The crop of albums that turn 16 this year made a massive dent on pop culture. (The same can be said, if not to a mostly much lesser extent, about the Canadian albums that turn the same age this year.)
It can be argued that the very foundations of 2013′s musical zeitgeist were being forged in 1997. Check out 26 of its most memorable albums. Now go get your license, albums! Happy Sweet 16!
1. Radiohead—OK Computer
Do we actually need to detail the importance of OK Computer to independent music—or pop culture at large? Here’s proof of the album’s significance: Pages upon pages of OK Computer tattoos.
2. Foo Fighters—The Color and the Shape
Unlike their even—if slightly repetitive—debut, The Color and the Shape established Foo Fighters as a multi-faceted alt-rock mainstay, producing diverse singles in “Monkey Wrench,” “My Hero,” and “Everlong,” the latter of which remains alt-rock’s hugest drop-D ballad. We can also thank “Everlong” for its wonderfully epic progeny, including (but not limited to) Lifehouse’s “Hanging By a Moment” and Hoobastank’s “The Reason.”
It’s hard to believe that Bjork reached no. 28 on the Billboard charts in 1997—a year where, apparently, eccentricity paid off.
4. Daft Punk—Homework
Sure, “Get Lucky” might be one of the 2013′s most defining songs, but in 1997, the French duo were just toying with world domination with Homework, the LP that birthed “Da Funk.”
5. Backstreet Boys—Backstreet’s Back
Backstreet’s Back established A.J., Howie, Nick and co. as the era’s biggest boy band (sorry, NSync), largely on the strength of the Halloween-esque half-step melody of “Everybody,” which, with a few additional guitars, could’ve easily passed as a Danzig song.
6. Oasis—Be Here Now
Be Here Now, while solid, was the album that brought Oasis back down to Earth. While it was undeniably their most anticipated record—it was the followup to the since-canonized (What’s the Story) Morning Glory—it lacked the hit-making punch of its predecessor. But it was by no means a bad album: It moved 8 million copies in an era where record sales counted for something.
7. Erykah Badu—Baduizm
Baduizm is a saucy all-time great, combining timeless, jazz-inspired vocals with instrumental hip-hop (often aided by the Roots). Its influence cut so deep that a decade after its release, one-time YouTube star Mr. Chi City referred to “Erykah Badu chicks” as a personality archetype.
Blur was a great album—some argue it’s the greatest of the band’s career—but its most enduring gift? “Song 2,” which changed professional sports, teen movies, adrenaline-charged commercials, and Dance Cave forever.
9. Wu Tang Clan—Wu Tang Forever
How big was Wu Tang Forever? It was a behemoth. The follow-up to 36 Chambers debuted at no. 1 on the Billboard charts, boasted a six-minute lead single, and made “Triumph” a whiteboy karaoke rap classic. (As karaoke rap tracks go, its popularity is only rivalled by “Baby Got Back” and “Forgot About Dre.”)
10. Blink-182—Dude Ranch
The band might list Enema of the State as Blink 182′s classic, but we disagree. Dude Ranch is the trio’s defining tome, dishing out end-to-end pop-punk stupidity without skip tracks, without Travis Barker, and likely without pants. Here are the album’s best tracks: “Pathetic,” “Voyeur,” “Dammit,” “Boring,” “Dick Lips,” “Waggy,” “Enthused,” “Untitled,” “Apple Shampoo,” “Emo,” “Josie,” “A New Hope,” “Degenerate,” “Lemmings,” and “I’m Sorry” (plus the secret track). Dude Ranch may have just turned 16, but it will live in eternal adolescence.
11. The Verve—Urban Hymns
You know that moment where, like, you just got fired from your job and the love of your life dumped you for your best friend and your cat got run over by a garbage truck and you found out that you need antibiotics for that weird condition and you’re just crying so explosively that snot’s dripping from your nose and you’re considering calling Kids Help Phone even though you’re 23 and then… you all of a sudden clench your fists, slam them on the table, and decide that everything’s gonna be all right? That moment: “Bittersweet Symphony.”
