I grew up with lots of music, borrowing my mum's Def Leppard CDs and Roxette tapes and creating my own little microcosm of musical worship which was a strange mix of things a small child might hear and enjoy in the 1990s (The Spice Girls, Nirvana, Pulp, Aaron Carter, Hanson), and lots of whatever my mum liked (David Bowie, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Stiff Little Fingers, Bauhaus). Despite voicing my keen desire to obtain Spice Girls albums and the decision I made at approx. age five to grow up and become Jarvis Cocker, these were my first albums (unless you count a couple of Smash Hits compilation CDs circa 1998).
1. Robbie Williams - Sing When You're Winning
Robbie Williams was pretty much at his peak around the millennium (and he, uh, even had a song called Millennium, which was a pretty smart move as it then got used in every TV show that ever mentioned the looming year of 2000). He had some catchy songs and was kind of omnipresent. So when my uncle let me choose two CDs from his record shop, I went with this one, as well as the next item on this list. I remember being fascinated with the album art, which featured a selection of images with Robbie's face as every face. It was weird. The whole album felt weird, in an interesting sort of laddish and laddish-ly experimental way. There were a lot of very nonsensical lyrics, and there was Kids, featuring Kylie Minogue, which I still think is a great song.
2. Will Smith - Big Willie Style
This was the second album I picked out from my uncle's record shop, and my favourite out of the three albums in this post. Men in Black was a big thing at the time, and Will Smith was universally cool. This album was super listenable and hey, it's Will Smith. I still love this whole album, but Y'all Know, Miami, and of course Men in Black are solid favourites.
3. U2 - All That You Can't Leave Behind
Lastly, this album was bought at a slightly later date (along with the Wheatus single A Little Respect). This was the first album I actually paid my own money for, and I bought it because I liked the singles Beautiful Day and the really wacky Elevation, but sadly I found most of the rest of the album pretty disappointing at the time and it felt quite dull. I think I remember warming to it a bit more several years later, but I still find this one an unmemorable album, save for its first three excellent songs.
Ultimately I think Big Willie Style stands the test of time for me in large part because it's a well-weaved album that incorporates a considerable amount of samples from a host of older songs that I would later discover and love - like Cameo's Candy, heavily sampled in Will's song of the same name. Will layers a lot of different things in there and puts himself and his personality on top like a big glacé cherry. Also Men in Black was, and is, a great film.