1999 – A Return of the King

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It makes sense that the final year of the 90s would mark the return of perhaps the most successful and popular franchise in the history of film: Star Wars. In this instance, the franchise went backwards in its narrative by doing three prequels to the original Star Wars films. The hype for the new films lasted for years and in 1999, with the release of Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace, the franchise returned with a roar. I personally remember going to an evening showing in Westwood Village where the line to get in stretched around two blocks. Riddled with criticism from die-hard fans, Phantom Menace was still far and away the number one movie of ’99, taking in more than $924 million worldwide.

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Phantom Menace  may have been the top movie of ’99, but there were quite a few more that reaped in buckets of dough at the box office. In second place that year was  M. Night Shyamalan’s Sixth Sense, a film still known for one of the best twist endings ever as well as the classic movie quote, “I see dead people.” It didn’t do too shabby at the box office with more than $672 million worldwide. One of the better sequels in film history took third place as Toy Story 2 pulled in more than $485 million. Keanu Reeves’ and The Matrix wound up in fourth place with more than $463 million while Disney’s animated feature, Tarzan, ended up in fifth place with a little more than $448 million. Rounding out the top ten were The Mummy ($416 million), Notting Hill ($364 million), The World is Not Enough ($362 million), American Beauty ($356 million), and the independent found-footage horror hit, The Blair Witch Project ($312 million). Speaking of which, Blair Witch, made for a measly $60,000, remains one of the most profitable films of all time.

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1999 was a heck of a year for music too. There was a bevy of hit singles that year, perhaps none bigger than than “Livin’ La Vida Loca” by Ricky Martin. Selling more than 8 million copies, “Livin’ La Vida Loca” remains Martin’s biggest hit to this day. As successful as that was, Christina Aguilera’s breakout hit, “Genie in a Bottle” wound up selling more than 10 million copies worldwide, making it the biggest single of the year in retrospect. Other big singles of ’99 were “I Want it That Way” by the Backstreet Boys, “No Scrubs” by TLC, and “Heartbreak Hotel” by Whitney Houston, Faith Evans, and Kelly Price. Truth is, I wish I could find some sales figures on “Smooth” by Santana and Rob Thomas because it was one of the most popular songs of the entire decade. Based on the information I’ve researched, it did not have the sales that the aforementioned singles had, but I find that hard to believe, something I’ll point out in the next paragraph.

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If albums are any measure of success, ’99 was one of the most successful years not only of the decade, but in history. The top album of ’99 was Santana’s “Supernatural, selling more than 30 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best-selling albums of all time. This is why I find it hard to believe that the hit single “Smooth” wasn’t one of the biggest singles of ’99. The big time albums don’t stop there, however. While “Hit Me Baby One More Time” was released in ’98, Britney Spears’ album …Baby One More Time was released in ’99 and would go on to sell more than 25 million albums. In third place, Backstreet Boys’ third album Millennium was more than just popular as it wound up selling more than 24 million albums. Another big one was Ricky Martin’s Ricky Martin, selling more than 15 million copies while TLC’s FanMail didn’t do too shabby with over 10 million albums sold. The five albums above cumulatively sold at least 104 million albums. In short, ’99 was a fantastic year for albums.

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As for debut albums, it gets a bit tricky because ’99 is a rather weak year for debuts unless we include some with technicalities added. The biggest example of this would be Eminem’s Slim Shady LP, which would easily be the biggest debut except he released the Slim Shady EP in ’97 and his first studio album in ’96 called Infinite. Therefore, I’m leaving Eminem out of this. Obviously the biggest debuts of the year came from female pop stars Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, whose self-titled debut Christina Aguilera went on to sell more than 14 million copies worldwide. Other than that, however, ’99 was not notable for debut albums. Some noteworthy debuts, at least in my opinion were from Mos Def, Ja Rule, Jessica Simpson, Lil Wayne, and Dido.

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In the TV world, a new show immediately took over the top of the Nielsen ratings, taking the reins from such heavyweights as ERFriends, and Frasier. That show was none other than Who Wants to be a Millionaire, a game show hosted by Regis Philbin where contestants have to answer increasingly difficult questions to win one million dollars. Almost 20 years later, that show continues chugging. It aired three times a week and all three nights placed one, two, and three on the Nielsen ratings. The show had everyone hooked and on the edge of their seats hoping to witness someone make it all the way to the $1 million dollar question. The first show aired August 16, 1999, but it took until November 19 until someone would win the million dollars.

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’99 had a great number of debut shows that wound up being staples in American pop culture. For starters, the mafia show The Sopranos would debut on HBO and go on for six seasons. Often in the discussion for best television drama series of all time, The Sopranos was the first cabe TV series ever to be nominated for (and win)an Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series. It also won the Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series every single time it was nominated. Impressive to say the least. Three other iconic shows debuted in ’99, shows that I have to mention or it’d be a travesty. One of those, Spongebob Squarepants, is a kid’s show but one of the most popular ones of the last few decades. On top of that, both Family Guy and Futurama debuted, both adult cartoons that would amass legions of fans and remain relevant today. Other notable debuts of ’99 were The West Wing, Judging Amy, Judge Mathis, and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, which was renewed for its 20th season in May.

