While the prophecies of Prince (or whatever he called himself then) didn’t come to pass at the end of 1999, he did show up at its beginning, as his hit of that title returned to the pop chart. Ha ha, very funny. And far more clever than Will Smith’s year/decade/century/millennium-ending ego exercise “Will 2 K.”
Beginning and end aside, 1999 was a pivotal year for contemporary music. Here’s why.
- The beginning for: Eminem, Train and blink-182. Oh, and for many of us, the MP3.
- The end for: novelty hits (Lou Bega’s “Mambo No. 5,” Baz Luhrmann’s graduation/Internet sensation “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)” and songs in response to earlier songs (“No Pigeons,” Sporty Thievz’ musical reply to TLC’s “No Scrubs”).
- R&B/Hip-hop, incoming: Destiny’s Child and Jay-Z. Funny how their worlds would later collide.
- R&B/Hip-hop, outgoing: Whitney Houston.
- Pop tarts, year 1. Britney, Christina, Jessica Simpson and Mandy Moore all debut. “…Baby One More Time” becomes a radio and music video sensation. On Mother’s Day 1999, former Madonna wannabes, now moms of very young Britney fans, hear their mothers say, “I told you so.”
- The battle of the boy bands heats up. The first full year of head-to-head competition for Backstreet Boys, N Sync and 98 Degrees – the Coke, Pepsi and RC Cola of boy bands. If that wasn’t enough, Jordan Knight and Joey McIntyre – two members of the prior generation’s boy band, New Kids On The Block – become solo one-hit wonders.
- A notable crop of other one-hit wonders: New Radicals’ “You Get What You Give,” Len’s “Steal My Sunshine,” Eagle-Eye Cherry’s “Save Tonight,” Shawn Mullins’ “Lullaby,” Lit’s “My Own Worst Enemy.”
- The Latin Invasion. It’s a “Vida Loca” on the pop chart with Ricky Martin, Enrique Iglesias and Marc Anthony all crossing. Also, Jennifer Lopez scores her first hit, Gloria Estefan her last.
- The comeback kids. Cher, for the fourth time in her career, returns with just about the biggest song of the year, “Believe.” Santana goes from being a group to just Carlos and his famous friends on “Supernatural,” which becomes the biggest album of two centuries (if you ask Clive Davis). Phil Collins performs the songs in Disney’s “Tarzan.” Moms get the “I told you so” again.
- Alternative/Pop becomes Pop/Alternative. Sugar Ray, matchbox 20, Third Eye Blind and Smash Mouth are, ahem, all stars.
- Alternative/Alternative hangs in there, barely. Pearl Jam’s remake of the 1964 J. Frank Wilson & the Cavaliers teen-tearjerker “Last Kiss” becomes the band’s biggest pop hit, Red Hot Chili Peppers get mellow on “Scar Tissue,” The Offspring find their inner Steve Martin on “Pretty Fly For A White Guy” and “Why Don’t You Get A Job?”
- Rock and Rap join forces. Kid Rock, Limp Bizkit. Turns out the former has a larger skill set than the latter.
- Great moments in non-rocking rap: Juvenile’s “Back That Thang Up,” B.G.’s catchphrase-spawning “Bling Bling,” 2Pac’s walking-dead Bruce Hornsby-sampling “Changes.”
- Country goes dance. Shania Twain gets the remix treatment for a string of pop hits that ends this year.
- Dance goes country. The Vengaboys (and Vengabus) channel “Cotton Eye Joe” on future Six Flags commercial “We Like To Party.”
- Country goes pop goes blooie: Chris Gaines. I’m still waiting for his second album.
- Wasn’t a remake but sounded like one: Madonna’s “Beautiful Stranger.”
- Was a remake but didn’t sound like one. Jay-Z knocks Annie on her fanny with “Hard Knock Life.” Lenny Kravitz’s take on “American Woman,” which when you heard it, you didn’t have to Guess Who.
- Whereas… The kid with the Guess Who and BTO rock genealogy, Tal Bachman, sounded nothing like either of his dad’s bands on “She’s So High.”
- Meant to be a period piece: Blessed Union Of Souls’ “Hey Leonardo (She Likes Me For Me).” Not so much for the namedropping, but because he’s got a collection of DVDs.
- Not meant to be a period piece: Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel,” which became the unofficial mourning song after the Columbine tragedy.
Seeing as my supply of bullet points has run out, I’ll close with a line from Everlast’s “What It’s Like”: “I’ve seen the good side of bad, and the down side of up, and everything between.” If that doesn’t best sum up the music of 1999, I don’t know what does.