98 Things That Happened in 1998

98 Things That Happened in 1998

This week, Billboard is celebrating the music of 20 years ago with a week of content about the most interesting artists, albums, songs and stories from 1998. Here, we present a chronological run through a number of notable '98 memories that we that didn't have the time or words to dive into in full: a whole 98 of 'em, in fact. 

The year was 1998: A time when Britney Spears was the sweetheart of MTV's new Total Request Live, Victoria (ahem, Posh Spice) and David Beckham were the new it-couple, the MP3 player was a controversial new gadget and some of today's biggest stars -- from Khalid to Shawn Mendes -- were still in their baby cribs. As part of Billboard's 1998 Week, we're looking back at the moments that made up that monumental year in music, from celebrity break-ups to stage crashers, era-defining singles and wild lawsuits.

Reminisce on the most memorable events of the year with our chronological wrap-up, below. 

Jan 1: The debut of MTV’s Celebrity Deathmatch

MTV kicks off the new year with the debut of its late-night, gory claymation series, pitting animated pop culture icons against each other in battles to the death, aptly titled Celebrity Deathmatch. In the inaugural episode, Marilyn Manson faces off with notorious murderer Charles Manson, beginning the former Manson’s long-standing reign as Deathmatch’s undefeated fighter.

Jan 5: Sonny Bono dies in a skiing accident at age 62

Less than a week after Michael L. Kennedy, son of RFK, was tragically killed after colliding with a tree while skiing in Aspen, Colo., Sonny Bono -- one-half of iconic duo Sonny & Cher -- meets the same fate on vacation with family at a resort in South Lake Tahoe, Calif.

Jan 6: The 1998 Grammy nominee list includes LeAnn Rimes and Trisha Yearwood -- for the same song

Though tear-jerker ballad “How Do I Live” was originally written for then-teenaged LeAnn Rimes to sing on the soundtrack for action film Con Air, the rising country star was later replaced by Trisha Yearwood, whose own recording ended up on the big screen. Nonetheless, both versions get nominated for the female country vocal performance Grammy, with Rimes performing the song live at the ceremonies, but Yearwood taking home the prize immediately after.

Jan 12: The annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction fosters reunions

When Jimmy Buffett inducts The Eagles, all past and present members at the time unite (for the only time in history) to perform iconic hits “Take It Easy” and “Hotel California.” Earlier that night, the trailblazing San Francisco rock outfit Santana are inducted, with many original band members returning to perform “Black Magic Woman” alongside frontman Carlos Santana, the first-ever Hispanic inductee.

Jan 15: Chicago blues leader Junior Wells dies at age 63

Several months after suffering a heart attack, and following a long battle with lymphoma, Chicago blues icon Junior Wells passes away in the city where he built his legacy. A frequent collaborator of Buddy Guy, Wells helped bridge the gap between traditional blues and contemporary popular music, performing with singers like Van Morrison and Tracy Chapman and even touring with The Rolling Stones.

Jan 19: Controversial doc Kurt and Courtney is pulled from Sundance Film Festival

Four years after Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain was reported to have committed suicide, rumors of foul play are still being passed around. In his controversial documentary Kurt and Courtney, Nick Broomfield opened the can of worms by interviewing four people who suspected Cobain's widow (and Hole singer) Courtney Love played a part in the tragedy -- including Love’s own father. The film makes headlines when it gets abruptly pulled from the Sundance lineup amidst lawsuit threats from Love, who avoids the film’s accusations and instead claims it illegally made use of Hole and Nirvana songs.

Jan 19: “Blue Suede Shoes” singer Carl Perkins dies at age 65 

A close friend and collaborator to the likes of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, The Beatles, Bob Dylan and more, Carl Perkins’ rockabilly sound permeated genres and became a building block of modern rock and roll. Perkins passes away from throat cancer at 65 in Tennessee, after suffering a series of strokes. 