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As you know, with all of those debuts comes a lot of endings, and ’99 had some big goodbyes. The biggest of all would be Home Improvement, which had the 12th most-watched series finale of all time. Other big finales were the Paul Reiser-led Mad About You, Homicide: Life on the Street, The Nanny, and Melrose Place. While they may not have had the big series finales of the aforementioned shows, other popular shows that would finish their run were Sister, Sister, The Wayans Bros., Unhappily Ever After, The Parent Hood, The Sentinel, and Mystery Science Theater 3000.

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In sadder news, the celebrity world lost some big names in ’99, starting with Roger Ebert’s film critic counterpart, Gene Siskel. While he probably was never as big as Ebert, Siskel was a fantastic movie critic and the show was never quite the same without him. It was only a few weeks later that renown director Stanley Kubrick passed away, making Eyes Wide Shut (also released in ’99) his final film. In addition, Mario Puzo passed and if it weren’t for him, we would have never been blessed with The Godfather. The sports world lost a legend in bigger-than-life Wilt Chamberlain, still regarded as one of the greatest basketball players of all time. The music industry had significant losses with legendary crooner Mel Torme passing at 73 and Dusty Springfield dying at a young 56. Country legend Hank Snow died after a career that sold more than 80 million albums over six decades. Perhaps the biggest death happened at the end of the year with Curtis Mayfield dying at the age of 57 a day after Christmas. Not only was he a double inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (with The Impressions in ’91, and as a solo artist in ’99), Mayfield’s Shaft soundtrack remains arguably one of the greatest alums in the history of music.

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In a year where a kid could “see dead people” and Keanu Reeves tried to figure out the Matrix, there was also the tiny indie film Blair Witch Project that took on Hollywood and won. One could say that ’99 was the year of kings with Phantom Menace atop the box office and the debut of The Sopranos which would rule the TV for the first few years of the millennium. It was also quite a big year for albums as 3 of the top ten biggest albums of the decade were released in ’99 (Human Clay, Supernatural, and Millennium). While it’s not from the same decade, it’s only necessary to use the classic Mel Brooks’ quote to sum of the year: “It’s good to be the king.”

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Bart Gets an “F” – (1990)

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This episode of The Simpsons was the first episode of season two. It also was the first time the show went up against The Cosby Show’s time slot and took a decent chunk of the audience. Obviously, there are many more iconic episodes and moments from The Simpsons but this one may be the first one that cemented the show’s widespread popularity. Regardless, it’s a funny episode and this little clip from it is worth a watch.

…Baby One More Time – Britney Spears (1998)

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Written by: Martin Karl Sandberg

Oh baby, baby
Oh baby, baby
Oh baby, baby, how was I supposed to know
That something wasn’t right here
Oh baby, baby, I shouldn’t have let you go
And now you’re out of sight, yeah
Show me how want it to be
Tell me baby ’cause I need to know now, oh because
My loneliness is killing me (and I)
I must confess I still believe (still believe)
When I’m not with you I lose my mind
Give me a sign
Hit me baby one more time
Oh baby, baby
The reason I breathe is you
Boy you got me blinded
Oh pretty baby
There’s nothing that I wouldn’t do
It’s not the way I planned it
Show me how you want it to be
Tell me baby ’cause I need to know now, oh because
My loneliness is killing me (and I)
I must confess I still believe (still believe)
When I’m not with you I lose my mind
Give me a sign
Hit me baby one more time
Oh baby, baby
Oh baby, baby
Yeah,
Oh baby, baby how was I supposed to know
Oh pretty baby, I shouldn’t have let you go
I must confess, that my loneliness is killing me now
Don’t you know I still believe
That you will be here
And give me a sign
Hit me baby one more time
My loneliness is killing me (and I)
I must confess I still believe (still believe)
When I’m not with you I lose my mind
Give me a sign
Hit me baby one more time
I must confess, that my loneliness is killing me now
Don’t you know I still believe
That you will be here
And give me a sign
Hit me baby one more time

1998 – Hit me baby one more time

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There are arguments out there that 1998 is one of the best years in music, and certainly the best year in music of the 90s. While I’m not sure I agree with either of those theories, it was certainly a significant year in music, a year in which music had more impact on American pop culture than both film and TV. Two of the biggest singles of all time were released in ’98 and while one outsold the other, it was Britney Spears’ “…Baby One More Time” that truly rocked the American pop culture boat the most. The song was the perfect bubblegum pop tune: catchy, uptempo, and fun. More than that, it had Spears singing it. She became an instant heartthrob to just about every teenage boy (and adult man) around the nation (and world). Was Spears a great singer? No, but she was a great entertainer and the biggest name in 1998 American pop culture.

