In celebration of summer, the staff at THE 97 has compiled a playlist containing some of our favorite summer songs, from then and now. Each day we will reveal one song, rotating daily between past and present with pairings from 1998 and 2023, for a total of 97 days/songs. Since we love nostalgia, we’re celebrating summer songs from 1998 as they turn 25, alongside new songs that we feel deserve some shine. Pairings could be thematic, sonic, or based connections between the artists.
We’ve provided our summer songs playlist on Apple Music, Spotify, and Tidal for your listening pleasure, and will be updating this main post daily as we add songs to the list. Songs are not ranked in any particular order; we love them all!
THE SUMMER 97 (1998 x 2023)
1. “My All/Stay Awhile” by Mariah Carey (1998)
2. “CUFF IT (WETTER REMIX)” by Beyoncé (2023)
Summertime is for sun, sand, and a So So Def remix. In the 90s, Mariah Carey and Jermaine Dupri never failed to deliver on the latter, and the “My All/Stay Awhile” remix, is no exception. A sexy summery mash-up of Mariah’s 13th #1 and the R&B classic “Stay a Little While, Child,” the track features Lord Tariq and Peter Gunz, a then up-and-coming rap duo from the Bronx, as Carey effortlessly glides between verses from both songs atop the Loose Ends sampled beat. While Carey’s now-classic Latin-inspired ballad was already steamy, this club-ready mix really made it swelter. —Vincent Anthony
Watch the “My All/Stay Awhile” video, stream it, or buy Mariah’s “Butterfly” or “The Remixes” album.
When the heat becomes too hot to handle, the only way to cool off is to get wet. Beyoncé understood the assignment on the “CUFF IT (WETTER REMIX),” taking a page out of Mariah Carey’s 90s remix handbook to craft a mash-up of her 2022 hit and a two-decade-old hip-hop classic, Twista’s “Wetter.” This quiet-storm-ready version will make things drip where the once-funky original made ’em drop. Sliding atop the throbbing beat, Yoncé serves #BigVersEnergy by delivering both soulful vocal runs and slick-mouthed rap bars that masterfully bring this intercourse between R&B and Hip-Hop to an intense climax. —V.A.
Stream the “CUFF IT (WETTER REMIX)” here, order Beyoncé’s “RENAISSANCE” vinyl, or get those RENAISSANCE World Tour tickets.
3. “The Boy is Mine” by Brandy & Monica (1998)
4. “Cheat” by Mahalia feat. JoJo (2023)
It’s hard to imagine a classic like “The Boy Is Mine” turning 25 because when you listen to it today, it’s still just as fresh. When it was released, Brandy and Monica were both teen idols on the rise and Rodney Jerkins crafted this song in hopes of putting the rumors about their alleged rivalry to rest. The song was a huge, undeniable hit and remains a staple in R&B and Pop playlists. Brandy and Monica convincingly played dueling divas for this song, serving amazing vocals, plenty of attitude… and igniting a fictional feud that made Summer 1998 sizzle. —Mario M.
Taking sonic inspiration from late 90s and early 00s R&B musically and visually (its music video features a bedazzled RAZR flip phone and MySpace), “Cheat” by Mahalia feat. JoJo I’d essentially “The Boy Is Mine” (Female Empowerment Version). JoJo’s signature sass and seasoned soulfulness add weight to this vibey anthem, but never attempts to overshadow Mahalia’s shine. Effortless in their harmony of voice and message, the pairing is perfectly complementary. Just as the Brandy & Monica classic was an anthem in summer 1998, if the people of today have any sense, it’ll prove true for “Cheat” in 2023 as well.—V.A.
Is there anything better than a summertime romance? In 1998, country legend Shania Twain gave us the perfect theme song for such, with her pop-crossover hit “You’re Still The One.” A sultry spoken word intro sets the mood so right that it almost seems rude to have the lights on when you’re listening to it. But the song’s warm transition and tenderhearted lyrics about never falling out of love, despite the naysayers, sound so cool you can practically taste the summer air in between each line. After all this time, this song still gives us all the feels. —John Antonucci
Thirty years into her career, Shania Twain is still looking for a good time. In fact, she’s looking to get “litty in the cup” on her song, “Giddy Up!” Taken from her latest LP “Queen of Me,” this song will have you packing up your bags for a weekend getaway with your friends before even booking it. Everyone knows that summertime is the best time for getting in the car, cranking up the volume, and taking in a new view. So this summer, do as Shania says – “giddy up” and hit the road! You won’t regret it. —J.A.
7. “Fly Away” by Lenny Kravitz (1998)
8. “Sure Thing” by Miguel (2023)
Few things evoke freedom better than flight; whether literal or metaphorical, to fly is to be free. Lenny Kravitz ascended to #12 on the Billboard Hot 100 in late 1998 with his hit single, “Fly Away,” but really should’ve been a summer single. This funky rock-n-roll ode to escapism is the perfect anthem for flying out of the country, or even just flying down the highway. Kravitz’s unmistakable voice soars atop electric guitar riffs and a groovy bassline, all combining to exude the essence of freedom. Spin “Fly Away,” and you’ll end up booking that summer trip you’ve been debating. —V.A.
Sometimes a song is so good it has to hit twice. Entering summer 2023 as the #1 song on pop radio, Miguel’s 2010 hit “Sure Thing” has outperformed its original chart run thanks to becoming a viral sensation on TikTok. The metaphor-laden, guitar-driven R&B track sounds as fresh today as it did in 2010 with its chopped and screwed hook, guitar riffs, and the endearingly sweet melody sung by a passionate, then-25-year-old Miguel. “Sure Thing” created the formula for later, bigger hits like “Adorn,” and “#Beautiful” with Mariah Carey. This summer, one thing is sure: Miguel’s career is hotter than ever.—V.A.
