220px-ScorpionsCrazyWorldScorpions – “Wind of Change” – (1990)

It’s the whistling that gets you here and sucks you in. I always forget that the Scorpions are German and I usually forgot about this song. This is from that awful era of the late 1980s and the first few years of the 1990s where hair band ballads were still relevant and black and white music videos were all the rage. Here’s a famous one.

Glenn Medeiros & Bobby Brown – “She Ain’t Worth It” – (1990)

This was a #1 hit for Glenn Medeiros (and Bobby Brown). His successful years were between 1984 and 1993. After that, he became a teacher and currently is a vice-principal at a school in Hawaii. How about that for a career turn? Imagine having a teacher who had a huge radio smash. This song is a good example of early-90s R&B/new jack swing. I like it (although I don’t care for Bobby Brown’s rap verse).

George Michael – “Waiting For That Day” – (1990)

This song is sometimes subtitled “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” – and that’s because it sounds similar to the Rolling Stones song of the same name. George Michael wrote this song independently and later realized how similar it sounded, so he gave Mick Jagger and Keith Richards credit (presumably to avoid a lawsuit). Amazingly, this was George Michael’s first single to not make it into the top 10 in the U.S. – it only reached #27.

Adam Sandler – “The Chanukah Song, Part II” – (1999)

While the original “Chanukah Song” has kind of become a Christmas music classic, Part II doesn’t receive quite as much airplay (at least, not anymore). I don’t think anyone saw it coming – but, as you can hear in its first live performance – everyone knows some of the reused lyrics. It’s the list of people that has changed. There’s some fun to be had, like when he references himself as Happy Gilmore and that O.J. Simpson is “still not a Jew.”

Dan Fogelberg – “Rhythm of the Rain” – (1990)

The late, great Dan Fogelberg had a big hit in 1990 with his partial-cover of The Cascades’ 1962 song “Rhythm of the Rain.” I say “partial-cover” because he took their song and blended it in part with the Beatles’ song “Rain” to make a really, really good Adult Contemporary hit. It was a #3 song on that chart, and the last charting single of Fogelberg’s career. The vocals and the medley on this track are a near-perfect blend. It really is amazing and a song I’ve always loved. This is also the final song for our “1990s songs that sound like they’re from the 1980s” list.

George Michael – “Freedom! 90” – (1990)

Here is one of George Michael’s best songs – and he’s had some awesome songs. This is one of those songs that has that “anthem” type feel to it. It’s upbeat but it builds and builds to the chorus in which George Michael is sort of yelling “Freedom!” behind George Michael who is also singing the chorus. The music video was directed by David Fincher… who also directed the music video for “Cradle of Love,” which we featured a few weeks ago. Fun fact, the “90” in the title is only there to differentiate it from the Wham! song that was called “Freedom.” It was a top ten hit in the U.S. and remains one of his most popular songs, even if it sounds a little older than it is (and even though the title clearly states what decade it came out in).

 AC/DC – “Moneytalks” – (1990)

This is easily one of AC/DC’s best songs and it comes off one of their better albums. It’s also one of their biggest hits. AC/DC made a lot of good, hard rock n’ roll music, but some of those songs were able to cross into the mainstream. This is one of those songs that has more of a pop rock feel to it. Brian Johnson’s fantastic vocal delivery as well as the multiple people singing on the chorus really adds to it. It came out in 1990 but it sounds just like – and just as good as – the songs AC/DC did in the 80s. It’s awesome.

Paul Young – “Oh Girl” – (1990)

Well this proves my decade point: on the video that this post is linked to above, the video description says “80S.” Then, as is the YouTube custom, there is an argument in the comment section about this having actually been released in 1990. See, I’m not the only one who thought it was from the 80s. Then again, it’s a cover of a song by the Chi-Lites, which they released way back in 1972. Young’s version was a top ten in the U.S. – the Chi-Lites hit #1.

Warrant – “Cherry Pie” – (1990)

This oh-so-subtle glam rock song about… erm… dessert, is, perhaps, Warrant’s best-known song. It was a top ten hit in the U.S. The video is fairly memorable for the band in a big white room and an attractive woman dancing around while being sprayed by a hose and eating cherries. Oh yeah, subtle. Apparently, according to Jani Lane (Warrant front-man) he wrote this song in 15 minutes, which isn’t too terribly hard to believe once you’ve listened to it. It’s fairly basic and high-schoolers everywhere loved the dirty, innuendo-laced lyrics (although some were more blunt than others). Sounds just like every 80s hair band.

