We have made it to the end of the 90s. And it’s a hell of a landing. Admittedly you have to leave the year end hot 100 for that. But this was a great year on the rock charts. I could do a top 30 from that list. What’s My Age Again and My Own Worst Enemy don’t make the honorable mentions and what is in those would be entries another year. It’s so good.
But the pop charts? God this was a hellish year which is weird because I was 15. Shouldn’t I have devoured it? No. I was a moody male and it wasn’t really for me. I’m not who Genie in a Bottle or No Scrubs was for. I hated boy bands and still honestly don’t get them. Country was dead to me. And look I have warmth towards Blue and Mambo No. 5 but they are not songs I play much now. However like I said, I had music. Some very weird groups are about to share this list.
What’s the context of the year? This was the year my depression broke. Early on too. Thanks Marvel novel program and the lead up to the Phantom Menace. It didn’t hurt that it was 1999, the best year in cinema history. Hard to feel too sad when you’re likely to see a classic at random. I still fought but I got better.
Eve 6- Leech. So much better than Inside Out. Which is great too but this is the truly awesome song. A great hard rock song about a toxic person.
Filter- Take a Picture. Mark this as the one that got cut on relistens. This is a bit too snotty to actually make it on but it sounds so good. There’s an ethereal quality that I love.
Madonna- Beautiful Stranger. Why was Madonna’s theme for a James Bond spoof so much better than her Bond theme? And the actual film it’s from for that matter? This is the tone that lacked.
Ben Folds Five- Army. I’ve often bemoaned that Ben Folds’ only hit was a ballad and even my own lists reflect that. This song is the kind of goofy track I love from him. It’s wonderful loud on a sunny day.
Tonic- You Wanted More. American Pie rock was a big thing this year. Very preppie white rock. This is that sound and I dug it.
I was extremely angry in 1999. I mean why wouldn’t I be? I was not only hormonal at the peak of that, I was also autistic and aware of how bad a hand that was. So this list is all angry, whiny rock, right? Nope. I turned to music to decompress. I didn’t need it to make things worse. But there are exceptions.
10 The Offspring- The Kids Aren’t Alright. It’s amazing this is the only time The Offspring make this project because they were so great. This song was a weird one to land with me because it’s all about how the world grinds you up. But I was feeling that hard. Like I said, I’d been given a raw deal and I expected it to continue. The song addresses that reality so well too. It’s funny but it’s also angry that it goes that way. It says it sucks and it doesn’t condescend. We were on the brink of nu-metal which, um, did all of this wrong. This is how it should sound.
You know what movie stinks? EdTV. It killed the career of Jenna Elfman. It halted the career of Matthew McConaughey. It’s a stain on the career of Ron Howard. It’s a sign Rob Reiner needed to never go near film ever again because he was cursed. Everyone compares it to The Truman Show but that’s the best film of the 90s and this is a bad sitcom. God it’s so bad. Had two songs on the soundtrack to make this list though!
9 Bon Jovi- Real Life. This was the one of the two songs to be written for the film with the other a track from the original album, to be clear. It brings another legend that only pops up once on this project and also one of only three artists in the top 10 to only appear once. Why is this here? It’s a very simple, to the point ballad. It fits 1999, yes, but it would fit 1989 just as well. It’s timeless in a great way. Just a simple track about how the movies aren’t reality. I think it benefits too from Bon Jovi himself being an actor. He’s selling a song about heartbreak even as you know he’s been with his high school sweetheart to this day. I’m not a huge Bon Jovi fan but this is the exception.
I don’t have much to say about this song and that’s frustrating because I should. It’s just that this song is great. It’s from a great band. It isn’t obscure. You definitely know it. It’s a classic I don’t have to explain. But it’s on my list so I have to.
8 Foo Fighters- Learn to Fly. In a year of happy songs, this is the happiest. The band has a lot of this kind of song and I love all of them. This is such an easy song too. You’re taking off for a new experience. I was entering high school as this kicked in and this was perfect for that moment. Seriously this is to entering HS what Times Like These was to leaving it. (Yup that’s giving something away.) It’s sheer adrenaline from a classic group.
It’s fitting how much I’m talking movies on my 1999 list. But it’s funny how often I’m not talking good movies. Any song on this list that’s on a soundtrack isn’t on a great movie and I’m only going with good on Man on the Moon. That’s because I know how good the shooting script was. There are so many great scenes that put texture in that went out. Andy Kaufman was a dark, selfish asshole and the finished film let him off the hook too much. The script didn’t. Good not great. That said, there is a great song from it.
7 REM- The Great Beyond. Another run for the band and their last. But it’s a transcendent one. Few songs have the power this one has to convey the feeling of sheer energy this has. It’s about tapping the supernatural and that’s how it feels. Probably works because it’s tightly controlled. I’ve even heard a dark remix. But the actual version is so alive and genuine. And that’s weird from a band that loves distance and irony. Even here it’s probably a pose but you believe it. Michael Stipe has never sounded this good with so much range and emotion. Truly this song sells breaking through.
