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Monday, February 22, 1999 Published at 13:45 GMT


Will Blur spear Britney?

Blur: Dave Rowntree, Damon Albarn, Alex James and Graham Coxon

American pop sensation Britney Spears may have taken the singles chart by storm - but her success could be all a Blur by next week.

Damon Albarn's group released their new single Tender on Monday - and it has a strong chance of displacing the 17-year-old from Louisiana from the top of the charts, and becoming Britain's 13th number one in as many weeks.

Tender is Blur's first single since 1997, and it makes another change of direction for the band best known for their rivalry with Oasis in 1995.

[ image: Britney Spears: Has caused a sensation in the US and the UK]
Britney Spears: Has caused a sensation in the US and the UK
In contrast to the hard-edged sound adopted on their fifth album Blur, Tender is a gentle, minimal song, with backing vocals from the London Community Gospel Choir. Its lyrics are said to be inspired by the end of Albarn's relationship with his girlfriend, singer Justine Frischmann.

It is a taster for their new album, 13, which is produced by William Orbit, who has previously worked with Massive Attack and Madonna.

Meanwhile, Spears has gained her place in British pop history, five weeks after ...Baby One More Time reached number one in the US Billboard charts. Her success in the US took months of performing in shopping malls - the route to fame which Tiffany took 10 years before her.

Heavy airplay on TV

Backed by heavy airplay on music TV channels The Box and MTV, ...Baby One More Time sold 464,000 copies in the UK last week, the highest first week sale for any new artist in the UK.

[ image: Elton John's Candle In The Wind tribute to Princess Diana was a record seller]
Elton John's Candle In The Wind tribute to Princess Diana was a record seller
It outsold its nearest rival - The Corrs' Runaway - by five to one and beat the 400,000 sales of the Spice Girls' Christmas hit Goodbye.

It is also the fourth highest weekly sale for a single of all time - beaten only by Band Aid's Do They Know It's Christmas?, Last Christmas by Wham!, and Elton John's Candle in the Wind '97.

Although Spears reached the top with genuinely high sales, concern has been raised about the bewilderingly high turnover of the singles charts. Over the past 12 weeks, 12 singles have reached number one, including the Spice Girls, Fatboy Slim, Lenny Kravitz, the Offspring, and B*Witched.

'We can showcase more new acts'

But the British Phonographic Industry, the record industry's trade body, is not worried about the speed singles go into and out of the charts.

[ image: B*Witched: One of the 12 acts to reach number one in the past 12 weeks]
B*Witched: One of the 12 acts to reach number one in the past 12 weeks
The BPI's Sarah Roberts said: "Now the charts move faster we can showcase more new acts in the charts - it's a hugely competitive market.

"It's down to factors like the growth of commercial radio. More records are now being played in advance of their release day. But we now have a bigger variety of acts in the charts."

Whatever happens to Britney Spears' single next week, she will be hoping not to suffer the same fate as the last act to sell a record amount on its first week in the charts.

Jas Mann's Babylon Zoo was the previous record holder - with Spaceman selling 420,000 copies when it was released in 1996.

But Mann's fortunes slumped, and his new album, King Kong Groover - released last Monday - failed to get a Top 75 placing in this week's chart. His last single - which also missed the Top 40 - was ominously called The Money's All Gone.

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