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What’s interesting is that “…Baby One More Time” was considered the biggest single of 1998 although Cher’s ’98 single, “Believe” would eventually go on to sell 11 million units to Spears’ 10 million. Obviously, it was another big year for female artists. Adding to the success of female artists of that year, one has to point out Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn,” which was considered the most played song of the year and one of the biggest one-hit wonders of all time. Funny thing about “Torn” is that Imbruglia’s version is actually a cover of the original, written in 1993 by an alternative rock band out of Los Angeles called Ednaswap. Since we’re on the subject of female artists, it would be wrong to leave out Alanis Morissette and her hit single “Uninvited.” Made for the City of Angels soundtrack, “Uninvited” would go on to sell more than 8 million units.

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Speaking of City of Angels, it had not one, not two, but three hit singles. In addition to “Uninvited,” the Goo Goo Dolls’ “Iris” was one of the biggest singles of the year.  “Iris” was listed at #1 for Billboard’s Top 100 Pop Songs 1992-2002. It’s a good song but I don’t know if it’s that good. The third hit single from the City of Angels soundtrack was “Angel” from Sarah McLachlan although the song was originally written for her album Surfacing. As beautiful of a song as it is, the subject matter is incredibly dark being that it is about the heroin overdose of Smashing Pumpkins touring keyboard player Jonathan Melvoin.

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There’s more. 1998 saw the rise of quite a few music stars. One was Jay-Z who released Vol. 2…Hard Knock Life, which catapulted the rapper to superstar status. On the contrary, his current wife Beyonce would be part of Destiny’s Child’s huge debut album, Destiny’s Child. In hip hop, Lauryn Hill used her fame from The Fugees to go off on her own with much success. Her debut solo album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was a huge hit and is still considered one of the best hip hop albums of all time to this day. In addition to Destiny’s Child and Lauryn Hill, there was a significant amount of new artists that debuted in ’98. N’Sync, DMX, Jurassic 5, Death Cab for Cutie, Mya, System of a Down were some of the debuts to name a few.

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The movie world saw another major Steven Spielberg hit with his World World 2 epic, Saving Private Ryan. It was the second biggest movie of the year at the box office, earning almost $482 million worldwide. The biggest film of the year belonged to the Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck sci-fi disaster film, Armageddon, which pulled in more than $553 million internationally. The third biggest film of the year was the Godzilla reboot starring Matthew Broderick with $379 million worldwide. Strangely, as much money as it made, the ’98 version of Godzilla was not considered a success by the studio, the main reason there was no sequel. In fourth place with $369 million was the raunchy Farrelly Brothers comedy There’s Something About Mary starring Ben Stiller and Cameron Diaz. Rounding out the top five at the box office for ’98 was A Bug’s Life, Pixar’s second feature length animated film. Many people think their second film was Toy Story 2 but it was A Bug’s Life which earned more than $363 million worldwide.

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There were quite a few notable deaths in the film world in ’98. One of the most influential and greatest directors of all time, Akira Kurosawa, passed away at the age of 88, leaving behind a legacy that included such films as Seven Samurai and Rashomon among many others. Other big stars that passed in ’98 were Frank Sinatra, Gene Autry, and Roy Rogers. The most shocking death of the year was that of Phil Hartman, a comedic actor and former SNL cast member who was murdered by his wife who then killed herself. He was widely loved by all those that knew him and is even recognized as the person who helped Paul Reubens develop the character of Pee Wee Herman and even co-wrote the film, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. He was only 49 when he was killed.

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*Phil Hartman and his wife, Brynn who murdered him before killing herself

In television, ERFriendsVeronica’s Closet, and Seinfeld were at the top of the Nielsen ratings although it would be the final hurrah for Seinfeld. After nine wildly successful seasons, Jerry Seinfeld, Jason Alexander, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, and Michael Richards would finally call it quits. The show often ended television seasons in the number one or two spot atop the Nielsen ratings, usually going against the hit TV drama ER. Its 75-minute finale on May 14, 1998 is one of the most watched TV finales of all-time with more than 76 million viewers tuning in to say goodbye to one of the most successful sitcoms ever. Only the finales for M.A.S.H.Roots, Cheers, and The Fugitive had more viewers.

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Other hit shows would say goodbye in ’98 as well. Living Single, a sitcom based on 4 black single women starring Queen Latifah ended its 5-year run. Other popular sitcoms that ended in ’98 were Grace Under FireThe Naked TruthEllen, Murphy Brown, Family Matters, and The Larry Sanders Show. For TV dramas, it would be the end of six seasons for Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman and after four seasons New York Undercover was finished. It’s necessary to note that New York Undercover was the first police drama to feature two people of color as its stars (Malik Yoba and Michael DeLorenzo). ’98 was really the year that many kids’ shows would end. Among them, Beakman’s World, Bill Nye the Science Guy, Pinky and the Brain, Animaniacs, Goosebumps, and Bobby’s World.