9. “Inevitable” by Shakira (1998)
10. “chemistry” by Kelly Clarkson (2023)
Certain songs are just perfect for a summer bonfire. Shakira’s fiery 1998 classic “Inevitable” is just that. This quintessential Latin rock ballad was the perfect bridge between Shakira’s acoustic beginnings and her more impassioned pivot to moody rock chick. The track starts off acoustic, but quickly builds in intensity as the guitar and drums layer up, and Shakira’s signature voice amplifies it from a ballad to an anthem. While her first foray into English-language music was never officially released (and is way better in Spanish), like the love she sings about, Shakira becoming a global superstar was inevitable. —V.A.
The beauty and warmth a summertime magic hour sunset is hard to put into words; even harder to put into sound. Kelly Clarkson’s “chemistry,” the title track off her 10th studio album that dropped on June 23rd, is a successful feat of sonic imagery that conjures the magic of that moment, and of falling in love. The acoustic guitar, lush production, and romantic lyrics alongside Clarkson’s soulful, sensual vocal are the formula for pop perfection. Clocking in at just two-and-a-half minutes, “chemistry” will have you begging for more, and longing for whatever love potion she’s brewed up.—V.A.
11. “So Into You” by Tamia (1998)
12. “missin u” by Tori Kelly (2023)
Before we had social media and apps like TikTok to make old songs go viral years after their release… all we had were samples. Tamia’s 1998 R&B classic “So Into You” was a modest hit upon its original release, peaking at #30 on the Hot 100 and #7 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. Five years later, Fabolous sampled it for his smash hit “Into You,” with
Ashanti Tamia, who rerecorded her vocals for what would become the biggest hit of both their careers. This literally timeless classic was a smash in not one, but two summers and it’s still fire.—V.A.
Watch the “So Into You” (or “Into You”) video, stream it or buy Tamia’s debut album.
Something about the summertime and nostalgia goes hand-in-hand. On Tori Kelly’s aptly titled “missin u,” she throws us back in time to that irresistible late 90s/early 00s R&B sound. There are notes of influence from turn-of-the-century R&B by acts like Aaliyah, JoJo, Usher, and Mariah Carey. Your nostalgia radar will go off non-stop, but you’ll never quite place it. Kelly makes the sound her own by showcasing her ability to switch seamlessly from quick-tongued verses to a sing-along-ready hook and soaring bridge. Unfortunately, the track failed to make an impact on the charts; perhaps it’s too nostalgic.—V.A.
Watch the “missin u” video, stream it or get some Tori Kelly vinyl.
13. “Go Deep (Missy/Timbaland Remix)” by Janet Jackson (1998)
14. “Float” by Janelle Monáe feat. Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 (2023)
If there was ever a golden age of the remix, it was the 1990s. There were house, hip-hop, and R&B mixes galore — and they were all on point! When Janet Jackson enlisted Timbaland and Missy Elliott to remix the fourth single from “The Velvet Rope,” she flipped it from funky bop to hip-hop groove. While Missy’s take on the hook lacks the catchiness of the poppier original, it definitely makes the song slap with a sly, sexy edge atop the Timbaland beat. Whichever variation you choose, Janet’s “Go Deep” will have you partying late into the night.—V.A.
When you’re a free-ass-muthafucker, you don’t walk… you float. That’s the essence of “Float,” the lead single from Janelle Monáe’s latest album, “The Age of Pleasure.” Featuring music by Seun Kuti & Egypt 80, Monáe glides through self-realization, announcing that she’s changed and doesn’t care what the haters have to say about it. In light of recent criticisms for her showing off her nipples at the Essence Music Festival (and the video for second single “Lipstick Lover”), the message of “Float” is all the more relevant. However, in her age of pleasure, Janelle Monáe will continue to float — unbothered.—V.A.
15. “Ghetto Supastar” by Pras, Mya & Ol’ Dirty Bastard (1998)
16. “AMERICA HAS A PROBLEM” by Beyoncé & Kendrick Lamar (2023)
Twenty years before Lil Nas X trotted his horse down “Old Town Road” and gagged the Nashville girlies by fusing Hip-Hop and Country, a trio of Hip-Hop and R&B stars collaborated to sample two Country legends, Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. In 1998, Fugees member Pras, R&B newcomer Mya, and Wu-Tang Clan’s Ol’ Dirty Bastard joined forces to release the now-classic “Ghetto Supastar (That is What You Are).” The track flips the Rogers/Parton sample into a chaotically charismatic anthem that perfectly encapsulates the inescapable collision of R&B and Hip-Hop throughout the late 90s. Shout out to Mariah Carey.—V.A.
Beyoncé reunites with her #2 musical husband Kendrick Lamar for another surprise remix. For the pair’s third collaboration and third “RENAISSANCE” remix, Beyoncé takes another page from the 90s playbook by tacking a rap verse on the infectious “AMERICA HAS A PROBLEM.” Lamar rides the beat immaculately, bringing us back to 2023 to dish out some strong words for A.I. and embrace his second-place ranking behind Beyoncé’s actual husband on Billboard’s Best Rappers list (“rightfully so,” he says). Though he knows his place in that relationship, he should reconsider crowning himself “an honorary Beyhive” given the Hive’s polarized reaction.—V.A.
Stream “AMERICA HAS A PROBLEM” here, order Beyoncé’s “RENAISSANCE” vinyl, or get those RENAISSANCE World Tour tickets.
17. “Nice & Slow” by Usher (1998)
18. “GLU” by Usher (2023)
Ever-enduring R&B legend, Usher, has undergone a retrospective renaissance thanks to his massively successful Las Vegas residency and the re-release of his iconic breakthrough album, “My Way.” On its second single, “Nice & Slow,” released in 1998, Usher vividly depicts teenage lust and desire, memorably summed up with the line, “I got plans to put my hands in places you’ve never seen, girl you know what I mean.” It’s a song that is truly of its time, yet still sounds current within today’s R&B landscape — a testament to the strength of his catalog, and the impact of his legacy.—Jordan Listenbee
In his latest single, “GLU,” the growth of Usher’s vocal delivery and overall lyrical content when compared to his 90s discography is apparent. With Lil Jon serving as producer, this Prince-inspired slow jam puts Usher’s signature falsetto on full display. While the song may not have the same hit potential as his more commercial classics, it is a welcome addition to Usher’s expansive catalog. If 1998’s “Nice & Slow” was the amuse-bouche, “GLU” is its NSFW entrée. Preference aside, both show that the man’s words ring true: “You either evolve or dissolve.” Legendary behavior, if you ask me.—J.L.
