When you hear the phrase “#1 song in America“, what image comes to mind? I’m guessing it’s not “aggressive erections in dark clubs” because why would it be? But the most popular song in 1998 turned that concept into a certified smash.
I’m not saying raunchy songs can’t make it to #1. WAP was the most popular song in 2020 and that’s about as raunchy as it gets. But it also received a mountain of backlash from conservatives across the country who were clutching their pearls and gasping at the audacity of two women talking about their vaginas. Controversy can be just as popular as whatever boring-ass song Justin Bieber just put out but it comes at the cost of constantly having to defend yourself. Bottom line: Sex sells, controversy is compelling, and everybody loves an underdog story.
Next’s classic R&B raging boner anthem “Too Close” was an underdog hit that struck a delicate balance few songs have achieved. It was provocative, hilarious, and universally accepted. It was the most played song in 1998 and we all just went “YAY BONERS” without questioning it.
“Too Close” topped the Billboard charts in1998, sold over 2 million copies that year, and was the 16th most popular song from 1990 – 1999. It managed to accomplish all of this while unashamedly celebrating stiff dicks making women uncomfortable in dark clubs.
My Erection Means “I Love You”
in 1998, I was just entering my awkward teenage years. The time where you go to your first teen dance, grind on your crush and immediately pop a boner you could hang a wet towel on. Back then you were mocked relentlessly for pitching a tent in public. I spent many minutes in the bathroom trying to make my rock-hard pre-teen weiner shrink to no avail. When your hormones are that aggressive, not even God himself could make your penis soften.
Men were held to an impossible standard. We were expected to grind with women for hours while keeping our penises soft or we’d be labeled “creepy” and “aggressive”. It was a herculean task and we were doomed to fail.
But then Next comes along and shatters society’s expectations. They turned our uncontrollable, shameful boners and unchecked testosterone into a profession of love. Next’s lyrics, like our erections, aren’t shy about what’s happening.
All the slow songs you requested
You’re dancing like you’re naked
Oh, it’s almost like we’re sexing (oh yeah)
Yeah boo, I like it
No, I can’t deny it
But I know you can tell
I’m excited, oh girl
If that wasn’t clear enough, the chorus really lays it all out there and stops just short of saying “YOUR DANCING IS MAKING ME FULLY ERECT I WOULD LIKE TO HAEV SEX WITH YOU.”
Baby when we’re grinding
I get so excited
Ooh, how I like it
I try but I can’t fight it
Oh, your dancing real close
Plus it’s real real slow
(You know what you’re doing, don’t you)
You’re making it hard for me
The song also captures the women’s perspective in the whole “dance club grinding” ordeal which really adds to the narrative.
Step back you’re dancing kinda close
I feel a little poke coming through
When I was 12, this line went over both my heads. I just loved the groove. I didn’t fully grasp that the woman in the song clearly says “back off” but Next just plows right ahead and keeps on pokin’. This song would be considered a war crime in the #MeToo era.
But I’ve lost sight of my point so let me reiterate: One of the most popular songs of all time is about boners. “Too Close” encapsulated a moment that could have only existed in1998 and, in retrospect, is fucking hilarious.
The song’s strange history didn’t end there. It was a lightning rod (pun intended) for other weird shit.
A British Band Recorded a Popular Cover of “Too Close” and then said 9/11 was “Blown out of Proportion”
Long-forgotten British Boy band “Blue” really leaned into the “Turgid Dongs are Cool” era when they covered “Too Close” for their 2001 album “All Rise” (WE GET IT). Their version went #1 in the UK and it looked as if Blue (da-be-de-da-be-di) had a long career ahead of them.
They went to New York to film a music video for the song on September 11, 2001. Probably one of the worst days to film a music video in NYC unless your video was about terrorism and you wanted to save some money on CGI. Instead of starting a charity or being sympathetic AT ALL to the 3,000 people that died and thousands more affected, they said this:
Blue were being interviewed by British newspaper The Sun and Ryan commented that “This New York thing is being blown out of proportion” and asked “What about whales? They are ignoring animals that are more important. Animals need saving and that’s more important.” The other members of the band tried to silence Ryan, but he went on. After The Sun quoted Ryan as saying “Who gives a fuck about New York when elephants are being killed?”, this caused a huge media backlash that resulted in Blue losing their U.S. record deal and campaigns to sack Ryan from the group.From Wikipedia
The interview brought their careers down faster than…nope not gonna make the same mistake. I’m surprised their publicist didn’t die of a stroke on the spot. It might be the worst PR gaffe in the history of PR gaffes.
Following this bizarre incident, “Too Close” laid flaccid for nearly 15 years before rising again.
Dance Floor Boners Make a Comeback with an Internet Meme
In August 2015, comedian/YouTuber Nicholas ‘DownGoes’ Fraser posted a vine with his take on “Too Close”, an anthem about people who are always fucking lying. It turned into a hall of fame meme overnight and the gifs of the song are still used in 2021 by people on Twitter trying to dunk on others in their replies. The meme was covered by Complex, Buzzfeed, The Guardian, and Complex again and Fraser even got cosigns from Diddy, Chris Brown, Wiz Khalifa, Amber Rose. This was the beginning of memes becoming mainstream so the media outlets didn’t know how to handle it back in those days so they gave it way too much attention.
It got so popular that he was invited on MTV’s Uncommon Sense and performed the song with Next lead singer RL. Next’s song was brand new again and a different generation was captivated by that infectious melody. Somehow, the meme lyrics were more relatable and less strange than the original.
The rejuvenated single proved that Next could have been talking about anything and that song would have hit #1. It’s just so god damn catchy.
There Ain’t Nothing Wrong With a Little Bump & Grind
“Too Close” was a rallying cry for men who were tired of hiding our erections. The shame we felt from a natural reaction to bumping dicks and butts together. Of course we’re going to be hard. My dick is hard when I wake up for no reason, it doesn’t take a lot.
No longer will we tuck our dicks into our waistbands. No longer will we wear tight pants to prevent our dongs from hitting 90-degree angles. We’re hard because we want you, and we’re sick of pretending we’re not.
Maybe I’m being too insightful. Maybe I used this concept as a vehicle for making dick jokes. Whatever the case, that’s my theory and I’m sticking to it.
Looking back, 1998 was a pretty horny time for everybody. You just had to be there.