It’s pretty obvious that when it comes to CHART ATTACK!, I tend to stay within the ’80s, sometimes the late ’70s or early ’90s.  This week, I decided to pick a year between 1980 and 2000 at random.   As a result, I’m going to make all of us feel really, really old.  In fact, I guarantee this will be the most unpopular Chart Attack! yet – how’s that for a reason to stick around?  Hold on to your walkers and let’s check out the charts from May 10, 1997!

10.  Wannabe – Spice Girls  Amazon iTunes
9.  Hard To Say I’m Sorry – Az Yet Featuring Peter Cetera  Amazon iTunes
8.  Where Have All the Cowboys Gone? – Paula Cole
  Amazon iTunes
7.  Return Of The Mack – Mark Morrison  Amazon
6.  MMMBop – Hanson  Amazon iTunes
5.  For You I Will – Monica  Amazon iTunes
4.  I Want You – Savage Garden  Amazon iTunes
3.  Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down – Puff Daddy Featuring Ma$e  Amazon iTunes
2.  You Were Meant For Me – Jewel  Amazon iTunes
1.  Hypnotize – The Notorious B.I.G.  Amazon iTunes

Where’s everybody going?

10.  Wannabe – Spice Girls

Okay, so maybe this was a mistake.  But I’m one sentence in.  I can’t stop now.  We’re just going to have to talk about these crappy songs, and we’re starting here.  "Wannabe" was the very first single from the Spice Girls.  I remember it being big, but I didn’t remember it being this big.  Like, #1 in 25 countries big.  In the U.S., it debuted at #11, becoming the highest debut for a non-American act at the time (stealing the record away from The Beatles).  In truth, "Wannabe" set a number of records, and I feel like I might be wasting time trying to name them all; this is energy I need to save for shitty ’70s music, not ’90s music, dammit.  You can see them all at the Wiki for "Wannabe."  The only one I feel I need to call to your attention is the first one:  ""Wannabe" started off as a jam the Red Hot Chili Peppers played in a live set in 1991."  Oh, please, tell me this isn’t so.  It can’t be true…can it?  Because the more I think about it, the more I think it could actually be possible, and the more I hate myself.

9.  Hard To Say I’m Sorry – Az Yet Featuring Peter Cetera

Just think: at least two generations of people going "Who?" for completely different reasons!  How awesome!

"Hard To Say I’m Sorry" was the follow-up to Az Yet’s first single, "Last Night," which reached #9 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the R&B chart.  I have absolutely no recollection whatsoever of "Last Night."  I don’t know who felt that the universe needed a "Hard To Say I’m Sorry" cover; maybe it was Babyface, who "discovered" the group, signed them to his label, and wrote/produced the majority of the songs.  Well, as was the case often in the late ’90s, Babyface was right.  "Hard To Say I’m Sorry" reached #8, and also made a dent on the AC charts by climbing to #14 – no doubt a direct result of all those moms who were happy to hear Peter Cetera on the radio again, singing their favorite song.  (Um, sorry, mom.)  And not that Peter Cetera or David Foster need another cent in their piggy banks, I’m sure they were plenty happy for the royalties. 

At the end of the day, though, I’m not quite sure what the difference was between this single and, oh, anything by Boyz II Men.  In fact, a former member of Boyz II Men, Marc Nelson, was placed into Az Yet by Babyface shortly before they recorded their debut.  I’m not trying to sound like your dad when he says "all of your rock music sounds the same."  (Um, sorry, dad.)  I just don’t hear what made these guys unique.  Apparently I’m not the only one, as this was the band’s last single of any consequence.  The group is supposedly back together after a breakup, but they’re going through that Spartacus/Beach Boys bullshit where there are multiple incarnations of the band arguing that they’re the real Az Yet.  News flash, gentlemen: you’re not that important that anybody’s going to see you based on your original name.   Just name yourselves Winger or something.

Cetera saw the opportunity for more success, and invited Az Yet to collaborate on a remake of "You’re The Inspiration."  Check out this god-awful video, which features Cetera and the Az Yet crew dancing like complete schmucks on a bunch of rocks.  I wonder if he was like, "you Color Me Badd guys are just fantastic!"

8.  Where Have All the Cowboys Gone? – Paula Cole

This is totally horrible of me, but when I think of Paula Cole, I immediately think of armpit hair.  Cole made headlines in 1998 after appearing at the Grammy Awards unshorn beneath her arms, as she is wont to do.  The same year, Entertainment Weekly airbrushed her forest-like pits out of a cover photo.  Cole, wrote a letter of complaint (justified, in my opinion) to the editor:  "Why the hell did you airbrush off my armpit hair? Cowardly move."  EW claims they removed it because they thought it was "a smudge," but realized the truth after they saw the Grammies.