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Whereas many shows ended, many others were just starting in ’98. Arguably the most popular show to debut was the HBO mega-hit Sex and the City, starring Sarah Jessica-Parker. A few big network sitcoms hit the tubes in ’98 with the arrival of such shows as The King of Queens, Will and GraceThe Hughleys, Becker, and That 70’s Show. TV dramas saw the debuts of Charmed, Felicity, and Dawson’s Creek but it was kid’s programming that saw a big influx of new shows. Teletubbies would begin its run in the U.S. after its huge success in its native Australia. In addition, The Powerpuff Girls began its 6-season run on the Cartoon Network.

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In the toys and video game industries, Furby dolls were a huge craze. The furry, owl-like creatures were one of those toys that parents fought over in stores during the holiday season. It got to a point where people were buying them and then reselling them for five times the price on the black market. ’98 was also a special year for video games as iconic games such as Starcraft, Half-Life, and Metal Gear Solid. There was also another wildly popular Legend of Zelda game for Nintendo with Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. As games and consoles continued to increase in sales, the video game industry kept growing and growing.

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So what was 1998 in American pop culture exactly? Was it all about the music or all about the movies? Hard to say, but I would personally put my money on music being the more impactful industry of the two in ’98. While Armageddon and Saving Private Ryan were certainly big hits at the box office, they didn’t put their stamp on the year like music did. As stated in the first paragraph, there have been very few breakout pop stars like Britney Spears. While she didn’t wind up becoming the star that Mariah Carey or Madonna became, she was still the biggest name of the year. For that, I think Britney deserves recognition for just how much of a thing she was in ’98.

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Mark McGwire Hits #62 (1998)

72528211.jpgThis isn’t a TV moment in the general sense because it’s not a scene from a 90s sitcom or drama. That being said, Mark McGwire’s 62nd home run during the 1998 home run season is one of the most iconic sports moments of the 90s since it broke Roger Maris’ 37-year-old single-season home run record of 61. It also had more significance in that McGwire’s monster home run season brought fans back into baseball’s fold. The sport had lost a lot of viewers and McGwire (and Sammy Sosa) helped bring back old fans while attracting a new generation of fans as well. McGwire would go on to hit 70 home runs that year, a single-season record until Barry Bonds broke it a few years later by hitting 73 homers.

Below is arguably the biggest moment in baseball during the 90s.

Silence of the Lambs (1991)

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Without Anthony Hopkins’ role in Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal Lecter would have never become the household name he is today. Hopkins would go on to win Best Actor for his portrayal of Lecter which remains one of the greatest villains in the history of cinema.

Below is just one of the many great scenes between Hopkins and Jodie Foster (who also won Best Actress for her role as FBI trainee Clarice Starling).

1997 – Simply Titanic

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You had to live during the years before Titanic was released to understand all the hype and hoopla surrounding it. For one, the budget was gargantuan. To add to that, there were tons of issues that occurred during the filming of the movie that made it feel like it was set up to be a monumental disaster. More than 50 crew members were rushed to the hospital after their lobster chowder was laced with PCP. They never discovered who poisoned the food. Three stuntmen wound up with broken bones and star Kate Winslet chipped a bone in her elbow in addition to the fact that she, and the crew, feared the temperamental director James Cameron. The shoot was originally intended for 138 days but wound up taking 160 days. By the end of it, the budget had reached an unheard of $200 million (which, equates to about $1 million per minute of screen time).

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As its release got closer, many wondered if it was going to be a repeat of Waterworld, another film with a gigantic budget that didn’t succeed. However, Titanic turned into an absolute hit. It was the first film ever to cross the $1 billion mark at the box office. Not only that, it went on to win a handful of Academy Awards (a record-tying eleven to be exact) including Best Picture and Best Director. That’s not all. The hit song, “My Heart Will Go On” was one of the biggest hits of the 90s, sung by pop superstar Celine Dion. It was, in every way, shape, and form, a huge success and remains one of the most successful movies of all time.

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While Titanic ran away with the box office in ’97, it was a hell of a year for film. To put Titanic’s numbers in perspective, it took in more than $1.8 billion, whereas the next biggest film of the year, The Lost World: Jurassic Park took in a staggering $618 million. In third place, Men in Black also had a phenomenal take in with $589 million. Even with the heavy drop off after third place, the James Bond installment Tomorrow Never Dies still brought in $333 million. In fact, the next three biggest films of the year all took in more than $300 million as Air Force One, As Good as It Gets, and Liar Liar all more than surpassed expectations. Rounding out the top ten at the box office for ’97 were My Best Friend’s Wedding, Fifth Element, and The Full Monty, all of which made more than $250 million worldwide.

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1997 in music was unique in that two of the biggest singles were tributes to people who died far too young. The first, a remake of Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind,” was written in honor of Princess Diana, who died in a tragic car crash in August of ’97 after being pursued by paparazzi. The other, “I’ll be Missing You,” was a tribute by Puff Daddy, Faith Evans, and 112 to Notorious B.I.G. who was murdered in March of 1997. While the hip hop ode to Notorious found great success with more than eight million singles sold, it pales in comparison to the success of Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind” redo. In fact, “Candle in the Wind” remains the second best-selling single of all time with more than 33 million copies sold. The original song was written in honor of Marilyn Monroe but the sudden death of his longtime friend Diana Francis Spencer prompted John to do another version in her honor. Out of respect to her, Elton John has only performed the song live once, at Princess Di’s funeral.

