20 Songs Turning 20 in 2017

20 Songs Turning 20 in 2017

The Spice Girls perform at West MacLaren in 1997. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Melanie Laccohee)

It still feels like yesterday. Catchy Pop songs, one legendary Hip Hop hit after another, Alternative Rock really coming into its own. The year was 1997 and no matter what radio station you tuned to, you just couldn’t go wrong.

The Billboard Charts have spoken, long on record: the number one song in 1997 was “Something About the Way You Look Tonight/Candle in the Wind,” Elton John’s tribute to Princess Diana after her startling death on August 31, 1997 that shook the world.

It was a year of ups and downs. The ‘90s were coming to an end, reluctantly giving way to media for the masses. We lost some talented souls -- and we gained songs that would live forever.

Dive into this pool of nostalgia with us, won’t you?

1. “I'll Be Missing You” - Puff Daddy and Faith Evans Ft. 112, No Way Out  

Puff Daddy and Faith Evans came together to produce this touching dedication for Christopher Wallace, more popularly known as Notorious B.I.G., who was murdered on March 9, 1997. A brilliant adaptation of “Every Breath You Take,” the 1983 hit by The Police, the rap ballad won the Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance for a Duo or Group.

2. “Barbie Girl” - Aqua, Aquarium

Whether it’s a guilty pleasure or just plain annoying is up to debate, but this catchy tune is also a social commentary that really pissed off Barbie’s makers at Mattel. They unsuccessfully sued, and the song lives on in (or haunting?) our dreams to this day.

3. “MMMBop” - Hanson, Middle of Nowhere

The song everyone hated to love? Loved to hate? Either way, this song was undoubtedly written just to get stuck in your head, and it never failed. Pretty much every young girl in the ‘90s had this bright yellow and orange album, each picking her own favorite Hanson brother to obsess over. It was the band’s banner year, and they never quite reached the same level of popularity after.

4. “You Make Me Wanna” - Usher, My Way

How many Ushers is too many? The answer is: You can never have too many Ushers. This music video featured him sitting in three chairs dancing and playing guitar and singing. Perhaps most remarkable about this song is its ability to transcend genres, with hints of soul and pop imbued in this R&B hit.

5. “Bitch” - Meredith Brooks, Blurring the Edges

It was the feminist anthem the world was finally ready for -- Meredith Brooks’ edgy single made every girl and woman who blasted this feel like a genuine badass. Younger kids felt a sense of rebellion just listening to it while grown ass women thought to themselves, “Finally!”

6. “Semi-Charmed Life” - Third Eye Blind, Third Eye Blind

The catchiest song about crystal meth that we’ve ever heard, this upbeat tune was a real head-turner for Third Eye Blind’s debut, self-titled album. How could such a fun-sounding song have such dark content? In an interview in a March 1997 issue of “Billboard,” lead singer Stephen Jenkins said the song was meant to be “bright and shiny on the surface, and then it just pulls you down into this lockjawed mess … what the seductiveness of speed is like, represented in music.”

7. “Mo Money Mo Problems” - Notorious B.I.G., Life After Death

Along with “Hypnotize,” these two songs reached the top of the charts when they were released posthumously, setting a record that still hasn’t been beat. Featuring a sample from Diana Ross’ “I’m Coming Out,” the song also featured R&B singer Kelly Price in the refrain. The song’s message was perhaps a bit foreboding for the rapper’s demise. A week before he was murdered, Biggie Smalls released “Hypnotize.”

8. “Truly Madly Deeply” - Savage Garden, Savage Garden

Greatest love song of all time? Maybe not. But greatest love song of 1997? Definitely. Australian pop band Savage Garden charmed the pants off America with the androgynous vocals and sultry lyrics in this song.

9. “Look Into My Eyes” - Bone Thugs ‘N Harmony, Art of War

This platinum single that was also featured on the “Batman & Robin” soundtrack still maintained the themes of violence present in previous Bone Thugs albums, but with a new, ambient sound that was well-received. Their other single from the Art of War album, “If I Could Teach the World,” had a much more harmonious message. Both featured the fast-paced, melodic rapping for which the group was so well known.

