MTV’s Total Request Live (TRL): The Real Story & Memorable Moments
Total Request Live (more commonly known as TRL) is returning to MTV in the fall of 2017 to the delight of fans who religiously tuned into the show in the late ’90s and 2000s. The program was responsible for launching the careers of numerous pop stars during its 10-year run. A drop in ratings led to its cancellation in 2008 but the show will soon make its comeback. Take a look at some of the show’s history and most memorable moments…
It Didn’t Always Have A Live Studio Audience
TRL launched in 1998 not long after MTV opened a studio in Times Square in New York City. Carson Daly (now a Today Show staple) initially introduced videos from an empty set on a program called Total Request. By the fall of 1998, the countdown show became really big and morphed into Total Request Live. The series featured numerous live performances by popular ’90s singers and bands, including Britney Spears, Aaliyah, Eminem, Christina Aguilera, ‘N Sync, Backstreet Boys, and Hanson. TRL added a live studio audience in 1999 and hit its peak the following year.
Hanson Hosts The Show
Remember the boy-band Hanson? Brothers Isaac, Taylor, and Zac are best known for their 1997 hit song “MMMBop,” which premiered the year before TRL launched. In 1998, the trio took over the show, which was made even more memorable because of Zac’s strange gray jumpsuit. The girls in the audience went wild when the band went on air. Their song “If Only” was number one for five consecutive days on the show. It’s hard to believe that all three brothers are now in their 30s, and the youngest, Zac, 31, has four children, and the middle brother, Taylor, 34, has five!
Britney Spears Sings “Oops! I Did It Again” Live
In 1999, Britney Spears dropped the song “…Baby One More Time,” and it was the number-one selling tune in the United States that year. On the show’s final episode in 2008, “…Baby One More Time” was named the most iconic video ever released on TRL. It depicts Spears as a Catholic school girl whose daydreams focus on singing and dancing in high school as she thinks of her high school crush. The following year, Spears performed her massively popular hit “Oops! I Did It Again” on TRL. At the time, she used a live band and didn’t have any backing tracks (something that’s nearly unthinkable today). It’s one of the show’s most memorable moments.
Christina Aguilera’s “Genie In A Bottle” & “Dirrty”
Christina Aguilera got her foothold in the pop industry after debuting “Genie in a Bottle” on TRL in 1999. The song and video made her a star and was featured prominently on TRL. The show later named “Dirrty” her most iconic video, and it was featured on TRL’s 1,000th episode on Oct. 23, 2002. That same year, Aguilera and Daly allegedly dated. The pair reunited in 2013 on The Voice. During a press conference for the NBC series, Daly told the slimmed-down Aguilera, one of the judges: “You look incredible. We appreciate you kept your boobs.” Awkward, much?
The Backstreet Boys Debut “I Want It That Way”
By the time the Backstreet Boys released their music video for “I Want It That Way” on TRL in 1999, their music was already in regular rotation on the program. The tune was one of the most popular pop ballads of the year and was nominated for three Grammy Awards, including Song of the Year and Record of the Year. The video has been famously parodied by several artists, including Blink 182 (“All The Small Things”), Big Time Rush (“Like Nobody’s Around”) and The Wanted (“Walks Like Rihanna.”) The Backstreet Boys consist of AJ McLean, Howie Dorough, Nick Carter, Kevin Richardson, and Brian Littrell.
Britney Spears & Melissa Joan Hart Co-Host
In 1999, Britney Spears co-hosted TRL with actress Melissa Joan Hart. The two were some of the most popular female stars of the time. Hart was promoting her film Drive Me Crazy, and Spears’ song of the same name was featured in the movie. The teen romance was originally titled Next To You but was changed specifically to capitalize on Spears’ song. Hart was also known for her TV shows Clarissa Explains It All and Sabrina the Teenage Witch, which aired from 1996 to 2003 on ABC and the WB. Hart appeared in Spears’ music video, and Spears made a guest appearance on Sabrina.
Eminem Takes Over The Show, Calls It “Em TV”
In 2000, Eminem subbed for Carson Daly on TRL, but his hosting job apparently didn’t impress MTV executives because he was never asked to do it again. When the rapper appeared on stage he was dressed like Daly, and he proceeded to slam the show’s popular artists. He commented, “Yesterday on TRL we saw Britney Spears, ‘N Sync, the Backstreet Boys, and a bunch of other trash, but today is actually going to be a good show, as MTV becomes Em TV.” Throughout the two-hour program, he cut off the “Whakstreet Boys” and instead featured his personal playlist.