Between Jan 19 and Jan 26: Snoop Dogg exits Death Row Records

After signee Tupac’s death in 1996, MC Hammer and Dr. Dre’s departure from the label that same year and CEO Suge Knight’s nine-year prison sentence in 1997, it was the perfect storm for the fall of Death Row, once one of hip-hop’s most powerful labels. As tensions mount and Knight’s control over the label diminishes, Snoop Dogg abandons ship, joining an exodus of rappers that would eventually lead the label to file for bankruptcy in 2006.

Jan 20: *NSYNC release “I Want You Back” in the U.S.

After gaining the attention of RCA A&R rep VIncent DeGiorgio, who offered the boy band an American record deal in November 1997, *NSYNC mark their first release in both the U.K. and U.S. with single “I Want You Back." The song peaks at No. 13 on the Hot 100 in May, setting the stage for the band’s national takeover.

Jan 22: Fiona Apple opens up to Rolling Stone

In a cover story for Rolling Stone titled “Fiona Apple: The Caged Bird Sings,” the notoriously private singer-songwriter behind 1996 debut Tidal opens up for the first time about her rape as a child and subsequent mental health struggles, her now-famous “this world is bullshit” MTV Video Music Awards speech and more. Twenty years later, the story remains one of the most revealing interviews of Apple’s career.

Jan 25: Grease ends a 1,503-show run

The Broadway revival of Grease, directed by Jeff Calhoun, opened at New York’s historic Eugene O’Neill Theatre in May of 1994 with a cast including Ricky Paull Goldin, Susan Wood and Rosie O’Donnell (who was later replaced by Brooke Shields). By the end of its run four years later, the revival was nominated for three Tony awards and grossed more than $72.3 million.

Jan 25: Victoria Beckham (a.k.a Posh Spice) and David Beckham get engaged

Legend has it that U.K. It Couple "Posh and Becks" met at a charity soccer game in 1997. It's only a year later that the soccer star proposes to the Spice Girl at the height of her fame.

Jan 26: The 25th installment of the American Music Awards

Drew Carey, then star of The Drew Carey Show, hosts the 25th annual American Music Awards in Los Angeles, which features performances by Janet Jackson, Matchbox Twenty and Trisha Yearwood. The Spice Girls are the biggest winners of the night, racking up three honors -- though the absent group only appear singing in a pre-taped segment.

Jan 28: Interscope Records incites “pay-for-play” controversy

Portland, Ore. radio station KUFO-FM makes history by agreeing to play Limp Bizkit’s song “Counterfeit” at least 50 times over the course of five weeks in return for a $5,000 check from Interscope Records -- a controversial decision that brings the concept of pay-for-play to the center of industry debate, but helps beak the nu-metal band in the U.S. mainstream. 

Jan 29: Bobby Brown is found guilty of a DWI in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.  

When Bobby Brown crashed his Porsche in South Florida in 1996, it was neither the first nor the last time he’d have a brush with the law -- over the years, the “Every Little Step” singer became infamous for his legal troubles. This time, Brown is convicted (two years later) of driving under the influence, as well as causing property damage, and he serves five days in jail before being released on probation.

Jan 29: Paul Simon’s The Capeman musical has a rocky start

The Simon & Garfunkel singer’s most significant career failure comes in the form of The Capeman, a Broadway musical based on the true story of Salvador Agron, a convicted killer who became a poet in prison. When the Marc Anthony-starring musical opens at New York’s Marquis Theater, it does so to protests from the families of Agron’s real-life victims, and the show receives overwhelmingly negative reviews overall, closing after just 68 performances.

Jan 31: Toni Braxton files for bankruptcy protection

R&B star Toni Braxton makes headlines when she files for bankruptcy protection the same week as the 1998 American Music Awards -- for which, ironically, she was nominated twice. Within the next two months, all of the “Un-Break My Heart" singer’s belongings would be liquidated in order to help pay back her whopping $2.8 million debt. (Notably, Braxton still manages to make history that year, becoming the first black woman to portray Belle in a Broadway production of Beauty and the Beast that September.)

Jan 31: The Presidents of the United States of America play a farewell show

Goofy alt-rock trio The Presidents of the United States of America briefly disband in 1998 when lead vocalist Chris Ballew calls it quits to spend more time with family. Fans bid the group goodbye as they play a farewell show in their hometown of Seattle... only to reunite just two years later. (They retire again, presumably for real, in 2016.)

