Sean O’Neal: Within the matter of “Worst Music Yr,” 1997 is a frequent contender. A few of this may be attributed to distaste for a single style—boy bands and the Spice Ladies, principally, whose dominance was full anathema to anybody who’d spend the sooner a part of the last decade satisfied the alt-rock “revolution” was something however a passing fad. However even those that nonetheless clung to the concept that actual music was made by earnest dudes yarling over distorted guitars have been seeing diminishing returns in ’97; it’s somewhat arduous to make that argument when the main torchbearers are second-tier Seattle clones like Dwell, Our Girl Peace, and Creed, or adult-contemporary balladeers like Third Eye Blind, Sister Hazel, and Matchbox 20.
In the meantime, nu-metal and rap-rock have been making their inroads with the debuts from Papa Roach and Limp Bizkit; The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Cherry Poppin’ Daddies have been heralding pop-punk’s mutation into third-wave ska and the looming swing revival; we have been awash in delicate Lilith Honest fare from the likes of Jewel, Shawn Colvin, Paula Cole, et al. Creatively talking it was a 12 months of stagnation, with the one actual breaks from that involving bands that relied on gimmickry. However principally, you simply should level to the 12 months’s high singles: When your Prime 5 is dominated by two treacly funeral ballads—Elton John’s “Candle In The Wind 1997” and Puff Daddy’s “I’ll Be Lacking You”—and rounded out by irritating, nonsensical earworms like Aqua’s “Barbie Lady” and Hanson’s “MMMBop,” the 12 months in music undoubtedly begins to look somewhat dire.
Clearly, there was nonetheless numerous nice music to come back out of 1997, simply as there may be in any 12 months. Spiritualized’s Women And Gents We Are Floating In Area. Elliott Smith’s Both/Or. Missy Elliott’s Supa Dupa Fly. Radiohead’s OK Pc. Daft Punk’s Homework. Constructed To Spill’s Good From Now On. Firm Move’s Funcrusher Plus. Blur’s Blur. The Infamous B.I.G.’s Life After Dying. Sleater-Kinney’s Dig Me Out. Yo La Tengo’s I Can Hear The Coronary heart Beating As One, and so forth. and so forth. These albums have endured gone their much less distinguished, usually extra profitable contemporaries, and for most individuals, that’s all that issues about ’97. I additionally know there’s already somebody who’s already skipped proper to the feedback to chastise me for slagging off Third Eye Blind, or disgrace me for lumping Our Girl Peace in with Creed.
However proper now, I’m not inquisitive about arguing over whether or not Third Eye Blind is underrated, or whether or not the 12 months’s standouts ought to supersede the dross—and even whether or not the dross really validates the concept that 1997 was, taken as an entire, in style music’s all-time low. I’m really right here to suggest this far narrower argument: that the two-week span from June 23 to July eight, 1997, particularly, might have been the worst two weeks for music ever recorded.
In accordance with the Billboard charts, these two weeks noticed the aforementioned “I’ll Be Lacking You” bump “MMMBop” from the highest spot, the place it could stay for 11 straight weeks of everybody paying mawkish tribute to the late Infamous B.I.G. over a Police CD that Puff Daddy purchased. And amid this fallow interval for terrestrial radio, right here’s a listing of the brand new albums that hit shops:
Paul Weller, Heavy Soul
Wyclef Jean, The Carnival
Sugar Ray, Floored
Mötley Crüe, Technology Swine
Insane Clown Posse, The Nice Milenko
Edwin McCain, Misguided Roses
Ween, The Mollusk
Twista, Adrenaline Rush
The Murmurs, Pristine Smut
Robyn, Robyn Is Right here
Slick Footwear, Rusty
Del Amitri, Some Different Sucker’s Parade
HammerFall, Glory To The Courageous
Iron Savior, Iron Savior
Sham 69, The A Recordsdata
The Prodigy, The Fats Of The Land
UB40, Weapons In The Ghetto
Reel Large Fish, Maintain Your Receipt
Males In Black: The Album
Puff Daddy And The Dangerous Boy Household, No Approach Out
Blues Traveler, Straight On Until Morning
Limp Bizkit, Three Greenback Invoice, Y’all
Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, Zoot Swimsuit Riot
Celine Dion, The Assortment 1982–1988
Dropkick Murphys, Boys On The Docks
Brian Eno, The Drop
Primal Scream, Vanishing Level
Exodus, One other Lesson In Violence
Emperor, Anthems To The Welkin At Nightfall
Primus, Brown Album
Smash Mouth, Fush Yu Mang
Tremendous Deluxe, By way of Satellite tv for pc
I’m keen to start out tearing into it, however that is speculated to be a Crosstalk. So I’ll simply let this stand with out commentary—for now—to keep away from contaminating you with my biases, Clayton. Actually, why don’t we begin by trying to find a constructive? Taking a look at this listing, is there something that instantly stands out to you as utterly negating my entire principle?
