Tuesday, 14 April 2009
Chart Attack: is our new, irregular glance at the official UK Singles Chart; specifically the week's Top Ten best selling singles.
As a kid growing up in suburban England during the early 90s, the Top 40 chart countdown was our passage to new music. Pre Internet and too young to see gigs or soak in the NME or Face magazines, and with a father reluctant to join the satellite dish revolution (no MTV), radio gave us ideas and musical awakenings.
Before discovering Peel and Lamacq, we'd regularly pilfer songs from radio onto our battered C60 cassettes to replay the next day. When you bought a physical single in the 1990s you felt you were making a difference; following the charts like a proud parent come Sunday evening.
Twenty years on, is the UK Singles Chart (listen back to this week's) a relevant barometer to the nation's listening? The chart, of course, caters largely for pop music (eg. commercially consumable, radio friendly R&B, singer-songwriter, indie-rock and dance) and rarely caters for genres such as classical, metal or, er, reggae. Unlike in the U.S., no airplay statistics are used for the official UK Singles Chart; meaning the chart often rewards commerciality and astute marketing.
Download sales now dominate the chart, meaning successful artists must build and cultivate a significant, commercial online presence in order to sell units. All of this week's Top 10 are signed to major record labels and employ marketers across radio, TV, online and print to maximise exposure. Above all this money ta£k, we find this week's Top 10 in decent health.
Calvin Harris fronts the chart with his most commercial release to date, 'I'm Not Alone'. Described as a 'trance anthem', the track hit #1 through downloads alone - pointing to a sharp web presence. It's also a sign of Harris adjusting his musical template (eg. making shorter, more hooky singles) in order to placate a label still smarting about his under performing debut album.
Side-stepping the mega-stardom of Beyoncé (#7) and The Pussycat Dolls (#3), the preening, look-at-me! pop of Lady Ga Ga (#2) and the soppy Taylor Swift (#10) and we find two British acts, La Roux (#4) and Noisettes (#5).
'In For The Kill' is La Roux's first major label single and its lofty chart position delivers on Polydor's significant investment. Hype it seems, sells units.
'Don't Upset The Rhythm' re-enters the Top 10 after originally peaking at #2 at the end of March. Propelled by it's use in a Mazda 2 car TV advertisement, the track sees Noisettes take a clean pop approach to songwriting, far removed from the indie-punk of their debut album.
By far our favourite track in the Top 10 is penned by Los Angeles foursome Metro Station. A hit with teens in the U.S., 'Shake It' is their catchiest / most annoying (delete as appropriate) 3 minutes and brings together soft-rock, synth and emo into one fluffy pop track. It's short, easy on the ear, has a memorable chorus and a fantastically cheesy video.
Classic, modern chart pop then?
Leave your thoughts below...