If you were a ‘90s kid, you probably came home from school and watched TRL. What else was there to do in life, right? Well, prepare to miss those simpler times.
MTV’s TRL premiered on September 14, 1998 and it quickly became the best way to see the newest music videos, y’know while MTV was still all about music videos. It also became a premium outlet for artists to both release their music videos and promote their work. Every episode consisted of famous guests coming on the show and talking to all the teens sitting around set. Raise your hand if you were always jealous of every teen sitting around the set. Yep, all of us. The main attraction of the show was the countdown of the top 10 most requested videos of the day. Would #1 be the Backstreet Boys or Britney Spears? It was, like, the most important question of the day.
While the show actually ran until 2008, no one was really watching it at that point. In fact, it probably managed to avoid being cancelled for so long because it was a very cheap show to produce. That said, when you think about TRL, you don’t think about 2008. You think about the late ‘90s and early ‘00s. You think about the boy bands and pop princesses. You even think about Blink 182’s iconic videos. You think about the time Mariah friggin’ Carey showed up, announced, and handed out ice cream because she was having a mental breakdown. Oh, to be back in a simpler time when this was the biggest scandal of the day.
If you’re wishing it was the ‘90s again, the following 17 videos will really make you want to go back 20 years. Get ready for some TRL nostalgia to hit you hard.
17. If You Had My Love (1999)
It may seem like Jennifer Lopez has been famous for forever, but it was actually in 1999 that she rose to fame with her debut single “If You Had My Love.” This music video introduced Lopez to the world in a way that is still completely on brand for her. In the video, she looks hot and dances, which is what she’s mostly known for now and what she has been known for during the entirety of her career.
The music video for “If You Had My Love” is very voyeuristic, ahead of its time, and sexy. It features Jennifer Lopez dancing around her mostly white, modern-looking home. The voyeurism comes from everyone watching everything Lopez does via their own computers. There are little girls who are imitating Lopez’s dance moves, but also older guys who are clearly into Lopez. It’s a little bit like The Truman Show, but sexy.
16. The Bad Touch (1999)
In retrospect, you might be like “What the hell is the song and why did I like it so much?” We don’t know, but in 1999 this song was stuck in everyone’s heads.
“The Bad Touch” was a song released by Bloodhound Gang. It was the first single from their album entitled Hooray for Boobies. The song was about sex with maybe one of the most annoyingly catchy lyrics of all time, “You and me baby ain’t nothin’ but mammals/So let’s do it like they do on the Discovery Channel.” That will probably be stuck in your head all day now, sorry for that.
With a song as funny and provocative as “The Bad Touch” it makes sense that the music video would match. In the video, the band members wear monkey costumes and run around Paris singing lyrics like, “So put your hands down my pants and I’ll bet you’ll feel nuts/Yes I’m Siskel, yes I’m Ebert, and you’re getting two thumbs up.”
15. I Want It That Way (1999)
It’s hard to choose just one Backstreet Boys music video. If you look at TRL’s #1 videos, it’s clear that the late ‘90s and early ‘00s were a battle between Backstreet Boys and NSYNC. The #1 spot almost always belonged to one of these boy bands. In fact, Backstreet Boys hold the title of having the very first TRL #1 video, as their “I’ll Never Break Your Heart” was #1 the day TRL premiered. They went on to have many #1 videos, with “All I Have To Give,” “Show Me The Meaning Of Being Lonely,” “Larger Than Life,” and about a million others.
“Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” may be the band’s best and most iconic video, but it came out a year before TRL was created so we couldn’t include it on this list. In the “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” video, the band goes to a haunted house then they dance around while dressed up as monsters. It’s amazing. We chose “I Want It That Way” because it was one of Backstreet Boys’ best, but honestly any and all of their videos should give you serious TRL nostalgia.
14. Cry Me A River (2002)
Justin Timberlake was no stranger to TRL’s #1 spot. As a member of NSYNC, he enjoyed having his videos hit the #1 spot over and over and over again. When he went solo, he enjoyed the same success because, if we’re all being honest, Justin Timberlake was basically the best part of NSYNC the whole time.
Many of JT’s videos may have hit #1, but we have to give it to “Cry Me A River.” What sets this video apart is the scandal surrounding it. It was rumored that the lyrics were about Britney and Justin’s breakup, supposedly due to her cheating on him. Such a sad end for the golden couple of pop. The fact that a Britney lookalike was cast in the video added fuel to the rumors. All that aside though, the video was also both dark and incredibly sexy. The song also won a Grammy, so good for Justin. He’s been killin’ it since 2002.
