Written by Angelo Gingerelli
25 Pop Culture Moments That Turn 25 This Year
You wanna feel old?
Pop Break’s Angelo Gingerelli has put together a list of 25 pop culture moments that turn 25 this year. Yes, these all took place in 1992 — which to some of us — feel like a lifetime ago, and for some of our staff…it happened before they were born.
So sit back, enjoy a Crystal Clear Pepsi, and enjoy this list of 25 moments from music, television, film, politics, sports, and the world that happened 25 years ago.
1. Alternative to What?
Nirvana’s 1991 album Nevermind pushed alternative rock into the mainstream, but 1992 saw massive pop success by new “grunge” bands like Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden, while college radio vets REM, U2 and the Red Hot Chili Peppers hit the charts and stadium circuit. The year was also good to niche bands like Nine Inch Nails, Primus and The Cure as they all experienced arguably the best year of their respective careers. The term “Alternative Rock” has always been questionable, but as it dominated the pop culture landscape in ’92 it became an outright laughable title.
2. I Like Big Butts…and apparently so does everybody else.
Few songs have had the cultural impact of Sir Mix-A-Lot’s ode to big booties…“Baby Got Back.” The song maintains its ubiquity 25 years after it was released and is often recited line-for-line by people that were not born yet when the iconic video hit airwaves. While few can argue that the theme of accepting women of all body types is positive, the song’s impact has been good (Beyonce, King Magazine), bad (The Kardashians, Iggy Azalea) and ugly (buttocks augmentation surgery and the cottage industry of unlicensed surgeons botching the procedure sometimes leading to death). When Sir Mix-A-Lot proclaimed “I like big butts and I cannot lie…” it was an almost radical idea, twenty-five years later it’s pretty much the norm.
3. The Beastie Boys Find Themselves
The Beastie Boys had an indelible impact on the 80’s as they introduced Hip-Hop to a generation of suburban kids with their hard partying frat boy version of the genre on 1986’s Licensed To Ill and redefined themselves on the sample-heavy Paul’s Boutique in 1989, but it was 92’s Check Your Head that will be remembered as the Beastie’s album that defined who they would be for the next 20 years. The record mixed rapping, samples, live instrumentation, turntablism, inside jokes and various musical influences into the blueprint for the mash-up aesthetic that would dominate pop-culture throughout the 90’s.
Also in mash-ups: Political rap/rock band Rage Against the Machine release their first album. Lollapalooza has a second successful summer run, establishing itself as one of the premier festivals of the ’90s.
4. The Battle to Make People Jump
In the spring of ’92 two unlikely rap groups had hits about and unlikely topic.. jumping. Kris Kross (two teenagers in backwards clothing) with “Jump,” and House of Pain (a trio of Irish hooligans) with “Jump Around” dominated spring break mixtapes. Both groups seemed like one-hit-wonders, but the success of Kris Kross lead to an incredibly successful career for their producer (and eventual music industry mogul) Jermaine Dupri and his So So Def Records and House of Pain have been consistently critically and commercially relevant since their debut (See ThePopBreak’s breakdown of HOP’s Career Here.
5. Dr. Dre Goes Undercover…and Brings a Friend
By the summer of ’92 NWA had broken up and Dr. Dre was ready to start the next chapter of his career with a new record label, a new sidekick and a single on the Deep Cover soundtrack. “Deep Cover (187)” was a huge hit, introduced the world to both Snoop Doggy Dogg and Death Row Records and proved that The Good Doctor wasn’t done just yet.
6. Hair Metal’s Last Hurrah
The end of the Hair Metal era started with the release of Nirvana’s Nevermind in the fall of 1991, but it was 1992 that saw the demise of the most popular subgenre of the ’80s. Metallica and Guns N’ Roses embarked on a co-headlining stadium tour that ended with GNR going on an extended (20+ years) hiatus and Metallica remaining a favorite of their fanatical fan base, but no longer the crossover hit makers they were with 91’s Metallica album. Also, ’80s favorites Motley Crue, Def Leppard, Poison, Billy Idol and others would all start their decline from stadium headliners to state fairgrounds and nostalgia tours.
7. Mariah Unplugs
In the early 90’s there were several pop vocalists battling for the title of ultimate diva of the decade, but Mariah Carey put herself firmly at the head of the class with her MTV Unplugged special and EP. The collection featured stripped down, acoustic versions of the hits from her first two albums and a cover of The Jackson 5 classic “I’ll Be There” that also charted. Mariah was already on the road to superstardom when Unplugged was released, but this performance immediately put her on track to be one of the biggest artists of the ’90s.
