After writing up my ill-informed opinions on today’s top chart songs, I thought: why not listen to the top ten from twenty years ago? So I did.
As usual, I rate songs by how long I can listen to them before I hit Pause on YouTube. Boys II Men sound so earnestly sentimental and schmaltzy here that I couldn’t last longer than 0:31. So I don’t know what Mariah Carey sounds like in this song, and perhaps I never will. Since this went to #1, I guess a lot of people liked it.
For some reason, I think of Goo Goo Dolls as an alternative band from the 1980s, so I was surprised to find them in the 1996 charts, let alone at #2. (I guess I must be confusing them with somebody else.) This song features acoustic guitar and an earnest-sounding lead singer seemingly making his way on his own. I didn’t cringe when listening to it, but it wasn’t really my thing, so I stopped at 1:23.
Oddly enough, I first heard about this band when I read Ben Watt’s “Patient”. Watt, who is half of EBTG, was diagnosed with a rare illness in the early 1990s. This is the song that he and his partner Tracey Thorn are known for – I think almost everybody knows the phrase “I miss you like the deserts miss the rain.” I’ve always liked this song, and I still do. EBTG haven’t been active since 1999 – Watt and Thorn appear to be happily living a private life with their three children, and good for them.
Here’s another song that made it into popular culture, thanks to that extremely memorable guitar hook and the (literally) immortal question, “What if God was one of us?” I liked this song when it came out, but I don’t really listen to it any more, and didn’t listen to it for very long this time. But now I have that hook running through my head, and I can’t get it out. Osborne later went on to tour with the Funk Brothers (Motown’s legendary backing band), and appears in the movie “Standing In The Shadows Of Motown”, which you really should watch.
I thought I hadn’t heard this before, but I started to remember it when the electric guitars came in at the chorus. I think of it as sort of a mix between the more accessible types of alternative rock and some kind of folk music or other. Again, it’s a bit too earnest for my liking, but it’s mostly harmless. If it came up on the radio, I wouldn’t demand that the station be changed. I made it through 3:00 of its 4:14.
Hootie And The Blowfish are one of those bands that – rightly or wrongly – people make jokes about. But I thought I would put that aside and try to listen as objectively as I could to this song. I had to stop at 1:20. This was not because the music was horrible – the harmonies are okay, and it’s listenable – but because, once again, it’s a song that is dreadfully earnest and irony-challenged. It’s a matter of taste, I guess – I don’t particularly like having the theme or emotions of a song be blatantly obvious or over the top. (In movies, I cringe when the soundtrack music is too noticeably manipulative.) Though, for what it’s worth, I find hipsters who laugh at songs like this more annoying than the songs themselves – everybody gets to like what they like, and it’s not as if Hootie and his friends are causing you any harm, are they?
This is the second song that I know of that prominently features the word “shoop” in its title – there’s also “It’s In His Kiss (The Shoop Shoop Song)” by Betty Everett. The more you know! It’s hard to think about Whitney Houston now without thinking of the tragic ending to her life, but this song wasn’t that bad. I wouldn’t seek it out again, and I
stopped it at 1:51, but I wouldn’t force anyone to turn it off.
I lasted 1:21 through this, but that’s mostly because the intro was so long. I turned it off not because it was terrible, but because it’s just not my thing – I’m a white guy who is well into the depths of middle age, and this song is by young African-American women who I suppose probably now are into middle age, but weren’t then. I didn’t know anything about TLC before I started listening to this (I did mention that I don’t listen to popular music much, didn’t I?) but Wikipedia tells me that they are the second best-selling female group of all time despite “run-ins with the law, each other, and the group’s record label and management.” Original member Lisa Lopes died in a car crash in 2002, and the rest of the group has just raised enough money through Kickstarter to fund a fifth album; it was apparently the fastest-funded Kickstarter project in history.
Of course you know this song. Virtually everybody with a radio knew this song when it came out. She became so famous that I don’t think anybody is named “Alanis” any more, just like nobody is named “Madonna” – the name is too closely associated with a particular person. Her “Jagged Little Pill” album sold 33 million copies worldwide, including 15 million in the U.S. This boggles my mind. I almost didn’t bother listening to this, since I knew it so well; in fact, I stopped at 0:49 because I didn’t really need to hear it again – I don’t really need any more angst in my life. What strikes me about this song is that the lyrics don’t rhyme – that’s always an unusual choice. I think it’s better to write without rhyming than to try to force a rhyme, but that’s just me.
I had never heard this song before. It’s Eurodance – all synthesizers and artificial beats. I stopped after 0:50 because I don’t like Eurodance (except, oddly, “Sunshine After The Rain”). La Bouche are a German duo, and this song sold 6 million copies and won the ASCAP award for the Most Played Song In America. Lead singer Melanie Thornton left La Bouche in 2000 for a solo career, and died in a plane crash near Zurich in 2001. That’s three people from this top ten list who have passed away. Life is short; enjoy it while you can.