Each week, through my Somewhere in Time column, I hop in my GIF-y DeLorean and travel back to a moment in our pop-culture past to reevaluate just what we as a nation thought was good. This time out, our course is charted for September 9, 2005, the week that How I Met Your Mother debuted. Yes, we’ve already reached the acceptance stage of How I Met Your Mother grief in the wake of the tragic, last-season-dismissing final episode, and we’re just a few months away from the spinoff that CBS has hastily retitled How I Met Your Father Who Is in the Next Room and Is Perfectly Healthy — Why Do You Ask? But I’ll argue that we can’t truly achieve HIMYM closure until … we sift through the Billboard top 40 chart at when Ted, Barney, et al., entered our worlds. Put on your best trucker cap and let’s dig through some mid-aughts hits, shall we?
40. Toby Keith, “As Good As I Once Was”
We all beat up on Guy Fieri, and we should; he’s a Troll doll made of spicy ranch dressing and he is not headed so much for a heart attack as a thing where his whole body explodes like the Death Star. But let’s not forget: Toby Keith owns a restaurant chain called Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill, where you can order such mouth-drying specialities as These Damn Nachos, the Should’ve Been a Cowboy Burger, and the She’s a Hottie Melt. You can really taste the pandering.
39. Foo Fighters, “Best of You”
In the great patchwork quilt that is America, we differ in religion, in political belief, in culture, in cuisine, in favorite member of the newly reunited O-Town. But perhaps the one thing we can all agree on is that it’s bananas that Prince covered this song at the Super Bowl Halftime Show.
38. Rob Thomas, “Lonely No More”
Not bad, but everyone knows “Streetcorner Symphony” is the crucial Rob Thomas jam.
37. Pretty Ricky, “Grind With Me”
36. Pretty Ricky, “Your Body”
September 2005 was the month of Pretty Ricky, who, if you’ve forgotten — which you have — are a they and not a he. They were a by-the-numbers aughts R&B group whose members boasted the most ridiculous showbiz names this side of GWAR. In fact, in the Friday Forty, the live sketch-comedy game show Scott Gimple and I launched at right around this time, we had a category called Member of Pretty Ricky, or Racehorse? Play it yourself (answers below):
a. Tiz Dynamic
b. Pleasure P
c. Slick ‘Em
d. Ay Ay Ay
e. Luckbox Sam
g. Papa’s Flashy Girl
h. Baby Blue
35. The Killers, “Mr. Brightside”
2005 was a difficult time for what had once been called “alternative music.” The stations that had proudly played the Flaming Lips and the Butthole Surfers a decade before were now stuck in a “modern rock” format that by now had come to mean Staind, Trapt, Disturbed, Cold, and other adjectives by which hostages describe themselves. Meanwhile, the really exciting, really alternative music of the time, your Hold Steadys and Mountain Goats and Art Bruts, was now called indie music and was back to never being played on the radio. The world had returned to its pre-Nirvana state. One of the rare indie breakouts of 2005 were the Killers, whom at the time I found too Coachella for my taste. Plus, that front man. That pretty front man with the lips and the arena-rock moves and the ridiculous name. No thanks.
I didn’t give them a fair shake until I saw them live at last year’s Life Is Beautiful festival and had what I am comfortable calling a religious conversion experience. Sweet Jesus Lord, these guys are good live. Brandon Flowers is 1979 Springsteen, a Latin pop star, and an Osmond all rolled up into one rock god superhero, and I am now a fan for life and possibly Mormon.
34. Shakira, “La Tortura”
But in 2005, I was going to a Catholic church that was good for many things, primarily celebrity sightings. They were mostly older celebs, this being church and all, but there were exceptions: Mark Wahlberg never missed a Sunday, and every now and then I’d see Shakira. She and her boyfriend would grab a pew behind a massive pillar, so nobody would see them. Get over yourself, Shakira, I thought. Wahlberg and I are the only people here under 60, and we’ll leave you be. I later found out that her boyfriend was the son of one of Colombia’s deposed presidents (they were going through about three a week at this time) and was as such a target for assassins and kidnappers. They hid to protect us! I am a Shakira fan and a Catholic for life.
