Showing posts with label Music. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Music. Show all posts

Thursday, September 9, 2010

LFO Tribute: In Memory of Rich Cronin

In honor of the passing of Rich Cronin, LFO's lead singer, I thought it would be appropriate to repost my long-forgotten LFO entry. Though I certainly poked a lot of fun at LFO over the years, it was all out of love; I was a huge fan and was saddened to hear of Cronin's death following a long battle with leukemia. Rich will certainly be missed by 90s pop music fans the world over. So from all of us who wore Abercrombie and Fitch in middle school with hopes of someday attracting a cool frosted-tipped guy like Rich, this one's for you.


In honor of our fleeting days of summer, I thought I'd round out this sweltering season with a refreshing burst of non sequitor boy band absurdity. The 90s were a heyday for boy bands and girl groups; teenyboppers fell over themselves and swarmed the TRL studios in droves to catch a glimpse of these highly calculated, well-managed, overly-primped and coiffed ensemble acts. One of the greatest mysteries of the 90s is how a decade that began as so musically rebellious so quickly morphed into a veritable bubblegum pop teenage circus*.

Not all boy bands were assembled by sleazy record producers at open casting calls seeking "The Bad Boy" and "The Sensitive One." Sometimes, for reasons probably better left unexplained, these types of musical groups saw fit to form organically. LFO (short for Lyte Funky Ones, if that's any clue to the secret of their long lost street credibility) was one of these bands. The group formed in 1995, which meant they spent a good 4 years failing to crack the ever-enigmatic fortress of formulaic pop music. It's hard to say which is worse: that they never had a doubt about the self-perceived brilliance of their musical output, or that they suffered tumultuous periods of uncertainty but managed to persevere for the sake of the greater good.

After their years of wandering parched in the proverbial music desert, music markets inexplicably decided to offer these boy bandits (boy banders?) a nice cool drink. Sure, they had encountered marginal success on the UK Billboard charts, but they could at best be classified in the late stages of obscurity. By the late 90s, they had finally managed to garner some attention with the accidental leak of their inane demo song, "Summer Girls."

Summer Girls is clearly a very polarizing song. If you zip on over to, you'll see most reviewers give the single either one or five (out of five) stars. These dispensers of judgment speak passionately on both sides of the energy-and-time-wasting debate. One five star reviewer enthusiastically writes, "THE BEST SONG FOR A&F LOVERS!!!!!!!" The liberal use of both all-caps and generous exclamatory punctuation certainly expresses their support for both LFO's single and the bitchin' Abercrombie-wearing lifestyle. Well played, reviewer.

On the other side of the Summer Girls battle, a verbose and angry anti-LFOer contends, "I mean, it would be one thing for this song to simply exist in it's own suicidal dimension, not dragging anyone to the hungry abyss with it; but it insists on pressing itself upon our nation, seizing the nubile minds of our youth in its evil maw and condemning them to a lukewarm existence with candy-coated ideas of life." (And I thought I wrote tirelessly long sentences. That one boasts an incredible 59 words. That's a fourth of an eighth grade book report, right there. Congratulations, Captain Spare Time, for this landmark achievement in wordiness.)

So perhaps that dark, angry reviewer took it a tiny bit too far in demonizing the song's "evil maw" and its captivating trance over the young and impressionable, but the sentiment is clear. A lot of people really, really, did not like this song. It represented all that was empty and vapid about teenage pop music in the late 90s. On the other hand, in some sort of colossal teenybopper inside joke, a serious contingency of people swore this song was brilliant. The jury's still out on this one, so I'll leave it to you to be presiding judge:

It goes a little something like this:

Yeah, I like it when the girls stop by
In the summer
Do you remember?
Do you remember
When we met that summer...

What can I say, I like the way this is going already. rhyming words with themselves is an art form, I tell you. An art form!

New Kids on the Block had a bunch of hits
Chinese food makes me sick
And I think its fly when girls stop by for the
Summer, for the summer

I like girls that wear Abercrombie and Fitch
Id take her if I had one wish
But shes been gone since that summer,
Since that summer

In case you have yet to notice, the song uses completely unrelated examples and reads like a poorly-written advertisement for Abercrombie and Fitch. We get it, you like the store's women's clothing selection and its consumer base. Was this love really worth penning a song over?

Hip-hop mama laid spic and span
Met you one summer and it all began
You're the best girl that I ever did see
The great Larry Bird, jersey 33

When you take a sip, you buzz like a hornet
Billy Shakespeare wrote a whole bunch of sonnets
Call me willy whistle cause I cant speak baby
Somethin' in your eyes went and drove me crazy

When we get past the chorus, we get to see just how nonsensical the song really is. I don't know about you, but I'm fairly certain that "hornet" and sonnet" do not rhyme. A travesty, indeed. If you're going to use completely non-related lines, why not at least make them rhyme properly. Is that so much to ask?

