April 2010

#29 – Alanis Morissette – “Hand in My Pocket” – (1995)

Here’s the part two of Jagged Little Pill. This song was a really big hit for Alanis (in the U.S. anyway). It sucks I can’t find a good album version on YouTube, the one I’ve linked to is live and acoustic, but you get the idea. With “Ironic,” this is my favorite Alanis track. Two other big singles from this album: “Head over Feet,” and “You Learn” (which, during the lyrics, mentions the album title). Oh, and there is an awesome Sporcle quiz where you have to name all the things Alanis’ other hand is doing during this song, check it out.

#30 – Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Scar Tissue” – (1999)

I hated this song when it came out, “Otherside” was much better. Things have changed. I don’t hate “Otherside,” but I like this one much better as it’s more melodic. “Scar Tissue” ended up being a hit on the rock and mainstream charts. Californication was one of my favorite albums of the 90s and probably tops for 1999. The title track featured one of the coolest music videos of the time and the song is my favorite from the album. Also from this album was the much more hard rock-y “Around the World.”

#31 – Sinéad O’Connor – “Nothing Compares 2 U” – (1990)

This song was written by Prince and it is beyond wonderful. The music is orchestral in nature and it slowly builds – leaving a very haunting feeling floating over the uniquely-delivered lyrics (“…eat my dinner in a fancy restaurauauauant”). This is the biggest hit of Sinéad’s career and it’s easily one of the top songs of not only the 1990s, but of all time. Of course, Ms. O’Connor went on to later fame on Saturday Night Live when she ripped a picture of the Pope in half on live TV. That went over well. And it really wasn’t a solid way to gain fans. In a skit on SNL, Phil Hartman, as Frank Sinatra, hilariously referred to her as “Cue Ball” (among other things) – if you can find that skit online, watch it.

#32 – Vertical Horizon – “Everything You Want” – (1999)

“Take it easy on the Vertical Horizon, guy!” I know, twice within five spots on the list. This is their signature song, but I hold “You’re a God” in such a high regard that I bumped it way up to the top 40 (most would argue it wouldn’t have made the list). But here we are. This song actually hit #1 on the Hot 100, which was a big deal, because most pop/rock songs like this didn’t chart too well. Vertical Horizon had one more big hit from this album, “Best I Ever Had (Grey Sky Morning)” which is a beautiful song (and was successfully covered by country singer Gary Allan).

#33 – 4 Non Blondes – “What’s Up?” – (1993)

There are people who really hate this song (Blender magazine among them – but they’re horrible, so who cares?). I am not one of them. I love it – especially how it builds with a bigger, better, faster chorus each time (yes, that’s a reference to the album title). Are the lyrics superb? Hardly, she mostly just “says “hey'” and the rest of it really isn’t too terribly strong – she doesn’t even say “what’s up?” Regardless, it remains a favorite of mine.

#34 – Soul Asylum – “Runaway Train” – (1992)

Soul Asylum “technically isn’t a one-hit wonder,” as they had another Top 40 hit, but if you want to go ahead and consider them one, I won’t tell anyone. I’m pretty sure this qualifies as “a good song” based on subject matter and lyrics. There were multiple versions of the video featuring missing children and teens. There are all sorts of weird stories concerning them: some of them returned home (sometimes to bad homes) and others were eventually found murdered. I hope that no one lets that take away from an otherwise stellar song.

#35 – Third Eye Blind – “Semi-Charmed Life” – (1997)

This was Third Eye Blind’s biggest hit and a defining song of the 90s. I heard this on the radio this morning, and I could clearly hear the lead singer say “Doing crystal meth will lift you up until you break.” Now, I appreciate unedited anything, as I am 100% anti-censorship, but why is it Third Eye Blind can sing about crystal meth, but Ke$ha (I know, “why are you listening to Ke$ha?”) gets the words “bottle of Jack,” “junk,” “crunk,” and “tipsy” blurred out of her song? It doesn’t seem right, but I’m not complaining. Just leave my kick-ass 90s songs intact.

#36 – Vertical Horizon – “You’re A God” – (1999)

Where are bands like Vertical Horizon today? The music scene has become bleak at best… wherever you are: please write another awesome song like this. I guess that’s not fair, as Vertical Horizon has recorded multiple albums since this song came out… we just never gave them a chance. The video for this song features Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, who, to some, was a god in the 90s.

#37 – Matchbox Twenty – “Real World” – (1996)

If you wonder what it’s like to be the rainmaker, then this is the song for you. Matchbox Twenty was one of the premier alt rock bands of the 90s. This song charted poorly but was an Adult Contemporary smash. Interesting note: this album, Yourself or Someone Like You was incorrectly listed as a Third Eye Blind (I believe) album on the DVD game Scene-It: Music. As a music fan, that is infuriating. Anyway, also from this album are the songs “Long Day” and “Back 2 Good.”

