1. “Come On Over (All I Want Is You)” by Christina Aguilera
“Come On Over (All I Want Is You)” was the last single released from Christina Aguilera’s debut album (the original track that appeared on the record sounded like it was made for 10-year-olds on a Casio keyboard so they went in the studio to record a more modern and slutty version). The accompanying music video marked Aguilera’s transition from wholesome bubblegum pop star to glorified teenage whore with bad highlights. In it, Aguilera dances around in an all-white ensemble and gets her shirt unzipped by her gay back up dancer/then-boyfriend, Jorge Santos. (Seriously, Christina had a two-year relationship with a gay guy. Are you obsessed?) My favorite part of the video is when the song morphs into bizarre spoken word dirty talk with Aguilera moaning, “Don’t you want to be the one tonight? We can do exactly what you like…” It was then that we knew for certain that Christina had changed. She was a sexually-liberated woman now, the token “loose one” out of all the pop stars. The next time we would see her, she would be wearing assless chaps and dry-humping a boxing ring for her single, “Dirrty” which, to be honest, was my favorite phase of her career.
2. “Liquid Dreams” by O-Town
O-Town — the all-boy group that got its start on the reality TV show, Making The Band — somewhat perplexingly decided to release a song about nocturnal emissions as their first single. In it, they name check all the women who make them cum in the middle of the night (Janet Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, and Destiny’s Child all are fortunate enough to make the cut) and label them all the “stars” of their liquid dreams. Ew. My favorite parts of the song are whenever the gay guy, Dan, has to sing about Tyra Banks giving him an erection. Because of course the gay guy gets Tyra as his beard. The music video concept basically revolves around all the boys dancing around in a pool of their own semen. Looking back, it’s strange that this video and song happened at all but I guess it’s just a testament to the weirdness that was the early 00s pop scene.
3. “Freak On A Leash” by Korn
Bubblegum pop and nu-metal dominated the TRL countdown. Those were your options for music. It was either Britney Spears or Korn. I, for one, enjoyed both genres. I listened to Britney when I was feeling happy and “closeted homosexual” and then I would switch to Limp Bizkit or Korn when I was feeling dark. “Freak On A Leash” was a high point for the nu-metal genre, in my opinion. It layered a hook-filled beat over some angsty, depressing lyrics, which perfectly represented this marriage between the so-called fringe and mainstream. Plus, the video is chic. A bullet that destroys everything in its path? I’m screaming in my bondage pants.
4. “Candy” by Mandy Moore
Mandy Moore owes her entire career to TRL. She came on to the pop music scene late, trailing behind Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Jessica Simpson, and no one really knew what to do with her. They were like, “Britney’s the Queen, Christina has a great voice and Jessica Simpson’s a virgin. What’s YOUR deal?” Thankfully, TRL allowed her to become a VJ personality and her career took off from there. At its peak, TRL could do stuff like that. It could take someone as bland as Mandy Moore and make her into a semi-star. (For the record, I think the song “Candy” and the music video blows donkey balls but Moore is an important part of TRL’s history and, thus, must be included on this list.)
5. “It’s Gonna Be Me” by *N Sync
“It’s Gonna Be Me” may feel like the less obvious choice for best *N Sync video (What about “Bye Bye Bye” or even “Pop”?) But in my opinion, “It’s Gonna Be Me” has the most interesting concept. Come on, *N Sync dolls come to life and party with Barbies in a toy store? Genius! Then, cut amongst all the doll drama, Justin Timberlake and his boys do synchronized dancing in a giant empty room! I mean, the entire video is so year 2000 that it’s sick. Like I think I’m going to vomit.
6. “The Real Slim Shady” by Eminem
“The Real Slim Shady” came out during the apex of TRL’s popularity, a time when the host, Carson Daly, had become a celebrity himself and the show was its own little pop culture bubble. Eminem broke down the fourth wall by including a verse in his song about Carson Daly getting a rumored blowjob from Christina Aguilera. He went so far as to even cast Daly in the video and show him fighting over Aguilera, who appeared as a blow-up doll, with Fred Durst. If that’s not a giant circle jerk, I don’t know what is. There’s practically cum on my keyboard just from watching this masturbatory exercise on YouTube.
7. “Youth Of The Nation” by P.O.D.
P.O.D. — a Christian rock band that everyone liked to make fun of on a daily basis when they were relevant — made “Youth Of The Nation” as a reaction to all of the school shootings that occurred in the late 90s and early 00s, including Columbine. The video cuts between images of carefree teens going on a road trip and the lead singer gesticulating wildly at the camera in a room that’s plastered with photos of teenagers who were presumably victims in a school shooting. Okay, I know P.O.D. is an LOL on the giant pop culture landscape but I find this video and song to be totally emotional. When it comes time for a group of teenagers to sing the chorus in unison, I almost lose my shit.
8. “All The Small Things” by Blink-182
With “All The Small Things”, Blink-182 took a page from Eminem’s handbook and decided to parody the pop music videos that were dominating the TRL countdown at the time. The battle between the bubblegum pop stars and the so-called punks of TRL was hilarious and very real. It created this contentious environment between the Hot Topic goths and Hollister prepsters which is funny only because it was ALL POP MUSIC THAT WAS JUST DRESSED UP IN DIFFERENT CLOTHING. There was no indie rock on TRL. It was all mainstream top 40 crap. The only differences were if someone used real guitars or a synthesizer. Other than that, all the music sounded the same. Every band filled their songs with hooks and ear-catching melodies. Some just did it with a smile while others did it with a snarl.
9. “The Bad Touch” by Bloodhound Gang
What the HELL were Bloodhound Gang? Were they just trolling us? Were they just trolling the early 00s? I’m #NotClearOn any of their weird shenanigans. I don’t think anyone really understood their schtick but, for awhile there, they were big on TRL with their video for “The Bad Touch.” I personally never got the appeal. Like, I’m all for a dose of absurdity but I feel like I needed to be in a k-hole to fully enjoy these asshats.
10. “Lady Marmalade” by Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, Pink, and Mya
“Lady Marmalade” took four of the major pop divas of TRL and put them all together to sing a song about being a whore. It was brilliant! Mya and Pink start off by singing their sad little C-list verses and then Lil’ Kim has her rap moment before it all falls on the most popular singer, Christina Aguilera, who outsings them all. It’s a powerful moment that’s perhaps only upstaged by the fact that Aguilera is styled like a drag queen.