90s

Rank the Videos: Madonna 1996 – 2002

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Following one of her most controversial periods, which saw the release of the Sex coffee table book and Erotica, Madonna toned things down considerably in light of the backlash. This continued in the mid-90s in an effort to convince director Alan Parker to cast her in the starring role of Evita. After she landed the role along with a Golden Globe for her performance, she reinvented herself once again embracing her spiritual side. This led to one of her most unique and successful eras. Let’s take a look back at some of her most ambitious and dull videos of the era.

“Frozen” (1998)

Around this time Madonna became interested in spiritualism and mysticism, which she used as a basis for this video. Sporting a gorgeous Gothic look, the singer is in the desert, gracefully moving her hands covered in mehndi, as she tries to reach her cold lover. Directed by Chris Cunningham, the clip features some great, eerie visuals, like Madonna falling and shattering into a flock of birds, splitting herself into three, and transforming into a dog. The whole thing is hypnotizing especially with the intricate movements of her hands and arms. It’s a departure from everything she’d done before and it gained the adoration of critics and fans alike. The imagery is visually stunning and so haunting it both fascinated and creeped me out the first time I saw it. Still a stellar video 21 years later.

“What It Feels Like For a Girl” (2001)

Directed by her then-husband Guy Ritchie, Madonna recreates Grand Theft Auto in real life. The action-packed video is nothing but the singer raising hell and wreaking havoc wherever she goes. It starts with her hotwiring a car and stealing an old woman from a nursing home. From there she drives recklessly, uses a stun gun to mug someone at an ATM, fucks with the cops by spraying water pistols at them, and ruins a street hockey game by driving into it. She then steals another car, runs over the owner, and goes out in a blaze of glory by crashing into a pole. The video caused a lot of controversy due to its violent nature. Many thought it was excessive and glorified violence. Some also called it shocking and disturbing. Madonna fought back saying it’s acting out a fantasy. Even though she’s acting badly and committing all sorts of crimes, it’s still a thrilling video that stands out for its cinematic quality.

“Nothing Really Matters” (1999)

Inspired by the 1997 novel Memoirs of a Geisha, this video features a lot of weird, surreal imagery. Wearing a red Kimono designed by Jean-Paul Gaultier, Madonna twists and dances in a jerky manner as she sings the song which was inspired by her daughter. Apparently, she did her own choreography and it shows – it’s kind of awkward. But things get weird when Madonna and the other dancers twitch and shudder holding bags of water, which is supposed to represent materialism. The way some of the dancers begin floating, scream, and rolling their eyes in the back of their head is freaky. It’s one of those videos that tries way too hard to have deep symbolism. The whole thing is confusing, but I still enjoy it for its creepy imagery.

“Don’t Tell Me” (2000)

Only Madonna can make country Western attire look so cool. Madonna appears to be walking through a Western setting, but the camera pans back to show her walking on a conveyor belt in front of a green screen. Madonna and her dancers do a bit of line dancing but give it a modern update with lots of gyrating hips. There’s also a lot of sand they keep throwing around, which they probably weren’t happy about later. The clip ends with a shot of a cowboy riding a Skewbald horse who gets tossed off and gets up again. It’s not a flashy video, but the cool choreography and Madonna’s S&M take on cowboy attire make give it a stylish flair. It’s a cool looking video that launched people all over to buy cowboy hats and tighter fitting flannel shirts. Hell, even I had one. It seems Bret Michaels didn’t get the memos that the hat trend is over.

“Beautiful Stranger” (1999)

Typically, I think videos for songs featured in movies are boring. It’s usually nothing but a bland performance clip mixed with footage from the film. Luckily, “Beautiful Stranger” goes beyond that. Instead of shoving movie clips in your face, it creates a fun, silly scenario in the Austin Powers universe. Here, Madonna plays a “master of disguise” who is responsible for seducing and taking out spies. In steps Austin Powers who is sure he can handle the situation. Of course, he falls for Madonna’s whims and fantasizes the two of them being naughty in his car. With a flirtatious Madonna and a hilarious Michael Meyers, the video is sexy and funny proving that there was a time when Austin Powers wasn’t stale and clichéd.

“Drowned World/Substitute for Love” (1998)

We all know how vicious and disgusting the paparazzi can be thanks to shows like TMZ, but since that wasn’t around in the late 90s, Madonna shows us how awful they can be. The singer is followed by the pap and rabid fans as she leaves her home and arrives at a theater. Just when she thinks she can find some solace, someone snaps her picture. Things get worse when she arrives at a party. The faces of those around her begin to distort and wrap causing her to run away only to be met with more resistance. She finally reaches home where her daughter is waiting for her comforting embrace. Madonna gives the camera one last hard look and sings “This is my religion” while holding her daughter. Though you wouldn’t think it, the video got some flak for the scenes where she’s running from the pap on bikes, which many compared to Princess Diana’s death the year before. It was later revealed the video had nothing to do with her death. Despite this, it’s still one of her underrated videos that shows us the downsides of being a celebrity.

