brandy_norwood_-_brandy_albumBrandy – “Baby” – (1994)

Brandy released her first album when she was only 15 and this Grammy-nominated song is probably the highlight of the album, and definitely the one that still gets the most radio airplay. It was a top five hit.

220px-BluesTravelerfourBlues Traveler – The Mountains Win Again – 1994

This was the third and final single from Four and it was the least successful but it’s still really good. I’m pretty sure Coors used to use it for their advertising. It sounds almost countryish or at least country rockish. Almost like a Bob Seger song from the 1980s (think “Like a Rock”).

Richard Marx – “The Way She Loves Me” – (1994)

This was single #3 from Paid Vacation, which also featured “Now and Forever,” which turned out to be one of Richard Marx’s biggest this. This song is definitely in its shadow, but it’s more upbeat and fun. Yes, I just told you that a Richard Marx song is fun. It actually charted into the top 20 on the Hot 100 and #3 on the Adult Contemporary chart (which is more apt, as Richard Marx just about defines “Adult Contemporary in 1994”). Marx looks like Rob Lowe in this video.

Luther Vandross & Mariah Carey – “Endless Love” – (1994)

Didn’t we feature “Endless Love” a few weeks ago? Um, yeah. But it’s one of those songs that has been covered and covered. Instead of Lionel Richie we have the also-supremely-talented Luther Vandross and in place of Diana Ross we have the possibly-more-talented Mariah Carey (from a solo-career perspective). This was released on a Luther Vandross album and on Mariah’s Greatest Hits album seven years later. It was a #2 on the Hot 100 and is almost as good as the original.

John Mellencamp & Me’Shell Ndegeocello – “Wild Night” – (1994)

Covering a Van Morrison song is always a risky proposition as he is amazing. But the man formerly known as John Cougar Mellencamp – with help from singer Me’Shell Ndegeocello – really knock this one out of the park. The song has a funky feel to the bassline and pretty sweet guitar. It was a big hit too, topping out at #3 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart.

#61 – Nirvana – “You Know You’re Right” – (2002)

Whaaat? A song from Nirvana released in 2002? Yep, and it was a big deal when it happened, too. This song was written in 1993 (and recorded in January of 1994) – one of the last known songs written by Kurt Cobain and the final song the band recorded. It existed for years as a bootlegged live version but it was locked away because Courtney Love kept suing Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic over how it should be released. And she won – the song was released on a single-disc, self-titled greatest hits album in 2002. It topped both American rock charts and hit #45 on the Hot 100. It’s weird to think how things would’ve been different had this come out in 1994 on another Nirvana album. Cobain’s death derailed an entire genre of music, for better or worse. If you think about the grunge/post-grunge songs you know from 1994 and 1995, they don’t sound like this at all. The course of music history could’ve (and very probably would’ve) been very different had Kurt stayed around a while longer. But at least we finally have this track. Who knows what else time will release to us.

Nirvana – “About a Girl” – (1989/1994)

This song was originally released on Bleach in 1989 but was recorded for the band’s live Unplugged set for MTV. It was the first single released from the Unplugged album after Kurt Cobain’s death. I’ve linked to the live version because it was a #1 Modern Rock single in the U.S. Cobain didn’t even want to include this track on Bleach because he found it might alienate the grunge fan base. He wrote it after listening to early Beatles records on repeat. He thought it was too “poppy.” I find it kind of funny, 20 years removed, that this was too pop for grunge. It’s very grunge. But I would have very much liked to see what Kurt Cobain could’ve written if he were uninhibited by his perceived grunge-God-ness and free to experiment with his Beatles obsession all he wanted.

Kenny G – “Winter Wonderland” – (1994)

Kenny G’s “Winter Wonderland” – as with most of Kenny G’s Christmas music – evokes sounds of New York to me. I guess it’s because I grew up watching Christmas movies that take place in New York City and depending on the decade in which they were released, featured a saxophone-laden Christmas-themed score. It’s soft, sit-by-the-fire type Christmas music. This is from Miracles: The Holiday Album, the best-selling holiday album since 1991 and perhaps of all time – it’s gone platinum 8x.

Richard Marx – “Now and Forever” – (1994)

What? A song from 1994 being confused for something from the 1980s? What the hell is wrong with me? Oh, maybe it’s because Richard Marx never changed his sound. This is just an acoustic soft rock song written by Marx that reached the top 25 on the Hot 100. This was also Marx’s final solo single that really made waves on the, uh, airwaves.

