Top 50 Songs of 1997

Here's why pretty much everyone listened to the radio in the '90s


    Decades, presented by Discogs, is a recurring feature that turns back the clock to critical anniversaries of albums, songs, and films. This month, we dial it back to the top 50 songs of 1997.

    Only in the scheme of cosmology, geology, or evolution does 20 years not sound like an awful long time. It’s a generation. Those ’97 babies aren’t babies anymore. Some are parents themselves. It’s nearly two-thirds of my lifetime, meaning I was a young teen consuming radio-friendly fare as readily as vending machine potato chips and candy bars back in 1997. I’m not a baby anymore either, though the baby fat and thin hair have started to come back. My parents, god bless them, used to yell at me to turn down a number of the songs on this list. They’re old enough to be grandparents now, though, and have moved on to hollering at me for other things. Progress of a kind.

    Two decades might be even longer in music industry terms. It’s far longer than the average band lasts. If you look through this list, some of these acts are no longer together – or find themselves somewhere in the rinse-and-repeat cycle of breaking up and reuniting – and others are no longer with us period. Some are still capable of turning the music world on its head; others are out there reminding us that they, too, once shook the world if only for a moment. A fistful of trends, movements, and styles have emerged and faded over those two decades. Some of those bands have shaped the new music we listen to today; others stick out in our old CD towers like a pink tutu hanging in a closet of denim and flannel. Neither category of those bands had to seriously consider the prospect of their music being pressed on vinyl or pick-pocketed and shared across the globe at lightning rates. All in good time.


    As a music writer, so much of your time is spent on other people’s music. But for your thirtysomething editing staff here at CoS, this list feels like ours. We bought albums for these songs as adolescents, relied upon them to make our terrible teens tolerable, and carried them into adulthood with us not as keepsakes or crutches but as pieces as vital to our makeup as anything can be. Looking back, in most cases, we knew what we had. Hell, kids are smart like that. In some cases, we had no idea. What can I say? We were only kids.

    Now, click ahead before your dial-up modem wakes the damn cat.

    –Matt Melis
    Editorial Director

    marcy-playground50. Marcy Playground – “Sex and Candy”

    Marcy Playground

    You can usually point to what you like about a one-hit wonder’s hit song, and it’s often something that the rest of their songs lack. In the case of Marcy Playground’s “Sex and Candy”, I still have no idea why the song climbed the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks – remaining at No. 1 for a then-record 15 weeks – but I also know I’ve never once turned the radio dial during that song. An unlikely amalgam of grunge, melody, slacker ethos, and hippie lingo, John Wozniak and co. dished out enough sex and candy on the airwaves that year to notch our belts down to nothing and rot our teeth to the gums. Maybe it’s as simple as the old saying: sex and candy sells. Plus, I heard the double-cherry pie is orgasmic. Dig it. –Matt Melis

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    mariah-carey49. Mariah Carey – “Honey”



    Everything about “Honey” screams 1997: the tasteful piano melody (an earworm of a sample from World’s Famous Supreme Team’s “Hey DJ”), a Mariah Carey vocal at the height of her hit-any-damn-note-imaginable powers, the overlong music video with jetski intrigue and a villainous Eddie Griffin. But what stands out most about the singer’s megahit first single from the 5x platinum Butterfly is the Puff Daddy sound on the production, as Carey became one of the earlier pop vocalists to collaborate with hip-hop producers and incorporate the sound, one of the crucial bridges to rap taking over the music world. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

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    atmosphere48. Atmosphere – “Scapegoat”


    In 1997, there were few who would’ve suspected that Minnesota hip-hop outfit Atmosphere would still be making such an impact two decades later. At that time, the duo were a trio and their first big single, “Scapegoat”, made them darlings at college radio. But the song eventually became a scene, a label, and a career. On its own, though, “Scapegoat” still ranks as one of MC Slug’s best moments. It’s a laundry list, a snapshot at 1997’s hardships, a peak through a window that hasn’t much changed in the ensuing time. It’s a song that, despite being so rooted in a specific time and place, still manages to resonate 20 years later. Who would’ve thought? –Philip Cosores

