Best Songs From 1998

1998 was a big year – Google was founded, Bill Clinton denied having “relations” with Monica Lewinsky, and Furbies were flying off the toy store shelves. The year was also one of the biggest in the 1990s for music. Let’s dive into the best songs from 1998.

“…Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears

Song year: 1998

Britney Spears was only 16 when “…Baby One More Time” became a hit. She’d been a star of the MMC but had trouble breaking into the music industry. The catchy pop hit would propel her to stardom and become one of the biggest pop songs of all time. Even Britney’s look in the video became iconic.

“All My Life” by K-Ci and JoJo

Song year: 1998

“All My Life” was one of the top R&B songs of 1998. The duo were members of the group Jodeci and split to do their own music. JoJo wrote the song for his young daughter.

The ballad became a popular choice for “last dances” at proms and “first dances” at weddings. The song received numerous nominations, including Grammy and MTV Video Music Awards nods.

“Intergalactic” by The Beastie Boys

Song year: 1998

“Intergalactic” has a rich history. It came about when Mike D, one of the Beastie Boys, was playing around with a vocoder. It was originally intended for an album released in 1993 but didn’t make the cut.

By 1998, the song was ready to be a hit. Fans loved the wacky lyrics and the cheesy video based on Japanese kaiju films.

“In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” by Neutral Milk Hotel

Song year: 1998

In the 90s, indie music was still far from the mainstream but still contributed to good music from 1998. Neutral Milk Hotel had a small following that would grow in the 2000s when indie became more popular with the masses.

Their song (and also album) “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” became one of the greatest indie hits of all time. The song is one of the rare all-encompassing songs that touch on the wonder of life, existence, death, love, and even Anne Frank.

“Ray of Light” by Madonna

Song year: 1998

Madonna’s album Ray of Light featured a new, modern sound and proved that the Queen of Pop could keep up with the younger singers climbing the charts. “Ray of Light” was the second single off the album.

Madonna had just had her first child, Lourdes, the year before. Her daughter’s birth sparked Madonna’s interest in spirituality, and the song was written partially for her daughter and her newfound religion.

“Crush” by Dave Matthews Band

Song year: 1998

“Crush” is a single off DMB’s Before These Crowded Streets. The album recording was a bit of a mess as the band had booked studio time but no songs written. Songs had to be written quickly.

Matthews wrote the song as an ode to women. He was inspired to start the song with the word “Crazy” from the Willie Nelson song “Crazy” (sung by Patsy Cline).

“The Boy Is Mine” by Monica and Brandy

Song year: 1998

In 1998, Brandy and Monica were two of the top R&B singers. It only made sense for the two to team up for a song about a boy who was playing them both. Rumors of the girls’ real-life rivalry, including an alleged physical altercation, only fueled the drama.

However, Monica recently stated that there was no animosity between the two. It was all exaggerated to sell singles.

“Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)” by Jay-Z

Song year: 1998

No one expected Jay-Z to sample the Broadway musical Annie, but he did and somehow made it work. He took the lyrics of the original about the challenges of being an orphan and transposed those to the challenges of life in the ghetto.

The song marked an important moment for Jay-Z, who was planning to retire before getting the idea for this song.

“Closing Time” by Semisonic

Song year: 1998

By 1998, the pop-rock-alternative movement was in full swing. Semisonic came onto the scene with a seemingly simple song about a bar closing and forcing its patrons to return to the real world.

The band later revealed that the song was also about the birth of the lead singer’s daughter. It received a Grammy nomination and was a one-hit wonder for the band.

“I Don’t Want To Miss a Thing” by Aerosmith

Song year: 1998

By 1998, Aerosmith was a well-established rock band. Their song “I Don’t Want To Miss a Thing” brought their music to a younger generation. Diane Warren wrote the song after being inspired by James Brolin and Barbara Streisand.

She wrote the song for the film Armageddon, which was fitting as the film was about a crew trying to save the earth from an asteroid.

“Ghetto Superstar” by Pras, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, and Mya

Song year: 1998

In another unlikely rap sample, Pras used a melody from Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers’s “Islands in the Stream” for his Grammy-nominated hit.

