January 2014

‘N Sync – “This I Promise You” – (2000)

This top five ‘N Sync hit was written by 80s pop star Richard Marx. The boy band of all boy bands released their version first, with Marx releasing twice thereafter. This was the group’s final single from No Strings Attached – and the final ‘N Sync single from the boy band era (sorry, Celebrity was a day late and dollar short – even just barely). This was a #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart, which is unusual because adults didn’t necessarily care for music like this back when it was popular (they still don’t – but the people who liked this in 2000 are now adults… which is scary).

Brian Setzer Orchestra – “Hey, Louis Prima” – (1996)

Guitar Slinger was Brian Setzer’s 1996 album – his second studio album and the one released right before they hit it big in the swing revival craze of the late-1990s. As most of his albums have been, it was a mix of original and covered material. “Hey, Louis Prima” was an original song written by Setzer that shows off his impressive guitar skills. It’s also a bit of foreshadowing as his cover of Louis Prima’s “Jump, Jive An’ Wail” would take him to the stratosphere of pop music two years later.

Hall & Oates – “Everything Your Heart Desires” – (1988)

This was the last top 10 single from Hall & Oates – well, I guess technically I should say “it’s their most recent” – but for some reason, I don’t see them putting out a new single to compete with Miley Cyrus among tweens whose YouTube habits dictate the current Billboard charts. This song actually reached #3 but I don’t know if I ever recalled hearing it on the radio even in the 90s. Not their most classic tune. But not terrible either.

John Mayer – “3×5” – (2001)

Here’s another great song from John Mayer’s debut album. Say what you want about him or his behavior, songs, etc. now – he wrote some damn fine pop music back in 2001. This song didn’t even actually make the cut of the original release but was added when it had its major-label re-release. It’s really good. I love this album. I’ll probably end up featuring almost every track individually on this site.

Pearl Jam – “Black” – (1991)

Pearl Jam was one of the most important bands of the 1990s and one of the biggest in the grunge scene – even if Nirvana gets so much of the credit. “Black” was the fifth track on Ten – one of the best/most-important albums of the decade. This reached #3 on the Mainstream Rock chart and if you want an example of classic grunge music – it doesn’t come much better than this. It remains one of their best-known and most well-received songs despite the fact that it was never released as a single.

Jimmy Buffett – “Brown Eyed Girl” – (1983)

First, sorry for linking to a live version – but ol’ Jimmy ain’t too bad live. Even if he happens to pander to the Chicago crowd in that video. Obviously, this is not a Buffett-original (although I would suggest the Buffett album version over a live version). The song was originally done by the incomparable Van Morrison in 1967. It remains Van Morrison’s signature song. This version was also a hit, hitting #13 on the Adult Contemporary chart in 1983.

Fantasia – “I Believe” – (2004)

The purpose of this site originally was to highlight songs from the 1990s that you (and time) forgot about. Over time it has evolved into a site about music in general – a song-a-day type of thing. Well here is a song I’m almost certain you don’t remember. By an artist you might not even remember. Fantasia Barrino won the third season of American Idol and then disappeared as far as I know. What sucked about American Idol then (don’t worry, it still sucks now) was that the final song by the winner would always shoot to #1 on the Hot 100 because for some dumb reason Billboard counted all of those teenagers’ text votes as song requests or something. This was a #1 hit. That should infuriate you. I have never heard it on the radio. Not even then. The only good thing here is, unlike all of these crappy shows like The Voice where some over made-up weirdo sings a cover of a song already made famous by a talented individual – this was an original song written for American Idol.

The Real McCoy – “Run Away” – (1995)

Sigh. 90’s Eurodance, how I miss you. This style of music is proof that the 90s were a happier time than now (even if the lyrics here are “Run away if you want to survive”). In a day when house music is pretty much the norm on mainstream radio, I can’t imagine how this ever became so popular in the mid-90s. I mean, it reached #3 on the Hot 100. For that brief period between summer of 1994 and the end of 1996, Eurodance became one of the 90s brief flashes of a very specific genre that would burn out really quick (I’m looking at you, Swing Revival).

Billy Joel – “Don’t Ask Me Why” – (1980)

“Don’t Ask Me Why” was the fourth single form Billy Joel’s huge 1980 album Glass Houses. It was a top 20 hit on the Hot 100, peaking at #19. One thing people often overlook about Billy Joel is that he dabbles in so many different styles. For instance, this song appears on a mostly rock-oriented album – but it is more folk-like (like his earlier music). But it also features a Latin paino solo and kind of a worldbeat backing track.

Jack Johnson – “Sitting, Waiting, Wishing” – (2005)

Jack Johnson is one of the unsung musical heroes of the 2000s. His music is really good, really relaxed, and really happy. It’s chill. But he never realized the commercial, mainstream success of some of his peers (who aren’t nearly as good as he is). But talk to people and everyone loves him. Then why won’t radio stations play it as much as they play some of the garbage that they do? In Between Dreams might be his best album to date and this song only reached #66 on the Hot 100. At least it got him a Grammy nomination.

Alice in Chains – “Rooster” – (1992)

This is one of Alice in Chain’s most well-known songs and it’s the one track that got me into the band (not literally, I’m not a member, but I was a pretty big fan). This song peaked at #7 on the Mainstream Rock chart and still receives airplay on hard rock radio stations. I like how the verses are almost just spoken while the chorus is this loud booming thing. In the era of 140 character tweets and six-second videos, this is among the rare 6+ minute songs that I don’t mind listening to in full.

Billy Ocean – “When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going” – (1986)

Billy Ocean loved him some long song titles. This was a #2 hit in the U.S. and a #1 in many counties around the world. It was kept from #1 in the U.S. by Whitney Houton. This was also the theme song for the movie The Jewel of the Nile and the music video features the three main stars of the film as backup singers in white suits.

Michael Buble – “Summer Wind” – (2003)

We’ve covered a number of Buble hits that were originals to his albums. Well now we’re getting into his covers of old standards (and how about a switch-up from the two songs from earlier this week?). The song was released on his 2003 album and it was not released as a single. The song was originally written in 1965 by Johnny Mercer and Heinz Meier. It was first recorded by Wayne Newton but the best known version is by Frank Sinatra. This version ain’t bad either.

Ozzy Osbourne – “Mama, I’m Coming Home” – (1991)

How about a little more hard rock this week? Ozzy’s style from the 1980s bled over seamlessly into the 1990s. This is from one of Ozzy’s two best-selling albums. The song is about his as-famous-as-he-is-now wife Sharon. Interestingly, this is Ozzy’s only solo Top 40 single on the Hot 100 – it peaked at #28. The song was written by the lead singer of Motorhead and Zakk Wylde, Ozzy’s former guitarist.