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Nov 30

Charts – 28 November 2010

Posted on Tuesday, November 30, 2010 by Paul in Music

The chart domination of X Factor hasn’t been quite so comprehensive this year as last, perhaps because the decision to sell performances as (chart ineligible) downloads has diverted some of the sales that might otherwise have gone to originals from the back catalogue.  But it’s still a significant force.  Between present contestants, past contestants, judges, and back catalogue material performed in the finals, it accounts for seven of the top 40 singles, with several more tracks having been promoted on the results show.

But this week, it’s that special time of the year when Simon Cowell strives for karmic balance.  Yes, it’s the annual X Factor finalists’ charity single at number 1, and this year they’re once again raising money for the troops with a cover version of “Heroes”.  Never subtle, that Simon Cowell.

Veteran viewers of X Factor charity singles will know that the main fun to be had with these videos is playing Spot The Novelty Contestant, who technically has to be included in the song, but whose contribution must at all costs be kept to an absolute minimum.  Last year it was John and Edward, the talentless twins.  This year, it’s Wagner, a middle-aged Brazilian martial artist and bongo enthusiast whose video package was able to boast a photograph of him as a Tarzan-ish young man grabbing a lion by the tail.  As is the way with these contestants, he finally got knocked out this week, just as the papers were starting to speculate that he might win.

Wagner apparently defies common sense to the point where he must be relegated to the fringes of group singing. He truly was a sight to behold, especially if you view him as some sort of bizarre Kaufmanesque joke at the expense of people who take the show seriously.  (He seems sufficiently aware of his own ridiculousness to suggest that the joke is not entirely on him, at any rate.)  Here he is in action.

This is the show’s third charity single, all of which have made number 1 – though the iTunes charts suggest this one’s going to drop fairly quickly, so the formula may be wearing thin.  “Heroes” is actually the best of the bunch, which is to say that there are moments when it’s not altogether excruciating.  Surprisingly, while David Bowie did have four number 1 hits (“Space Oddity”, “Under Pressure”, “Let’s Dance” and “Dancing in the Street”), the original of “Heroes” only reached number 24 on its release in 1977.  It wasn’t an international success, so on the offchance that some overseas readers might not be familiar with it, here it is…

Carrying on down the chart, this week’s number 4 is “Thinking Of Me” by Olly Murs, the rather limp second single from the guy who came second on last year’s X Factor.  Simon Cowell signed him anyway, which looks like being a smart move.  This is the follow-up to the rather better “Please Don’t Let Me Go”, a shortlived number 1 from September, which re-enters this week’s chart at 39.  The thing about X Factor is that the people who vote for it aren’t necessarily the sort of people who buy records.  Murs lost last year’s final by a wide margin in the voting.  But his debut single had an initial chart run of 1-4-5-12-16-23-28-35-39 .   Compare that to winner Joe McElderry’s first single “The Climb” (2-1-2-15-25-38-gone) and his second single “Ambitions” (6-21-23-out).  Murs looks like having the better career prospects, at this point.

The rest of this week’s new entries cluster at the lower end of the chart.  Number 25 is “Do It Like a Dude” by Jessie J, a songwriter partly responsible for the likes of Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the USA”.  To be fair, this is a much more distinctive record, but whether it’s actually likeable – as opposed to trying to hard in a Kesha-ish kind of way – I’m not quite sure.  The record industry apparently has high hopes for her.

Number 29 is a real oddity – “Gillian McKeith” by Brett Domino. To fully explain this for American readers would take forever, but, in brief outline…

Gillian McKeith is, for want of a better word, a TV nutritionist who rose to fame hosting Channel 4’s You Are What You Eat, in which she dispensed advice on what you should eat, the content of that advice and the extent of her qualifications to give it being the subject of considerable criticism and occasional threats of litigation.  She also spent a lot of time prodding excrement.  Basically, she’s something of a rationalist bete noir, and not without reason.  Check her Wikipedia entry if you want the full story.

But her TV show was cancelled a few years ago, so she’s now appearing on ITV’s winter reality-show ratings juggernaut I’m a Celebrity – Get Me Out of Here!, in which a bunch of fading has-beens are flown off to the Australian jungle to undergo assorted trials for the amusement of the British public.  It’s basically an exercise in getting the hopelessly fame hungry to humiliate themselves for attention, and thus, depending on your point of view, either deeply satisfying or desperately sad.  Many who would normally find it desperately sad have found that when it’s happening to Gillian McKeith, it suddenly becomes deeply satisfying.  Regardless, the public have taken something of a dislike to Gillian, having voted for her incessantly to carry out every trial imaginable, while she moans, wails, protests, faints on live TV (to a general consensus of fakery) and asserts a panoply of phobias that, if genuine, would have dissuaded any sane person from going on the show at all.  The public really don’t like Gillian McKeith.

