By any standards, 1999 was an important year. It was the last of the old millennium and depending on whether you subscribed to rumours of a certain bug, the last ever. It was the icing on the cake of a sweet decade, one of relative international stability, progress and the promise of a better future.
The dot com bubble had yet to burst, reality TV was a new and exciting social experiment and the phrase credit crunch reminded us of cereal, not global economic catastrophe.
Pigs, and birds for that matter, didn’t get the flu.
Yet in the harsh light of 2009, are those dreams still palatable? Can we still boogie like we did back then this new years? Post 9/11, post Facebook and Twitter, as the stars of yesteryear enter rehab, the question is, can we still party like it’s 1999, or has the world simply changed too much?
Personally, I can’t really party like I did then.
Mainly because I was 12, so partying for me involved S Club 7, birthday cake without calorie guilt and party bags.
S Club 7 are of course no more, a distant memory except on cheese-infested student nights when the moves from their hit Reach are invariably resurrected. Still, if we wanted to party like we did back then, we’d probably have pop music as our soundtrack.
1999 was the year Britney and Christina burst on to the scene, permanently changing preteen girls into the preternaturally glamorous, adult-shocking bunch they are today. It is them we have to thank for the current crop of Miley Cyruses, even more savvy and stylized than their predecessors.
But back in 1999 shaved heads, dirrrty outfits and snogging Madonna were mere specks on the horizon. . .
Other chart toppers of that year were Eminem, Jennifer Lopez and Backstreet Boys. Lopez has matured well, a regular in the fashion pages, but let us not forget the misguided “Bennifer” phase. As teen idols the Boys have been supplanted by a new class of heartthrobs, presided over by the likes of Robert Pattinson. Only Eminem has enjoyed musical success this year.
While pop might have dominated the music scene, the movie world was much more serious a business. Shakespeare in Love won 7 Oscars as Gwyneth sobbed, not realizing that a decade on she’d be shedding tears for naming her firstborn after a fruit.
Meanwhile as the millennium drew near, Hollywood, then as now was trotting out critically panned remakes. Think Star Wars in 1999 and Terminator or Star Trek this year. Just as in 2009, Bond was fighting baddies in 1999’s The World is Not Enough.
Though Daniel Craig’s unreconstructed renegade is martinis apart from Pierce Brosnan’s charming goody-two-shoes.
And like today, one of the best films of the year was animated, as Toy Story 2 charmed audiences worldwide. Despite challenges over the decade from DreamWorks (Shrek) Disney Pixar is still delivering, with Up tipped at Cannes as a must-see.
The small screen was a different place a decade ago. Apart from being the year Spongebob Squarepants first aired – imagine, a world without a talking sponge – 1999 saw the birth of television diamonds like the West Wing and the Sopranos.
1999 also brought us Big Brother, which for Britain has meant the rise and fall of Jade Goody and successive summers when audiences were reduced to staring at a boiling kettle for entertainment.
Meanwhile, on the news that year we saw fighting from Kosovo to the Congo. It’s easy to remember the past through rose coloured spectacles, but it seems fair to say the decade just gone has been a transformational in international politics. Back then pundits mostly speculated on a peaceful future; today they ruminate over a nuclear Iran and North Korea, a resurgent Russia and the revival of far right parties across Europe.
Green issues were still only on the fringe, while the Columbine shootings brought teenage violence to the centre of the political debate. The Euro made ever closer European union seem more likely.
Our leaders have changed too. Obama was barely in politics in 1999 and Sarah Palin was busy running after moose, not running for national office. Gone are the old guard of Chirac, Schroder and Blair, for better or worse.
In some ways, 1999 was the tip of the iceberg, a Cassandra for the next decade.
Napster, the original music downloading site, debuted, paving the way both for the legal (Spotify) and the not-so-legal (thePirateBay). Apple released the first iBook, anticipating the iPhone’s 2009 dominance, while the social lives of millions of teenagers were altered forever with the arrival of MSN messenger.
Technology was already revolutionary in 1999. Yet I wonder how many of us then could have anticipated a world where our home movies are regularly posted on YouTube, we upload photos for the world to see on Facebook and, via Twitter, daily learn what Ashton Kutcher had for breakfast.
So much more has changed since then. The books we read, the sporting heroes we admire, the clothes we wear (anyone remember those hideous trouser-skirts?).
The world didn’t spontaneously combust, or whatever it was supposed to do, as the clock struck twelve on December 31st 1999, but it did mark a new era.
Can we still party like it’s 1999? Probably not.
Like the calorie laden cake I guiltlessly ate at age twelve, the songs, films and events of that year belong to a more innocent time.
Separated by seconds, the nineties and the noughties now seem worlds apart.
Of course, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to. I’m off to watch season one of West Wing, listen to Hit Me Baby One More Time and chat on MSN…
This originally appeared on Running in Heels