13. Candy (1999)
Mandy Moore may be the star of This Is Us in 2017, but in 1999 she was a bubblegum pop princess. “Candy” was Mandy Moore’s debut single and it was so very ’90s. The popularity landed her in a league with Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Jessica Simpson. While the video didn’t hit #1, it did enjoy some popularity on TRL, which helped Moore launch her long-standing career. Also, this may be the most ‘90s video ever. Moore rocks headphones and a Discman. She also has some weird spiky hairstyle that was apparently popular in the ‘90s. And she drives a Volkswagen Beetle around. Oh, the ’90s…
12. In Da Club (2003)
When “In Da Club” came out in 2003, it was a sensation. If the lyrics “Go shorty, it’s your birthday/We gonna party like it’s your birthday/We gonna sip Bacardi like it’s your birthday/And you know we don’t give a f**k it’s not your birthday” don’t bring you back, we don’t know what will.
Like the song, the music video was a sensation as well. It featured 50 Cent at a club, because y’know rap video stuff. It also featured him in a laboratory doing a series of physical tests, like pull ups and running on a treadmill. By the way, 50 Cent was ripped and if you need proof, rewatch this video. The video also featured appearances by Dr. Dre and Eminem. The music video was a steady #1 video for quite some time, taking the #1 spot from the boy bands than normally dominated.
11. Crazy In Love (2003)
Guys, 2003 was the year Beyoncé released her debut solo album. That is a big, big deal.
The lead single from this album was “Crazy In Love” which featured Jay-Z. At the time, it wasn’t clear if Beyoncé and Jay-Z were actually dating or not, but we obviously know the answer now. Just think about how this video was the beginning of the power couple we all know today makes it iconic.
The video features Beyoncé dancing in denim shorts and red heels, then dancing in an alley, then dancing with Jay-Z as a car is on fire in the background, then dancing under a raining fire hydrant. One thing is for sure, Beyoncé has always been hot, has always been an incredible dancer, and has always been an all-star talent. If anyone had questions about her ability to have a solo career this video cleared that up.
10. Confessions Pt. II (2004)
2004 was the year of Usher. With the release of Confessions, Usher had several mega hits on his hands. There was “Yeah!” which was possibly one of the biggest hits of the whole decade. There was also “Caught Up” and “Burn,” both successful in their own rights. The dude was on fire.
Both the music videos for “Yeah!” and “Burn” could have made this list, as they are iconic and were TRL’s #1 video for weeks and weeks. But we picked “Confessions, Pt. II” because of the emotional core and the confessional tone. The video also featured a shirtless Usher and he is in pretty good shape in case you forgot. He can also dance, in case you forgot that too.
9. Tearin’ Up My Heart (1998)
Like the Backstreet Boys, NSYNC ruled TRL. Every episode of TRL was basically a battle between which boy band would take the #1 spot on that particular episode. While Backstreet Boy’s “I’ll Never Break Your Heart” may have been the very first #1 video, NSYNC’s “Tearin’ Up My Heart” took the #1 spot away from them just two episodes later. In fact, these two music videos from the boy bands went back and forth in having the #1 spot for two straight months. “Tearin’ Up My Heart” is not NSYNC’s most iconic video but, uh, maybe you’ll see their most popular video later in this list. No spoilers or anything…
8. …Baby One More Time (1998)
For as iconic as the “…Baby One More Time” music video is, it only hit the #1 spot on TRL twice. I know, that’s probably blowing your mind. It felt like this music video made the world stop for a second but, yes, it was only TRL’s #1 twice. Despite not dominating the countdown, in the final episode of TRL, “…Baby One More Time” was named the #1 most iconic video.
This was Britney Spears’ debut single and essentially what introduced her to the world. In the video, young Britney wears a catholic schoolgirl uniform and it’s the hottest catholic schoolgirl uniform that has ever existed. Everything about the video is vintage TRL.
Ol’ Brit Brit had better luck hitting #1 on TRL multiple times with “Oops!…I Did It Again,” “Lucky,” and of course “Toxic.” While all her videos remind us of that sweet, simpler time in our lives, nothing takes us back quite like “…Baby One More Time”.
7. Come On Over Baby (All I Want Is You) (2000)
Like many of the other pop princesses of the time, Christina Aguilera earns a spot on this list. It’s hard to choose just one of Christina’s videos since she released so any iconic videos that really bring us back to the ’90s. There was her debut music video for “Genie in a Bottle” in which Christina rolls around in the sand and dances while wearing a crop top. That’s some classic ’90s and generic pop music video stuff right there. There was 2002’s “Dirrty” which was a whole different Christina. She was, errrr, dirty indeed. She wore leather chaps and boxed in the video. It was not pop princess behavior. The music video for “Come One Over Baby (All I Want Is You)” is a perfect mixture of her earlier look and her “Dirrty” look. It’s fun and bubbly, but also provocative and sexy. It totally takes us back. Like many of her videos, this hit the #1 on TRL.
