Blessid_Union_of_Souls_(album)Blessid Union of Souls – “I Wanna Be There” – (1997)

It’s interesting to me how people don’t seem to remember Blessid Union of Souls. They had four top 40 hits in the late 90s, with a fair number of other singles receiving regular radio airplay. This was a top 40 hit and is probably among the band’s most-remembered songs (and one of their best). It was the lead single off of their second album.

220px-WillSmith-BigWillieStyleWill Smith – “Just The Two of Us” – (1997)

This isn’t a direct cover of the Grover Washington Jr./Bill Withers song of the same name, but that song is sampled heavily in the chorus. But Will raps the verses about being a dad to his sons. It reached #20 on the Hot 100 in 1998.

220px-ShadesofGraceBob Carlisle – “Butterfly Kisses” – (1997)

I’ve always thought of this song as the female version of “Cat’s in the Cradle.” It’s still about dads, but related to daughters and not sons. Bob Carlisle is a Contemporary Christian singer, but he had a crossover pop hit with this song in the late 1990s. I think a lot of people think it’s sappy, but it has its champions.

220px-Incubus_ScienceIncubus – “Vitamin” – 1997

Incubus really hit it big in 1999 with “Drive” but before that they were more of a fringe band – even though this, their second album, was certified Gold by the RIAA. This song was never a single, but in the late-90s it was bundled with this album’s biggest single on a video game that got a lot of play around here. Almost 20 years later (holy crap) I still dig it.

220px-LisaLoeb_FirecrackerLisa Loeb – I Do – 1997

I like Lisa Loeb. “Stay” is her biggest hit – and a song that has followed my fiance and I everywhere we go, thus it became “our song.” And since we’re getting married tomorrow, I figured this was an appropriate song for today. It was a top 20 hit for Loeb in 1997 and it sounds very 1997.

Bob Rivers – “Police Stop My Car” – (1997)

Okay, last comedy Christmas song, I promise. This really isn’t much of a Christmas song at all, which is okay, since Christmas has passed and in this world, Christmas starts at Halloween and ends at midnight the day after Christmas. Anyway, it’s a pretty good spoof of “Feliz Navidad” – but about DUI checkpoints… which sounds insane if you were trying to tell someone about it… which is why you should just listen to it.

Bob Rivers Comedy Corp. – “Yellow Snow! Yellow Snow! Yellow Snow!” – (1997)

Bob Rivers is really good at parody songs. This is obviously a parody of the classic “Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!” but it’s about dogs doing their business in the snow. I do like the lyrics “he’s a frisky little pooch Van Gogh.”

Shania Twain & Bryan White – “From This Moment On” – (1997)

This song was written by Shania Twain and perennial hit-writer “Mutt” Lange. Originally, it was going to be a duet between Twain and Elton John but they ended up recording it with country singer Bryan White instead and this has to be his biggest hit. The song was an adult contemporary #1 (duets really heat up the A/C chart). It hit #6 on the country chart and #4 on the Hot 100. Shania was the crossover queen of the 90s.

Donna Lewis & Richard Marx – “At the Beginning” – (1997)

I will admit – I really liked this song when it came out and I haven’t heard it in a while. And I will also admit that as soon as it started I remember why I liked it so much the first time around. This song did okay on the Adult Contemporary chart and showed that Disney didn’t have a stranglehold on original songs in animated films (this one came from Anastasia and most of what I remember from the movie is that Hank Azaria did a voice and it was awesome). Good song – I don’t care if you mock me.

Leonard Bernstein – “Carol of the Bells” – (1997)

The Carol of the Bells is the coolest instrumental Christmas song there is. It’s based on a traditional Ukrainian folk chant – it’s Eastern European, so that explains why it’s kind of dark and brooding. It’s a very popular Christmas tune and this is one of the more solid (non-re-worked) versions. There are versions with a chorus, and this one lacks it. But it doesn’t matter.

Godsmack – “Going Down” – (1997)

Why do rock bands always have stupid names? I liked Godsmack back when it was really cool to like Godsmack, but as I look back, all I think is “Man, what a stupid name for a band… way to try and be hard.” They have some pretty decent rock songs, but I don’t count this among them. So why is it here and why do I have it? Wel, 1: this week is kind of a burn until I can get to Christmas music on Friday and 2: this song was featured on the very popular Mission: Impossible II soundtrack. Originally, it was released on the band’s independent debut album All Wound Up. It would later come out on their 2000 album Awake.

