Monday, December 28, 2009

Playlist of the Week: Party Like It Was 1999!

Hello all, and here's hoping everyone had a Merry Christmakwanzukkah this weekend, and that at least some of you get to enjoy, as I do, a long-awaited (and hard-earned!) week (or more) off as we prepare to ring in the new year!

In that spirit, I hereby present you with the third installment of Vertigo Shtick's Playlist of the Week, which for those of you just joining us is the weekly themed playlist created by yours truly for your free enjoyment (thanks to the fabulous, although I am still hunting around for alternative playlist host ideas, in case anyone has one to throw my way). In 1984, the year George Orwell envisioned a Big Brother that did not involve CBS (we think), Los Angeles hosted a rather half-assed Summer Olympics without any communists, and I happened to be born one June afternoon in a Southern California hospital, an artist who was then on the first of his many monikers sang invited us all to party as though we'd traveled fifteen years into the future.

But such is the genius of Prince that the song "1999," now dated not just in fact but also in terms of its futuristic vision, is still the perfect addition to any New Year's Eve party soundtrack in 2009. Therefore I thought it might be fun to take a note from the man in purple, and indeed party like we did back in 1999 as we bid goodbye (and good riddance) to 2009. Get ready, folks, it's time for some intense flashbacks!

1. "1999" Prince (1999, Warner Bros, 1984)
See above, silly.

2. "Larger Than Life" Backstreet Boys (Millenium, Jive, 1998)
The original boy band of the bubblegum pop era (New Kids don't count) always seemed so huge when their albums dropped...until the next *NSYNC album hit the stores. We rocked to their seductive fan-appreciation anthem whenever the Boys weren't showing us the meaning of being lonely.

3. "(You Drive Me) Crazy (The Stop Remix)" Britney Spears (...Baby One More Time, Jive, 1999)
Okay, so the real biggie from the instant ruler of the teen pop age (you know, where she asked us to hit her, baby, one more time) was also a 1999 monster smash, but hey, that fantastic track already graced the first Playlist of the Week just two weeks ago. Instead, how about reminiscing about when Clarissa/Sabrina the Teenage Witch was mixing milkshakes with a pre-Entourage Adrian Grenier as Britney and company showed us how to dance with chairs...and how to STOP!

4. "Livin' La Vida Loca" Ricky Martin (Ricky Martin, C2 Records/Columbia, 1999)
Yes, we're that old. Lest we forget, this was also the year the ambiguously gay Latin hottie got us all shaking our bon-bons and shouting "Ale, ale, ale!" For a minute, and then he disappeared. Sad.

5. "Man! I Feel Like a Woman!" Shania Twain (Come On Over, Mercury Nashville, 1999)
The best thing about being a woman (or a sexually confused boy) was this country-pop crossover smash that brought the word "prerogative" into the new generation of music years before Britney loused it up for her first greatest hits album. "Men, shirts, short skirts?" Oh-oh oh oh!

6. "American Woman" Lenny Kravitz (5, Virgin, 1999)
Back when Lenny Kravitz was hot and not attached to a decidedly non-American woman (he later hitched up with Aussie Nicole Kidman), he burned up the soundwaves with this great, Springsteen-lite summer rock anthem.

7. "What a Girl Wants" Christina Aguilera (Christina Aguilera, RCA Records, 1999)
The perennial pop runner-up also had another big hit in 1999 that has already graced Vertigo Shtick's playlists...and in hindsight, that one really blew. This was the first time we were introduced to a thoroughly talented, then-charming pop starlet who rode the wave of her second single all the way to a Grammy for Best New Artist, besting rival Spears in at least one contest.

8. "Every Morning" Sugar Ray (14:59, Rhino Atlantic, 1999)
In 1999, what many a girl wanted was the lead singer of this brief blip on the pop landscape; namely, Mark McGrath of Sugar Ray. Yum. This song and several others later on this list were probably the last songs to be played comfortably on both Star 98.7 (back when it was Ryan Seacrest: For the Ride Home rather than Ryan Seacrest: You Can't Escape Him) and KIIS-FM in Los Angeles.

9. "Believe" Cher (Believe, Warner Bros., 1998)
It was a good thing that Britney and Christina were training a new generation of gays in 1999, because at the same time a force arrived over the airwaves that caused millions of homosexual heads to explode. Yes, Cher, the ultimate diva, dropped a vocoder-styled (remember that thing before Auto-Tune?) gay anthem to end all gay anthems just in time for the new millenium, and "Believe" appropriately remains her biggest hit.

10. "Blue (Da Ba Dee)" Eiffel 65 (Europop, Universal Records, 1999)
The only other song that could probably have managed to get in a few spins at the clubs in Cher- and Britney-dominated 1999 was about...Smurfs? Well, not officially, but that was the general consensus regarding this pre-Daft Punk Euro-dance pop hit that made its way handily over the Atlantic to a both enthralled and slightly confused American audience.

11. "No Scrubs" TLC (Fanmail, Arista/LaFace Records, 1999)
The trio that had largely defined hip-hop/pop crossovers in the '90s delivered one heck of a last hurrah with Fanmail, TLC's multi-Grammy nominated 1999 hit followup to CrazySexyCool. The predecessor of the subsequent Destiny's Child smash "Independent Women Part I," "No Scrubs" was the most succinct (and successful) girl power kissoff up to its time, and led the way for a female takeover of the pop charts in the 2000s. It also makes me feel incredibly unworthy now that I'm temporarily between vehicles...oh yes, son, they're talkin' to me.

