Nostalgia tours are all the rage these days. With the successful (and sold out) New Kids on the Block tour of 2013 (they’re also playing the Mixtape Festival this summer), a Backstreet Boys reunion tour, and a consistent look to the past with the I Love the 90s tour, we’re all looking back on our auditory choices of yesteryear. This summer, 98 Degrees, Ryan Cabrera, O-Town, and Dream are getting together to bring us a serious dose of Y2K pop love with the My2K Tour. I was a sophomore in high school in 2000, so these groups should hit my nostalgia sweet spot. “Should” being the operative, since I was less inclined toward the MTV set than I was toward embracing ALL THE ANGST with The Cure, Echo and the Bunnymen, David Bowie, and The Smiths. (I was a treat for the eyes and ears, let me tell you. #ManicPanicHairDye4Lyfe. No, you’re crying.) That said, coming of age in the year 2000 has left us older Millennials/Oregon Trailers with some serious cultural touchstones. Join me as I “yea or nay” some of our more notable musical, sartorial, and cultural touchstones…
If you were a teen girl in the ’90s through early ’00s, you absolutely received the dELiA*s catalog along with your subscription to Teen and YM. You can probably imagine my surprise when I discovered that not only does dELiA*s still exist, but there’s an actual storefront at my local mall. This also surprises me; I can’t believe malls still exist.
At any rate, dELiA*s was successfully all things to all girls – appealing to the preppy set, the skaters, the goth lite (moi, merci), the hippies (also sometimes me – I was a confused teen), and the glammed up, pastel-loving, butterfly-clip-wearing, fashionistas. Hours spent pouring over the pages of girls who did look a lot like us were followed up by truncated begging sessions to actually purchase the foam platform sandals or pastel lipstick that Mom and/or Dad inevitably shut the hell down.
Perhaps my love for dELiA*s is based on never being allowed to purchase anything from betwixt its delightful pages, but I can’t help but look back at it with a sense of fondness.
Verdict, dELiA*s: Yea
Total Request Live (TRL)
Racing home after school to flip on MTV in time to be greeted by Carson Daly’s shimmering personality* was de rigeur in 2000. That damn show actually ran for a full decade, from 1998-2008, which is patently stunning as far as MTV longevity goes. TRL birthed the live era of MTV, helped give rise to stars such as Avril Lavigne, Eminem, Britney Spears, Korn, ‘N Sync, and Backstreet Boys. Friends and classmates who were lucky enough to travel to Times Square to congregate outside the TRL studio with fan signs and desperate hope were generally envied, especially if they actually made it on TV.
TRL aided in the pop-culture birth of the human disasters that were Tom Green and Jesse Camp, gave us the actual delight (no sarcasm) that is Dave Holmes (who you should follow on Twitter), and propelled Beyonce and Jay-Z toward relationship icon status. That said, the show was kind of a hot mess 100% of the time. Remember Mariah Carey’s spaced out, bananas interview? Jesse Camp being a generally junky-on-the-nod disaster, and the sullenness that Eminem adopted once he realized he’d broken pop and not hip hop didn’t help. Despite having the damn show on in the background most afternoons while I half-assed my geometry homework, I cannot say I miss the show.
*and by “shimmering personality,” I mean where did they find an actual human made of cardboard? AND how in the hell is he still employed? One of the great mysteries of the universe.
Verdict, TRL: Nay
Everyone had their favorite, or so I’m told. There were firmly ‘N Sync and Backstreet Boys camps among the folks at school. Then there were the anomaly fans who jumped on board the 98 Degrees or LFO buses, declaring unending love of Troy or Bobby or whoever. If you fail to recall the joy that is LFO, I give you their hit “Summer Girls” that was – shockingly – fully embraced by the Abercrombie & Fitch-clad bottle blondes at my school. Not only was it a poor sartorial choice, it is probably in the top 10 worst songs ever written. Enjoy!
Boy bands of the early ’00s were inescapable, even as we started to outgrow them as a generation and move unceremoniously toward the Dave Matthews Band brand of inoffensive, anti-intellectual strumming. By 2001, I was a huge fan of The Strokes and the garage wave that helped us recall what the hell rock was supposed to sound like, and many former ‘NSync fans had abandoned their TRUE LOVES for the likes of… well, I don’t know. I wasn’t paying attention. I was 17, which means I was borderline sociopathic. At any rate, the shine wore off the boy bands of Y2K, as it always does with boy bands. Slowly, groups like The Jonas Brothers with their holier-than-thou preacher’s sons image, the British bad boys Busted, and the delightfully manufactured One Direction stepped in to play the role of safe pseudo-boyfriends to the next generation. And so the wheels turn… You can now see essentially the same acts that we’ve been watching since the dawn of pop music in the iterations of 5 Seconds of Summer and such.