Clayton Purdom: Yeah, no, that listing is just about hell. The quantity of canonically horrible music in it’s a little surprising each time I am going again to it. To imagine that Reel Large Fish, Limp Bizkit, Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, Smash Mouth, and Sugar Ray all got here out inside a fortnight is form of astonishing. That’s music that we don’t simply hate, however that we’ve since culturally joined collectively to revile. That is an period of pop that’s so unhealthy, it’s grow to be a shorthand for vapidity by way of infinite memes. That Insane Clown Posse additionally dropped its breakout file amid all this appears like a non secular inevitability, as if all this fell, thrashy bullshit one way or the other additionally summoned the dual horsemen of the rap-rock apocalypse.
I’ve not even talked about Slick Footwear, Del Amitri, Celine Dion, or Mötley Crüe but. And Blues Traveler. Christ.
As for any outliers, I’ll say: probably not. The perfect file right here is Puff Daddy’s No Approach Out, which historical past has barely come round on, however which is usually thought-about the harbinger for hip-hop’s jiggy, shiny swimsuit period—a interval of such inventive paucity, it helped to start underground rap, in form of the identical method we credit score Jefferson Starship with birthing the Ramones. That Wyclef file has “Gone Until November,” which continues to be good; Google informs me that that is the Australian prog-metal Alchemist, not the one who made a file with Oh No, so no passes there. Prodigy’s Fats Of The Land is a vital touchpoint in “electronica’s” temporary reputation inside this hyper-masculine rap-rock period. All Brian Eno releases are vital, however The Drop can be intentional background music, so let’s not spend an excessive amount of time on it. All in all, I’m not seeing something that stands as much as the remaining.
Are you able to make a case that Ween, Primus, or Primal Scream redeems this shrill, frosted-tip mosh pit of Clear Channel rubbish? These two weeks appear to singlehandedly justify the start of Napster as a obligatory cultural counterpunch.
Sean O’Neal: Frankly, no. Granted, I’m not a lot of a Ween fan, and I’m conscious that its fanbase loves nearly each considered one of its indulgent experiments—even an album of sea shanties—so there’s most likely somebody who would say that The Mollusk alone redeems these two weeks. However I really feel that might most likely be disingenuous.
Likewise, I used to be solely into Primus for roughly three weeks in highschool (primarily as a consequence of peer strain), however I feel even diehards would regard the Brown Album as inessential. Truly, the closest I’ve come to an “Oh yeah, however…” second right here is Vanishing Level, in any other case often known as the one Primal Scream album I actually like apart from Screamadelica. I additionally sort of like that Tindersticks file, although not as a lot because the second album. All in all, there’s nothing right here to tip the scales.
However I feel you’ve already hit on the rationale why these two weeks really feel just like the worst ever, even when there are a few comparatively brilliant spots: They comprise so many signifiers of the myriad horrible instructions music was taking on the time, alongside omens of the worst nonetheless but to come back. Even when OK Pc or Life After Dying had arrived throughout these two weeks, I’m unsure it might overcome the portentous weight of all these oracles of a world about to be dominated by a number of the stupidest music ever made.
