The Story of Pop: 1999 (Chapter 46)

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It’s midday, it’s Thursday, and time as always for us to hop aboard our little musical pre-Y2K pop tardis we like to call The Story of Pop: 1999. This week: a second chart topper for a man who had one of the top 10 biggest selling albums for two years running…

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At the start of 1999, there could be little doubting that the name which had risen out of the ashes of the decade’s premier boyband sensation Take That like a phoenix out the flames, was not, as everyone had expected, Gary Barlow. It wasn’t even Mark Owen. The one who seemed to be here to stay was Robbie Williams.

Admittedly, things hadn’t really taken off for him until the release of ‘Angels’, his fifth solo single at the end of 1997. But as he opened the year on the back of a number one album (his second effort ‘I’ve Been Expecting You’), and a litany of chart topping hits like ‘Millennium’ and ‘No Regrets’, as well as sweeping the board clean at that February’s BRIT Awards, it was apparent he had transcended his poptastic roots and gone stellar in a way that few others had managed to that point.

A third single from that album, ‘Strong’, had also made the UK top 10 that spring, but for the large bulk of this year, Robbie was nowhere to be seen on our shores. And the reason? If you put your hand up and said ‘Did he go to America to try and crack it there, sir?’, then a hearty well done to you and a great big tick in your exercise book.

Take That had of course tried (and largely failed) to break the Stateside market – ‘Back for Good’ rather inconveniently made the top 10 on the Billboard charts just as they announced their split here in early 1996 – but Capitol Records was interested in turning Robbie into a star over the pond too.

His first US album release was ‘The Ego Has Landed’, bringing together a selection of tracks from his two solo albums here. But after ‘Millennium’ and ‘Angels’ were pushed as singles there and largely failed to climb the charts, Robbie publicly declared that trying to chase the American dream was making him miserable.

He was to then spend the remainder of the year on a European tour, but he still found time to release one last single from the ‘I’ve Been Expecting You’ album, which had carried on selling healthily here in his Stateside absence.

A double-a-side with a brand new song that’s largely forgotten in his back catalogue now, called ‘It’s Only Us’, a balls to the wall rocker recorded for the soundtrack of the FIFA 2000 video game, ‘She’s The One’ had originally been recorded in 1997 by the British rock band World Party. Written by their lead vocalist Karl Wallinger, it created a bit of friction between him and the song’s producer and Robbie’s main songwriting partner Guy Chambers when Robbie largely spent a lot of the time barely acknowledging it was a cover.

But coupled with another memorable promo video, where Robbie played a coach to an Olympic ice skating team, it was an early winter warmer that saw him secure his second number one single as a solo artist with consummate ease upon its early November release, as well as going onto win him a further two BRIT Awards for ‘Best British Single’ and ‘Best British Video’ at the 2000 ceremony, and it remains a firm live favourite of his to this day.

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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