2016: The Year in Charts
The Year in Charts 2016: Adele Rules as Top Artist (Again!), Justin Bieber Leads Hot 100
The Year in Latin Charts: Juan Gabriel & Nicky Jam Lead
The Year in Rock Charts: Twenty One Pilots, The Lumineers & the 'Sound' of Disturbed
The Year in Country Charts: Chris Stapleton, Carrie Underwood, FGL, Maren Morris & More
Why 1998 Was the Best Musical Year of the '90s
After focusing on 1994 last week, now, we're wondering what the best year for music was of the '90s. We've already made a case for 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996 and 1997. Now here are the final two years of the decade -- 1998 and 1999.
If there's a theme to the music landscape in 1998, it's "pure chaos." Too late to be defined by the alt-rock MTV boom, too early to be saturated in teen-pop gloss, '98 is the decade's black sheep year — full of crossover curios and blossoming genre revivals. Glancing through the year's list of Number One singles is more than a tad disorienting.
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First off, it was one hell of a year for distinctive one-hit-wonders — from Eagle-Eye Cherry (the ubiquitous folk-pop jam "Save Tonight") to Semisonic (the distorted bar-stool anthem "Closing Time") to Marcy Playground (the mumbly alt-rock staple "Sex and Candy"). In '98, American radio couldn't rake in these one-offs fast enough, and compile them on the now-booming Now! compilation series.
But the sonic free-for-all also extended to established artists. Innovative rap acts were implanting their hooks into the mainstream—take DMX's "Ruff Ryders' Anthem," with a vocal style as piercing as a gunshot, or Big Pun's ultra-smooth "Still Not a Player," which beat Ariana Grande to the Latin-piano punch with its Brenda Russell-sampled groove.
Elsewhere, Britney Spears ("...Baby One More Time") and *N SYNC ("I Want You Back") fanned the flames of the teen-pop revival; the Dixie Chicks brought a polished brand of country to the pop arena, pairing Texas twang with breezy production; and the Artist Formerly Known as the Fresh Prince became a family-friendly rap-pop titan, convincing millions of the record-buyers to avoid their better judgment and "get jiggy wit it." It was also a tough year to make an Year-End albums list — just look at all the classic LPs on that Pazz & Jop poll: Outkast's stank-tastic Dirty South epic Aquemini, Lauryn Hill's Grammy-decorated neo-soul landmark The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Neutral Milk Hotel's indie-rock watermark In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.
In 2014, our dividing genre lines have become fainter — these days, pop stars often sound like rock stars who sound like country stars (pretty sure Taylor Swift is all of those at once). This can lead to innovative cross-pollination — but it can also foster lukewarm homogeny, exemplifying our shuffle-driven culture's desire to be everywhere at once.
Back in '98, however, the airwaves — and the TRLcountdowns — were confusingly eclectic. And much more fascinating because of it.