The Sunclub – “Fiesta” – (1997)

While most of the songs on this list are pretty recent, we’re reaching all the way back to 1997 (I know that sounds ridiculous, but it’s been more than 15 years). This track is mostly instrumental – I apologize for the somewhat annoying lone vocal that is in there. It’s just a great beat with a repetitive whistle. This song will appear on this list again, albeit in a different – remixed – form. I definitely get a summery vibe from it though.

Oasis – “Don’t Go Away” – (1997)

Oasis is one of the best bands that Britain has ever produced (this week kind of has a British theme). Britpop tracks like this is what they did best. It’s not quite an “epic weepy” like some of their other songs, but it’s still a song about loss – a break-up song. Liam’s vocals are really good and it really encapsulates Oasis’ 90s sound and is my favorite track from 1997’s Be Here Now – their final album of the 1990s. This song was a big hit in the U.S. – hitting #5 on the Modern Rock chart.

#10 – Sheryl Crow – “Tomorrow Never Dies” – (1997)

Tomorrow Never Dies was a Bond movie I really liked, even though it would probably come in mid-pack on most people’s lists. The theme song wasn’t bad either – it was solid pop rock without any annoying orchestral interference. Sheryl Crow was pretty big at the time and I think her voice suits the song quite well. It was actually nominated for Best Original Song at the Golden Globes and the Grammys… but was up against Celine Dion and all that Titanic madness.

Moby – “The James Bond Theme (Moby’s Re-Version)” – (1997)

Well I thought I had five tracks to feature this week, but one of them that I have, I can’t find anything about online. I thought it was the Bond Theme from Goldeneye – but apparently it isn’t. And listening to all the different arrangements of the theme music back to back leads to confusion and them all sounding the same. So oh well for now. This version definitely sounds different – Moby took the Bond Theme from Tomorrow Never Dies and mixed in some dialogue and a strong techno beat. It was featured on the official soundtrack. But even Moby admits his version isn’t as good as the original.

Janet Jackson – “Together Again” – (1997)

Here’s another #1 song from Janet. Actually, it was a #1 in the U.S., Canada, The Netherlands, and the European Hot 100 – not to mention a top five just about everywhere else. It was a smash – harkening back to the dance-pop Janet everyone knew and loved in the late-80s/early-90s. At the time, it was one of the biggest selling singles in history, selling over 6 million copies. This would be Janet Jackson’s last major single of the 1990s. But she certainly wasn’t done with #1 hits.

#10 – Radiohead – “Karma Police” – (1997)

Originally, I had “Creep” at this place on the list. Then I realized, “why do I have ‘Creep’ on the list when ‘Karma Police’ is eligible?” Damn good question, self. I’ve never been a big Radiohead fan, and my knowledge of their music catalog is limited. But this is a brilliant song and further proof that the best rock songs come from England. You can hear Oasis in this song if you listen and you can also hear Coldplay (if you’re a Radiohead nut, please ignore that sentence). It’s quintessentially British in composition. It’s haunting and powerful and it rocks. It was a top ten in the U.K. and a top 20 hit in the U.S. (on the Modern Rock chart). It wasn’t huge but it’s widely recognized as great – and rightfully so.

#19 – Kenny Wayne Shepherd – “Blue on Black” – (1997)

Blues rock is still rock. Kenny Wayne Shepherd was 20 years old when this song came out. He sounds much older. “Blue on Black” was a #1 on the Mainstream Rock chart and it still receives a fair amount of radio airplay on rock stations. This is just a completely badass song. And when that’s all I can come up with to say, I just post some lyrics: “Blue on black, tears on a river. Push on a shove, it don’t mean much. Joker on jack. Match on a fire. Cold on ice, a dead man’s touch. Whisper on a scream, doesn’t change a thing. Don’t bring you back. Blue on black.” And yeah,  technically, it’s the “Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band.” But whatever.

#21 – Foo Fighters – “Everlong” – (1997)

Foo Fighters tracks don’t come better than this. Listen to those riffs. Hell, riffs don’t come much better than this. If any song has the ability to propel itself forward, it’s this. You can actually feel the song moving, it’s incredible. The Colour and the Shape (with the un-American extra “u”) is one of their best albums (okay, it might be the best). This is 90s rock at its best. Post-grunge too. AND, it has a music video by Michel Gondry.