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*Elton John and the late Princess Di

Hugely successful singles don’t stop with those two. 1997 had another giant hit with Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” from the movie Titanic. Just like “Candle in the Wind,” Dion’s biggest hit remains one of the most successful singles of all time, selling more than 18 million copies. 1997 is actually the only year in history that has two of the top ten best-selling singles of all time. Adding to the list of big time singles from ’97 were Aqua’s “Barbie Girl” and Janet Jackson’s “Together Again.” Although Jackson was a far bigger name than Aqua, “Barbie Girl” remains the more successful single with more than eight million copies sold compared to over six million for “Together Again.” To put this all in perspective, the top 5 singles of 1997 have cumulatively sold more than 73 million singles worldwide. That is insane.

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Quite a few iconic albums were released in 1997, among them Prodigy’s “Fat of the Land” and Radiohead’s “OK Computer.” In hip hop, Notorious B.I.G.’s posthumous album “Life After Death” was a big hit, not only because he was one of the biggest names in the genre but also because the album was released only two weeks after his murder. It went on to sell more than five million copies. Wu-Tang Clan’s second album, “Wu-Tang Forever” was another successful hip hop record from ’97, selling more than four million copies. Other notable rap albums of ’97 were Missy Elliot’s “Supa Dupa Fly” and Will Smith’s first solo album after five albums as the group DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince. “Big Willie Style” would wind up as the most successful rap album of ’97, going on to sell more than nine million copies.

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In terms of successful albums of the 90s, one of the biggest of the decade belonged to Shania Twain’s 1997 album “Come on Over.” It has made its mark on the all-time best-selling albums list, in twelfth place with more than 33 million copies sold. A fun tidbit here about that as well: with Twain’s “Come on Over,” 1997 was the third straight year in which a female music artist had the biggest album of the year (1995 was Alanis Morissette with “Jagged Little Pill”; 1996 was Celine Dion with  “Falling into You”). What’s also amazing is that Celine Dion had another giant album in ’97 with “Let’s Talk About Love,” which contained the hit single, “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic. Put together, Dion’s two albums from ’96 and ’97 would go on to sell more than 64 million copies. Wow.

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In television, ER and Seinfeld once again would fight each other for top of the Nielsen ratings for the third straight year, with Seinfeld edging it out by a couple of points. As for other shows ranked at the top of the Nielsen ratings, it was mostly the usual suspects again as Home Improvement, Frasier, NYPD Blue, X-Files, The Drew Carey Show, and 60 Minutes kept their places in the top 20 of the ratings. A couple of new shows including Veronica’s Closet and Just Shoot Me! found themselves at the top of the ratings as well although Kirstie Alley’s Veronica’s Closet would only go on for three seasons compared to seven seasons for Laura San Giacomo’s Just Shoot Me!

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Speaking of debuts, ’97 was a unique year in that two animated adult shows started that would help pave the way for more adult animation in the years to come. One of them, King of the Hill, was the second show created by Beavis and Butthead creator Mike Judge. It was a big hit for Fox and would go on for 13 seasons before going into nightly syndication in 2010. The other show is arguably the most influential adult cartoon series in history. South Park debuted on August 13, 1997 on Comedy Central and 21 seasons later, it is still going strong. The controversial cartoon known for its brash language and subject matter turned creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker into big time Hollywood players.

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Aside from those two iconic debuts, ’97 had many more great debuts. Buffy the Vampire Slayer would begin its seven-season run amassing a large fan base that remains strong today. My personal favorite debut of ’97 was Crocodile Hunter, the second-longest series for Discovery behind Mythbusters. Perhaps it would have been the longest-running series for them had it not been for the tragic and untimely death of host Steve Irwin. I still haven’t gotten over that myself. Another notable debut of ’97 were Daria, Mike Judge’s second animated adult show for MTV (the first being Beavis and Butthead). Other popular shows to debut that year were The View, Ally McBeal, Caillou, Dharma and Greg, and the cult classic HBO show Tenacious D.

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As it is with debuts, there were many shows  ending in ’97 that fans would be sad to see leave. One of those was Angela Lansbury and Murder, She Wrote. Another big show that had its finale was Roseanne, which wound up being one of the most-watched TV finales in history. Martin Lawrence and Tisha Campbell would call it quits on Martin after five seasons while audiences would finally say goodbye to Craig T. Nelson and Coach after nine seasons. Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher finished the last season of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman after four seasons while the Bundys finished their eleven seasons of Married…With Children (which brought a tear to my eye as it’s my favorite show of all time). And finally, after 26 years on the air, Hee Haw would say goodbye to its legion of fans.

