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Last Updated: Monday, 29 November, 2004, 10:19 GMT
How Dido dominated the charts
Dido
Dido's second album has topped a chart of the last 12 months
Dust off the crown, make sure the throne is clean. It is official - Dido is the reigning queen of the UK music industry.

Dido Florian Cloud de Bounevialle Armstrong leads an album sales chart, compiled in the year to September and comprised of sober, sensible artists.

There's very little rock and roll excess here, but a few surprises for anybody who solely follows the singles chart.

Despite Dido's success with the album Life For Rent, the north London singer has never had a UK number one single - her biggest-seller being last year's number two hit White Flag.

Will Young may have sent youngsters' hearts fluttering when he won Pop Idol in 2002 - but nearly three years after his triumph he has successfully realigned himself to an older audience with his album Friday's Child.

Katie Melua - number four with Call Off The Search - has only just grazed the top 10 of the singles chart with The Closest Thing To Crazy in December 2003.

Crafted

TOP 20 ALBUMS
1) Life for Rent - Dido
2) Friday's Child - Will Young
3) Elephunk - Black Eyed Peas
4) Call Off The Search - Katie Melua
5) Number Ones - Michael Jackson
6) In Time - Best Of 1988-2003 - REM
7) Feels Like Home - Norah Jones
8) Hopes and Fears - Keane
9) A Present For Everyone - Busted
10) Greatest Hits - Red Hot Chili Peppers
11) Permission to Land - Darkness
12) Scissor Sisters - Scissor Sisters
13) Greatest Hits - Guns N' Roses
14) Confessions - Usher
15) Twentysomething - Jamie Cullum
16) Anastacia - Anastacia
17) Songs About Jane - Maroon 5
18) Three - Sugababes
19) A Grand Don't Come For Free - The Streets
20) Turnaround - Westlife
Figures for Oct 2003 to Sept 2004. Source: BPI/Official UK Charts Company

While the singles chart has traditionally been a more fickle arbiter of taste, the singles and album markets were now becoming more distinct, according to Genarro Castaldo, the HMV retail chain's chart analyst.

"The singles chart has always been where different things are tried out in pop - and you can see that now in the likes of the ringtone and download charts," he said.

Albums today, Mr Castaldo said, were better crafted than they had been, and were less likely to pander to the singles chart's need for one or two break-out hits.

"There's more quality on records these days. In the past, you may have had one or two really strong songs, but these days there are no filler tracks - look at Keane's album, for example. Or Muse, where every track is of a high standard."

'Album bands'

The Guardian's pop critic, Caroline Sullivan, agreed: "It reminds me of the 1970s, when you had album bands and single bands."

Oasis in 1995
That was then: The chart shows Britpop is just a memory
Ms Sullivan added the chart was proof the heady days of the mid-to-late 1990s - with the stars of Britpop selling well in the singles and album charts - were now well and truly over, and the music industry was returning to calmer waters.

"If you look at a similar chart from 15 or 20 years ago, you'll find it'll be very similar to this one," she said.

"The British record-buying public has simply reverted to normal, with easy listening and middle-of-the road music.

"If you're into something more radical, it's a bit of a frustrating time."

Mr Castaldo said record-buyers also had more of an open mind these days, with more outlets for music - including downloading - encouraging people to try new artists, while word of mouth was helping bands like the Scissor Sisters and Maroon Five.

"Gone are the times when you just bought the NME and you were just into guitar bands," he said.

'Catholic taste'

Scissor Sisters
Word of mouth helped the Scissor Sisters achieve huge album sales
"The likes of Radio 2, online radio, all the different music channels on TV, are exposing us to a broader range of styles, and giving us a more catholic taste in music.

"There has been a perception that downloads would hurt the album market, but we're finding people are mixing the two elements, and will still go out and buy their favourite records, because they enjoy the whole experience of shopping for them."

There is a rough 50/50 split between UK and US acts in the top 20, but Mr Castaldo feels that disguises a strong British scene.

"Franz Ferdinand, Muse, Keane, and Snow Patrol are all enjoying success in the US, while The Killers - who come from Las Vegas - say all their influences are British," he said.

