Using data to define the official canon of 90s music

I'm a big fan of the Pudding's clever approach to infographics, and this latest piece examining 90s music does not disappoint. They surveyed thousands of people, collecting millions of data points to find out how well they recognized charting songs from the 1990s, and analyzed the results according to birth year. Pretty cool!

Sinatra, Elvis, and Chuck Berry are emblematic of ’50s music, but what’s the ’90s equivalent? Using the recognition data we collected, we can begin to define the canon. These will be the artists and songs that Gen Z and beyond seem to recognize (and value) among all the musical output from the decade.

First, it’s important to understand the general trends in the data. “No Diggity” knowledge peaks among people born in 1983, who were 13 years old when the track debuted in 1996. We also see a slow drop off among people who were not fully sentient when “No Diggity” was in its prime, individuals who were 5 years old or younger (or not born yet) in 1996.

That drop-off rate between generations—in this case, Millennials to Gen Z—is one indicator for whether “No Diggity” is surviving the test of time

The Instagram post below is only a small piece of the results; check out the Pudding's website for the full analysis, with all your favorite (and/or totally forgotten) 90s pop gems.

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Part 1 of 2—New project: 1) Gen Z is far more likely to recognize "Wannabe" than "No Scrubs." 2) Will Smith is falling into obscurity.

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Check your fear and get in gear — the VAN-PIRES are here!

The other day on Twitter, I asked people about their favorite weird 90s anthropomorphic animal-hero cartoons, for another project I'm working on. Someone skipped past the "animal" part of this question and shared this absolutely amazing gem of an opening credits sequence. Because this is a show about vans, that are also vampires, which live off of … gasoline, I guess?

I have no recollection of Van-pires. I was a pretty vociferous consumer of kids CGI sci-fi stuff, but maybe I was too old by the time it came out. The Wikipedia page claims it was a runaway hit that won "Sci-Fi Awards," although these claims come with no citations.

What is confirmable, however, is that the role of Tracula was played Jonathan Davis, the singer of the band Korn.

Do what you will with that information. Read the rest

Gathering online like it's 1999

There's an interesting piece in MIT Technology Review about how the COVID-19 virus and social isolation have re-enlivened the web in ways that hearken back to its earlier, more human and optimistic days.

It’s like turning the clock back to a more earnest time on the web, when the novelty of having a voice or being able to connect with anyone still filled us with a sense of boundless opportunity and optimism. It harkens back to the late 1990s and early 2000s—before social media, before smartphones—when going online was still a valuable use of time to seek community.

You see it in the renewed willingness of people to form virtual relationships. Before social media soured us and made us aloof and dismissive, we used to take the internet’s promise of serendipitous connection more seriously. Now casually hanging out with randos (virtually, of course) is cool again. People are joining video calls with people they’ve never met for everything from happy hours to book clubs to late-night flirting. They’re sharing in collective moments of creativity on Google Sheets, looking for new pandemic pen pals, and sending softer, less pointed emails.

I'm not so sure of some of its assertions, but I do love the thought of reclaiming some of that early optimism and genuine sense of (virtual) community. And it does beg the question of how the pandemic might change the character of the web in its aftermath.

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Image: Salorenzo Herrera on Unsplash Read the rest

The entire Animorphs book series is now available for free online

Animorphs was a YA sci-fi series that took the mid-90s Scholastic book fair circuit by storm. Written by K.A. Applegate, the books focus on a group of kids who gain the ability to transform into any animal they touch — but only for two hours, or else they're stuck that way. Naturally, they meet and befriend an alien named Aximili-Esgarrouth-Isthill (or "Ax" for short) who also has this same ability, and recruits them to join his guerilla resistance efforts to stop an invasion by a race of slug-like alien parasites who can crawl into peoples' ears and take over their brains.

Wikipedia informs me that there were 54 books in total in this series, although the latter half was ghostwritten, as tends to happen with these sorts of  things. They all sported the same uncanny-valley-bad-90s-CGI-cover art of someone morphing into an animal. I remember being pretty obsessed with the series as a kid, and their quarterly-or-so release schedule was a great way to satisfy my voracity for reading. I don't know how well they actually hold up, but even The Paris Review recently sang their nostalgic praises. And, well, kids fighting against an evil fascist empire that's essentially invisible other than the fact that it hijacks the brains of parents and authority figures is, erm, still a pretty relevant concept. I also hear they dealt pretty well with trauma and complicated moral questions, which I vaguely recall as well. I definitely remember the body horror and food horror and surprising amount of death and violence for a kids' book. Read the rest