Decades
A quarterly report that looks back
on music and film from 10, 20, 30 years ago

Top 50 Songs of 1997

on May 24, 2017, 2:00am

puff daddy Top 50 Songs of 199745. Puff Daddy – “It’s All About the Benjamins”

No Way Out


Bad Boy Entertainment founder, Sean “Puffy” Combs marked his solo debut with the 1997 release of the No Way Out LP. Third single, “Its All About the Benjamins”, played up Puff’s knack for monstrous posse cuts with verses from Lil’ Kim, The LOX, and franchise player The Notorious B.I.G. It got a trial run on DJ Clue’s 1996 Holiday Holdup tape before being juiced up and added to No Way Out. Still reeling from B.I.G.’s death months earlier, Puff became the face and voice of Bad Boy with a hard-body single that would punctuate the pre-“bling” excess of the shiny suit era and solidify his place as the author of a rap dynasty. Nevermind Lil’ Kim dropping what might be her hottest verse on the track. “All About the Benjamins” is hit machine Puff in his prime — a force that remains unmatched in rap. –Karas Lamb

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Oasis44. Oasis – “Don’t Go Away”

Be Here Now



Nary a soul would venture to call Be Here Now Oasis’ best album, and only a handful of the most contrarian fans would place it in their top three. Be Here Now is a bloated, jaded thing disappointing upon release, and it hasn’t aged well since. Some might think it was misunderstood back then, what with the hype with which it had to contend and the maelstrom of bad press that swirled around it. But no, it’s just not that good. There are standouts, however: “Stand by Me”, for instance. “My Big Mouth” has a certain energy. But then there’s “Don’t Go Away”, the song that, despite everything surrounding it, serves to remind us just what exactly it was that made the band’s brand of Britpop so satisfying. In a word: Earnestness. It was when Liam and Noel Gallagher could set aside their token sneer, drop the attitude, and offer up plaintive calls for help and connection: In terms of vulnerability, Liam’s cry of “don’t go away” is up there with Noel’s assertion that “you ain’t ever gonna burn my heart out.” Despite its sumptuous orchestration, “Don’t Go Away” still feels sparse, a simple and affecting plea that pierces through the cloud of cocaine dust that obfuscates the rest of Be Here Now. –Randall Colburn

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depeche-mode43. Depeche Mode – “It’s No Good”

Ultra


Depeche Mode’s ninth studio album, Ultra, emerged from a time of great turmoil, marked by Alan Wilder’s departure from the band and frontman Dave Gahan entering rehab to try to kick his drug habit. No wonder the second single from the record, “It’s No Good”, has such an ominous edge. “I’m going to take my time,” Gahan croons, his voice weary and unsettled. “I have all the time in the world/ To make you mine.” The song’s music matches the sinister vibe: Insistent, hollowed-out industrial rhythms and dark synths ebb and flow, creating a backdrop of minimalist seduction that bridges Depeche Mode’s early work and its future directions. –Annie Zaleski

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our-lady-peace42. Our Lady Peace – “Superman’s Dead”

Clumsy



The idea of using Superman as an allegory in pop music died out sometime after Three Doors Down wrote “Kryptonite”. But man, when Our Lady Peace forged the Man of Steel with Mike Turner’s guitar work and Raine Maida’s banshee wails … well, it was a stronger marriage than whatever Warner Bros. has been doing with Kal-El these past few years. The lead single off Clumsy thrives from its lush wall of sound. There’s so much going on, and although this was the age of polished mainstream alternative rock, “Superman’s Dead” felt like an outlier in its ability to sound so dour and yet feel so sweepingly optimistic. And like much of the criticism surrounding today’s onscreen depiction of Superman, the song itself questions the moral ineptitude of the culture at large and how everything has to be so goddamn bleak and morbid, concluding: “But ordinary’s just not good enough today.” As someone who prefers his Kryptonian knight on the sunny side, this writer’s inclined to agree. (On a side note: Given its final line, it’s baffling that Subway hasn’t at least tried to use this song in any of their marketing campaigns.) –Michael Roffman

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dandy warhols Top 50 Songs of 199741. The Dandy Warhols – “Not If You Were the Last Junkie on Earth”

…The Dandy Warhols Come Down



In the ’90s, The Dandy Warhols were irony kingpins, although “Not If You Were the Last Junkie on Earth” comes off more like detached, exasperated commentary. Frontman Courtney Taylor-Taylor sounds like he’s rolling his eyes as he sings lyrics such as “You never thought you’d get addicted/ Just be cooler in an obvious way,” as slurring beats, whirring organ, and Stones-esque guitars shake and unfurl around him. Taylor-Taylor’s scorn makes sense, however, when you consider his two inspirations for the song: a girlfriend who became a heroin addict and Brian Jonestown Massacre leader Anton Newcombe. The latter had his revenge on the Dandys, however: Later in the year, BJM countered with the song “Not If You Were the Last Dandy on Earth”, fueling the band feud so exhaustively detailed in the documentary Dig! –Annie Zaleski

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