Feb 5: Former Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford comes out as gay

When former Judas Priest lead vocalist Rob Halford comes out as gay in an interview with MTV, he becomes one of the first high-profile metal musicians to do so; twenty years later, the now-66-year-old “Metal God” continues to be a vocal advocate for LGBTQ acceptance.

Feb 6: Carl Wilson of The Beach Boys dies at age 51 following a battle with lung cancer

Despite being diagnosed with lung and brain cancer in early 1997, Carl continued to perform Southern California-defining hits like “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and “Surfin’ U.S.A." live with the band while undergoing chemotherapy, taking part in The Beach Boys’ entire summer 1997 tour. After a hard-fought year, the leader of the seminal surf band passes away in Los Angeles on Feb 6, 1998, just two months after the death of his mother, Audree Wilson.

Feb 11: Khalid is born at a United States Army post in the state of Georgia

The “Young Dumb & Broke” star is born Khalid Donnel Robinson in Fort Stewart, Georgia. Due to his mother’s career in the military, he spends his childhood in more than one “Location,” including Kentucky, New York and even Germany.

Feb 14: John Cameron Mitchell’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch premieres Off-Broadway

The punk-rock tale of a German rock diva who is the victim of a botched gender-reassignment surgery turns heads, with Patti LuPone, David Bowie and Glenn Close reportedly among its attendees. The show comes to Broadway in 2014, where it picks up a Tony for the best revival of a musical, racking up eight total nominations.

Feb. 19: Country legend Louis Marshall Jones (a.k.a. “Grandpa Jones”) dies at age 84

Grandpa Jones” -- a persona the banjo player and country singer became known for at just 22 years old -- was famous for wearing his pants tucked inside of his boots, and praised for his pioneering influence on “old time” country music. Jones suffered two strokes after his second show performance at the Grand Ole Opry in January 1998, passing away one month later. He is remembered in the Country Music Hall of Fame, where he became a member in 1978.

Feb 24: Elton John is knighted by Queen Elizabeth II at London’s Buckingham Palace

The British rock star appears before the Queen to be knighted as Sir Elton John for his services to pop music and extraordinary work raising money for AIDS charities.

Feb 25: The 40th annual Grammy Awards’ “SOY BOMB” moment

The words “SOY BOMB” enter the minds of pop junkies forever when, during Bob Dylan’s performance of “Love Sick,” performance artist Michael Portnoy rushes onstage shirtless with the slogan written on his chest. Portnoy isn't the only stage-crasher of the night: Ol' Dirty Bastard also storms the stage to declare that “Wu-Tang is for the children,” protesting his group's earlier loss to Puff Daddy in the best rap album category during folk singer Shawn Colvin’s song of the year acceptance speech.

Feb 28: Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” debuts at No. 1 on the Hot 100 following the whirlwind success of Titanic

The romantic ballad skyrockets to mega-success all over the world, becoming Dion’s biggest hit and one of the best-selling singles in history. Eventually, it scores the diva a Grammy for record of the year, and wins best original song at the Academy Awards in March. 

Feb 28: Haitian group RAM survive an assassination attempt

After clashing with the then-newly-elected mayor of Port-au-Prince, Haitian group RAM survives an assassination attempt while performing at the city’s annual Mardis Gras carnival. Thankfully, all three members survive --and  in 2016, they release their first studio album in a decade, Ram 6: Manmanm Se Ginen.

March 2: Toni Braxton airs her financial troubles on The Oprah Winfrey Show

The singer-songwriter later accuses Winfrey of being “so frickin’ mean” during the interview, where Braxton delves into her bankruptcy filing.

March 5: Mariah Carey and Tommy Mottola divorce

The singer and music exec had married back in 1993 with a grand ceremony, modeled after the royal wedding of Princess Diana and Prince Charles. After the couple divorce in '98, it is revealed that Mottola was physically and emotionally abusive in the relationship. 

