The Story of Pop: 1999 (Chapter 9)

Sometimes to understand pop now, you need to look back at what it was then. Or so a wise man once wrote. This is The Story of Pop: 1999, and time once again to bring you another huge UK chart hit from exactly 20 years ago. This week: the 19th top 40 single from some Britpop legends…

Having been the big story for much of the middle part of the 90s, those at the centre of the Britpop movement found themselves spiralling into a pit of declining record sales, substance abuse, band splits or a combination of all three as that particular bubble burst.

One band who seemed to neatly side step all of that though, despite having their own strained relations to contend with, were Blur. Their eponymous fifth studio album in 1997 had already been a conscious move away from the perky likes of ‘Parklife’ and ‘Country House’ into lo-fi American influenced rock – evidenced on their chart topping ‘Beetlebum’ and ‘Song 2’.

The release of a remix album for the Japanese market in 1998 prompted one of the contributing mixers on that compilation – a certain William Orbit, famed for his work on Madonna’s ‘Ray of Light’ album – to being hired as the producer for the band’s next album.

The resulting album, ’13’, marked a move into more atmospheric, emotional sounding contemporary rock music, with occasional touches on other genres, and nowhere was this more prevalent than on the album’s lead single, ‘Tender’.

Believed to be written about lead vocalist and guitarist Damon Albarn’s split with Justine Frischmann, lead singer of fellow Britpop types Elastica, the London Community Gospel Choir joined them on the song’s rousing and moving chorus of ‘Come on, come on, come on / Get through it / Come on, come on, come on / Love’s the greatest thing that we have’, tailor made to be chanted back by festival audiences from Glastonbury to T in the Park.

The result was a resounding #2 success on this very week in 1999 – it had challenged for number one midweek but was unable to withstand the ongoing might of the Britney Spears single we covered last week. Of all Blur’s back catalogue, this is one single of theirs that even now, can’t fail to move you and make you feel awestruck by.

Don’t forget to follow our playlist on Spotify – updated weekly so you never miss a song from the story of pop in 1999. And you can leave your memories of the songs below in the comments or Tweet us, using the hashtag #StoryofPop1999.

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