The Story of Pop: 2002 (Chapter 48)

With the hits from the year Yvette Fielding started tracking down the paranormal in Most Haunted and when Ford unveiled the new “supermini” Fiesta, this is The Story of Pop: 2002. This week: a second chart topper – and unprecedented turn into slower ballads – for a man who made his name from UK Garage…

  • Artist: Daniel Bedingfield
  • Song: If You’re Not The One
  • Released: 25/11/2002
  • Writers / Producers: Daniel Bedingfield / Mark Taylor / Metrophonic
  • Highest UK Chart Position: #1
  • Weeks on Chart: 28

Exactly one year prior, New Zealand born, Brit raised singer-songwriter Daniel Bedingfield had landed literally from nowhere, emerging from an in-demand white label straight in at number one with his self produced and self written debut single, the frenetic late UK Garage banger, “Gotta Get Thru This”. It was such a success that it even returned to the top of the chart as 2001 turned into 2002, selling over 864,000 copies in total. It then went onto make the top 10 of the Billboard charts in the States, and was nominated for a Grammy for Best Dance Recording.

Once signed up for an album deal with Polydor Records, the conundrum of how to follow this up was not one that was easily answered. A whole eight months elapsed between that huge debut and the second single that proceeded his debut album. The leftfield dance cut “James Dean (I Wanna Know)” was, whilst still a top 10 hit, a far more modest one – it entered and peaked at #4 that August, selling only 90,000 copies all told.

Worse still, the album – also titled Gotta Get Thru This – was not an immediate success either. It debuted just a few places short of the top 10 of the album chart at #13, and was gone from the top 75 four weeks later. Both Daniel and Polydor sensed that this more left-of-centre approach wasn’t necessarily going to translate into huge album sales. And so, with the nights drawing in and Christmas fast approaching, his third single, “If You’re Not The One”, saw him drop the tempo and bring out a textbook example of third single from a major new pop artist’s debut album release schedule, with a ballad.

But this in itself was a risky and out of the ordinary move; up until this point, he was more readily associated with floorfilling dance pop music. In fact, it was a move he was dead set against. Speaking to The Daily Telegraph in an interview in 2003, he – somewhat cockily – said “Commercialism, sappy lyrics and meek tunes are the things I hate most in the universe, but I’m not sure even Bob Dylan could get record company interest without hooks these days.”

Further pressed, he said “I didn’t want to put “If You’re Not The One” on the album as I thought it was too cheesy. I thought it sounded like Westlife … But my sister loved it. Women that hear it go all soft and think it’s lovely.” Looked at retrospectively, it was a very odd stance indeed to take when trying to push a new single and convince a willing record buying public to make it a success. It was perhaps fortunate for Daniel, therefore, that the quality of “If You’re Not The One” spoke for itself over his ill-projected thoughts.

A soaring, thoughtfully created and heartbreaking slowie about unrequited love that showed off his soulful falsetto vocal range – “I don’t wanna run away / But I can’t take it, I don’t understand / If I’m not made for you / Then why does my heart tell me that I am? / Is there anyway that I could stay in your arms?” – it showed another side to his songwriting and vocal ability that was evident when he dialled down some of the more obscure ways of showcasing this.

Produced by Mark Taylor at Metrophonic – who had of course been behind one of the biggest number one hits of the year for Enrique Iglesias with “Hero” – meant that immediately it was set for similar success. Upon release at the end of November, “If You’re Not The One” rocketed straight in at the top to give Daniel his second UK number one single. But the story didn’t end there. It stayed in the top 10 over the course of the Christmas period and kept on being in there.

In fact, it was February 2003 by the time the single eventually left the top 10, and early April of the same year by the time it had completed its 18 week run inside the top 40, selling well over 600,000 copies. It was as big as it was possible to be for a single at the time, also featuring on the soundtrack of Jennifer Lopez’s blockbuster movie Maid In Manhattan. And most importantly for both Daniel and his record label, was that “If You’re Not The One” started to shift albums for him.

The Gotta Get Thru This album returned to the top 75 the same week the single charted, re-entering at #55. As more singles from the album came in 2003, including the driving pop rock of “I Can’t Read You” (#4 in April) and a third chart topper with another slow number, “Never Gonna Leave Your Side” (#1 in July), it climbed again over the course of several months, and reached a brand new peak of #2, eventually going onto be certified five times platinum for sales of 1.63m copies in the UK alone, as well as selling a further 3 million units worldwide.

So although “If You’re Not The One” is probably the song that Daniel Bedingfield least wants to be associated with in regards to his career and own artistic vision (it certainly explains why his second album, 2004’s Second First Impression, saw nowhere the same success of his debut), ultimately it is proof that sometimes, record companies have it dead on the money with a song that is going to go on and become a future pop classic – which two decades on, this song retains all the hallmarks of and then some.

Don’t forget to follow our brand new playlist on Spotify – updated weekly so you never miss a song from the story of pop in 2002. And you can leave your memories of the songs below in the comments, Tweet us or message us on Instagram, using the hashtag #StoryofPop2002.

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