My precious offspring.
Fruit of my loins.
My precious progeny.
Gather ’round. Let me tell you a story. About a time, not so long ago, when all was not sunny.
It was a dark time in music history, the mid-to-late 90s.
It had not always been so.
Mere years earlier, two supernovas of talent emerged on the Upper Left Coast of the USA, playing music that would change and haunt America.
Their voices were freedom for a whole generation!
Granted, this generation did not really need to be freed from anything, because they were incredibly pampered and wealthy, but nevertheless, these voices were the young generation’s Moses, leading to the Promised Land of Anywhere But Here.
And what voices they were.
Kurt sounded as though he was singing while simultaneously mutilating a cat, and Eddie sang as though he’d recently had jaw surgery and couldn’t fully open his mouth.
But what they lacked in intelligibility, they made up for in passion.
You see, children, after riding through an unparallelled season of peace and wealth and prosperity, something bad was happening to America’s collective soul.
Not Collective Soul the band. They were awful. Like cats-mating-outside-on-the-fence awful.
I’m talking about our collective national psyche, which began to die of comfort and happiness.
But we were wakened from that coma of prosperity and comfort by two misfit mavens of music who gave us words to describe what our souls had been feeling all along.
A new word.
Angst over what? It’s not entirely clear, but damn, these guys were angsty.
Mostly about love.
Their songs were angry, and moody, and filled with lyrics that made the soul want to angst, like:
Yeah, hey, yay
Deep stuff, right there.
I’m not sure you’re allowed to use the word “mulatto” anymore. It’s gone the way of “oriental” and “gipped.” Probably a good thing.
But then, something bad happened.
This is not opinion. It’s fact. Take a look at this chart of song plays from Spotify. Nirvana is in first place, by more than 20 million plays. Nirvana is first the way Secretariat was in first place in the Belmont Stakes.
Now this was a good thing. Until cheap charlatans realized that angst could be monetized and began trying to commoditize it.
And pretenders started popping up all over the place. People who had that “sound.” Only they didn’t have the real angst. They just sang through clenched teeth, and wrote deep-sounding but vacuous lyrics like:
Black moon is white again.
Black moon white again.
And this gem of song-writing:
I’m never alone.
I’m alone all the time.
I don’t make much sense.
But at least I rhyme.
And radio stations began playing this music. There was an a word for this movement.
Which was defined as:
a subgenre of alternative rock and hard rock that emerged in the mid-1990s as a derivative of grunge, using the sounds and aesthetic of grunge, but with a more commercially accessible tone.
I didn’t make that definition up. Someone on Wikipedia did. But it was crowdsourced, so you know it’s accurate. And it was.
Radio Stations began playing this new format of Post-Grunge. And a new word forged itself on our lips:
Suddenly, all sorts of radio stations began popping up all over the nation with this new Alternative Format.
Now I know what you’re asking yourself. You’re wondering “What is a radio station?”
Well, before iPods and iTunes, you could not simply listen to ANY SONG you wanted at ANY TIME, or have some Spotify sentient robot lifeforce suggest songs you might like with such precision that you wonder if Spotify doesn’t somehow know you better than you even know yourself.
We didn’t have that kind of technical sorcery in the early 90s. Back then, you had to wait for the song to come on the radio.
Or you had to go into a Record Store and actually buy a physical object called a “CD” and then play that on your Sony Discman, which, if you were lucky, had a headphone jack you could plug a tape cassette adapter into so you could listen to it through the tinny sound system of your Grandma’s hand-me-down 1985 Oldsmobile.
But these Alternative Music Radio Stations, which all had names like:
- The Edge
- The Beast
- WGRE 91.5 – Your Sound Alternative
They all played the original great music from the Grunge Era, but the Faker Pretenders started slinking in, and killing the vibe, like someone sneaking into a posh party thrown by P. Diddy and taking a giant dump on the coats in the back bedroom.
It was bad.
Bad I tell you.
How could I explain it? It was like…a black hole sun.
WHERE IS THE HOPE
Then, on Tax Day, April 15, 1997, real sunlight from a real light source entered the American landscape.
Three pre-pubescent brothers, only one of whom was even mildly talented, combined to birth this Giant Ray of Hope and Sunshine.
And something happened.
Something like Winter thawing in Narnia.
Something like Spring.
Something like Hope.
Joy > Angst
And that moment, my dear young friends, is when we began to wake up from our decade-long national angsty nightmare, shaken from despair by the most unlikely of heroes: the sugary dulcet tones of three moderately-talented brothers.
To quote Mother Teresa, who wrote in her memoir, “that is when my dark night of the soul first saw daybreak.”
She might have been talking about something else, but we’re pretty sure it had something to do with Hanson. The song was that good.
It was like a Giant Pixie Stick of Bubble-gum pop. The dark curtains of Post-Faux Grunge were pulled back, and all of a sudden, we saw the beauty of hope and life.
But like the first robin of Spring, whose red cravat reminds us that an avalanche of life is about to descend upon our up-unto-now frozen world. This one song pushed the nation toward the greatest musical heights it had ever know.
Because MmmBop was the foundation for Boy Bands.
90s Boy Band: The Pinnacle of God’s Creation
Stay tuned. Next week, Dave tries to explain Boy Bands from the 90s.