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    offspring47. The Offspring – “Gone Away”

    Ixnay on the Hombre

    Ixnay on the Hombre was arguably the last time anyone could take The Offspring seriously. Because after that, they’d resort to tongue-in-cheek garbage like “Pretty Fly (For a White Guy”), their 1999 blockbuster single that catapulted them to another era of fame and fortune, the likes of which they’d try to replicate again and again for years thereafter (see: “Original Prankster”, “Hit That”). But that wasn’t the case 20 years ago, when they felt like the angsty, edgier step brother to Green Day, the one who had the brass knuckles and dark past over the bloody fingers and stickered-skateboards. “Gone Away” is the not-so-hidden gem off their fourth studio album, a somber exercise in grief that excels from frontman Dexter Holland’s expressive vocals, particularly in the choruses, where he brings that trademark rasp to a palpable whine and lets it all hang out. That breakdown in the middle is a swift reminder why they were every teenager’s alternative anti-hero 20 years ago. –Michael Roffman

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    next46. Next – “Too Close”


    Rated Next

    In a golden age of streetwise soul and grinding loverman jams, Next solidified their place in the 24-carat ‘90s R&B canon by dropping the Symphony No. 5 of songs about erections. The group would later take pride in sneaking a song entirely dedicated to getting wood on a club dance floor onto the radio, but “Too Close” wasn’t exactly throwing feints. “I try but I can’t fight it,” sing T-Low, R.L., and Tweet. While guys like Brian McKnight and Dru Hill made music for the balmiest tantric sex ever blueprinted, Next were getting to grips with biology like a bunch of teenagers.

    “Too Close”, though, sleeks into view with dapper poise. The snappy guitar line (lifted from Kurtis Blow’s “Christmas Rappin’”) and spotless beat smoothly underpin Next and guest singer Vee’s soulful back and forth — the velvety pop symphony offering a slick counterpoint to the daft lyrics. It takes a lot to make something this goofy and weird sound cool. –Dean Van Nguyen

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    puff-daddy45. Puff Daddy – “It’s All About the Benjamins”

    No Way Out

    Bad Boy Entertainment founder, Sean “Puffy” Combs marked his solo debut with the 1997 release of the No Way Out LP. Third single, “Its All About the Benjamins”, played up Puff’s knack for monstrous posse cuts with verses from Lil’ Kim, The LOX, and franchise player The Notorious B.I.G. It got a trial run on DJ Clue’s 1996 Holiday Holdup tape before being juiced up and added to No Way Out. Still reeling from B.I.G.’s death months earlier, Puff became the face and voice of Bad Boy with a hard-body single that would punctuate the pre-“bling” excess of the shiny suit era and solidify his place as the author of a rap dynasty. Nevermind Lil’ Kim dropping what might be her hottest verse on the track. “All About the Benjamins” is hit machine Puff in his prime — a force that remains unmatched in rap. –Karas Lamb

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    Oasis44. Oasis – “Don’t Go Away”

    Be Here Now

    Nary a soul would venture to call Be Here Now Oasis’ best album, and only a handful of the most contrarian fans would place it in their top three. Be Here Now is a bloated, jaded thing disappointing upon release, and it hasn’t aged well since. Some might think it was misunderstood back then, what with the hype with which it had to contend and the maelstrom of bad press that swirled around it. But no, it’s just not that good. There are standouts, however: “Stand by Me”, for instance. “My Big Mouth” has a certain energy. But then there’s “Don’t Go Away”, the song that, despite everything surrounding it, serves to remind us just what exactly it was that made the band’s brand of Britpop so satisfying. In a word: Earnestness. It was when Liam and Noel Gallagher could set aside their token sneer, drop the attitude, and offer up plaintive calls for help and connection: In terms of vulnerability, Liam’s cry of “don’t go away” is up there with Noel’s assertion that “you ain’t ever gonna burn my heart out.” Despite its sumptuous orchestration, “Don’t Go Away” still feels sparse, a simple and affecting plea that pierces through the cloud of cocaine dust that obfuscates the rest of Be Here Now. –Randall Colburn

