Top 40 at 40: 1992-2001

I’m turning 40 this month! To help deal with celebrate that, I’ve built a playlist containing 40 of my favorite songs, each one representing a year in my life. I limited myself to one song per artist/band, for the sake of variety. And, I’m including YouTube videos so that, dear readers, you can listen to the songs for yourselves!

I’ll be breaking this into four chunks of 10 years at a time, because I don’t want to overwhelm anybody with 40 songs at once. Today is part 2! Come back tomorrow for part 3!

1992: Jump by Kriss Kross

Okay, look. At age 40, I understand that a couple of 12 year olds rapping about how they’re better than any adult rapper seems completley ridiculous. But in 1992, when I was just a couple of years younger than Chris “Mac Daddy” Kelly and Chris “Daddy Mac” Smith, these kids were fuckin’ heroes. This song topped the Billboard Hot 100 for EIGHT WEEKS, and the single — THE SINGLE — went double platinum. It was, at the time, the most successful rap song in history. And as soon as this song hit big, kids in my school were wearing their pants backwards. These two made every kid in America believe that they could find success if they got good enough.

Also, pretend you didn’t know these kids were 12. This song rocks.

1993: Three Little Pigs by Green Jellÿ

I first saw this video at my cousin’s house, and I was blown away. I didn’t know music could DO what Green Jelly were doing! Meanwhile, I was buying the 14-part Spider-Man comic book crossover event, Maximum Carnage. The following year, Green Jelly did the music for the Maximum Carnage video game. It all tied together in a weird way.

1994: Don’t Turn Around by Ace of Base

The summer of 1994 was spent at a camp where I met fellow campers who loved the same comics and video games, I was introduced to manga for the first time, and bus rides to and from camp every day were filled with tunes by Ace of Base and Salt & Peppa, or, like, Rump Shaker by Wreckx-n-Effect. Black Hole Sun by Soundgarden was also a big hit that summer, and I’m pretty sure All I Wanna Do by Sheryl Crow came out around that time. And at camp specifically, Muh Nuh Muh Nuh by The Muppets was kind of huge. Any of those tracks could have gone in this spot, but something about Don’t Turn Around clicked with me while I was making this list.

1995: Try, Try, Try by Julian Cope

As far as I could tell, there’s no official music video for this song, so I used this liver performacne clip taken from Top of the Pops. Christmas 1995 saw me receive the Sega Genesis game Comix Zone (definitely a game I’ll review later), which came with a sampler CD from American Recordings. This was the first CD I ever owned, so ANY of the tracks on there could have fit in here. But Try, Try, Try is probably the best actual song on there. I seriously had to fight the temptation to put Do What You Want To Do by the Lords of Acid right here, but I eventually decided that a song about female orgasms maybe wasn’t the most appropriate tune for my 13th year.

Much like what I knew about female orgasms at the time, I didn’t know much about Julian Cope, but when I first heard this song, I thought for sure he was someone that probably had at least a decade’s worth of hits. Turns out he’s a really fascinating guy, and has written multiple books about Neolithic culture of all things. I definitely recommend checking out Julian Cope’s wikipedia page.

1996: Coyote by Better Than Ezra

No matter what else happened to me in 1996, moving from my native Massachusetts to Arizona will always be the most important thing in my life that year. Better Than Ezra released their album, Deluxe, the previous year, which makes it a bit of a “cheat” on the list, but I couldn’t NOT include a song about moving to the southwestern United States.

An earlier draft of this list included the 1970 hit Arizona by Mark Lindsay here, but once I realized it was a song about a girl, and not the state, I decided Coyote was a better fit.

1997: Superman’s Dead by Our Lady Peace

All the earlier songs on this list have their reasons for being included, but 1996-1998 was the time period where I really discovered music on my own. It was the first time I didn’t have a TV in my bedroom, so I spent a LOT of time in my room listening to the radio. So much so, that at one point, I could name the title and artist of every song that played on KZZP 104.7 FM within its first few seconds.