I realize this sounds like I’m disparaging boy bands, their music, and their fans, and perhaaaaaaps to some degree, I am. But in the annals of pop music history, boy bands have played – and will continue to play – a key role; they are often the first route through which tweens and teens are allowed to express themselves as individuals and discover what they actually enjoy (from music to the aesthetics of the object(s) of their desire). From the Monkees and the Jackson 5 to New Kids on the Block and beyond, we will always have boy bands. They’re like death and taxes.
And because boy bands are actually more important musically – and for some, nostalgically – than I’d like to admit, you absolutely need to hit up the My2K Tour when it makes a stop near you this summer.
Verdict, Boy Bands: Yea
I was too young to vote in 2000, but the nonsense that emerged from the quagmire of Florida during the last quarter of 2000 is one for the books. Whether you consider yourself political or not, you could not escape the craziness that persisted almost right up to the inauguration of George W. Bush. In fact, depending on who you ask, we might still be debating who won the 2000 Presidential election. Take a moment and try to imagine how differently a Gore Presidency may have been for the United States. Hmmmm.
The controversy really stemmed from voting machines (the great old kind with the levers that I miss so very much) not fully “punching” out a “chad” to indicate which candidate a voter selected. There were several types of chads – the hanging chad, where one corner was still attached, the swinging chad, still attached at two corners, the fat chad, which is attached at three corners, or the dimpled chad, that has an impression where it should be punched, but is not. Thanks to this controversy, we now get to vote electronically, scribbling in tiny bubbles like we used to for standardized tests and with no real oversight of voting machine companies. I hope that thought gives you complete confidence in our current electoral system.Another Chad, hanging, from the same era. Verdict also Nay.
The Bush v. Gore suit that ensued seemed endless and horrible and frustrating and endless. Did I mention endless? Ultimately, the Supreme Court ruled that Bush was the winner and called for a halt of the counting and recounting of all the chads or lackthereof. There was a serious dose of butthurt going around the nation on both sides of the aisle, and there’s a good shot we’ve never fully recovered from it. I suspect the hanging chad controversy was a driving factor in the current climate of vitriol and divisiveness that is American politics – pitting right against left in a state where we can apparently no longer treat people with differing political views with any semblance of respect. Good times. So glad we could behave like this for a full 16+ years. We’re a delight as a culture sometimes.
Verdict, Hanging Chads (or any, Chads, really): NAY NAY NAY NAY. Nien. Niet. Non. KILL IT WITH FIRE.
The late ’90s and early ’00s gave rise to the now-ubiquitous reality television in the U.S. As with most things that are culturally dubious, reality TV can be traced back to MTV (though there were iterations in Europe for some years prior, I don’t pretend to be a TV historian). The Real World debuted on May 21, 1992 and remains a staple of the channel’s programming, even developing off-shoots like Road Rules. There have been 31 seasons and 572 episodes of this damn show, which was, admittedly, a cultural zeitgeist when it was new. For the first time, gay, HIV-positive, people of color, Latinx, and other subsets of the American population were welcomed into living rooms nationwide. Socio-political controversies around race, sexual orientation, sexual behavior, gender, and more played out on screen, demanding that we take note of the true pastiche that is American culture. For its time, it was quite remarkable.
Reality TV, however, rapidly moved away from the controversy-ginning examination of seven 20-something American strangers living in a house… By the early 2000s, we were bestowed the gift that kept on giving from MTV, Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica. The serial depicted the daily life of then evenly-matched stars Nick Lachey (of 98 Degrees) and Jessica Simpson (of middlingly catchy pop tunes and now a fashion empire). If nothing else, it was 23 minutes of thinly-veiled misogyny aimed squarely at (the often ditzy) Jessica Simpson. Audiences were enthralled by Simpson’s stereo-typically “dumb blonde” persona, and Lachey’s put-upon husband dealing with her. It was like someone transported us to the ’50s, but brought more pastel wallpaper and 100% more canned tuna controversy.
That said, it was imminently watchable brain candy, giving us a peek into the lives and lifestyles of these celebrities. While MTV also gave us The Osbournes, a show depicting the interesting chaos of Black Sabbath‘s Ozzy Osbourne and his progeny, Nick & Jessica was a different, lighter, more idiotic brand of reality programming. And we haven’t looked back since. With the Real Housewives franchise, Keeping Up With The Kardashians, and others, it’s clear that lowest-common-denominator reality TV is here to stay, preferably depicting the other half behaving horribly. After all, what’s reality TV for if not schadenfreude?
Verdict, Reality TV: Meh.
What are your nostalgia triggers for the year 2000? Was it the D.A.R.E. program? Pastel eye shadow? JNCO jeans? Share what was left out and why we need to include it!