Digital Get Down: My Teenage Years Through Pop (1999-2004)
The early 2000s were pretty hideous years. When I think of that era, I think of Justin Timberlake's blond afro, I think of Xtina's leather chaps and of Britney pairing black, platform sneakers with a red latex body suit. I think of the garish, Ikea-sponsored set design of Destiny Child's "Say My Name" video and the denim jumper Jennifer Lopez wore on the cover of her J.Lo album. (J.Low was more like it... I think everything she wore at the time was purchased at Rainbow.) These memories make me instantly nauseous.
The new millennium became a visual and sonic theme for pop acts around the globe. I love a good theme but that was not a good theme. It yielded some of the most cringe-worthy moments in pop history. I dare you to revisit Will Smith's Willennium album and especially its lead single, "Will2K." This was the beginning of the cyber age and by 2001 having the internet at home was as important as having a television. I guess that's why everyone looked like they were dressed in bad HTML code.
For better or for worse, this was the age I grew up in--the hyperactive, candy-colored age of TRL, belly button piercings and Teen People (I remember having the issue with 98 degrees on the cover. I think I bought it because Nick Lachey was shirtless in one of the photos). Pop music was everything to me during my teenage years. Our local radio station used to do a Top 6 at 6 countdown every night, and I'd listen with my fingers on both the "Play" and "Record" buttons of my BoomBox, ready to capture my favorite songs on a blank cassette. Of course the music industry and the way we consume music was about to change forever. When Napster exploded, blank CDs replaced my blank cassettes.
My favorite store in our mall was HMV. I remember counting down the days until the release of Madonna's Music album. I didn't even know what the album cover looked like until I went to pick up my copy on September 19th, 2000 (I didn't even need to use Wikipedia to validate it, the date is so ingrained in my memory). Thanks to the internet, I've never experienced that kind of surprise ever again. The first time I heard the album's lead single was on a road trip to Quebec City with my mother and sister. "Is that Madonna? I think it's Madonna! OMG it's Madonna's new single! Mom, turn it up quickly!"
I spent my teenage years in the closet, hiding--hiding my love for Mariah Carey! But who was I fooling? How could anyone resist the bubbly bliss of "Heartbreaker"? And I adored the video. I would sit through hours of horrible shit like LimpBizkit and Sum41 on MuchMusic just to catch Mariah in all her post-Butterfly, look-at-my-body glory. That's what you had to do to catch your favorite videos. I didn't want to love Mariah, and I definitely didn't want to admit I wanted to be her, but let's face it: had I been a girl in high school, I'd have been taking all my fashion cues from Rainbow-era Mariah. I'd have been the girl constantly getting sent to the principal's office for dressing like a hoe. And you can bet your ass I would have said "hell no" to the lost-and-found sweatshirt they would have tried to put on me.
Another major pop moment for me was Kylie Minogue's "Can't Get You Out Of My Head." My only previous experience of Kylie was her performance of "Kids" with Robbie Williams at the MTV Europe Awards. I remember thinking to myself, "who is that slut rubbing herself up on my man?" I was so jealous of her because Robbie was my ultimate heartthrob. So when "CGYOOMH" came out and I realized it was by the same bitch who was trying to steal my man, I hated it (but, deep down, I loved it). Very soon I was under the charm and spell of Ms. Minogue. She quickly became my biggest teenage idol. I was--and still am--totally obsessed with her. The North American pop scene at the time desperately needed some sophistication and maybe that's why Kylie was finally able to crack the American market. Fever became my most listened to album. I remember listening to it on my discman--yes, a discman!--and pining over all the hot, older boys at school I wanted to blow. Fever, like my teenage years, was all about lust and unrequited love.
In about 10 years from now, the early 2000s will be all the rage once more. Girls will start piercing their belly buttons again and boys will gel their hair into little spikes with frosted, blond tips. W magazine, if magazines still exist, will do a fashion story about the return of head-to-toe denim. Allow me to warn you now: like the first time around, it won't be pretty. But it might just be a little fun.
Here is a list of my teenage self's Top 25 songs:
1. "Music" by Madonna
2. "Heartbreaker" by Mariah Carey
3. "I Begin to Wonder" by Dannii Minogue
4. "Can't Get You Out of my Head" by Kylie Minogue
5. "Work It" by Missy Elliott
6. "Pop" by Nsync
7. "Ex-Girlfriend" by NoDoubt
8. "He Wasn't Man Enough for Me" by Toni Braxton
9. "Faded" by SoulDecision
10. "Beautiful" by Christina Aguilera
11. "All For You" by Janet Jackson
12. "Different Kind of Love Song" by Cher
13. "Play" by Jennifer Lopez
14. "Murder On the Dancefloor" by Sophie Ellis-Bextor
15. "I'm a Slave 4 U" by Britney Spears
16. "Family Affair" by Mary J. Blige
17. "One More Time" by Daft Punk
18. "Hands Clean" by Alanis Morissette
18. "Hands Clean" by Alanis Morissette
19. "Who's That Girl" by Eve
20. "Bootylicious" by Destiny's Child
21. "Lady Marmalade" by Christina Aguilera, Mya, Pink & Lil' Kim
22. "Don't Tell Me" by Madonna
23. "Doesn't Really Matter" by Janet Jackson
24. "Try Again" by Aaliyah
25. "Hey Baby" by No Doubt