#38 – En Vogue – “My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It)” – (1992)

Okay, I didn’t realize until just know that the title of #39 is “Vogue” and the group name of #38 is En Vogue. Yeah, that’s weird – and unintentional. The gals in this group were very talented vocally – perhaps that is why they were chosen to appear as the guest vocalists on Salt-N-Pepa’s “Whatta Man” (which is an awesome song in its own right). Neither of these songs achieved the success of 1996’s “Don’t Let Go (Love)” – unfortunately, I can never remember what song that actually is from the title alone, although I recognize it immediately upon hearing it.

#39 – Madonna – “Vogue” – (1990)

This album’s full title is I’m Breathless: Music from and Inspired by the film “Dick Tracy.” I forgot Madonna was even in Dick Tracy – her performance was that memorable. This song, however, is quite memorable. The beat is quite dance-y and the best part is where Madonna starts rattling off “vogue” stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood: Greta Garbo, Marilyn Monroe, Marlene Dietrich, Joe DiMaggio, Marlon Brando, James Dean, Grace Kelly, Fred Astaire, Jean Harlow, Gene Kelly, Ginger Rogers, Rita Hayworth, Lauren Bacall, Katharine Hepburn, Lana Turner & Bette Davis. Perhaps the real reason I like this song so much, other than its catchiness, is the fact that I love the Golden Age of Hollywood. Madonna had a hit record in 1995 with Something to Remember and its hit singles “I’ll Remember” and the slightly haunting “You’ll See.”

#40 – Gin Blossoms – “Hey Jealousy” – (1992)

“Tomorrow we can drive around this town/and let the cops chase us around” is a very familiar lyric from this song. I’m not sure if this is technically the bands biggest single (I can’t see why it wouldn’t be) but it’s definitely their most recognizable. The only other major airplay-earning single from New Miserable Experience was “Found out about You,” although the singles “Until I Fall Away” and “Allison Road” were both hits on the Modern Rock charts. (Note: seemingly half of this album, and half of their singles, were previously released on more obscure albums from the bands pre-fame days).

#41 – Jennifer Lopez – “If You Had My Love” – (1999)

There was Britney, Christina and JLo – they were the big three solo female acts of 1999. Britney was too bubblegum – Christina tried too hard. Jennifer Lopez’s songs had decent beats and that Latin flavor that was so popular in 1999 (no matter how hard Christina tried, she couldn’t match it). This was her first single from her first album and I think it qualifies as her best – from when her music wasn’t that bad (i.e. before she met Ja Rule). Her third English single from On the 6 (after this and “Waiting for Tonight”) was “Feelin’ So Good” with Fat Joe and Big Pun.

#42 – The Cranberries – “Dreams” – (1993)

The unique voice of Dolores O’Riordan is back again and if you don’t recognize the song title, you’ve at least probably heard it – that or you haven’t flipped on a radio in almost 20 years.

#43 – Fastball – “The Way” – (1998)

During the opening of the song as they scroll through radio stations, you can apparently hear three songs, but the one that stands out the most is Jewel’s “Foolish Games.” This song hit #1 on the Modern Rock chart – and deservedly so. The lyrics, “The road that they walk on is paved in gold/And it’s always summer, they’ll never get cold/They’ll never get hungry/They’ll never get old and gray” are great and the guitar has a very distinct sound to it. There were two other big singles from All the Pain Money Can Buy: the very popular but slower (and organ-heavy) “Out of My Head” and “Fire Escape.”

#44 – Sting feat. Cheb Mami – “Desert Rose” – (1999)

So do you know what Sting is saying during the chorus? I don’t – but love this song, and have since the day I first heard it. Cheb Mami is the featured Algerian singer and this song has very distinct Arab musical influences, which may account for part of its appeal. The music video kind of plays like a commercial for the then-brand-new Jaguar S-Type. Sting had other hits in the 90s and, although they don’t quite fit in with the nature of the rest of the songs on this list, I’ll mention them anyway. The big ones were: “If I Ever Lose My Faith in You” and “Fields of Gold” – both from 1993’s Ten Summoner’s Tales. Except both of these songs to make our forthcoming “Songs from the 90s that sound like they could be from the 80s” list.

#45 – Smash Mouth – “All Star” – (1999)

This song really was everywhere – and it’s just another reason that Astro Lounge rocked. This song was featured in the movie Mystery Men and the main characters from the film made an appearance in the music video for this track. I think this may be the music video I’ve seen more than any other – it was played constantly on MTV. If it isn’t the bands biggest single, it’s close. Astro Lounge is also home to what I consider my favorite Smash Mouth tune: “Then the Morning Comes,” which was a successful single in its own right – but nowhere near the level of “All Star.”

