Pop’s winds of change were instantly apparent 10 summers ago. With grunge on the wane, music took an unexpected turn toward zesty cheer. The first major hit of the heat-soaked months of ’97 was “MMMBop” by the under-age trio Hanson, followed by two smashes by the Spice Girls and the breakthrough single, “Quit Playing Games (With My Heart),” by a new group called the Backstreet Boys. The music — slick, fizzy, buoyant — was a perfect counterpart to the dot-com boom of the time.
With the instant success of those acts — and Britney Spears, ’N Sync, Eminem and Christina Aguilera over the next two years — the music business entered what amounted to its own Roaring ’20s.
Blockbuster albums would sell as many as two million copies out of the gate; record stores reported double-digit growth. The industry was so bullish that the Recording Industry Association of America soon instituted a “diamond” certification, for albums selling 10 million copies. Money was everywhere. Music videos became more elaborate and expensive, and executives were rewarded with increasingly large bonuses.
“It was like a party where everyone was ordering more drinks and inviting even more friends over,” said Taylor Hanson of Hanson. “But the stilts under the house were crumbling.”