“Die Another Day” (2002)

With every new Bond film comes a new theme song and Madonna got that honor in 2002. While the song is subpar, the video is thrilling. It opens with her being tortured, beaten up, and nearly executed by a group of villains. The rest of the video is a grueling battle with herself. The best part comes when the two Madonna’s duke it out in a room filled with references to the other Bond films: a mannequin painted gold, the bond cat, and a replica of a bond babe. There’s even a guy sporting the same grill as Jaws. It remains the second most expensive video ever made with Michael Jackson holding on to the top spot. While I don’t think it’s her best of the era, it’s still exciting and has some fun easter eggs for James Bond fans.

“Ray of Light” (1998)

“Ray of Light” marked another huge moment for the Queen of Reinvention. The video is primarily made of footage of the singer gyrating on screen and people going about their daily lives in a blur of motion. It ends with her dancing away the night in a club looking liberated and loving life. The clip stands out for its use of time-lapse technology, which gives it a dizzying feeling. It may not be her best video, but it’s one of her most creative and it didn’t go unrecognized. That year it took home five VMAs including Video of the Year.

“The Power of Good-Bye” (1998)

Directed by Matthew Rolston, this gorgeously shot video shows Madonna in the midst of an emotional breakup. Aside from footage of her singing, we see her and her lover, played by Croatian actor Goran Visnjic playing a game of chess. She destroys the chess board and ultimately leaves despite his attempts to make her stay. The final scene shows her sitting on the beach. Though it’s not one of her stronger videos, it looks beautiful and has a dramatic story. Still, I had to laugh at the cheesy smoldering looks to the camera and the cliched symbolism. It feels too phony at times, but it’s not bad.

“Music” (2000)

I was never a fan of this video. Everything about the video is gaudy from Madonna’s look to Ali G’s lame attempt at comedy. Madonna and friends hang out in the back of a limo, driven by a virtually unknown Ali G, as they party and visit strip clubs. In the middle of the action, a cartoon segment appears where she turns into a superhero and begins fighting bad guys. Everything about this video feels sleazy from the cheesy outfits to Madonna’s greasy look. It’s supposed to show off her rebellious, devil may care, but everything is so unappealing instead. The most interesting thing about the video is how the singer was pregnant with her second child.

“Another Suitcase in Another Hall” (1996)

This is the performance footage taken from Evita and it features Madonna with a dark hairdo getting kicked out of her home and drowning her sorrows in a bar figuring out her next move. She also has a mini duet with Antonio Banderas, who plays the bartender. Later on, it seems like she does to find a job only to be rejected. She leaves, holding her head high, and tries to find another home. Out of all the videos released for the movie, this is the least mind-numbing. It has an interesting plot, but is still pretty dull, unless you like the movie.

“Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” (1996)

Madonna originally recorded this song for her 1984 album Like a Virgin. Since it’s one of her favorite ballads, she later remixed and re-recorded the song for her Something to Remember compilation. Madonna sings the song in an elegant empty room. As the camera slowly zooms in on her, her performance gets more emotional as she twists and turns. It’s gorgeously shot, and Madonna looks beautiful, but it’s so bland. I can appreciate how it looks, but it’s not very entertaining.

“You Must Love Me” (1996)

If you thought most of Madonna’s videos from the mid-90s were very simple, tame, and dull, they’re nothing compared to the ones made to promote Evita. To win the role of Eva Peron, Madonna reinvented herself in a more modest, elegant image. Continuing to push this image, Madonna sings passionately next to a piano with clips from the movie are mixed in. It’s another beautiful looking video, but unless you enjoyed the film, it’s quite boring. It’s a typical music video made to promote a movie. There’s nothing exciting about this clip.

“Don’t Cry For Me” (1996)

Here’s yet another video from Evita. Madonna sings as Eva Peron from a hotel window to the people of Argentina waiting for her below. While her vocal performance is impressive, the video is not unless you’re a fan of the musical, which I’m not. I was never interested in this film and I find all the videos made to promote it tediously boring. Not to mention, I don’t care for Madonna’s acting though critics were even impressed with her Evita performance. Unfortunately, her successful acting streak wouldn’t last long as her next starring role proved.

“American Pie” (2000)

This boring is as dull and vapid as Madonna’s cover. It’s mostly her singing and dancing in front of an American flag while wearing a tiara. The rest of the video features a diverse group of people in front of the flag including farmers, kids, firefighters, bodybuilders, and gay couples. The most entertaining bit is when an old woman in a leotard begins wrestling with another woman. Otherwise, the video is just boring. It’s well-meaning with its message of we’re all Americans, but it’s cliché and dull. Not to mention the cover itself is bland. It’s almost as bad as Sherly Crow’s cover of “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” There’s another version of the video that features different cuts and a lesbian kiss. This is yet another video made to promote a film, The Next Best Thing starring Madonna and Rupert Everett, who is also in the video.