33. Kelly Clarkson, “Since U Been Gone”
Though I have not yet broken into the chorus of this song while dramatically swinging open a set of double doors, it is absolutely on my to-do list.
32. Ying Yang Twins, “Badd”
When you start your career with “Wait till you see my dick,” you give yourself absolutely nowhere to go from there. You have to build to a “wait till you see my dick.” It is what philosophers have come to refer to as “The Ying Yang Conundrum.”
31. 50 Cent, “Outta Control”
This whole thing of having to pronounce it “Fiddy Cent” is up there with Korn’s backwards R, Pink’s exclamation point, and KD Lang’s lowercases in the annals of Things I Cannot Abide.
30. Hilary Duff, “Wake Up”
2005 was peak time for celebrity-themed competition reality shows, and in an echo of Anne Robinson’s tart and timeless “You are the weakest link, good-bye,” each one had its own bitchy, pithy send-off line. The Apprentice: Martha Stewart gave us its Marthappropriate “You just don’t fit it.” I Want to Be a Hilton cast its wannabes off with a curt “You’re not on the list.” So when it was announced that INXS would be looking for a new lead singer via CBS, my friends and I were determined to predict Rock Star’s send-off phrase. “You are not the one thing?” “Mediate, eliminate?” “We don’t need you tonight?” It was a tableful of comedians and pop-culture obsessives wracking our beer-addled brains for a good hour before Ben, the shy musician I’d just started dating, piped up: “You choked.” Oh, I thought, I’m gonna keep this one around. (For the record, they went with “You’re just not right for our band, INXS. Thank you,” which didn’t really enter the vernacular the way they might have hoped.)
29. Brad Paisley, “Alcohol”
It took less time for Brad Paisley to write this song than it did for me to write this sentence. This should be called “Country Music Song: Variation B.”
28. Papa Roach, “Scars”
Papa Roach’s breakout hit “Last Resort” contained the lyric “mutilation — out of sight!” And yet they were allowed to continue recording. Oy. Papa Roach, you’re just not right for my band, INXS. Thank you.
27. Green Day, “Holiday”
Also debuting this season were Freddie, produced by and starring Freddie Prinze Jr.; Emily’s Reasons Why Not, which starred Heather Graham and lasted one episode; and Kitchen Confidential, an ill-fated sitcom-ization of Anthony Bourdain’s book starring a young, barely known Bradley Cooper. These were also the last moments of the WB and UPN, who would merge into the CW next season, leaving classics like Sex, Love & Secrets, Cuts, and Pepper Dennis homeless.
26. Black Eyed Peas, “Don’t Phunk With My Heart”
BEP have three songs on this chart, and these two demonstrate the best and catchiest they can be …
24. Natasha Bedingfield, “These Words”
A few months back, Natasha was a presenter at one of the three hundred country-music awards shows they air on network TV, and Ben sighed and said — with honest-to-God solemnity — “There is just no telling where Natasha Bedingfield is going to turn up next.”
23. Fat Joe, “Get It Poppin’”
Also this year, The Comeback aired its one and only season on HBO. At the time, I simply could not watch it. As someone who was at the time debasing himself in auditions on the daily, it was too true, too painful. Imagine watching Friday the 13th over and over, and also your roommate always wears hockey masks. Anyway, I just watched the whole thing, and it’s pretty much the best. Recently there’s been talk of giving the show another season, and I am deeply in favor. What would Valerie Cherish be doing now? My guess is she’d be the lead in a Client List–style basic-cable hand job drama.
