"Is there a specific song or band that makes you yearn for the past?"
Interesting this should arise as a writing prompt after I finally caught myself up on Glee for this season. The "Britney/Brittany" episode brought back oh-so-many memories and has driven me to a pop music bender... this also coincides with the impending arrival of one of my oldest and dearest friends who's coming for a visit, and is my long-standing partner in loving pop music.
In high school the two of us got about twenty people in our choir to do shoulder and head rolls NSync style for warm-ups. Every day. For over a year -- and that is only the tip of our Popberg. Any other divulgences might land both of us in societal exile until well into our thirties. Still, I would not have us any other way. I mean, she may be more socially acceptable and even crazier, but there's not a big gap between Lady GaGa and Britney. Just because Justin Timberlake has finally been accepted by the darker-toned musicians he always adored doesn't erase nearly six years of stardom he experienced with four exceptionally talented white boys. Even Mandy Moore whose music has evolved exponentially and transformed almost completely from her popstar days is voicing the main character in a Disney animated film. Just because you 'grow up' doesn't mean you have to grow out of love with the music and culture of your youth.
So yeah, the Freaky Dracula Girl with a penchant for singer-songwriters and Celtic music is a Pop fiend. Pick a decade of the 20th century, and I'll tell you all about my favorite pop songs from that era. For hours if you let me.
It's another reason I adore the British -- they don't shy away from pop music and its cultural effects, they embrace it.
Thus, in honor of this well-timed prompt, my friend's approaching visit, and my Gleekiness, the following is a list of my favorite songs from the Sugar Pop heyday of 1996-2002:
Britney Spears - Anticipating
It's hard to choose just one Britney song from this period, and really anything from her third album, Britney, is poptastic funness. Though this is what triggered the beginning of crazy, scary, weird, bonkers Brit the music is fun and catchy. 'Anticipating' is one of the best jams to get your butt off whatever it's parked on and doing some serious dancing/cardio.
Spice Girls - Stop
A single in the UK but never in the US, this Motown-inspired tune has a dance which I am convinced the choreographer stole from my friend and I. It's eerie how close it is to what we just made up one afternoon jamming to Spiceworld (something I am known to occasionally still do...).
5ive - When the Lights Go Out
British boyband? Yes, please. 'When the Lights Go Out' took all the innuendo in other pop songs of the time and kicked it up a notch. Leave it to the Brits.
Hanson - Where's the Love
Talk about evolution... Hanson's first album contained a few truly Pop gems, but also even then expressed their Rock and Roll meets Motown roots. Their most recent album is a more full-circle endeavor, returning to those roots with a more polished, older sound. Still, Middle of Nowhere remains one of my favorite albums (even if they do sound like chipmunks compared to how they sound now) and 'Where's the Love' stands as my favorite song on that album.
Christina Aguilera - Somebody's Somebody
I picked a slow song! While Christina's first album doesn't contain the gravity of later works (or the dirrt), it's still a great Pop album by a powerhouse vocalist. 'Somebody's Somebody' is one of the most understated tunes on the record and while overshadowed by the dancey tunes like 'Come On Over Baby' (another favorite of mine and a scary earworm), it really showcases Christina's ability to hold steady with that instrument of hers.
Savage Garden - I Don't Know You Anymore
Australian hottie duo best known for 'I Want You.' Their Euro-pop sound hit at the right time and though the first album is pretty solid for that genre, it's the second album that elevated their musical chops. The only other ballad on this list, 'I Don't Know You Anymore' is a beautiful piano-driven stripped-down song that shows all the producing and electronica in the world can't really compete with good lyrics, a haunting melody and a steamy voice.
Mandy Moore - Turn the Clock Around
While I still adore 'Candy' as the pop gem it is, and the almost unheard-of 'Your Face' is hauntingly beautiful, Mandy really started to show her deviation from pop towards more folky, deeper music with her self-titled third album. While still very poppy, there's a lot of evolution evident in only two years from her debut. 'Turn the Clock Around' is bittersweet yet upbeat and showcases her ability to blend Pop with strong lyrics at a young age.
NSync - I Drive Myself Crazy (Thinking of You)
Honestly, forcing myself to choose one NSync song is like pulling emotional teeth. There's about four cover songs, several major hits, the entirety of No Strings Attached and a slew of other tunes which I adore more that any of the other songs on this list (except for maybe 'Where's the Love'). Still, when it comes to it, the song I have more versions of than any other and still listen to on a weekly basis is this one. And apologies to Chris, but the European version with JC on leads for the first verse trumps the US recording. However, the video is probably also my favorite from this time period. More than Britney's 'Baby One More Time' or Mandy Moore's 'Walk Me Home' or Hanson's 'Weird' (yes, it was directed by THAT Gus Van Sant). There's so much personality and entertainment value to be had in this video -- proof that the boys never took themselves too seriously which you need in that kind of position. Plus, JC gives a whole new hotness dimension to strapped-down psychos.
Daniel Bedingfield, Backstreet Boys, Jessica Simpson, Madonna, BBMak, J Lo, 98 Degrees, SoulDecision
Now I'm thinking soon there will be an accompanying list on the evolution of some of these artists (and solo careers in some cases) since their days of ruling Popdom.