March 7: Van Halen’s “Without You” spends the first of six weeks atop the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart

Hard rock heroes Van Halen earn their 13th No. 1 on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Airplay chart in 1998 with the six-and-a-half-minute marathon “Without You,” one of the band’s first songs to feature vocals from new lead singer Gary Cherone, veteran of the band Extreme. The record is only just matched in March 2018, when Three Days Grace notch their own 13th list-topper with "The Mountain.”

March 9: Eminem is signed by Dr. Dre to Aftermath Entertainment

After the then-fledgling Detroit rapper placed second in the annual Rap Olympics that year, a copy of his Slim Shady EP is said to have made its way to Dr. Dre, who signs Eminem to his Aftermath Entertainment -- on the one-year-anniversary of Notorious B.I.G.’s death, no less. The decision solidifies Em as the cornerstone of the label, and just the next year, his Slim Shady LP goes platinum in five quick weeks.

March 9: FIFA calls on Ricky Martin to create the 1998 World Cup theme song

What results is Martin’s career-changing “La Copa de la Vida (The Cup of Life),” which hits charts in more than 60 countries and sets the foundation for his international success to come with his self-titled album the next year.

March 10: The first mass-produced portable MP3 player is launched at a German trade fair

The South Korean-made MPMan F10 costs $250, features just 32MB of flash memory (roughly eight songs!) and has a tiny LCD screen for playback info, but it marks a major milestone for portable music, and lays the groundwork for the iPod’s explosion in 2001.

March 10: The Beastie Boys post MP3 recordings of their songs on their website

The simple move makes The Beastie Boys one of the first acts to embrace the then-controversial MP3 audio format.

March 22: Canadian hip-hop group The Rascalz refuse a Juno award

The Rascalz become one of the first to launch the conversation of diversity in awards ceremonies, refusing their Juno honor for best rap recording. “Urban music, reggae, R&B and rap: that's all Black music and it's not represented at the Junos,” reads a statement from the band’s manager Sol Guy at the time. “We decided that until it is, we are going to take a stance."

March 23: Elliott Smith performs "Miss Misery" at the Oscars

Elliott Smith was still gigging at Brooklyn coffee shops when filmmaker Gus Van Sant asked to use the singer's music in his 1997 film Good Will Hunting. So it was a major milestone for Smith when, after his soundtrack contribution “Miss Misery” was nominated for a best original song Oscar, he gets asked to perform it at the film awards ceremony, delivering a haunting rendition of the ballad. 

Mar 27: K-pop website Soompi hits the web

Soompi, the longest-running website dedicated to K-pop, was created by Korean-American web developer Susan Kang -- though at the time, she identified herself only as “Soomp,” a major fan of Korean boy band M.O.T. Soompi has since been bought out by Tokyo-based e-commerce company Rakuten, and remains a huge destination for K-pop heads all over the world.

March: Britney Spears begins recording her debut album, ...Baby One More Time, at Cheiron Studios in Stockholm, Sweden

Released in January 1999, Spears’ debut album ...Baby One More Time would launch the then-teenaged singer into pop superstardom for decades to come. But in 1998, the soon-to-be icon had just begun work on the LP, recording half the album in the pop hub of Sweden with Max Martin, including its Hot 100-topping title track.

March: Jennifer Lopez and Ojani Noa divorce

The union lasted only a year, but the drama between J. Lo and her first husband -- who was working as a waiter when they first met -- hasn't stopped since. J. Lo later sues Noa to prevent him from publishing a book about their short-lived marriage; in 2015, Noa threatens to release a sex tape with the star (which never materializes).

April 1: R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe and friends publish a book of haikus

Sometime in the late ‘90s, R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe made a pact with six friends to each write one haiku per day for a year. Their efforts are published in Haiku Year, a 120-page paperback that includes hundreds of moving, witty and at times funny poems like this one: “‘Coffee & Pastry’ sign / I thought it said ‘Poetry’ / I would’ve ordered.”

April 3: Dave Navarro exits the Red Hot Chili Peppers

Dave Navarro became the eighth Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist when he joined the band’s ever-changing lineup in 1994 during a hiatus from Jane’s Addiction. Four years later, he departs over creative differences, as cited by frontman Anthony Kiedis in a label statement.