There are more Madonna videos to look at, so stay tuned for the next part of Rank the Videos: Madonna. And make sure to check out part one and two if you missed them. Let me know which one of these are your favorite or least favorite in the comments.

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Playlist: Songs Recorded in a Different Language

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Back when releasing singles meant more than just posting a link, it was common for artists to record their songs in different languages. Most of them were region exclusive, making it a treasure trove for collectors. Plus, it was a nice treat for international fans. The practice isn’t as common today, but once in a while, contemporary artists will flex their language skills. Here are just a handful of artists who recorded songs in another language.

“Todo Mi Amore Ers Tu”/“I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” – Michael Jackson

This duet between Michael Jackson and Siedah Garret was the debut single from 1987’s Bad and was the first in a string of five number one singles for the singer. A special edition 12” single featured a Spanish re-recording of the track dubbed “Todo Mi Amore Ers Tu.” The song sounds just as sappy as the English version, but with more cringe inducing pronunciations. While the hook sounds just as pretty as the original, Jackson and Garret sound a bit awkward on the rest of the song. Then again, it’s the first time Jackson recorded a song in Spanish. They also recorded a French version, which sounds much better. The song seems better suited for French than Spanish, but at least these versions aren’t terrible.

“Gone” – Nsync

Nsync fans may remember the Spanish version of “This I Promise You,” but this version of “Gone” flew under the radar. And it sounds just as good, if not better, than the original. While their vocal delivery is a bit stilted, you can tell they’re not comfortable with the language, their harmonies are on point. They actually sound great singing in Spanish. Justin still gives a powerful vocal delivery filled with all the hurt and anguish of the original. The Spanish version of “This I Promise You” is solid, but this version of “Gone” is far better. It’s a shame it wasn’t as popular as the former song. Though it makes you wonder how other Nsync songs would sound in Spanish. How about a Spanish version of “It’s Gonna Be Me?”

“Mickey” – Toni Basil

“Mickey” is one of those baffling one hit wonders. Why was this annoying song ever a hit? And why can’t you stop singing it? It’s one of those songs you hate but will get stuck in your head all day as soon as someone mentions it. For the alternate 12” single, Basil recorded the song in Spanish. And yes, it’s just as annoying. Admittedly, it’s not as aggravating as the English version, but something about it still gets under your skin. Maybe it’s the in-your-face pep rally vibe. Or how Basil keeps repeating Mickey throughout the song. Or because it’s just an awful song no matter what language it’s in.

“Nunca Te Haré Llorar”/“I’ll Never Break Your Heart” – Backstreet Boys

Boy bands recording their big hits in Spanish was a strange phenomenon. But when you think about it, it makes sense. They have fans all over the world, so why not do something special for their non-English followers? BSB added to the trend with a Spanish version of “I’ll Never Break Your Heart.” They actually don’t sound bad; their vocals still sound sweet and smooth. And it’s good to know the song is still sappy and cheesy in another language. They also recorded a Spanish version of “Anywhere for You,” but it’s not as good. Hearing Nick Carter trying so hard to enunciate is painful.

“My Cherie Amour” – Stevie Wonder

“My Cherie Amour” is one of those timeless love songs. It’s sweet, easy going, and has a simple, yet unforgettable hook. When it was released in 1969 it charted at number 4 on the Billboard Pop and R&B singles chart. Now, it’s one of Wonder’s most iconic songs. It was so popular, Wonder re-recorded it in Spanish and Italian. Wonder handles both versions well having a pretty good grasp on each language. Both versions still sound as sweet and beautiful as the original. Considering the title, you’d think he’d do a French version. It’s never too late for him to try.

“Veras”/“You’ll See” – Madonna

Madonna has always flirted with Spanish culture ever since her days of visiting “La Isla Bonita.” So it’s no surprise that she recorded her 1995 single “You’ll See” in Spanish. Translated by Argentine singer/songwriter Paz Martinez her voice sounds beautiful, yet haunting. This version of the song still has the chilling, heartbreaking tone as the original. The Spanish lyrics paired with the swirl of Latin guitars complete the bittersweet mood. It’s kind of romantic, but there’s still something sad about it. Madonna later recorded “What It Feels Like For a Girl” in Spanish along with a collaboration with Ricky Martin entitled “Be Careful with My Heart,” which sounds like a strange duet, but actually works quite well.

“Can’t Change Me” – Chris Cornell

The debut single from Chris Cornell’s solo album, Euphoria Morning, received a French version for Japanese, European, and deluxe versions of the record. While his French is a little spotty, his voice still has the same power, emotion, and drive found in the original. He sounds beautiful in this version and his voice will still give you chills. Though it is a bit weird that part of the bridge is in English. The song was translated by Alexis Lemoine, so maybe it was a style choice. It takes you out of the song for a bit, but overall it’s a fantastic reminder of why Cornell was one of rock’s best singers.