This was the year of All Star. Smash Mouth had an all time classic there. And I’m not saying that ironically. I love All Star. It’s a sarcastic meditation on everything wrong with trying to be upbeat when actual crap is going on. It could make the list. But it’s not my favorite. The follow up is.
6 Smash Mouth- Then The Morning Comes. Astro Lounge is such a good CD that we will get back to it next year. For now, a meditation on the grind of touring. This is basically a neo lounge Turn the Page and it’s awesome. Because there’s something relatable about it. Life is a grind and it doesn’t matter what you do, the routine will always wear you down. This is where the band’s weird distinctive sound works better than it ever has. A lot of artists were trying to do this retro vibe and I don’t think any touched how precisely they nailed it. This doesn’t just have a 60s sound, it has the cool of it and it’s wedded to a very 90s topic of working to death. One of a kind.
As I hit the top 5, I want to talk about a day that looms in my personal mythology. March 26, 1999 was a morning where I heard a wave of music that I’ve never forgotten including two songs here for the first time. Then later that day I went to a bookstore and got my first exposure to a graphic novel section including a first read of Peter David’s Supergirl. I also discovered I could find different candy at different stores that day. Life changing day. Here’s the first song from it.
5 Seal- Lost My Faith. Another Seal/Trevor Horn classic. This is one of the darkest songs in Seal’s catalogue, a meditation on the end of a relationship. There’s no joy or hope in a song about admitting you’ve lost your faith in love. The song is pretty blunt too. There’s no flowery images. This is the real world experience of losing love. Seal kills it with how he goes from tight restraint to all but screaming over this. The production meanwhile is impossibly dark and moody, only going big at the end. This is a painful breakup song. Not the best though.
The Barenaked Ladies have always seemed like a band torn over their big hit. Literally that feeling is on one of their tracks on Everything to Everyone. They had a lot of goofy work like One Week, sure, but they could go dark. I have their three album stretch of Stunt, Maroon, and Everything to Everyone and there’s a lot of darkness, even in the comedy. They never got darker than this.
4 Barenaked Ladies- Call and Answer. Back to the EdTv soundtrack though this debuted on Stunt. This is a draining song that truly feels like a cry from the soul. Steven Page is the only vocalist on the song which is weird as it’s a duet in theory. It feels very much made for two people so only having one voice really nails how isolated the song feels. It’s another song about a relationship at the end though there’s a desperate hope maybe it’ll work. I’m a huge fan of this group and this is just as good as they got. I love One Week but this is why I’m a hardcore fan.
Back to Collective Soul and sadly for the last time. I noted in 1995 they got worse with each album. What that means is they stopped being really good with Dosage which is still just incredible. Heavy was this year too and it’s damned close at missing the list but ultimately I didn’t need another screw you at their old manager. Nah I needed a pure song from them.
3 Collective Soul- Run. This is very much the sequel song to The World I Know. It’s about reaching a point where you’ve achieved what you sought and it’s not satisfying. That’s a feeling I’ve felt often but was feeling hard as it hit. I was getting out of middle school and I was ok but so? Had I achieved anything for getting clear? I was restless. That’s what this nails. It’s about seeking the next goal. And I think that’s a beautiful goal. Never being content with where you are is a good thing.
OK, top 2. And…this isn’t going to get me much respect. I know it. Because my top 2 comes from the most disreputable of genres: Christian Rock. I tried to see if these songs truly were my picks. I listened to them again. And yeah, they are. So let’s begin with the explicit one. It also dates from the hallowed day of 3/26/99. I heard it within a few minutes of Lost My Faith and it hit me on an atomic level. It’s never lost that punch in 20+ years. It’s truly a great song. So here goes nothing.
2 dc talk- Consume Me. The common joke is that Christian Rock is standard love songs with Jesus inserted. Maybe but I think this song works because it is a work of religious devotion and it feels startling next to how sanded down it usually is. This is a sensual, potent work that captures what spiritual ecstasy feels like. That’s a valid topic for a song and it just sounds so raw and real here. This is a song of all consuming emotion. Even if you aren’t religious, you can relate to being obsessed. The song also just sounds great. I actually love this band and the album this is from is top notch work. This sounds haunting and at once mad yet restrained, like you’re examining your own madness. The band does not phone their work in and we win for it. A masterpiece of a genre that I kinda love even knowing I shouldn’t.
My number one is one of the most mocked songs of the decade. A track by a band famed for their kinda kinda not Christian stance. This song has been used as a punchline constantly, the best use coming in 22 Jump Street. It’s an easy pick for the worst song of the year. It’s a hard choice for best. I don’t care. My list. I’m ending the decade on a song I love.
1 Creed- Higher. There isn’t one element about this song that isn’t incredible. The easy to mock thing is Scott Stapp’s blatant Jim Morrison ripoff vocals–and that’s his words not mine–but I dig those a lot. The imagery of the song is fantastic. It’s a dream of utopia and it sounds so good. But the key to the song is Mark Tremonti who is a god at the guitar. The song is so blunt and genuine that I get the hate. But it’s a joyful song that we deserved. It’s a note of optimism to enter 2000 on. :pause: Yeah that’ll be sad when we get there.
And with that I take another break. I’ll be back in May to look at the 2000s!