I was thirteen years old in 1997, and 1997 was twenty years ago, so for this week’s Timely Tunes I thought it might be fun to revisit some of the music I was listening to during this period and attempt to put together a mix of the kinds of songs I would have put on a mixtape back then. Spotify playlists are the successor to compact disc and cassette tape mixes, and while they generally aren’t made with the same painstaking, time-consuming effort, they also won’t melt in your hot car or get scratched.
1997 can be seen as a transitional year in mainstream pop and rock music. Boyband culture began to explode with The Backstreet Boys, and this form of prefab, often painfully white, pop would maintain a grasp on the culture for several years to come.
Grunge was fading into the rearview mirror, while more mush-mouthed groups like Creed and nu metal bands like Korn and Limp Bizkit were beginning to set the stage for a bleak era of hyper-masculine bonehead rock that rock radio, to this day, has never fully recovered from.
Melodic, less aggressive bands like Everclear, The Wallflowers, and Third Eye Blind pointed the way toward a lighter, poppier version of alternative rock that was also briefly ascendant in the late 90s. Meanwhile, British rock was HUGE in America at the time, with Radiohead, Blur, Oasis, The Verve, and Spiritualized among those releasing grand artistic statements that managed to break through to American radio and MTV.
This was also around the age that I first started to become aware of “indie rock” (a now-meaningless term) through bands like Pavement (note that the Pavement song I included was actually from 1995, but I was a bit behind the curve) and Modest Mouse.
It was a big year for New York City rap in the wake of The Notorious B.I.G.’s murder, the omnipresence of Puff Daddy’s Bad Boy Records, underground rap crew Company Flow (led by future Run the Jewels member El-P), and with The Wu-Tang Clan reaching their commercial pinnacle with the sprawling “Wu-Tang Forever” double album.
Missy Elliott, Timbaland, and Busta Rhymes were leading the pack in creating eccentric, futuristic rap music that still sounds ahead of its time all these years later. Trip-hop and big beat electronica were also pretty huge during this era.
I chose 33 songs that define that era for me because I’m 33 years old now.
TIMELY TUNES, VOL. 60
1. Radiohead “Airbag”
2. Blur “Beetlebum”
3. Pavement “Grounded”
4. Modest Mouse “Polar Opposites”
5. Weezer “El Scorcho”
6. Everclear “Everything to Everyone”
7. The Dandy Warhols “Boys Better”
8. Veruca Salt “Volcano Girls”
9. Foo Fighters “Everlong”
10. Nine Inch Nails “The Perfect Drug”
11. Marilyn Manson “Tourniquet”
12. Deftones “Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)”
13. Bush “Swallowed”
14. Depeche Mode “It’s No Good”
15. Sneaker Pimps “6 Underground”
16. The Verve “Lucky Man”
17. The Wallflowers “6th Avenue Heartache”
18. Third Eye Blind “Narcolepsy”
19. R.E.M. “Electrolite”
20. Spiritualized “Broken Heart”
21. Makaveli “To Live and Die in L.A.”
22. Wu-Tang Clan “Triumph”
23. Missy Elliott “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)”
24. Busta Rhymes “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See”
25. The Notorious B.I.G. “Sky’s the Limit”
26. Mark Morrison “Return of the Mack – C&J Street Mix”
27. INOJ “Love You Down”
28. Mariah Carey “Honey”
29. Erykah Badu “On & On”
30. Janet Jackson “Got ‘Til It’s Gone”
31. Fiona Apple “The First Taste”
32. Aphex Twin “Flim”
33. Bjork “All is Full of Love”
What were you listening to when you were 13?
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