With Spizzazz on half-term break here’s Pop-Eye, back with its slippered-feet up in the Dad Chair and a mug of hot cocoa by its side as we grumble over the top forty. Is it a boy or a girl? Well at No.1 it’s both of course – Nelly ‘n’ Kelly whose “Dilemma” provided your beer-monster correspondents with many a singalong laugh. Most imitate-able hook = biggest hit, says chart logic. I’ve not listened hard enough to work out what the dilemma is exactly but the influx of hearts-on-hoodies thug-love rap is definitely a Good Thing: the tenderness of pre-cyborg R&B with added verbal range.

Even N&K have to stand aside though for the Godfather of Love-Hop, LL Cool J, whose “Luv You Better” is his best hit in years and well deserved a Top 10 place. Romantic weakness is the only chink in the persona-armour for most rappers and even then LL gets his girl in the end. I heard this in the car on Sunday and thought it was noble, passionate and touching with its broken-hearted string samples and all, but Isabel thought it was complete nonsense so handle with care on mixtapes chaps.

The highest new entry is Justin Timberlake of course, who is the “new Michael Jackson” in the fairly obvious sense of copping all the “old Michael Jackson”s moves. Timbo is a bounder who trades kiss’n’tell stories for airplay, but good luck to him because his video is ninety times better than his ex’s new one, which looks like Rattle And Hum with boobs. The song has Justin sleazing and squeaking while the Neptunes put down a tense Spanish guitar track which is better than the guy deserves. Justin’s pube-headed smirking also beats our homegrown British hunks Blue, who uphold a great UK pop tradition by releasing a vaguely disappointing single and calling it “One Love”. It sounds like “All Rise” and is quite good in a dependable Blue-ish fashion. Not good enough though: number three is a let-down against not desperately strong competition. Has the bubble burst?

Blue could take some lessons from U2 who are the absolute past-masters of business-as-usual and will outlast us all with their heartfelt-yet-humble rock ballads. They have already pummelled the critics – even reaching to type “epic”, “chest-beating”, “crescendo”, or God help us “windswept” is like hanging lead weights on your soul and yet what other words are there for the likes of “Electrical Storm”?

I’m not quite sure whether Big Brovaz are a breakthrough for UK HipHop or setting it back 10 years with a track which sounds like Lionel Bart crossed with Outkast, with awful lyrics. Someone on ILM was havng a go at mainstream hip-hop for its “banality” – well they should have a listen to “Nu Flow”‘s utterly listless, gagless introduction raps. Taking three minutes to introduce a cast of rappers who’ll be forgotten in two singles’ time is a waste if none of them get a good line or even a memorable bit of inflection. “21 Seconds” this isn’t, and the beat isn’t that hot either. That said it’s British people rapping in the Top 10, even if how they got there is a mystery – and the more used people get to that, the better.

Mark Goodier could barely conceal his glee that “The Zephyr Song” by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers had (modestly) charted – “a really important release”, quoth he. Why, Mark, why? It’s a self-satisfied soft-rock sump by a band which long since paid their dues and now expect the rest of us to pay the price. It’s also a shit name for a song. Completely redundant from whichever angle you look at it. As is Rosie Ribbons but you still have to feel a bit sorry for her – the only Pop Idol contestant to try and breakout of the steamroller-ballad genre and record something vaguely modern and “Blink” stalls at 12. Easy to see why – she’s trying for Brandy and it’s coming out Shandy – though let’s not forget that R&B records as awesome as Blu Cantrell’s performed worse. But failing to beat Sarah Whatmore‘s chart placing is no guarantee of a long career.

The name of Who Da Funk incites instant Dad disapproval and the track bangs on about “rock’n’roll” over a disco-house beat. It’s got attitude, I’m guessing. I think it’s noxious. Would someone who likes chart-dance like to do Pop-Eye sometime?

I like the way the charts turn darker and darker as the bright uplands of the Top 10 are left behind and the strange zones of Nos. 21-40 are reached. Tread carefully oh Pop Kids for here lurk hits by Idlewild, Hell Is For Heroes and – blimey! – the Polyphonic Spree, none of which I have heard enough to comment on properly (with apologies to Toby who lent me a Polyphonic Spree CD in the pub that I have not yet listened to). I have heard Turin Brakes quite enough to comment, though. I bought and enjoyed – and reviewed here – an early Turin Brakes single and have felt increasing remorse as they have moved from slightly addled Dylanisms to the chain-pub acoustica of their more recent stuff. “Long Distance” is their worst track and biggest hit yet, a blatant stab at stealing David Gray’s flatulent thunder and as grim an exercise in pickin’-n-whinin’ as you’re likely to encounter this Winter. Avoid at all costs.

And that’s about it (oh yes, The Streets, who we love, but five single tracks – counting that first B-Side – off a short album is cheeky). Except for the exciting new Pop-Eye Feature – The Real Music Martyrs. Now we all know that manufactured Reality TV “pop idols” are swarming through our charts and according to every other pop star ever they’re stopping proper music from breaking through. It falls to NYLPM to spotlight, week-on-week, the songs that would be in our Top 40 were it not for Reality TV spin-offs clogging it up. So this week there are four Popstars/Pop Idol-related songs in the Top 40 and you the consumer is being prevented from enjoying in your chart THESE hits, the inaugural Real Music Martyrs:

Richard Ashcroft – “Check The Meaning”
Puddle Of Mudd – “She Hates Me”
John Squire – “Joe Louis”
No Doubt – “Underneath It All”

More additions to this tragic toll next week! (Or whenever we do Pop-Eye again, more realistically)