Tunes Du Jour Presents 1998

The year 1998 was a watershed moment for popular music. Emerging from the stylistic chaos and radical experimentation of the early/mid ’90s, the music of 1998 represented a culmination of daring artistic visions cohering into some of the most innovative, insightful, and flat-out infectious songs of the decade. Across genres, it was a year that shattered boundaries and solidified legends – a prolific melting pot of game-changing sounds destined to endure.

One of the standout tracks of the year was The Verve’s “Bitter Sweet Symphony,” a song that fused rock with sweeping orchestral arrangements, creating an anthemic yet melancholic sound that resonated with a wide audience. Its poignant lyrics and grandiose strings captured a sense of wistful longing and existential reflection that felt emblematic of the complicated late ’90s zeitgeist. Similarly, Radiohead’s “Karma Police” continued to explore the darker, more unsettling side of human experience with its haunting melody and cryptic lyrics, solidifying the band’s status as one of alt-rock’s most vital and cerebral forces.

The late ’90s also saw electronic music rapidly integrating into the mainstream pop landscape in visionary ways. Fatboy Slim’s “The Rockafeller Skank” was an explosively funky example of this trend, with its gritty, sample-heavy production and addictive dancefloor-ready beats. Stardust’s “Music Sounds Better With You” took a more soulful tack, combining classic house rhythms with a simple yet instantly catchy vocal hook to create an enduring dancefloor classic still beloved today. And the Norman Cook remix of Cornershop’s “Brimful of Asha” ingeniously blended Indian folk sounds with UK club vibes for a globe-spanning hit. For seekers of more atmospheric, boundary-pushing electronica, Massive Attack’s “Teardrop” provided a hypnotic, cinematic soundscape. This fertile era helped lay the groundwork for electronic music’s dominance in pop in the coming decades.

Hip-hop and R&B asserted their cultural force in 1998 as well, with few tracks as powerful as Lauryn Hill’s “Doo Wop (That Thing)” – an undeniable feminist anthem of self-respect powered by Hill’s dexterous rapping and soulful crooning. Her ability to fuse hip-hop bravado with uplifting, socially-conscious lyricism over neo-soul grooves earned her massive critical acclaim. Similarly future-leaning was Aaliyah’s “Are You That Somebody?” which saw the singer’s sultry vocals gliding over Timbaland’s percussive, synthetic production for an alluringly sleek sound that felt years ahead of its time. 

While maintaining their commercial clout, pop’s biggest icons weren’t afraid to musically reinvent themselves in 1998. Madonna’s “Ray of Light” saw the Queen of Pop shedding her known persona for a more spiritually inquisitive stance matched by the song’s trance-inflected electronica textures. And Janet Jackson’s “Together Again” honored loved ones lost to AIDS with its uplifting, gospel-tinged dance-pop sound tempering heavier subject matter.

In retrospect, the diverse brilliance of 1998’s musical landscape feels almost overwhelming. From fist-pumping dancefloor anthems to raw outpourings of soul, from guitar-driven songs of profundity to mindblowing productions that rewrote pop’s boundaries – the year’s music seamlessly bridged the underground and the mainstream in a way that felt thrillingly new. It was the sound of artists across genres at their hungriest and most inspired, creating the shared musical memories that still bond generations of fans together in nostalgic reverie decades later. For many, 1998 was simply the rarest of cultural moments – when everything intersected with perfection. 

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Your (Almost) Daily Playlist: 3-10-24

My Buffalo Stance is this:

  1. Buffaloes should have the right to choice. Their choice has no direct effect on you.
  2. Buffaloes can use the bathroom that corresponds with their identity. The bathroom they choose has no direct effect on you.
  3. Buffaloes should be free to marry who they choose, provided that other party consents. Who they marry has no direct effect on you.
  4. Buffaloes should be able to go to the mall or the multiplex to see Barbie-Q without fearing gun violence.
  5. Buffaloes should be free to move about where they choose and not be confined to one geographical location.
  6. There should be no restrictions placed on the book a buffalo may choose to read or eat. A buffalo learning about something has no direct effect on you.
  7. Buffaloes can dress and wear their hair as they choose, even at school. How a buffalo styles their hair has no direct effect on you.

