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Pop Albums Turning 20 in 2016

It’s been 20 years since 1996, people—20 years. Do you remember 1996? It was the year we began asking Jeeves our questions (before Googling was a thing, of course), and it was the year that Will Smith became a bona fide action star and alien butt-kicker in Independence Day.

The year was also really, really weird for pop music. It wasn’t exactly that there wasn’t any mainstream pop making an impact, it’s just that pure, irreverent, glossy pop—the Madonna pop of the early ’90s and the Britney pop of the late ’90s—was far and few between. Who knows—maybe it just needed a little break.

Instead, the charts that year were ruled by grunge and bedroom R&B and rap and alt-rock. Artists/bands like LL Cool J, Hootie and the Blowfish, and The Smashing Pumpkins reigned; songs like “California Love” by 2Pac (rightfully) exploded, and albums like Sublime rocked house party playlists in suburbs everywhere. For goodness’ sake, 1996 was the year Los Del Rio made us do the “Macarena!”

And yet, it was also the year we were introduced to the Spice Girls and the Backstreet Boys—aka the heralds of a fizzy pre-millennial pop landscape to come. They would usher in Britney, Christina, N*SYNC, Jessica, Mandy, priming the radio for bubblegum pop reentry with songs like “Wannabe” and “Quit Playing Games (With My Heart).”

Overall, 1996 was not without its pop (or pop-leaning) hits. Welsh songstress Donna Lewis’ saccharine “I Love You Always Forever” became an infectious hit, and Everything But The Girl’s 1994 track “Missing” received an iconic club remix treatment courtesy of Tod Terry, resulting in a late ’95 re-release that saw to the single’s imminent radio domination in ’96. So sure, Oasis’ “Wonderwall” may have represented the overarching sound of the mid-90s—but nothing will ever define the decade quite like Spice.

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