Famous Songs That Are Turning 25 In 2022

As hard as it might be to believe, the year 1997 was an entire quarter-century ago. In many ways, it was not all that memorable of a year, but that's hardly a sleight: the Cold War was over, the 9/11 attacks and subsequent War on Terror were years in the future, there was no global pandemic, inflation was low and employment was strong. In other words, little news in general meant a lack of bad news.

In terms of culture, 1997 had its hits and misses. A few hugely successful movies came out, such as "GATTACA," "The Fifth Element," and of course "Titanic." (It was also the year of "Gone Fishin'," but what can you do?) Books like "Memoirs of a Geisha," "Guns, Germs, and Steel," "Cold Mountain," and "Into Thin Air" flew off shelves. And according to Classic TV Database, "Seinfeld" was the biggest hit on TV.

In the music world, 1997 showcased just how varied American taste in music can be. From pop songs to rap music to rock to swing, many of the songs that topped the charts in 1997 were so different from one another that all they have in common was the release year. Some of the biggest hit songs from 25 years ago hold up well today, and may even still have been hits had they come out recently. Others were definitely a product of their time. But for those of us who were tuning in back then, they still strike a chord.

Tubthumping by Chumbawamba

The British rock band Chumbawamba had quite a while to wait before they hit it big: the band first formed in the year 1982, according to the former band's own website, Chumba.com. They stayed together for 30 years, finally breaking up in 2012, but it was in 1997, 15 years in and halfway through their run, that Chumbawamba released a song called "Tubthumping" and became a global sensation — if only for that one song, really. 

"Tubthumping" was a 1997 smash hit: according to Billboard, it reached the #6 spot on the Hot 100 list and spent an impressive nine weeks at the #1 spot on the Pop Songs chart. On the power of its anchor song, the album "Tubthumper" was a #3 best-seller on the Billboard 200 list, ultimately selling more than 3.2 million copies in the United States alone.

But what's with the name? According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a "tub-thumper" is "a vociferous supporter (as of a cause)," thus "tub-thumping" is expressing opinions in a particularly loud, dramatic, or even violent manner. Keep in mind that, via Phoenix New Times, the bandmates of Chumbawamba considered themselves to be anarchists, so it makes sense their biggest hit was named for roiling things up in public.

B**** by Meredith Brooks

According to Billboard Pro, in the early summer of 1997, people everywhere had the word "b****" on their minds. And on their tongues, as they sang along to Meredith Brooks song titled "B****," a song that was #1 on Top 40 Radio in June of that year. If you were alive at the time (and at least of early teen years) you can probably still hear Brooks voice as she belts out the chorus: "I'm a b****, I'm a lover, I'm a child, I'm a mother, I'm a sinner, I'm a saint, and I do not feel ashamed! I'm your hell, I'm your dream, I'm nothing in between, you know you wouldn't want it any other way."

The song that was a huge hit 25 years ago still has plenty of fans today: a quick glance at any of the many versions of it that have been uploaded to YouTube shows dozens of comments posted in recent days. And one upload of "B****" has been viewed online well over 14 million times. While her biggest song may be from the last century, Meredith Brooks herself remains alive and well, frequently posting on Twitter.

Can't Nobody Hold Me Down by Sean Combs

Call him Sean Combs. Call him Puff Daddy. Or Puffy. Or P. Diddy or just Diddy or whatever else you want, but by any name, this man is one of the most successful recording artists of our era, and his major success started in the year 1997. That's the year he dropped the single "Can't Nobody Hold Me Down," which spent a stunning 28 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, including a stint as the #1 song there. And the album "No Way Out" from which "Can't Nobody Hold Me Down" came would reach the top spot on the Billboard 200 chart within a week of its release.

While "Can't Nobody Hold Me Down" was Puff Daddy's smash hit of the year 1997, it was hardly his only hit. Also successful were the songs "I'll Be Missing You," a tribute to the recently slain rapper Notorious B.I.G, "It's All About the Benjamins," and "Victory." According to Vibe, the album sold an amazing 561,000 copies in its first week of release and would ultimately go platinum seven times over, meaning it sold more than seven million copies.

