Friday, February 17, 2006

1999 and 2000 - Two Years in #1 Singles (pt. 1)

In this post, I will chronicle all of the number one's from 1999 to 2000, provide a fun fact about each, and a brief review/comment for the songs. These two years encompass my senior year of high school, so therefore they have mega-nostalgic value for me. So, without further ado....


Despite a poor overall quality of #1 hits, in my opinion, 1999 was a landmark year for number one hits. Several stars who would go on to successful careers had their first #1 in 1999, and two important chart records regarding #1's were broken.

Brandy - "Have You Ever"
Duration: 2 weeks
Fun Fact: This song was written by Diane Warren, who could write a number one hit ballad in her sleep ("Un-Break My Heart"; "I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing"; "Because You Loved Me")
Review/Comments: This is a great example of one of my pet peeve number ones: The completely forgettable ballad. What an uninteresting song. Unfortunately, the forgettable ballad is a very common number one...Brandy had just gone to number one 4 months earlier with her duet "The Boy Is Mine", which at 13 weeks still stands as one of the longest reigning number ones.
Rating: 5/10

Britney Spears - "...Baby One More Time"
Duration: 2 weeks
Fun Fact: To date, Britney Spears' only number one hit...Re-named to "...Baby One More Time" after the label decided that the title "Hit Me Baby One More Time" was too controversial.
Review/Comments: Call it the TRL effect. Call it whatever you want. But the pop explosion of the late 90's/early 00's never materialized in a whole lot of number one hits. Britney Spears only had one. 'N Sync only had one. The Backstreet Boys had ZERO (not even "I Want It That Way", which peaked at #6). Forget about the second-tier pop star/boy bands. Christina Aguilera is the exception, as she did have four. So, anyways, what gives? Despite the extreme popularity of their albums, these artists never really tore up the singles charts. There are other factors, but the main reason here is that due to label strategy, none of these songs were ever realeased commercially as singles. They were relying solely on airplay points, and at this time, that was difficult to overcome (the exception is Christina Aguilera, who had all of her singles commercially released, and hence had four #1's). Britney Spears' and 'N Sync's only songs ever commercially released as singles on a widespread basis, were their only songs to ever hit number one. It's true that these songs never received as much airplay as it seemed like they were getting (again, call it the TRL effect), but it's clear that if they were ever commercially released, the rabid fanbase would have pushed all these songs up to number ones.
Rating: 8/10, a great pop song, but bumped down a couple rating points because Britney never has been a particularly gifted pop singer.

Monica - "Angel of Mine"
Duration: 4 weeks
Fun Fact: This was the last in a string of 10 number one hit singles, 3 of which being by Monica. These three songs being "The Boy Is Mine"; "The First Night"; and "Angel of Mine"
Review/Comments: "The First Night" is one of my absolute favorite R&B hits of the late 90's, a sure 10/10. By comparison, this song always seemed to me, and to many others, to be of another class of #1 hits that I particularly hate: The inferior followup hit, which rides on the coattails of the prior hit to number one. That's probably not fair though. I still really love this song, even if it is not as good as her prior hit. Perhaps ironically, I really hate "The Boy Is Mine". Anyways, Monica was my favorite R&B star in the late 90's and this is one of her best hit songs.
Rating: 9/10

Cher - "Believe"
Duration: 4 weeks
Fun Fact: Anointed by Billboard at the end of the year as the most popular song of '99.
Review/Comments: With this song, Cher snagged away the record for the longest span of number one songs as an artist (34 years, from "I Got You Babe" to "Believe")...the prior record holder had been Michael Jackson (26 years, from "I Want You Back" to "You Are Not Alone"). Overall, Cher had 5 number one hits: The two listed above, plus "Gypsys, Tramps, and Thieves", "Half-Breeed", and "Dark Lady". This song was a very rare dance song to cross over to number one on the charts. Dance music has traditionally not fared particularly well on the charts; if you look over a list of Madonna's number one hits, most of them are her ballads. However, there was a sudden surge of popularity in dance music at this time, and several dance songs hit number one. I always hated this song when it was out, and time has not increased my opinion of the song. Nevertheless, this has to stand as one of the more unlikely number one hits, as Cher had not been popular for several years prior, and this was of the type of song that had not been doing well on the charts...I understand there was significant label resistance to even releasing this song int he US.
Rating: 3/10

