Right Said Fred – “I’m Too Sexy”

When: December 1996
Where: The TV room
Who: My dad
Weather: Raining

This song lives on in my memory through a midday showing of Encino Man on the WB’s “big picture” slot. It seems this song was played in the scene where they try to update Brendan Fraser’s look according to the Encino Man Wiki, which is a thing that exists.

Note: After this, I’m covering one year every week.

Next: Blur tries something different, and in the process changes the course of music forever.

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R. Kelly – “I Believe I Can Fly”

I believe I can flaaaahWhen: November 1996
Where: Everywhere
Who: Everyone
Weather: Cool

For a while, years maybe, you heard it on TV, at high school graduations, really anything that might be considered “inspirational.” And to think the song “I Believe I Can Fly” first appeared in a children’s film that flopped at the box office.

That last fact blew my mind as an adult; Space Jam was the movie of the decade. Everybody saw it, except for me of course, but I’ve vowed to give it a shot. Come to think of it, the song probably made more money than the movie. But it’s the same old symbol of empowerment chic showing its overserious head.

Next: How Encino Man ruined my life.

Los Del Rio – “Macarena”

I believe this was used to torture people

When: September 1996 (and by extension the entire fall semester)
Where: Don Benito School
Who: My first grade class
Weather: Clear

I’ve discussed the prospect of being forced to dance before, but this time it was different. I didn’t want to dance in 1993 because I was tired. This time, the dance was so transparently stupid and instantly dated, even to a seven-year-old, that dancing to it was an act of temporal humiliation, the modern equivalent of burning witches or voting for Dukakis.

As discussed before, my early exposure to adulthood was fun, but now I was desperate to grow up. And trying to influence my teachers was part of that. My teacher was good already, one of the best, but the fact remains that we had to do the macarena every thursday for three months. And I couldn’t do anything about it.

Next: The most life-changing movie I never saw

Garbage – “Stupid Girl”

When: After dark, January 1996
Where: Cal State LA Ceramics
Who: My mother and her ceramics class
Weather: Unknown (likely raining)

’90s nostalgia is at a crossroads. On the one hand, we as a culture are drawing from a time period that people at the time considered a noncohesive polyglot. They turned out to be wrong, but there’s a lot of old stuff worth getting into. On the other hand, the well being drawn from is almost entirely based in children’s cartoons. Even though I was a child at the time, children’s cartoons are a tiny element of that greater world. The band Garbage is also a tiny element, but it’s indicative of more.

What was I doing at my mother’s ceramics class? I don’t know. I’d been a few other times, and it was my window into the world of adults. I saw a side of an era to which others of my age are completely oblivious.

Next: A dance craze so pernicious, they make first-graders dance to it every morning.