Top 10 Pop Songs of 1997

Many of the top pop hits of 1997 were aimed at making you want to move, with the notable exception of 2 of the most significant pop songs of mourning of all time by Puff Daddy and Elton John. Hanson and the Spice Girls brought bubblegum pop back to the forefront after a long exile from the mainstream.

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Smash Mouth - "Walking On the Sun"

Smash Mouth Walkin' On the Sun
Smash Mouth - "Walkin' On the Sun". Courtesy Interscope

The ska-punk band Smash Mouth burst into the spotlight with this catchy slab of 60's-ish psychedelic soul. Unfortunately, the band never quite returned to the glory of this single, but it is one of the greatest tracks of the decade. "Walkin' On the Sun" reached #1 on the alternative radio chart and then crossed over to climb all the way to #2 at mainstream pop radio and the top of the adult pop radio chart. The success of the song helped the group's debut album Fush You Mang climb into the top 20 on the album chart and be certified double platinum for sales.

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Hanson - "MMMBop"

Hanson MmmBop
Hanson - "MmmBop". Courtesy Mercury Records

The Hanson brothers brought back bubblegum pop in all of its glory. "MMMBop" is catchy, sugary sweet, and irresistible. Just try to avoid singing along. The debut single from the brother group reached #1 in a phenomenal 27 different countries. It also reached the top 5 at adult pop radio in the US and even broke into the adult contemporary chart. "MMMBop" earned a Grammy Award nomination for Record of the Year and Hanson were nominated for Best New Artist.

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Shawn Colvin - "Sunny Came Home"

Shawn Colvin Sunny Came Home
Shawn Colvin - "Sunny Came Home". Courtesy Columbia

Sunny, the protagonist of this folkie story song, comes home with some matters to settle. Parts of this song can send chills up your spine while Colvin's voice gently lulls you back into the story. "Sunny Came Home" is the central song for Shawn Colvin's concept album about divorce A Few Small Repairs. The album earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Pop Album. "Sunny Came Home" topped both the adult pop and adult contemporary radio charts while reaching #2 at mainstream pop.d

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Puff Daddy and Faith Evans feat. 112 - "I'll Be Missing You"

Puff Daddy and Faith Evans I'll Be Missing You
Puff Daddy with Faith Evans - "I'll Be Missing You". Courtesy Bad Boy Entertainment

Rap star the Notorious B.I.G. (Biggie Smalls) was tragically gunned down in March of 1997. His recording partner Puff Daddy (now known as Diddy) put together this moving memorial with Smalls' widow Faith Evans and the vocal group 112. It memorably samples the Police classic "Every Breath You Take" and became a favored memorial track of the late 90s. The spoken intro takes place over a chorus performing Samuel Barber's "Adagio For Strings." "I'll Be Missing You" won a Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance By a Duo Or Group. It went to #1 on the US pop chart and in many other countries around the world.

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Dave Matthews Band - "Crash Into Me"

Dave Matthews Band Crash Into Me
Dave Matthews Band - "Crash Into Me". Courtesy RCA

Although the lyrics invite ambiguous interpretation, for many this is one of the most unabashedly erotic songs of the decade. Listen and enjoy Dave Matthews' intimate vocals over intricately arranged bluegrass-tinged pop. Dave Matthews wrote the song with inspiration from his wife Ashley Harper. He says the song is about "the worship of women" from a voyeur's perspective. "Crash Into Me" broke into the top 10 at alternative and adult pop radio while reaching the top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Rock Performance By a Duo or Group.

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Various Artists - "ESPN Presents the Jock Jam"

ESPN Jock Jams Volume 1
Various Artists - ESPN Presents Jock Jams Vol. 1. Courtesy Tommy Boy

This medley will win no prizes for art, but it welds together some of the most popular songs used at sporting events and was nearly inescapable in 1997. Kicking off with the immortal "Are you ready to rumble..." this pop culture artifact is sure to get your blood pumping with snippets from such tracks as "Whoomp! There It Is," "It Takes Two," "YMCA" and "Pump Up the Jam." This medley reached #31 on the US pop chart 

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Wallflowers - "One Headlight"

The Wallflowers One Headlight
The Wallflowers - "One Headlight". Courtesy Interscope

The Wallflowers, led by Bob Dylan's son Jakob, spent over a year on the pop singles chart with this quiet masterpiece. Jakob Dylan's vocals have an alluring world weariness that could at times be a dead ringer for Tom Petty. "One Headlight" was released as the second single from the group's second album Bringing Down the Horse. It reached #1 on the rock, alternative, and adult pop radio charts while going to #2 at mainstream pop radio. "One Headlight" won two Grammy Awards for Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance By a Duo or Group.

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Elton John - "Candle In the Wind 1997"

Elton John Candle In the Wind 1997
Elton John - "Candle In the Wind 1997". Courtesy A&M

The summer of 1997 seemed to come to a tragic close as Princess Diana died in a horrific car accident. The attention of the world was riveted on her funeral, and Elton John reworked his song "Candle In the Wind" for the occasion. It quickly became the biggest selling single ever worldwide. He performed the song live at Princess Diana's funeral. Estimated worldwide sales exceed 30 million. Elton John won the Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal with "Candle In the Wind 1997."

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No Doubt - "Don't Speak"

No Doubt Don't Speak
No Doubt - "Don't Speak". Courtesy Interscope

This song is somewhat of an anomaly in style from much of the rest of No Doubt's work, but it served to make No Doubt's lead vocalist Gwen Stefani a recognizable star. The song's pop hook is irresistible and kept it on the pop chart for most of the year. "Don't Speak" was written about Gwen Stefani's relationship with fellow band member Tony Kanal after their breakup. It reached #1 at both adult pop and mainstream pop radio while reaching #2 at alternative radio. "Don't Speak" earned Grammy Award nominations for Song of the Year and Best Pop Performance By a Duo or Group.

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Spice Girls - "Wannabe"

Spice Girls Wannabe
Spice Girls - "Wannabe". Courtesy Virgin

Even after the years of hype surrounding this all-girl group and its members, "Wannabe" is an exhilarating listening pleasure. "Girl power" from the Spice Girls swept the U.K. in 1996 and then conquered America the following year. "Wannabe" was their debut hit single. It spent seven weeks at #1 in the UK earning a double platinum certification for sales. In the US it topped the pop chart for four weeks. "Wannabe" also broke into the top 20 on the dance chart.

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