8. FIGHT at the Arcade!!!
In videogame circles 1992 will forever be remembered as the year when arcades got violent…in a good way. Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat both debuted and were immediate game changers in the arcade landscape. Both games featured one-on-one fighting and elaborate combinations that would allow skilled players to string attacks together for entertaining signature moves that would often attract crowds. As arcades became increasingly obsolete both franchises easily made the transition to home consoles and online play and remain popular today.
9. Sega Doubles Down with Sonic The Hedgehog 2
After getting trounced by Nintendo in the ’80s Sega came out swinging for the fences with the 16-bit Sega Genesis. The system had mind blowing graphics for the era, a steady flow of great software and a mascot that could rival Nintendo’s Mario with Sonic the Hedgehog. The first game (1991) was a hit, but it was the sequel that cemented Sega as the premier video game company of the early ’90s. Many of Sonic’s adventures haven’t aged as well as Mario’s trips to the Mushroom Kingdom, but there’s a generation of kids that will always believe “Sega does what Nintendon’t.”
10. Mr. Brown, Mr. Pink, Mr. Blonde…
A young Quentin Tarantino made his debut with this explosive heist movie that would introduce the brand of storytelling he would produce for the next twenty-five years. His mixture of unsavory characters, extreme violence, pop culture dialogue, classic songs and non-linear action would influence a generation of film makers and make a legion of fans eagerly await every Tarantino release.
11. There’s No Crying in Baseball
This sports movie about a women’s baseball league during WWII is a funny and entertaining film that showcased great performances from Madonna, Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Lori Petty and Rosie O’Donnell. Also, if anybody says Madonna’s “This Used To Be My Playground” doesn’t bring a tear to their eye…they are lying.
12. Two Yout’s Get In Trouble In the Deep South
Joe Pesci’s funniest role. The introduction of Marisa Tomei. The best Ralph Machio movie that doesn’t involve sweeping the leg. Lines that are still quoted twenty five years later like “Two Youts” and “Are you on drugs Mr. Gambini?” and the culture shock of New Yorkers in a sleepy southern town made My Cousin Vinny one of the best comedies of the early 90’s that still holds up today.
Little Known Fact: In 1998 Joe Pesci released an entire album as his character from the movie called Vincent LaGuardia Gambini Sings The Blues and it is exactly as great as it sounds. It’s available now on streaming services and 100% worth your time.
13. Tim Burton Returns
Tim Burton took a second swing at the Batman franchise with this darker and more villain centered sequel to his 1989 blockbuster. The film was fairly well received by critics and fans but universally disliked by parents that thought the very grown-up versions of Danny DeVito’s Penquin and Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman were not suited for young children. Regardless of your thoughts in ’92 almost everybody agrees that Batman Returns holds up infinitely better than either of the subsequent sequels.
14. Woody Harrelson Can’t Jump
Wesley Snipes, Woody Harrelson and Rosie Perez all contribute stellar performances to one of the strongest sports comedies of all time. The movie is still constantly referenced 25 years later and the footwear Harrelson sports for most of the movie are still called the “Billy Hoyle’s” in sneaker circles.
15. Three Wishes…
Disney has dominated animated features for close to a century, but Aladdin stands as one of their all-time greats. State-of-the-art animation, great voice acting, compelling characters and a story that’s entertaining to both adults and kids combine to make it one of the best movies in Disney’s incredible catalog.
Little Known Fact: The Aladdin game for the Sega Genesis still stands as one of the best movie tie-in games of all time.
16. Party Time! Excellent!
Movies based on Saturday Night Live characters have been sketchy (sketchy…get it?) at best, but ’92s Wayne’s World is nearly universally accepted as one of the best SNL movies of all time. Great performances from Mike Meyers and Dana Carvey, odd celebrity cameos, catch phrases that are still quoted today and a plot about two heavy metal obsessed teenagers with a cable access show make Wayne’s World a great time capsule of the era and one of the funniest movies of the decade.
17. The Dream Team
Before the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona the United States sent the best amateur players in the world to compete on the world’s stage. Following a few disappointing runs in the ’80s the US decided to unleash the big dogs and let NBA players compete for Olympic Gold.