22. Gwen Stefani, “Hollaback Girl”
Another back-to-back, compare-and-contrast situation, displaying Gwen at her culture-appropriatin’ worst …
21. Gwen Stefani, “Cool”
… and her relaxed, New Wave best. I had the pleasure of working with Ms. Stefani once, and I am pleased to report that she is laid-back and down-to-earth, a straight-up joy to be with. This was around 2000, when I was suffering from a touch of post-diva traumatic stress disorder (some of those famous children were rough, y’all) and at the end of our shoot, I shook Gwen’s hand and said something to the effect of “Thank you so much for not being awful.” Amazingly, we did not stay in touch.
20. Destiny’s Child, “Cater 2 U”
After Beyoncé’s Super Bowl performance, when there was a blackout in the stadium for a few minutes, I tweeted “Whoops — Michelle tripped over the light cord.” And that was the day I learned about Black Twitter.
19. Kanye West, “Gold Digger”
Remember when you could just listen to a Kanye West album and not have to assemble a panel to debate its significance?
18. Gorillaz, “Feel Good Inc.”
As for me, in 2005, I was co-hosting a show for Court TV. Actually, it wasn’t so much a show as it was a series of 15-second bumpers that the network would place between their Saturday night true-crime docu-shows and their commercial breaks. It was called The Saturday Night Solution, and suddenly I was being recognized in the grocery store by middle-aged women pushing carts of Lean Cuisines.
17. Ludacris, “Pimpin’ All Over the World”
For a 15-second show, there was an enormous amount of fuss. First of all, the folks at Turner wanted to be able to supervise, so we shot it in Atlanta. Then, we’d dither over my wardrobe endlessly: Is this sport coat too casual? Would I wear a tie? Is stubble alienating? Then I had a female co-host (former VH1 VJ Kristen Eykel, who is the best) and our relationship would require definition: Are we supposed to be platonic roommates, like Bert & Ernie? Married? Friends who flirt (like Bert & Ernie)? Each network executive had a passionately held opinion, and each one would tell it to you in detail. And then the cameras would roll and we’d be like: “We’ll be right back with more Forensic Files, so stay tuned,” and that would be that.
16. David Banner, “Play”
Have you heard the dirty version of this song? I did once, and I very nearly ran my car off the road. Even the clean version — with its ridiculous conceit that it’s about getting a woman to go jogging — makes me want to get tested for hepatitis.
15. Green Day, “Wake Me Up When September Ends”
September is a terrible month for movies, and 2005 was a terrible year for movies. (Star Wars Episode 3 came out, and Crash won Best Picture. I will say no more.) This week’s releases included The Exorcism of Emily Rose, and the timeless Samuel L. Jackson–Eugene Levy mistaken-identity buddy fart vehicle The Man. This was also the week that Brokeback Mountain premiered at the Venice Film Festival and pretty much salvaged the year for me. But you know what’s weird? Here’s what’s weird: I saw Brokeback Mountain opening weekend at the Grove here in L.A. in a packed theater full of eager gay men. And during any kissing/hugging/boning scene, the place erupted in giggles. Giggles! We were so unaccustomed to seeing physical love between two men onscreen that when we saw it — US! People who wanted to do physical love things to other men! — most of us were so uncomfortable we behaved like seventh graders. Like Valerie Cherish herself, we didn’t want to see that. This isn’t even nine years ago, what I’m talking about. We’ve come a long way, babies.
14. Black Eyed Peas, “Don’t Lie”
Black Eyed Peas, back in the day when a Black Eyed Peas song would start one way and then continue and finish that way.
13. Weezer, “Beverly Hills”
The winner of this week’s coveted I Don’t Want to Talk About It award.
12. Fall Out Boy, “Sugar We’re Goin’ Down”
In another early Friday Forty, we read a series of clever titles, and asked our contestants: Song From the New Fall Out Boy Album, or Essay by Erma Bombeck? Play:
a. Reinventing the Wheel to Run Over Myself
b. I Lost Everything in the Post-Natal Depression
c. Champagne for My Real Friends, Real Pain for My Sham Friends
d. If Life Is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits?
e. The Grass Is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank
f. When You Look Like Your Passport Photo (It’s Time to Go Home)
g. The Ties That Bind … and Gag
h. The Carpal Tunnel of Love
11. Click Five, “Just The Girl”
The Click Five are up there with Taxiride, Swirl 360, and even late BBMak (there is such a thing as late BBMak) on the list of super-telegenic power-pop acts that somehow failed to catch on. (Jason Falkner sits atop this list, and forever shall.)
