The 90’s produced countless one hit wonders, a bunch of over commercialized songs, and some bona fide stars. The ones that made it to the top ten on the pop charts were not always the best, but you can’t change history. Let’s look at some of the notable songs of the 90’s and reminisce about days-and dances- past.
1990 Nothing Compares 2 U, Sinead O’Connor
Sinead O’Connor came onto the scene in the late eighties with a bald head, baggy clothing, and some serious anger. This professed supporter of the IRA and hater of the Pope scored a huge hit in 1990 with Nothing Compares 2 U, which was written by Prince. Then she proceeded to make all of her friends, and even people who never would have noticed her existence, hate her. She insulted fellow Irish band U2, who had been her supporters. After she publicly refused to sing in New Jersey if The Star Spangled Banner was sung before her arrival, Frank Sinatra said he’d like to “kick her ass.” Her angry style may have paved the way for the likes of Alanis Morrisette, but she certainly did not display one quarter of the class that Alanis has, so she fizzled out. In 2003, she announced her retirement (ha-ha), and asked permission to no longer be famous. In 2005, she announced her reemergence to the scene and subsequently responded to requests at a concert for her famous Prince tune with “F**** that f***ing midget!” Way to go.
1991 Unbelievable, EMF
Although EMF’s fame was short lived, their major hit song Unbelievable proved to have staying power. The band, whose name may have stood for “Epsom Mad Funkers,” but may also have stood for something to do with the drug Ecstasy, consisted of five young guys from England. They had four or five other top 20 songs, but none were as catchy as Unbelievable. The song is still played often at sports events, like when a basketball makes a shot that is “unbelievable,” and there’s a recent commercial for Kraft Cheese Crumbles that uses the music and changes the “unbelievable” to “crumbelievable.” I’m sure the band thinks that’s pretty cheesy. All of the members of EMF have gone their separate ways, and, unfortunately, bassist Zac Foley died in 2002 at age 31.
1992 Baby Got Back, Sir Mix-a-Lot
Just the thought of this song brings back visions of mostly naked women dancing on large replicas of butts in the video for this song. This song is so hilarious and catchy that it immediately started being heard, and is still being heard- everywhere. It is a karaoke staple, frat party favorite, and it is repeatedly used in commercials, movies, and television shows. Ross and Rachel sang it to their baby on Friends, Cameron Diaz (who has very little “back”) danced to it in Charlie’s Angels, and it has recently been revised for a Target commercial to say, “I like backpacks and I cannot lie.” Oddly enough, this sexually explicit song about women’s butts is a favorite for use in kid films, like Shark Tale, Shrek, and Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed. While the appropriateness of this song is up for discussion, one thing is certain-Sir Mix-a-Lot never has to work again.
1993 Whoomp! There It Is, Tag Team
The 90’s were full of one hit wonders, and Tag Team had one hit in 1993 that won them a permanent place on party rap compilation albums. The group tried to coast on the success of this song by releasing several other similar songs: Whoomp! There It Went, Addams Family (Whoomp), Bulls ThereIt Is, and Here It Is, Bam! None of their other songs met with the success of Whoomp! There It Is and they never came up with anything else notable. Where are they now? I have absolutely no idea, but I still have to listen to my boyfriend yell “Whoomp! There It Is” at basketball games.
1994 I Swear, All-4-One
The song I Swear may have been the beginning of the annoying practice of artists from multiple genres releasing the same song at the same time. I Swear was released by R&B quartet All-4-One and Country artist John Michael Montgomery and both topped different charts. This sappy sweet love ballad became an instant favorite wedding song, and was obsessively played by radio stations everywhere. John Michael Montgomery already had an established career, but All-4-One did not, and I Swear was not substantial enough to keep our attention for long.
1995 Waterfalls, TLC
TLC was a female R&B group made up of Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, Lisa “Left-Eye” Lopez, and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas. They had several chart topping hits in 1995, including Creep and Red Light Special, but Waterfalls was by far their biggest hit from their second album CrazySexyCool. This song helped to soften the image of TLC, an image which was tarnished by Lisa Lopez’ insane antics of 1994, when she burned NFL player boyfriend Andre Rison’s mansion to the ground. Lisa “Left-Eye” Lopez was tragically killed in a car accident in 2002, cutting TLC’s musical career short.
1996 Macarena, Los Del Rio
Macarena was a song and dance phenomenon that overtook Latino and American dance clubs, Country & Western bars, weddings, bar mitzvahs, high school dances, karaoke bars, parties, commercials, and restaurants. The song was in Spanish originally, but a version was released with revamped English lyrics called the Bayside Boy’s Version. Both versions of the song were about a nasty girl named Macarena, who has a boyfriend named Vitorino, and she slept with his two friends. It came with a line dance that Los Del Rio graciously showed us how to do in the video for the song. I know, I cringe too when I think of some embarrassing Macarena moments of the 90’s, but, hey, everyone knows you can’t let the bride dance alone at her wedding!
1997 Candle In The Wind, Elton John
Also the best-selling single of all time, Candle in the Wind was originally released in 1973, and was about Marilyn Monroe. In 1997, when Princess Diana of Wales, who was a close friend of Elton’s, died tragically in a car crash, he and his friend Bernie Taupin rewrote the lyrics to create a tribute to her. Instead of “goodbye Norma Jean” it goes, “goodbye England’s Rose,” and he sang it at Princess Diana’s funeral. This may seem like a sick ploy by Elton John to use a horrible tragedy to promote himself, but to his credit, all proceeds from the sales of the 1997 single are donated to the Diana, Princess of Wales fund, and he only performs the 1973 version publicly.
1998 I Don’t Want To Wait, Paula Cole
I Don’t Want To Wait may be the most overplayed song of the 90’s. It was chosen as the theme song for the popular teen television drama Dawson’s Creek, which boosted the song and her Paula Cole’s career tremendously. She toured with Lilith Fair and released another album before getting dropped by her record company. Paula Cole is also remembered for shocking people by performing in sleeveless tops with hairy armpits.
1999 Believe, Cher
Cher made a huge comeback in 1999 with Believe, an album of dance tracks completely different from her past work. Cher has been making records since 1965, and the fact that she made a successful record at age 52 had to impress even her critics. Possibly because of her flashy, Vegas style costumes and Diva status, Cher had developed a huge gay following, and Believe fit right in with the gay scene. The song is perfect for a drag queen’s strut down the catwalk. In an interview Cher claimed that her strangest encounter with a fan was when a 250 lb. drag queen ran into her and said, “I played you for Halloween.”
These are just some highlights of the music that made it to the top 10 on the pop charts in the 90’s. I hope it brought some good memories to your mind.