The Story of Pop: 1999 (Chapter 43)


It’s midday, it’s Thursday, and that can mean only one thing – time for another installment of The Story of Pop: 1999, our weekly look back at the biggest hits from the year we all went Y2K crazy. This week: one of that autumn’s biggest singles that launched the career of this gravelly voiced soul diva…


It’s not many people you can identify on both stage name and real name. So if we started talking about Natalie McIntyre, you would probably think it was the unholy union between Natalie Imbruglia and Michael McIntyre, right?

But if we instead told you that it was a lady from Canton, Ohio, who grew up performing in jazz and soul bands, and who gave herself the stage name Macy Gray, after a freak accident on her bike during childhood, then you’d probably know who we were talking about.

After a deal with Atlantic Records fell through before she’d even begun work on her music in 1997, she was re-signed to Epic Records in 1998, and following a guest vocal slot on the debut album for The Black Eyed Peas, she begun work on her own album – the critically acclaimed ‘On How Life Is’.

‘Do Something’ had been released here in July as its first single, failing to make the top 40 when it peaked at #51. But it was when the album’s second single, the soulful, gravelly ode to unrequited love, ‘I Try’ was released, that things suddenly took off in a huge way.

It initially entered the UK chart at #10 at the end of September. But then it did something unheard of in the chart landscape that was then focussed on a culture of entering high before falling fast; it kept on climbing, spending several weeks locked down at #7 before eventually reaching its peak position of #6 in November.

By the time Big Ben struck midnight as the new millennium dawned, it had shifted half a million copies here, enough to make it one of 1999’s biggest selling singles. And all this without breaching the top 5. Macy Gray’s subsequent career proved she was unquestionably more of an albums artist than a singles one, but this week we remember ‘I Try’, the little single that could in the fast moving pop charts at the dawn of Y2K.

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.