Big Shiny Tunes 2, the famous Canadian music compilation primarily made of non-Canadian music, turns 16 later this year. We decided to see how well our favourite elementary school jams hold up.
Believe it or not, Big Shiny Tunes 2 is the 3rd best selling album in Canadian history, and this December it will be celebrating its Super Sweet 16th Birthday. If you’re not familiar with this spectacular album, it was the second (no kidding) installment in a musical compilation series by the Canadian music television giant MuchMusic. When it was released in 1997, Napster didn’t exist and people hadn’t even heard of MiniDisc players. It was an era where a compilation of songs on a CD from a variety of artists was actually an exciting prospect, and consumers would make a day out of traveling to the mall to spend $20 on an album that only contained one song that they liked. I remember playing all of Big Shiny Tunes 2 on loop early on in grade school, while hunting down my wiener friends with a RCP90 on Goldeneye 64.
Between this album and the Godzilla soundtrack (shout outs to Jamiroquai, surely you’re holding it down out there with your silly hat and your dancing, wherever you are) there has never been a compilation in the history of music that has ever come close to Big Shiny Tunes 2. After remembering the greatness of this musical milestone, I decided to dust off my copy of the album and see how each track holds up to the incredibly high standards of music in 2013. And so, it begins.
The Prodigy – Breathe
This song reminds me of a kid I knew in grade five named Josh. Josh was the awkward kid who just moved to our town, and had high hopes of performing at the Grammys with the Spice Girls that very year, which he reminded us of constantly. When he tried to make new friends his icebreaker was always: "Have you heard ‘Breathe’ by The Prodigy?" which no one really had at the time. Josh was a trendsetter.
To entertain us, he would then sing the entire song at recess, acapella, and throw his Philadelphia Flyers baseball hat around the field. I've had a soft spot for this song ever since. I miss you Josh.
Blur - Song 2
OH SHIT! It's called “Song 2” and it's the second song on this compilation? GOD DAMN that can't be a coincidence. Some brilliant son of a bitch at MuchMusic Headquarters knew exactly what they were doing. Hopefully that person is billionaire now.
This song is still played all the time. Last weekend, I spent a night at the Mod Club in Toronto and they played this track like it was hot off of the presses. Every dude in the place wearing a club-ready sparkly dragon shirt and a matching sports jacket lost their shit and really got into it. That night ruined this song for me.
Third Eye Blind - Semi Charmed Life
This song is about crystal meth. A lot of people don't know that but look it up. So, this ironically bubbly pop song is really just about some guy’s dark descent into a crystal meth addiction. After knowing that, I'm down with this track. Imagine a montage set to this song, of some addict lighting up some crystal meth in a crack den, then cut to his afternoon of thievery where he's having the time of his life breaking glass windows and stealing crack pipes and blankets. All the while this song is stuck in his head. That makes me smile.
Smash Mouth - Walking on the Sun
Is it possible to listen to this song in 2013 and not picture Guy Fieri singing it while the lead singer of Smashmouth gulps down eggs for charity? With Guy Fieri on the mic, how can anyone ever hate this song? If you ever wanted to bleach your facial hair in the mirror, this is the song to do it to. Or maybe you're more the type to shave a tribal design into your head? Either way, this jam is for sitting back, mouthing the words, and throwing up the rock-on horns. Arguably the most timeless classic on Big Shiny Tunes 2.
Sugar Ray - Fly (ft. Supercat)
Did anyone else see Mark McGrath on Celebrity Apprentice? The guy is actually awesome. MeatLoaf would be having one of his regular meltdowns, and Mark would just come in and be like "Meat, it's going to be okay bro. Just ignore Gary Busey.” That's quality television right there. But at the same time, I picture longboarders editing one of their underwhelming video parts to this song so, much like “Song 2,” it's ruined for me now.