Barbie Girl by Aqua

The song "Barbie Girl" by the Danish/Norwegian pop band Aqua is one of those pieces of music that probably wouldn't resonate today if it were released at all, but was a huge hit when it came out in 1997 and is still remembered fondly by those who ground and oscillated away to it at high school dances. According to Billboard, the song, which was from Aqua's debut album fittingly named "Aquarium," spent multiple weeks on Top 10, Top 20, and Top 40 lists in multiple different markets, from Japan to the U.K. to the U.S. and beyond. 

While Aqua had first formed in 1989, they had little success until the later 1990s, when the song "Barbie Girl," with its poppy, electronic sound and kitschy music video, propelled them to global fame. Within almost no time after their newfound success, Aqua found themselves embroiled in a lawsuit with Mattel, manufacturer of the Barbie Doll, which claimed the band's song had harmed the reputation of the beloved toy, according to CNN Law Center. The suit was eventually dismissed, though it dragged on for five long years. Mattel appealed, and again lost, with the appeals judge again finding the song did not cause "trademark dilution." In his ruling, Judge Alex Kozinski wisely stated: "The parties are advised to chill."

Aqua broke up in the early 2000s, only to reform in 2016.

Candle in the Wind by Elton John

Now to be clear, Elton John's monster hit song (as in hugely successful, not used in the pejorative — it's a great song), the wailing threnody "Candle in the Wind," was first released in the year 1973. It was written as an elegy to the late model and actress Marilyn Monroe, which makes sense given that the song starts with the words "Goodbye, Norma Jeane," and Monroe was indeed named Norma Jeane Mortenson at birth. However, John not only re-recorded the song for a new release in the year 1997, he even re-wrote parts of it. It was still an elegy, though, and this time to the late Diana, Princess of Wales, who died in a tragic car accident on August 31, 1997

Comparing some of the lyrics show that it really was a new song, for all intents and purposes. Whereas the first verses of the original were: "Goodbye, Norma Jeane | Though I never knew you at all | You had the grace to hold yourself | While those around you crawled | They crawled out of the woodwork | And they whispered into your brain | They set you on the treadmill | And they made you change your name."

The new version of the song began with the lyrics: "Goodbye England's rose| May you ever grow in our hearts | You were the grace that placed itself | Where lives were torn apart | You called out to our country | And you whispered to those in pain | Now you belong to heaven | And the stars spell out your name."

MMMBop by Hanson

Hanson's "MmmBop" is one of those so-called "earworms" that you may love getting stuck in your head ... or you may prefer to get a migraine. Long story short, according to National Post, people tended to have a love or hate relationship with this huge hit from 1997. It was a chart-topper that year, according to Billboard

As far as the band members, brothers Zac, Taylor, and Isaac Hanson are concerned, if more people understood what the song was even about, perhaps many more would fall into the love category — according to the brothers, "MmmBop" is one of the most misunderstood songs of all time. While poppy and catchy and all, it is about rejection (more as in rejection by the public of an artist, not as in romance), about the fleeting transience of life, and about the difficulty of staying on your own course. Which is pretty heavy coming from kids who were 14, 12, and 10 when they created it. But look closely at the lyrics, and it's all right there: "You have so many relationships in this life | Only one or two will last | You go through all the pain and strife | Then you turn your back and they're gone so fast."

And as a sidebar, one version of the song's music video uploaded to YouTube is approaching 119 million views at the time of this writing.

Too Much by the Spice Girls

If there was a more '90s phenomenon than the Spice Girls, it's hard to think of what it would be. These five women came onto the scene in the middle of the decade and hit it big in 1996, largely on the strength of the unforgettable song "Wannabe." The next year, their album "Spice" would go on to be the biggest selling album in the United States (it was released in some countries in 1996, but in America in '97).

With their song "Too Much" from the 1997 album "Spiceworld" (which, yes, was also the name of a movie about and starring the musicians), the band had another #1 hit, according to Official Charts. The song spent two weeks at the top spot of the pop charts late that year. And fans of the Spice Girls can still occasionally catch the band performing live, albeit usually without the entire gang — Victoria Beckham, a.k.a. Posh Spice, has skipped most recent reunions with the band, according to People. Look ahead to 2023 for a potential new tour.