Such as you say, No Approach Out presaged hip-hop’s empty, call-me-on-the-yacht pop bloat—and you may most likely even say the identical for the Males In Black soundtrack, with the ubiquity of that Will Smith-rapped title observe setting the stage for November’s Large Willie Fashion (and from there, on into the Willennium). In the meantime, no matter novelty that was nonetheless left to be present in third-wave ska was about to be utterly obliterated by the bajillion spins of “The Impression That I Get” and “Zoot Swimsuit Riot” that might dominate the subsequent 12 months, main into America’s (and my very own!) embarrassing swing-revival section. And no matter “different rock” used to imply, by ’97 it was now primarily being lazily utilized to interchangeable rom-com jangle-pop like Del Amitri and Blues Traveler. (I really simply now realized I at all times thought Del Amitri’s massive hit was Blues Traveler.) And as a lot as I kinda take pleasure in Prodigy’s The Fats Of The Land, the variety of septum-pierced rave casualties it impressed to show digital music into the realm of aggro, bro-stepping Skrillexes earns it a number of demerits.
And let’s speak now about the true causes we recoiled after we first stumbled upon this listing: Limp Bizkit’s Three Greenback Invoice Y’all, Sugar Ray’s Floored, and Smash Mouth’s Fush Yu Mang. All three large hits; all of them unhealthy in distinct but equally damaging ways in which would proceed to reverberate for years.
Let’s begin with probably the most innocuous: Smash Mouth’s “Walkin’ On The Solar” is a good tune, and the band’s Shrek-fueled fall into viral punching bag since then has solely obscured how that cool Farfisa riff minimize by way of all of the Counting Crows-esque simpering that was throughout different radio on the time. In fact, nothing else on Fush Yu Mang feels like “Walkin’ On The Solar,” and Smash Mouth shortly went on to grow to be a grown-ass-man model of Kidz Bop, which—together with the band’s full incapability to chortle about itself—form of retroactively ruins it. Nonetheless, I suppose if the worst factor we obtained out of it was a bunch of would-be ska-punk musicians choosing up classic organs as an alternative of the trombone, plus a thousand “All Star” memes, it’s arduous to be too mad at it.
Modern critics used to say the identical factor about Sugar Ray—that the funk-punk-alt-metal-lite-FM-pop mishmash the band produced was simply too breezy and foolish to hate, and apart from, their self-deprecation negates all criticism anyway. However fuck that and fuck them: I’ll unfold my wings proper right here and say that “Fly” is among the worst songs to ever suffocate the radio, a pandering, Elegant-aping, reggaeton ragbag that spent the summer time of ’97 sprawling throughout the nationwide consciousness like a frat bro dripping his ultimate-frisbee ball sweat into your futon. I used to be a university sophomore on the time, and I recall how Mark McGrath’s voice appeared to seep out of each floor inside 5 sq. miles of campus. Worse, the huge reputation of “Fly” spurred the band to principally launch the identical rattling tune two years later, guaranteeing that no kegger nor future CVS Pharmacy line would ever go with out a chill sing-along second.
And at last, it’s method, method too straightforward to tear on Limp Bizkit, so let’s do it. With its major-label debut Three Greenback Invoice, Y’all, the musical manifestation of the state of Florida took the agitprop of Rage Towards The Machine and the alienation of Korn and eventually turned it into one thing backwards-ball-cap-rocking mooks might pound SoCo to whereas doing donuts within the Hardee’s parking zone. The proliferation of mouth-breathing rap-metal that Limp Bizkit’s reputation impressed, all of the misogyny and violence and Woodstock riots it instigated, all of the dumb fucking songs that have been nonetheless but to problem from Fred Durst’s mouth—there’s no must reiterate it, particularly when Durst mentioned it greatest himself: “For years I seemed into the gang and noticed a bunch of bullies and assholes who tortured me and ruined my life,” he instructed Rolling Stone in 2009, including, “I don’t even hearken to any kind of music that’s like Limp Bizkit in any respect.” If solely he’d come to this conclusion in 1997.
