If 1997 was the year that everything changed in '90s music -- with the grunge and G-funk of the decade's first half giving way to boy bands and Bad Boy -- then '98 was the year that the brave new pop world was fully realized.
Those groups of singing, dancing heartthrobs went supernova, as the Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC led the way to Diamond sales and total cultural omnipresence. Nu-metal became the rock mode of the moment, with bands like KoRn and Limp Bizkit spiking an alternative genre that had become increasingly watered-down over the course of the decade. The ascendance of Puff Daddy and the late Notorious B.I.G. to blockbuster status the year before cleared the way for a full-scale revitalization of New York hip-hop, as JAY-Z, DMX, and Big Punisher all catapulted to stardom. And the emergence of MTV's Total Request Live as appointment viewing for young pop fans created an ecosystem for them all to co-exist, while pushing each other to ever-greater commercial heights.
But even in a year where these pop planets finally seemed to find themselves in perfect alignment, it was the other hits orbiting and shooting off around them that gave 1998 its real character. A quarter century into their career, Aerosmith had their first Hot 100 No. 1. All three members of the perma-hiatused Fugees had major solo hits. Some of the biggest songs of the year came from movies as random as Rush Hour, City of Angels and Dr. Dolittle. Brandy & Monica happened, and so did Whitney & Mariah. "Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)" happened. "Du Hast" happened. The swing revival happened. It was the roaring '90s on the Billboard charts, a pre-millennial boom where no one involved could've guessed that a couple teenage 'Net entrepreneurs were just a year away from turning the entire industry on its head.