Mark Jonathan Davis – “Star Wars Cantina” – (1996)

Mark Jonathan Davis is known by the stage name of Richard Cheese, and he recorded this pretty good spoof of Barry Manilow’s “Copacabana” but all about Star Wars. It was originally aired on Dr. Demento’s radio show but it has never officially been released, thus the lack of an album cover above.

Foxworthy_crankupJeff Foxworthy – Redneck 12 Days of Christmas – 1996

Jeff Foxworthy was a comedy sensation in the 1990s. He could’ve put “redneck” on anything and made a boatload of money. One thing I like about this song is that it was written by the late comedian Tim Wilson, who was a really funny guy. This song was so golden that it charted on the Hot Country Singles chart five consecutive Christmases – in the top 40 each year, peaking at #18 the winter of ’95/’96. Pretty impressive.

220px-DMB_CrashDave Matthews Band – So Much To Say – 1996

This Grammy Award-winning song from Dave Matthews is him bragging about having central heating. Well, not really, but that’s the lyric I always remember. This wasn’t really a Top 40 song – more of the alternative rock side of Dave, peaking in the top 20 on that chart. It was the second single off the album, released prior to “Crash Into Me,” which turned out to be one of this biggest hits.

Hootie_&_the_Blowfish_Fairweather_Johnson_CD_coverHootie & the Blowfish – “Tucker’s Town” – (1996)

This was Hootie & the Blowfish’s final album single that really garnered any real airplay. When you listen to it, if you don’t remember it specifically, you definitely can recognize the sound as mid-90s pop rock – something that has more or less entirely disappeared from modern radio. It was a top 40 hit, reaching #38 and was one of two radio singles from 1996’s Fairweather Johnson

Vanessa Williams & Bobby Caldwell – “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” – (1996)

From the first Christmas album by Vanessa Williams comes what has to be the “rape-iest” Christmas song ever. Sorry if that’s a little harsh, but the lyrics of this song are pretty creepy: “Say, what’s in this drink?” It’s all about a girl trying to leave and go home and a guy trying to convince her to stay because it’s cold outside. Ulterior motives? Perhaps. If you don’t listen too closely, it’s a really nice song and this is the second-best version that I know of, after Dean Martin’s, of course.

Jeff Foxworthy – “Twas the Night After Christmas” – (1996)

Jeff Foxworthy was one of the most popular comedians of the 1990s. His “You might be a redneck” bit made him a huge star. And in 1996 he released an album called Crank it Up: The Music Album and it contained two Christmas songs. This one is more of a spoken-word song to music. It rhymes… he’s essentially reading the redneck version of the classic Christmas poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Of course, it ends in shooting reindeer for sport, but what did you expect?

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.

Tonic – “Open Up Your Eyes” – (1996)

“Open Up Your Eyes” was the first track on Tonic’s 1996 album Lemon Parade. It was also the first single and by no means the biggest. But I do remember hearing it on the radio back in the day (although, not nearly as much as “If You Could Only See”). This song is highly underrated today as an example of mid-90s post-grunge alternative rock. If you’re a fan of that era and kind of music (as I am), this is a must-have.

Carrapicho – “Tic, Tic Tac” – (1996)

A little semi-retro tune for you today. It’s by Brazilian group Carrapicho and it’s their most famous song by far. It turned out to be a top ten hit in Belgium, Spain, Austria, Germany, Norway, Switzerland and in the U.S. on the dance chart. It was a #1 in France and Portugal. It’s really catchy but for some reason, the beat, accompanied by the vocals in a language I don’t understand, it sounds kind of like a kids sing-a-long song. Honestly though, I still like it and it definitely has a Brazilian, tropical feel to it.

#18 – Sublime – “What I Got” – (1996)

Sublime has such a strong following to this day and if front man Bradley Nowell hadn’t died right before this album came out, Sublime might still be rocking it. This is one of two big hits from the album, which was the band’s third release (first on a major commercial label) and it really catapulted them into the mainstream. It was a #1 Modern Rock track as well as cracking the top 30 on the Hot 100 Airplay chart. The album was all over the place, stylistically, but this song is a mixture of alternative rock, ska and a little bit of hip-hop (lyrically). In other words: it’s awesome.

Matchbox Twenty – “Long Day” – (1996)

Rob Thomas is one of the premier vocalists of the 90s – and today. There, I said it. He’s awesome. His voice is unique and there’s passion behind the lyrics. I wish Matchbox Twenty was still rockin’ like they were in 1996. I just bought this album (for only $6.99 on Amazon!) and feel like I stole it. It’s full of hits and awesome songs like this. This was the first single from Yourself or Someone Like You – well, it was their first single, period – and it’s a good one, although you don’t hear it as often today as the other tracks from this album.

Celine Dion – “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” – (1996)

This is the “Total Eclipse of the Heart” of the 1990s. Maybe it’s the curtains blowing in open windows in the music video. Maybe it’s the haunting, building ballad. Actually, yeah, it’s both. Meat Loaf wanted to record this originally (the songwriter said no), and it sounds like something he’d do. The song was actually done originally by Pandora’s Box who went on to do, well, nothing else. The song was written about Wuthering Heights, which is kinda cool. The song turned out to be pretty big, hitting #2 on the Hot 100 (and #1 in other countries). It’s probably the biggest non-Titanic related-song of Celine Dion’s career. The song is kind of eerie and honestly, as much as I like to poke fun at Celine Dion’s songs, pretty damned good. So there, take that. Oh, and Meat Loaf did finally get to record it in 2006.