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1997 for some would be remembered for the death of Biggie Smalls, but Titanic easily took charge of the year both at the box office and in the world of music with Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will go On” as well as James Horner’s soundtrack being one of the biggest albums of the year as well. There are many who don’t like Titanic as a movie but it is impossible to argue against the fact that it was the biggest moment of the year as well as one of the most successful films of all time. I guess it’s true what lead character Jack Dawson says on the boat when he declares, “I’m the king of the world!”

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Toys of the 90s – Beanie Babies

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A bit like the fidget spinner craze of modern times, Beanie Babies were all the rage in the mid-90s up until 1999. Filled with plastic pellets instead of stuffing like most stuffed animals, Beanie Babies skyrocketed in popularity in 1995 when seemingly everyone wanted one.

The original nine Beanie Babies released were: Legs the Frog, Squealer the Pig, Spot the Dog, Flash the Orca, Splash the Whale, Chocolate the Moose, Patti the Platypus, Brownie the Bear (renamed “Cubbie” later on) and Pinchers the Lobster. While these were the original nine, they’re nowhere near the most expensive. Special edition Beanie Babies have gone on to fetch thousands of dollars. The most expensive one called “Princess,” sells for more than $500,000. Yeah, that’s not a typo.

By the time all was said and done, Beanie Babies were the reason Ty Inc., the company that made them, reached a $1 billion valuation in the late 90s. By the new millennium however, the Beanie Babies fad had ended. Regardless, anyone who grew up in the 90s remembers these and you can still get them to this day although they’re not nearly as sought out as they once were.

While I could not find an actual Beanie Babies commercial from Ty Inc., there is this 1997 McDonald’s commercial for Beanie Babies that were included in their Happy Meals. Enjoy!

 

Flava in ya Ear (Remix) – Craig Mack, Biggie Smalls, Rampage, LL Cool J, and Busta Rhyme (1994)

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Written by: Craig Mack, LL Cool J, Biggie Small, Rampage, and Busta Rhymes

[Puff Daddy:]
Bad Boys
Come out and play
You know we had to do a remix, right[Verse 1: Notorious B.I.G.]
Uh, uh
Niggas is mad I get more butt than ash trays
Fuck a fair one, I get mine the fast way
Ski mask way, nigga ransom notes
Far from handsome, but damn a nigga tote
(What you tote)
More guns than roses, foes is shaking in their boots
Invisible bully like The Gooch
Disappear, vamoose, you’re wack to me
Take them rhymes back to the factory
I see the gimmicks, the wack lyrics, the shit is
Depressing, pathetic, please forget it
You’re mad cause my style you’re admiring
Don’t be mad, UPS is hiring
You shoulda been a cop, fuck hip-hop
With that freestyle you’re bound to get shot
Not from Houston but I rap-a-lot
Pack the gat a lot
The flav’s bout to drop uh

[Hook:]
Here comes the brand new flava in ya ear
Time for new flava in ya ear
I’m kicking new flava in ya ear
Mack’s a brand new flava in ya ear

[Verse 2: Craig Mack]
Word up, no rap no crap you bore me
Wanna grab my dick, too lazy, hold it for me
I’m straight rap great
Busting heads, straighten dreads
I’m everlasting, like the toe on Pro Keds
A Tec-9 when I rhyme
Plus I climb, word is bond
Your album couldn’t fuck with one line
It’s been three years since you last hear
But now I reappear your heart pumps fear
To your gut, did your girl’s butt
I scraped it, shaped it, now she won’t strut
I smash teeth, fuck your beef, no relief
I step on stage, girls scream like I’m Keith
You won’t be around next year
My rap’s too severe, kicking mad flava in ya ear

[Hook:]
Here comes the brand new flava in ya ear
Time for new flava in ya ear
I’m kicking new flava in ya ear
Mack’s a brand new flava in ya ear

[Verse 3: Rampage]
Twenty-one ninety-four
Mad motherfucking hardcore
It’s my time to burn now explore
The flava in ya ear it’s the boy scout
I make outs, I make other rappers have doubts
You’re fucking with the wrong clan
And the wrong man, that’s it
[Lyrics from: https:/lyrics.az/craig-mack/-/flava-in-ya-ear-remix.html]
Now you got to get your dome split
I’m going into my knapsack with my gat
Take off my hat, yes I’m just cool like dat
The dangerous, the ruggedness, from the Flatbush abyss
BLS 97 KISS bounce to this
I’m gonna live long in this rap game, niggas know my name
Yo Puffy

[Puff Daddy:]
Burn ’em in the flames

[Interlude:]
You’re jingling baby (go ‘head daddy)
You’re jingling baby (go ‘head daddy)

[Verse 4: LL Cool J]
Hee-shee, uh blowticious
Skeevee, delicious
Gimme couscous, love me good
Um damn, Hollis to Hollywood, but is he good
I guess like the jeans – uh
Flavor like Praline, sick daddy nah’mean
Papa love it, when he does it
Niggas buzz it
But tell me was it really just the flavor that be clogging your ears
The most healthy behavior is to stay in the clear
It’s all for you, it’s really all for you
(Now what)
Hunchback, close your eyes try to munch that
Coil up your ankles let your Timbs tap
Bite the flavor it reacts to your gold caps
Word to Mama, I tongue kiss a piranha
Electrocute a barracuda, I’m here to bring the drama