April 3: Lollapalooza is canceled after failing to sign a headliner

For what was the first time in eight years, Lollapalooza is forced to cancel its annual Chicago music festival in 1998 due to its failure to sign a major headliner. At the time, the embarrassing announcement is taken to signify alternative rock’s declining popularity -- though the fest is rebooted a half-decade later, and finds greater success as a non-touring, multi-day concert shortly after. 

April 6: “Stand By Your Man” country singer Tammy Wynette dies at age 55

After a long history of medical complications, country music legend Tammy Wynette -- best known for her signature ballad “Stand By Your Man” -- dies of a blood clot in her Nashville home.

April 7: George Michael is arrested in a Beverly Hills public restroom for engaging in a “lewd act”

The late George Michael finds himself at the center of one of the greatest pop-world scandals of the late '90s in a public bathroom in Beverly Hills, where he is famously arrested for engaging in a “lewd act.” Charged with a misdemeanor, he is released after posting $500 bail, and shortly after releases the cheeky "Outside" video in response to the incident and his subsequent outing. 

April 8: Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee is sentenced to six months in prison for spousal abuse and battery

In one of the darker news stories to surface in 1998, rock star Tommy Lee serves four months of a six month sentence in Los Angeles County Jail for battering his wife, actress Pamela Anderson Lee, after pleading no contest to a felony charge of spousal battery.

April 14: Aretha Franklin, Gloria Estefan, Celine Dion, Shania Twain and Mariah Carey star in premiere of VH1’s Divas Live

The inaugural VH1 Divas Live brings five musical powerhouses -- Franklin, Estefan, Dion, Twain and Carey -- together for a one-night-only performance in Manhattan, in support of the network’s still-existing Save the Music Foundation. Legendary singer-songwriter Carole King also makes an appearance at the show, where all six singers join in a rendition of “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" -- a track made famous by Franklin in 1967, and co-written by King. 

April 18: The Rolling Stones reschedule part of their European tour after Keith Richards takes a tumble

Keith Richards might be unsinkable, but you can sidetrack him for a moment. In April, Keif tumbles like dice off a ladder in his library, injuring his ribs and chest and forcing the Stones to reschedule part of their European tour.

April 19: Cher is presented with the Vanguard Award at the GLAAD Media Awards

“I feel like the gay poster girl,” said Cher, accepting the Vanguard Award at the 1998 GLAAD Media Awards for promoting equal rights in the gay community. The honor not only cements the "Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves" singer's enduring status as a gay icon -- it's also a family affair, given that Cher’s own daughter Chastity Bono served as GLAAD’s entertainment director at the time.

April 26: U2 cameos on The Simpsons

The 200th episode of The Simpsons, titled “Trash of the Titans,” enlists U2 to guest-star as themselves in a memorable sketch that winked at the group’s real-life environmentalism (Bono: "The man's talking about waste management. That affects the whole damn planet.")

April 30: An Indigo Girls concert at a South Carolina high school is canceled after parents complain about its singers, who are openly gay

The controversial decision sparks debate among several southern high schools, where the band was set to perform a mini-tour.

May 8: The Beatles are awarded full rights to Live! at the Star-Club in Hamburg, Germany

George Harrison offers in-person testimony to win over rights to the famous bootleg tapes of live performances by the English rock group during their final pre-fame Hamburg residency in 1962.

May 9: Israeli singer Dana International becomes the first-ever trans winner of Eurovision

With "Diva," her pounding dance-pop ode to mortal and immortal women throughout history (from Cleopatra to Aphrodite), Dana International becomes the first ever trans winner of the Eurovision Song Contest. The Tel Aviv-born singer represents Israel in the competition.

May 14: Frank Sinatra dies of a heart attack at the age of 82

In tribute to the beloved jazz icon Frank Sinatra, the lights on the Empire State Building turn blue and the lights in the Vegas Strip are dimmed, doing Ol' Blue Eyes proud.

May 14: Seinfeld says goodbye​

Concert promoters across the U.S. push back set times to avoid competing with the series finale of Seinfeld, which 76.3 million people end up watching, according to Nielsen.