Jessica Simpson & Nick Lachey Sing A Duet
Pop stars Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson sang a duet together on a 2000 episode of TRL. The couple met one another in December 1998 after their shared manager introduced them. The following month, they reconnected at a Teen People event and started dating. They were together for over a year when they appeared on TRL and broke up shortly in 2001 before getting engaged and married in 2002. Three years later they got divorced but not before appearing on one of MTV’s first reality shows, Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica. Jessica’s “dumb blonde” persona made her very popular among fans.
‘N Sync Performs “Bye Bye Bye”
Boy bands such as the Backstreet Boys and ‘N Sync were massively popular on TRL. In 2000, the latter took over the show and performed their iconic song, “Bye Bye Bye.” Justin Timberlake, JC Chasez, Chris Kirkpatrick, Joey Fatone, and Lance Bass showed off their game through their amazing synchronized dance moves. And the girls in the audience were lured in by the boy band’s attire—football jerseys with their names emblazoned on the back. Their song made TRL history by spending 25 consecutive days on top of the countdown, the longest streak of any video at the time.
Mariah Carey Makes A Surprise Appearance, Has A Breakdown Weeks Later
In 2001, Mariah Carey surprised viewers by appearing in an oversized t-shirt with “Loverboy” painted on it (she later removed it). She also pushed an ice cream cart across the stage. She explained to Carson Daly, “You are my therapy session, Carson. Every now and then somebody needs a little therapy, and today is that day for me.” Her behavior was very puzzling, and she made some strange comments, including, “I just wanted one day off when I could go swimming and look at rainbows and eat ice cream and maybe, like, learn how to ride a bicycle.” The following week she had an emotional breakdown and was hospitalized for exhaustion.
Jennifer Lopez Sings “Love Don’t Cost A Thing”
Even though Jennifer Lopez’s 2005 song “Get Right” was more popular, her early performances were more memorable. In 2001, she performed “Love Don’t Cost A Thing” during the MTV show’s Super Bowl episode, which was filmed in Florida. The tune is one of JLo’s most iconic songs and was a worldwide hit. It was nominated for an MTV Video Music Award and ALMA Award. “Love Don’t Cost A Thing” was highly requested on TRL. Lopez also performed the song at the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards in New York City, just days before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Avril Lavigne Performs “Complicated”
In 2002, Avril Lavigne made a big impression when she sang “Complicated” on TRL. The song was her most popular video on MTV and spent nine days at number one on the countdown. It was the Canadian singer’s debut single and reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100 (behind Nelly’s “Hot In Herre”). Over 3 million copies of the single sold worldwide. It was nominated for two Grammy Awards for Song of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. Other Lavigne songs that aired frequently on TRL included “I’m With You,” “Sk8er Boi” and “Losing Grip.”
Mandy Moore & Shane West Promote “A Walk To Remember”
In 2002, singer/actress Mandy Moore and Shane West appeared on TRL to promote their romance film, A Walk to Remember, which was based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks. Moore had released her debut album in 1999 and subsequently toured with the Backstreet Boys and ‘N Sync. She started acting in 2001. West was known for the ABC series Once and Again. While Moore hasn’t released an album in several years, she made a comeback in 2016 in the NBC series This Is Us. West has acted consistently, most recently appearing in the WGN drama Salem as John Alden.
Carson Daly Dates TRL Guest Tara Reid, Leaves The Show
Carson Daly met actress Tara Reid on TRL in 2000. The pair started dating and moved in together before getting engaged six months later. They split up in 2001. Daly quit his hosting duties in 2003 in order to focus on his other series, NBC’s Last Call With Carson Daly. Several VJ’s took over hosting duties following his exit, including Damien Fahey, Hilarie Burton (One Tree Hill), Vanessa Minnillo (who later married Nick Lachey), La La Vasquez (who later married NBA player Carmelo Anthony), Susie Castillo and Stephen Colletti (Laguna Beach). Daly joined The Today Show in 2013 as a social media correspondent.
Outkast Performs “Hey Ya!”
