February 2010

#90 – Marcy Playground – “Sex and Candy” – (1997)

I feel ridiculous trying to follow Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven” with anything – but especially with a song called “Sex and Candy.” Maybe that wasn’t good planning on my part, but here we are. I love that the singer sounds so bored and he just kind of tells us what the lyrics are instead of putting any real umph behind them – but therein lies the beauty of the song.

#91 – Eric Clapton – “Tears in Heaven (Unplugged)” – (1992)

Unplugged was a great television institution. They (MTV) took great artists and made them play acoustically. Now, it would be miraculous is they took artists and made them do anything musical. This brilliant piece of music was written about the death of Clapton’s four-year-old son and this makes the song that much more haunting than it already is. I’ll grant you that Eric Clapton may not fit with the general pop-music theme of this list – he’s been churning out this since the 60s – but this song was very popular (it hit no. 2 on the Hot 100) and it’s definitely one of the best songs of the decade. Clapton also helped rejuvenate his career with the Unplugged version of his (Derek & The Dominos) 1970 classic “Layla.” In 1996, he released the incredibly popular (#5) “Change the World” from the soundtrack for the Travolta movie Phenomenon. And 1998 saw the spectacular “My Father’s Eyes.” Clapton no longer plays “My Father’s Eyes” or “Tears in Heaven” and I think that only adds to their luster.

#92 – Robbie Williams – “Millennium” – (1998)

Yet another song referencing the coming of the year 2000… The song samples one of the Bond themes and the video views like an audition tape for an aspiring Bond. This was his first #1 in the U.K. and his first (and nearly last) single anyone in America paid any attention to. If you’re a big Robbie Williams fan, you probably remember his follow-up “Angels,” but chances are you don’t.

#93 – Los del Río – “Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix)” – (1996)

This song has a very weird and complex back story behind it, the details of which I will spare you. Things to know: Los del Río was a musical duo of two relatively old Spanish guys who wrote a song. Then the Bayside Boys (three DJ’s from Miami) re-mixed it and added English vocals from uncredited singer Carla Vanessa. Then the summer of 1996 rolled around and this song exploded like few, if any, songs ever had before it (or since). It is undeniably infectious. There were actually knock-off imitators. If you don’t know the dance that accompanies it, well, then you probably either 1) weren’t alive in 1996 (or too young… but still), or 2) lying. This is one of the biggest singles of all time and it shattered some Billboard records. You might loathe it, but, like it or not, it stands as an integral part of 90s pop culture. (And you know you loved it then).

#94 – OMC – “How Bizarre” – (1997)

OMC was from New Zealand and stood for Otara Millionaires Club. Their lead singer, Pauly Fuemana died a few weeks ago. Luckily he got this hit song out of his system before he passed. It came out at the end of 1995 in New Zealand and was a big hit in the U.S. in 1997. It’s one of those songs that just about everyone will remember, although I still have no idea what this song is actually about.

#95 – House of Pain – “Jump Around” – (1992)

This song is awesome. It’s relatively simple, musically – just kind of the same short little thing over and over… and that weird electronic screaming. Then there’s Everlast rapping… or just yelling “jump” over and over… a Jock Jams classic. Since #96 centered on Euro-dance music, I’ll let #95 revolve around U.S. based hip hop, and mention “Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia)” by Us3 (with Gerard Presencer on trumpet). “Cantaloop” is technically classified as “jazz rap” – which is so popular – and it was from a group signed to a jazz label… the song is just sweet. Hmm, #95 has become just as much about Us3 as House of Pain.

#96 – The Real McCoy – “Another Night” – (1994)

Ah, 90s Euro-dance hits. The Real McCoy was from Germany and they had a couple of dance hits. “Another Night” is the probably most popular, although “Run Away” was a top ten hit as well. Both of these songs remind me of Amber’s 1996 hit “This is Your Night,” who was from the Netherlands.

#97 – Destiny’s Child – “Say My Name” – (1999)

If I say “Beyoncé,” chances are by this point in time your first thought isn’t “Destiny’s Child,” much less “Destiny’s Child when there were still four girls in the group.” The Writing’s on the Wall was the album name and it was released in 1999. This single came out right at the end of the year and was about everywhere for the next year or so. “Jumpin’ Jumpin’” was the follow-up.

#98 – Enrique Iglesias – “Bailamos” – (1999)

Another wonder from 1999 (if you haven’t noticed, I’m extremely partial to songs from 1999… they all had this weird ‘danciness’ to them… plus that whole nostalgia thing). This is a fun Spanish song… from when Spanish songs were all the rage. It was also from Wild Wild West. Apparently there were two music videos shot: a Wild Wild West one and the one I’ve linked to above (and remember). Enrique followed “Bailamos” with “Rhythm Divine” and then the even-better “Be with You.” All three songs are dance songs and are pretty similar in that regard but “Bailamos” stands out for riding atop the late 90s wave of Latin-influenced dance pop.