“Do Do Do De Da Da Da” – The Police

For a special 7” edition of this single, The Police recorded this song in both Spanish and Japanese. While the Spanish version isn’t bad, the Japanese recording stands out. Japanese can be a difficult language to learn, so a lot of artists opt for an easier language if they want to re-record their songs. Yet, Sting does a pretty decent job here. Sure, he sounds and a bit unnatural, like he’s a first year Japanese student, but he doesn’t sound terrible. Still, it’s better than his new album with Shaggy.

“Helden”/“Heroes” – David Bowie

David Bowie’s groundbreaking single “Heroes” was recorded in English, French, and German. Every version is fantastic, yet each one has a different feel to it. The original is filled with a sense of melancholy while the French version is beautiful and kind of romantic. The German version is bursting with emotion and finds Bowie practically shouting at the top of his lungs by the song’s end. Each version is exciting and has a timeless quality to it. It really shows off Bowie’s talent and how great his crossover appeal was.

“Mi Refljo”/“My Reflection”– Christina Aguilera

In 2000, Christina Aguilera released her second album and her first Spanish album dubbed Mi Reflejo. The record featured cuts from her debut album, like “I Turn To You” and “Genie in a Bottle” recorded in Spanish. But this single from the Mulan soundtrack is one of the best from the album. Whether it’s in Spanish or English, the song is still beautiful and heartbreaking. The way she hits her notes on this version still gives you chills. Even if you can’t understand Spanish, the power of her voice and the emotion she puts behind every word is enough to make you cry. But if you’re looking for another Spanish Aguilera song that won’t choke you up, “Ven Conmigo (Solamente Tú)” is a good choice.

“Boom Clap” – Charli XCX

For the Japanese edition of her second album, Sucker, Charli XCX re-recorded “Break the Rules” and her hit single “Boom Clap” in Japanese. Surprisingly, both songs translate very well and the former actually sounds like it could be by a J-pop girl group. Of course, her Japanese skills aren’t the strongest, but she does a fine job. The songs keep their upbeat vibe and the hook on “Boom Clap” is still so infectious, you’ll find yourself singing the Japanese version in no time, even if you don’t know what she’s saying. Since recording singles in another language isn’t as popular as it used to be, it’s cool to see an artist like Charli XCX do something like this for her fans, especially those in Japan.

“Llámame”/“Call Me” – Blondie

This iconic track received a Spanish recording for a special 12” single meant for release in Mexico and some South American countries. It was later released in the US and the UK and was featured on the 1993 compilation Blonde and Beyond. For the most part, this version is spot on, even Debbie Harry sounds decent singing in Spanish. But things get clunky around the hook which finds her repeating “call me” in English. It’s like the translators decided “Llámame” didn’t sound as catchy and stuck with the original.

“Héroe”/“Hero” – Mariah Carey

No matter what you think about Mariah Carey, she has a killer voice. Her powerful vocals and those impossible high notes she hits are enough to give you chills. She brings that same talent to the Spanish version of “Hero.” This version was recorded for the international release of her album, Music Box, and was translated by Jorge Luis Piloto. The song is gorgeous and Carey sounds confident while singing in Spanish. This version even charted on Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs. She’d later record “Open Arms” and “My All” in Spanish, but after a mistranslation snafu with the latter song, it seems like we won’t be hearing sing in another language for a while.

There are a lot more artists who recorded in another language so which ones did I miss? Let me know in the comments!

Playlist: Throwback Christmas Performances

Despite what department stores tried to tell you two months ago, the Christmas season is finally here! Break out the eggnog, prepare the wrapping paper, and put up the tree. It’s time to get excited about the holidays and everything that comes with it, maybe except the family arguments. To help you get in the mood, let’s take a look at some throwback Christmas performances. Just try not to succumb to nostalgia overload.

“Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays” – Nsync

The baggy khakis. The frosted tips. Justin’s ramen noodle hair. It must be Nsync in the 90s! The boys perform “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays” on the Kathie Lee Show to a crowd that politely claps along. It’s one of their earlier appearances since Lee holds a mini Q+A session to learn more about them. The boys revealing such titillating details like how old they are, what they fight about, and how they’re all “like brothers.” And if Justin’s hair wasn’t distracting enough, check out his gold “Nsync” chain. The whole thing is goofy, a little awkward, but a classic for Nsync fangirls. The boys also performed the song at the Disney parade, but it’s hard to get into the holiday spirit with little Christmas paraphernalia around. Also, apparently they had their own holiday special. Why am I just finding out about this now?

“Oi to the World” – No Doubt

If you’re not feeling Gwen Stefani’s latest holiday album, then check out this performance from 1997 instead. During their set at Live to Erase MS, the band pulls out this Vandals cover and it really makes you miss old school Stefani. She wiggles around without care, doing her weird dance in chunky shoes and flowing skirt. This song is perfect if you need a healthy dose of Ska this holiday season. Unfortunately, the video ends before the band finishes the song, but it still manages to get you fired up for the holidays. When watching this, you can’t help but think about how Stefani is now and how her younger self may not be a fan of the glamour pop star she is now.

