspired thing he's ever done, to put it mildly.

This is Dizzee Rascal's third number one, all of which came after his shift to commercial dance music, and it gives him a total of eleven top 40 singles. As you might have guessed from the eighties retro feel, it's a Calvin Harris production job. Harris also appeared on Dizzee's first number one, "Dance Wiv Me" (2008); he doesn't get a credit on this single, presumably because he doesn't sing. According to Wikipedia, he originally pitched the song to the Saturdays, who rejected it. Oops. Harris had a number one under his own name earlier in the year with "I'm Not Alone", so in spirit if not in technicality, this is his second number one of 2009. You see what I mean about the same names cropping up repeatedly?

Ooh, somebody new. Jay-Z featuring Rihanna & Kanye West, "Run This Town" (6 to 13 September).

As I've mentioned before, rappers tend to have patchy chart records compared to other genres - even the major names have big hits interspersed with singles that scrape the lower reaches of the chart. Jay-Z first charted in the UK in 1996, when "Dead Presidents" reached number 31, but this is his first number one as a lead artist. If you count his appearances as a featured artist , and there are swathes of them, then it's his fourth number one, following "Crazy in Love" (with Beyonce, 2003), "Deja Vu" (also with Beyonce, 2006) and "Umbrella" (with Rihanna, 2007). If you don't, then his previous biggest hits were a brace of number 2 hits - "03 Bonnie and Clyde" in 2003, and "Hard Knock Life" way back in 1998.

It's interesting to note, though, that the UK chart has been more receptive to Jay-Z than the American one. He's actually had slightly more hits in Britain, and he started charting several years earlier. I imagine this is because the American chart includes airplay, which massively penalises genres that are only suitable for some stations.

Technically this is the second single from Jay-Z's new album, "The Blueprint 3." The first was "D.O.A. (Death of Autotune)", which came out in June and failed to chart altogether. As near as I can make out, it seems to have been released in the UK solely as an online video download, which might explain that oddity. Video sales are eligible for the singles chart, but it's not an especially popular format.

(Or, if that doesn't work in your country, here's the YouTube link.) This is Pixie Lott, "Boys and Girls" (13 September 2009 to date). It's her second single and her second number one, so bonuses all round for the Mercury Records PR department.

To be honest, I've only heard this a couple of times, so maybe it'll grow on me... but my initial reaction is that it's a bit soulless and limp, and suffers badly in comparison with the music it's blatantly referencing. There's something a bit stage school about Pixie Lott, as if you're watching a well-drilled imitation of enthusiasm. I'm reminded somewhat of the early career of Billie Piper, except this time with a video director who clearly thinks fashion photography is the zenith of civilisation. I am, at this stage, singularly unconvinced that Lott has the material to back up the hype campaign.