In 2003, Outkast’s “Hey Ya!” was one of the top hits of the year. The song spent nine weeks in the number-one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 and 19 days on top of TRL’s countdown. André 3000 wrote and produced the song for his 2003 album The Love Below. The song was inspired by various genres, including funk, rap, and rock. In the music video, the “band” does a live performance. But all of the band members are actually André 3000. The video is an homage to the Beatles’ performance on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964.
Diddy Runs On A Treadmill For An Entire Episode
Britney Spears was a frequent visitor on TRL during its heyday. She was also chums with P. Diddy (a.k.a. Sean John Combs), who was another popular guest star. During a 2003 episode, P. Diddy appeared on the show on a treadmill to train for the New York City marathon. At one point, Spears wiped the sweat from the rapper’s brow. Following the marathon, Combs wound up raising $2 million for the city’s educational program. Combs has gone by many names over the years. He changed it from “Puff Daddy” to “P. Diddy” in 2001. He became “Diddy” in 2005.
Destiny’s Child Says Goodbye
Destiny’s Child said goodbye on TRL in 2005. Prior to disbanding, Beyoncé, Michelle Williams, and Kelly Rowland looked back at some of their music videos and memorable moments from the show. The group’s videos were very popular on TRL over the years. The ladies also performed several live songs on the program, including “Say My Name” and “Lose My Breath.” In 2001, they participated as the headliners in the TRL tour with 3LW, Nelly, Eve, Dream and Jessica Simpson. The tour included 30 shows throughout the United States and Canada, and Solange Knowles served as the host and emcee.
VJ Vanessa Minnillo Falls In Love With Nick Lachey
TV personality Vanessa Minnillo met singer Nick Lachey while she was the host of TRL. She later appeared in his video “What’s Left Of Me.” In a behind-the-scenes video about the music video, Minnillo said: “Nick is awesome. He’s a gem. Mini crush.” The pair started dating in 2006. They split briefly in 2009 before getting back together, and they tied the knot in 2011 in the British Virgin Islands. The couple has three children: daughter, Brooklyn; son Camden; and son, Phoenix. Lachey was previously married to singer Jessica Simpson, and they appeared together in an earlier episode of TRL as well as the MTV reality show Newlyweds.
Lindsay Lohan Sings “I Want You To Want Me”
You may not remember, but Lindsay Lohan tried to launch a music career in the mid-2000s. In 2006, she appeared on TRL and sang in front of a live audience for the first time. She belted out “I Want You To Want Me” wearing ripped jeans and a red blazer that showed off her cleavage. Nineteen-year-old Lohan was pretty popular at the time. Two years earlier she had hosted the MTV Music Awards. She starred in Herbie: Fully Loaded the year before and dated Wilmer Valderrama, star of That ’70s Show. She also appeared in the romantic comedy Just My Luck.
Usher Defends His Marriage
Usher appeared on TRL in 2008 to promote his album Here I Stand. He denied rumors that he was divorcing his wife, Tameka Foster. He said, “I love her to death, and I’m a black, strong man in America standing up for my people—as a man to my wife, to my son, to my family. I’m making a stand that a lot of us should make. I coulda been like any other man who has a child and lives with that woman and continues to just play the game…I’m trying to do it the right way. This is the way you’re supposed to do it! Pay attention, fellas.”
Lady Gaga Makes Her First Appearance
TRL went off the air in 2008, and one of its last guests was Lady Gaga, who made her first appearance on the program. She was there to promote her video “Just Dance.” It was the lead single from her first studio album, The Fame. Gaga has revealed it took her only 10 minutes to write the tune, which she said “makes you feel good inside” and is about being drunk at a club. The song spent five months on the Billboard Hot 100 and is one of the best-selling singles of all time. It got a Grammy nomination for Best Dance Recording.
TRL Releases Its 10 Most Iconic Videos Of All Time
The final TRL episode aired on Nov. 16, 2008. The program featured its 10 most iconic videos:
10. Outkast — “Hey Ya!” (2003)9. Blink-182 — “What’s My Age Again?” (1999)8. Usher featuring Ludacris & Lil’ Jon — “Yeah!” (2004)7. Beyonce ft. Jay Z — “Crazy in Love” (2003)6. Kid Rock — “Bawitdaba” (1999)5. Christina Aguilera — “Dirrty” (2002)4. *NSYNC — “Bye Bye Bye” (2000)3. Backstreet Boys — “I Want It That Way” (1999)2. Eminem — “The Real Slim Shady” (2000)1. Britney Spears — “…Baby One More Time” (1999)