“All I Want For Christmas Is You” – Mariah Carey

It’s not Christmas unless you hear this song a million times before you put up the tree. But no matter how many times you hear it, you can’t deny how damn good it is. What makes this performance so enjoyable is this is Mariah at her peak. She sounds great, looks great, and looks like she’s having fun on stage. As you would expect, she struts out in a revealing Santa outfit before being carried off by her band of merry men. There’s not much to it, but it reminds you why Mariah is considered one of the greats, something that’s easy to forget in recent years. Let’s try to forget her New Year’s fiasco from last year.

“Funky, Funky Christmas” – New Kids on the Block

I feel like I talk about this song every year, but I can’t get over how bad this performance is. It’s so bad, I absolutely love it!

“Christmas In Hollis” – Run DMC

If you grew up in the 90s, this performance should send you into nostalgia overload. You have Run DMC, 90s Nickelodeon, Kenan and Kel all in one video. It’s almost too much to handle! The group performs what is probably the best Christmas song ever. Even though the kids are clearly excited (because producers told them to be) they don’t understand the magnitude of seeing Run DMC, rap legends. Can you imagine being that young and seeing Run DMC? Thinking about it, the show had some killer performances: TLC, Nas, Dru Hill, and even the Spice Girls.

“Let It Snow” – Boyz 2 Men

In the 90s, Boyz 2 Men could do no wrong. Their soulful harmonies and impressive vocal range made all of their songs a hit including this now Christmas classic. It’s hard to tell, but judging from quick glimpses of what looks like Kel Mitchell, this appears to be another clip from All That. Though Brian McKnight, who provides backing vocals, is missing from this performance the guys have no trouble holding their own. And this is good ol’ days of the group when Michael McCary was still around. While this live performance is great, many may prefer their performance of the track on Fresh Prince of Bel Air. I mean that episode was pretty good.

“Il Est Ne Le Divin Enfant” – Siouxsie and the Banshees

The Banshees buck tradition and perform a French Christmas tune for this performance. While Siouxsie Sioux looks like she’s having a good time the others just aren’t having it. Robert Smith in particular uncomfortably holds his cymbals either waiting for his cue or desperately needing a bathroom break. Or the most likely scenario, high out of his mind. Since I’m a huge Cure fan, Smith is such a distraction. I’m always intrigued when the camera pans to him.Still, Sioux sounds beautiful while singing this tune and it’s a cool alternative Christmas track if you’re already sick of the old standbys.

“Santa Baby” – Eartha Kitt

While I grew up with the Madonna version, I have to give credit to the vixen who made it popular, Eartha Kitt. In this live performance, Kitt shows she’s not afraid to let out the claws as she states “I used to have a lot of fun with this song, then Madonna sang it.” Whereas Madonna’s version is overly cutesy, as if Betty Boop were performing it, Kitt’s version is sultry. You can practically hear her purring through the lyrics coming off as quite the seductress. She shifts gears near the end sounding and looking a bit frightening. She’s kind of scary, yet sexy. If I were Santa, I’d make sure to get her everything on her Christmas list.

“Merry Christmas, Baby” -Hanson

Hanson’s Snowed In is another 90’s holiday classic with this being one of the best songs from the LP. While Hanson and the choir deliver a great performance, the crowd is pretty stale. It’s awkward seeing the camera shift between Taylor Hanson bobbing along to the music and the crowd just sitting there, most of them not even swaying to the music. You can tell there are a few Hanson fans in the crowd trying their best not to scream and cry. But it seems like everyone else isn’t really sure if they should be enjoying it or not. And in case you didn’t know, the Hanson brothers just released a new holiday album. Gotta say I’m pretty excited to hear it.

“This Gift” – 98 Degrees

I wasn’t the biggest 98 Degrees fan, but I absolutely loved this song when it first came out. During this performance at Disney’s holiday parade, they’re practically drowned out by all the screaming from the crowd. There are tons of fangirls, but it’s funny to see some boys in the crowd enjoying the band. It’s standard boy band fare: oversized cargo pants, awful sweaters, and lots of hair gel. I know the part where Jeff kneels at the front of the stage and sings to one lucky fan is supposed to be sweet, but it comes off as creepy for some reason. And similar to Hanson, 98 Degrees also released a new Christmas album. Does this mean Nsync is next? We can only hope.

“Christmas Time” – Christina Aguilera

Switching things up X-Tina gives up a festive, dance-infused song to get you in the Christmas spirit. Recorded around the time of her peak, she sounds excellent here and never misses a beat while dancing. Am I the only one who forgot she used to dance? But the best part of the performance has to be when Lil’ Bow Wow comes out. Yes, Bow Wow is featured here. Talk about a throwback performance. Even though the song isn’t as well remembered as other holiday classics, it’s a fun, upbeat way to get excited about the holidays. And it’s probably the best track from My Kind of Christmas. Seriously, that album is pretty bad.

“This Christmas” – Nsync, Shawn Colvin, Tatyana Ali

And how about another Nsync performance because why not? Let’s take a moment to appreciate Justin raising the roof at the end.