19. “Too Close” by Next (1998)
20. “Fly Girl” by FLO feat. Missy Elliott (2023)
In the 90s, R&B was filled with thinly-veiled double entendre. “Too Close” by R&B trio Next is a prime example, with the not-so-subtly suggestive lyrics that made it the year’s hottest song. Opening with lead singer R.L. posing the question, “I wonder if she could tell that I’m hard right now?” it’s amazing that the rest of the song’s lyrics seemingly managed to go over most people’s, and radio programmer’s, heads. What did they really think they meant by “a poke comin’ through,” and “You’re making it hard for me?” Ultimately, it’s… hard to stop a hit.—V.A.
Once songs from your adolescence become the go-to source of samples, you’re officially grown. And, if you’re Missy Elliott, well… that’s just another reminder that you’re that bitch. Up-and-coming British girl group FLO sampled Elliott’s 2001 classic “Work It” on their single “Fly Girl,” and even managed to snag a co-sign from the legendary Misdemeanor. The track leans heavily on nostalgia in sound and lyrics, referencing another 2001 classic by Jagged Edge as they confidently sing, “I don’t need a man to tell me where the party is.” Like the hits they’ve sampled, expect these fly girls to stick.—V.A.
21. “Spice Up Your Life” by The Spice Girls (1998)
22. “Dance the Night” by Dua Lipa (2023)
While the ’90s saw the emergence of popular boy bands, like the Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC, it was the decade’s girl groups who came to heat – or spice, rather – things up. The Spice Girls were not just the biggest British singing group to conquer the world since The Beatles, they soon ranked among the best-selling girl groups of all time. With their salsa-inspired hit, “Spice Up Your Life,” these five ladies gave us the absolute perfect anthem for a summertime fiesta. Feeling “sad and low” these days? Well, the Spice Girls have just the cure for that.—J.A.
We Enter Disco Barbie. After ushering in a disco revival for the pop girlies and “Levitating” the soundtrack to everyone’s pandemic parties in 2020, Lipa has returned to bring some disco to the Barbie film soundtrack. “Dance the Night” sounds like it would’ve been right at home on “Future Nostalgia,” but as the inaugural release off the “Barbie: The Album,” it’s a welcomed kickoff to what’s become the summer’s hottest ticket in film and music. While the song didn’t blaze its way to the top of the charts, it’s certain to heat up any club it encounters this summer.—V.A.
23. “Outside” by George Michael (1998)
24. “Rush” by Troye Sivan (2023)
Masterful songwriters turn their experiences into relatable songs, and true superstars know how to turn scandal into success. When George Michael’s career was marred in controversy following his arrest for allegedly soliciting public sex, forcing him to publicly come out, he spat in the face of entrapment by relishing in sexual liberation. Released months after the 1998 incident, “Outside” celebrates public sex, calling it human nature; a return to form. This sexy disco number and its accompanying video made good trouble out of the bad. George Michael is a gay icon, and “Outside” was his first true anthem.—V.A.
Sometimes, an artist is able to epitomize the concept of “understanding the assignment.” On “Rush,” Troye Sivan earns an undeniable A+ in the category of thot boy summer. Atop a thumping House/Pop amalgamation, Sivan glides effortlessly, evoking the sounds and sensations of a very hot, very sweaty, and very gay night at the club. Ever fearless and never desperate, Sivan’s music has always embraced and celebrated his sexuality, and “Rush” is the sonic embodiment of Pride. With the lead single from his first album in 5 years, the 28-year-old singer is making it clear he’s all grown up.—V.A.
25. “Crush (Dance Mix)” by Jennifer Paige (1998)
26. “I Can See You” by Taylor Swift (2023)
They don’t call ’em one-hit wonders for nothing. “Crush,” one such wonder from 1998, was the first and only pop hit by Jennifer Paige. Her debut single managed to become a runaway success thanks to its irresistibly infectious chorus that became an anthem for anyone with a crush, innocent or otherwise. The perfect sonic snapshot of nondescript 90s pop, “Crush” is perfectly unforgettable yet unremarkable. It’ll transport you back to a simpler time: of cassette mixtapes, CD Walkmans, and secret crushes. If you’re too young to remember it firsthand, you’ll just have to take my word for it.—V.A.
Many words describe pop music’s reigning “Mastermind,” and “calculating” is certainly one of them. On the latest (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault), Taylor Swift reminds her prospective beau: “I Can See You.” Endearingly creepy, it evokes 90s pop in its questionably yet catchy, almost-too-honest expressions of
love lust. In a rare show of seduction, Swift strings us along on a guitar-driven journey through her secret, 20-year-old desires, that, like this song (until now) were locked away in a vault. Its Taylor-studded music video only adds to the mystery, making for a surprisingly sexy summer single from Swift.—V.A.
27. “Kiss the Rain” by Billie Myers (1998)
28. “River” by Miley Cyrus (2023)
If you’re trying to fight the summer heatwave, this is the blast from the past you’ll need. British singer Billie Myers’ “Kiss the Rain” is the perfect song to play after the arrival of a summer thunderstorm — to cool off the air, and the mind. The song became popular after being used in an episode of the popular teen drama “Dawson’s Creek,” and began ascending the charts. Written as a reflection on the ups and downs of relationships, the Alt/Pop sound of “Kiss the Rain” fit right in amidst the eclectic music scene of the late 90s.—M.M.