And so enter… a song from YouTube.  Brett Domino is a minor internet personality best known for doing complicated, wonky, lo-fi cover versions of pop songs, such as this surprisingly good version of “Bad Romance”, and this impressive medley of songs from Now! 75…

Normally Brett Domino’s about the music and the delivery, but this time he’s written an actual song about Gillian McKeith.  Quite honestly, this is the sort of thing you’d expect to find on a Radio 4 comedy show, so it’s really bizarre to see it in the chart – granted that it got a bit of play on the Radio 1 breakfast show, it’s still basically a comedy video from YouTube.  And it’s actually holding up quite well in the iTunes chart, too.  I like that we now live in a world where this sort of thing can chart.  I mean, look at the video… this is the definition of “throwaway side project”.

Back in the real world… number 33 is “More” by Usher, his seventeenth hit, and more of the same basically.  The video is full of basketball, for reasons that may make sense to Americans.

Number 37 is “Doncamatic” by Gorillaz featuring Daley.  It’s the ninth hit for the Damon Albarn side project – most Gorillaz records recently haven’t been chart eligible, so this is actually their first chart appearance since 2006.  Daley is a Mancunian singer-songwriter, and this is his chart debut – his debut single, in fact, from the look of it, though he’s picked up some Radio 1 airplay anyway.

“Let it Be” by the Beatles scrapes on at 38, presumably thanks to the combination of the iTunes publicity and last week’s X Factor Beatles show.  And at a surprisingly low number 40, there’s “Better Than Today” by Kylie Minogue. This was promoted on the X Factor results show, so although the single proper doesn’t come out until 5 December, I’d have expected it to do better.  It’s a cover version of a fairly obscure Nerina Pallot song,from an EP which she was selling at live gigs last year.

Bring on the comments

  1. Baines says:

    I don’t know how much it is a case that the people who vote on X-Factor (and American Idol and the other variations of the same idea) are people who don’t buy records. Rather, I think it is that there is no connection between voting and actually liking any of the singers enough to want to buy their songs (other than perhaps a novelty purchase.)

    I like metal. If some company ran a voting contest with a bunch of minor metal bands, maybe I’d care enough to give a nod towards one or two, but that doesn’t mean I’d buy any of their albums.

    Heck, isn’t the concept of the show pretty much to try to make a career for singers who couldn’t make a career on their own?

    Hrm, there is another issue as well… The shows are run with singers doing covers of popular songs, but the post show (non-novelty) albums are generally original songs. Just because I liked someone’s cover of Disco Duck doesn’t mean I’m going to want to buy their album of generic ballads and love songs that weren’t considered good enough to offer to an established professional.

  2. Jeff says:

    I’d actually be more interested in a show where the contestants perform original music. I’d much rather see that than c-grade knockoffs of great songs.

    I’m so tired of shows which just feature inferior covers of great songs. X-Factor in the UK and here in the states American Idol, Glee and soon the American version of X-Factor. People can get the originals at the drop of a hat online, just do that! I think a telling sign is the length of the careers of the contestants. I haven’t heard new singles from the winners even 4 years ago getting ANY play.

    Paul, I don’t know if you visit the AV Club website at all, but they are doing reviews of every single Now That’s What I Call Music CD. It’s hilarious and very sad at the same time.

  3. Jonny K says:

    To be fair, although I’ve never really watched any of these shows, Girls Aloud have certainly lasted, sort of.

  4. Paul says:

    Well, Sky have tried the original material route with “Must Be The Music”, which did okay by satellite standards. The BBC also included original material in “Fame Academy”, but that never really took off.

    But you can only do that if it’s a songwriting competition. X Factor is (notionally) a singing competition, and if you use original songs, you get two major problems. First, where are you going to round up that much material on a weekly basis? And second, using new songs distorts the playing field because it’ll turn into a vote on who got the best song.

  5. Andrew J. says:

    The Usher video you linked to isn’t exactly the official video. It’s a commercial he filmed for the NBA (National Basketball Association) that uses the song.

    I’m quite surprised that X-Factor has such an influence on the charts. I don’t think American Idol (even in its heydey) had that much pull here.

  6. Zach Adams says:

    The notion that Bowie only had two solo #1s in the UK, plus “Under Pressure” with Queen and “Dancin’ in the Streets” with Mick Jagger has blown my mind.

  7. Paul says:

    Well, he did reach number 2 with “Jean Genie”, “China Girl”, “Modern Love” and “Absolute Beginners”, and number 3 with “Drive-in Saturday”, “Life on Mars”, “Sorrow”, “Sound and Vision” and “Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy”. Plenty of big hits, he just tends to fall slightly short of the top.

  8. Jonny K says:

    “Ashes to Ashes” was also number one, bringing Bowie to five number ones, three solo.

  9. LiamK says:

    “I’m quite surprised that X-Factor has such an influence on the charts. I don’t think American Idol (even in its heydey) had that much pull here.”

    Isn’t that because the American charts are based on a variety of factors (ha!) including air-play, whereas the UK charts are based purely on sales (be they online or physical)?

  10. LiamK says:

    Also, I quite like Glee. They’re an odd-bunch in that they’re often auto-tuned to death, but they can also sing really well. It’s odd. I wonder if the record company/TV show producers think that some songs HAVE to have auto-tune in them as a style thing?

    (Certainly though, hearing them do “Don’t Stop Believing” for the 50th time was better than the ghastly lump of bildge that the Black Eyed Peas produced for Sunday’s show.)

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