#9 – Better Than Ezra – “Desperately Wanting” – (1996)

This is such a good song. “I remember running through the wet grass, falling a step behind” is a lyric I knew by heart long before I knew what this song was. Every time I happen to catch it on the radio today two things happen: 1. The day instantly becomes better and 2. The radio gets cranked to near-deafening levels so I can scream the lyrics along with the band without actually having to hear my awful voice ruin the song. Better Than Ezra has one of my favorite stories behind a band’s name: they were performing at a battle of the bands competition and didn’t have a name and the band they followed was called Ezra. I don’t know if that’s true or not (it really doesn’t matter either way), but if it is, it’s awesome. They had another semi-big hit with the album prior to this one with “Good” (which sounds very Toad The Wet Sprocket-y).

#19 – The Wallflowers – “One Headlight” – (1996)

Due to the idiotic rules for the Hot 100 at the time of this song’s release, it was ineligible to chart – and it would have charted fairly high if it were allowed to because it was a substantial hit – probably the biggest hit The Wallflowers had. Now, when it comes to song-writing ability I don’t know if Jakob Dylan had it hard or easy or whatever because of, well, you know, his dad and all, but the lyrics in this song are astounding and their performance is equally excellent and original. This song has such a steady beat that when it meets that sad, soulful guitar, it brings it all to life. This also has one of those great sing-along choruses: “Heeey, come on try a little/Nothing is forever/There’s got to be something better than/In the middle/But me and Cinderella/We put it all together/We can drive it home/With one headlight.” Great stuff.

There were two much lesser hits from Bringing Down the Horse: “6th Avenue Heartache” (which isn’t so bad) and “Three Marlenas” (which is). The Wallflowers’ best non-“One Headlight” tune has to be 1998s cover of David Bowie’s “Heroes.” It was done for the Godzilla soundtrack and it is better than the original (probably because it doesn’t sound all that dissimilar from “One Headlight”).

#24 – Matchbox Twenty – “Push” – (1996)

Yourself or Someone like You launched five (5!) big singles onto the pop charts (okay, I didn’t research to see if they all charted, but I have heard them all on the radio). I generally consider “Real World” to be the definitive song of the five, but I think this is the best. There were a lot of pop songs dealing with heavy issues like abuse in the 90s and they all still maintained an element of cheerfulness… weird. “3 A.M.” is the other great one.

#26 – The Verve Pipe – “The Freshmen” – (1996)

This song is about heavier things than simply “being a freshman” but that shouldn’t force you to change what it means to you. I didn’t graduate high school in 1996, but I suspect this was a very popular graduation song that year… and for a number of years afterward (and to the well informed, probably still to this day). The Verve Pipe never really had another big mainstream hit.

#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.”

#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.

#60 – Primitive Radio Gods – “Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth with Money in My Hand” – (1996)

Well I think this takes the prize for “Longest Song Title.” Musically, this is a strange song… there is a strong piano presence, an almost hip-hop like beat in the background, and the chorus is a sample from a B.B. King song – and it’s him singing “I’ve been downhearted baby…” This song was also featured in The Cable Guy but Primitive Radio Gods never really found success with any other songs.

#62 – Dave Matthews Band – “Crash into Me” – (1996)

I’m not sure what would be considered Dave Matthew’s “signature song” but this has to be on the short list. I’m pretty sure that “Crash into Me” is their most successful single to date (and it was easily the most successful from the album Crash). It’s very smooth and if you listen closely, you’ll notice how awesome the drums are. The song stays really smooth until about the 3:25 mark where the lyrics pick up a bit… great song.

#64 – Paula Cole – “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?” – (1996)

Paula Cole won Best New Artist at the Grammys in 1997 – mostly because of the success of this song. The best parts are when the music eases out and, instead of singing, it sounds like she’s reading a poem. The lyrics are great and the “do-do-do-do…” that accompanies the music makes for a memorable arrangement. This song cracked the top ten in the U.S. but her follow-up, “I Don’t Want to Wait,” couldn’t quite match that success (it peaked at #11 and was the theme song for the crazy-popular Dawson’s Creek).

#81 – Cardigans – “Lovefool” – (1996)

I think this qualifies as the Cardigans biggest song (easily). Especially in the United States because of its inclusion in Baz Luhrmann’s William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet – you know, the weird modernized version with Leonardo DiCaprio where they run around in crazy cars and have gunfights at gas stations but still use the original dialogue. Yeah, well that helped this songs popularity, believe it or not. The Cardigans did have a follow-up to The First Band on the Moon – it was 1998s Gran Turismo and it featured “Erase/Rewind” and “My Favourite Game.”

#84 – Barenaked Ladies – “The Old Apartment” – (1996)

This song was on two BNL albums, Born on a Pirate Ship and Rock Spectacle, both released in 1996. It was their first big American hit. Steven Page claims this song is not about a guy stalking his ex-girlfriend and breaking into her apartment – but it definitely sounds like it, it’s what I’ve always thought it was about. Jason Priestley, of Beverly Hills 90210 fame, directed this music video and pushed it on the TV networks, which led to its popularity. So, thank you, Jason Priestley, for making BNL famous in America.

#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).

#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.