While discussing songs from the late 1990s and early 2000s the other day, I decided to compile a list of the best songs from that time period which could probably best be described as “when I still listened to the radio” or my preteen years. Now, these are my opinions so you may disagree but this is my list and I am always right.
Let me see if I can remember the last time I listened to the radio when I was not in a car with a broken CD player. I guess that would be 2002. Those late 90s and early 2000s were crazy. Man, I would sit there with a cassette tape and record songs off of the radio so I could listen to them on my Walkman when I walked or rollerbladed to 7-11 to buy War Heads. Remember those times? No? Okay, I'll try to use a modern reference. It was like illegally downloading music to your mp3 player except it took hours and sometimes you recorded parts of the commercials by accident and at least one song would get cut off at the end or when you had to flip the cassette over. Good Times.
Besides the radio and my mixed tapes, this was back in a time when MTV still showed music videos or at least part of music videos. And a time when Carson Daly was slightly more tolerable. Or I was just less critical. Or stupider. Possibly all three. It seems so long ago and yet so recent at the same time.
So here is me looking back at my music choices during my preteen years. Children, back in those days we weren't tweens. We were preteens. I thought it sounded condescending at the time and then someone invented the word “tween.” Anyway, let's get to some pop songs that have stood the test of time. Thanks to YouTube at least.
11. Aaron's Party (Come Get It) (2000) - Aaron Carter
Now I am an extremely narcissistic person. I freely admit that because by telling people that I am narcissistic, I get to talk about myself a little longer. Despite this fact, I do not believe that my first single would actually have my own name in the title. But somehow this was a time period that gave us lots of songs with the pop star or group's name in the title and it was usually one of their first big hits. Maybe this was clever. People will always remember your name because the only song they can remember has your name in it. Also, less people will cover it unless they cover it ironically or their name is Aaron. It just seems a little too narcissistic. I think I would only cover songs that have the singer or group's name in them. Look for my album Hey, Hey, Sarah's Back (All Right) for Sarah's Party Cause There Ain't No Party Like a Sarah Club Party. Also, this song was during that period of time when people used the word “fly” non-ironically to say that things were cool and “honey” to describe girls to which they were not acquainted (see also #4).
I felt the need to have an Aaron Carter song on this list. I know some of you are saying, “But, why not include That's How I Beat Shaq instead of this one?” And you know, I asked myself the same question. I said to myself, “Kyle (I call myself Kyle), why Aaron's Party?” And I came up with some very good reasons. As previously stated, it represents all of the narcissistic songs of this time. Also, I felt the need to include this song because of it's sheer awfulness, because Aaron Carter wears a fur coat and name drops Nike. Also, there's a good lesson in this song. He may be the flyest kid on the block now but he is also grounded. There are consequences, children. So why an Aaron Carter song at all? Because Aaron Carter was the cause of the Lindsay Lohan - Hilary Duff feud. That feud lasted longer than his singing career. I was Team Lindsay but that was before we started designating which side we were on by saying “I'm Team [insert name].” We just said, “I'm on Lindsay's side” or "I hate Hilary Duff." Anyway, here's a little bit of old school for you that goes something like this...
10. Genie in a Bottle – Christina Aguilera
I wasn't really an MTV watcher so I saw most of my music videos on the Disney Channel. This was still when the Disney Channel did not want to be associated with smut (see my previous rant) so they would show censored versions of some music videos. This was one of them. “I'm a genie in a bottle, baby. You've got to treat me the right way.” Um, that messes up the whole metaphor. In fact, it might make it worse. So, you're a genie in the bottle and you ask to be treated the right way. Perhaps the person who finds the bottle, some would say your master, takes into consideration that you want to be treated the right way. However, you never indicate whether they are to treat you the right way or if they are to treat the bottle the right way. Keep in mind they have not met you the genie yet just the genie bottle. Said bottle finder master might just try to protect the bottle from breaking. And there you are stuck in the bottle because you did not ask to be rubbed the right way. From what I hear, 10,000 years in a lamp will give you such a crick in the neck. I understand that there are sexual connotations behind “rub me the right way.” I understand this now. I was unaware of this when I was 11. A recurring theme for most of the songs on this list is that I knew the words but I never really listened to them. I didn't understand what the song was trying to say. All I knew was that I was supposed to like the song.