May 28: LA Weekly reporter Belissa Cohen sues Courtney Love

LA Weekly reporter Belissa Cohen sues Courtney Love for alleged assault and battery while attending a fashion show. A rep for the Hole singer denies the charges; Love herself comments that Cohen “just wants money and has lithium problems.”

May 31: Geri Halliwell, A.K.A. Ginger Spice, quits the Spice Girls

"Sadly I would like to confirm that I have left the Spice Girls," Halliwell says in a statement. "This is because of differences between us. I'm sure the group will continue to be successful and I wish them all the best... PS, I'll be back." Among the devastated fans is Prince Charles, who sends her a letter noting “the group will not be the same without you.”

June 1: Stone Temple Pilots’ Scott Weiland is arrested for heroin possession

Stone Temple Pilots was forced to cancel a concert in Manhattan in early June, when frontman Scott Weiland is arrested after being found with $100 worth of heroin on his person in the city. He is charged with criminal trespassing and criminal possession of a controlled substance.

June 5: Mulan hits theaters, kicking off the career of Christina Aguilera

Soundtrack standout “Reflection” becomes Aguilera’s first hit single, peaking at No. 19 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart in September 1998 -- enough to land her a recording contract with RCA, with whom she releases her self-titled debut album the following year. 

June 5: Lisa Marie Presley signs a recording contract with Java Records

The singer, daughter of Elvis Presley and former wife of Michael Jackson, goes on to release three studio albums; her debut To Whom It May Concern peaks at No. 5 in 2003.

June 9: Linda McCartney’s memorial service reunites The Beatles

At a memorial service for Linda McCartney, who died of breast cancer on April 17, 1998, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison appear together publicly for the first time in 30 years.

June 10: The Songwriters Hall of Fame inducts its 1998 class

Paul Simon, Berry Gordy, Larry Stock, John Williams, John Barry, and the songwriting team of Fats Domino and Dave Bartholomew are inducted at the Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers in New York.

June 15: Musicians rally for Tibet

Several thousand activists, musicians and politicians engage in protests at the United States Capitol for President Clinton to negotiate between Tibet and China in mid-June 1998. The rallies are linked to the Tibetan Freedom Concerts organized by Adam Yauch of The Beastie Boys, which feature performances from R.E.M., Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and more.

June 24: Johnny Cash returns to the stage following a life-threatening bout with pneumonia

Onstage, the Man in Black performer thanks “internet prayer groups” for keeping his spirits up while battling the illness.

July 1: Barbra Streisand and James Brolin tie the knot

In early July, Barbra Streisand and actor James Brolin are married in a private ceremony -- but don't think that means it was a no-frills affair. The extravagant event includes a 16-piece orchestra, a private security force and attendees like Tom Hanks, John Travolta, Quincy Jones, Steven Spielberg and David Geffen.

July 5: Chicago Bulls star Dennis Rodman leaps onstage at a Pearl Jam concert

From there, he sings along as the rock band plays its hits “Alive” and “Spin the Black Circle.”

July 8: Jaden Smith is born in Malibu, Calif.

Jaden is the first child of Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith, the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air actor star who lands his first No. 1 on the Hot 100 that year with “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It," and scores another hit devoted to his first son (Trey, with first wife Sheree Zampino) with "Just the Two of Us." 

July 30: AOL 4.0 launches

The service provider becomes infamous for using up most of the world’s CD-production capabilities for several weeks.

Aug 8: Shawn Mendes is born in Toronto

The soon-to-be-megastar is born to Karen and Manuel Mendes; by age 13, he begins learning guitar through YouTube videos.

Aug 14: A Tribe Called Quest announces plans to disband

After Q-Tip began announcing at concerts that The Love Moment would be the group’s last album, representatives from Jive Records confirm the split of the legendary New York rap outfit.

Aug 18: The Federal Communications Commission shuts down 15 pirate radio stations in a Miami raid

The airwaves governing body calls the raid the “largest single crackdown on pirate radio stations in U.S. history.”

Aug 18: Aerosmith drops “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” for the Armageddon soundtrack

Aerosmith release the Diane Warren-penned mega-ballad from the Armageddon soundtrack, which tops the Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks that September, marking the band’s first No. 1 on the chart after 28 years together.