If sexual energy were a river, Miley Cyrus is here to ensure it never runs dry. On the energetic dance-pop track “River,” she recalls the ‘80s sound and melody of Flo Rida and Kesha’s 2009 hit single “Right Round,” and emulates its not-so-subtle double entendre. Though Cyrus’ is not so blatant, like the assumed metaphor of Mariah Carey’s “Honey,” it’s there if you look for it. It’s not a cover of the Joni Mitchell sometimes-Christmas standard, that’s for sure, but it seems to take inspiration from the Queen of Christmas. Is she sure she’s never been a fan?—V.A.
29. “Nothing Really Matters” by Madonna (1998)
30. “I’m Not Here to Make Friends” by Sam Smith (2023)
Momentous life events often yield creative breakthroughs for an artist. On her 1998 opus “Ray of Light,” Madonna combined her newfound appreciation for mystics and electronica to revitalize her sound and image with the most effective and profound reinvention of her chameleonic career. “Nothing Really Matters,” the album’s final single, is a reflective, zen anthem that grapples with karma and maturation. Atop the bouncy, House-inspired EDM track, Madonna muses meditative mantras of motivation with a vocal delivery that is at times om-like. As the track progresses, its tempo and layers build with one goal: liberation via levitation.—V.A.
Honesty is a key element on any journey to personal liberation. For Sam Smith, their newfound unrestricted persona has an anthem in the disco-inspired single “I’m Not Here to Make Friends.” While its very queer, very sexualized music video received plenty of flack, some for reasons warranted (hideous fashions) and unwarranted (body and slut shaming), the song itself is an undeniable good time. Honest in the celebration of their queer identity, and honest in the song’s straightforward message (the title pretty much sums that up), on Smith’s most fun track to date, the truth sets them free.—V.A.
31. “The First Night” by Monica (1998)
32. “Talk to Me Nice” by Tinashe (2023)
One hallmark of the marriage between R&B and Hip-Hop in the mid ’90s was when R&B women started flipping samples of classics on top of hard, Hip-Hop beats, lacing them with unmatched vocals and unforgettable melodies. Case in point, Monica’s “The First Night,” the second single from her sophomore album. Built on a sample of “Love Hangover” by Diana Ross, “The First Night” is the antithesis to The Boss’ submissive classic. Monica, instead, dominates in a man’s world — she’s found the cure. The remedy is her ability to set boundaries and own her sexuality. Monica doesn’t run.—V.A.
In a musical landscape littered with relentless singles that are barely two minutes long, it’s the artists who take their time that serve up the best time. On her new single “Talk to Me Nice,” the ever-versatile Tinashe continues to impress by keeping things fresh. The fact that the song clocks in at nearly 4 minutes sets it apart, but also the sensual, slickly produced mid-tempo love song is not just a mood, it’s many. Bouncin’ from chorus to verse to bridge like movements of a symphony, Tinashe reminds us she can ride any vibe. She’s always nice.—V.A.
33. “Hit Em Wit da Hee” by Missy Elliott, Lil’ Kim & Mocha (1998)
34. “Seven” by Jung Kook & Latto (2023)
In Hip-Hop, the come-up is cyclical; good karma yields great success. In the case of Missy Elliott, she’s essentially Hip-Hop’s Buddha with all the good karma she’s put into the genre… but even she started somewhere. The reputation she cultivated as a songwriter, producer, and force of female empowerment manifested via several high-profile features on her debut. On its final single “Hit Em Wit da Hee,” she managed to secure features from not one but two fellow female rap stars: Lil’ Kim and Mocha. The result is a fierce, hard-hitting romp that’s all bite, yet no fight.—V.A.
Ambitious rising stars in pop often collide to combine their star power, yielding #BigEnergy. Newly solo seventh of K-pop’s biggest band BTS, Jung Kook, and one of the hottest new women in Hip-Hop, Latto, join forces on “Seven,” a sizzling, summer sex romp that is anything but subtle. In true boy-bander-gone-solo fashion, BTS’ youngest proves he’s all grown-up, putting all interested parties on notice: “Night after night, I’ll be fucking you right.” Latto, understanding the assignment, matches his vibe: “Come here baby, let me swallow your pride.” As addictive as, apparently, you-know-what… “Seven” is tailor-made to repeat.—V.A.
35. “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” by Backstreet Boys (1998)
36. “on the street” by j-hope & J. Cole (2023)
For some acts, it’s a slow burn to superstardom; for others, it’s overnight. By the time the Backstreet Boys released their fourth single stateside, they were huge — and it was clear that they weren’t going anywhere. Just in case, they served up a reminder with “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back),” an infectious party anthem with a “Thriller”-inspired music video. The quintet who prided themselves on their vocals managed to keep the harmonies tight, while still letting loose. With built-in instrumental dance breaks and chanting crowds, “Everybody” succeeds in its main mission, you’re bound to “rock your body right.” Alright?!—V.A.
Once upon a time, Hip-Hop went Pop. When its biggest stars began to collaborate with pop stars, the genre transitioned, for better or worse, to the mainstream. Now, the same is happening with K-Pop, emblematic by its most successful group BTS aligning with artists across genres. For his latest solo single “on the street,” BTS member j-hope taps his favorite rapper and “muse,” J. Cole, to bridge the gap. For Cole, it’s an unexpected feature that proves his versatility. Roles have reversed as Cole, once the newbie seeking his idol’s approval, welcomes j-hope to the Cole World.—V.A.
37. “Can I Get A…” by JAY-Z, Amil & Ja Rule (1998)
38. “Passport Bros” by Bas & J. Cole (2023)
After decades in the public consciousness, some songs you just know somehow, perhaps due to sheer ubiquity, or sampling. JAY-Z’s “Can I Get A…” featuring Amil and Ja Rule is one of those tracks. J. Cole fans will recognize, “Can I hit it in the morning?” … Janet Jackson fans will recognize its “bounce.” However, in the summer of 1998, “Can I Get A…” was a big hit in its own right, helping inch JAY-Z closer to crossing over and establishing new acts Amil and Ja Rule. The infectious, Irv Gotti-produced bop lights up any club — then, and now.—V.A.