What are some of your favorite holiday performances? Let me know in the comments!

Playlist: Throwback Macy’s Day Parade Performances

It may be hard to remember with commercials constantly shoving Christmas in your face, but Thanksgiving is coming up. That means good food, football, and spending time with people you don’t care about for most of the year. It also means the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. While it’s not one of my favorite holiday traditions, me and my family do watch it every year at least to check out the cool floats. But along with balloons and too much broadway there are “performances.” And man, are some of them awkward. So before you gorge yourself on turkey and dressing, let’s take a look at some throwback performances from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Rick Astley (2008)

You know the moment when a meme dies? Like when your parents start saying “Damn Daniel!” or Toyota plays John Cena’s music in their latest commercial. It’s not funny; it’s just sad whenever anyone uses it. The Macy’s 2008 Thanksgiving Parade is when Rickrolling died. Organizers of the parade decided to rickroll everyone watching by having Rick Astley come out and “sing” “Never Gonna Give You Up” with the dead-eyed cast of Foster’s Home For Imaginary Friends surrounding him. There’s nothing wrong with the performance, but it hits a low when Cheese yells “I like Rickrolling!” Like when your parents start liking the same things as you, Rickrolling was officially uncool. But the meme never died if you ask current advertisers.

Backstreet Boys (1997)

The Backstreet Boys mime their hit “As Long as You Love Me” during the 1997 edition of the parade. It’s pretty straightforward, but the thing you notice is how the three most popular members are front and center. So where are Kevin and Howie? Way in the back separated from the other guys. They don’t even get much camera time. There’s only one shot of them before it’s back to Nick, Brian, and AJ. Though the former BSB fangirl in me did beam how adorable Nick (aka the best member) looks in his winter coat.

Nsync (1998)

I’m pretty sure I watched this performance when it first aired back in 1998. There’s nothing notable about it. The boys lipsynch perfectly fine. Though JC is clearly the star. It doesn’t matter that he’s not actually singing, he’s still doing all the head nods and moving clearly enjoying the spotlight. Justin does some weird wiggle behind JC, Lance is off to the side smiling and politely wiggling and Chris and Joey are just kind of standing there. It’s not amazing, but it’s a fun throwback if you’re a former Nsync fangirl. On another note, am I the only one who thinks the announcer saying “the females love them” is creepy?

KISS (2014)

Something about KISS at the Macy’s parade is kind of weird. Coming from a band who has licensed their name on everything from caskets to board games, it shouldn’t be a surprise. Still, it catches you off guard. The bright colorful balloons don’t gel with KISS’ style. But it is funny to see Finn and Jake floating behind Paul Stanley as he tries his hardest to look like a badass. It doesn’t help that they don’t look excited to be there and don’t do a very good job at lipsynching. It’s kind of painful to watch. Also, with a band like KISS couldn’t they give them a better float? They just got a weird plexiglass stage.

Kanye West (2010)

Having Kanye West perform at the parade seems like an odd choice. You don’t think a controversial rapper like West would be asked to appear at a family-friendly event. The network even censored “hell” from his song. It’s just weird to see him there; you’d think he’d believe he was too good to show up. Though his performance was fine, other videos show he was not a favorite at the parade. One clip shows West being booed from the crowd. Maybe that’s why he hasn’t been back since.

98 Degrees (1998)

Watching this performance makes me question how we fangirls ever thought stuff like this was okay. Seeing Nick Lachey continually pout and lick his lips to the camera is cringy. But back in the day, it would make fangirls swoon. Everything about it now is cheesy: the matching outfits, the khakis, the stupid coats, and hairstyle hardened by too much gel. Why did we ever find this attractive?

O-Town (2001)

O-Town never really had the chance to be the next boy band to take the world by storm. But I was a loyal fan, which is why it’s strange that I don’t remember this performance. The band at least acts like they care and actually move around while “singing.” If there’s anything weird about this it’s the song. “We Fit Together” has not so subtle lyrics like “I wanna go all night/ain’t no stopping/til the breaking of the dawn” and “I wanna go/knock knock/our bodies to the beat.” Seems like a very inappropriate song for a televised event that’s supposed to be family friendly.

Baha Men (2002)

There was actually a time when the Baha Men were so popular they were invited to perform at the Thanksgiving parade. And to my disappointment, they don’t even perform “Who Let The Dogs Out?” Yes, the song is stupid and terrible, but it’s the only one people know. You can imagine everyone at home was waiting to hear the song and see them go wild on the float. Instead, we get a lame cover of “Crocodile Rock.” Sadly, this was probably the highlight of their career.

Simple Plan (2003)

Yes, Simple Plan brought their whiny rock to the Thanksgiving Parade in 2003, which was probably the peak of their fame. This is another questionable song choice. The first line of the song features the phrase “I’m a dick,” which the network picked up on and censored. But with all the songs the band had at that point, you’d think they’d ask them to play something else. Also, it’s hard not to cringe while watching Pierre Bouvier trying to be edgy with giant M&Ms looming behind him.