As an alternative, Durst fashioned a questionably goateed trinity with Sugar Ray’s McGrath and Smash Mouth’s Steve Harwell—three dudes whose mixed efforts made rock radio an insufferable place in 1997 and for many of the remainder of the 20th century. And one way or the other all of it emanated from this one, extremely temporary interval in American tradition. Truthfully, Clayton, is there a worse two weeks on file? You’re the web man. You inform me.
Clayton Purdom: Whereas it’s straightforward to have a look at that unholy trio—plus Insane Clown Posse—and simply say “no” on intestine intuition, I spent a number of hours scrolling by way of Wikipedia searching for challengers. It’s considerably encouraging that you’ll want to search for entire unhealthy eras to compete. New wave, hip-hop, early indie rock, and numerous good mainstream pop retains the ’80s afloat. The early ’70s nonetheless have the vestiges of the late ’60s, and artists have been extra prolific then; the late ’70s are so wealthy with good funk, jazz, disco, fusion, and punk that they’re out of competition. The early ’90s have golden-age hip-hop and canonical alt-rock. So I lastly settled on a stretch from 1996 to 2005 because the likeliest to yield competitors.
There are some contestants all through the late ’90s that get fairly shut, all redolent of the identical mix of nu-metal, inflated bargain-bin boy-band pabulum, and chintzy, artistically bankrupt rap. The 2 weeks after July 21,1998, for instance, function Jermaine Dupri’s debut, Candlebox’s Completely happy Tablets, a Concern Manufacturing facility file, and Squirrel Nut Zippers; earlier that month, there’s a fairly painful stretch of Child Rock, Orgy, and the Kottonmouth Kings. However there’s additionally stuff you may make a stronger argument for, like Dying Cab For Cutie and even Korn. In a horrible coincidence, the 2 weeks following Might 25, 1999, contained each a new ICP album and Smash Mouth’s Astro Lounge, in addition to data by Spin Medical doctors and Ja Rule. Nonetheless, it additionally had albums by Cibo Matto, Pavement, and Sigur Rós. You get the image: Some actual contenders on this period, however nothing with fairly the light-swallowing darkness of The Summer time Of The Goateed Cerberus.
By the early ’00s, lots of the responses to this period we’re shitting on have been already in full swing. Early ’00s indie rock was taking off as an antidote to the rap-metal implosion; underground hip-hop data that might quietly go on to be thought-about classics have been popping out; and a brand new wave of lower-key worldwide digital music was exploring a again path into listeners’ ears. Thus, a span like October 10-24, 2000—which accommodates albums by Collective Soul, Ja Rule, Orgy, Squirrel Nut Zippers, and Limp Bizkit—is leavened by Deltron 3030 and Reflection Everlasting.
And 2003 is a extremely surprisingly unhealthy 12 months in music, on the whole, however this similar behavior performs out: As quickly as you’ve discovered every week that appears to possibly qualify, a Menomena or 4 Tet file pops up. In 2005, Lil’ Wayne began releasing an excellent mixtape each week, kickstarting a increase in nice, scrappy, streaming unbiased rap, and plenty of now-canonical indie-rock data by of us like The Nationwide, Arcade Hearth, Wolf Parade, and extra had began popping out. I don’t suppose we’ve got sufficient distance from the music of the previous few years to actually choose them, however protected to say, none of them are Sugar Ray.
All of which is to say that, sure, the two-week span from June 23 to July eight, 1997, most likely was the worst two weeks for music ever—at the least so far as I can inform. I’ve at all times balked when individuals grouse, often after a number of drinks, about how music or movie or video games aren’t pretty much as good as they as soon as have been. What bullshit! There are at all times fantastic actions being born and dying, issues we’re not taking note of, treasure troves we’ve but to unearth, genres we haven’t grasped. Tradition is wealthy and filled with wonders. However the pop music stock-market appeared to crash after the increase of the early ’90s, and this two-week span serves as a historic microcosm of what American music seems like at its all-time low. It’s a nadir it’s arduous to think about us ever returning to, what with so many artists placing out new albums each minute and choices to find them. Thank god for that.
Sean O’Neal: Hey, I appreciated Squirrel Nut Zippers! Fuck you!