Another Retrospective

(An earlier posting) Pop Life ’97: Tunes Were Empty, but the Coffers Were Full

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.”