Now I cant forget you and it makes me mad
Left one day and never came back
Stayed all summer then went back home
Macaulay Culkin was in Home Alone
Fell deep in love, but now we ain't speakin'
Michael J. Fox was Alex P. Keaton

When I met you I said my name was Rich
You look like a girl from Abercrombie and Fitch

Alright, I like the way this is going. Hello, 80s and 90s randomly inserted pop culture references! It is nice the way this Rich fellow occasionally intersperses it with something marginally relevant to the song.

New kids on the block had a bunch of hits
Chinese food makes me sick
And I think its fly when girls stop by for the
Summer, for the summer

I like girls that wear Abercrombie and Fitch
I'd take her if I had one wish
But she's been gone since that summer,
Since that summer

The chorus obviously needs no further editorialization. I'm pretty sure it speaks for itself.

Cherry Pez, Coke, Crush Rock, Stud Boogie
Used to hate school, so I had to play hooky
Always been hip to the b-boy style
Known to act wild and make a girl smile
Love New Edition and the candy girl
Remind me of you because you rock my world

You come from Georgia where the peaches grow
They drink lemonade and speak real slow
You love hip-hop and rock & roll
Dad took off when you were 4 years old
There was a good man named Paul Revere
I feel much better baby when youre near

You love fun dip and Cherry Coke
I like the way you laugh when
I tell a joke when I met
You I said my name was Rich
You look like a girl from Abercrombie and Fitch

At least in this one we get a brief history lesson. If ever asked who went from town to town on horseback announcing that the English were coming, you can just hum through Summer Girls to recall the answer. This Rich also really, really likes Cherry flavoring. Cherry Pez and Cherry Coke? Surely you jest, Rich. How could one handle such intense sugary fruitiness?

Chorus (let's skip this one, for all of our sanity)

In the summertime girls got it goin on
Shake and wiggle to a hip-hop song
Summertime girls are the kind I like
Ill steal your honey like I stole your bike

Boogaloo shrimp and pogo sticks
My mind takes me back there oh so quick
Let you off the hook like my man Mr. Limpet
Think about that summer and I bug cause I miss it

Like the color purple, macaroni and cheese
Ruby red slippers and a bunch of trees
Call you up, but whats the use
I like Kevin Bacon, but I hate Footloose

You came in the door I said it before
I think Im over you, but Im really not sure
When I met you I said my name was Rich
You look like a girl from Abercrombie and Fitch

I was about to write this one off completely until they made that Mr. Limpet reference. Sold!

Also, I may have to disagree with you on Footloose, Rich. Respectfully, of course.

Okay, so perhaps that's all we can take of that, but you must admit there's a certain...charm to their inanity. Sure, it's a gimmick, but sometimes gimmicks sell. Indeed, this was not the last we saw of LFO. They also brought us the equally intelligent "Girl on TV":

And yes, the Girl on TV in the video is Jennifer Love Hewitt. This song was somewhat less tangential, but it was still definitely pushing our boundaries of lyrical tolerance. I'll admit, in a moment of middle school weakness, I did possibly have a soft sport for this song. A small one, though. Cross my heart. Tiny.

Regardless of their apparently controversial music (on Amazon, that is), they had more staying power than you may have assumed. After all, whenever Summer Girls comes up on shuffle on my iPod in the car, all the passengers miraculously seem to know all the words.

Don't judge.

*And yes, I recognize that there was plenty of high quality alternative music that was popular in the late 90s. We're talking a shift in th etrends of mainstream youth culture, and is thus not meant to be a judgment of quality in any way. (obviously)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Number One Hits of 1995

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.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

90s Teen Pop Princesses: Then and Now

Current celebrity critics may be up in arms over the racy and overnight de-Disnified Miley Cyrus, but her path as a child-to-rebellious-teen pop star is pretty well-worn territory. Child stars have been reinventing themselves as alleged adults for years. In the 1990s, a wave of self-proclaimed virginal and innocent adolescent teenage pop stars paved the way for the downslide into inevitable controversy. These girls proved there’s only so long managers and publicists can capitalize on and profit from your jailbait allure--at some point, their public personas needed to grow up.

As some of these starlets have shown, the transition from bubbly teen to legitimate grown-up artist is not an easy one. While some may manage to endure the change relatively unscathed, most lose some marketability with each passing year and are forced to continually reinvent themselves. So next time you hear Miley tell you she can’t be tamed, you should probably just take her word for it. Looking at her predecessors, it seems like a likely outcome.

