You'd think it'd be a difficult time for a chart watcher, what with the swathe of Jacksoneria clogging up space in both top tens at the moment. In fact, no, over these last two or three weeks it's been the very opposite. Even right at the top, where we saw the benefit of the late sales run - in the singles chart Man In The Mirror (and why that song in particular? The BBC News site gave explanation a go but seemed to get no further elucidation than "well, just because". "It wasn't a hit first time round so it feels fresh"? Well, where's Liberian Girl or Cry gone?) held an 8,000 sales lead over Cascada in midweek but went backwards, actually only holding off La Roux for number two by, sir, one single copy. Oddly, it was the other way round in the album chart, Ellie and her imaginary friend actually losing a lead of 12,800 copies to one of three best ofs. Somehow, and it can't merely be a promotional change or new stock arriving, The Essential Michael Jackson sold 34k on Friday and Saturday to La Roux's 18.6k. Curiouser and curiouser.
Incidentally, Ellie Jackson explains Ben Langmaid's complete absence from all forms of La Roux-based communication - unwise, frankly, given some of the head-slapping quotes she's given recently - by comparing it to how Will Gregory is an invisible hand behind Alison Goldfrapp so you might never know Goldfrapp is a duo.
Anonymous, publicity shy invisible band member Will Gregory with the winner of this year's Nina Persson As Off-Duty Burlesque Boho Lookalike Contest
Anyway, this isn't a post about La Roux. In fact, the crux of it is to point up two albums that have done interesting things in the chart of late.
Three weeks ago two albums that had entered in the previous week's top ten fell a great distance. Placebo's Battle For The Sun slipped from 8 to 41, but you expect that - at this stage Placebo are a fan-only proposition and they know nobody is going to be introduced to this hot new talent through new record means. The other fell from 5 to 40. It was Little Boots' Hands.
Let's think about this. Little Boots is not being aimed at a specific audience in any way. She's been given a good amount of crossover radio play, there's been significant poster coverage, she's been in every bit of press that'd have her. In fact, that may be the problem - after winning the BBC Sound Of 2009 poll she was given the cover of Guardian Weekend and a significant amount of space in the Times in the second week of January, five months before the frankly Natasha Bedingfield-esque (listen to that chorus again) New In Town single. As such we already know her parameters, a shot at 'sophisticated', 'DIY' (she has her own YouTube channel, see) post-Kylie POP!!! practitioner with a Tenori-On (market price: £919. Dead Disco surely didn't recoup that much) It's almost nostalgia for 1990s pop, and even in our accelerating culture that seems a rough pill to swallow. You can't help wondering how much of that single, which itself peaked at number 13, is the dead hand of Greg Kurstin not quite getting what 679 wanted. It may pick up, and indeed is only just under the top 40 two weeks later with next single Remedy's promotion starting very early, but it'll have to go some to match up to what was openly expected of it.
You could imagine it's some sort of general backlash against the Girls With Synths thing, because only the music industry and its PR handmaidens could engender a backlash against a whole sex, but Florence is midweek number one and La Roux we've just dealt with. That said, it's a female front and centre of the other major new album news piece, one so little remarked upon that you'd think there was some sort of conspiracy. Which, in a way, there may have been.
Gossip's Music For Men entered at number 18 and then fell to 53. Take out the Jacksii and it's still 14 to 45.
Brace Paine recently commented that they thought about marketing T-shirts reading 'Gossip Is A Group', after the famed 'Blondie Is A Band' merchandise. Too late, we suspect. Beth Ditto actually seems to exist outside Gossip, as if the cult of celebrity has overtaken them to such an extent that there's Beth The Fashion Icon Of Our Times and they have to mention the band through some sort of imagined honour system. Why else would the TV advert start like this?
Maybe it's just that Ditto hasn't taken well to suddenly being this fashionista avatar when in America she's still the singer with a cult concern. All their press runs "fat naked Deep South squirrels lesbian Top Shop Kate Moss, oh, and she's in a band", and you begin to wonder why you bother when such a complexity is reduced to a trailer trash Beryl Cook painting. And while again the campaign opened weakly with the nondescript Heavy Cross - peaking at 37! - everyone seems to agree that that's as good as the album gets. But hey, why have album sales when Gordon Smart runs your picture.