10. D.H.T., “Listen to Your Heart”
What kept the Saturday Night Solution on the air was our usefulness to Court TV’s ad sales department. We could do on-camera ads, like Ed McMahon used to do for Alpo on The Tonight Show, making us what the bean-counters called “a value-add.” So once or twice a show, we’d do a segment where, for example, I’d be furiously tearing through our cabinets, my co-host would ask what I was doing, and I’d say: “My cereal has the great taste of Cheerios, but it has the hearty crunch of whole grain. Like tonight’s episode of Body of Evidence: From the Case Files of Dayle Hinman, this must be a case of mistaken identity!” I would drink a very, very large amount of whiskey after these shoot days. (For the record, the hearty crunch was no mistake: It was Whole Grain Cheerios in my bowl the whole time.)
9. Kelly Clarkson, “Behind These Hazel Eyes”
Listen, Kelly: You are a goddess and an inspiration, but what the hell are you wearing in this video? It’s like you’re in some kind of Adam Ant cosplay segment on Real Sex. Stop it.
8. Lifehouse, “You and Me”
The CW didn’t even exist, and yet this song was already running under its young-love montages.
7. Bow Wow, “Like You”
Fashion-wise, it always feels like the end of time, right? Like we’re finished evolving? You never look at yourself in the mirror and think that what you’re wearing will seem dated. It probably seemed that way to Ciara and Bow Wow here, but I think we can all agree that her head-wrap and his tank top are completely, irredeemably 2005.
6. Rihanna, “Pon de Replay”
Needless to say, I wrote Rihanna off as another Diana King, another Lumidee with an even less likely name. And here we are nearly a decade and a billion singles later, wishing she would dial it back just a tiny bit.
5. Bow Wow, “Let Me Hold You”
Short cornrows. Bikini tops with boots. Basketball jerseys over $400 jeans. The hip-hop community was crying for help in 2005. Why wouldn’t we listen?
4. Missy Elliott, “Lose Control”
By this point, Missy was well known for her peculiar, asexual, slightly off-putting videos, but Christ almighty: The video for “Lose Control” will straight up give you nightmares. It’s the Ringu of hip-hop videos. Don’t watch alone.
3. Pussycat Dolls, “Don’t Cha”
We had high hopes for PCD, didn’t we? The mid-aughts were a hopeful time all the way around: Nicole Scherzinger, Wonder Showzen, Carlos Mencia, Hot Hot Heat, Current TV. They all had such promise! Put it this way: The cover story of this issue of Billboard was “Catch Reggaeton Fever!” And then buried in tiny print on page 12: “Apple Appears Poised For iPod Phone Launch.”
2. Mariah Carey, “Shake It Off”
This one has my favorite Mariah lyric of all time: “Just like that Calgon commercial, I gotta get up outta here and go somewhere.” Remember that Calgon commercial from the ’80s? When a tense working mom would raise her hands to the god of lady-products and say: “Calgon, I gotta get up outta here and go somewhere!” (Actually, that commercial is worth a second look; there’s a moment when you really do believe sister could snap.)
1. Mariah Carey, “We Belong Together”
Incredibly, this is Billboard’s top song of the entire decade. Its unbelievable success led to much more staccato-singing from ol’ Mimi, which led to “Touch My Body,” which led to the video that can brighten even my darkest day, so even though the song leaves me cold, I must acknowledge its significance in my life.
(Answers: b, c, f, and h are members of Pretty Ricky; a, c, and g are Fall Out Boy songs.)