TLC - "No Scrubs"
Duration - 4 weeks
Fun Fact: This song was written by former members of R&B group Xscape....this is the only TLC single where T-Boz did not have the lead vocals, as Chili takes the reins for this one
Review/Comments: A highly deserving number one, as it was extremely popular, and is a damn good pop song. Maybe not too original, but probably the peak of TLC's career, in my opinion. Inspiration for "No Pigeons" by Sporty Theivz, the best parody/response song of all time, which gives it an extra one point bump.
Rating: 8/10

Ricky Martin - "Livin' La Vida Loca"
Duration: 5 weeks
Fun Fact: First song of the latin craze to hit number one...Ricky Martin's only number one hit
Review/Comments: What can one say about this song? It was a legitimate pop phenomenon, one of the most popular songs of the 90s. I have no idea why any of this happened, as it has always struck me as a particularly blank pop tune, but enough has been written negative about this song, that I feel no need to rub it in.
Rating: 5/10

Jennifer Lopez - "If You Had My Love"
Duration: 5 weeks
Fun Fact: The first ever single by J-Lo sets off a surprisingly successful singles career with 4 number ones. Of the four, this is the only one which does not also feature a rapper.
Review/Comments: Ah, J-Lo. Despite never having been really in any hit movies at all, J-Lo was already a cultural phenomenon at the time her musical career started, and many predicted that going into music was a bad career move...shows what they know, as she has gone on to about a hundred times more success in music than she has ever had in acting. Firmly in the camp of the Latin explosion which was going on at the time, this song stands as a true product of its time...listening to it now, with the latin melodies and r&b backing, there's no other time this song could have hit number one. This song seemed to coast to number one primarily based on the fact that it was being released by Jennifer Lopez, despite being a completely mediocre-at-best pop song. I never liked it at the time, and with all the J-Lo crap that's gone on since, I like it even less now. Good video, though.
Rating: 4/10

Destiny's Child - "Bills, Bills, Bills"
Duration: 1 week
Fun Fact: The first number one by Destiny's Child is the first song with the same word repeated in the title three times since "Say, Say, Say" by Paul McCartney & Michael Jackson
Review/Comments: Isn't the breakout sucess single by a musical artist supposed to be one of their best songs? This is an okay song, but I will never understand how this was their breakout hit. This was the first #1 hit of 1999 to be at least co-written by the artist who took it to number one, as Beyonce and one-time DC member LeToya Luckett both had songwriting credits. Please note that the primary songwriter on this song, Kandi Briggs, was also the primary songwriter on "No Scrubs"...pretty good year for her.
Rating: 6/10

Will Smith ft. Dru Hill & Kool Moe Dee - "Wild, Wild West"
Duration: 1 week
Fun Fact: First song from a movie to hit number one since Aerosmith's "I Don't Wanna Miss A Thing"
Review/Comments: Ugggh, go away of my least favorite songs of all time. Just listen to Stevie Wonder's "I Wish" instead...
Rating: 1/10

Christina Aguilera - "Genie in a Bottle"
Duration: 5 weeks
Fun Fact: First of 4 number one hits by Christina Aguilera.
Review/Comments: Of all of the new reign of pop superstars in the late 90's/early 00's, early-era Christina Aguilera was always my favorite, as she always seemed to have the vocal chops to back up the good pop songs put behind her. It just seems like the other ones were purely products of their times, but she could be an r&b star today, she could have been the next Mariah in the early 90's, etc. Not only is this the best Christina Aguilera song, it is one of my favorite music videos of all time. I'm not sure why, it just has hella nostalgic value for me, like "Always Be My Baby" and "Steal My Sunshine". This song was originally to be titled "If You Wanna Be With Me", but Christina's manager made them change it, because, honestly, that's a stupid title. This song is nothing more, nothing less than a perfect pop song, and I hope there will always be a place for those on the Billboard Charts. A highly deserving number one
Rating: 10/10

Enrique Iglesias - "Bailamos"
Duration: 2 weeks
Fun Fact: Enrique, with his first #1 passes his father Julio, who never had any.
Review/Comments: Could there possibly be a more obvious rip-off of one number one hit by another than "Bailamos"/"Livin' La Vida Loca"...right down to the whole song being sung in English, but the hook/title line being in Spanish! A perfectly pedestrian pop hit, I have no particular feelings about this song hitting number one, or the quality of the song itself.
Rating: 6/10

