The pressure had been building up behind the scenes for longer than most music fans realized. But when the teen-pop explosion burst onto the charts in early 1999 it felt like the music world had been blindsided overnight by a flood of squeaky-clean acts who would dominate the charts for years to come.
And in some cases, those ripples are still being felt today. It’s hard to believe it now, but over the course of a few months between late 1998 and early 1999, radio and MTV were inundated with the debuts and breakthroughs from Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, ‘NSYNC, Backstreet Boys and countless other boy bands and teen singers who would rule the charts well into the 2000s, and in the cases of Britney and Christina, continue to lord over them today.
Of course, that bum-rush of teen acts and copycat bands also produced a bunch of groups that were barely a blip on the screen then, or now (Five, Natural, 3Deep, A1, Another Level, C-Note, BBMak or Dream Street anyone?), not to mention some other pop flashes in the pan, some of whom survived and some of whom are named Lou Bega.
Here are what some of the survivors and also-rans are up to:
Why you know that name: The German-born Latin music revivalist had a hit with a summer 1999 remake of the 1952 instrumental “Mambo No. 5,” to which he added an indelible string of women’s names (shout-outs to Angela, Pamela, Monica and Jessica). The song hit #1 across the globe … and then Bega was hardly ever heard from again.
Why you know the name: This Canadian one-hit-wonder, brother-sister act graduated from their early punk roots to a fizzy pop sound on You Can’t Stop the Bum Rush, featuring the bop-tastic hit “Steal My Sunshine.” But their next LP wasn’t released outside Canada, and they’ve been talking up their upcoming album for several years now.
Sixpence None the Richer
Why you know the name: The Christian group hit #1 on the pop charts a year after their 1997 self-titled album was released when “Kiss Me” was used on “Dawson’s Creek” and in the teen flick “She’s All That.” They followed it with a cover of the “There She Goes,” the legendary one-off hit by the La’s, which was added to the 1999 rerelease of Sixpence’s album. The band broke up in 2004, and singer Leigh Nash went solo, later forming an ill-named side project called Fauxliage. And then the group got back together in 2008 to release a new EP, a Christmas album and tour the U.S. and Europe.
Why you know the name: The synth-rock band signed to Korn’s Elementree Records, released their debut, Candyass, in 1998 and broke through with a grim cover of New Order’s “Blue Monday.” They released another album that fizzled, toured on the Family Values outing, put out their third album on their own label and have been threatening to make another album for several years.
Why you know the name: The Canadian singer/songwriter released the top-10 hit “She’s So High” from his self-titled debut, produced by Metallica homie Bob Rock. The son of Randy Bachman, lead guitarist/singer of 1970s rockers the Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive, released another album in 2006 that failed to chart in the U.S. Most recently, he can be seen in the Bill Maher documentary “Religulous,” talking about his break with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Why you know the name: These chilled-out San Jose, California, pop rockers had a minor hit in 1997 with “Walkin’ on the Sun,” but busted it major in 1999 with their signature tune, “All Star,” from their Astro Lounge album. The bouncy pop song made it into a string of movies (“Shrek,” “Rat Race” and “Mystery Men”) and then things got kinda quiet. They released another album, shelved one after that, and despite the departure of most of their members, they’re now reportedly working on a new album, even as singer Steve Harwell is pulling a Hootie and prepping his solo country debut.
Why you know the name: In 1998, the former lead growler for early ’90s Irish-American rap crew House of Pain (“Jump Around”) released his second solo album, Whitey Ford Sings the Blues, which mixed hip-hop beats and rhymes with blues and acoustic guitars, spawning the inescapable ballad “What It’s Like.” His similar-sounding 2000 follow-up, Eat at Whitey’s, didn’t catch on, nor did a more country-tinged 2004 album, White Trash Beautiful, and his recently released Love, War and the Ghost of Whitey Ford had not caught fire at press time.
The New Radicals
Why you know the name: Talk about a one-hit wonder. This Los Angeles band blew up with their Marilyn Manson/ Courtney Love-baiting power-pop hit “You Get What You Give” in early 1999 from their only album, Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too. Reclusive leader and main songwriter Gregg Alexander broke the group up less than a year after the album’s release and has quietly written songs for other artists since, including the 2002 Grammy-winning “The Game of Love” for Santana.
Why you know the name: The Lyte Funky Ones hit the jackpot on their self-titled debut with the 1999 song “Summer Girls,” but faded soon after. Singer Rich Cronin appeared on VH1’s “Mission: Man Band,” and former hardware store clerk Devin Lima releasing his rock-edged debut with his new band, Cadbury Diesel, in July 2008.
Why you know the name: Featuring future “Newlyweds” star Nick Lachey, they debuted in 1997 but, like many boy bands of the era, hit their groove in 1999 with hits including “I Do (Cherish You)” and “The Hardest Thing” from 98 Degrees and Rising. After one more album, the group went their separate ways in 2002, with Lachey going on to marry and divorce Jessica Simpson and release two solo albums, with another one due in 2009. The group has continued to discuss a comeback, but no plans have been announced yet.
And now, some names you might still recognize:
Why you know the name: Like Katy Perry, Simpson started out in the Christian pop world, but crossed over into teen pop with her 1999 debut, Sweet Kisses, which spawned the hits “I Wanna Love You Forever” and “I Think I’m In Love With You.” Less successful than Christina or Britney, Simpson released two more albums, married Lachey, appeared on “Newlyweds,” divorced Lachey and moved on to roles in a series of flop movies such as “Employee of the Month” and “Blonde Ambition.” After her 2006 pop album, A Public Affair, failed to catch fire, Simpson switched genres and had a top-20 hit in 2008 with her debut country single, “Come on Over.”
Why you know the name: It’s hard to think of a time when Marshall Mathers wasn’t in our lives, but the Detroit rapper burst onto the scene in 1999 with his major-label debut, The Slim Shady LP, which spawned the hits “My Name Is,” “Guilty Conscience” and “Role Model.” Em went on to world domination and a string of three huge albums before taking a hiatus in 2005 following a stint in rehab for a dependency on sleeping medication. He’s laid low for several years, but is plotting his return in 2009 with an album called Relapse.
Why you know the name: Fellow Detroit rapper Rock had been kicking around the industry for years, releasing albums on small labels, when he smashed the big time in 1998 with Devil Without a Cause. After a slow start, the disc blew up and became one of the best-selling rap albums of all time (11 million copies) thanks to hits – and “TRL” favorites – like “Bawitdaba,” “Cowboy” and “I Am the Bullgod.” Rock has continued to spin off hits with his signature country rock/hip-hop sound, most recently defying the odds (and iTunes) with the 2 million-selling Rock N Roll Jesus.