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    depeche-mode43. Depeche Mode – “It’s No Good”


    Depeche Mode’s ninth studio album, Ultra, emerged from a time of great turmoil, marked by Alan Wilder’s departure from the band and frontman Dave Gahan entering rehab to try to kick his drug habit. No wonder the second single from the record, “It’s No Good”, has such an ominous edge. “I’m going to take my time,” Gahan croons, his voice weary and unsettled. “I have all the time in the world/ To make you mine.” The song’s music matches the sinister vibe: Insistent, hollowed-out industrial rhythms and dark synths ebb and flow, creating a backdrop of minimalist seduction that bridges Depeche Mode’s early work and its future directions. –Annie Zaleski

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    our-lady-peace42. Our Lady Peace – “Superman’s Dead”



    The idea of using Superman as an allegory in pop music died out sometime after Three Doors Down wrote “Kryptonite”. But man, when Our Lady Peace forged the Man of Steel with Mike Turner’s guitar work and Raine Maida’s banshee wails … well, it was a stronger marriage than whatever Warner Bros. has been doing with Kal-El these past few years. The lead single off Clumsy thrives from its lush wall of sound. There’s so much going on, and although this was the age of polished mainstream alternative rock, “Superman’s Dead” felt like an outlier in its ability to sound so dour and yet feel so sweepingly optimistic. And like much of the criticism surrounding today’s onscreen depiction of Superman, the song itself questions the moral ineptitude of the culture at large and how everything has to be so goddamn bleak and morbid, concluding: “But ordinary’s just not good enough today.” As someone who prefers his Kryptonian knight on the sunny side, this writer’s inclined to agree. (On a side note: Given its final line, it’s baffling that Subway hasn’t at least tried to use this song in any of their marketing campaigns.) –Michael Roffman

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    dandy-warhols41. The Dandy Warhols – “Not If You Were the Last Junkie on Earth”

    …The Dandy Warhols Come Down

    In the ’90s, The Dandy Warhols were irony kingpins, although “Not If You Were the Last Junkie on Earth” comes off more like detached, exasperated commentary. Frontman Courtney Taylor-Taylor sounds like he’s rolling his eyes as he sings lyrics such as “You never thought you’d get addicted/ Just be cooler in an obvious way,” as slurring beats, whirring organ, and Stones-esque guitars shake and unfurl around him. Taylor-Taylor’s scorn makes sense, however, when you consider his two inspirations for the song: a girlfriend who became a heroin addict and Brian Jonestown Massacre leader Anton Newcombe. The latter had his revenge on the Dandys, however: Later in the year, BJM countered with the song “Not If You Were the Last Dandy on Earth”, fueling the band feud so exhaustively detailed in the documentary Dig! –Annie Zaleski

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    shania-twain40. Shania Twain – “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!”

    Come On Over

    The story goes that Shania Twain’s then-husband Mutt Lange played her the riff for “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!”, and she followed by spitting out the lyrics “out of the blue.” When you’ve got a no-brainer crossover hit like this one, there’s almost no other way that it could’ve happened. The seventh single from her third studio album, Come on Over, the track is the kind of blissfully fun pop goodness that you won’t mind having stuck in your head for a few months. While not exactly a touchstone of feminism, Mutt and Shania were really onto something, and her charisma makes the goofy nonsense of the song into satisfying fun. –Lior Phillips

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    elliott-smith39. Elliott Smith – “Between the Bars”