12. "Smooth" Santana feat. Rob Thomas (Supernatural, Arista, 1999)
While most great rock icons of the past few decades seemed content with releasing little-known albums that somehow managed to bring home the Record of the Year Grammy (Steely Dan, anyone?), Santana not only released his newest album Supernatural in June of 1999 (on my birthday, actually), but he took over all of the charts for the summer as well. The album's wide popularity was thanks in part to popular figures like Michelle Branch and Smashmouth's Rob Thomas, the latter of whom is featured here on a track ten times better than anything his own band ever put out.

13. "Waiting for Tonight" Jennifer Lopez (On the 6, Work, 1999)
Okay, this might be a tricky one: try to remember when Jennifer Lopez hadn't married Puff Daddy/P. Diddy/Sean Combs or Marc Anthony, hadn't had twins, hadn't fallen on her ass at the AMAs, hadn't starred in the worst movie of all time, hadn't rocked the greatest Oscar dress since Bob Makke simultaneously vomited on and electrocuted Cher in 1986...hadn't even taken on the inescapable moniker J.Lo; back when we thought it was rather crazy for this B-list actress (yes, she used to be an ACTRESS!) to try making a pop album. Well, that was 1999, and for better or for worse, Jenny from the Block's first go at the music scene wasn't half bad, and only got better...for a few years.

14. "Wild Wild West" Will Smith (Greatest Hits, Columbia, 1999)
The Fresh Prince of Bel Air-turned enjoyable action/comedy film star/rapper of sorts proved that as enjoyable as the wild wild west may seem in a totally out-of-context listen ten years later to this rap fiasco, lightning wasn't going to strike again for Smith after his brilliant performances in both the film and song "Men in Black." This film was dreadful by any standards, although its theme song isn't a total loss. Whatever, Big Willie just shrugged it all off and moved on to his current career as multi-Oscar nominated "serious" actor.

15. "Candy" Mandy Moore (So Real, Epic/550 Music, 1999)
As some of my early anti-Britney friends emphatically pointed out, before Britney did it again ("yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah") there was another (then) blonde wannabe teen pop starlet in town whose "ooh oh yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah" predated Spears' sophomore album and its accompanying smash lead single by at least a year. Mandy Moore was never a particularly successful music star (her first album did so poorly it was repackaged, reordered, re-cover art-ed, and re-released after months of stagnant sales), and eventually she dyed her hair brown (because that's what you do when you grow up, natch) and turned to the movies, where she has done marginally better. But she did leave us this great little 1999 ditty (and one of the two great covers of Rihanna's "Umbrella," - the other being Marie Digby - which you can and should find on YouTube).

16. "Praise You" Fatboy Slim (You've Come A Long Way Baby, Caroline Astralwerks -Cat, 2000)
You may know this one if you had a thing for Sarah Michelle Gellar in the late '90s, or for whatever other reason happened to be a consumer of Buffy and Cruel Intentions, the soundtracks to both of which featured this relaxed, upbeat number from an otherwise very much not Top 40 Mainstream artist.

17. "What's My Age Again?" blink-182 (Enema of the State, Geffen, 1999)
Back when I neither knew what an enema was nor how to properly pronounce the word (I have since been enlightened, thank you), this raucusly fun and accessible alt-punk-rock trio joined the Offspring, Sugar Ray, and others in the last hurrah of the boy bands where the boys played instruments and shouted rather than danced to canned beats and showed off their slickly gelled hairstyles and sticky-sweet falsetto. I always found blink-182 intriguing if not among my favorites as an act, and this was certainly one of their more fun productions.

18. "Steal My Sunshine" LEN (You Can't Stop the Bum Rush, Work Music, 1999)
Don't blink or you'll miss the one-hit wonder of 1999! This Canadian group popped down across the border to drop off this fantastic easy summer track, but someone stole their sunshine, and while their album title might have said otherwise, LEN apparently couldn't stop the bum rush once this song hit its peak on the US charts and they vanished, never to be heard from again (except on the soundtrack to Zack and Miri Make a Porno, but I'm not sure that's really something to highlight as an achievement). Too bad.

19. "Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)" The Offspring (Americana, Columbia, 1998)
Gringos everywhere were trying in vain to impress the Latina beauties with their mad skillz at counting in Spanish, but sadly, reciting "uno, dos, tres, quatro, cinco, cinco, seis" was definitely not fly, even for a white guy. Damned Offspring! Possibly the single most enjoyable three minutes and five seconds of music playing the airwaves in 1999 followed the misadventures of the poser, a joke made more brilliant by the fact that the only people who didn't get the joke were those at whom fun was being poked. Also notable for spawning perhaps the best Weird Al knockoff ever, "Pretty Fly For a Rabbi," surpassed only by the uncredited knockoff of THAT knockoff, "Pretty Fly (For a Jedi)" ("Give it to me Obi! uh huh! uh huh! Obi-Wan Kenobi! uh huh! uh huh!).*

Enjoy, and happy 2010! See you in ten years to make fun of all the stuff we think is hot in think you feel old NOW?!

*[Note] The previously published version of this post incorrectly attributed "Pretty Fly (For a Jedi)" to Weird Al Yankovic. Yankovic's parody is "Pretty Fly For a Rabbi" (Running With Scissors, Volcano, 1999) The "Jedi" parody is not credited to a particular artist via common knowledge and moderate research. I apologize for the inaccuracy.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, David... The need to put "Blue (Da Ba Dee)" is evident, but it still just hurts my feelings. Hahaha. Granted, it does remind me of my high school senior year trip to Paris and shaking it with the foreigners at le discotheque, sooooo... Conflicted. :) But any of the other songs, I'd gladly listen to ten years later. Nice work.


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