9. Bootylicious (2001) – Destiny's Child
Baby, can you handle this? I don't think you can handle this. But I'm wrong sometimes* so who really knows. As someone with a large behind, this song did tons for my self confidence. Sure, this song gets super irritating after hearing it once. But, still, I listened to it over and over and danced to it with my friends. I guess this song does have some cultural significance by giving us the word “bootylicious.” Other than that, I got nothing. You know, besides the whole giving me self confidence to accept the fact that having a big butt was okay.
*False. I am always right.
8. I'm a Slave 4 U (2001) – Britney Spears
I know. I was totally going to pick a different Britney song but this one seemed... important. Go ahead. Laugh. Are you done? Good. Let me explain. This song is off of her third album Britney. You may recall that this was when Britney started to get edgier. You know, no more pigtails and school girl uniforms or proper spelling. This was around the same time that Christina, sorry, I mean Xtina released “Dirrty.” Notice the extra “r.” She means business. Spelling is for pussies. Edgy chicks are all about misspelling and replacing words with numbers or a single letter. Back to Brit Brit. At this time, she was not a girl, not yet a woman. To go with her edgier, more mature attitude, Britney chose to wear a thong on top of her jeans in this music video. We should have known that something was wrong then. Britney told us that she was a dancing slave. She won't deny it. She was not trying to hide it. She also danced onstage with a python during the 2001 Video Music Awards. Probably against her will since she's a dancing slave. How could we not see her cry for help through this song? I might be misinterpreting. But what the hell? Who cares?
7. Blue (Da Ba Dee) (1999) - Eiffel 65
I know that there are plenty of songs written now that make little to no sense but what was it about 1999 that made it the year of the completely nonsensical song (see also #4)? Well, it does state that it's a song about a guy who lives in a blue world where everything is blue and then proceeds to list things that are blue in this world which if you recall from earlier in this sentence is everything. Everything is blue. My cousin's husband was convinced that the chorus of this song was “I'm blue. I want to die.” Whatever, it had a good beat and you could dance to it. Or you know, stand awkwardly against the wall during grade school sock hops. Whichever.
6. Ms. Jackson (2001) – OutKast
This one right here goes out to all the baby mamas' mamas. This was another one of those songs that I knew but didn't really listen to the lyrics. That did not stop us from singing it. Really, we didn't sing it so much as walk around school and just sing, “I'm sorry, Ms. Jackson. I am for real” over and over. When it comes down to it, this song is awesome for both apologizing to Ms. Jackson and essentially calling her a hateful bitch. Yeah, I think she will totally accept your trillion apologies and your friendly reminder that her grandchild is a baby and not, like she previously thought, a paycheck.
5. No Scrubs (1999) – TLC
What is a scrub? Scrub: [skruhb] -noun 1. a guy who thinks he's fly, always talking about what he wants and sits on his broke ass. 2. a guy that can get no love from me, hanging out the passenger's side of his best friend's ride trying to holler at me. Synonyms: busta, deadbeat ass.
It's not bad advice. If his life is going nowhere, then don't get with him. How easily some of us have forgotten this lesson. Not me. Other people. Anyway, it needed to be included because I remember walking around as an 11 year old singing this. Also, TLC is important. They did R&B. They did pop. Left Eye rapped. She did not attempt to rap like some people (see #11). She rapped. And they were hugely successful.
4. Summer Girls (1999) – LFO
Apparently LFO released more than two songs. I was unaware. Apparently, their song 6 Seconds was covered by the Jonas Brothers. I am happy to say I have never heard either version of this song but will probably go youtube it right now. It doesn't really matter because Summer Girls is the best LFO song. It really is just a series of true statements with some random crap thrown in there. New Kids on the Block had a bunch of hits. True. Billy Shakespeare wrote a whole bunch of sonnets. True. Macauly Culkin was in Home Alone. True. Michael J. Fox was Alex P. Keaton. True.
