POP-EYE 6/1/02

What an inauspicious week to restart Pop-Eye. However we start as we mean to go on in the year 2002 (palindromic which must be good – just like that classic pop year 1991). Let me explain, pop music sales work a bit like a sawtooth feedback wave, in as much as they build themselves up to a frenzy just before Christmas, and then reset themselves to a level which could be accurately described as ‘No sales at all’ in the first month of the year. This of course encourages minority or niche bands with strong fanbases to sling singles out and see if they can get a high – if meaningless – chart position.

That said, only a fool would do that on New Years week, when there is only half the available selling time and your fanbase is more likely to be tempted by the offers in the HMV sale than buying the fifth single off your album. And indeed, only fools have released singles this week. Chesney Hawkes, chasing his second number one. Chasing it at a quite unattainable distance. Which leaves only two serious new releases this week. Ash – trying their luck with the fifth single off the Free All Angels album, and the police cheeking bad boys of the boy band scene – The Backstreet Boys. Neither single is much cop, neither is essential to their fans, who will already own the tracks, and therefore neither have really troubled the charts.

Ash – the acceptable face of post-pre-pubescent-punk-pop (if such a thing can ever strictly be called acceptable) had a good year in 2001. The relative failure of Nu-Clear Sounds – their second album wasn’t surprising. While we will take seventeen year old making a pretty basic if joyous racket, we expect them to put away their childish things by the time they hit twenty. Oddly though, they find themselves in the position of being elder statesmen of British rock, we has allowed them to go back to their fizzy roots, as long as they occasionally use dance beats and the like. Tim Wheeler is still out of tune, and the plaintive yelps of There’s A Star are thoroughly unnecessary in single form. Chart position of 13 is thoroughly unsurprising then.

The Backstreet Boys spent much of 2001 being the elder statesmen of US Boy Bandery – and therein lies the problem. Boy and elder don’t exactly mix. To be fair their last few releases have been solid, if relatively uninspiring, and Drowning is cut from the same cloth. Unfortunately BSB have dropped silly from their repertoire – which made earlier hits like Everybody such fun. Drowning is a mid-tempo ballad which isn’t sure whether it requires stools or not, and in the scheme of things a meaningless number four is more than they deserve. You will not remember it next week, let alone next month.

So to the top of the charts. As I said, the sales this week will be about a quarter of the week before Christmas, and the more festive tunes also suffer extra sales wipeouts. Why would anyone buy Something Stupid when they were given the album for Christmas? The charts abhor a vacuum however, so something without an album to weaken it, and with strong sales romps back to the top. Which would be a fair fight between Gordon ‘King Crimson + Pub Singer’ Haskill, and Daniel Bedingfield – if it was not quite so plain that everyone was buying ‘How Wonderful You Are’ for their wives and mums for Christmas. Haskill plummets to the mid twenties never to bother us again unless we accidentally tune into Radio 2. So despite a good bounce back up the charts by oblong headed Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Danny Bedroomeyes goes back to the top. So we say good luck to the white Craig David in building a big enough profile to ensure his next single at least gets to number twenty.