#3 – Toadies – “Possum Kingdom” – (1994)

I don’t think rock songs can get much better than this. What riffs! This song seriously rocks. “Don’t be afraid, I didn’t mean to scare you. So help me Jesus.” This is the Toadies’ most well-known song and it was a top ten on the Mainstream and Modern Rock chart. It just keeps building and building as the song goes – or at least it seems like it does, which is a good thing for a heavy grunge song such as this. You get the feeling that it’s going to explode at some point. The Toadies aren’t household names like the artists with the top two songs on the lists, but the song stands right there with them.

#5 – Soundgarden – “Spoonman” – (1994)

“Feel the rhythm with your hands – steal the rhythm while you can. Spoonman” This was the first single from Superunknown, Soundgarden’s best album. This album had their biggest hits and “Spoonman” was among them, hitting #3 on the Mainstream Rock chart and #9 on the Modern Rock chart, helping establish Soundgarden as a legitimate mainstream rock band. The song is about a guy who plays the spoons and there used to be such a guy here locally who was quite old and quite well-known in certain parts of town – and I became familiar with him about the time this song was popular. You don’t see many people playing the spoons anymore – and even less do you hear grunge songs written about them.

#8 – The Cranberries – “Zombie” – (1994)

Dolores O’Riordan’s voice is unmatched when it comes to female rock vocalists of the 90s. This song is why. This was the band’s follow-up single to their hugely popular hits “Dreams” and “Linger.” This song was also less pop-y and more grunge than the previous two. Thus it hit #1 on the Modern Rock chart but was also a top 20 hit on the Top 40 Mainstream chart. In other words, it was a big hit and it is intensely kick-ass. Lyrics: “It’s the same old theme since 1916. In your head, in your head they’re still fighting. With their tanks and their bombs and their bombs and their guns. In your head , in your head they are dying.”

#12 – Nine Inch Nails – “Closer” – (1994)

Parental Advisory, indeed. A couple of days ago I talked about certain people feeling the need to censor music to protect others. Well, it’s because of songs like this. Any song that whose chorus exists mostly of “I want to f*** you like an animal” is bound to draw the ire of over-protective parents, or, well, just parents in general. If you want an introduction to industrial rock, this is as good as it gets. Trent Reznor, the go-to man for recent Oscar-winning film scores, is the man behind Nine Inch Nails and this was his biggest hit. In fact, I recently heard a heavily-edited version of this song on a “mix” radio station not too long ago. It was sandwiched in between something like Ace of Base and Duran Duran, which was weird. The music video raised even more hell than the song, which is why you need to log in to YouTube to view it. At any rate, this song is completely badass.

#14 – Beck – “Loser” – (1994)

“Loser” was originally released independently by Beck but once it got picked up on the radio Beck received a record deal and the song was released again, which catapulted it to #10 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the Modern Rock chart. It was Beck’s first single of note and it made him a huge star (it also remains his biggest hit to date). The song sounds really simple musically and Beck’s monotone rapping really offsets it. “I’m a loser, so why don’t you kill me,” might stand as one of the most un-inspiring lyrics of all time.

#16 – Bush – “Glycerine” – (1994)

Sixteen Stone was one of the best rock albums of the decade. It came out in December of 1994 and it launched Bush as a major rock group in the immediate post-grunge era. As they were British, they never really fit into the grunge era that is so readily identified by American bands of the upper Northwest. This was the fourth single from the album (released as a single in late 1995) and it’s amazing. It’s a weird mix of alternative rock and slow-dance ballad. There are cellos where the drums should be. Gavin Rossdale’s lyric delivery is spot-on. (I was halfway through writing this post for “Comedown,” when I realized we’ve already featured that song… so go listen to it as well!). This was a #1 on the Modern Rock chart and #2 on the Mainstream Rock chart as well as being in the top 30 on the Hot 100.

#20 – Live – “I Alone” – (1994)

Live is a good band name to give yourself if you want to make it somewhat difficult for people to search for you on the internet. Luckily, Wikipedia comes up first, but after that you’re gonna get all kinds of results for live music. Throwing Copper was a pretty big album and it included the amazing “Lightning Crashes” as well as “I Alone,” which was released as a single right before “Lightning Crashes.” It was a top ten on the Modern Rock chart and features lyrics that I had no idea were there, such as the lead-in to the chorus: “The greatest of teachers won’t hesitate to leave you there by yourself chained to fate.” Sure, that’s what he’s saying. That line would need some serious punctuation to fit how it is sung. Either way, good song.

#24 – Oasis – “Slide Away” – (1994)

Yes, Oasis had bigger hits in the 90s, but we featured most of them during our big Top 200 of the 90s countdown. Plus, I love this song. So here it sits. It is from their debut album, Definitely Maybe and has all of the classic trademarks of an Oasis rock song: great lyrics written by Noel, throat-wrenching vocals delivered by Liam, and kickass music all around. Oh, and there was an argument while recording. This was never an official single but it is among the best songs they ever did. When “slide in baby together we’ll fly” is delivered, the song takes on an awesome groove and that is the part of the song that seals it for me. Take a listen and tell me if you disagree.