Semi-Charmed Life by Third Eye Blind

Third Eye Blind's hit song "Semi-Charmed Life" has a lot more to do with Hanson's "MmmBop" than just being released in the year 1997: it turns out that "Semi-Charmed Life" is also an upbeat and poppy-sounding song that's about darker topics than its vibe lets on. To put it simply, "Semi-Charmed Life" is about drug addiction, and to crystal meth (methamphetamines, e.g.) specifically, via Extra Chill. Some of the lyrics are subtle, such as "I'm packed and I'm holding" being a reference to having drugs on hand. Some are not so veiled, like: "Doing crystal meth will lift you up until you break" or "I'm scared I'm not coming down."

If more people had known the catchy tune was about addiction to hard drugs, maybe they would not have been quite so into it. Regardless, the single spent multiple weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 charts — 43 weeks in all — and reached the #4 most popular spot in those rankings in August of 1997. And while it seemed to be a potential one-hit-wonder type of situation, the band went on to have many more hits and enjoy years of success. And Third Eye Blind is still together and at it today, performing live music and even recording new songs more than a quarter-century since they first hit it big.

That Don't Impress Me Much by Shania Twain

Shania Twain has had a very successful recording career, and a lot of that success was predicated on one album, which was anchored by one song above all others. The album is "Come On Over," which was released in 1997, and the song is "That Don't Impress Me Much." (Which was actually pushed out as a single in 1998, but was already out there with the album, of course.) The single was on the charts for weeks, while the album was a staggering success. In fact, in the year 2015, Guinness World Records certified Twain's "Come On Over" as the world's biggest-selling album by a solo female artist, with more than 40 million units sold.

Years after the song was released, Twain would clarify that what was arguably the most famous line from the song, "OK, so you're Brad Pitt? That don't impress me much" was not meant as a sleight to the actor at all, according to Wide Open Country. Pitt was in the news at the time for a scandal over some leaked nude photographs, and Twain was simply didn't care and didn't understand all the fuss over some images of a naked body. It wasn't about the man, it was about the tempest in a teacup in the media.

Zoot Suit Riot by Cherry Poppin' Daddies

Yes, the swing music revival of the late 1990s was a flash in the pan, at least as far as the genre going mainstream, but it may surprise you to know — and please or confuse you, depending on how you feel — that arguably the biggest band of the brief neo-swing era, the Cherry Poppin' Daddies, are still a group and are still performing today, now going by The Daddies. Which was a good change, as they were often included on lists of bands with simply terrible names, according to Seattle Pi.

Despite having formed in the late 1980s, it would not be until 1997 that the Cherry Poppin' Daddies would find huge success. Largely predicated by the success of the Jon Favreau-written, Doug Liman-directed indie hit film "Swingers," swing music was back. And the band's song "Zoot Suit Riot" from the album of the same name became the anthem of the brief swing revival era. The song (and album) takes its name from an event not quite so happy and swinging as the brass-heavy sound lets on: the Zoot Suit Riots were a series of violent racially-charged clashes that took place in 1943, via History. In the several bouts of melee, white armed servicemen, police officers, and civilians attacked and fought with a number of minorities, mainly Latinos, in several Los Angeles neighborhoods.

Everybody/Backstreet's Back by the Backstreet Boys

The so-called "boy band" was hardly a new phenomenon in the 1990s (The Monkees, anyone?) but there was a new surge in the popularity of the formula that decade. And arguably the biggest boy band act of the era was the Backstreet Boys. In 1997, their song "Everybody" (commonly called "Backstreet's Back" due to that memorable lyric being in the song) was a smash hit. The song, released in late July of 1997, would peak at the #3 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, via Can't Stop the Pop. Which is impressive and a bit odd when you look at the actual lyrics, which include lines like: "Am I original? Yeah | Am I the only one? Yeah | Am I sexual? Yeah | Am I everything you need? | You better rock your body now."

Perhaps even more impressive (and a bit confusing) is the fact that the band is still going quite strong indeed, with dozens of planned dates for a 2022 tour, the "DNA World Tour," as it has been named.