In 2015, artists are desperate to top the iTunes or Spotify charts. But not so long ago, there was a little show called "Total Request Live," and artists were gunning for #1. Because it ruled music.
Carson Daly, Times Square, thousands of screaming fans ... "TRL" had it all. From 1998 until the show's cancellation in 2008, it was a daily ranking of the most requested music videos around -- and it serves as a time capsule of the musical zeitgeist from the late-CD/early-MP3 era to the YouTube era. Basically, it was really important for a lot of current twenty- and thirtysomethings who were weaned on Britney Spears and *NSync.
But not all of the chart-topping artists remained household names ... or, if they did, some of their one-time hits are kinda obscure now. Here are songs that ruled "TRL" for a fleeting day or two, only to see it all fall apart. (All data from the fantastic TRL Archive.)
Tom Green, "The Bum Bum Song"
This was at the height of the boy band explosion, so when someone like Tom Green snuck into the number one spot, it seemed like a victory for all weird comedy nerds sick of listening to their older sister scream about Justin Timberlake. I swear this song somehow made sense to us at the time.
SoulDecision, "Ooh It's Kinda Crazy"
Since boy bands ruled this musical epoch, that meant a lot of music labels stuck a bunch of vaguely nonthreatening guys together and were like, "Hey, be *NSync now." SoulDecision hit the tops for one day with this song from 2000, and they get extra points for being Canadian. Canada was SUPER exotic back then.
(Also, this is one of roughly 10 million music videos from the 2000s that start off with a skater dude waking up in bed.)
Ruben Studdard, "Sorry 2004”
OK, so the song is called "Sorry 2004," but it was released in 2003. What 12-year-old girl was calling "TRL" in 2003 requesting this video? "I'm gonna do a lot of messed-up stuff next year, so this song speaks to me!"
Here's another "American Idol" artist not named Kelly Clarkson. Now, Kelly Clarkson genuinely has as much claim to "TRL" queen as any act. Her song "Behind These Hazel Eyes" spent 33 days at number one, the most of any female artist; "Because of You" spent 27 days on top -- the SECOND most of any female artist. More than Christina, Britney, anybody ... Kelly Clarkson ruled "TRL."
Other “American Idol” alumnae did not. Daughtry won "AmIdol" in 2006. He got one day on "TRL" for it. Ditto for Bo Bice, "AmIdol" runner-up in 2005, with one day for "The Real Thing." Clay Aiken scored legit TRL hits with "Invisible" and "The Way," but there wasn't a lot of crossover otherwise.
Lady Sovereign, "Love Me Or Hate Me"
A true cultural artifact. For a brief stretch in around 2007, Lady Sovereign and Lady Gaga were "those two artists with 'Lady' in their name." In an alternate universe, maybe Lady Sovereign teamed up with Tony Bennett instead?
Lindsay Lohan, "Confessions Of A Broken Heart"
Man ... remember when Lindsay Lohan was a singer? She actually had three songs chart on "TRL," including 10 days at the top for her single "Over." This song went to number one for only a day, and the video is not-subtly-at-all about her father.
98 Degrees, "I Do (Cherish You)"
98 Degrees had a grand total of three days at number one on "TRL," with one day devoted to this weird-ass video about weddings.
New Found Glory, "All Downhill From Here"
With all the Blink-182 news recently, it's worth noting that those dudes owe a lot to "TRL" and vice-versa. Blink-182 was basically the only punk/alt band that could cross over to Times Square. New Found Glory dethroned them for one day with a song that sounds like it was commissioned for a 2000s teen movie soundtrack.
Nick Carter, "Help Me"
Backstreet Boys had a whopping 10 different videos hit number one on TRL. They own five of the top six highest-charting video spots. "Shape of My Heart" is their Roger Maris moment: 61 days on top, the most ever for a video on TRL.
But only one member of the band ever reached number one on his own, and that's Nick Carter. This song spent three total days at number one. Meanwhile, *NSync's Justin Timberlake charted seven times as a solo artist on "TRL."
Dream, "This Is Me"
The group was founded in 1998 and broke up in 2003, and this video couldn't better sum up that era in a nutshell.
Sisqó, "The Thong Song"
This song was huge -- that's not the surprising part. The surprising part is that it only hit the top of "TRL" for one glorious bootyful day. It deserved months at number one ... years, even!