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Westlife top singles chart, Williams dominates albums

The heavy hitters are back, with Westlife taking the singles crown and Robbie Williams topping the album chart with sales figures the like of which we haven't seen since June, writes Alan Jones.

Westlife's recording of You Raise Me Up takes the singles title with sales of 97,288 marking a 21 week high, last exceeded by Crazy Frog's Axel F on 11 June.

Meanwhile, Robbie Williams registers the highest one week sale of his career with his eighth solo album Intensive Care selling 373,832 copies - the biggest tally since Coldplay's X&Y opened its account 20 weeks ago.

Westlife's version of You Raise Me Up marks the fourth time the song - composed by Norway's Rolf Lovland, with lyrics by Irishman Brendan Graham - has made the Top 200 in less than four years. Lovland's own group Secret Garden (former Eurovision winners) reached number 103 with their original recording of the song in April 2002, and it was subsequently a number 22 hit for Daniel O'Donnell (December 2003), and reached number 91 for another Irishman, Brian Kennedy, the same month.

It has also been recorded by several other artists, including Russell Watson, Josh Groban, Anuna, Selah, Aled Jones, Sissel, Becky Taylor and Johnny Logan, whose version also featured Secret Garden.

You Raise Me Up is Westlife's 18th consecutive Top five from as many releases - an unprecedented feat - and their 13th number one, a total exceeded only by the Beatles, Elvis Presley and Cliff Richard. The first single from Westlife's new album Face To Face - which is out today (31st) - its sales last week represent the highest first week tally for a single by the band since their 10th single Queen Of My Heart opened with 139,344 sales in 2001, and helped overall singles sales to a four week high at 1,025,317.

A good second week tally from Arctic Monkeys and Top 10 debuts from Kate Bush, Hillary Duff and Backstreet Boys also helped sales, which improved 16.1% week-on-week.

Media coverage of the internet's part in the Arctic Monkeys success and rapidly increasing radio exposure of I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor (up 36-18 on the airplay chart) means the Sheffield band's debut single suffers a fairly minor 12.4% erosion in sales - to 34,130 - this week, while dipping 1-2.

In 42 previous weeks this year, number one singles have suffered an average 31.2% dip with a high of 81.8% for Elvis Presley's One Night/I Got Stung, the magnitude of its decline being partly due to its deletion, of course. The Arctic Monkeys' decline was the seventh lowest of the year.

Kate Bush makes a triumphant return to the Top 10 with King Of The Mountain selling 21,754 copies to debut at number four and become her highest charting single since Running Up That Hill reached number three in 1985. The introductory single from Aerial (out next Monday), King Of The Mountain extends Bush's chart career to more than 27 years, whilst becoming her 25th hit in total but only her fourth top five entry, the others being Wuthering Heights, Babooshka and the aforementioned Running Up That Hill.

Teen actress Hilary Duff registers her highest charting single yet with Wake Up, the first single from Most Wanted, debuting at number seven. The 18 year old Texan's single sold 12,794 copies last week to beat the number nine peak of her 2003 debut So Yesterday, though the latter single had a higher first week sale of 14,713 and went on to sell nearly 50,000 copies.

Registering their 18th hit in a career stretching back more than nine years, Backstreet Boys debut at number eight with Just Want You To Know, the second single from their comeback album Never Gone. The album's first single - Incomplete - also peaked at number eight, though it had a higher first week sale of 13,004, compared to their new hit's 10,267.

Number eight seems to be the band's favourite position, with no fewer than five of their singles peaking there. The Never Gone album - number 11 in June - has sold only 73,555 copies to date, and reaps fairly minimal dividends from the single's release. Its sales last week of 1,063 were its highest for 11 weeks but it remains outside the Top 200, where the bottom marker, The Eminem Show, sold 1,082 copies last week.

 At the other end of the chart, Intensive Care's sales last week were the fourth highest thus far in the 21st century. Of 304 weeks to have elapsed in the interim, only 11 have brought individual albums sales of more than 300,000.