Fans of Paula Cole’s armpit hair can find solace (and shots of Paula’s pits) at the following website, one I wished I had never found: Armpits In The Media.  There’s a chance this link might be down for exceeding data transfer. Lucky for you, I guess, but the question remains: why the hell are people this interested in her underarms?

Okay, enough cheap shots.  I like "Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?".  I think Cole has a great voice, and I think the lyrics are great: she’s gonna do the dishes while I pay all the bills!  What the hell’s wrong with that?  I mean…oh, wait.  I get it now.  Dammit.  On another note, I never noticed something about the verses before: although the prevalent vocal is one where she’s speaking in a whisper, there’s another vocal track low in the mix where she’s actually singing softly.  I like it.  This single hit relatively quick – it entered the Top 10 in early May, obviously, and nobody knew who she was five months earlier, when I saw her open for Barenaked Ladies.

Video without underarm hair:

7.  Return Of The Mack – Mark Morrison (download)

I kind of like this song.  It’s ridiculously stupid, but there’s something about the beat and the chorus that appeals to me.  Most notably, I like the fact that Mark Morrison sounds like he’s singing through a root canal.  I’m assuming the line in the pre-chorus is "you lied to me," but it sounds more like "yo lied ta may," which is just fine with may me.

I went to do some research on Morrison’s career, and it seems like he’s well-known for reasons that have nothing to do with "Return Of The Mack."  The man has serious problems with the law that, according to his fucking MySpace page, have "prevented him from consolidating his position as a star."  In fact, Morrison started recording professionally while in jail in 1995 (what jail is this??), and continued to make it a second home of sorts for the rest of the decade.  It’s not that Mark just had problems with the law; it’s that he didn’t seem to have much common sense.  Here’s a list of places he went wrong.

1)  Proclaimed his innocence by whipping out a gun during performances…that said "Not Guilty" on it.  Did I mention that many of these performances were nationally televised?

2)  Bought a stun gun.  Tried to bring it on a plane.  ON A PLANE!

3)  Was forced to do community service…then paid a double to do the community service for him while he fled to Barbados.

4)  Recorded a song called "Innocent Man"…and then invited DMX to join him on it!  DMX!

In many ways, I’m upset that Morrison didn’t have more of a career here.  These kinds of entries pretty much write themselves.

6.  MMMBop – Hanson

I realize now that I might be the only Hanson defender in the room.  That’s fine.  I’m okay with that.  I think Hanson got a bum rap (and still get a bum rap), for the following reasons:

1)  Both radio and MTV played the hell out of this song.
2)  Their core audience consisted of screaming 9 year-old girls.
3)  2/3 of the Hanson brothers were long-haired pretty boys.  (We call the third one "Goon Hanson.")
4)  They weren’t alone on their record or on stage, but they could actually play their instruments well, which created envy in just about anybody musically inclined over the age of 12.

"MMMBop" became incredibly, excruciatingly annoying, without a doubt – but it’s still a strong pop song, I still think their major-label debut, Middle Of Nowhere was a solid record.  ("Man From Milwaukee," the bonus track, was my favorite, but "Where’s The Love" was a great song as well.)  "MMMBop," produced by The Dust Brothers, soared to #1 in many territories across the world, and actually received high marks from critics.  Anybody who thought that Hanson was just another teenybopper, flash-in-the-pan group has been proved wrong: the band is still together, now as indie artists, and continue to record and perform.

One of the nice things about Hanson is that even at their young age, they managed to have a sense of humor about themselves.  I remember a sketch on SNL were they were kidnapped, forced into an elevator and forced to listen to "MMMBop" repeatedly until they eventually went batshit.  And here’s a great little tidbit from the band’s Wiki entry for the song:

Delone Catholic High School in McSherrystown, Pennsylvania, for example, held a student-created fundraiser for victims of Hurricane Katrina called "Stop the Bop." The school played the song before classes begin in the morning, and between each period over the school PA system. The playing of this song was only stopped when the school raised $3,000 for hurricane relief and the school thereby "stopped the bop." After the fundraising had concluded, Hanson responded by matching the students’ donation as well as sending a copy of their 2004 album Underneath for every student in the school.

Love it!

5.  For You I Will – Monica

How scary am I?  I just heard this song for the first time, and jotted down some notes as I was listening:  Sounds like "Because You Loved Me," ”Un-Break My Heart," and "I Believe I Can Fly."  So of course, I look up the song, and find out that it sounds like "Because You Love Me" and "Un-Break My Heart" because they’re both Diane Warren/David Foster collaborations, and was on the Space Jam soundtrack, along with "I Believe I Can Fly."  Seriously, do I scare anybody else?  It scares me that I can pick out a Diane Warren song.  Hmmm, I wonder if "For You I Will" was born out of a Red Hot Chili Peppers jam…

I don’t really have anything interesting to say about this song, but I can tell you that it was the fifth Top 10 single for Monica; her first eight singles all reached the Top 10, actually, with "For You I Will" peaking at #4.  While her latest album did reach #8 on the Billboard Top 200, she hasn’t made any chart impact since ’99, and is unfortunately better known these days for her controversial love life; in 2000, her boyfriend locked himself in his car and committed suicide by shooting himself in the head while she was standing outside, trying to get in; she was also involved in a controversial relationship with rapper C-Murder.  Not to make light of the situation, but this is why I never get involved with anybody with the word "Murder" in their name.  Friendships are fine.

