The year was 1999. A new Star Wars movie was out, everyone was seeing dead people, and the Nintendo 64 was at its peak. The likes of Britney Spears, Ricky Martin, Dixie Chicks, and Backstreet Boys were filling up the airwaves. It seemed as if a top-40 lifestyle was running the culture and everyone was just going with the flow. That flow took a brief, yet overwhelmingly popular, detour with the release of one of the most asinine songs ever.
This video united a generation.
A “Lonely Swedish (The Bum Bum Song)” music video ran on the anti-establishment TV series The Tom Green Show. Throughout the course of the song, host Tom Green shows off a random series of costumes while rubbing his ass on rails, cheese, a man, and more. Before the YouTube generation, these kind of skits came and went all the time on talk shows. Due to the rise of CD burners and digital downloads, however, “Lonely Swedish” became an early example of viral Internet distribution. You know that serious-faced supervisor up the hall from you? There’s a good chance downloading this song was their introduction to the mp3 format.
Screaming teenagers voted the novelty hit to the top of MTV’s Total Request Live, hosted by Carson Daly. Less than a week later, the song was retired from the request lines for being too popular. Even angst rapper Eminem dropped a reference to the song in his tune “The Real Slim Shady”. Tom Green stuck a chord with both popular and geeky high schoolers, uniting people over a common bond of re-enacting butt rubbing stair rails. For a brief moment, “Lonely Swedish” was everywhere.
And then it was gone. The song’s fame didn’t last a second beyond 15 minutes and it’s been largely forgotten since – as indicated by a considerably less popular view count on the official YouTube posting. The description attached to the video questions its audience with, “Can you believe that this song was once the number one song in America?”
No. It’s still hard to believe.