The full roll of honour: X&Y - Coldplay (464,471, 18 June 2005), 1 -The Beatles (422,042, 30 December 2000), Life For Rent - Dido (400,351, 11 October 2003), Intensive Care - Robbie Williams (373,832, 5 November 2005), Swing When You're Winning - Robbie Williams (365,208, 29 December 2001), Greatest Hits - Robbie Williams (320,081, 30 October 2004), 1- The Beatles (319,126, 25 November 2000), Sing When You're Winning - Robbie Williams (313,586, 9 September 2000), Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants - Oasis (311,265, 11 March 2000), Escapology - Robbie Williams (310,237, 28 December 2002), PopStars - Hear'Say (306,631, 7 April 2001).

Carving itself a commanding 15.9% share of the artist album market, Intensive Care sold 5.79 times as many copies as nearest challengers The Prodigy's hits set (64,523 sales) and more copies than the rest of the Top 10 added together.

Williams' arrival at the summit extends British rule of the album chart to 25 weeks. It's interesting that all of the albums in the above list are also homegrown; the biggest one week sales tally this century by a US artist is the 235,890 sales of Norah Jones' Feels Like Home album on 21 February 2004.

Intensive Care provides Williams with his seventh solo number one album, and his 10th number one in all, including Take That releases. Williams has topped the chart every year since 1993, with the exception of 1997, and in a solo capacity for the last eight years. Of solo artists, only Elvis Presley (10) and David Bowie (eight) have had more number one albums, and his overall tally of 10 number ones is beaten only by the Beatles and Phil Collins.

In a week when there are also Top 10 debuts for Destiny's Child and Supertramp compilations, Williams' album is almost entirely responsible for the 18% increase in artist album sales.
 
Aping the format which generated massive sales for The Beatles and Elvis Presley, Destiny's Child's career spanning #1's album debuts at number six week, with sales of 31,010. The album houses both of their UK number one singles, all their other hits and a trio of new tracks, including Beyonce's solo recording Check On It. The band's last album Destiny Fulfilled debuted at number five last November, with considerably larger first week sales of 67,966, and has sold 552,570 copies to date. The band's UK career album sales tally is 2,838,154.

Supertramp's double disc Retrospectacle set follows close behind at number nine, with sales of 26,203. It's the veteran prog rock legend's first Top 10 album since the more compact, less comprehensive 1992 single disc compilation The Very Best Of Supertramp got second wind, and climbed to number eight in 1997, narrowly eclipsing its original number nine peak.

Elsewhere in the Top 75, there are new entries for Alex Parks, El Presidente and Burt Bacharach.

2003 Fame Academy winner Alex Parks concocted a successful debut album in Introduction, with a mixture of carefully chosen covers and self-penned material. The album, which debuted at number five with first week sales of 96,640 in December 2003, has sold 418,008 copies to date. Follow-up Honesty cans the covers, and appears without a prior physical single (Looking For Water is available as a download) or high profile reality TV series to boost it, so its debut this week at number 24, with 11,955 buyers, is about par for the course.

After limited singles success with Rocket, 100 MPH and Without You, El Presidente's self-titled debut album sold 4,615 copies to earn 57th place.

While B.B. King and Les Paul recently released new but uncharted albums at the age of 80 and 90, respectively, and Larry Adler, John Lee Hooker and Frank Sinatra charted new sets when 80, 79 and 78, it's still a remarkable achievement for veteran songwriter Burt Bacharach - a mere 77 - to secure a new entry to the chart this week with At This Time. Debuting at number 60, on sales of 4,394, it features Bacharach fulfilling multiple roles, as writer, singer, producer, arranger and even - for the first time - lyricist.

Finally, while Robbie Williams new release boosted artist album sales, the compilation sector expanded 15%, with the winning Pop Party 3 - a combination of original hits and karaoke backing tracks - arriving at the apex to increase the Pop Party series' hit rate to three number ones from as many releases. The album sold 37,914 copies last week, and can be expected to sell many more, as both previous releases in the series had lengthy chart careers and sold more than 800,000 copies apiece.

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