[Verse 5: Busta Rhymes]
Yo! Yo! Yo!
Flavors in your ass crease ha
Busta Rhymes about to bring the noise don’t cease ha
Let me loose from the belly of the beast ha
Everybody, hey hey hey
You better believe it’s Busta Rhymes the great
We ’bout to rip the Tri-State
Yo yo, hey hey hey
I’ll split your face and give you stitches
Throw niggas in ditches, slap the ass of fat bitches
Wait one sec, as I get down
I’m rolling with the heavyweight connect to the stomping ground
Now, don’t you get suspicious
I grant your wishes every time
Bring it vicious when I bust a rhyme
I know one thing the whole world least expected is how we all connected
To break food on the same record
Five new flavors on a beat, feel the fucking heat
I really think you should retreat while we blow up the street
Instead of copping pleas just freeze
Maintain the focus while we smoke these marijuana trees
When I get down I disappear, reappear and blow up
Everywhere, fucking with these flavas in ya ear

[Hook:]
Here comes the brand new flava in ya ear
Time for new flava in ya ear
I’m kicking new flava in ya ear
Mack’s a brand new flava in ya ear

1996 – “Today we celebrate our Independence Day!”

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If it weren’t for Will Smith, Independence Day would not have been the same (for proof of this just watch the god awful sequel). However, without Independence Day, Will Smith might not have become the global star that he is. With his star rising, Independence Day put him catapulted him to A-list status in Hollywood after his successful tryst alongside Martin Lawrence in Bad Boys. To put the success of Independence Day in perspective, consider that it brought in more than $817 million worldwide. The next biggest movie of ’96? That would be Twister, with a worldwide gross of $494 million. So yeah, Independence Day was far and away the biggest film of ’96 and Will Smith’s fame skyrocketed afterwards.

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The aforementioned Twister was a big hit with Bill Paxton as part of a storm-chasing team that included a young, spunky Philip Seymour Hoffman. The third biggest film of the year was Mission Impossible, starring Tom Cruise. Disney was happy to have the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh biggest movies of ’96 with The Rock, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, 101 Dalmations, and Ransom in that order. Rounding out the top ten biggest movies of the year were Eddie Murphy’s The Nutty Professor, Jerry Maguire, and Eraser in what would be Arnold Schwarzenegger’s last big box office hit as the leading man.

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1996 was also a special year for movie debuts from quite a few actors. Perhaps the most critically acclaimed were Edward Norton’s supporting role in Primal Fear (earning him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor) and Emily Watson’s leading role in Breaking the Waves (earning her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress). Other debuts that year were Mila Kunis in Santa With Muscles, Billy Crudup in Sleepers, Viola Davis in The Substance of Fire, Michael Pena in My Fellow Americans, Octavia Spencer in A Time to Kill, along with Owen and Luke Wilson in Wes Anderson’s feature film debut, Bottle Rocket.

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The music world was hammered with one of its worst tragedies in history with the murder of Tupac Shakur. It was made even more tragic with the fact that Tupac’s double album, All Eyez on Me, was released earlier in the year and reached platinum only four hours after it went on sale. It remains one of the best-selling albums of all time in America. Theories over who killed Tupac and why continue to this day although the most accurate one, in my opinion, continues to be that he was shot by the guy who he and Suge Knight beat up in Vegas a few hours prior to Tupac’s murder. Chances are, the case will never be solved, unfortunately.

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Despite Tupac’s early death, 1996 was a huge year for music. The two top singles of the year each had their own personal accolades and records. For Los del Rio, “Macarena” turned out to be a timeless hit that remains popular at sporting events and parties to this day. Not only was it ranked the #1 One-Hit Wonder of all time by VH1 in 2002, it also holds the #1 ranking for Billboard’s All Time Latin Songs. The single went on to sell more than 10 million copies. Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men came together to sing, “One Sweet Day,” a song dedicated to a friend of theirs that lost their life to AIDS. It was the number one song on the Billboard charts for 16 straight weeks, a record that stood alone until 2017 when “Despacito” tied the record.

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There were also a ton of successful singles, sales-wise, from 1996. Toni Braxton’s “Un-Break my Heart” would sell more than 10 million copies. Spice Girl’s first big hit, “Wannabe” sold over seven million copies. The top-selling single of 1996, however, was operatic pop hit, “Time to Say Goodbye” by Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman. It has sold more than 12 million copies worldwide.