6. Nookie (1999)
TRL wasn’t just for pop. Sometimes, surprising videos made it to the #1 spot. I mean, Korn’s “Freak On A Leash” landed a number one spot. Another surprising #1 holder was “Nookie” by Limp Bizkit.
Limp Bizkit, the band headed by frontman Fred Durst, was formed in 1994. The band exploded in 1999 with the single “Nookie.” The music video for their hit song didn’t change the game or anything. It featured Durst, with a red backwards baseball cap, walking down the street, and rapping into the camera. It also featured the band rocking out to a large crowd. Like we said, not game changing, but the song still caught fire.
What is the song actually about? Well, Durst explained, “It’s about my ex-girlfriend, how she treated me like sh*t, and I couldn’t leave her, wouldn’t get over it,” he said. “She screwed my friends and used me for my money. I tried to figure out why I did it, and I figured I did it all for the nookie.” He did it all for the nookie, guys.
5. The Real Slim Shady (2000)
While pop princesses and boy bands definitely ruled TRL, Eminem had several videos make the #1 spot. Between “Without Me,” “Cleanin’ Out My Closet,” and “Lose Yourself” Eminem was actually a TRL staple.
“The Real Slim Shady” was one of Eminem’s first TRL videos and it was definitely more provocative than many of the pop videos being shown on TRL, but then again Eminem’s lyrics were also much more provocative. In the “The Real Slim Shady” video, Eminem actually mocks both Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears. He was a great alternative for people who didn’t love the sugary pop songs. Most notably though, you’ll remember “The Real Slim Shady” for the 1,000 Eminem lookalikes in the video.
4. What’s My Age Again (1999)
While Blink 182’s “What’s My Age Again” didn’t make it to the #1 spot, it had tough competition. In 1999, TRL was literally ruled by NSYNC and Backstreet Boys, as it was in 1998, 2000, 2001, and 2002. Regardless, this is an iconic video that has become a part of pop culture. It features Blink 182 running through the streets naked. Yep, naked. Oh, and they also play their instruments naked too. It’s all about being naked.
This was a single from the album Enema of the State, also featuring singles “All the Small Things” and “Adam’s Song.” The band split in later years, but they are credited with being a major influence on the pop punk movement.
3. I’m Real (2001)
This was the music video that started a fashion trend. Yes, a horrible fashion trend but a fashion trend nonetheless.
This music video didn’t make it to the #1 spot on TRL, which may shock people. I mean, who can forget Jennifer Lopez in this video? It begins with her sitting on the front steps of a house. She’s rocking a tank top, denim shorts, huge gold hook earrings, and her hair is slicked back into a bun. She is 100% JLo. The real moment of this video, though, is Lopez in that pink tracksuit. Juicy Couture better have written her a thank you letter because the sale of Juicy tracksuits is 100% linked to how good she looked in this video.
2. Hot in Herre (2002)
Nelly was huge in the early 2000s. His debut album, Country Grammar, featured huge singles such as “Ride wit Me” and “E.I.” His second album, Nellyville, was just as big a success with both “#1” and “Dilemma” as singles. But, perhaps the biggest single off Nellyville – and his most popular song ever – was “Hot in Herre.” The “Hot in Herre” music video hit #1 on TRL for nearly a straight month. It was huge.
The music video features Nelly at a club that is, well, hot. I mean, of course his video had to be all how hot it is, right? You can’t make a video for song called “Hot in Herre” without it being hot.
1. Bye Bye Bye (2000)
Yes, we included two NSYNC videos, but that’s because “Bye Bye Bye” may be the most iconic boy band video of all time. It is in a league of its own. NSYNC’s hit music video performed very well on TRL, earning a #1 spot for 25 straight days. This is only second to Britney Spears’ “(You Drive Me) Crazy” which was #1 for 26 straight days.
In the video, the guys play puppets being control by a hot brunette puppet master. She keeps snipping the strings of each band member. When Justin’s strings get snipped, he falls down a shaft, lands, looks up at the camera, and smiles. It was when everyone realized that he was a stud. Oh, and it’s probably when most teenage girls realized they were women. That’s Justin Timberlake for you, introducing women to their hormones since 2000. Of course, the production value of the video is amazing, but what sets this video apart are the dance moves. Most people can remember the dance moves even now. If this song comes on at a wedding, you better believe that almost everyone will be pulling out the music video moves.
Alright, now if it could just magically be 1999 again that would be awesome.