Welcome to The 50, a Rhapsody scheme in which we attempt to compile the biggest, best, most historically remarkable songs of every year. Our list of 50 tracks -- presented here in no particular order, ideally flowing like a time-traveling DJ set -- has been argued over and (grudgingly) agreed upon by our full editorial staff. Please enjoy.
Nineteen ninety-nine was just one of those years pop completely exploded. The Bloodhound Gang's filthy-cartoon disco-rap "The Bad Touch," Mariah Carey's percolating "Heartbreaker" and Destiny's Child's brassy kiss-off "Bug A Boo" all inhabited the same charts, and those weren't even the biggest hits. Yes, this was the year Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears ruled the universe with the instant classics "I Want It That Way" and "…Baby One More Time," respectively, with Christina Aguilera's "Genie in a Bottle" and Mandy Moore's "Candy" orbiting. Pop was such a wide-open market, with sales going through the roof, that there was even room for former New Kid on the Block Jordan Knight to score a comeback hit with "Give It to You."
On the rockier side, we remember hating rap metal for the disaster that was Woodstock '99, but plenty of it fulfilled its purpose before the worst set in. Limp Bizkit was worth something once with the delightfully ribald (and funky) "Nookie." Meanwhile, Kid Rock's "Bawitdaba" was set apart by the sheer heart in it: "It's all good and it's all in fun/ Now get in the pit and try to love someone." Slipknot and The Dillinger Escape Plan built discordant bliss with the catchy "Wait and Bleed" and feral hardcore landmark "Sugar Coated Sour," respectively. At the height of their fame, Nine Inch Nails released a two-disc album with a seven-minute single ("We're in This Together"), yet there simply wasn't room for it to stay on top. Space had to be cleared for the ascent of Blink-182's majestically prankish "What's My Age Again?"
Electronic wunderkinds peaked, too: Aphex Twin made a subversive pop opus ("Windowlicker") and crossover megalomaniac Moby spun many singles off Play, not least the delicate "Porcelain." Country already had a pre-war Toby Keith rousing rabble on "How Do You Like Me Now?!", while Faith Hill got in touch with reality on "The Secret of Life" and Shania Twain ruled the world with her spunkiest hit, "Man! I Feel Like a Woman!" And Latin pop takeover was in full swing with Ricky Martin's frenzied, catchphrase-sprouting ska anthem "Livin' La Vida Loca" and Marc Anthony's actual salsa vamp "I Need to Know."
In rap, Jay-Z was at his early nastiest on the creeping "Do It Again," while The Roots won a Grammy for the elegant, skittering "You Got Me," starring Erykah Badu and conceived by Jill Scott. Juvenile's repeating end-rhyme rap from "Ha" and "Back That Azz Up" took a darker turn on the rationalizing "U Understand." On "Forgot About Dre," Dr. Dre proved he was still the same O.G. while introducing the big talent of the year, Eminem, whose opening salvo "My Name Is" was simply unforgettable -- a comic routine with dynamite strapped to it, the most original rapper in years. A befitting mascot for the year we lived la vida loca.