O.D.B. was never intended to be on the track. He wandered into the studio where Pras was recording, thinking it was his studio. He heard the song, jumped on the track, and the rest is history.

“You Get What You Give” by New Radicals

Song year: 1998

“You Get What You Give” became an anthem for 90s youth who didn’t want to sell out but wanted to make the world a better place. Gregg Alexander took the name The New Radicals for the album, which was his third after getting dropped by two previous labels.

The song went on to become a one-hit wonder, and Alexander moved into songwriting and production, but it’s still considered among the good music from 1998.

“Wide Open Spaces” by The Chicks

Song year: 1998

In 1998, The Chicks released their first studio album, Wide Open Spaces. The title track was the second song released and was an instant hit.

The girls didn’t write the song. It was written in 1993 by college student Susan Gibson and focused on a girl’s need to strike out on her own. The song became one of the top country songs of the 1990s.

“Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)” by The Offspring

Song year: 1998

The Offspring wrote “Pretty Fly” to call out suburban white boys who pretended to be gangsters in the 1990s. The song and its music video are silly, and people enjoyed it mostly as a novelty song. The melody is catchy, and it’s still played in films and on TV.

“Too Close” by Next

Song year: 1998

Next’s “Too Close” was one of the most listened-to songs of 1998. The context of the song is fairly simple – a young man and a woman are dancing, he gets excited, and she tells him to back up. The song was particularly popular at high school dances, and many schools wound up banning the type of dancing suggested in the song.

“A Rose Is Still a Rose” by Aretha Franklin

Song year: 1998

No one expected the 1960s queen of R&B, Aretha Franklin, to have a hit in the 1990s, but she did. Her song “A Rose Is Still a Rose” is a feminist anthem with a timeless quality and was the first single off her 37th album. Lauryn Hill, an R&B goddess in her own right, wrote the song for Franklin.

Hill intended the song to be from the perspective of an older woman talking to a young woman who slept with a guy and then left. The song reminds that girl that she still has value and is much more than what happened to her.

The song resonates with Franklin’s own story (she had her first child at 13) and the larger story of how the country has viewed black women.

“Foolish Games” by Jewel

"Foolish Games" by Jewel

Song year: 1997-1998

Jewel started working on “Foolish Games” at the age of 16. She wrote in her journal about a boy she liked who didn’t seem to notice her. She eventually turned it into a poem and then a song.

The song is number 22 on Billboard’s top 100 songs of all time and once held a Guinness World Record for the longest chart run.

“Rockafeller Skank” by Fatboy Slim

Song year: 1998

“Rockafeller Skank,” also known as “Funk Soul Brother,” was a 1998 masterpiece by DJ Fatboy Slim. The song samples several songs, particularly lesser-known tracks. The lyrics are repetitive, making it more about the sound than the meaning. It’s become a dance hit, especially after being featured as a dance number in the teen film She’s All That.

“I Don’t Want To Wait” by Paula Cole

Song year: 1998

The song “I Don’t Want To Wait” has become almost synonymous with the 90s teen drama Dawson’s Creek. But the song itself has a deeper meaning. Cole wrote the song about her grandparents, their tumultuous marriage, World War II, and their son (her father).

Cole intended the song to be about righting the wrongs of past generations and women getting a chance to do what they wanted.

“Fly Away” by Lenny Kravitz

Song year: 1998

Kravitz had already finished his album 5 when he happened to pick up a guitar, and it made a riff sound. He quickly wrote the song and intended it as a B-side for the album. A friend talked him into calling his producer and getting it added to the songs.

It became one of his biggest hits and even won a Grammy for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance.

“Truly Madly Deeply” by Savage Garden

Song year: 1998

Like many great songs, “Truly Madly Deeply” is one that grew over a few years. The duo worked on it off and on, but it wasn’t until lead singer Darren Hayes was away from his family and wife for the first time that he found the inspiration for the lyrics.

The song was an instant success and is now considered one of the best love songs of the 90s. It spent 52 weeks on the charts.

“Iris” by Goo Goo Dolls

Song year: 1998

By 1998, the Goo Goo Dolls had been a band for 12 years and only had one hit. Lead Johnny Rzeznik was struggling to write another hit. He was asked to write a song for the film City of Angels about an angel who falls in love with a human woman.

The plot prompted Rzeznik’s songwriting, and it became one of the band’s biggest hits.

“The Way” by Fastball

Song year: 1998

Fastball was an unknown band when bassist Tony Scalzo got the idea for “The Way.” An elderly couple in Austin went missing on their way to a local festival, and they weren’t found for ten days.

During the search, Scalzo wrote a song about a couple escaping their normal life to go on a grand adventure. The couple was found and had died in a car wreck, but the song was already written.

“You’re Still the One” by Shania Twain

Song year: 1998

Twain was already a successful country star when she released “You’re Still the One,” but the song quickly solidified her status, and it also became a crossover hit. The album became one of the best-selling albums of all time.

Twain wrote the song with her then-husband, a music producer. They wrote separately, then joined their lyrics together to form one song.

“Inside Out” by Eve 6

Song year: 1998

The members of Eve 6 were still in high school when they formed a band and wrote their first album. Lead singer Max Collins’s songs were mostly fueled by his teenage angst over a girl who cheated on him.

“Inside Out” featured powerful imagery and catchy hooks that made the song an instant hit. It spent four weeks at number one on Billboard’s Modern Rock chart.

“My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion

Song year: 1998

During the making of Titanic, director James Cameron hired James Horner to compose the soundtrack. He intended it to be instrumental, as the film was already over budget and couldn’t afford a vocalist.

Horner tried to make it work, but one of his melodies just didn’t seem to work. He played it for Céline Dion, who eventually fell in love with it. The iconic song was added to the equally-iconic film and is one of the greatest love songs of all time.

“You Make Me Wanna…” by Usher

Song year: 1998

Usher’s hit song was inspired by real-life events. He had a girlfriend and a friend he’d talk to about his relationship problems. He eventually fell in love with his friend.

He wrote the song with legendary R&B producers Jermaine Dupri and Manuel Seal, Jr. The song broke records when it spent 71 weeks on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles and Tracks chart.

“How Do I Live” by LeAnn Rimes / Trisha Yearwood

Song year: 1998

Diane Warren was hired to write a song for the film Con Air. She initially wrote it for Rimes, but she was 14 and deemed too young. She then gave it to Trisha Yearwood, but Rimes had already recorded it. They both released it at the same time.

The song was a hit for both artists. The two made history by being the first artists to be nominated in the same category for the same song.

“Tubthumping” by Chumbawumba

Song year: 1998

The story behind “Tubthumping” is a good one. Guitarist Boff Whalley and his wife witnessed their neighbor drunkenly singing “Danny Boy” while trying to get inside his house. They wrote the song about never giving up. As a punk anarchist band, the song’s chorus embodied their working-class spirit.

“One Week” by Barenaked Ladies

Song year: 1998

“One Week” was a breakthrough hit for Canadian college rock band the Barenaked Ladies. Lead singer Ed Robertson wrote the chorus about a couple in the middle of a fight. He couldn’t come up with verses and eventually just freestyled.

The nonsense lyrics and cultural references made the song a hit. Ironically, it only spent “one week” and number one.

“Semi-Charmed Life” by Third Eye Blind

Song year: 1998

If ever there was a song that’s music didn’t match its lyrics, it’s Third Eye Blind’s “Semi-Charmed Life.” The music is upbeat and catchy, but the lyrics tell the story of a man’s descent into drug use, particularly crystal meth.

Singer Stephen Jenkins’s juxtaposition was intentional. He wanted the music to represent the high one feels while taking drugs while the lyrics tell the story of what it’s like to crash.

Top Songs From 1998, Final Thoughts

So there you have it, some of the best songs from 1998. They have left a lasting imprint on the music industry and people of all ages. We’ve hopefully reminded you of long-forgotten favorites or introduced you to new ones that you can add to your 90s playlist.

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