Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Travel back to the turn of the millennium with an old TRL countdown archive

Illustration for article titled Travel back to the turn of the millennium with an old TRL countdown archive
Photo: Scott Gries (Getty Images)

20 years ago, there was no better way to share your interests with the world than to log onto Angelfire or Geocities, crack open a book of beginner-level HTML tutorials, and make yourself a website about whatever spoke to you. For some, this might’ve been a quixotic attempt to definitively rank the most powerful Dragon Ball Z characters or a fan page devoted to the revolutionary hard rock stylings of Korn. For others, like the creator of a site devoted to MTV’s TRL, the internet was simply the best place to store and comment on two years of music countdowns.


While researching a look back at 2000's Billboard Top 100, we found an Angelfire page by an anonymous record-keeper known only as “Sarah” that catalogued 1999 and 2000's MTV-approved pop hits. “Why would anyone need or want to know what the countdown was on any given day is beyond me,” Sarah writes on the landing page. “But here it is for your personal enjoyment.”

Each month is a time capsule of what the American cultural landscape of the era looked (and sounded) like. The first entry sees Sarah describe February 1999 as a month “dominated by the Backstreet Boys and ‘N Sync,” though “Freak On A Leash’ by Korn was beginning to break the constancy of the boy bands.” The charts are filled with all the Britney Spears, Offspring, and Eminem you’d expect and dotted with debuts like Sugar Ray’s “Every Morning” and “Break Ups 2 Make Ups” by Method Man and D’Angelo.

In November of ‘99, Sarah tells readers she “really hated” Lou Bega’s “Mambo No. 5" and warns us that some of her commentary on the countdown is “just so stupid that it’s amazing.” Amidst weeks punctuated by studio visits from Sisqo, Chris O’Donnell, and Lars Ulrich, Sarah tells us how much she loves Blink 182, complains that Will Smith’s “Will 2K” “took advantage of the overused Millennium concept,” and praises Limp Bizkit and Method Man’s “N 2 Gether Now” for having the “Lyric of the day [especially to those who don’t like my site =) ]: ‘Shut the f*** up.’”

The site defies the era’s tendency to pit boy bands and nü-metal bands against one another, preferring instead to celebrate pretty much anything that charts (except, notably, for Lou Bega and Mandy Moore). By the time it ends, closing out with December 2000's countdown records, Sarah has completed a monumental task, compiling two years of highly specific records while still finding time to call out that jerk Carson Daly for trying to interfere with Korn’s meteoric rise to mainstream success.

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Contributor, The A.V. Club. Reid's a writer and editor who has appeared at GQ, Playboy, and Paste. He also co-created and writes for videogame sites Bullet Points Monthly and Digital Love Child.