#99 – Christina Aguilera – “Genie in a Bottle” – (1999)

“Genie in a Bottle” was Christina’s first hit. This video is bringing back a flood of memories from the summer of ’99. Seriously, wow. Listening to the lyrics now, it’s hard to believe that anyone was ever surprised when Christina became a “bad girl.” (Don’t forget the obligatory Spanish Version!). Her next big single was “What a Girl Wants” – which was big on TRL, the official measure of a song’s popularity in 1999.

#100 – Presidents of the United States of America – “Peaches” – (1995)

Moving to the country / gonna eat me a lot of peaches… Peaches come from a can / they were put there by a man / in a factory downtown…” The Presidents of the United States of America were a goofy kind of band and this song really exemplifies that. It’s one of those songs that, the first time you hear it, you aren’t sure whether or not to take it seriously – but you also remember it. It was tough deciding between “Peaches” and the super-awesome, definitive post-grunge song: “Lump” – which was the basis for one of the greatest Weird Al Yankovic parodies: “Gump” (guess which one has more YouTube hits…). The Presidents also covered (excellently, by the way), the Ian Hunter song “Cleveland Rocks” and it was chosen as the theme song for The Drew Carey Show.

#101 – New Radicals – “You Get What You Give” – (1998)

I can find no reason to dislike this song. It is eternally upbeat, both musically and in mood and lyric. I once heard that the lead singer, Gregg Alexander, always wore a hat because of “his low enthusiasm for the group.” That doesn’t really seem fair because he broke the group up after only existing for two years. You’d think after churning out a single like this they’d be able to come up with something else – but no, and Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too was their only album. The ending lyrics of this track, which received too much attention when compared to the rest of the song, are quite memorable – singing about “Beck and Hanson, Courtney Love and Marilyn Manson.”

#102 – Eve 6 – “Inside Out” – (1998)

“Inside Out” is another one of those songs with seemingly irrational lyrics – making it quite memorable and fun to sing along with… the opening: “I would swallow my pride / I would choke on the rinds / but the lack thereof would leave me empty inside / swallow my doubt / turn it inside out / find nothing but faith in nothing / want to put my tender heart in a blender / watch it spin ’round into a beautiful oblivion / rendezvous, then I’m through with you.” “Leech” was popular on the rock charts and the band shot a video for the song “Tongue Tied,” which didn’t make it on the radio – which is a shame because it’s good – but the video did have Katie Holmes in it.

#103 – Train – “Meet Virginia” – (1998)

This song was incredibly overplayed when it was first released – which is a shame because it is brilliant. I could just continue to list superlatives for this song, but instead I’ll just list the opening lyrics (which now, because of WordPress’s being incredibly difficult with this particular post, are in block paragraph form instead of the nice list version I had intended to use): “She doesn’t own a dress / Her hair is always a mess / You catch her stealin’ she won’t confess / She’s Beautiful. / Smokes a pack a day, but wait / That’s me, but anyway / She doesn’t care a thing / About that hair / She thinks I’m beautiful / Meet Virginia / She never compromises / Loves babies and surprises / wears high heels when she exercises / Ain’t it beautiful / Meet Virginia.

#104 – Jamiroquai – “Virtual Insanity” – (1996)

Jamiroquai, like Robbie Williams, have been huge in the U.K. and the rest of Europe – but have had very limited success in the U.S. This song was as popular as much for the song as it was for the video. I mean, the song is by no means bad, but the video is one that you can watch over and over again, trying to figure out exactly what is going on. It gives the album title, Travelling Without Moving, a more literal interpretation. The band’s next biggest (non-dance) single in the U.S. was “Alright,” while 1999s “Canned Heat” went to #7 in Canada.

#105 – Shawn Mullins – “Lullaby” – (1998)

Shawn Mullins really never had another hit. His gravelly voice with the slick soft-rock music makes for an interesting combination. The song tells a story about a girl in Hollywood and every time the chorus comes around, Mullins puts his all in to it and it pays off. There is some serious energy in this song. It is great.

#106 – Alanis Morissette – “Uninvited” – (1998)

The soundtrack from City of Angels is one of the very best soundtracks from the 90s – mostly because it had three big hits (although one wasn’t released as a single from the album). One was from the Goo Goo Dolls and the other from Sarah McLachlan. “Uninvited” might take the prize for being the most haunting song on this list. Also from Alanis in 1998 (from Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie) was “Thank U.”