10. “Tubthumping” - Chumbawamba, Tubthumper  

Was it an inspirational song, motivating others to never give up? Or was it a pub anthem, something to chant when you’re ready to slam another beer?

It was neither.

According to the podcast “Surprisingly Awesome,” the song was actually meant to empower the working class. Chumbawamba was an anarchist punk band that finally made their one hit wonder -- only the content of the song wasn’t at all what we thought it was. In fact, “tubthumping” refers to jumping on the bandwagon in politics.

“A lot of people think that it’s a drinking song, it’s a song that relates to a lot of people,” the band’s vocalist Dunstan Bruce told MTV News in an interview in 1998. “It’s given us the opportunity to explain what it’s really about, what we’re really about … we’re a bunch of anarchists, who don’t agree with the government.”

11. “Sex and Candy” - Marcy Playground, Marcy Playground

Here’s a song that doesn’t have a profound hidden meaning. Though many would agree with the Rolling Stones review of the song, that it was a “an unappetizing artificial-sweetener marriage of down-tempo Nirvana chords and greasy Dave Matthews frat-minstrel sensitivity concerning a sad sack strung out on hippie lingo ("Dig it," "Yeah, mama") and caffeine,” this naughty alt-rock song was this author’s favorite of the ‘90s. Because, let’s face it, when you’re singing along as a kid, you kind of feel like a badass.

12. “Jóga” - Björk, Homogenic

A song dedicated to the Icelandic singer’s best friend, this masterpiece was the first single released on Björk’s album Homogenic.

“I was doing a lot of experimenting with beats trying to make them sound volcanic,” Björk told David Hemingway in an interview. “With this song, I really had a sort of National Anthem in mind. Not the National Anthem but certain classic Icelandic songs - very romantic, very proud.”

13. “Can't Nobody Hold Me Down” - Puff Daddy, No Way Out

1997 was a banner year for Sean Combs with the debut of his first album and the hit single “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down,” what would become an iconic song for years to come with one of the most recognizable beats in Rap history.  His success was no surprise -- already an accomplished songwriter and producer, Combs owned one of the 90s’ most successful record labels, Bad Boy Records.

14. “Spice Up Your Life” - Spice Girls, Spiceworld

We all remember 1997 as the year the Spice Girls reached their peak. An excellent use of “la la la,” this single from the British pop group was their attempt at world music. They recorded it at the same time they were filming their masterpiece, “Spice World,” which came out in the same year.  

15. “Song 2” - Blur, Blur

WOO-HOO! How could we forget this grimy alt-rock classic? The English rock band used heavy distortion and we loved it. According to Songfacts, the song was actually intended as a parody to the Grunge phenomenon that was so popular in the United States at the time.

16. “Karma Police”  - Radiohead, OK Computer

This oddly-structured song was based on an inside joke between the members of the English band. While it had a humorous twist, the song was also about dissatisfaction with the capitalist system that traps people in big companies. “This is a song against bosses,” Thom Yorke told The Independent.

17. “Bitter Sweet Symphony” - The Verve, Urban Hymns

This song was made iconic by the 1999 film “Cruel Intentions.” Featuring samples from “The Last Time” by the Andrew Oldham Orchestra (inspired by the Rolling Stones song), it was the subject of a controversial back-and-forth between The Verve and the Rolling Stones. Nevertheless, the song was critically acclaimed and considered one of the best songs of the 90s by many publications.

18. “Walkin’ On The Sun” - Smash Mouth, Fush Yu Mang

Smash Mouth’s first number one single, this song opened the door to such gems as “All Star” and their “I’m a Believer” cover of The Monkees’ hit.

19. “I Will Buy You a New Life” - Everclear, So Much for the Afterglow

This toe-tapping love song has all the ingredients of ‘90s alternative rock. You just can’t help but join in with all the “yeah”s!



20. “Everlong” - Foo Fighters, The Colour and the Shape

One of their most popular songs from the Seattle-based rock band’s second album, “Everlong” was well known for its music video, which parodied “The Evil Dead.” With sentimental lyrics, lots of guitar and such a strange music video, it was anything but forgettable.

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