    When it comes to the music of Elliott Smith, the late singer-songwriter’s vocals traditionally resonate over anything else, namely for that light cadence of his that sounds like a candle if only candles could, you know, speak. That’s certainly the case with “Between the Bars”, the heart-wrenching ballad off Either/Of that doubles as a midnight confession. And like any Moment of Truth, it’s fast and cunning and wavering, feelings that are wired to every word he spells out in the terse two-minute time frame. Rather subtly, the song captures the drunken, late-night realizations everyone has from time to time — our own self-doubts, our own deep regrets, and our own inner demons — and, more importantly, nails how we feel as powerless as we do numb towards their seemingly sobering conclusions. As he sings, “People you’ve been before that you/ Don’t want around anymore/ That push and shove and won’t bend to your will/ I’ll keep them still,” we similarly remain just as stoic. It’s a real pill. –Michael Roffman

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    janet-jackson38. Janet Jackson – “Together Again”

    The Velvet Rope

    One of The Velvet Rope’s purest moments of shimmering pop bliss, “Together Again” is a dance track with serious reach. It would be enough to simply be one of Janet Jackson’s most memorable vocal performances — she sounds delighted, as if she couldn’t be happier to be singing it — or her purest Diana-meets-Donna disco-inspired missive. All of those things are more than enough to make “Together Again” one of 1997’s most memorable and lasting tunes, but it’s the aforementioned reach that earns it a place in any reasonable person’s pop hall of fame. Written from a place of grief, both for a friend she’d lost to AIDS and in response to a fan who’d sent a letter after the death of his father, Jackson and her writing team turned that sorrow into hopefulness and joy, making a dance classic that’s also somehow a response to one of the most difficult things a person experiences in life. And if that weren’t enough somehow, Jackson donated a portion of the fat cash this single raked in to The American Foundation for AIDS Research. Try listening to it now without smiling or getting just a little misty. –Allison Shoemaker

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    the-verve37. The Verve – “Lucky Man”


    Urban Hymns

    At their best, The Verve could capitalize on both feelings and smarts. Whereas a song like “Bittersweet Symphony” frames the English rockers as masterminds of rich pop tapestries, oozing with swagger and sex appeal, “Lucky Man” finds them excelling at their fundamentals. That’s not to say this Urban Hymns single is any less rich or dense — the layers to the song are quite comparable to their global hit — but it feels a little more organic. Richard Ashcroft’s use of repetition — specifically, the line: “It’s just a change in me/ Something in my liberty” — swims above the guitar, the strings, the piano, and the cinematic percussion, yanking at the heart strings in an earthly way that’s spiritually in sync with everything we’re given. Of course, it helps that he’s weighing in on timeless themes of happiness and relationships, never leaning on a solution to its many ebbs and flows, but instead unconvincingly insisting he’s a lucky bastard. Truth be told, nobody’s ever really lucky, per se; they’re just in the moment. This is one of them. –Michael Roffman

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    the-lost-highway36. Nine Inch Nails – “The Perfect Drug”

    The Lost Highway OST

    Artists are often their own toughest critics. If you ask Trent Reznor his thoughts on “The Perfect Drug”, he’ll tell you he considers it a rushed disappointment done no favors by a “bloated, over-budget video.” However, if you ask anyone my age, they’ll tell you both the song and music video are among the most memorable of the ‘90s. Originally conceived for David Lynch’s 1997 film Lost Highway – for which Reznor produced the soundtrack – the song’s taken on several other lives. Lyrically nimble enough to be about actual drug addiction or a debilitating romantic infatuation, most of us have come to associate the song with the Edwardian nightmare depicted in Mark Romanek’s music video, in which Reznor indulges in absinthe to deal with the loss of a son. Whatever your interpretation, there’s no denying that driving chorus, inhuman drum solo, or the crushing weight of the song’s coda. Mr. Reznor doth protest too much, methinks. –Matt Melis

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    notorious-big35. The Notorious B.I.G. – “Mo Money, Mo Problems”

    Life After Death

    It was a melancholic summer atop the Billboard Hot 100 after The Notorious B.I.G.’s Life After Death was released in the wake of Biggie Smalls’ passing to success and acclaim. “Mo Money Mo Problems” replaced “I’ll Be Missing You” following that song’s 11-week run during the summer of 1997 and arrived atop the charts a few months after “Hypnotize” held the same status. To this day, there’s a rueful disconnect between the upstroking joy of Kelly Price’s voice atop a Diana Ross sample and the irony of the hook that made the song a ‘90s classic: “The more money we come across/ The more problems we see.” Biggie had a lot left to do before his sudden departure, but “Mo Money Mo Problems” stands as a promise of what could have been and was accompanied by one of Hype Williams’ all-time great videos to boot. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