#107 – Blessid Union of Souls – “Hey Leonardo (She Likes Me for Me)” – (1999)

This is one of those songs with funky lyrics that everyone liked to sing along with. Example: “she likes me for me/not because I hang with Leonardo/or that guy who played in “Fargo”/I think his name is Steve.” It’s full of pop culture references, the title referring to Leonardo DiCaprio, who was at the peak of his Titanic fame at the time of original release. The album Walking of the Buzz was also responsible for the single “Standing at the Edge of the Earth.” Their 1997 self-titled album spawned the singles “I Wanna Be There” and the very good “Light in Your Eyes.” 1995’s Home contained the awesome “Let Me Be the One” and “I Believe.” Blessid Union of Souls was, unfortunately, one of those great 90s bands that just kind of got lost with time.

#108 – No Doubt – “Spiderwebs” – (1995)

This song is a lot of fun. The lyrics, when sung by anyone other than Gwen, seem completely nonsensical. I originally had this much higher on the list but realized there is a different No Doubt song that, no doubt, should have been higher (pun intended!). But this one is definitely more upbeat and it makes you want to start dancing around (even in your car)… I love the part brass instruments played in 90s pop music – I miss it. Tragic Kingdom strikes again.

#109 – Sheryl Crow – “Everyday Is A Winding Road” – (1996)

This was a tough one – a really, really tough one. “If It Makes You Happy” and “A Change Would Do You Good” are both awesome songs in their own right. I mean, Sheryl Crow’s self-titled album rocks. “I used to ride with a vending machine repairman/he said he’s been down this road more than twice/He was high on intellectualism/I’ve never been there but the brochure looks nice…” is a nice way to begin a song and the music is great as well. “If It Makes You Happy” features some great, screaming vocals, and “A Change Would Do You Good” has that nice solid guitar sound. Say what you want about Sheryl Crow’s music in recent years – but this album is quite good. In 1998 she released The Globe Sessions which contains the superb “My Favorite Mistake” – if you can’t make it through that entire song, at least enjoy the fantastic beginning.

#110 – The Offspring – “Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)” – (1998)

First I must state for the record that I am a proud owner of this CD. Now, for a variety of reasons this song is quite strange. 1) This song was absolutely flippin’ huge – and as much as I watched MTV in the late 90s, I’ve somehow managed to have only seen the video once before today. 2) Now, this might just be me, but when I think of The Offspring, this isn’t necessarily the first song that jumps to my mind, but it should be, and it inevitably surfaces a few seconds later, with me wondering, “Why didn’t that happen sooner?” 3) It is very similar yet completely different from every other Offspring song – in a completely unexplainable way. Maybe it has something to do with the overwhelming mainstream commercial success (as compared to their other, successful but less mainstream hits). 4) The song samples the nonsensical German phrase from the beginning of Def Leppard’s “Rock of Ages.”

Also from Americana, the rarely played “The Kids Aren’t Alright,” and the more popular “Why Don’t You Get a Job?” (the video to which I’ve seen much more of than “Pretty Fly”).

#111 – Tonic – “If You Could Only See” – (1996)

There is this roaring guitar in this song that is hard to beat. If you listen closely you’ll notice that this song has some pretty hard rock characteristics, so much so that I find it somewhat surprising how big of a mainstream hit it was. Lemon Parade was Tonic’s biggest album and it was released in 1996 – “If You Could Only See” was a big hit in 1997 and “Open up Your Eyes,” an equally rocky but not nearly as good a song, hit the airwaves in 1996 and experienced a brief resurgence in popularity thanks to “If You Could Only See” in 1998 and on into 1999.

#112 – Haddaway – “What is Love?” – (1993)

If you don’t already associate these two things in your mind: here you go. A Night at the Roxbury (and its respective Saturday Night Live skits) is/are basically the only reason this song has any sort of following at all – otherwise it’d just be obscure. Don’t get me wrong, it was popular in its day, but rarely do songs experience this sort of comeback. Did you know, this song is the 62nd best-selling single of all time in Germany? Of course it is.

#113 – Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Love Rollercoaster” – (1996)

“Love Rollercoaster” was originally done by the Ohio Players in 1975. The Red Hot Chili Peppers covered it for the movie Beavis and Butthead Do America – it sounded nothing like the original. If you didn’t know it, it’s unlikely you’d guess this was the Chili Peppers, because it really sounds nothing like them – or at least the Chili Peppers we were used to from the 90s – the Blood Sugar Sex Magik Chili Peppers or their songs from that album: “Give it Away,” and, more popularly, “Under the Bridge.” However, “Love Rollercoaster” is way more fun than either of those two songs.

#114 – Inner Circle – “Sweat (A La La La La Long)” – (1994)

I love this song. Sure “Bad Boys” is much better known because of its use as the theme for Cops, but “Sweat” is just awesome. I find 80s-90s pop-reggae to be one of the most fun genres of music: UB40, Shaggy, Inner Circle (there’s more, but my mind is blanking). Also, Ini Kamoze’s “Here Comes the Hotstepper;” which is the source of my PlayStation Online username.

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