Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Recently I’ve been spending a lot of time listening to my local radio station’s “90s Dance Party,” leading me to conclude that--whether for nostalgic or empirical reasons--90s music is far more effective in making my friends and I want to get up and move. Music has a great way of jarring long-latent (or long-repressed) memories, recharging memories and corresponding emotions you had long since forgotten. For example, I can’t hear “California Love” without being immediately transported back in time to the roller rink in fifth grade during couple’s skate. The two are forever linked in my mind.
Whatever your personal connections to the songs, 1995 was a great year for number ones. With its cheesy power ballads, corny duets, and line dance fads, 1995 undoubtedly provided the soundtrack for many of our earliest boy-girl parties. At roller rinks and middle school dances across the globe, preteens awkwardly snowballed to “Always be my Baby,” unaware of the irony that they would probably never see this person again come high school.
One Sweet Day, Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men
Holding steady at number one for a record 16 weeks on the Billboard charts, Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men’s “One Sweet Day” was a major hit of the mid-90s. It’s not the happiest of songs--”One Sweet Day” was actually cobbled together from several germinations of mourning/tribute-type songs in the works by the two artists. The message is ultimately positive, though, celebrating that we will one day be reunited with our loved ones.
The video, however, leaves much more to be desired. I understand that both recording artists had to go through a lengthy course to write and record the song, but it seems that the video should have more to it than just a straight capture of that process. To their credit, though, the writing and recording as it appeared in the video was just how I imagined it.
Because You Loved Me, Celine Dion
Celine Dion is queen of the cheesy, over-the-top power ballad genre, and “Because You Loved Me” definitely delivers on her claim to fame. It performed well on the charts, holding particularly steady at number one on the Adult Contemporary chart. Success on the Adult Contemporary chart usually earns you a place in the Easy Listening hall of fame, meaning Dion’s ballad was destined for constant replay in dentist waiting rooms and grocery store aisles worldwide.
Always Be My Baby, Mariah Carey
It’s somewhat amazing to think that Mariah Carey has managed to maintain such a steady level of fame over the last 15 years. Sure, she had her Glitter debacle and other personal setbacks, but she’s still putting out hits as high-charting as she was back in 1995. “Always Be My Baby” is a fun, upbeat song with lots of “do-do-do-dums”, making it both easily to sing along to and impossible to get out of your head.
Tha Crossroads, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony
Along the same vein as “One Sweet Day,” Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s “The Crossroads” was also paid tribute to a late friend. While Bone Thugs were well-known for their quick rhymes laden with profanities, they toned it down and sweetened it up for their quieter hit “Tha Crossroads. Who knew band members with such easy-to-take-serious names as Wish Bone, Krayzie Bone, Layzie Bone, and Bizzy Bone could deliver such a heartfelt song?
California Love, 2Pac featuring Dr Dre and Roger Troutman
“California Love” helped make the late rapper 2Pac a household name among even the least credible of rap music aficionados. The repetitive chorus and hooks make this another song that happily lodges itself in your brain, guaranteeing you will be singing it internally for at least the remainder of the day. In my case, too, I’m destined to spend the day humming the tune and remembering my heyday at the roller rink. Ah, the memories.
Macarena, Los Del Rio
No list of 1995 hits would be complete without mentioning the all-encompassing omnipresent Macarena. Bad dancers everywhere breathed a sigh of relief that they would no longer be required to come up with their own moves. The Macarena made it easy to simply extend your arms, turn them over, bend them up, touch your head, throw in a little hip shake, and go. Thanks to Los Del Rio, we can all look back at those old wedding and bar mitzvah party videos and cringe at our sheeplike eagerness to be a part of a fleeting fad.
No Diggity, Blackstreet featuring Dr. Dre
This song came on the other day when I was at a party and I couldn’t believe how many people in attendance still knew all of the words. For those of us who have trouble studying or balancing our checkbooks, it’s probably because our brain is crammed full with useless Blackstreet lyrics. Nevertheless, there are worse things to fill up our brain space; “No Diggity” has catchy lyrics and a great beat. I’d much rather be able to belt out, “Baby you’re a perfect ten/I want to get it/So can I get down so I can win” than balance my checkbook, anyway.
You’re Makin’ Me High/Un-Break My Heart (Toni Braxton)
Just in case you thought Celine Dion had the monopoly on cheesy power ballads, it’s important we draw some attention to the big-voiced Ms. Braxton and her own corner of the power ballad market. Both of these songs off her Secrets album reached number one in 1995, establishing her as a major player in the R&B scene. Clearly her fame has dwindled slightly over the years, though; I don’t see Celine Dion succumbing to the allure of Dancing With the Stars’ almighty paycheck.