"There's a lot of overlap between the UK and US - many of these acts are signed to the same record labels anyway."

While Dido might be queen of UK music now, Ms Sullivan said the recent critical and commercial success of alternative music press favourites The Libertines proved something more radical could still move into the mainstream.

"The Rhythm Factory studio in east London produced The Libertines - who had a number one album and a number two single - and Razorlight.

"I'd expect a big burst of activity from them at start of next year."

What do you think? Is the UK music scene in good shape? Have your say using the form below.

Four out of the top twenty are complitations. That's just downright sad. Now that John Peel has passed away, the chances of seeing anything new or innovative in the charts has taken a huge knock.
Alex Walsh, St Albans UK

I cannot remember a year in recent memory where there has been such a plethora of breakthrough, quality British bands such as Keane and Snow Patrol. Coupled with the quality solo voices of Dido, Will Young, Joss Stone and Katie Melua, we should all be proud of the standard of music that Britain is producing right now.
Peter Ransom, Lancaster, UK

It's great to see that the music industry is in such a good shape now-a-days compared to a few years back when record labels were dropping bands left, right and centre. One of the more positive aspects is that a lot of the top-sellers last year were homegrown talent, something which has been a bit elusive in recent years. The most positive point though is that most of the sales chart is actual talent, rather than manufactured bands with digitally-enhanced and synthesised vocals who have good looks. Now if only this would translate into the singles chart...
Nik Bowyer, Exeter, UK

The modern UK music scene feels like the late 80s, drowning in ghastly middle-of-the-road confections like Katie Melua and Keane, and cartoon rock like The Darkness. But in the 1980s there was a large, thriving UK indie community outside the mainstream. Today you have to look to the USA for breakthrough acts operating outside the status quo. Our music scene is like our football teams - the grass roots are dying.
John Allison, Manchester, UK

Dido is the Queen of the Blandies. Anytime I hear one of her dirges on the radio it's all I can do to stay awake until I reach the "off" switch. She's the distaff version of David Gray. God knows how either of them manage to sell any records. REM are the only ones in the top 20 I would choose to listen to.
Paul Sweeney, Edinburgh, Scotland

The UK music scene is in no shape at all. It's saturated with bland bed-wetting indie music which all sounds the same. Of course, it wasnt much better when I was a teenager in the 90's, except then at least you had more of an alternative scene. Now "alternative" is just another cliche cash in term. I would hardly term the Libertines as "radical". However, I should concede that my tastes are probably slightly more eclectic than most. My main point I belive would be that when most people buy music they are using the same parts of their brain which they use for purchasing wallpaper or sofas. So now its Dido and Coldplay, ten years ago it was boy bands and Britpop. Where's the difference?
Charlie, London

Abandon hope, all ye who listen to any of this top 20, it is truly depressing, with mediocrity rampant. There are bands out there who defy this. Go to your local independent record store for advice and aural enhancement. This will involve actually leaving the computer and going to look but the rewards can be so wonderful.
David Griffiths, Mid Glam

I've joined the old brigade, just like my parents did. Much modern music is repetitive, samey and boring. Too many vocal-only acts with more talent for dancing around the stage than making music. Count the acts on Top of the Pops who actually appear with instruments (even if they are miming). It's a bit like Stock, Aitken and Waterman all over again. What is needed is another explosion of change, as happened with punk rock, to liven things up again.
Dave, Cambridge UK

I think the current album charts show the shifting age demographic of album buyers. Buying an album is no longer about walking into a high street music retailer, they can be picked up in a supermarket with the weekly shopping and that is opening up mainstream album sales to an older audience, hence the more easy-listening stylings of this chart. It's certainly not frustrating being into more radical music.
Mark, Leicester

I have been living in the US for four years, and always enjoy coming back to the UK to pick up new music. Coldplay paved the way for Keane, Franz Ferdinand and others, all of which is good news for the UK music business.
Simon Williams, San Francisco, USA

I could be wrong, but I believe that the UK music scene is incredibly diverse at the moment. However, this isn't always reflected in the album charts. New and exciting bands haven't yet broken through to the mainstream audiences. But they are well thought of within their own genre and "underground" music scene.

