When we think of past decades — the ’50s, the ’60s, the ’70s, the ’80s — clear memories generally come into view: the music, the movies, the TV shows, the newsmakers, the fashion. We see the good, the bad and the tacky as well as the common threads holding them together in a way that we may not have when — for those of us who lived through it first hand — we were smack dab in the middle of the era.
But it usually takes some time away from a decade, a year or five, for it all to come into focus. Ten years ago, at the dawn of the new century, I had no idea what the ’90s would be remembered for, aside from grunge. It was all a hodgepodge of sounds, people, looks, as far as I was concerned, and aside from the Seattle rock scene, circa 1992 to 1994, nothing really struck me as defining the era. There was no design of the decade.
But I can see clearly now. When I enter reminiscing mode, so many things now seem distinctly 1990s: Hootie & the Blowfish, Counting Crows, Spin Doctors, Alanis Morrissette, Paula Cole, the Cranberries, Lilith Fair (though Sarah McLachlan, Sheryl Crow and Fiona Apple neatly managed to side step post-millennium irrelevance), Hanson, Spice Girls, Toni Braxton, Brandy, Monica, Brandy Vs. Monica, “Gonna Make You Sweat,” “Gyspy Woman (She’s Homeless),” “Finally,” and pretty much everything that would have been categorized as Eurodisco-pop, from Ace of Base to Snap to Real McCoy to La Bouche.
Elsewhere: John Grisham, Seinfeld, Mad About You, Helen Hunt, Whitney Houston’s film career, Monica Lewinsky, the breakout popularity of Friends‘ David Schwimmer, and Chris O’Donnell on the A-list.
Could they be more dated? Not that there’s anything wrong with that (to quote two popular ’90s catchphrases). If such dinosaurs of the decade as Beverly Hills, 90210 and Melrose Place can be revamped for this century, if Seinfeld‘s Julia Louis-Dreyfus can become a TV star again and Marisa Tomei score not one but two ’00s Oscar nods, while Hootie singer Darius Rucker reinvents himself as a country star and Doogie Howser, M.D. himself, Neil Patrick Harris, becomes the queen of TV, there’s hope for everyone (so don’t give up, Neve Campbell).
So what to make of the ’00s? Today while walking down the street, listening to my iPod, I began to get a clear picture, thanks to the 2001 No. 1 hit “Always On Time,” by Ja Rule featuring Ashanti (above — Remember them?). The early to mid ’00s were filled with hitmakers and personalities who already are relics of that time: Nelly, Sisqo, Backstreet Boys, all of *NSYNC (minus Justin), Jessica Simpson, Nick Lachey, 98° and pretty much every American Idol contestant from the first five seasons, with the exception of Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Chris Daughtry and Jennifer Hudson.
On the movie and TV side, there’s the cast of American Pie (excepting Alyson Hannigan), Freddie Prinze Jr., Buffy the Vampire Slayer (both the show and series star Sarah Michelle Gellar), Hillary Duff, Lindsay Lohan, Hillary Vs. Lindsay, and Renée Zellweger on the A-list.
Take note, Susan Boyle. This is your future.