‘Top Pop’ Timeline: 25 Years Of Mainstream Music Madness

What a long, strange two-and-a-half decades of music-making it’s been! From the grunge rock-inspired flannel shirt movement to the popularization of gangsta rap, we’ve seen everything from Bret Michaels to the Backstreet Boys to the Black Eyed Peas. And in honor of MTV’s Top Pop Group kicking off next week (September 11th, 9pm!) we’ve decided to take you on a short but semi-educational stroll down pop culture memory lane.

First there was the early-mid 80′s, characterized by awkward techno-infused pop (think Devo’s “Whip It” and Soft Cell‘s “Tainted Love”), linebacker-esque shoulder pads and Madonna in her pre-Kabbalah/I-heart-conical-bras phase.

Then it’s onto the late 80′s, a decade marked by hair bands (like Journey and Motley Crue) surgically enhanced one-gloved wonders (hint, hint, Michael Jackson), and the emergence of the compact disc, (or “CD”).

And who could forget the early 90′s? The proliferation of MC Hammer-inspired parachute pants, the angsty grunge rockers (Kurt Cobain, The Offspring, Beck) who made a fortune off hating life, and the way Dangerous Minds made Coolio Michelle Pfeiffer synonymous with gangsta rap?


Or the sudden influx of pop groups (The Spice Girls! The Backstreet Boys!), the Birkenstock-wearing ladies of Lilith Fair and the Crappy, Mid-Decade Dance Era (ushered in by tone deaf pioneers Ace of Base and The Real McCoy)?

And, of course, the turn of the millennium, when Christina Aguilera was prancing around in her I Dream of Genie costume, and the reigning prince and princess of pop (Brillo-headed Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears), were EVEN BIGGER than the Jonas Brothers — who, incidentally, were still (practically) in diapers.

All of which brings us up to the past five years or so, which gave us Ashlee Simpson’s lip-syncing scandal, the White Stripes, the jack-o-lantern formerly known as Clay Aiken and enough Hannah Montana lunch boxes to plug up the Grand Canyon AND save Darfur in one fell swoop.

+ Think you’re ready for the world’s next pop sensation? Check out the cast bios on the MTV’s Top Pop Group site and see if you can guess which performers will walk home with $100K and a permanent place in pop culture history.