#25 – The Offspring – “Come Out and Play” – (1994)

This was the first big single from The Offspring, who would get even bigger as the 90s progressed, peaking in about 1998-99 with “Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)” – and by “peaking” I don’t mean “the best they’ll get,” I mean in popularity. Smash was their third album and “Come Out and Play” (sometimes referred to by the common lyric “keep ’em separated”) was their first #1 on the Modern Rock chart. The Offspring have had a number of big hits over the years and this is among the best of them.

Tom Petty – “You Wreck Me” – (1994)

Well, I guess it’s Tom Petty week this week and this is our 1990s entry (if you haven’t noticed, lately Monday has been an 80s tune, Wednesday is from the 90s, and Friday has been a track from 2000+). Wildflowers was another Petty solo album and “You Wreck Me” wasn’t the biggest single from the album but it’s a pretty good one that is kind of the standard Petty fare.

Adam Sandler – “The Chanukah Song” – (1994)

Yeah, Chanukah is a Jewish holiday but that doesn’t mean this isn’t a great Christmas song. There have been sequels (we’ll get to them individually) but this is the original and the best. “Guess who eats together at the Carnegie Deli, Bowser from Sha-Na-Na and Arthur Fonzarelli.” That’s a lyric. When played on the radio the words “marijuana-icah” is often removed for whatever stupid reason. “O.J. Simpsons: not a Jew.” Not sure when Chanukah starts, but Happy Chanukah anyway!

TLC – “Creep” – (1994)

This was TLC’s first #1 – it also won them a Grammy and is considered one of the premier songs of the 90s. The music video could not be more 90s – with a mixture of color and black and white footage of the girls performing a choreographed dance. There are also bright colors and tilted camera angles. This song is pretty good, but I still like “Waterfalls” better.

#5 – Seal – “Kiss from a Rose” – (1994)

Seal made the bewildering decision to name his second album Seal – which was also the same as his first album back in 1991. As weird as that is, he managed to crank out a huge hit from both albums. This one was the biggest of his career and his signature song (and it won him 3 Grammys and became his only #1 hit). The lyrics are smooth and with the strings in the background it has a really slick vibe – and it should, this is the man who married Heidi Klum. Oh, and that big hit from his first eponymous album was “Crazy (which is a brilliant song).” He also had a hit off the Space Jam soundtrack with a cover of “Fly like an Eagle.”

#12 – Sophie B. Hawkins – “As I Lay Me Down” – (1994)

“If felt like springtime on this February morning…” “As I Lay Me Down” wasn’t the most successful single from Sophie B. Hawkins (it hit #6, “Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover” hit #5) – it is definitely her best. It has a good beat and tempo but the lyrics are restraining in that, although there is an upbeat tempo in the background, they set the pace, which is smooth and relaxed. This is a good song.

#15 – Blues Traveler – “Run-Around” – (1994)

The harmonica isn’t a popular central instrument in a band… unless that band is Blues Traveler. This was their biggest hit and rightfully so. Just like “Ants Marching” (#16) the lyrics here are sung with a distinct vocal accent that makes them somewhat difficult to easily comprehend. Apparently, this song was originally sung much slower than the version everyone is used to – and that would suck. The tempo here is one of the best parts… it seems to constantly increase in speed and the chorus seems more and more frantic each time it comes by. Another great song from Four: “The Mountains Win Again.”

“Oh I like coffee and I like tea. I’d like to be able to enter a final plea. I still got this dream that you just can’t shake. I love you to the point you can no longer take. Well all right, okay. So be that way. I hope and pray that there’s still something left to say… But yooouuuu…”

#16 – Dave Matthews Band – “Ants Marching” – (1994)

This is one of those songs with lyrics that are sung in a manner that it isn’t entirely clear what is being said. It’s very clear once you know it, but getting to that point can be frustrating and/or rewarding. Like this: “Candyman tempting the thoughts of a/Sweet tooth tortured by weight loss programs/Cutting the corners, there’s a/Loose end, loose end, cut cut/On the fence, try not to offend/Cut cut, cut cut.” This is my favorite Dave Matthews song – it’s also one of those songs whose lyrics include the album title, in this case: Under the Table and Dreaming. The two other big singles from this album are the almost equally as fantastic “What Would You Say” (featuring John Popper of Blues Traveler on harmonica) and “Satellite,” a song that really doesn’t do anything for me.