Literally HUNDREDS of songs could have fit in the 1997 spot, from top 40 alternative/adult contemporary artists like Hootie & the Blowfish to Melissa Etheridge to Collective Soul, to one-hit-wonders like Shawn Colvin and Edwin McCain. An earlier draft of the list had Tubthumping by Chumbawamba, of all songs. But, ultimately, Our Lady Peace HAD to take this spot.

Every time I hear the opening strums of this song, I’m immediately brought back to the southeast corner of 86th Street & McDonald Drive in Scottsdale, AZ, sometime in 1997, listening to this song on 106.3 FM on a Sony Walkman. It definitely wasn’t the first time I heard this song, but it WAS the time that I decided it was awesome. Our Lady Peace would go on to be my favorite band for a LONG time. If I hadn’t decided on the one song per artist rule for this list, they’d probably appear a few times, including their 2021 hit, Stop Making Stupid People Famous (feat. Pussy Riot). But it was Superman’s Dead that introduced me to the group, so that’s the one that officially made the cut.

1998: Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It by Will Smith

Just like 1997, hundreds of songs could have gone in this spot. But every time I hear this song in particular, I think about the time my late friend David Lindsay hopped up on a bench and did a little dance as he sang the “da-na-na-na-nana-na, gettin’ jiggy with it!” part of the song, and it always brings a smile to my face. I had pretty weird years in 1998 and 1999 as far as school went, but there was like a dozen of us who all got to be pretty good friends in the moment. And David was always right there, smiling and laughing along with us.

1999: Open Your Heart by Crush 40

The Sega Dreamcast came out in 1999, and fuck you, it was amazing. No single game is more emblematic of the Dreamcast’s launch than Sonic Adventure. Open Your Heart is the title track to that game.

My family first got online in 1997, thanks to America Online 3.0. By 1999, I’d found AOL Keyword: Video Games, and got on the Sonic the Hedgehog message boards just in time for the Dreamcast’s launch. I didn’t get a DC until Christmas, but I still got to share my love for the little blue hedgehog with the folks on that board. Two of those people I’m still friends with to this very day, including Brandon A. Mayo, co-creator of Hawk & Croc.

Also, the lyrics of this song are about uncertainty in the face of chaos, and I feel like it’s easy to forget just how real both the excitement and fear of the upcoming new century were, at the time. So in addition to being a banger of a tune, and symbolic of a big moment in my life it’s also thematically appropriate for the year it came out. Not bad, Crush 40.

2000: I Disappear by Metallica

One of my cousins introduced me to Metallica in either 1991 or 1992, and they immediately became my favorite band. So much so, that even though they probably aren’t actually anymore, I still usually say that they are out of habit. So why did they not appear on the list until 2000? One song per artist, and this song was the most thematically appropriate.

2000 was the year I graduated from high school. However, due to some weird-ass events, I didn’t get to walk at my high school graduation, nor did I end up in my senior Yearbook. It was as if I didn’t even exist at the school. You know, like I disappeared.

Also, I went to a Metallica concert with some friends on my 18th birthday. Getting to see my favorite band literally ON my birthday was a hell of a gift. And after taking that summer off from any responsibilities, I started my first job at Blockbuster Video in the fall, meaning I wasn’t able to hang out with those friends just whenever anymore. Some days, it definitely felt like I had disappeared.

2001: Spinning Around by Kylie Minogue

I didn’t discover this song until just a few years ago, but Kylie’s Light Years album has quickly become one of my favorites. It was actually released in 2000, but Spinning Around definitely fits my life in 2001 a lot better. Switching to a new Blockbuster location at the end of the previous year, traveling to Wrestlemania 17 in Texas at the end of March, having an online friend come to visit, getting several new store managers at Blockbuster, going back to visit family in Massachusetts for the first time in four years, starting college in the fall, the September 11th attacks, ending my first serious relationship…While it maybe didn’t feel like it at the time, 2001 was a VERY packed year for me. And by Christmas, it definitely felt like I had spent a year “spinning around” with no actual direction. I actually can’t even remember what that Holiday season was like for me, because so much of the REST of the year was just insane.

And that ends my teenage years. Come back tomorrow to see how my 20s began. Musically speaking, at least.

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