The Lawrence Brothers (1995)

At the peak of his popularity, Joey Lawrence attempted a singing career. And yes, it was bad. This didn’t stop him from roping in his brothers to sing with him at the 1995 Macy’s Day Parade. While Joey looks confident and is putting his heart into lipsynching, the other two couldn’t give a shit. It’s clear on their faces. Matthew looks pained as if he knows he has no business singing. Andrew just looks bored with his chin resting on the float bar. They don’t sound awful; it’s just so unexpected. People must’ve liked because they were invited back multiple times.

Barney (1998)

I included this because I somehow still know all the words to this song even though I haven’t heard it in almost 20 years. This is why I can’t math properly!

New Kids on the Block (1989)

The New Kids or NKOTB if you’re cool, perform this sappy song and don’t do the best job at it. Jordan takes the spotlight, but it’s weird to see him laugh and smile when he sings about kids not having enough to eat. Before that, you can see Donnie say something to him as if they’re not supposed to be performing right now. And at one point Jordan just gives up lipsynching and starts waving. You can barely see the others, though I do like how Joey decided to dress like a 50s mob boss. And for some reason, Donnie starts holding a baseball cap for the rest of the performance. At the end, the music fades out and turns into screams – it was the peak of New Kids mania after all.

Which one of these throwback performances was your favorite? Let me know in the comments!

Playlist: Stupid Songs that We All Loved

It’s easy for people to look at music today and claim it was better way back when. But they seem to forget there was a lot of questionable music back then too. Eras like the 80s and 90s were filled with tons of terrible songs, yet at the time, they were hits. Now, we recognize them are bad songs or “guilty pleasure,” but when they were first released they were popular despite how dumb they were. So let’s look back at stupid songs we all loved at one point.

“Achy Breaky Heart” – Billy Ray Cyrus

Though this song is now known as one of the worst songs of all time, it was actually a hit when it came out in 1992. Originally titled “Don’t Tell My Heart” it was first performed by The Marcy Brothers in 1991 but didn’t get much airplay. It wasn’t until Billy Ray Cyrus recorded his own version that the song exploded. It reached the number one spot on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs and peaked at number four on the Hot 100. And yes, I even liked it when I was a kid. It’s one of those song’s that’s terrible but has an earworm hook that burrows its way into your brain. It’s pretty bad with the stupid hook and Cyrus’ faux accent. For the longest time, we thought this was the worst thing Cyrus would give to the world. Boy, were we wrong.

“I’m Too Sexy” – Right Said Fred

Released in 1991, UK duo Right Said Fred earned a number one hit with this ridiculous song about being so sexy “it hurts.” What started as a joke between the two Fairbrass brothers turned into an international chart-topping single. The track makes fun of the superficiality and narcissism of being a supermodel. It’s another one of those songs that’s so stupid you end up liking it. You gotta admit, the opening line of “I’m too sexy for my shirt” is kind of hard to forget. Now considered one of the worst song’s of the 90s, it’s something most of would rather forget was ever a thing.

“Higher” – Creed

Creed is one of those bands no one wants to admit they liked at one point. Sort of like Limp Bizkit. Before becoming of the music’s biggest jokes, they were one of the most successful acts of the late 90s. This song, along with the sappy “With Arms Wide Open” helped their second album, Human Clay, reach platinum status eleven times. Kind of disturbing when you think about it. This pseudo rock song was inescapable when it first came out. It was all over the radio and the lame video received lots of airplay on MTV. Listening to it now, it’s hard to think how anyone took this song seriously. Frontman Scott Stapp sounds like he has a sinus infection while singing and though the band denied their religious connotations, it’s pretty easy to hear all over this song.

“Blue” – Effiel 65

There are some songs whose origin and popularity can’t be explained. Why the hell was Effiel 65’s “Blue” a chart topping hit in 1999? We still have no idea. With a generic dance beat, the most memorable lyric in the mindless “da bee dee da” the singer keeps mumbling over and over. The rest of the lyrics are baffling as the singer goes onto talk about having a blue girlfriend, house, and dog. Why blue? Is he literally blue or is this supposed to be a clumsy metaphor? These are questions we’ll probably never have answers for. Even though the song is terrible, you couldn’t but singing it whenever it played. As a kid, I thought the song was weird, yet would happily sing it in the car whenever it came on.

“Rico Suave” – Gerardo

Everyone talks about how awful today’s music is and how things were better in the 80s and 90s. But then you remember a dark time in 1990 when Gerardo gave us the travesty that is “Rico Suave.” Looking back at it, it seems like a bad joke: the cringy lyrics, the mindless hook, and the questionable mariachi band in the video. While it never hit number one, it did reach as high at number two on Billboard’s Hot Rap Track and number seven on the Hot 100. The song is unbelievably bad making you question who actually bought it when it came out. While it can be a fun song to take the piss out of when hanging out with definitely not something you listen to for pleasure.