The real important information is what the lead singer tells us about himself. He said his name was Rich and Wikipedia tells me that this is true. He likes Kevin Bacon but he hates Footloose. This seems plausible. I mean Footloose is kind of overrated. We also know that Chinese food makes him sick and that he will steal your honey like he stole your bike. I'll just assume those are true since I can not verify them myself. Perhaps you think it is silly that I'm going through all this but you are wrong. This is the exact kind of crap you need to remember forever. You know that someday when the Final Jeopardy category is “90s Nonsensical Pop Songs,” Alex Trebek will ask you “In which song does the singer vow to steal yo honey like he stole yo bike?” And you will be happy that you listened to this song and know the answer. And you will long for that summer, that summer when Summer Girls played on the radio. You'll miss it like the color purple, macaroni and cheese, ruby red slippers and a bunch of trees. Seriously. I can not make this crap up.
What confuses me is exactly what summer is he singing about? Possibly sometime in the 80s after New Edition released Candy Girl in 1983 and after Footloose was released in 1984. It seems most likely that he is referring to the summer of 1989 seeing as how that would have been when NKOTB were really popular and Family Ties would have just gone off the air that May. But Home Alone did not come out until November of 1990. So is he singing about the summer of 1991? Is he singing about a collection of summer's that he now remembers as one summer? Does this song comment on how we look back on happier times but our memories of those times are not accurate? Am I overthinking this?
3. Wannabe (1996) – Spice Girls
First of all, is this song really almost 14 years old? Am I doing this math wrong? Because that seems too long ago. Next question: Am I just getting that old? Second of all, looking up the lyrics now, this song makes some sense. It's totally a product of 90s Girl Power. Or is 90s Girl Power totally a product of this? Either way, I'm totally a product of 90s Girl Power. But my younger self did not analyze the lyrics because it had a nice beat and you could dance to it. Okay. I'll give you that “zig-a-zig-ahh” makes no sense. But let's face it, “you have got to give” is some pretty decent relationship advice. Taking is too easy but that's the way it is. And who has not had a friendship strained because friends don't get along with the significant other? Obviously every relationship should be based on this model.
2. My Heart Will Go On (1997) – Celine Dion
This song won Grammys, a Golden Globe and an Oscar. It was also occasionally played on the radio all the time. As a nine year old, I felt I truly understood this song. I felt Celine's pain as she sang this emotional ballad. But that was mostly because I would pound my chest at the same time as she would. I do not know how she could do that so often. This song defined a generation. I do not know how it defined that generation but it totally did. Admit it you know every word to this song. You might think that you do not but you do. It was ingrained in you twelve years ago and it will always be there. This song can touch us one time and last for a lifetime and never let go 'til we're one. Too much?
1. I Want It That Way (1999) – Backstreet Boys
This song is one of the greatest songs ever. Ever. This could be my bias because I am a huge BSB fan. I follow them on twitter. I went to their concert two summers ago which was amazing especially when everyone was singing I Want It That Way. I was once banished from the lunch table in 6th grade because I had a BSB pen and everyone else were NSYNC fans. Tensions were running high due to the anticipation of No Strings Attached. I refused to stop using my pen and I was banished. It lasted about a week. Maybe it was just a day. I don't remember the details.
While I am a huge BSB fan, this is not my favorite song of theirs. That would be Shape of My Heart. But I Want It That Way was everywhere in 1999. It's probably one of the first songs, if not the first song, you think about when you think of 1990s boy bands which I'm sure you do a lot. For this reason, it is number one on this list.
So, I want it that way and you want it that way but we are two worlds apart so we can't be together, I guess. Has someone made a fan video with this song about the Doctor and Rose? Well, whatever. I love this song and if I had to pick one song to define my preteen years, this would be it.
Final tally of songs on this list that use the word “fly:” 4