12. Modest Mouse—The Lonesome Crowded West
The Lonesome Crowded West is one of the finest albums of the 1990s, introducing us the spastic, urban-pirate aesthetic that’d make Modest Mouse an eventual commercial powerhouse. (Well, maybe not a powerhouse—but Good News For People Who Love Bad News ain’t nothing to fuck with.)
13. The Prodigy—The Fat of the Land
Remember when “electronica” was hyped as the new rock ‘n’ roll in the late ’90s? That sentiment looked silly until, a decade on, it felt bizarrely prescient. But you know what still looks plain old silly? Keith Flint, a overgrown baby with copious amounts of eye makeup, an (admittedly awesome) stars ‘n’ bars sweater, and a hairstyle inspired by Beelzebub himself.
14. Third Eye Blind—Third Eye Blind
Third Eye Blind were panned for being soft-serve, soft-dick alt rockers by grunge purists, but like, whatever. That “doo doo doo” song is the jam.
Dummy might’ve been this Bristol trip hop outfit’s most recognizable release, but their self-titled follow-up remains a favourite among the band’s still-growing following.
16. Chemical Brothers—Dig Your Own Hole
Slick, processed and built for action-movie soundtracks, Dig Your Own Hole is the jewel of the late-’90s electronica crop. (Sorry, Crystal Method.)
17. Deftones—Around the Fur
While Chino Moreno is now hailed as an experimental metal god, Around the Fur proved that he started from the same place as the rest of the backwards-MLB-cap-rocking, septum-pierced plebs: Rap-metal.
U2′s Pop era was one the band likely wants to forget: It combined over-the-top expensive touring, critical failures, and reams of regrettable neon-tinted sunglasses.
19. Green Day—Nimrod
Somewhere after their snotty pop-punk era and before their rock-opera suburban savant period, Nimrod happened. Decent as it was, few would argue it was one of the band’s best—although it did provide us with “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life),” a track that’d be featured on every over-earnest, coming-of-age sitcom from 1997 until the end of time. It’s the era’s finest high school graduation song, trailing only Vitamin C’s apt-titled “Graduation Song.”
Why do people call Pavement college rock? S.C.I.E.N.C.E.‘s blend of slap bass, half-baked scratching, and distorted guitars sounds more like the inside of a smoke-filled bro house than anything Stephen Malkmus ever wrote.
21. Creed—My Own Prison
Some argue that Creed put the final nail in grunge’s coffin because, at the time, people inexplicably equated My Own Prison with grunge. But grunge it ain’t. Creed spawned an epic, hard rockin’ style that’d take over pop music, before eventually settling into its spiritual homeland: Western Canada.
22. Marcy Playground—Marcy Playground
Think fast: You’re at some half-assed trivia night at the world’s most mediocre Irish Pub. The MC just told you to name a one-hit wonder from the ’90s. What the first song that pops into your head?
23. Insane Clown Posse—The Great Milenko
Here, the album that spawned the most fascinating youth-culture phenomena in recent memory. And it’s all based around one little banger:
24. Spice Girls—Spiceworld
Spiceworld, the film, is a classic piece of ’90s ephemera. “Stop,” meanwhile, is an unstoppable jam.
25. Will Smith—Big Willie Style
Odd as it might seem, Big Willie Style had some of Will Smith’s most recognizable songs—including the classic “Getting Jiggy With It.” Had it only contained “Switch,” i.e. HIS BEST SONG, it would’ve been a relentless all-timer.
26. Faith No More—Album of the Year
An Album of the Year by Mike Patton. Get it? It’s a joke! Unless you’re a ponytailed audio technician whose wardrobe consists solely of Primus tees and cargo shorts. You know the guy: He dresses up as Buckethead every Halloween.