“Barbie Girl” – Aqua

This is one of those songs that could only exist in the 90s. In 1997, Danish group Aqua dropped this annoying song on the unsuspecting masses. And it took off. Supposedly a commentary poking fun at the superficiality of the doll, it’s a song you hate to get stuck in your head. The hook manages to be infectious, yet completely annoying. Her voice is too squeaky, while the guy’s faux gruffness comes off as slightly creepy. The single charted number one around the world and even caught the ire of Mattel, who later tried to sue the band. When this song came out, I remember teachers trying to ban us from singing it because it was supposedly dirty. And then someone went and made the Ken song, which all the boys in class loved singing.

“Party All the Time” – Eddie Murphy

Hot off the heels of Beverly Hills Cop, someone convinced Eddie Murphy to get in the recording booth and make this stupid song. The sad thing is as dumb as it is, it’s really catchy. Part of that has to do with the inane repetitive hook and the help of funk master Rick James. Listening to the song and watching Murphy trying so hard in the recording booth, you’d think it was an elaborate joke. That’s probably what people were hoping. Unfortunately, it was all too real and even led Murphy to record an album. And it was a commercial success. Murphy tried to have another hit single in the 90s with “Whaazup with You” with some help from Michael Jackson. While Jackson saves the song a little bit, it’s more atrocious than this. At least it gave us a killer Children of Bodom cover.

“Ice Ice Baby” -Vanilla Ice

Vanilla Ice is a hard phenomenon to explain today. Looking back at his biggest hit, it’s clearly bad. It’s one of those songs hipsters like ironically. But back in 1990, Rob van Winkle was the hottest rapper around. This song, which stole the riff from “Under Pressure” and led to a hilarious Vanilla Ice moment, graced the top of the charts around the world making his international debut To The Extreme, a success. It sold 15 million copies and spent 16 weeks at the top of the Billboard 200. A short time later, people realized the song was dumb and Vanilla Ice was pretty lame. It didn’t help that Jim Carey poked fun at him and his lame dance moves in a great In Living Color sketch.

“Macarena” – Los del Rio

We all knew this was coming, so let’s get it over with it. The Macarena was one of those inexplicable fads of the 90s. What started out as an obscure dance song soon exploded around the world thanks to the stupid dance associated with the song. Soon the dance was being done at proms, weddings, and in your mom’s backyard. The best videos on America’s Funniest Home Videos were Macarena failures. It prompted several parodies, including a memorable one from the Animaniacs. It was so popular my school even made kids in an assembly do it on stage. Soon, the fad died out with slap bracelets, frosted tips, and JNCO Jeans. But with so many 90s trends coming back into fashion, maybe this duo is prime for a comeback. Let’s hope not.

“The Safety Dance” – Men Without Hats

Play this song for someone under 20 now and they’d probably wonder if it was a joke. Listening to the song and watching the weird video now, it’s still not all that clear if it is a joke. Written about bouncers trying to stop kids from pogo dancing in clubs, the song is baffling. The lyrics are weird with the odd yet memorable line “we can dance/we can dance/everyone look at your hands” while the music sounds like it was inspired by a Renaissance Fair. It’s one of the weirdest songs from the 80s, yet it was successful. It reached the top spot on Billboard’s Hot Club Play and peaked at number three on the Hot 100. And to think, for years people thought it was a song about safe sex.

“Watch Me” – Silento

Dance crazes are something the world should’ve left behind with the “Cha Cha Slide.” But somehow we all get swept up in them when a new one pops up every few years. When Silento hit the scene with “Watch Me” everyone from your mom to Jimmy Fallon started singing the mindless song. The track is nothing but different hip-hop dances phrases (Stanky Legg, Crank That) mashed together repeatedly throughout. And no matter how hard you try, it’s almost impossible not to “whip” and “nae nae” when you hear it. Even the Nickelodeon remix was catchy. I had to change the channel every time it came on so it wouldn’t get stuck in my head. It’s by no means good, but with a simple chorus and fun music, the song is hard to ignore even if you hate it. The track ended up in the number three spot on the Billboard Hot 100 where it stayed for six consecutive weeks. Thankfully, people seem to have forgotten the dance, but it makes me wary for the next dance craze.

“What the Fox Say” – Ylvis

This is one of those rare instances where an obviously terrible song turns into a big hit. Norwegian comedy duo Ylvis recorded “What the Fox Say” as an “anti-hit” for their comedy show Tonight With Ylvis. It didn’t take long for the video to hit Youtube and explode all over the internet. It was a song designed to be terrible and hilarious, yet it turned out to be successful. It’s reached platinum status in the States and peaked at number six on the Billboard Hot 100. The song is nothing but random noises and generic dance music, proving that the internet gets obsessed with the weirdest things. Since the song was everywhere, I couldn’t find the humor in it and just found it to be another mindless, terrible song. Luckily, the duo said they don’t have plans to make a sequel.

There are more lovably stupid songs out there, so which ones did I miss? Which of these songs is your guilty pleasure? Let me know in the comments!