Other bands are perhaps trying to follow in the footsteps of more successful bands. This is the case of the underated band Dogs Die In Hot Cars, who hail from the same region as Scottish act, Franz Ferdinand. With what seems like a constant supply of new and original UK acts, and old favourites reappearing in the charts, the British music scene continues to thrive. Hazahh for England.
Nik , Leeds, U,K,

Dido's White Flag is in a class of its own. Every band needs to produce something that defines its essence. OK, sounds heavy, but I'm sure most of you know what I mean
Richard Thorn, Liphook, England

Britpop will never be over!That's what got British music out of the gutter. We still need bands like Oasis, Supergrass and Blur because the music scene today is full of bland and ripped off stuff. Franz Ferdinand and The Libertines are a breath of fresh air but we need the above bands and others to help add a bit of choice in today's music. Busted, McFly etc, its all the same.
Mike Seymour, Middlesbrough, United Kingdom

I feel that the UK music scene is in fantastic shape. With new Urban and hip hop acts holding their own, and with a brilliant indie, emo and rock scene it shows we have some serious talent. And what's better we are finally seeing the decline of the boy band! At long last.
Matt, UK

I am glad that "easy listening" albums are at the top of the charts. And especially glad to see Will Young at No. 2 (although I think he is definitely number one!). It shows that the first Pop Idol programme did not find a flash in the pan singer but an artist of talent and hopefully longevity. I am not so sure about the subsequent programmes such as Pop Idol 2 and X-Factor!
Gill P, Newport, Isle of Wight

Most of the music in this country sucks...the only good artists I hear are not usually from this country. The music quality that comes from the US is much better, with the exception of Radiohead and Coldplay.
Helena Amanda, Golders Green,london, uk

At the moment, if the NME don't like you - there's not a chance a band will break through. There's a tendancy to over hype bands such as Keane in the hope that they'll be the next Radiohead. I really think that adds unfair pressure to bands. So I'd say the music scene is not in good shape, because unless you're NME's "band of the moment" (see Kings of Leon, The Darkness, Franz Ferdinand) then you're stuck. Of course the backlash will come if those bands have an album that doesn't meet the high expecations set by the media.
Marc, Reading, UK

The music scene is in such indubitably good shape that if it were a vegetable it would be reminiscent of the shape of Allison Goldfrapp. There's lots of really good stuff of all types. People who disagree are pessimistic whiners who spend all day harping on about how good music used to be whilst neglecting to actually listen to anything new. I like Lemonjelly, me.
Tia Speranza, Sheffield, UK

The music scene is wonderful if you are prepared to swallow the guff that will make the major labels a quick return. Why people have yet to see through the likes of Madonna, U2 and Oasis for the shallow stuff it is eludes me.

However, if people are subjected to the same playlists irrespective of which station they listen to, then they lose the power to discriminate.There are musicians past and present who can really nail an emotion or describe and illuminate the human condition. If I want a guide, it probably won't be Kylie Minogue. John
John Clough, Rochdale

If you want souless plastic making a quick buck then the music industry is in great shape.
Danny, Australia (ex Pat)

The music scene has never had a better time. It is mostly a question of accessibility. People of all ages are turning up to see live gigs, buying albums and downloading songs from the internet. Not only this but MP3 players, CD players and digital radio are providing a higher quality of music. Wherever you go music can be found, in houses, cars, shops or even being sung on the street. It has an immense potential to direct people's thoughts. Coupled with this, there is a wide variety of new genres of music. There are several big British names on the world stage and new bands spring up each year. Perhaps the biggest compliment we can pay the British music industry is that the Anglophobic European mainland plays British music. The future is bright.
Tim Badcock, Nottingham, England

I think a lot of people now think, why pay 3/4 for a single with 2 or 3 tracks when you can buy and album with 10+ tracks for 10 - value for money ? ? ?
Simms, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England

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SEE ALSO:
UK music sees record album sales
26 Nov 04 |  Entertainment


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