Alias – “More than Words Can Say” – (1990)

Mmm, power ballads – they scream 1980s but so many came out in 1990 and 1991 that we might as well consider those years part of the previous decade. “Here I am, at 6 o’clock in the morning” is the opening lyrics and a similar line is repeated at increasing volume and intensity throughout the track. No this is not the same “More Than Words” that was released in 1991 by Extreme. Completely different songs. This was a #2 in the U.S. and a #1 in Canada, the band’s home country. Unfortunately, the band would not equal the success of this song.

Depeche Mode – “Personal Jesus” – (1990)

This song, which is a great example of Depeche Mode’s signature sound, was their first big hit in the U.S. since 1984. It’s one of their best known songs and, like many of their other songs, it completely rocks. 1990 was not a high watermark for music – yet this album, Violator, tries very hard to convince you otherwise. But the staggering amount of awful pop music from the likes of Sweet Sensation and New Kids on the Block (etc.) overwhelm the awesome stuff like this.

Billy Idol – “Cradle of Love” – (1990)

This very 1980s Billy Idol song was actually released in 1990. Why do I say it sounds very 80s? Because it sounds just like “White Wedding,” that’s why. This was a #2 on the Hot 100 and a #1 on the mainstream rock chart. It remains one of Billy Idol’s best known hits. The music video was directed by David Fincher and received heavy airplay on MTV, helping the song’s success.

Concrete Blonde – “Joey” – (1990)

“Joey” was the biggest single from Los Angeles-based alternative rock band Concrete Blonde. The belted chorus of “Joey if you’re hurting so am I” (or whatever it changes to after subsequent verses) may sound somewhat familiar when you hear it come from the somewhat raspy vocal chords of Johnette Napolitano – even if it doesn’t in text. It was a top 20 on the Hot 100 and a #1 on the Modern Rock chart. Does it sound like it came from the 1980s? You betcha.

Wilson Phillips – “Release Me” – (1990)

This was the second single from Wilson Phillips’ debut album – and their second #1 hit. It is also the second-best song they have (after “Hold On”). But – it really doesn’t sound too dissimilar from their other songs if you don’t listen too closely… wait a second, I think I might actually like this more than “Hold On.”

Whitney Houston – “All the Man That I Need” – (1990)

Why does this song have a 1980s feel? Because it was originally recorded in 1982 by Linda Clifford. Whitney covered it for her 1990 album I’m Your Baby Tonight. This was a #1 for Ms. Houston – the 4th biggest of her career, which is weird because it’s nowhere near her 4th best song. In fact, if you told me I had to karaoke this song without a prompter, I would be lost. I probably couldn’t even produce the melody on command. This one’s just lost in the shuffle of late-80s/early-90s love songs.

Bette Midler – “From a Distance” – (1990)

Well I don’t care if it was released in 1990, this song screams “1980s.” Maybe it’s because Bette Midler’s other two massive hits were both massive in the 80s (yes, “The Rose” actually came out in ’79). This was a #2 hit in the U.S. and received massive amounts of airplay. But it sounds just like every cheesy 80s pop song you can think of. Even if you just listen to the music. Anyway, as much as loathe Bette Midler, her vocals are pretty solid. The song was originally written in 1985 and was first recorded in 1987 by Nanci Griffith. Midler’s version is the most popular in the U.S. (with a Cliff Richard version being popular in the U.K.). The song seems to have fairly religious lyrics, but I think it’s just supposed to be a love song.

Wilson Phillips – “You’re in Love” – (1990)

The cassette version of Wilson Phillips’ self-titled debut album did at one time (and probably still does) reside in my house. This was a #1 single in the U.S. even though it isn’t as good as their other major hits. It was the final single from their first album. I don’t know how much more I can talk about Wilson Phillips, but there is one more song from them that we’ll feature about a month from now. Maybe I’ll think of something by then.

Nelson – “(Can’t Live Without Your) Love and Affection” – (1990)

What an awesome song this is! Nelson is a band fronted by brothers Matthew and Gunnar Nelson – the twin sons of Ricky Nelson… although they look like the twin sons of Edgar Winter. They look very Swedish… because they have long blonde hair (or they did in 1990) and one of them is named Gunnar. This was a #1 song in 1990 and rightfully so. This sort of glam-rock/metal ballad type of song was at its peak around this time and this is the best of them. The guitar hook is catchy as hell, the drums rock, and the lyrics fuse it all together. It just rocks… definitely one of my favorites.