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    wyclef-jean34. Wyclef Jean – “Gone Till November”

    The Carnival

    Though at one point he’s just listing out the months of the year, there’s something absolutely heartbreaking about Wyclef Jean’s “Gone Til November”. The third single on the Fugees founder’s debut solo album, he builds from simple acoustic guitar, strings, and a skipping drum line. The track sounds soft enough, but many have noted that it’s told from the perspective of a drug runner trying to explain why he needs to go out on a big deal and leave his girl at home. But, ever the compelling charmer, the song feels immediate and relatable even to those outside of that particular hustle. The strings swell and tug, but Jean’s understated lilt feels so achingly human, sinking the story directly into your heart. –Lior Phillips

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    sarah-mclaughlan33. Sarah McLachlan – “Building a Mystery”


    Long before Sarah McLachlan spent her free time reducing us to soggy lumps of tears on the floor as her songs play over pictures taken at animal shelters, the Canadian singer-songwriter was making a name for herself as both an A-list artist and activist. 1997 proved a particularly pivotal year for McLachlan. Fed up with how the music industry often mistreats women, she co-founded the original Lilith Fair, a touring festival that featured female solo artists and woman-fronted bands. That same year she took home two Grammys, four Juno Awards, and had four hit songs off her best-selling album, Surfacing. And if we could only keep one of those hits, “Building a Mystery” would probably be the one. Minus some mystical-sounding accompaniment, the song about how we hide our true selves from others relies on little more than McLachlan’s straightforward strum, sincere eye-witness delivery, and supernatural-themed lyrical work. It’s a throwback to a time when so many acoustic guitar-slinging and piano-plunking female songwriters seemed to rule the airwaves, too talented to be drowned out by their much louder peers. –Matt Melis

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    bjork32. Björk – “Joga”



    Always a decade or more ahead of the trend, Björk’s “Joga” predicts (and outdoes) the dubstep and EDM music it predates. But more than a predictive genius, the song thrives because of the incredibly cathartic way that the singer connects with her lyrics, pouring her heart into her kinetic “state of emergency.” The Icelandic legend has described the song as akin to a national anthem and is dedicated to her best friend, Jóga Johannsdóttir — quite the honor, considering the explosive, enchanting power of the tune. While the Homogenic centerpiece feels ahead of its time, the epic poetic lyrics, chilly strings, and resonant emotion burn with a primal energy as instinctive and grand as Iceland itself. –Lior Phillips

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    radiohead31. Radiohead – “Let Down”

    OK Computer

    For the most part, OK Computer finds Radiohead awaiting the coming millennium, as well as the existential fog which accompanies it, with pre-emptive shudders. These are expressed both lyrically (“Paranoid Android”‘s fever-dream soothsaying) and compositionally (the minor-key funeral marches of “Karma Police” and “Exit Music (For a Film)”). “Let Down” is the eye of the band’s apocalyptic storm: a latter-day carol so hypnotic and swaddling, Yorke’s dreadful imagery (dead bugs, alcoholics, suburban zombies) scan as the trappings of paradise. Its bridge is a swirling, jangle-pop crescendo that culminates in one of Yorke’s career-defining vocal performances, a devastating one-man chorus, whirling in the void. –Zoe Camp

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    spiritualized30. Spiritualized – “Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space”

    Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space

    Pressing play on Spiritualized’s landmark Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space, listeners are greeted by the familiar. As Jason Pierce layers verses, one set of lyrics is instantly recognizable, an echo of one of Elvis’ most beloved songs, “Can’t Help Falling in Love”. The Presley estate actually protested the use of the song and forced Spiritualized to alter the track, but the two sides later came to an agreement and restored the original for later reissues. With 2017 ears, it’s an essential part that’s hard to imagine the song resonating so strongly without it. Melancholy and nostalgic, it’s an ultimate moment in tone setting, buckling in the audience for the album’s emotional, genre-spanning journey. –Philip Cosores