Aug 20: DMX is cleared of a rape charge

The charge, brought against him by an exotic dancer, gets dropped after a DNA test.

Aug 25: Lauryn Hill makes her solo debut with LP The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

A former member of The Fugees, Hill graces the world with her debut album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, a confessional opus that garnered a whopping 11 Grammy nominations and five wins including album of the year. Two decades years later, the classic album (and Hill’s only full-length studio release to date) is still revered by fans and fellow musicians alike -- the single “Ex-Factor” is lifted for tracks by Cardi B (“Be Careful”) and Drake (“Nice For What”) just this year.

Aug: Hampster Dance goes viral

A Canadian art student used a sample of Roger Miller’s “Whistle Stop” to create the original Hampster Dance website -- featuring a variety of animated hamsters dancing -- which later bcomes one of the earliest viral internet memes.

Sep 1: David Bowie launches “Bowie Net”

The legendary Thin White Duke responds to the late ‘90s web revolution by launching his own service provider, known as “BowieNet,” a visual, interactive community for music fans.

Sep 10: MTV holds its 15th annual Video Music Awards

Ben Stiller hosted MTV’s 15th annual awards show, where Madonna was the night's biggest winner, nabbing six trophies, including video of the year for her "Ray of Light" clip. And let’s not forget Rose McGowan’s iconic see-through dress, which she’d later claim was a secret Harvey Weinstein protest.

Sep 11: Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr releases his now-famous Starr Report investigation of President Bill Clinton

Within its 445 pages, the tome includes a note to the president from Monica Lewinsky recognizing their joint love for Sarah McLachlan.

Sep 14: MTV premieres Total Request Live

The Carson Daly-hosted program’s inaugural episode features quintessentially ‘98 hits from across the genre spectrum, from Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss A Thing” to Aaliyah’s “Are You That Somebody” featuring Timbaland (from the highly 90’s-nostalgic Dr. Dolittle soundtrack). Which music video is crowned No. 1 on September 14, 1998? None other than “I’ll Never Break Your Heart” by the Backstreet Boys.

Sep 30: A new bill limits the intrusion of paparazzi in the lives of celebrities

Governor Pete Wilson makes California the first state to pass a bill to hold photographers liable for invasion of perceived privacy, significantly increasing the privacy rights of celebrities from paparazzi.

Sep: TRL’s Carson Daly begins publicly dating Jennifer Love Hewitt

Daly, the longtime host of MTV’s TRL, dates actress Jennifer Love Hewitt for a year -- until he finds out via the radio that they were no longer a couple. “I woke up to Howard Stern telling me my relationship with [Jennifer] was over,” Daly tells People in 2000. “Then I heard Steve Kmetko on E! say, ‘Just off the Associated Press: Jennifer Love Hewitt and Carson Daly have officially broken up.’”

Oct 2: “Singing Cowboy” Gene Autry dies at age 91

The rodeo performer dies at his home in Studio City, Calif. of lymphoma. He is buried at the Forest Lawn at Hollywood Cemetery, with his epitaph calling him “America’s Favorite Cowboy.”

Oct 3: Phish guests with Neil Young at a Farm Aid concert

The two duet a free-form version of Young’s “Arc” that transitions into a lengthy rendition of Young’s “Down By The River.”

Oct 8: The RIAA tries to block the release of the Rio PMP300 digital audio player

A judge denies the RIAA’s argument that the MP3 digital audio player represents a music piracy device, clearing the way for MP3 dominance in the industry.

Oct 12: Alanis Morissette strips down in the music video for “Thank U”

Morissette went completely nude and was embraced by shadowy strangers in the “Thank U” music video; the video for the Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie single premieres on TRL.

Oct 19: Cher releases “Believe”

The soaring single off Cher’s album of the same name marks the first mass-released, commercially recorded single to prominently use Auto-Tune; it wins best dance recording at the Grammys the following year.

Oct 27: The Copyright Term Extension Act is signed into law

The new law adds 20 years to the length of protection allotted for copyrighted works, extending the time period before those works would enter the public domain.

