… I’m not quite sure how I would describe mine. I was definitely obsessed with pop. I idolized Britney, Christina, Mandy, and even Jessica. Not so much the Spice Girls. I swooned over the boy bands. N*SYNC was my very first live concert – Giants Stadium in 7th grade, Pop Odyssey tour! Backstreet Boys were a close second, followed by O-Town and 98 Degrees. But along the way, there were some off-the-beaten-track albums that became my favorites. Maybe they were yours too?
*This post is slightly outdated because it was written August 17, 2011. I pulled it from my Tumblr, which is where I originally wanted to begin blogging before figuring out that Tumblr isn’t quiiiite the best outlet for serious blogging. Great for finding GIFs though. Now I just use it to bring in PSA readers. 😉 Nevertheless, hope you enjoy.
1. Hanson’s “Middle Of Nowhere” 1997: Isaac, Taylor, and Zac Hanson
OK, not exactly off-the-beaten track, but I have to mention them. The JoBros of an older generation, Hanson defined my baptism into the world of music. “Middle of Nowhere” was the first CD I came to own in third grade and I became a huge fan. What pre-teen girl didn’t love them? “MMMBOP” was our anthem, those blonde cuties didn’t hold a candle to the immature boys in elementary school, and we were ten years old fantasizing about marrying 14-year-old lead singer, Taylor. Ah, childhood. Mine would not have been complete without them. Since their early success, Hanson has resurfaced with a few new hits. I enjoyed “If Only” in 2000, but they are perhaps only just now creating their comeback with “Give A Little” off their 2010 album “Shout It Out.” All married with kids at this point, it’s hard to remember them as those shaggy-haired teens rollerblading through a parking lot as if they didn’t have a care in the world.
- Re-visit “Where’s the Love?” and “Lucy” for a nostalgia fix.
- Sample lyrics: “So hold on the ones who really care / in the end they’ll be the only ones there.” –“MMMBop”
2. Eiffel 65’s “Europop” 1999: Jeffrey Jey, Maurizio Lobina, and Gabry Ponte
They were a three-man Italian eurodance group, not that anyone really ever bothered to find that out. We just knew them as the “Blue” guys. (You remember “Blue,” don’t you? You have to.) In fact, I don’t think I even knew it was more than one guy until I bought the CD. I don’t even remember when or why I got the CD, I just remember that it became the go-to background music for when my best friend and I had our after-school Mario Bros. battles on her Nintendo. Before long, I knew all the words to most of the songs, without really stopping to think about how odd the music was – and now, it’s become an album I’ll never forget.
- Check out: “Move Your Body” and “Hyperlink.”
- Sample lyrics: “It’s called money dependence today / and people just keep on going on looking at the dollar bill / and nothing else around them.” –“Too Much of Heaven”
3. S Club 7’s “S Club” 1999: Tina Barrett, Paul Cattermole, Jon Lee, Bradley McIntosh, Jo O’Meara, Hannah Spearritt, and Rachel Stevens
A UK pop group put together by Simon Fuller (former Spice Girls manager), the S Club was together for five years, during which they had a hit BBC show (“Miami 7”) in 1999. I vaguely remember watching the show and as I write this and re-visit all these artists, I’m surprised to discover that I still remember the lyrics to “S Club Party!” The song people might most recognize, however, is from their sophomore album “7,” entitled “Never Had a Dream Come True.”
- Other hits include “Bring It All Back” and “Two in a Million.”
- Sample lyrics: “When something is wrong / only we can turn it around / so give me your hand / my brother and walk together / ‘cause we’ve got a mountain to climb.” –“Gonna Change the World”
4. Dream’s “It Was All A Dream” 2000: Holly Blake-Arnstein, Diana Ortiz, Ashley Poole, and Melissa Schuman
The girl group no one really got into, Dream had one hit single “He Loves U Not,” a hot pink bubblegum take on Brandy and Monica’s “The Boy is Mine.” I liked most of their other songs, especially their ballad about wanting to find love, “How Long.” When I bombed my first attempt at a music video project in 8th grade, I took the easy way out and lip-synched to it … THAT was a huge hit with my classmates!
- Listen to “What We Gonna Do About Us” and “Do You Wanna Dance.”
- Sample lyrics: “My heart is not a home / since you’ve been gone / I wish you would come back to me.” –“Miss You”
5. BBMak’s “Sooner Or Later” 2000: Mark Barry, Christian Burns, and Stephen McNally
Another English group, BBMak eventually reached #13 on the U.S. Billboard Top 100 chart with their debut single “Back Here.” They even closed the year performing in Times Square for New Year’s Eve. Like most of these artists, I have no idea how I came to like them but I do remember that this CD was among a select number that almost always put me in a better mood.
- Other noteworthy tracks: “Ghost of You and Me” and “Still on Your Side.”