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    grandaddy29. Grandaddy – “A.M. 180”

    Under the Western Freeway

    Be careful with that keyboard melody: Once you let it into your head, you’ll never be able to get it out. One of the best songs of 1997, “A.M. 180” peaked in popularity in 2003 when it was included on the movie soundtrack to 28 Days Later, and it had a resurgence in 2009 when it was used to sell the Dodge Journey. That’s fitting for a perennially overlooked band, the kind that’s more written about than listened to: beloved by critics, ignored by audiences, and coveted by advertising execs who can buy pop tunes at indie-label prices. Granddady frontman Jason Lytle has a gift for off-kilter loveliness. It’s pop without all the sugar, bubbly but not bubble gum, flavored with the kind of psychedelic rock that gives you a gentle buzz instead of a vision-exploding high. –Wren Graves

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    usher28. Usher – “You Make Me Wanna…”

    My Way

    It’s that Jermain Dupri sound. Those bells. The guitar. And Usher’s eager voice. This song just makes you wanna … well, you know. That’s the power of a great song. It doesn’t even have to finish its thought for you to know exactly what it’s talking about. What with its blunt yet beauteous yearning, Usher’s soulful, sexy “You make me wanna…” was a hymn to a hungry man, trying to contain his passion for someone else (knowing full well he’s already in a relationship). Oh, the drama. The hot, sweaty humanity. But Usher sings and subsequently sells the minimalist R&B hit with a nervous energy not dissimilar to how we feel when we’re ready to embark on our relationships. Guilt-ridden and ever so arousing, Usher’s fresh voice left the ears of many eager listeners rapt and ready for more. This song’s the definition of a breakout smash. With the power of a saucy music video getting heavy play on MTV, and a performance of “You make me wanna…” on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, among many other places the song popped up, Usher’s single had enormous legs throughout 1997. The tune went gold and platinum, and “You make me wanna…” peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 (damn you, Elton John). But baby, this song’s still a No. 1 in our fluttering hearts. –Blake Goble

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    foo-fighters27. Foo Fighters – “My Hero”


    The Colour and the Shape

    Ordinary heroes are popular targets for tribute. It’s lovely to praise the blue-collar Batman or suburban Superman who may walk among us. As one of the mainstream’s most earnest rock bands, the Foo Fighters memorably captured this sentiment with the raucous ballad “My Hero”, The track kicks off with mounting percussion and bass that together lay the foundation for a guitar line that soars so high it might be mistaken for a bird or a plane. Dave Grohl’s vocals are a series of sentimental yowls that never reach full grunge but also take care to simultaneously embrace the sound he helped to form. Most notably, “My Hero” was a single that established the Foo Fighters as a rock band capable of channeling the emotional rawness of a receding grunge scene while also capitalizing on the more relatable side of rock. –Zack Ruskin

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    Jurassic-526. Jurassic 5 – “Concrete Schoolyard”

    Jurassic 5 (EP)

    In hindsight, there was always something meta about Jurassic 5. Often their songs resort to being about their ability to craft rhymes over original beats, taking hip-hop back to its roots. Essentially, the cuts served as evidence for their own lyrics. It’s appropriate then that on their first EP, “Concrete Schoolyard” acts as a raison d’être. The sextet (four MCs and two absurdly talented DJs) flow seamlessly as a unit, passing the mic with smooth ease and evoking not just the DNA of classic rap, but also tapping into its spirit. Sure, raps about being good at rap may not be groundbreaking material, but on “Concrete Schoolyard”, just the act of rhyming to a beat feels miraculous. –Philip Cosores

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    david-bowie25. David Bowie – “I’m Afraid of Americans”