#39 – INXS – “Elegantly Wasted” – (1997)

INXS had some massive hits in the 80s. Some of them are great songs but whenever I hear this one I can’t help but think “this is the best of them” – even though I have similar thoughts upon hearing the ones from the previous decade. Michael Hutchence was a rock star and Elegantly Wasted was the final album released before his death in 1997. This song was a hell of a way to go out. The lyrics are delivered… well, awesomely. To take the phrase “I am elegantly wasted” and draw it out as done in the chorus of this song takes true talent. I couldn’t come up with that. Fun fact: Hutchence had an argument with Liam Gallagher (of Oasis, who apparently just liked to argue) prior to finishing this song. So he went back into the studio and recorded some more vocals for the chorus that said “I am better than Oasis” – which you can kind of hear it you listen to it. This song is really good – I hope for your sake that you give it a chance if you haven’t already.

#40 – Blur – “Song 2” – (1997)

Talk about creative song titles. This is one of those songs that you’ve probably heard more in licensed form than on the radio. It’s been in movies, TV shows, video games, commercials. You name it. It’s a two minute alternative rock song with a catchy “chorus” consisting mostly of “woo-hoo.” Blur is definitely more popular in the U.K. than in the U.S. and this is their best-known song stateside – a top ten on the Modern Rock chart while it was #2 on the U.K. Singles chart.

James Horner – “Southampton” – (1997)

This is a weird one. It’s one of the best pieces of instrumental music… yeah. I was going to qualify that more but I won’t. It’s the best piece of music from Titanic – it’s very epic sounding. So what does it have to do with me going to Europe? No, I didn’t travel by “unsinkable” steamship. Towards the end of my time in France, I would come home in the late afternoon and this song (as well as the rest of the soundtrack) would be blaring at full volume in the house. Every window open and James Horner just screaming from the speakers. I found it hilariously odd but it did make sitting in my room fairly epic. It was tempting not to just stand in an open window with the curtains whipping in the wind behind me and this song playing. I swear I remember hearing a movie-mix version of this song back on the radio in 1997/98 but I can’t find it anywhere. I guess I was mixing this and “My Heart Will Go On” in my mind. I don’t like it when people mock Titanic, like it’s the worst movie ever made. It’s actually quite amazing. Sure, James Cameron is pretty annoying but you gotta hand it to the guy – he knows how to do special effects right (and make money).

#21 – The Verve – “Bittersweet Symphony” – (1997)

This song is glorious – it’s just a shame that it turned into a lesson about the dark side of the music industry. It reminds me of a Hunter S. Thompson quote: “The music industry is a cruel and shallow money-trench. A long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs. There is also a negative side.” So The Rolling Stones wrote a song called “The Last Time” in 1965. The Andrew Oldham Orchestra did an instrumental version of that song. The Verve “stole” that orchestral version and used it as the background strings in this song. The Rolling Stones (or whoever owns their catalog) sued The Verve and somehow arranged a 50/50 split of the royalties. Then, the song became a giant hit and they called back and said they were taking 100% of the royalties or they were going to pull the record from stores. So the band pretty much lost the rights to their own song and every cent they made from it went to people already super-rich, like Mick Jagger. Then the song was shopped out to commercials against the will of the band. Then, to top it off, Andrew Loog Oldham sued the band as well.

All of this is a shame, of course, because it is an absolutely beautiful song. The album is called Urban Hymns and I find it appropriate because this song is quite hymn-like. It also appears at the end of the movie Cruel Intentions, which was one of the biggest “young people” movies at the end of the decade. And no, this is not the same band that sang “The Freshmen.”

#27 – K-Ci & JoJo – “All My Life” – (1997)

Here it is. The biggest (and best) slow dance song of the 90s. While the video is lame, the song is not – it hit number 1 on the Hot 100 (it was their second, as they were both featured on 2Pac’s “California Love” a few years earlier). They had another mainstream R&B hit in 2000 (but that wasn’t the 90s, so it cannot be mentioned by name here). They weren’t Boyz II Men, but this song was better than most of their stuff.