Thursday, March 18, 2010
If you're looking to beat those Oh-My-God-How-Is-It-Still-Not-The-Weekend-Yet blues, look no further than this 90s pop girl group playlist. Alternately, it can also serve as a soothing remedy for those pesky post St. Paddy's Day hangovers. If you keep the volume very, very low, I mean.
The 90s is so often characterized as major era of boy bands, but the decade saw more than its fair share of wildly popular girl groups as well. They operated largely on the same principles: nonorganic formation through open casting calls, careful harmony arrangements, synchronized dancing moves galore. Whatever beef you may have with their impact on the legitimate singer/songwriter/musician profession, you've got to admit that they churn out some toe-tapping singles. One of these songs comes on and there's a pop-and-lock reflex we succumb to; I'm pretty sure I picked it up subliminally from my days of shaking to Darrin's Dance Grooves on VHS.
So throw your cautious music taste to the wind and give in to these guilty pleasures. They'll undoubtedly have you singing along at the top of your voice. Just don't make the mistake of leaving your car windows down--these are more than sure bets to induce all sorts of music superiority-gloating glances from your judgmental roadmates.
Wannabe (Spice Girls)
Spice Girls - Wannabe
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Ah, the classic. If by classic you mean gratingly shrill, then it's a perfect fit. Truthfully, you can criticize this song all you want but you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who grew up in the 90s who doesn't know all or most of the lyrics. It was just a pervasive part of popular youth culture, so you might as well embrace it. I heard if you do they'll treat you to a zig-a-zig-ah, so you've got that going for you.
Say My Name (Destiny's Child)
Remember when Beyonce wasn't just the leotard-donning star of the infamous Kanye-approved "Single Ladies" video or the cameo in Gaga's "Telephone?" With all her recent success, it's easy to forget that she's been in the game for so many years. Not just in the game, but winning it; this girl's been a part of more number-one hits than most musicians can aspire to in a lifetime. In the 90s, the Beyonce-fronted Destiny's Child released single after hot single. Admittedly their lineup changed over the years, but whoever was showing up at the studio that day always brought it.
Where my Girls At (702)
Whatever happened to 702? With the incredible popularity of their single "Where My Girls At" they seemed poised to be the next up-and-coming girl group. As unbelievable as it sounds, the group was discovered by Sinbad. I know, I know. I don't even mean the adventuring Middle Eastern sailor of legendary lore; that would almost make more sense. No the actor/comedian Sinbad caught these girls singing in the lobby of a Vegas hotel, went and chummed up with their parents to grant him rights to drag them to a music show in Atlanta, and the rest, as they say, was history. Really, really weird history.
My Lovin (You're Never Gonna Get It) (En Vogue)
Try to listen to this song without breaking into a lightly treaded backup of "No, you're never gonna get it/never never gonna get it." It's nearly impossible. Would you expect anything less from a group whose album is titled "Funky Divas"?
C'est La Vie (B*Witched)
Just look at those moves! They just don't cut girl groups from the same cheesy pop-and-lock choreography cloth that they used to. Enjoy this one in the true traditional spirit of St. Patrick's Day: drunk. No, no, actually you can just enjoy their bagpipe solo. Yes, really.
I Want You Back (Jackson 5 cover by Cleopatra)
I know, I know...I just as easily could have chosen their "Cleopatra--Coming Atcha" theme, but that seems like the easy way out. Plus, I still have this on all of my running and car trip playlists. This 1998 cover of their song "I Want You Back" may not have been as authentic as the Jackson 5 original, but it manages to capture the same breezy tone and catchiness. And hey, look on the bright side. I could have subjected you to Cleopatra's "Thank ABBA for the Music." Then we'd really be in trouble.*
Never Ever (All Saints)
As far as lengthy intros go, this is one of the most extensive. It's not even really an intro anymore--they may well have made it into a full spoken track, it's that long. It really builds anticipation for the main event, though, doesn't it? You just can't wait to find out what happens next. Spoiler alert: they sing.
If that just doesn't do it for you, maybe their debut "I Know Where It's At" will do it for you. I know it's left me scratching my head over what exactly happened to all those old mix tapes with this song on it. This used to be my jam in my maroon station wagon:
Many of us probably could enjoy this song a bit more in our blissful ignorance of young naivete; nowadays, we're forced to confront its message of drugs, violence, and irresponsible sexual behavior. In lieu of letting the cautionary tale get us down, maybe we should just watch the video and enjoy these girls grooving on the water. It's pretty cool, actually.
He Loves U Not (Dream)
This song came up on shuffle on my iPod the other day and I almost had a heart attack. How have I managed not to mention this song somewhere on this blog in the year it's been up and running? Granted, it technically came out in 2000, but it's just quintessential 90s girl group pop. Contrived, well-executed, and complete with a video full of colorfully dressed jailbait popping their heads back and forth in a sassy, in-your-face way.
No More (3LW)
This was also in 2000, so we were starting moving into a bit of a different sound. The general girl group principles still apply though, right down to the cutesy lisp in the first verse. 3LW cleverly stands for "3 Little Women," who didn't stay little too long. Like all good girl groups, their story ends in some petty squabbling that escalated into we-can-no-longer-appear-onstage-together level girlfights.
Push It (Salt N Pepa)
Just look at them pop in the VHS at the beginning of the video. Kids growing up today wouldn't even understand what's going on. A scary thought, right? My favorite part, though, is probably when they cut to a Girl Scout rockin' out in the crowd somewhere around 1:12. She looks all hopped up on Thin Mints and Samoas and she likes it. Thankfully she at least looks old enough to be audience to the racy lyrics. Whew.
Like all guilty pleasures, these songs should be enjoyed sparingly and as a part of a balanced musical diet featuring artists who play their own instruments. That said, there's no harm in occasionally venturing to the musical equivalent of the top corner of the food pyramid. The experience will likely be just as sweet and with comparable levels of artificial ingredients.
*Is it wrong to admit that I also have "Thank ABBA for the Music" on my iPod? Feel free to judge me, but I'll feel equally free to tell you it's awesome. Well, maybe not awesome, but at least serviceable. Okay, okay, fine. It might make your ears explode. Happy?