    David Bowie captured plenty of iconic trends over the course of his career, but no single feels as depressingly accurate as “I’m Afraid of Americans”. Though originally written during the studio sessions for 1995 LP Outside, the song was reworked for 1997’s Earthling, complete with blistering synth explosions and over-the-top drumming. Bowie’s voice marches rigidly while portraying a character of status and self-entitlement. In that, it’s a sardonic breakdown of homogenized culture, pussy grabbing, drug overdoses, and capitalism — subjects that seem rather familiar, no? It marked Bowie’s last appearance on the Billboard Hot 100 (before Blackstar and, in tandem, his death). Now, it seems that’s because the song’s sentiments would never actually go out of fashion, a stabilized trend that’s frightening on its own. —Nina Corcoran

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    bob-dylan24. Bob Dylan – “Not Dark Yet”

    Time Out of Mind

    Not many artists are reborn at 55. By that time, a songwriter generally sticks to treading the terrain he staked out for himself long ago. But on Time Out of Mind, Bob Dylan, who hadn’t released a record of new material in seven years, blew past old boundaries like a Depression-era bank robber racing for state lines. It’s an agitated, pining, and paranoid dirt-road blues album, yes, but it’s also one full of resignation, world-weariness, and a sense of mortality. Many have speculated that the life-threatening heart infection that hospitalized Dylan that year influenced the album’s tone, but the truth is the record had already been written, recorded, and even mixed before Dylan grew ill. “Not Dark Yet” finds Dylan worn down and cynical (“Been down on the bottom of a world full of lies/ I ain’t looking for nothing in anyone’s eyes”), reflecting on a life that’s taken its toll and knowing that there’s only a little road left to negotiate. Why this gentle-sounding but ultimately doomed and hopeless ballad resonates remains a mystery. Maybe because when the end draws near, straight shooting carries more weight than empty consolation. –Matt Melis

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    Deftones23. Deftones – “My Own Summer (Shove It)”

    Around the Fur

    Ah, summer: short shirts, beach bodies, and soaking up the sun. Many musicians have raised their voices in praise of the summer months; the Deftones raise a middle finger. Lead singer Chino Moreno famously put tin foil over the studio windows during the recording of Around the Fur, and on the lead single from that album, he aims his rage and fury at that burning ball of gas in the sky. “The sun! Shove it, shove it, shove it, aside!” In addition to featuring some of Moreno’s most stunningly poetical lyrics, “My Own Summer (Shove It)” captures the isolation, frustration, and white-hot anger of going through hell while everyone else is off having fun. –Wren Graves

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    the-prodigy22. The Prodigy – “Smack My Bitch Up”


    The Fat of the Land

    Ask somebody what the sped-up apex of ‘90s British rave electronica sounds like, and they’d probably venture that it sounds like a manipulated Kool Keith vocal over a frantic series of samples. The third single from The Prodigy’s breakthrough The Fat of the Land, “Smack My Bitch Up” was a lightning rod for controversy, from Jonas Akerlund’s hedonistic video to claims of misogyny over the song’s repeated titular lyric. These days, it sounds more like a snotty invitation for a fight, or at least the soundtrack to an action movie starring Wesley Snipes. But between all the “clean” mixes and its omnipresence at certain club nights, “Smack My Bitch Up” is a lasting mainstay of a brief, triumphant moment in dance music. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

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    the-prodigy21. Ben Folds Five – “Brick”

    Whatever and Ever Amen

    Every year delivers its fair share of anomalies; however, looking back, Ben Folds Five scaling the charts in ‘97 feels more like a miracle than an outlier. In an era of post-grunge and nu metal (ew, gross), how does a piano power pop trio without a guitar to distort conquer the radio waves? Ah, yes, a fourth single piano ballad about driving a girlfriend to have an abortion. Well, that makes sense … wait, what? There may not be a mold or formula that explains the miscounted trio’s success with “Brick” other than to say it’s a quietly beautiful song that understands from experience what it is to be young, sad, and completely in over your head. Who doesn’t need to hear a song like that at some point in their life? As it turns out, we all have some bricks in our closet. –Matt Melis

    Get It On Vinyl via Discogs

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