When I have kids, I’ll burst with joy every time I get the opportunity to share the special cultural era that I lived my entire defining childhood in: the early-2000s (I’ve recently given up on calling this decade the aughts — like “fetch,” it’s just not going to happen). I can only imagine their wonder when I tell them that during my memorable pre-adolescent days, frosted tips were cool, Shaq and Kobe couldn’t be stopped, people thought Paris Hilton was an attractive person, calling 411 for someone’s number was a legitimate option, and you gladly waited around the couch in the middle of a weekday for your new favorite music video to come on MTV or VH1.
I’ll make it a very intentional effort to not lecture the next generation with empty back-in-my-day or they-don’t-make-them-like-they-used-to rants. I will, however, speak fondly of how fortunate I was for my first impression of pop culture world being the phenomenon that was the early-2000s music video scene.
My kids will probably never understand how someone as dull as Carson Daly was able to rake in buckets of cash for hosting a show that simply aired music videos with a distractingly scenic Times Square backdrop. In an effort to make up for this lapse in pop culture history that they will inevitably experience, I think we can all agree how significant it is for them to get a fair understanding of our own childhoods with the most iconic, era-defining jams and complimentary video mashups.
“Bye Bye Bye” by NSYNC (January 2000)
As much as I’m tempted to pull the “my older sister made me listen to it” card, I don’t want to lie to my kids. Justin Timberlake may have just been a Ramen Noodle-haired teenager who made up 20% of an incredible boyband, but we all knew even then that he was an international superstar of his own right in the making.
“The Thong Song” (February 2000)
As a kindergartener in spring 2000, I may or may not have walked up to my teacher, trying to be cute by asking if I could see their “tho-ooonng, bay-be!” having zero understanding of what a thong was. Even at a young age, you live and you learn.
“It Wasn’t Me” (September 2000)
Any literature dedicated to discussing early-2000s pop culture is invalid without at least mentioning the most bizarre music star of the era, Shaggy. He doesn’t even sing the hooks that everyone knows, and is entirely indecipherable when he actually tries articulating words for himself. Go figure.
“Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” by Jay-Z (August 2001)
According to a reliable source, Jay-Z actually indirectly stole the “Fo sheezy” line from Snoop Dogg. Regardless, it’s a perfect example of the unusual awesomeness that was the early-2000’s pop culture scene.
“Without Me” by Eminem (May 2002)
Yet another song that led to me being scolded for reciting the lyrics in public; little did eight-year-old Squints know that “Two trailer parks girls go ’round the outside…” could mean something inappropriate. With a strong Batman-and-Robin presence from Eminem’s actual business sidekick Dr. Dre, the amount of quintessential early-2000s references is staggering: The Real World, The Jerry Springer Show, and Limp Bizkit, to name a few.
“Hot In Herre” by Nelly (April 2002)
Tops the list as my number one guilty pleasure song of my entire life — even though I don’t actually feel guilty about it at all. You’re lying to yourself and all of your friends if you say you didn’t absolutely love it when this song came on the radio.
“In da Club” by 50 Cent (January 2003)
Finally, a highly used line from the playground that wasn’t poorly misinterpreted by countless elementary school kids — “Go shawty, it’s ya birt-day” was and still is applicable for any situation worthy of a compliment. It’s worth mentioning, though, that there’s no way this song would be approved by today’s PC police given G-Unit’s opinion about the gentleman “tryin’ to pull (him) back right.”
“Hey Ya!” by Outkast (September 2003)
A music video with a higher sense of “fun” has never been created. Although Big Boi, the other half of the timeless Atlanta duo, actually has zero role in the song at all, the much more famous Andre 3000 stars with eight versions of himself (“Andre 24000”, anyone?) with his perfect balance of geekiness and coolness to compliment his chemically-relaxed hair.
“This Love” by Maroon 5 (January 2004)
Adam Levine was slaying before “slaying” was a thing. Also, I just realized that I now need go out of my way to make sure my kids never use the word that I have now used two too many times in my life.
“Tipsy” by J-Kwon (February 2004)
I should mock myself for conforming to the “er-body in the club get’n tipsy” gag that we all naively sang on the playground, but despite its ultimate one-hit-wonder status, this song holds up.
Anyone know what J-Kwon is up to these days?.
Image via YouTube