Time to get your passport stamped! With production reminiscent of Pharrell’s “In My Mind” era, the hilariously yet trendy titled “Passport Bros” by Bas and J. Cole easily mixes Afrobeat and Bossa Nova with a jazzy string section that serves up a beachside bop perfect for the summertime. Bas’ laid-back, rhythmic flow, along with some cleverly used product placement, lends itself well to the song’s intercontinental instrumentation. Comparatively, Cole’s signature staccato aligns with his masterful wordplay to make the track’s two halves fuse together perfectly to create a referential, yet original track. Let me drive the boat!—J.L.
39. “Top of the World,” by Brandy & Ma$e (1998)
40. “Attention” by Doja Cat (2023)
Aptly titled, this Darkchild penned hit saw the iconic Brandy and legendary rapper Ma$e at their commercial peaks. The second single off of her second album, “Never Say Never,” “Top of the World” finds Brandy and Ma$e lyrically reveling in their success, while reminding the listener that it doesn’t come easy, or make for a simpler life. It marks the beginning of a more mature sound thematically for Brandy, and foreshadowed the woman the world has come to know. The song is fun, emoting a joy that is seldom used and severely lacking in today’s musical landscape.—J.L.
There are plenty of creative ways to express the essence of the infamous phrase “suck my dick,” rather than saying it flat out. Doja Cat delivers a rousing reminder of her rap talent on her most Hip-Hop single in ages, “Attention.” Sparse in production but with no shortage of bars, Doja Cat puts everyone on notice with the sexiest rendition of Lil Kim’s “Suck My Dick” to date. No, it’s not a sample or a cover, Doja Cat never says “dick,” the attention instead is on her— though, she never says that word either… she ain’t pussy.—V.A.
41. “What’s It Gonna Be?!” by Busta Rhymes & Janet Jackson (1998)
42. “Water Slide” by Janelle Monáe (2023)
The sizzling classic “What’s It Gonna Be?!” sees the pairing of Rap titan Busta Rhymes and Empress of Pop Janet Jackson in an eclectic blend of Hip-Hop, Funk, and R&B. Lyrically, the track’s focus is driven by raw sexuality, a topic that Jackson’s pioneering influence helped normalize for women in pop music. Rhymes blends superbly well with Jackson’s sex kitten vocals, due to his frenetic energy and overall reputation as a stellar, intricate MC. The track, along with its world record-setting visual, became one of the most successful rap-sung collaborations in the latter half of the 1990s.—J.L.
Watch the legendary “What’s It Gonna Be?!” video, stream it, or grab some Busta Rhymes or Janet Jackson vinyl.
Who can resist a good, nasty metaphor? Janelle Monáe takes a plunge into the sea of allegory on “Water Slide,” the very unserious, very unsubtle third single from “The Age of Pleasure.” With lemons on her areoles and bare ass cheeks abound, Monáe’s “Age of Pleasure” is a water park in the very metaphorical sense: it’s very hot, very wet, and very fun. Opening with the line, “If I could fuck me right here right now, I would do that,” the song is a tantalizing tease and, with its Island-inspired beat, is beach and pool party perfection.—V.A.
43. “Trippin'” by Total (1998)
44. “Cut” by Tori Kelly (2023)
Having too many cooks in the kitchen is often discouraged. In the case of ’90s girl group Total’s classic hit “Trippin'” the phrase simply does not apply. Released via Puff Daddy’s Bad Boy label, this jam had several multi-platinum hands involved. Missy Elliott, Timbaland, Mario Winans, Darryl Pearson, and of course, Puffy himself, contributed to writing and producing the LL Cool J-sampling track, with DMX dropping a verse on its remix. It’s no wonder the song peaked at #7 on the Hot 100. “Trippin'” might’ve been their last hit, but unlike the group, their biggest hit has stuck around.—V.A.
There’s a certain confidence that culminates within someone once they’ve finally realized their true potential. On “cut,” Tori Kelly struts into newfound swag, flanked by a crew of creatives with whom success is the only option. The Y2K R&B-inspired track not only takes inspiration from the era, it taps in, too. Kelly and Jon Bellion’s team enlisted additional input from both Timbaland and Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins to ensure the nostalgic knocker is as authentic as can be. Kelly flourishes atop the immaculately produced “cut,” effortlessly showcasing her vocal prowess with enough skill to make her influences proud.—V.A.
45. “Are You That Somebody” by Aaliyah (1998)
46. “Terms and Conditions” by Mahalia (2023)
Who would’ve thought the theme song to a family-friendly film about a doctor that can talk to animals would be so damn sexy? Due to time constraints set by Blackground Records, late songwriter Static Major cut the “Are You That Somebody” demo alongside producer Timbaland in just 10 hours, between 1-11 am. Set to the backdrop of Timbaland’s signature, Middle Eastern-derived sound, it was inspired by the allegedly burgeoning romance between Major and Aaliyah. With her ever-maturing image, voice, and iconic visuals, Aaliyah gave a sensual yet tasteful glimpse of what was to come in her tragically short career.—J.L.
Reading is fundamental. Online, we often skip reading the “terms and conditions” before using apps and websites. However, IRL they’re a must, just like on the lead single from Mahalia’s sophomore album “IRL.” On the aptly-titled anthem, “Terms and Conditions,” she serves up a manifesto on how she expects to be treated by any potential man. Like her duet with JoJo, it harkens back to early aughts R&B, managing to sound invitingly familiar yet not reductive. On this mid-tempo groove, Mahalia channels the era both lyrically and sonically, delivering an empowering message with an authentic, soulful sound.—V.A.
