The Story of Pop: 1999. It’s the series, week by week, that chronicles the UK chart movers and shakers of a year that saw American Beauty and The Sixth Sense hit cinema screens, and Will and Grace aired on TV for the first time. This week: a burgeoning Hollywood screen starlet shakes her stuff to the top of the charts on both sides of the Atlantic…
We saw earlier in this series how Martine McCutcheon had crossed successfully over to the pop charts after she left EastEnders. But the idea of big or small screen stars crossing over to the charts was largely less commonplace over the other side of the Atlantic – or at least, it was until 1999, when one lady with a very famous behind in particular set out on her journey to the top of the pop tree.
Hailing from a Puerto Rican upbringing in The Bronx area of New York, and having had a brief stint as a backup dancer for Janet Jackson, Jennifer Lopez was probably best known before the summer of 1999 as being an up and coming screen starlet, making her name in films like Selena, Anaconda and most famously, the critically acclaimed box office hit Out of Sight, opposite George Clooney, in 1996.
It was in the former of those films she’d demonstrated an obvious singing talent, being as it was a biopic of the late Latin American recording star Selena Quintanilla-Pérez. She soon caught the attention of no less personage then Tommy Mottola, the powerhouse boss of Epic Records (and Mariah Carey’s ex), who signed her up for an album deal. Work soon began with Emilio Estefan Jr, Puff Daddy, Cory Rooney and Rodney ‘Darkchild’ Jerkins on the songs that would make up her debut album, ‘On The 6’.
It was the latter superstar producer who turned in ‘If You Had My Love’, a sophisticated, slinky cut of R&B influenced pop where she sassily laid down the ground rules to a prospective new love. It’s not unfair to that it was wildly different from what people had been expecting. Many critics were pointing out that Lopez had been signed on her looks and her status as an actress and were circling like vultures waiting for her to fail.
What a bitter pill it was for them to swallow, then, when she proved them wrong and showed herself to be something of a triple threat upon its release. The single flew to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in the States in May, and when the UK release of ‘If You Had My Love’ followed in June, it went hurtling into the charts at its peak position of #4.
More success followed that year when ‘Waiting For Tonight’ became a floor filler and another top 5 smash, and to date she’s had no less than three UK number one singles across the last twenty years. But ‘If You Had My Love’ is the song that started it all for the lady they call J.Lo, and has remained a classic of its time even two whole decades on.
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