11 JANUARY 1992, Page 32

Pop music

Winners and losers

Marcus Berkmann

With the autumn frenzy now past and Christmas no more than a distant, terrible memory, the record industry has moved into its annual period of hibernation. Few records appear in these quiet months, and those that do creep out are feeble, unloved creatures that surely would not survive at a more rigorous time of year. The rare punter who ventures into a record shop does so only to buy the racy new Madonna calendar, or because it's raining. At home, everyone else sits dazed, wondering what to do with all those Genesis albums they were given for Christmas.

It seems a propitious moment to wonder what the result of all that autumn frenzy actually was. So many `long-awaited' albums by previously successful artists were released within so few weeks that only a handful can genuinely have prospered. And so it proves. As ever, the annual network album chart makes intriguing reading, revealing with ruthless simplicity pop music's winners and losers for 1991.

The two top-selling albums were both compilations. Number one was Eurythmics' Greatest Hits, a superb package that was released at precisely the right time: last spring, when there was nothing else out at all. RCA had apparently been saving it up for Christmas, but after a poor year (none of their other albums made the top 75) they had to release it early, a decision that with hindsight now seems inspired. Com- pare the relative failure of the Pet Shop Boys' Discography, which EMI did save up for Christmas and which came only 37th overall. Second was Queen's Greatest Hits II — hardly a great shock after the death of

Freddie Mercury. Although released well before the singer's unfortunate exit, the record was packaged like a posthumous tribute, which may have been premature but undoubtedly did wonder's for sales later on. It may yet emerge that Mercury's is the first rock death ever to have been properly marketed.

Number three was Simply Red's Stars, which alone of the Christmas batch of new albums seems to have exceeded expecta- tions: 1.1 million were sold in the first II weeks, and the album's best track, 'For Your Babies', is only now appearing as a single — expect further huge sales to come. Other non-compilations that prospered were REM's Out of Time (fourth), Cher's Love Hurts (seventh) and Seal's debut album (eighth) — all big sellers earlier in the year. Michael Jackson's lacklustre Dan- gerous seems to have reached fifth on hype alone, but I suspect it'll be found out in 1992: loopy he may be, but he does seem to have lost forever the knack of making decent records.

Lower in the chart than they might have been were Guns 'N' Roses' two double albums, Use Your Illusion I and // (39th and 35th), Sting's The Soul Cages (54th), Paula Abdul's Spellbound (60th) and Prince's Diamonds and Pearls (65th). Comebacks of the year were represented by Paul Young's From Time to Time — The Singles Collec- tion (ninth), Bryan Adams's Waking up the Neighbours (11th), the Stranglers' Greatest Hits 1977-1990 (21st) and Rod Stewart's Vagabond Heart (26th). And Meat Loafs Bat Out of Hell, 13 years after its original release, was 31st — hardly a comeback, as it never seems to have been away.

The top-selling singles are both more predictable and less interesting. Bryan Adams's 'Everything I Do I Do It For You' was, needless to say, 1991's number one. Cher's 'The Shoop Shoop Song' (second) showed once again the commercial sense in re-recording terrible old songs from years ago, while Right Said Fred's 'I'm Too Sexy' (third) was one of the best-selling number twos of all time. Queen's 'Bohemian Rhap- sody', re-released scarcely a month ago, was sixth. As if typifying what a had year it was for singles, Color Me Badd came eighth with the elegantly titled 'I Want To Sex You Up'. Try saying that to a girl with- out being hit.

Still, there's good news even in the sin- gles chart. For where is Kylie Minogue, the noted Antipodean sex kitten and chan- teuse? Top five? Top ten? Top 50? Sadly not. Indeed, her sole appearance in the year's top 100, with the execrable 'What Do I Have To Do', is at 77th. Could this be the end of a glorious career? Let's hope so.