47. “With Me (Part I)” by Destiny’s Child (1998)
48. “Body Do” by Chlöe (2023)
Record labels sure loved to have teen stars sing songs they were probably not old enough to be singing in the 1990s. “With Me,” the second single from Destiny’s Child’s debut album, is a fine example of that. Recorded when the girls were just 16 years old and produced by go-to hitmaker Jermaine Dupri, it’s essentially a side chick anthem. Problematic as it may be, it’s a bop in all four of its iterations. Perfect evidence that Beyoncé and Kelly were vocally talented beyond their years, nobody would guess that the young girls singing it weren’t grown-ass women.—V.A.
Presenting the 2023 valedictorian of the Janet Jackson School of Spoken Word Intros and Interludes: Chlöe Bailey. The ever-fearless, never-fucks-given Ms. Bailey opens what should’ve been her lead single, “Body Do,” with a loaded, messy question: “Do you ever wonder.. who else is FUCKIN’ your man?” As if this, infectious 2-minute-long bop doesn’t gag the girls enough as is, that opener really seals the deal. The frenetic yet impeccably produced banger plays with the question at hand. Chloe’s answer? “I can trust you as far as I can throw you, but I’ma trust what that body do.” Period.—V.A.
49. “Boy’s a liar, Pt. 2” by PinkPantheress & Ice Spice (2023)
50. “It’s Not Right But It’s Okay” by Whitney Houston (1998)
Pop-stars crossing the pond, male-bashing anthems, pop girls uniting in the name of girl power… is the 1990s or the 2020s? Make no mistake, it’s the era of TikTok-friendly 2-minute songs with lax choreography and verses that are somehow infectious as hell. Without ever raising their voices, English pop singer PinkPantheress and Bronx-born rapper Ice Spice manage to inspire girls to twerk and boys to be big mad on “Boy’s a liar, Pt. 2.” Peaking at #3 on the Hot 100, this fun fusion of Pantheress’ bubblegum pop with Spice’s gruff rap raised both artists’ profiles in a big way.—V.A.
Now, a xylophone might sound a bit elementary, but baby, it was simple. Whitney broke things down real easy just to be SURE the math was mathing! “It’s Not Right But It’s Okay” was an iconic moment in Houston’s career. Her 1998 album “My Love Is Your Love” marked a stylistic shift, proving she could still fit within evolving trends in pop. She also showcased a bit more of her magnetic personality. The R&B anthem, produced by Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins, was equally empowering, and a huge hit — especially in gay clubs thanks to its iconic Thunderpuss dance remix.—V.A.
Watch the “It’s Not Right But It’s Okay” video, stream the album version, Thunderpuss club mix, or get the “My Love Is Your Love” anniversary vinyl.
51. “Flowers” by Miley Cyrus (2023)
52. “Ray of Light” by Madonna (1998)
In 2023, summer came early. Twelve days into the New Year, Miley Cyrus dropped “Flowers,” a bittersweet, disco-pop bop that perfectly leverages Miley’s unique voice and empowering image. With a captivating visual and song, Cyrus broke streaming records to debut at #1 on the Hot 100, spending 8 weeks at the pole position. As the lead single from “Endless Summer Vacation,” “Flowers” is a great representation of the album as a whole, which delves heavily into her post-divorce emotional reckonings. Strutting in her strength, Cyrus’ aura of cool remains unbreakable. She gave herself “Flowers” via the biggest hit of her career.—V.A.
Traditionally, imagery is the use of words to evoke the senses; but certain sounds can have the same effect. On “Ray of Light,” Madonna provides the soundtrack to one of the most iconic visual images: the sun. A euphoric journey through liberation, the electronic, dance-inspired pop anthem marked a moment of personal and professional rebirth for Madonna. Best known as the boundary-pushing “Material Girl,” the legendary diva came down to earth bit, if only for a short time, during her spiritually awakened “Ray of Light” era. The album’s title track perfectly encapsulates the moment — a comeback anthem.—V.A.
53. “Padam Padam” by Kylie Minogue (2023)
54. “Heaven’s What I Feel” by Gloria Estefan (1998)
Adding a phrase to the pop culture lexicon is a telltale sign of impact. With “Padam Padam,” Kylie Minogue gives “heartbeat” a new name and reminds us why she’s been a pop music mainstay for decades. The 55-year-old icon proves that with the right song, a true diva will flourish regardless. The infectious dance track immediately claimed its place in the zeitgeist upon release, with its fiercely red music video and undeniably catchy hook featuring perfectly relatable lyrics for her target audience: the gays — arriving just in time for Pride month, “Padam” has become an inescapable anthem.—V.A.
It’s almost become a rite of passage for a diva to delve into dance-pop at some point in her career. With “Heaven’s What I Feel,” the lead single from her mononymous album “gloria!” (1998), pioneering Latin pop icon Gloria Estefan fully committed to crafting dancefloor anthems. “Heaven’s What I Feel,” with its Spanish, French, and club mixes, became a decent hit for a then-40-year-old Estefan. Boasting soaring vocals, a glossily produced pop take on the House genre, and some fittingly dramatic lyrics of forbidden love, “Heaven’s What I Feel” is prime gay club material from a beloved diva.—V.A.
Watch the “Heaven’s What I Feel” video, stream it in English or Spanish, or buy the “gloria!” album.
55. “PROVENZA (REMIX)” by KAROL G & Tiësto (2023)
56. “The Cup of Life (La Copa de la Vida” by Ricky Martin (1998)
There’s something magical that happens when a pop princess finds her dance DJ prince. Just ask Kelly Rowland. The collaboration between KAROL G and Tiësto, “Don’t Be Shy,” was a worldwide hit for the Colombian superstar singer and Dutch DJ, so it’s a no-brainer that the pair hooked up once again. The newly-released “PROVENZA” remix is a dancefloor-ready mix of one of her more laid-back tracks, transforming its vibe from beach day to night club. KAROL G’s signature slinky, tongue-twisting style of rap singing is abundant in rhymes and criminally catchy — even if you don’t speak Spanish.—V.A.