Go West – “King of Wishful Thinking” – (1990)

This is a great tune, originally used in the 1990 film Pretty Woman – and also featured on its soundtrack. It was released on Go West’s 1992 album Indian Summer as well. There is a very 90s dance beat backing the vocals – there is even a brass section that gives it a hint of tropical-ness (or it does to me, anyway). It was a top ten in the U.S. and Australia and it’s a song I’ve always liked since the first time I heard it. Definitely worth a listen if you don’t know it.

Mr. Big – “To Be With You” – (1991)

People love this song. My liking it very much depends on my mood. Sometimes I loathe it, but as I listen to it right now, it doesn’t seem so bad – maybe because I haven’t heard it in quite a while (yes, I’ve been avoiding it, but sometimes that helps you get back to be able to hear it with fresh ears). This is the song Mr. Big is known for – they were a hard rock band and their most famous song is acoustic. But it was a big hit, reaching #1 in the U.S., Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Germany, Canada, Austria and Australia. It’s the hair-band-ness of this song that makes me think it would’ve been big in the 80s – and it would have. Perhaps, most interesting (to me anyway) is the cover art of the album Lean into It. It is a photograph of the 1895 derailment of the Granville-Paris Express that overran the buffer stop and out the side of Gare Montparnasse in Paris, falling a story to street level. There was one fatality (a woman on the street killed by falling pieces of the two-foot thick wall that the train careened through). Unfortunately, Montparnasse does not look as interesting as it does in that picture. Aaand… end tangent.

Depeche Mode – “Enjoy the Silence” – (1990)

We already featured “Policy of Truth” during our Top Rock Songs of the 90s countdown, but it would have just as well fit here. “Enjoy the Silence” was the single released right before “Policy of Truth” and it also has a very 1980s feel. Synthpop was huge during the 80s, and this is a pretty good example of it, yet it was released in 1990. This is one of their best songs and its chart performance reflected it, hitting the top five or top ten in most countries where it was released. The chorus: “All I ever wanted, all I ever needed – is here in my arms. Words are very unnecessary, they can only do harm.”

Wilson Phillips – “Hold On” – (1990)

Wilson Phillips is group made up of children of 1960s musicians: Carnie and Wendy Wilson (daughters of Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys) and Chynna Phillips (daughter of John & Michelle Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas). This was their debut album and it was a big deal in 1990. But it would’ve fared just as well a few years before this as well – and that’s what we’ll be dealing with for the next few weeks: songs from the 1990s that would’ve been just as big in the 1980s. This was a #1 hit in the U.S. and was recently featured in the movie Bridesmaids – which caused it to re-enter the U.K. charts. It’s famous for the quickly-delivered lyric: “Some day somebody’s gonna make you turn around and say goodbye.”

Technotronic – “Pump Up the Jam” – (1989)

“Get your booty on the floor tonight, make my day.” Classic. You’re looking at (and hopefully listening to) the first house song to go mainstream. And by “house” I mean “club music.” Does it sound dated today? You bet it does, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t great. Break out your Jock Jams CDs and go crazy with early-to-mid-90s dance music and techno. This was released in 1989 and topped the dance chart that November. Mainstream success came in 1990, so I’m not insane associating this with the 1990s. I have a very specific memory of listening to this song (on said Jock Jams CD) in the mid-1990s when the original Sony PlayStation came out – with its crazy non-cartridge CD-based gaming! – and the only game I had was a Lara Croft: Tomb Raider demo disc. I don’t want to think of the amount of time I spent playing that dead-end game. But as far as “pumping up the jam?” Oh yeah!

#9 – Alice in Chains – “Man in the Box” – (1990)

Alice in Chains produced the best combination of heavy metal and grunge with songs like this. Another band to come out of Seattle in the late 80s, they were a mainstay of early-to-mid-90s rock radio and this song was a top 20 on the Mainstream Rock chart. It’s one of their best known songs and might be the one song that is most associated with the band. Layne Staley’s vocals are spot on and I’m not sure Jerry Cantrell has ever rocked harder on the guitar.

#31 – AC/DC – “Thunderstruck” – (1990)

One of AC/DC’s best songs and, without a doubt, one of the greatest guitar riffs of all time. Watch the video and watch Angus Young hop across the stage tearing it up. And Brian Johnson up there going “Ooohhhh.” But it’s the beginning of this song that cements its place as a rock and roll legend. “Thunder!” as the guitar just keeps building and building. It’s kind of a carryover from the 80s but it was technically released in 1990, which is why it’s here. But, honestly, it’s timeless.