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As for albums, 1996 proved to be another strong year for hip hop as well as rock music with both genres dominating the Billboard charts. Death Row Records had a great year with Tupac’s “All Eyez on Me,” “The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory,” and Snoop Dogg’s “The Doggfather.” Tribe Called Quest, Fugees, and Nas also had great years with their albums, “Beats, Rhymes, Life,” “The Score,” and “It Was Written.” Together, the three albums combined to sell more than 9 million copies. In the rock world, groups such as Rage Against the Machine, Metallica, No Doubt, Pearl Jam, Hootie and the Blowfish, and Bush had big albums. None of these groups, however, could match the sales of The Beatles’ “Anthology” album. On that note, the Beatles couldn’t match pop star Celine Dion’s “Falling into You,” which wound up as the biggest album of the year, going on to sell more than 32 million copies. All of this despite the fact that Dion’s biggest single ever, “My Heart Will Go On,” wouldn’t come out until 1997.

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There were some great debut albums in ’96 as well as debuts by artists that would later become superstars. One such man, Eminem, released his first album, “Infinite,” in 1996 but he sold it out of the trunk of his car in Detroit. Other hop hop debut albums in ’96 include Lil’ Kim, Foxy Brown, Busta Rhymes, Ghostface Killah, Jay-Z, Xzibit, and my personal favorite, DJ Shadow with “Endtroducing…” Nickelback and Backstreet Boys also had debut albums in ’96 although no one would have a debut album that year as successful as the Spice Girls’ “Spice.” With more than 23 million copies sold worldwide, “Spice” remains one of the most successful debut albums of all time.

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Television was once again controlled by shows that topped the Nielsen ratings the past few years such as ER, Seinfeld, Friends, Touched by an Angel, and Home Improvement. There were very few changes among the most popular shows with mainstays such as Frasier, NYPD Blue, Chicago Hope, and X-Files continued to hold audiences’ attention for another year. None of them would grab the amount of viewers that ER and Seinfeld would. Both shows ended their seasons with more than 20.0 Nielsen rating.

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Many debut shows had quite successful first seasons starting in ’96. Suddenly Susan, starring Brooke Shields, and Tea Leoni’s The Naked Truth both ended their first seasons in the top 10 of the Nielsen ratings. Other popular debut shows were Fired Up and 3rd Rock from the Sun, the latter of which earned star John Lithgow an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. UPN and The WB continued to debut shows targeting black audiences with Moesha, The Jamie Foxx Show, In the House, The Steve Harvey Show and Malcolm and Eddie among some of the successful shows to debut in ’96. Spin City, starring Michael J. Fox, was a big hit in its first season although perhaps the most successful new show of ’96 was Everybody Loves Raymond, which would run for nine seasons. Other popular debuts of ’96 were Sabrina the Teenage Witch7th Heaven, Nash Bridges, Kenan and Kel, The Daily Show, and The O’Reilly Factor.

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As many new shows would debut, just as many would end their run on TV. One of the most iconic children’s shows of all time would end as the Mickey Mouse Club would say goodbye 41 years after debuting in 1955. Another big show that ended was The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air after six seasons although star Will Smith would go on to be one of the biggest box office stars of the mid-to-late 90s. Only the second TV show on HBO, Dream On ended its show after six seasons. The biggest goodbye of all in ’96 was probably Murder, She Wrote, which aired its final episode after 12 seasons on the air.

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In conclusion, 1996 didn’t stand out as much as some of the other years of the 90s in terms of film, music, and television but it still had an impact. It would also be wrong to leave out the fact that such popular video games like Super Mario 64, Tomb Raider, and Resident Evil debuted on consoles in ’96. Despite that, when one recollects 1996, it’s hard to argue that Independence Day wasn’t the biggest part of American pop culture than year. To repeat the words of Bill Pullman’s President President Thomas J. Whitmore, “Today we celebrate our Independence Day!”

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Santeria – Sublime (1996)

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Written by: Bradley Noel, Bud Gaugh, and Eric Wilson

“Santeria” is easily one of the best rock songs of the 90s that was played to a mass audience. It is a shame that we were not able to hear more music from Sublime due to the death of lead singer Bradley Noel at just 27 years of age. Regardless, this is a fantastic song and deserves a place on this site.

I don’t practice Santeria, I ain’t got no crystal ball
I had a million dollars but I’d, I’d spend it all
If I could find that Heina and that Sancho that she’s found
I’d pop a cap in Sancho and I’d slap her down
All I really want to know
I already know
All I really want to say
I can’t define
It’s love that I need
My soul will have to wait ’til I get back and find
Heina of my own
Daddy’s gonna love one and all
I feel the break, feel the break, feel the break and I got to live it out, oh yeah
Well I swear that I, I really want to know,
I really, what I really want to stay, I cant define
That love make it go, my soul will have to
What I really want to say, ah baby
What I really want to say, is I’ve got mine
And I’ll make it, yes I’m going up
Tell Sanchito that if he knows what is good for him
He best go run and hide
Daddy’s got a new .45
And I won’t think twice to stick that barrel straight down Sancho’s throat
Believe me when I say that I got somethin’ for his punk ass
What I really want know, ah baby
What I really want to say is there’s just one way back
And I’ll make it, yeah, my soul will have to wait