4.  I Want You – Savage Garden (download)

Oh, you remember this one.  Yes, you do.  "Chicka cherry cola."  Remember now?  And remember how I was just talking about the similarities between Az Yet and Boyz II Men?  Other than the vocal, I can’t see any difference between this song and one by Roxette. 

"I Want You" was the debut single for Darren Hayes and Daniel Jones, the Australian men behind the name.  It was a massive success in their native country (the highest selling Australian single of the year) and elicited a U.S. bidding war for the group.  Columbia Records won out, and the song stayed in the Top 10 for almost two months.  It also paved the way for "Truly, Madly, Deeply," the duo’s biggest hit.

What do you guys think of this one?  I can’t really make up my mind on it.  I like my pop sickly sweet, but this one may be a little too Europop for me.

3.  Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down – Puff Daddy Featuring Ma$e

"Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down" is from back when we weren’t barraged with samples every two songs, and I actually thought the practice was relatively clever.  Sean Combs made some good sampling choices on this song, most notably Grandmaster Flash’s "The Message" and Matthew Wilder’s "Break My Stride."  Clearly, he never saw the video for the latter, or he might have felt differently about its inclusion.  (And boy, I’d love to show you the video, but Viacom has taken it down.  Bastards.)  Oh well, I’m sure Matthew Wilder was happy with the money.

This is kind of where it all began for Diddy: the song sat at #1 for six weeks, and when it finally moved off the top spot, it was replaced by the Diddy-produced "Hypnotize." This is where it all began for Ma$e too, as this was his debut on the charts.

2.  You Were Meant For Me – Jewel

We’ve all lamented the days of free-form radio, when you could hear completely incongruous artists being played one after the other, but let’s give the late ’90s a hand: any week where Jewel is essentially in a Diddy Sandwich is a good week to prove that diversity was alive and kicking on the dial.

Out of curiosity, did anybody hear Jewel on the radio, think "I gotta have this album," then pick up Pieces Of You and realize that they got screwed?  All three of her singles from her debut – "Who Will Save Your Soul," this one, and "Foolish Games" – were re-recorded to make them more radio-friendly.  If you wanted to hear the version you enjoyed on the radio or VH1, you had to purchase the single.

Maybe I’m a mushbucket, but I always liked this song.  It took me a while to get used to Jewel’s habit of constant switching from deep voice to baby voice, but once I got over it, I found a sweet, simple love song that was catchy, but never reached truly annoying levels.  (I expect it was probably different for many of you.)  Plus, it didn’t hurt that Jewel was, well, hot.  Really hot.  I had a picture of her on my wall in college.

Let’s hand it to Jewel.  Here it was, May of 1997, six months after the song’s release, and Jewel was still smokin’ the charts.  The song was in the Top 10 from February 1, 1997 to June 7, 1997.

1.  Hypnotize – The Notorious B.I.G.

This goes to show how little I listened to the radio in 1997.  I only vaguely remember this song, mainly because of the chorus and because my friend Adam really liked that he rhymed "escargot" with "my cargo."  Apparently it was huge.  HUGE!  For starters, at the time, "Hypnotize" was one of the higest debuts of all time, debuting at #2, and hit #1 the week after, making it one of the fastest movers to #1.  And Biggie was the first artist in almost 20 years to have a #1 posthumous hit, following Otis Redding, Janis Joplin, Jim Croce and John Lennon.  Yes, this means that in 1997, the list became "Redding, Joplin, Croce, Lennon and Biggie."  In fact, Biggie’s the only artist to have two posthumous #1 singles – this one and "Mo Money, Mo Problems."  (An aside, since it’s doubtful I’m coming back to 1997 after this week’s debacle: I bought the CD single of "Mo Money, Mo Problems" back in ’97, and I keep it in the side door pocket of my car at all times.  You never know when you’re going to need it.)

Because it was a Diddy production, the song included a sample, although it’s a bit harder to spot: the bass and drums are from Herb Alpert’s "Rise", which will appear on Mellow Gold sometime in the future.

Man, was that the worst experiment ever, huh?  Hope it wasn’t too torturous for you.  I just wanted to see if I could do something a bit outside my comfort zone.  Come back next week – I promise I won’t be covering the hits of Dru Hill and Third Eye Blind.  (Maybe.)  Have a great weekend!