While the Super Bowl is the biggest sporting event in the United States, virtually everywhere else in the world, it’s the other football’s World Cup dominates. Though it doesn’t have a musical performance equivalent to the Super Bowl Half-Time show, it does have official songs and anthems. Ricky Martin’s official song for the 1998 World Cup, “The Cup of Life (La Copa de la Vida)” elevated the tradition, and Martin’s career, to the next level. The infectious, GRAMMY Award-winning track is a collision of Samba, Latin, and Dance sounds that helped fuel the late 90s Latin Pop explosion.—V.A.
Watch the video: “La Copa de la Vida” or “The Cup of Life”, stream it, or check out Ricky Martin’s memoir.
57. “K-POP” by Travis Scott, Bad Bunny & The Weeknd (2023)
58. “Miami” by Will Smith (1998)
If Charlie had angels and demons, surely the latter would be a trio of men. Serving up a multi-genre, multi-cultural combination, the trio of Travis Scott, Bad Bunny, and The Weeknd provide the perfect demon-time soundtrack via “K-POP.” Laced with plenty of star power, this party anthem is tailor-made for the club, and no doubt inspired by its namesake’s effects. As the track progresses, each star shines via his signature sound: Scott sets the mood with a trippy rap, Bad Bunny ups the energy with bombastic bars, and Weeknd cools things down, atmospherically floating atop the beat.—V.A.
It can be hard to reclaim the vibe and energy of a massive, career-defining hit without sounding reductive. On his 1998 smash hit “Miami,” Will Smith successfully channels his 1991 hit “Summertime” by celebrating a city where it’s always summer. With some questionable lyrics and ad-libs from an unidentified “hot mami” that are equally corny but somehow stomach-able coming from the beloved Fresh Prince in the prime of his career. An undeniable party anthem, “Miami” was a big hit, helping his debut solo album become a monster success, certified 9x Platinum as of July 2000, it’s surely close to Diamond status.—V.A.
59. “Whine” by Mýa & Bounty Killer (2023)
60. “Who Am I” by Beenie Man (1998)
Twenty-five years into her career, Mýa has mastered the art of being booked, busy, and in control. After founding her own label Planet 9 in 2008, she’s continued to perform around the world and has released several albums and singles independently. Her latest, “Whine,” is a throwback in virtue of both its sound and its feature from dancehall king Bounty Killer. Mýa sounds and looks better than ever — sexy, yet ever classy. Whether via new releases or the recent celebrations of her classic Y2K albums, Mýa continues to remind us why she’s one of R&B’s most underrated icons.—V.A.
Watch the “Whine” video, stream it, or complete your Mýa music collection.
Any time an artist can take their own hit song and use it as the blueprint for even better music, the result is iconic. Such was the journey for this 1998 banger from legendary reggae artist Beenie Man. Recently finding new life with Millennial-aged teachers and their Gen Z students on TikTok, “Who Am I” peaked at number 40 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, only slightly besting the artist’s 2000 duet with Mya, “Girls Dem Sugar (Sim Simma).” The incomparable Pharrell retooled the original “Who Am I” to make it a newer and fresher track with a broader crossover appeal.—J.L.
61. “Players (DJ Saige Remix)” by Coi Leray & Busta Rhymes (2023)
62. “Gimme Some More” by Busta Rhymes (1998)
It’s fitting that during the 50th anniversary of Hip Hop, such a catchy and modern tune uses such historical samples as its structure. Similar to the original version, which uses a sample from “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash, Coi Leray’s “Players” remix sounds fresh without getting lost in the enormous legacy of the sampled track. On the Busta Rhymes-assisted remix, which uses his 1997 single “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See” as its foundation, Rhymes crafts an updated verse that showcases his dynamic rhythmical flow. Overall, his inclusion makes for a fresh yet nostalgic listening experience.—J.L.
Busta Rhymes may not have had the massive commercial success of some of his more crossover-friendly peers, but without question, his impact on Hip-Hop is substantial. With his signature, rapid-fire rap style and pioneering music videos, Rhymes brought profound innovations to Hip-Hop. The 1998 hit single “Gimme Some More” is a prime example of both Rhymes’ unmatched flow and his unforgettable imagery. Sampling the “Psycho” film theme, both the track and its accompanying video are hybrids of horror and Hip-Hop. With its disarmingly slick-tongued delivery and thrilling video, the song’s title perfectly describes the insatiating effect it has.—V.A.
63. “JEALOUSY” by Offset & Cardi B (2023)
64. “Bananas (Who You Gonna Call?)” by Queen Latifah ft. Apache (1998)
It’s often said that there’s “no such thing as bad publicity.” In response to rumors about Offset being unfaithful, he teamed up with his wife Cardi B to craft a response, the aptly titled “JEALOUSY.” The spotlight-ready spouses split the shine to take swipes at the media, haters, and naysayers, dropping biting bars and, as per usual, not holding back. Forgoing the antiquated notion of “ladies first,” Offset instead saves the best for last, letting Cardi have the last verse and the last word. Eating up whoever said otherwise, Cardi spits fire in defense of their six-year-long relationship.—V.A.
It’s wild to witness how slang, and artists, evolve. Queen Latifah led 1998’s “Order in the Court,” her last studio album prior to a decade-long Hip-Hop hiatus, with the ferocious yet ridiculously titled, “Bananas (Who You Gonna Call?).” Don’t let the references to every kid’s favorite fruit and every kid’s favorite ghost movie mislead you though, there’s a reason Queen La’s crown is enflamed on the album cover: she breathes fire on “Bananas” alongside the late Flava Unit M.C. Apache. Latifah’s bars are an unrestrained reminder of her elite status as one of Hip-Hop’s most anointed Queens.—V.A.