Celebrating Neneh Cherry’s birthday today on the playlist.

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Your (Almost) Daily Playlist: 2-15-24

In late 2002 I had credit card points that were about to expire so I ordered a bunch of CDs by artists whose music I had not heard, which included Lifted or The Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground by Bright Eyes, which turned out to be a good choice. The album’s title is a reference to a quote by William S. Burroughs: “The story is in the soil, lift it up, anything can happen.”

Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst was born on this date in 1980. Lots of tunes from Conor are included on today’s playlist.

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Your (Almost) Daily Playlist: 2-9-24

The Magnetic Fields’ Stephin Merritt was sitting in a piano bar in Manhattan, listening to the pianist’s interpretations of Stephen Sondheim songs, when he decided he ought to get into theater music because he felt he had an aptitude for it. “I decided I’d write one hundred love songs as a way of introducing myself to the world. Then I realized how long that would be. So I settled on sixty-nine. I’d have a theatrical revue with four drag queens. And whoever the audience liked best at the end of the night would get paid.”

The Magnetic FieldsStephin Merritt was born on this date in 1965. Lots of his/their music is included on today’s playlist.

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My Favorite Songs Of 2023

Five years after then president of The Recording Academy proclaimed that women need to step up, the ladies have responded with “How’s this, jerkface?” Women dominate this year’s Grammy nominations. More importantly, all but two of the top 20 songs on my year-end list are led by female artists (with one guy showing up to provide guest vocals). That’s a record, I think, but don’t quote me on that. I’m too lazy to check. I don’t have a deep analysis for this phenomenon, but I do have a deep appreciation for the talent and diversity of these women (not that women have ever been underrepresented in my annual tallies). The highest placing male acts on my 2023 list are none other than The Rolling Stones and The Beatles. Yes, you read that right. The legends are back, and they still can show the young-uns how it’s done. With their song “Angry,” The Rolling Stones have achieved a remarkable feat: the longest span from first appearance to most recent appearance in my year-end surveys. In 1981, my first year of making such lists, the group placed with “Start Me Up.” The 80s are also well represented by Kylie Minogue and Madonna, each of whom made a triumphant return to my list after long absences. Welcome back, ladies! And last but not least, let’s give a round of applause to Megan Thee Stallion, who has been in my top five for five years in a row. That’s a record, I think, but don’t quote me on that. I’m too lazy to check. Now, without further ado, here is my list of the best songs of 2023. Enjoy!