The NBA was so flush with talent in the early 90’s that this squad is universally accepted as the best team ever assembled. Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird were the “Big Three” and all-time greats like Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, John Stockton and Charles Barkley were the “role players” on a team that embarrassed the rest of the world and won games by scores so lopsided they seemed more like the Globetrotters playing the hapless Washington Generals than actual Olympic level competition.
18. Dan vs. Dave
In the early ’90s Reebok and Nike were battling for the hearts, feet and wallets of athletes with a sneaker battle for the ages. Nike had a strong foothold in the training world with their “Air” technology and Air Max and Trainer SC (aka The Bo Jacksons) lines, but Reebok battled back with The Pump, Pre-Season and Ventilator lines.
Leading up to the 1992 Olympic Games Reebok launched one of their most comprehensive campaigns with “Dan vs. Dave” that followed decathletes Dan O’Brien and Dave Johnson on their road to Barcelona. Unfortunately, O’Brien failed to qualify for the games and Reebok and the commercials became a popular punchline.
19. A Dynasty Begins
The 1992 NFL season saw the beginning of the Dallas Cowboys early 90’s dynasty. The combination of owner Jerry Jones, Head Coach Jimmy Johnson and players Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin and Emmit Smith (among dozens of other greats) started their run of dominating the league that would lead to three Super Bowl Championships in four years and multiple Cowboys from the era on their way to the Hall of Fame.
20. Seven Strangers Stop Being Polite and Start Getting Real
It’s hard to believe, but at one point “Reality TV” didn’t dominate the television landscape. In the spring of ’92 MTV picked seven strangers, put them in an NYC apartment and filmed what happened when people stopped being polite and started getting real. The first season established the prototype characters that would become common on reality shows – the hunk (Eric Nies), the sheltered young adult (Julie), the aspiring musician (Heather B), etc. over the next twenty five years. The initial season of The Real World wasn’t the biggest television hit of 1992, but it’s hard to argue any show had a similar impact.
21. Seinfeld Changes the Game
Seinfeld’s fourth season started in the summer of ’92 and even though the show was a cult hit for the previous three seasons, this is when the sitcom really hit its’ stride. A move to Thursday nights and episodes like “The Bubble Boy” “The Contest” and “The Junior Mint” helped the show become the ultimate in Friday morning water cooler talk and transition from modest success to cultural phenomenon.
22. You So Crazy…
After a successful run on Def Comedy Jam, Martin Lawrence moved from stand-up to sitcom with his self-titled hit show. The exploits of Martin, Gina, Tommy, Pam, Cole, Shenehneh, Hustleman, Bruhman and the rest of the Detroit crew were both laugh-out-loud funny (always) and heartwarming (sometimes) and helped the fledgling Fox network compete with their more established counterparts even if we never found out what Tommy did for a living.
23. Cop Killer
Rapper/Actor Ice-T starts a speed metal band called Body Count as a side project.
- Body Count release a self-titled debut album with the track “Cop Killer” which tells the story of a man fed up with police brutality going on a killing spree of police officers.
- Controversy ensues including involvement from The White House, Police Unions and Time Warner Music.
- Ice-T eventually relents and removes the song from future pressings of the album.
- The situation starts endless debates about freedom of speech, artistic expression, the role of law enforcement, corporate responsibility and Hip-Hop culture.
- Twenty Five Years Later – All of the questions raised by “Cop Killer” are still widely debated and Ice-T continues to release music with Body Count while playing a police officer on Law & Order: SVU.
24. LA Riots
Following the acquittal of the police officers videotaped beating motorist Rodney King, Los Angeles erupts in rioting, looting, destruction of property and loss of lives. Sadly, the conditions that lead to the ’92 riots are largely unchanged in the last 25 years and with the prevalence of camera phones and social media the question of police officers using excessive or even deadly force is arguably more debated today than it was in the early ’90s.
25. And The Winner Is…
The 2016 election of Donald Trump may eventually be viewed as the biggest circus in US Presidential Election history, but 1992 set the bar pretty high when it came to turning politics into entertainment. Here are just a few of the factors that made the ’92 election one for the ages: the last incumbent president to not get reelected (George Bush Sr.), an independent candidate (Ross Perot) that had a legitimate chance in November, the involvement of MTV and Rock The Vote to mobilize young voters, the introduction of a First Lady (Hillary Clinton) that would be a major political player in her own right for the next twenty five years and a winning candidate (Bill Clinton) that would play the saxophone on The Arsenio Hall Show, admit to smoking marijuana (but not inhaling), eventually face impeachment over a sex scandal and have to answer “Boxers or Briefs?” on national television.