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The prophecies from 1999 |


The prophecies from 1999

BRIEF HISTORIES - Don Jaucian - The Philippine Star
The prophecies from 1999
Pop-punk band Blink-128 released “Enema of the State” in 1999, and its songs have taken on whole new meanings 20 years later.

The Ringer’s Best Singles and Best Albums of 1999 reminded us what a time it was for pop music. But it also holds some prophetic songs that would tell us of things to come.

During the ’80s, partying like it’s 1999 sounded like a dream out of science fiction. Prince was actually singing of a doomsday prophecy (Party Like It’s 1999, 1982) buried in a funky bassline and Syncopated beats. The song is a body out of time, experiencing euphoria by listening to what the body wants: dance before the world ends. Now, 20 years later, 1999 still feels like a far off dream, a time when we thought the Y2K bug would plunge the world into chaos and Donald Trump was just a real estate magnate. Things were, as far as were comparing it to the insanity that is 2019, relatively okay. Although there was no #MeToo movement yet and Harvey Weinstein is probably slinking towards a target, ready to pounce. YouTube hasn’t been born yet and internet access isn’t widely available as it is now so the comment sections aren’t as much as a wildfire as they are now. But albums like Rage Against the Machine’s “The Battle for Los Angeles’’ and — yes — Blink-182’s “Enema of the State’’ are already pointing out the “dark heart of American colonialism,” and  structural disconnect between popular culture and society; and in the case of Blink-182, a warning of existential ennui that would soon wrap a generation. These problems would grow to be more pronounced and over time, the internet would only magnify the injustice that’s putting us in a downward spiral.

It is indeed surreal that artists like Rage Against the Machine would tell us of the impending doom many years before they actually happened. In The Ringer’s recent Best Albums of 1999 list, Sean Fennesy wrote on “The Battle for Los Angeles”: “They seemed to have a song for every oncoming tragedy. The Iraq War? War Within a Breath. The financial meltdown of 2008? Sleep Now in the Fire. The subprime housing crisis? New Millennium Homes. The immigration nightmare of 2019? Maria. The amusing-ourselves-to-death chokehold of the 21st century? Testify.’’

Albums like “The Battle for Los Angeles” by Rage Against the Machine and “Enema of the State” became sources of anti-establishment anthems that drew the structural disconnect between pop culture and society.

As for “Enema of the State,’’ these seemingly Jackass-worthy songs take on a whole new meaning 20 years later. They are still funny. What’s My Age Again is that bouncy pop-rock tune that still would annoy parents but its contains post-20s realizations that sound more morose when listened at your early 30s and you’re still baffled as to why pop culture prioritizes youth and newness above everything else. (“Nobody likes you when you’re 23/And you still act like you’re in freshman year/What the hell is wrong with me?”). Adam’s Song is one of the many songs from the era that was brave enough to talk about suicide. Listening to it in 2019, when things are more justifiably absurd and bleak, only amplifies the helplessness that forms the core of the song. When Tom Delonge sings “I never conquered, rarely came/16 just held such better days/Days when I still felt alive We couldn’t wait to get outside,” it sounds more like an assessment of a life that was infinitely better when adolescence was telling you that maybe adulthood holds more promise. At 32, I’m telling you, it ain’t sh*t.

These two albums are in the top 10 of The Ringer’s list, with “The Battle for Los Angeles’’ at #1. It was a year that brought us songs like Livin’ La Vida Loca, Steal My Sunshine, and Baby One More Time, and it definitely makes it sound like 1999 was a time when pop culture was enjoying an imperial era: record labels held us in their clutches, MTV monopolized music videos, and music magazines exerted influence. Bouncy and shiny songs wanted to tell us we should be happy, that life is better. But in hindsight, we have to thank artists like Blink-182 and Rage Against the Machine for keeping us in check. That the gloss of pop music will give way to more artists in tune with what’s happening on the ground, even enough for some artists to be threatened by a police boycott (you know who I’m talking about).

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