  1. Ice Cream Man. – RAYE
  2. vampire – Olivia Rodrigo
  3. Kill Bill – SZA
  4. Bongos – Cardi B feat. Megan Thee Stallion
  5. Not Strong Enough – boygenius
  6. Flowers – Miley Cyrus
  7. Escapism. – RAYE & 070 Shake
  8. Paint the Town Red – Doja Cat
  9. Lipstick Lover – Janelle Monáe
  10. Nobody Gets Me – SZA
  11. Dance the Night – Dua Lipa
  12. Shirt – SZA
  13. AMERICA HAS A PROBLEM – Beyoncé feat. Kendrick Lamar
  14. What Was I Made For? – Billie Eilish
  15. Padam Padam – Kylie Minogue
  16. Cobra – Megan Thee Stallion
  17. Brenda Put Your Bra On – Ashley McBryde, Caylee Hammack & Pillbox Patti
  18. Angry – The Rolling Stones
  19. Now and Then – The Beatles
  20. Cool About It – boygenius
  21. RATATA – Skrillex, Missy Elliott & Mr. Oizo
  22. Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd – Lana Del Rey
  23. Calm Down – Rema with Selena Gomez
  24. Gorilla – Little Simz
  25. Seven – Jung Kook feat. Latto
  26. My Love Mine All Mine – Mitski
  27. bad idea right? – Olivia Rodrigo
  28. Jaded – Miley Cyrus
  29. Tropic Morning News – The National
  30. Someday At Christmas – Lizzo
  31. Used To Be Young – Miley Cyrus
  32. Pretty Girls Walk – Big Boss Vette
  33. River – Miley Cyrus
  34. Light On In The Kitchen – Ashley McBryde
  35. Out Alpha the Alpha – Megan Thee Stallion
  36. Bubblegum – Dawn Richard
  37. Rush – Troye Sivan
  38. It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody – Weyes Blood
  39. Weightless – Arlo Parks
  40. Psychos – Jenny Lewis
  41. The Sea – Romy
  42. Lil Boo Thang – Paul Russell
  43. Popular – The Weeknd & Madonna feat. Playboi Carti
  44. The Narcissist – Blur
  45. (It Goes Like) Nanana – Peggy Gou
  46. Tukoh Taka – Nicki Minaj, Maluma and Myriam Fares
  47. Freak Me Now – Jessie Ware
  48. Standing Next To You – Jung Kook
  49. Eyez – The Arcs
  50. What Now – Brittany Howard
  51. Thinking About You – Beck
  52. Wall of Eyes – The Smile
  53. Good Lookin’ – Dixon Dallas
  54. Girl Like Me – Dove Cameron
  55. Wild Flower – RM with youjeen
  56. Helmet – Steve Lacy
  57. Everybody’s Got to Learn – First Aid Kit
  58. Flip a Switch. – RAYE feat. Coi Leray
  59. Nothing Left To Lose – Everything But The Girl
  60. Say Yes To Heaven – Lana Del Rey
  61. Moonlight – Kali Uchis
  62. Bending Hectic – The Smile
  63. In My Head – The Lemon Twigs
  64. Snooze – SZA
  65. Attention – Doja Cat
  66. get him back! – Olivia Rodrigo
  67. Will Anybody Ever Love Me? – Sufjan Stevens
  68. Tux (Your Body Fills Me, Boo) – US Girls
  69. Lottery – Latto feat. LU KALA
  70. Bug Like an Angel – Mitski
  71. The Hands – serpentwithfeet
  72. A day in the water – Christine & the Queens
  73. Drummer Boy – Titus Andronicus
  74. Little Things – Jorja Smith
  75. Daydreaming – Harry Styles
  76. True Love – Christine & the Queens & 070 Shake
  77. Evicted – Wilco
  78. Got Me Started – Troye Sivan
  79. Eye For An Eye – Rina Sawayama
  80. Water Slide – Janelle Monáe
  81. Single Soon – Selena Gomez
  82. Odyssey – Beck & Phoenix
  83. I Don’t Know What You See In Me – Belle & Sebastian
  84. Seem an I – PJ Harvey
  85. Begin Again – Jessie Ware
  86. One of Your Girls – Troye Sivan

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Your (Almost) Daily Playlist: 10-7-23

One night in December 1994 my friend Kathy and I attended the WDRE Acoustic Xmas show at New York City’s Beacon Theater. There were multiple artists on the bill, each getting a short slot to perform three or four songs. The acts were The Go-Go’s, Big Audio Dynamite, Jesus and Mary Chain, frente!, Love Spit Love, Black 47, G. Love & Special Sauce, and Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood. I looked up online who performed, as the only act I recall seeing there were the Radiohead guys. The band had one album out at that time, 1993’s Pablo Honey. Kathy and I just wanted them to do their hit – “Creep” – and then skedaddle. They didn’t play “Creep.” They played some song about plastic trees and one about an iron long and some other mess. Kathy and I knew this band would never be heard from again.

Oops.

Radiohead’s Thom Yorke was born on this date in 1968. Lots of Thom’s work on today’s playlist.

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