Bran Van 3000 - Drinking in LA
This is one of the few songs on Big Shiny Tunes 2 that people still admit to loving unironically. I went to LA for the first time recently, and was warned about how girls aren't that attractive there. It's California, why wouldn't there be attractive women? I thought maybe my friends telling me that just had a picky taste in women and weren't into botoxed Barbies, which is fair. But they were right, LA actually doesn't have that many good-looking women. Maybe that's what inspired this song. Also as a sidenote, my friend saw one of the guys from Bran Van 3000 do a cannonball into a pool last year during Toronto's NXNE festival, and in the process he kicked a woman's open purse into the water, nearly destroying her iPhone. Apparently she was pissed, but at least we know that the Bran Van posse still knows how to throw down.
Marilyn Manson - The Beautiful People
Remember how controversial this dude used to be? If a cat went missing or some dude got hit in the crotch with a stick in your neighbourhood, it all got blamed on Marilyn. Being a Marilyn Manson fan back then was a big deal. You could be wearing tear-away pants and a blank sweatshirt, but if you just said "I kind of like that one Marilyn Manson song," people would think you worshipped Satan. Now there isn't anyone out there stirring up this kind of controversy. Unfortunately, the only musical fad that people have to be mad about now is the Harlem Shake. What happened to us?
Holly McNarland – Numb
I don't remember ever listening to this shit. Skip.
Bush – Swallowed
A lot of people imitate that Creed singing voice when they bring up Bush. I never really thought they sounded anything like those Theory of a NickelCreed bands, but somehow they got lumped into that category. I'm not sure what the lead singer is doing now besides being married to Gwen Stefani and holding it down as a stay at home dad. Much respect to that guy. You won the life-lottery.
Matchbox Twenty – Push
This is the hype-up jam for a 90s slow dance party. I'm pretty sure I did the shimmy dance around my elementary school gym with a girl wearing Sketchers and rocking butterfly clips in her hair. It's too painful to finish this song without thinking of that beautiful moment and getting emotional. Next song.
Collective Soul - Precious Declaration
Yeah, I'm not feeling this one at all. Sorry guys. This song is so bad it kind of hurts my feelings, but I might be still upset about my Matchbox 20 nostalgia session.
The Tea Party – Temptation
I never really liked this song either, but whenever I give my cat her Temptation treats I shake the bag and sing "Temptatioonnsss, meow meow meow meow.” It lets her know that I am straight up killing it at all times.
The Chemical Brothers - Block Rockin Beats
People still listen to this type of music for some reason. It's amazing how much money people will pay to watch a DJ press a button and stand in front of their computer, while swaying around in the dark. Even dumber are the people who transcribe the lyrics for this song. It’s the same thing over and over. I’m glad I write articles about 16 year old compilation albums instead.
Wide Mouth Mason - My Own Self
This band usually plays at Wakestock, the outdoor music festival at Wasaga Beach in Ontario that’s essentially the Gathering of the Juggalos for bros who wear white sunglasses, drink Corona, and wear clothing that's labeled with alcohol brands. Let's call it the Gathering of the Juggabros. I give this song 3 Canadian flag tattoos out of 5.
Radiohead - Paranoid Android
Radiohead are one of the few bands (maybe only?) on this album who are still totally relevant. That might have something to do with a study conducted years ago that showed a link between high standardized test scores and listening to bands like Radiohead, Sufjan Stevens, and classical music. The lowest scores unfortunately were connected to everyone's favourite artist, Lil' Wayne. Someone should make a painting of Lil' Wayne and Radiohead touching fingers like "The Creation of Adam." It would probably cause world peace.
Age of Electric - Remote Control
This song isn't half bad, but judging by its view count on YouTube, Age of Electric didn't stand the test of time whatsoever. It's unfortunate, because they kind of sound like a Canadian Neutral Milk Hotel, which you might read and say, “Well, there's your answer.” But dammit, it could've been so much more. Age of Electric, if you're reading this, put on a reunion show at a sports bar with a half-price wing special. I'll probably go.
Stone Temple Pilots - Lady Picture Show
Most Stone Temple Pilots songs make me want to punt the radio out of my car in a fit of uncontrollable rage, but this one isn't half bad. Much like most influential 90's bands, the lead singer Scott Weiland had a heroin problem at one point. Maybe that's what's wrong with all of the crappy bands filling up time on the radio these days: not enough heroin. Give it a shot, you guys. You don't have much to lose.
Pat Maloney is writer for the web series Random at Best.