- Sample lyrics: “Don’t think that you got me girl / don’t think you can tame me and change me / don’t think that it’s all because of you / just because I don’t run around just because we’re forever together / don’t you think of a four letter word to use.” –“I’m Not In Love”
6. Willa Ford’s “Willa Was Here” 2001: Amanda Lee Williford aka Willa Ford
This wannabe bad girl (hey, she said it first) seemed to be trying way too hard to keep up with the already-established young divas. The music video for her debut single, “I Wanna Be Bad” even had to have an “edited” version. I liked her anyway, and Track 5 “Joke’s On You” was the song I used for my first and failed attempt at that 8th grade music video I mentioned earlier.
- Songs to try include “Prince Charming” and “Haunted Heart.”
- Sample lyrics: “Tell me what to do, how to be, teach me / all you your rules from A to Z / but I, I don’t want your other girls to see / that you’re messin’ ‘round with me.” –“I Wanna Be Bad”
7. Soluna’s “For All Time” 2002: Jessica Castellanos, Christina “T” Lopez, America Olivo, and Aurora Rodriguez
I honestly don’t know how I found these people (this whole list, not just Soluna). The interesting thing about today’s music is that you’re not necessarily obligated to purchase an entire album if you only like one song. You didn’t have that option ten years ago. If you liked something enough to want to listen to it where you wouldn’t normally have access to a radio, you were stuck buying a whole CD. Since you spent the money on it, you may as well listen to it all, right? Which brings me to this foursome of Hispanic girls whose group name comes from the combination of the Spanish words for “sun” (sol) and “moon” (luna). Their well-known single (and my reason for buying the album) is entitled “For All Time,” yet another love ballad from the early 2000s with cheesy lyrics – and yet, it worked. They also spent time as the opening act for Marc Anthony and Enrique Iglesias.
- Tracks “Hey Hey, You You” and “He Should Be You” are worth a listen.
- Sample lyrics: “You’re the one that lights my fire / you’re the one that keeps me strong / you’re the one that I depend on / when my world is goin’ wrong.” –“For All Time”
8. The Rasmus’ “Dead Letters” 2003: Aki Hakala, Eero Heinonen, Pauli Rantasalmi, and Lauri Ylönen
I believe a friend introduced me to this Finnish group of Goth-rockers. Together since ’95, it was their 5th album that was received well in the U.S. and the one I found myself strangely drawn to. I just loved their sound. According to the album jacket, “A dead letter is a letter that has never been delivered because the person to whom it was written cannot be found, and it also cannot be returned to the person who wrote it.” The most popular single was Track 1, “In the Shadows.”
- Give “First Day of My Life” and “F-F-F-Falling” a listen.
- Sample lyrics: “No more shame / she has felt too much pain / in her life, in her mind she’s repeating the words / all the love you put out will return to you.” -“Not Like the Other Girls”
9. Bonnie McKee’s “Trouble” 2004: Bonnie McKee
I adored Bonnie. Her songs were fun, I loved the tones in her voice, and “Somebody” struck a chord with me because I was 16 and single and hating it. This was her only album, but she went on to create a great career for herself writing hits for other artists we know and love today, like Katy Perry and Kelly Clarkson.
- My other favorites include “Marble Steps” and “I Hold Her.” Skip Track 12!
- Sample lyrics: “Who would’ve thought I’d ever let somebody get to me / who would’ve thought I’d ever give a damn / I gave to you the one thing that I can never retrieve / and you’re leaving my heart bleeding in my hands.” –“Trouble”
10. Keane’s “Hopes and Fears” 2004: Tom Chaplin, Richard Hughes, and Tim Rice-Oxley
Shame on you if you’ve never heard of Keane. When I first started watching once-favorite One Tree Hill and still-favorite Grey’s Anatomy, I started relying on them to introduce me to new music. TV shows are wonderful like that. All those delicious dramas always have the perfect song for the most pivotal and emotional scenes and I would take full advantage of the exposure to new bands and artists. English alternative rock’s Keane cropped up first in OTH with “Everybody’s Changing,” then again the following year with “Somewhere Only We Know” in Grey’s. Other tracks popped up over the next few years in these two shows, as well as American Idol. I love the whole CD, although you do have to be in a particular mood to listen to the entire thing in one sitting.
“Somewhere Only We Know” was certainly most popular and became one of my all-time favorites. Naturally, I have to talk about how much I love its revival in the “Born This Way” 2011 episode of Glee: Darren Criss is my current infatuation and I’m crazy about his take on it. It was perfect for the scene; go figure. Thanks to the Warblers, the song is now getting even more well-deserved recognition.
- You’ll love “This is the Last Time” and “Can’t Stop Now.”
- Sample lyrics: “I walked across an empty land / I knew the pathway like the back of my hand / I felt the earth beneath my feet / sat by the river and it made me complete.” –“Somewhere Only We Know”
Which brings us to the end of my list … an absolute hodge-podge of genres, they were albums off the mainstream radio waves that helped me along as I grew up. It was fun to revisit them – maybe I’ll even go download a few oldies-but-goodies for my iPod to pull out on a rainy day!