TLC - "Unpretty"
Duration: 3 weeks
Fun Fact: TLC's fourth and final number one hit.
Review/Comments: What I said earlier, about Monica's "Angel of Mine" not coasting off the success of the prior hit to number one...does not apply here. This highly inferior pop ballad coasted to number one based mostly off the prior success of surprisingly good pop tune "No Scrubs", and unleashes a 3 week reign of terror at the top. Actually taking the message of this song ("Hey girls, don't ever let a guy make you feel not pretty") and "No Scrubs" ("Hey guys, you had better have a nice car"), it's kind of refreshing to see a pop act with a blatant double standard towards objectifying men, and respecting women, rather than the other way around.
Rating: 2/10

Mariah Carey ft. Jay Z - "Heartbreaker"
Duration - 2 weeks
Fun Fact: Mariah Carey's 14 number one hit breaks her tie with Michael Jackson and allows her to take sole posession of number 3 on the list of number one hits
Review/Comments: Mariah so obviously did not care at this point. By this point, she was just trying to release enough albums to get out of her contract, and clearly did not care about quality. This completely generic and lazy R&B song was most likely released by Mariah on a bet with one of her friends that she could release a completely generic song and still have it go number one, on name recognition alone. Congratulations, Mariah, you win. By the way this is shamefully Jay-Z's only number one hit, and not even he can save this song from R&B mediocrity hell. There's nothing to say about this song, as it's just kind of there, and is completely forgettable. This isn't an actively bad song, but there's no way it should have hit #1. The very worst type of number one hit, this just serves to tarnish her earlier, better songs. She was able to skate by with this crap for a while, but it came back to bite her in the ass eventually, tho she has very surprisingly resurrected her career with 2 GOOD pop #1 hits in 2005.
Rating: 5/10

Santana ft. Rob Thomas - "Smooth"
Duration - 12 weeks
Fun Fact - With this record, Santana sets the record for longest period of time between chart debut and first #1 hit, 30 years. This record had previously been held by Aerosmith.
Review/Comments: Can somebody please explain to me why this was such a HUGE pop phenomenon? I really don't understand...This song was victim to the worst overplaying of any song before or since (possibly except "Hey Ya"). The first time I heard it I was like "Solid song. Catchy Hook. Good for Santana, coming back after all this time." Then after the millionth time I was like "Please Santana, go away and never come back." Clearly the most popular song of 1999, it only lost out this title to "Believe" because it's chart life spanned the years 1999 and 2000, so not all of it's popularity points were accumulated in 1999. Billboard does nothing to account for this (and can't possibly anyways, since they announced their top song of 1999 while "Smooth" was still peaking). This wrapped up one of the worst ever years for number one hits, but still an extremely transitional year, with many artists having their first number one hits, (9 artists had their first number one songs in this year, counting Rob Thomas and Santana separately).
Rating: 4/10

Final ranking of all the pop songs of 1999
1. Christina Aguilera - "Genie in a Bottle"
2. Monica - "Angel of Mine"
3. Britney Spears - "...Baby One More Time"
4. TLC - "No Scrubs"
5. Enrique Iglesias - "Bailamos"
6. Destiny's Child - "Bills, Bills, Bills"
7. Ricky Martin - "Livin' La Vida Loca"
8. Brandy - "Have You Ever"
9. Mariah Carey ft. Jay Z - "Heartbreaker"
10. Santana ft. Rob Thomas - "Smooth"
11. Jennifer Lopez - "If You Had My Love"
12. Cher - "Believe"
13. TLC - "Unpretty"
14. Will Smith ft. Dru Hill & Kool Moe Dee - "Wild, Wild West"

These songs are ranked, and rated entirely by quality of song (in my opinion, of course), with no comment intended on the quality of the song as a number one, or whether it should have gone #1 or not. Of this group, there are 5 songs I am willing to say should not have gone #1, "Have You Ever", "Heartbreaker", "If You Had My Love", "Unpretty", and "Wild, Wild, West". The other ones, no matter how bad they are in my opinion, deserved to go number one, as they were popular enough on their own merits to make the leap.

Part 2, coming later this weekend, will cover 2000 in the same format.



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