Oct 30: Police study the role of Marilyn Manson’s music in a Texas stabbing

Manson raises eyebrows after police learn that the suspect in the stabbing of a Texas teen had watched one of the rock star’s music videos with his victim on the day of the attack. It isn't the first nor last time Manson would draw controversy -- the musician was dragged the year prior by religious and conservative groups protesting his 1997 tour promoting Antichrist Superstar.

Nov 6: OutKast’s Aquemini is certified Platinum by the RIAA just two months after its release

Outkast’s third studio album Aquemini, which featured the infectious, funky single “Rosa Parks,” explored new terrain for hip-hop by incorporating themes of Afrofuturism (previously evident on their second album ATLiens). The RIAA certification further cements the Southern duo’s rightful place in rap history -- by July 1999, the album would go Double Platinum.

Nov 14: Lauryn Hill’s “Doo-Wop (That Thing)” hits No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100

Fugees alum Lauryn Hill hits No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with her debut solo single, “Doo-Wop (That Thing)," from The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill -- making her the first female rap artist to top the chart without any other billed artists, the last to do so until Cardi B in 2017 with "Bodak Yellow (Money Moves)." 

Nov 17: A Garth Brooks concert is shown at 2,374 Wal-Mart stores

A Garth Brooks live-concert broadcast is shown at 2,374 Wal-Mart stores across the country to promote his concurrent release of his eventually Diamond-certified Double Live set; it's the first of many partnerships between Brooks and the retail chain.

Nov 21: Beastie Boys perform "Sabotage" on SNL

Beastie Boys deliver "Sabotage" and "Three MC's and One DJ" on SNL, with Ad-Rock popping up in a the recurring, ever-popular Spartan Cheerleaders sketch as host Jennifer Love Hewitt's boyfriend.

Nov 27: London tabloid The Sun reports that Mick Jagger has impregnated model Luciana Gimenez Morad

Gimenez denies the tryst, but not before the rumor creates a tabloid frenzy.

Dec 5: Billboard changes its Hot 100 policy, allowing airplay-only tracks to chart for the first time

Prior to the switch, only songs available to purchase as a physical single were eligible to chart. As a result, the Hot 100 lineup changes drastically that week, with R. Kelly and Celine Dion's "I'm Your Angel" jumping 46-1.

Dec 8: Bruce Springsteen announces a reunion tour with his E Street Band

While Bruce Springsteen spent most of the '90s recording new material as a solo act, the Boss announces a reunion tour with the E Street Band in late '98, though the group doesn't make a new album together until 2002's The Rising.

Dec 10: Seagram finalizes its acquisition of Polygram

Canadian juice and liquor giant Seagram finalizes a $10.4 billion acquisition of Dutch music and film company Polygram from Phillips, giving the new company roughly a quarter of the U.S. and European music markets.

Dec 27: Busta Rhymes is charged with weapon possession after police find a loaded gun in his car during a routine traffic stop

Busta Rhymes was charged with possession of an unregistered .45-caliber pistol in his 1995 Mercedes-Benz; his arrest came just weeks before his album E.L.E. (Extinction Level Event): The Final World Front would debut at No. 12 on the Billboard 200.

Dec 30: The ACLU of Western Michigan agrees to help a student fight his suspension from school for wearing a Korn t-shirt

The ACLU of Western Michigan files a brief on behalf of Eric VanHoven, a student who was suspended for wearing a Korn T-shirt. The lawsuit against the Zeeland, Mich. school district seeks unnamed damages for the student suspension and injunction against the school district’s clothing ban on wearing artist names who are affiliated with “obscenity, violence, drugs, alcohol or sexual innuendo.”

Dec: Will Smith releases the $2 million music video for “Welcome To Miami”

Welcome to Miami, bienvenidos a Miami. Smith jets to a beach bash in the 305, flirts with future Hitch co-star Eva Mendes on the road and ends the night boogie-ing at a club in the flashy visual for his No. 17 Hot 100 hit.

Contributors: Tatiana Cirisano, Morgan Enos, Shanté Honeycutt, Joe Lynch, Heran Mamo, Monica Mercuri, Lilly Milman 

1998 Week


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