65. “Paint the Town Red” by Doja Cat (2023)
66. “Lost Ones” by Lauryn Hill (1998)
Seeing red? Mission accomplished. Doja Cat has been inciting flames of fury amongst her fans, some former, with recent comments and criticisms she’s made about stan culture. Truth be told, this instance is hardly the first or worst controversy to surround the hitmaker; being problematic is essentially part of her brand at this point. Nonsense aside, the first two singles from Doja Cat’s fourth studio album “Scarlet” see her leaning hard into Hip-Hop, shedding the glossy pop sound behind her biggest hits. While “Attention” didn’t create too much buzz, “Paint the Town Red” has ignited quite the stir. As its insanely catchy chorus goes, “Bitch, I said what I said; I’d rather be famous instead.” Her no-fucks-given attitude has translated into the music, and it’s clear that while it may make her unlikeable, it’s made her music undeniable.—V.A.
The best Hip-Hop tracks are comprised of perfectly executed uses of the genre’s main components: impressive lyrics, an infectious beat, and an impeccable flow. Lauryn Hill opened her 1998 album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill with a song that bodies in every category: “Lost Ones.” The hard-hitting track finds Hill spittin’ in her signature style, atop a slick, bass-heavy beat. Then best known as being the Fugees frontwoman, Hill’s first and only album cemented her status as a solo superstar. Every track on the classic album is well-known and highly praised, but “Lost Ones” is a fierce standout.—V.A.
67. “Phenomenal” by Janelle Monáe & Doechii (2023)
68. “It’s All About Me” by Mýa & Sisqó (1998)
Coming into one’s own requires a commanding level of self-confidence. Janelle Monáe’s embodiment of “free ass muthafucker” over the last several years reached new heights with the release of her latest, summer-ready album “The Age of Pleasure.” On the album cut “Phenomenal,” Monáe taps newbie Doechii to join them in a celebration of both phenomenal face and “phenomenal puss.” Opening the track, Monáe proclaims: “I’m looking at 1,000 versions of myself and they’re all fine. as. fuck. Say it to my face… bitch.” The question is asked (“How you feel?”) and answered (“Phenomenal!”); it’s not up for debate.—V.A
An artist’s first single is their first impression, their first chance to introduce the world to its newest star. When Mýa dropped her first single in February 1998, she made one thing very clear: she was confident, sexy, and in control. The aptly-titled “It’s All About Me,” featuring Dru Hill frontman Sisqó, grabbed onto the growing girl-power movement and set herself in the dominant position, rendering Sisqó (and any man) submissive. A bold move not only as a woman in the 90s but also as a newcomer, Mýa not only declared her arrival but rendered herself highly desirable.
69. “JEANS” by Jessie Reyez & Miguel (2023)
70. “I Get Lonely (TNT Remix)” by Janet Jackson & BLACKstreet (1998)
An R&B duet is a dish best served hot — with the right ingredients, a pair of crooners can combine to create cosmic chemistry. On “JEANS,” budding star Jessie Reyez and burgeoning icon Miguel join forces to secure their very much-deserved places in R&B. The scintillatingly slow jam is anything but shy with its grind-inducing guitar licks and blush-inducing explicit lyrics. Reyez’s gruff and gritty vocals are perfectly complimented by Miguel’s guttural groans. The track may be titled after an article of clothing, but the pair surely has every intention of inspiring their removal. It’s a sure thing.—V.A.
When Ms. Jackson calls, you answer. In the case of the “I Get Lonely (TNT Remix)” from her 1997’s “The Velvet Rope,” Janet Jackson tapped a handful of talented collaborators to add to an already phenomenal track that, frankly, didn’t even need it. With additional production by Teddy Riley and Timbaland, Jackson is joined by BLACKstreet to turn “Lonely” into a duet (well, quintet). In its solo form, the track is classic Janet: emotive, deep, sexy, and timeless. With BLACKstreet, it transforms into a prime piece of 90s R&B with its big vocal runs and flashy production.—V.A.
71. “Low Key” by Ciara (2023)
72. “Gone Be Fine” by Monica ft. OutKast (1998)
It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly 20 years since R&B staple Ciara released her debut album “Goodies.” While the quality of her output has varied over time, in “Low Key,” this DJ Luke-sampling tune is a vast improvement from some of her more recent projects. Lyrically, the singer highlights how hard she works professionally and personally while still carving out enough of herself to indulge in the pleasures of love and marriage (Hey Russell!). The track lends itself perfectly to its accompanying EP “CiCi” and stands out amongst a solid, slightly too brief, but well-rounded project.—J.L.
73. “Good Good” by Usher, Summer Walker & 21 Savage (2023)
74. “Rosa Parks” by OutKast (1998)
75. “Snooze” by SZA (2023)
76. “Get On the Bus” by Destiny’s Child (1998)
Before they were dismissing a “Bug a Boo” for not paying the “Bills, Bills, Bills,” declaring their independence, or quoting Biggie to dish out reminders that “UPS is hiring,” Destiny’s Child made it clear they did not have the time for
mess junk. On “Get on the Bus,” the budding divas slide atop a slinky Timbaland-produced, Missy Elliot-penned track that foreshadowed the best that was yet to come. With Beyoncé and Kelly taking turns to deliver some sass-filled verses, Timbaland’s whiny boyfriend character never stood a chance. Here, it became very clear: somebody could send your luggage.
77. “Control Freak” by FLO (2023)
78. “Sweetheart” by Jermaine Dupri & Mariah Carey (1998)
Throughout the early 90s, Jermaine Dupri established a name for himself as an R&B and Hip-Hop super-producer. In 1998, Dupri pivoted to become a rap artist himself and released his debut studio album, “Life in 1472.” By then, he and Mariah Carey had also developed a strong personal and professional relationship as good friends and musical collaborators. An ever-loyal friend, Carey appeared on the album’s third single, “Sweetheart” (a cover of the 1986 hit by Rainy Davis). Like on many of their mash-up style remixes, the pair transformed the very 80s track, elevating it with a fresh, sexy Hip-Hop spin.