Pop: It's the end of the world as we know it

Baby vs Ginger. B*witched vs Aguilera. Welcome to the pop apocalypse as Ben Thompson goes in search of the real music of the millennium

THIS TIME 1000 years ago, bizarre signs and portents of a world about to be turned upside down included sheep being born with two heads, giant hailstones with the face of Gloria Hunniford, and a labrador reciting St Paul's letter to the Ephesians in cockney rhyming slang.

Not to be outdone by its illustrious predecessor, our own pre-millennial epoch has already given us tabloid revelations about the male members of Steps getting paid more than their female counterparts (the idea of the egregious H getting paid anything is distressing enough), and an opinion poll with over half a million respondents ranking Jools Holland as the 12th-greatest jazz musician of all time.

Last Saturday night, the despairing tones of Bob Geldof ("And where is `Like A Rolling Stone' in that top 10??!!") echoed out from the debris of Channel 4's Music of the Millennium like a rock canonical Chicken Licken proclaiming that the sky was falling in on our heads. But as fin de siecle anxiety dissipates itself in farcical debates about the relative merits of Billie Holliday and Natalie Imbruglia, could it be that the real pop apocalypse is taking place under our very noses?

When Aldous Huxley's The Doors of Perception envisioned "a perpetual present made up of one continually changing apocalypse", few realised that the prophetic author was describing not only his own first mescalin experience, but also the British singles chart of October/November 1999. For in a month of pure pop drama, each week has brought happenings of enduring mythic significance in the struggle for the number one position.

It all began (like so many other of the great stories of our time) with B*witched. Would "Jesse Hold On" give the hyperactively wholesome Irish quartet a record-breaking fifth out of five singles straight in at number one? If the complacent demeanour of their promotional appearances was anything to go by, they plainly thought so, but for all the protestations that "Jesse" could be "anyone you want them to be", this arrogance proved horribly misplaced. The performance they gave on CD-UK, as it dawned on them that they'd been eclipsed by slinky Christina Aguilera, was so infused with bitterness that it caused the milk of an entire prize-winning Limerick dairy herd to turn to Yoplait.

B*witched had no real cause for complaint though. "Jesse" simply lacked the magic spark of, say, "Blame It On the Weatherman" and the public voted with their feet. A number one single can never be taken for granted. Having been made painfully aware of this by a series of high-profile near misses, Five's joy at their long-awaited embrace of the top spot with the deliriously catchy "Keep on Movin'" was all the more infectious. A welcome oasis of fecklessness and indiscipline in the boy band personality desert, their success benefits us all.

After the undercard, the heavyweight clash. Having got off to a slightly shaky start when her debut single - the unnervingly meta-textual Shirley Bassey pastiche "Look At Me" - was held off the number one spot by Ricky Martin, Geri Halliwell's solo career was already firmly back on track, thanks to the heady cod-latin euphoria of "Mi Chico Latino" and its saucy accompanying video.

In this context it was hard to know which was more disturbing - the idea that Geri Halliwell might actually be "in love" with Chris Evans, or the possibility that her determination to beat her former Spice campadre to the number one spot was such that she would be willing to let people think she was.

Either way, Emma Bunton's solo debut was going to have to be pretty special to outshine the Day-glo transcendence of Geri's "Lift Me Up". And there was something about the attitude of Baby's backing troupe Tin Tin Out that wasn't quite right; as if they thought it was they who were doing her the favour, rather than the other way round. She kept her end up well though, accepting defeat at Geri's hands with good grace and putting her supercilious instrumental time-servers firmly in their place on Top of the Pops with a regal "Thank you, boys".

The final - and most compelling - chapter in this month-long chart saga was supplied by Robbie Williams. Interviewed by CD-UK in his American hotel room shortly before the release of his new single "She's the One", Robbie was so obviously - and poignantly - in the grip of serious depression that even Cat Deeley noticed. The conjunction of huge personal turmoil and a beautifully judged soft-rock ballad would have been hard enough to resist, even without the superb video wherein Robbie's lovelorn ice- dancing coach steps in to the breach to produce a medal-winning performance. As it is, this richly deserved number one single is a pop moment he will do very well to surpass.

Excitement at this level cannot go on for ever of course and, just as the Blur vs Oasis singles duel marked the zenith of Britpop, it seems likely that the month just passed will turn out to be the historic high watermark of what someone with no regard for the English language might term "the post dad-rock pop revival". Band Aid sounded the death-knell of the great British pop upsurge of the early Eighties, and maybe the crazy all-star charity version of The Rolling Stones' "It's Only Rock 'N' Roll" currently setting its sights on the Christmas Number One position will do the same for this generation.

A vanguard of pre-teen revolutionaries has taken up arms (well, their pocket money) to drive out the shadow of Cast and now we must look to the future. As Britney Spears lumbered up to the podium for the fourth time at the MTV Europe awards in Dublin to thank the world for "accepting pop again" and a succession of award winners thanked `God, my record company and most of all the fans without whom I would not be here tonight', it was hard not to get excited about how annoying some young pretenders somewhere must be finding it. For those about to rock, we salute you.

`It's Only Rock'nRoll', featuring James Brown, Ozzy Osbourne, The Spice Girls, Mick Jagger, S Club 7 and others, is out 13 December

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Adolf Hitler's 1914 watercolour 'Altes Rathaus' and the original invoice from 1916

Arts and Entertainment
Scare tactics: Michael Palin and Jodie Comer in ‘Remember Me’

TVReview: Remember Me, BBC1
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tvThe two new contestants will join the 'I'm A Celebrity' camp after Gemma Collins' surprise exit
The late Jimmy Ruffin, pictured in 1974
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Northern Uproar, pictured in 1996

Jeff Fletcher found fame in 1990s

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the new Paddington bear review

Review: Paddingtonfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Tony stares at the 'Daddy Big Ears' drawing his abducted son Oliver drew for him in The Missing
tvReview: But we're no closer to the truth in 'The Missing'
Arts and Entertainment
Henry Marsh said he was rather 'pleased' at the nomination
booksHenry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' takes doctors off their pedestal
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'

Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in new biopic The Imitation Game

'At times I thought he was me'

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Len Goodman appeared to mutter the F-word after Simon Webbe's Strictly performance

Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T makes his long-awaited return to the London stage
musicReview: Alexandra Palace, London
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 back in 2001 when they also supported 'Children in Need'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth rejoins Tess Daly to host the Strictly Come Dancing Children in Need special
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan plays Christian Grey getting ready for work

Film More romcom than S&M

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

Review: The Imitation Game

Arts and Entertainment
The comedian Daniel O'Reilly appeared contrite on BBC Newsnight last night

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

    Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

    Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
    The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

    The young are the new poor

    Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
    Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

    Greens on the march

    ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
    Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

    Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

    Through the stories of his accusers
    Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

    The Meaning of Mongol

    Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
    Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

    Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

    Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
    Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

    The last Christians in Iraq

    After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
    Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Britain braced for Black Friday
    Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

    From America's dad to date-rape drugs

    Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

    The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
    Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
    Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

    Flogging vlogging

    First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

    US channels wage comedy star wars
    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

    When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible