The 9 Number One Singles of 1997
“Bad Boy, Come Out to Play-aaay!” Bad Boy Records took over the charts in 1997, similar to The Beatles domination in 1964. The Bad Boy Record label was created by one of the most successful Hip-Hop producers of all-time, Sean John Combs. Sean Combs had many different names of the years. We could not even keep track of them after a while! Sean’s producer/stage name was best known as Puff Daddy in 97′. Through the years, he was also known P. Diddy, Puffy, Diddy and probably many other surnames that we’re not aware of! Regardless, Puff Daddy gave The Billboard Hot 100 Singles an amazing legacy of music in 1997.
The musical landscape began to change again. Pop music, particularly Teen pop morphed its way back on to the chart. Post Grunge and Women Singer/Songwriters from the likes of Jewel, Paula Cole, and Sarah McLachlan saw a big rise in popularity on the Hot 100 chart. Even some Country music singles reached the top 10 and top 20 at various times throughout the year.
By 1997, there were fewer retail single releases than in years past. The Billboard Hot 100 Singles Spotlight column highlighted this trend in one of their articles during the year. The reason for this is because of discounts on single sales and the music buying public slowly began to favor the full album over singles. National retail stores were not earning much profit from these discounts aimed towards consumers. Plus, there was more profit to be made on full albums. Full albums on CD averaged out to $15.99-$16.98 and about $9.99-10.99 on cassette.
Furthermore, these are the 9 singles that made it to the top. Hip-Hop reigned supreme at the # 1 position for much of the year. Bad Boy Records put the East Coast sound on the map and made big stars out of many artists in the 90s. There were familiar faces who welcomed back their # 1 recognition. The # 1 positions gained some new friends too. Only the few made it to # 1 this year, achieving a # 1 single became as difficult as getting into an Ivy League school.
1. Wannabe – Spice Girls
February 22, 1997 – 4 Weeks at # 1
It’s another British invasion, this time in the form of 5 young women. I remember reading an article in Entertainment magazine in early 97′ about the Spice Girls. The article spotlighted the group and described their immense popularity particularly in the U.K. In fact, their popularity stretched over to many other countries. We had yet to hear of them over here in the states. Then by the end of January, The Spice Girls debut single had the highest entry on the chart coming in at # 11! That’s very impressive for a debut single.
The Spice Girls consisted of Victoria Beckham (“Posh Spice”) back then known as Victoria Adams, Geri Halliwell (“Ginger Spice”), Emma Bunton (“Baby Spice”), Melanie Brown (“Scary Spice”) and Melanie Chisholm (“Sporty Spice”). Posh Spice, Victoria Beckham, is probably the most famous and equally very attractive Spice Girl particularly known for being in the tabloids and marrying British heartthrob, David Beckham. The group formed in 1994 and they scored a record deal with Virgin Records in the U.K. Their first single, Wannabe, got released in mid 1996 and the single was a smash hit all over Europe. So how did these girls invade the U.S. charts? The Spice Girls went on a huge promotional tour to radio stations, television programs, magazines and one big push to MTV. Plus Virgin Records persuaded radio stations to promote their single, Wannabe.
The strong plug pushed the single from # 11 to the top 5 in just two weeks. On its 5th week on the chart, Wannabe became the # 1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 for 4 weeks. Their song was simply about, “If you wanna be my lover/you gotta get with my friends.” It explores individuality, “Tell me what you want, what you really really want”, and “Zigazig-ah”, well ok Spice Girls. Wannabe’s composition created an uptempo dance song with Mel B and Gerri Halliwell rapping and the all of the girls singing and getting their word out. The song hooked the listeners in with a piano riff used throughout the song with fast paced dance beats. It’s girl power aimed at the younger audience. Wannabe filled the void of teen pop on the Hot 100 Singles which seemed absent for the past few years in the 90s. The Spice Girls followed up their smash single with two more Top 10 hits during 1997.
2. Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down – Puff Daddy featuring Mase
March 22, 1997 – 6 Weeks at # 1
Puff Daddy was not even 30 years old yet and he created an empire in the music industry. Born Sean John Combs on November 4th, 1969 in New York City and raised in Mount Vernon, New York. He began his music career as a talent director for Uptown Records. He struck out on his own and founded his own label, Bad Boy Records in 1993. Bad Boy Records signed on an immense amount of R&B and Hip-Hop artists such as Craig Mack, Faith Evans, 112, Total, Mase, and many more. The record label also collaborated with well known artists such as Mary J Blige, Usher, TLC, and even the late Aretha Franklin. One of the biggest acts for the Bad Boy record label was the Notorious B.I.G. who scored a number of hits on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles. The success of the Bad Boy Records took off almost immediately which made Puff Daddy a household name.
Puff Daddy became a renaissance man in the music world as a performer, producer and songwriter. He was a featured player in some of the acts whom he produced. One of Puff Daddy’s most notable appearances was a remixed version of Craig Mack’s, Flava In Ya Ear. He appeared in the song and video which featured an all star cast of East Coast rappers, Craig Mack, The Notorious B.I.G., Busta Rhymes, LL Cool J, and Rampage. Another sizable hit that Puff Daddy appeared in was a song by Lil’ Kim, No Time, which achieved Gold status. Puff Daddy seriously mastered the art of self promotion. So in late 1996, Puff Daddy recorded his own song, Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down. Puff Daddy collaborated with Bad Boy Hip-Hop artist, Mase. Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down heavily samples, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s, The Message. There are lyrics from The Message that appear in the song. The main chorus of Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down takes a spin on Matthew Wilder’s, Breaking My Stride. The lyrics were altered to “Can’t nobody take my pride, Can’t nobody hold me down… Ohh no I got to keep on movin’.” The single came packaged in cassette, 12-inch Vinyl and CD formats featuring various Bad Boy remixes of the song.
So Puff Daddy’s art of promotion more than worked out for him. Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down entered the Hot 100 Singles at # 32 on the same week of The Spice Girls single debut. The single rose up through the competition and hit Number 1 on March 22, 1997. Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down ran 6 weeks at the top position and the single hit # 1 on the Hot Rap Singles, Hot Dance Singles Sales, and the Hot R&B Singles. Interestingly, there was a big gap between the airplay and the sales. Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down held down the # 1 position in sales for 7 weeks for the Hot 100 Singles, but the song only hit #25 in airplay. The sales for the single went through the roof with consistent sales of the single each week after its Hot 100 Singles debut. The song earned a Platinum certification in just two months and a few weeks later, the single sold over 2 million copies. Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down was later put on Puff Daddy’s debut album, No Way Out. Brother Love formed a strategy and vision which propelled the artist and entrepreneur into superstardom.
3. Hypnotize – The Notorious B.I.G.
3 Weeks at # 1 – May 3, 1997
The Notorious B.I.G. was born Christopher Wallace on May 21st, 1972. He grew up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. The Notorious B.I.G. is also known as Biggie and Biggie Smalls. The Notorious B.I.G. attended the George Washington Career and Tech. High School where future rappers Busta Rhymes and Jay-Z also attended. He later dropped out of high school and unfortunately got very involved in a life of crime. While in jail, Christopher Wallace recorded a demo called “Microphone Murderer” and he left behind a life of crime to focus on a music career.
Puff Daddy discovered the Notorious B.I.G. in 1992 and he later signed him on to the Bad Boy Records. One of the earliest recordings of Biggie was on a remixed version of Mary J. Blige’s, Real Love.
Mary J Blige with the Notorious B.I.G., the remixed version of “Real Love”
The Notorious B.I.G. struck a chord in the Hip-Hop community and he attained mainstream success during 1994-1995 with his first album, Ready to Die. All of the singles released achieved success and his single, “One More Chance/Stay With Me” had the highest debut on the Hot 100 Singles chart in 1995. Biggie worked with other artists such as Total, 112, and even Michael Jackson. The Notorious B.I.G. also made a memorable appearance on the 90s sitcom, Martin. The Notorious B.I.G. became a mentor and producer to the newly formed Hip-Hop group, Junior M.A.F.I.A (Masters At Finding Intelligent Attitudes). The B.I.G. appeared on several tracks on the group’s debut album. Biggie began work on his 2nd album, Life After Death, during most of 1996 to January of 1997. This album brought together an assortment of artist such as Lil’ Kim, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, R. Kelly, and of course Puff Daddy.
The Notorious B.I.G. traveled to California to promote the Life After Death album and to shoot a video for Hypnotize. At 12:45 AM in Los Angeles on March 9th, 1997, a mysterious black Chevy Impala pulled up to The Notorious B.I.G.’s vehicle and shot him 4 times. The Notorious B.I.G. was accompanied with 3 other people in his vehicle at the time and Puff Daddy traveled in another car with three bodyguards. Sadly, The Notorious B.I.G. passed away by the time he arrived at Cedar-Sinai Hospital. His death still remains unsolved. This tragic event devastated the Hip-Hop community. The incident happened just 6 months after Tupac’s death.
Christopher Wallace sadly passed away just weeks before the Life After Death album release. The first single scheduled for release was “Hypnotize.” The chorus for Hypnotize goes “Biggie Biggie Biggie Can’t You see, Sometimes Your Words Just Hypnotize Me.” This chorus actual borrows it’s melody and improvises a lyrical interpolation from the Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick song, La Di Da Di. Snoop Dogg did a variation of the song on his first album as well. Pam Long from the Bad Boy group Total sings the hook for the chorus as well.
Hypnotize began to receive airplay by the end of March and the song spins steadily increased. The single release occurred in April of 97′. The Notorious B.I.G.’s, Hypnotize, entered the Hot 100 Singles at # 2 right under Puff Daddy’s, Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down.
One week later, Hypnotize reached # 1. According to Billboard, much of Hypnotize’s chart points, 82%, derived from sales. The single sold over 250,000 copies in its first two weeks on the chart. I do remember though that Hypnotize did receive a good amount of airplay as well. The Notorious B.I.G. left an left behind quite a legacy with his music and still earns much respect to this day.
4. MMMBop – Hanson
3 Weeks at # 1 – May 24, 1997
Kiddie Pop made a comeback on the Hot 100 Singles. First we had the Spice Girls and a few months later, Hanson. Who was Hanson? The group consisted of three brothers, Isaac, Taylor and Zac and their last names were you guessed it, Hanson. The brothers all played their own instruments and even wrote most of their own songs. The group had the look of a kid’s Grunge band.
Hanson’s first single was “MMMBop.” What was MMMBop about? The song was simply holding to things that really matter in life and going through the motions of life’s challenges. The MMMBop chorus sums it up with a ba doo wop and MmmBop. Sure, okay I guess. Well anyway, you got to give the boys some effort right? At the time of their single release, the Hanson boys were only 11 (Zac), 14 (Taylor), and 16 (Isaac). MMMBop was the first single release from their debut album, Middle of Nowhere.
So how well did Hanson do with their first single on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles? Well the group bopped their way to a number # 16 debut on May 3rd. They achieved a Hot Shot Debut for the week with the highest debut. Billboard Magazine reported that their single scanned over 30,000 + copies in its first week and the airplay gained a large increase. These youngsters worked hard to get to the top. In just three weeks, Hanson grabbed the # 1 spot from Biggie and stayed there for 3 weeks. The song even maintained its bullet (gains in airplay/sales points) after their time at Numero Uno. The Hanson brothers also hit # 1 in Australia, Germany, Mexico, and the U.K. More songs were released from their Middle of Nowhere album where it hit on the Hot 100 Singles chart and the Hot 100 Airplay chart. If you’re interested in a deeper meaning of MMMBop, check out this Bustle article, enjoy!
5. I’ll Be Missing You – Puff Daddy and Faith Evans featuring 112
11 Weeks at # 1 – June 14, 1997
The music scene lost a Hip-Hop superstar in 1997 and also in 96′ with 2Pac’s passing. Puff Daddy was the one who founded, Christopher Wallace (a.k.a. The Notorious B.I.G.) and he was a mentor to late Hip-Hop artist as well. Puff Daddy wanted to put together a tribute song to Wallace. Puff Daddy was listening to a song by 80s Rock group, The Police. This song was “Every Breath You Take” which hit # 1 for 8 weeks in the summer of 1983. He was a big fan of the song and put together a tribute song heavily sampling “Every Breath You Take.” The chorus was arranged very similar way to the song. I’ll Be Missing You also borrows the melody to a spiritual hymn, “I’ll Fly Away.”
Puff Daddy named the song title, I’ll Be Missing You. Puff Daddy hastily composed and recorded I’ll Be Missing You. The song featured other Bad Boy artists, Faith Evans and and R&B group, 112. Faith Evans was the wife of The Notorious B.I.G. The couple had one child together who they named Christopher Jordan Wallace. I’ll Be Missing You was released as a cassette, 12 inch vinyl, CD single and as a maxi single (multi-track/remix). The Maxi-Single contains an instrumental version of the song along with another tribute song by The Lox titled, “We’ll Always Love Big Poppa” and a heartfelt song by 112 called “I’ll Cry On.” To say “I’ll Be Missing You” did well is a gross understatement. The single release occurred towards the end of May in 97′. The sales earned over 220,000 units in its first full week and steadily increased. I’ll Be Missing You’s success in the county was phenomenal and in it’s first week on the Billboard chart, the song debuted at # 1.
I’ll Be Missing You was the first # 1 song to debut at the top by a Hip-Hop artist. It was the fifth time a single entered the chart at # 1. I’ll Be Missing You spent an astonishing 11 weeks at Number One. At this time, it was the 9th single which spent the most weeks at # 1. By August, the single sold over 3 million copies. “I’ll Be Missing You” was performed at the 1997 MTV Video Music Awards. Sting (from the rock group, The Police) performed with Puff Daddy and his artists at the award show. Sting owns 100% of the publishing rights to this song.
6. Mo Money, Mo Problems – The Notorious B.I.G. featuring Puff Daddy, Kelly Price & Mase
2 Weeks at # 1 – August 30, 1997
The late Christopher Wallace began to experience his legacy with his posthumous album, Life After Death. There certainly was life after death for the great artist. The Life After Death album hit # 1 at the same time Hypnotize was the # 1 single in May. There was also tribute songs for the late artist contributed by Puff Daddy and various other artists.
“Mo Money, Mo Problems” was chosen for the next single from the Life After Death album. This song has a more upbeat tempo and samples Diana Ross’, “I’m Coming Out.” Puff Daddy is in the intro of the song, while it also features Mase. The single release of “Mo Money, Mo Problems” was remixed and included singer Kelly Price who sang the refrain of the song.
There was an edited version of Mo Money, Mo Problems which got released to radio stations. The single release coincided with the debut of Puff Daddy’s first album, No Way Out which was riding high on various Billboard charts. The album included many guest appearances of Bad Boy artists. So on the first week of August, “Mo Money Mo Problems” placed very high on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles. The single entered in the chart at # 4 while Puff Daddy’s, “I’ll Be Missing You”, was at it’s 8th week at number one. The popularity of the “Mo Money” propelled the single to # 1 in only 4 weeks displacing Puff Daddy’s, I’ll Be Missing You.
The lyrics explain how money and success can lead to problems, as others will covet your belongings and try to bring you down in an effort to bring themselves up. Yet, the hook from I’m Coming Out gives the song an upbeat dance-able flow. Mo Money, Mo Problems was a big hit on the radio and the single quickly went Platinum. Mo Money Mo Problems is considered one of the most popular hip hop songs in the history of the genre.
7. Honey – Mariah Carey
3 Weeks at # 1 – September 13, 1997
Well hello Mariah, we haven’t seen you in over a year. She’s back again with a new album, new single, new video, and a new look. You name it, she put herself out there. This time she is wearing less clothes.
“Honey” was Mariah’s latest single in 97′. Her seventeenth overall single of her career. However, she created a much different sound for her album and single. Perhaps, it was the right time for Mimi to makeover her image. “Honey” included a special guest star, none other than Puff Daddy himself. Mariah worked together with Puff Daddy on this song. The song incorporates hip hop beats used throughout the song with a very intricate keyboard hook. If you listen closely, you can hear a sample from LSOB‘s “Hey DJ.” Puff Daddy’s voice is also heard in the song giving a shout out to Mariah. Puff Daddy further pushed the Bad Boy image with remixes of “Honey” including appearances of The Lox and Mase. Puff Daddy co-wrote “Honey” with Carey and he also produced the song along with Hip-Hop artist, Q-Tip.
So can you guess how well this song performed on the Hot 100 Singles?
That’s right, Mariah Carey’s Honey debuts at the # 1 spot! Are you surprised?
Mariah Carey scores her 12th # 1. Puffy Daddy helped to produce and write the song. He used his real name in the credits which I highlighted.
Honey marks her 12th # 1 hit. This was also her 3rd # 1 single to debut at number one. Her album titled, Butterfly, made it to # 1 from the success of the single.
The video for Honey brought out a rather interesting plot line with caper style chase scenes. Mariah makes a grand escape from a mansion. Then the hot pursuit takes place in the ocean on motorboats with a climatic hunt for Mariah. She is also seen on a ship dancing with sailors showing off some skin in a sexy look for her. The video ends where she is happily together with a GQ model on an island. There has been a sneaking suspicion that the video was about her relationship with Tommy Mottola. The couple were going through a divorce at this time and the grand escape could have represented her marriage breakup with Mottola. However, this was pure speculation even through the events occurring in the video. So a special congrats goes to Mariah for scoring another 90s No.1 hit, her 12th overall.
Here is the video for Mariah Carey’s, Honey, for your viewing pleasure.
8. 4 Seasons of Loneliness – Boyz II Men
1 Week at # 1 – October 4, 1997
The # 1 position got sort of crowded in the last few weeks. The 100 chart got more of a flow of chart hits especially with new releases coming out. The Boys were back with a new song off their third album, Evolution. The 90s were very good to Boyz II Men, the group scored record breaking # 1 singles and their mainstream success elevated the group into household names. They were a fixture on radio stations throughout the decade.
Boyz II Men became international superstars by the late 1990s. The foursome’s music reached over to millions across the globe. The Philadelphia natives worked very hard on their third album during 1996-1997. There was even a Spanish language version of the album titled Evolución which won the Billboard Latin Music award. 4 Seasons of Loneliness was chosen for their first single from their Evolution album.
The commercial single made its debut on September 9, 1997. The single release occurred with a # 2 debut on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles. This was the third time a # 2 debut happened on the chart. One week later, “4 Seasons of Loneliness” bumped Mariah Carey out of the top spot. 4 Seasons Of Loneliness was Boyz II Men’s fifth number one single. It took only a few weeks for the song to be certified Platinum especially since the single had a strong sales lead. Interestingly, 4 Seasons of Loneliness only made it to # 12 in airplay. Furthermore, Boyz II Men’s time at # 1 was cut short due to one of the biggest songs of the 90s moving into the # 1 spot. Another Platinum single for Boyz II Men soon followed with the release of “A Song for Mama” which peaked at # 7 later in the year.
9. Candle In The Wind 1997 / Something About The Way You Look Tonight – Elton John
14 Weeks at # 1 – October 11, 1997
Sir Elton John has entertained and touched the world with his music for decades. Elton John achieved quite the musical career and legacy. By 1997, Elton John had a top 40 song for every year since his debut in 1970. This year though, Elton John would really outdo himself.
On August 31st of 97′, a tragic incident happened. Princess Diana of Wales died in a car crash in Paris, France. The devastating incident shocked the world and deeply saddened Elton John who had been good friends with Princess Diana. Elton John was inspired to compose a song to pay tribute to Princess Diana’s life. He considered the song, Candle In the Wind. Candle In the Wind was written and released in 1973. Elton originally recorded Candle In the Wind as a tribute to Marilyn Monroe. Candle In The Wind was also recorded live with a piano accompaniment at a concert in Australia and this version made it to # 6 in 1988. Elton John contacted legendary Beatles producer, George Martin, to produce Candle In the Wind 1997. The lyrics were revised in a beautiful tribute for Princess Diana giving recognition to her as England’s rose. Elton John recorded Candle In the Wind 1997 at Townhouse Studios in West London.
Elton John performed “Candle In the Wind 1997” live at Princess Diana’s funeral on September 6, 1997. Elton performed this version of the song only once. Candle In The Wind 1997 was released a double A side single with Something About the Way You Look Tonight. What I mean by a double “A” side single is a single where both songs are promoted and both titles are displayed for the single. This was prominent for CD singles where both tracks are played on the same side unlike cassettes and vinyl where the songs are played on separate sides. The single was promoted as Candle In the Wind 1997 and Something About The Way You Look Tonight. Something About The Way You Look Tonight’s song meaning was about having everything perhaps material things but still longing for something more in life. Then meeting that special someone in your life takes your breath away and absolutely floors you giving he or she the closure which one is seeking. The song arrangement was composed with a Motown vibe and choir style backing vocals.
“Candle In the Wind 1997/Something About The Way You Look Tonight” was recorded and released as a single in September of 1997. Sales of the single reached an all time high. There was no doubt that there would be a strong debut on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles. On October 11th, Elton John’s “Candle In the Wind 1997 / Something About The Way You Look Tonight” entered the chart at # 1. This was the first time Elton John scored a # 1 single that debuted at # 1. The sales topped over 8 millions copies.
By the end of the year, the single’s sales rose to 11 million. The single lost its bullet and regained its bullet throughout its momentous # 1 run. During the single’s time at the top, “Something About The Way You Look Tonight” overtook “Candle In the Wind 1997” in its airplay strength. The titles were switched in its chart title.
Elton’s single spent 14 weeks at # 1. This was the 4th single with a 14 week # 1 run and it was the Number 1 song of 1997. The double sided single spanned a 42 week run on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles. “Candle In the Wind 1997/Something About The Way You Look Tonight” was the first single to be certified Diamond, for sales of over 10,000,000 copies. The Elton John single is the second best selling single internationally next to Bing Crosby’s, White Christmas. The single has sold over 33 million copies worldwide.
The live performance of Elton John’s Candle in The Wind in 1997
If you noticed, every # 1 song debuted well within the top 40 and some even came in right at the top. These trends were very common during this time. The length of time for singles staying on the chart went way up, 30 or 40 weeks no problem. The main chart movement in the SoundScan era occurred primarily in positions 1-50. That is where the biggest singles went up, down, rebounded, or flew down the chart in a matter of weeks. 1997’s #1s provided an eclectic assortment of characters at the top. The 90s upped the competition and narrowed down the amount of number one singles in each calendar year.