#46 – Natalie Merchant – “Wonder” – (1995)

This song is hard to find on YouTube, so if you wanna hear it, I’d click that link pretty fast. Wonder is the top track from Tigerlily – they just don’t get better than this. I’ve always assumed the lyrics were “great” and “wholesome” but I’ve never really understood anything other than “I must be one of the wonders, God’s own creation…” In 1998 she had another hit, this time from Ophelia, with the song “Kind and Generous.”

#47 – Stone Temple Pilots – “Interstate Love Song” – (1994)

I love STP and this was their biggest mainstream hit. Musically, it is very similar to other alternative rock songs of the time – it is very ‘period-correct.’ Scott Weiland is among the greatest 90s alternative rock vocalists (behind Chris Cornell, of course) and this track really proves that. For a slightly mellower song (although it isn’t necessarily ‘mellow’) from Purple, check out “Big Empty.”

#48 – Backstreet Boys – “I Want It That Way” – (1999)

I think this is the biggest single by a boy-band – and it’s definitely the biggest single from the Backstreet Boys. The song and music video dominated 1999 although it never hit #1 on the Hot 100. Other singles from Millennium: the somewhat fun “Larger than Life” and “Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely.” From 1997s Backstreet’s Back: “All I Have to Give” and the dance track “We’ve Got it Goin’ on” (and if you watch the video through that link, you’ll see just how douchey boy bands actually were). And from their eponymous debut album: “As Long as You Love Me,” “Quit Playing Games (with My Heart),” “I’ll Never Break Your Heart,” and “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” (which I remember being on a Jock Jams CD). Yes, a handful of these could’ve been on this list because they really aren’t terrible. But I’m not a huge boy-band fan and I think one song is a good enough representation of them. But the list of songs here proves that the Backstreet Boys really were superior to N’Sync… even if Justin Timberlake went on to be relatively awesome.

#49 – No Doubt – “Don’t Speak” – (1995)

Well, this is the last appearance of No Doubt on this list – mostly because I’m out of kick-ass singles from Tragic Kingdom. This is probably No Doubt’s biggest single and it’s a good one. It was the third of the big three singles from the album (although it technically wasn’t released as a single – therefore couldn’t chart on the Billboard’s Hot 100 – although it did stay at number one on the Airplay chart for 16 weeks. The song isn’t as “rockin'” as “Spiderwebs” or “Just a Girl” but it was Gwen’s first big song that was personal, as it was about the break-up of her and the bassist, Tony Kanal.

#50 – Harvey Danger – “Flagpole Sitta” – (1997)

Harvey Danger was a one-hit wonder and holy crap this song is awesome. It has the ability to pump you up for any sort of physical activity (or me, at least). The lyrics are discernable and therefore easily sung along with. What it’s really about I have no idea – what does that title even mean? It’s just an awesome song… I feel dumb that that’s all I’m able to say about it… it’s just a great alt-rock song.

#51 – Duncan Shiek – “Barely Breathing” – (1996)

This is Duncan Shiek’s only real song of note. When it was released, it set the record for longest time on Billboard’s Hot 100 (55 straight weeks) – but it never hit number one. The music is fairly catchy, but it’s the lyrics that really draw you in. This song remains one of the finest examples of 90s singer-songwriter rock.

#52 – Vanilla Ice – “Ice Ice Baby” – (1990)

The fact that this song was an accidental hit (having been released as the b-side to a single and played on accident) only makes it more hilarious. I know every word of this song and have been listening to it more or less constantly since it came out. I just wish I could do the dance he does in the video – and where’d he get that sweet Miami sweatshirt? How 90s… Of course, this song steals the beat from Queen & David Bowie’s “Under Pressure,” and there’s always that famous clip of Mr. Ice trying to defend it because there’s an extra “ch” at the end of the beat. Yeah… this is one of the biggest one hit wonders of all time (and don’t try to tell me any of his other songs were “hits” – even that Ninja Turtles II theme – he was in the movie too).

#53 – Britney Spears – “…Baby One More Time” – (1999)

Do-do-do. From those opening three piano strikes, you know exactly what song this is. I know exactly where I was when I first heard this song and it was right before the song exploded and became one of the biggest singles of all time, making 18-year-old Britney Spears a household name. Truth be told, a few months later I attended her concert. That’s enough of the truth… Fact is, this song should be way higher on this list – or any list of 90s songs – because it was huge. It ushered in, for better or worse, a new era of pre-fabricated, choreography-laden pop music. The music video for this song is fairly memorable and pretty much mapped out how Britney’s career was going to play out. The two other big singles from her debut album were “Sometimes” (which I distinctly remember sitting near the top on TRL for quite some time) and “(You Drive Me) Crazy” (which was a Making the Video video that featured cameos from then big-time TV star Melissa Joan-Hart and now big-time TV star Adrian Grenier.

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