Britney Spears

We First Knew Her as: Mickey Mouse Club Member on the 90s revival of the children’s variety show, child contestant on Star Search, very brief stint as member of girl group Innosense

Achieved Major Stardom as:
Vaguely inappropriate but supposedly innocent school girl uniform-clad singer of “Hit Me Baby One More Time”

Foray into Film:
Starred in box office bomb and general cheeseball embarrassment Crossroadss

And Then:
Reinvented self as newly edgy Slave 4 us; dances with python

And Then:
Marries perpetually wifebeater-clad backup dancer Kevin Federline, procreates; divorces

The Downslide:
Endured a slew of personal struggles, shaved head, stint in rehab, embarrassing VMA performance in spangly bra--still managed to release popular CD

Number of Fragrances Released in the Meantime:
Seven, including one subtly called “In Control”

Under tight conservatorship by her father, released MTV documentary re:sanity and embarked on high-grossing Circus world tour

Christina Aguilera

We first Knew Her as: Spears’ fellow Mouseketeer on “The Mickey Mouse Club,” Star Search contestant, singer of “Reflection” from Disney's Mulan

Achieved Major Stardom as: A Genie In a Bottle, baby

And Then: Released a Spanish-language album. You know, because her dad is from Ecuador. Strangely did not release Irish music CD to celebrate mother’s heritage.

And Then: Got “Dirrrty” and “Stripped,” dyed hair black, wore questionably revealing outfits, shed teen bubble gum pop image

Followed by: Vaguely Marilyn Monroe-esque re-reinvention, more mature musical style, fewer morally reprehensible music videos

Now: Canceled pending 2010 tour in midst of underwhelming ticket sales

Jessica Simpson

We first knew her as: Small-town Texan Christian singer with unreleased album (her minor Gospel label went under)

Achieved Major Stardom: Sweet Kisses album with top-charting singles “I Want to Love You Forever” and “I Think I’m In Love With You”

Plus: Dated second-tier Boy Band 98 Degrees front man Nick Lachey

And Then: Married Lachey; the two costarred as newlyweds in the cleverly named reality series Newlyweds. Gained reputation as dumb blonde for inability to distinguish between chicken and tuna

Maintained Fame With: Much-publicized and scantily-clad role in the film adaptation of The Dukes of Hazzard

Downslide: Divorce, dwindling record sales, straight-to-DVD movie roles, rocky romances with John Mayer and Tony Romo. Overly publicized weight gain exacerbated by sadistic stylist with an inexplicable penchant for skintight Daisy Dukes

Now: Return to reality TV with VH1’s The Price of Beauty, serves as general muse for hairstylist Ken Paves

Mandy Moore

Achieved Major Stardom as: Opening act for boy band Backstreet Boys; released top single “Candy” featuring a music video in which the then-15 year old Moore drives a green Volkswagon Beetle

And Then: Released lightweight album I Wanna Be With You; title single featured in teen ballet movie Center Stage

And Then: Appeared in numerous films including The Princess Diaries, A Walk to Remember, Chasing Liberty, and Saved; far exceeded cinematic success of teen pop princess peers

Also: Dated Wilmer Valderamma, Andy Roddick, Zack Braff, DJ AM; settled down and married singer Ryan Adams in 2009

Should be Noted: Moore deserves some form of 90s Pop Princess prize for maintaining her down-to-earth reputation through her journey from teen star to adult celebrity, though I call for a slight point deduction for her preoccupation with and persistent attendance at Ultimate Fighting Championship events

Friday, June 18, 2010

90s Disney Ballads

If you’re in the market for some new potentially embarrassing musical material to get you through a mind-numbingly dull road trip or your daily shower singing session, look no further than the 90s’ collection of powerful Disney ballads. These songs are just begging to be sung by warblingly off-key amateurs; sure, Disney ballads are impressive in their original form performed by respected industry favorites, but they’re that much more fun when butchered by passionate novices.At least that’s how I see it. My former roommates who had to endure those strained high notes emanating from our shared bathroom’s shower--well, they may not feel quite the same way. Sorry, guys.

So next time you’re looking to belt one out, consider partaking in one of these delightfully cheesy Disney power ballads from the 90s. It certainly won’t earn you any street credibility at the local karaoke bar, but it will leave you with a satisfying blend of nostalgia and sore vocal chords. If you’re ready to make that sort of sacrifice in the name of musical animated classics, here are Children of the 90s’ recommendations for either most inspiring or most painful--depending on your level of vocal expertise. Oh, and wherever available I stuck in some videos with lyrics to facilitate your sing-alongs. You’re welcome.

Whole New World (Aladdin)

What would Aladdin and Jasmine’s magic carpet ride be without this catchy duet? It really makes the moment. I do sort of like that the Wikipedia entry on the song includes its translated titles in the foreign dubbed versions. For example, the mainland China version is called, “Meet by Chance.” In France it’s “This Blue Dream.” It doesn’t have quite the same ring to my American ears. “This Bluuuuuuue Dreeeeeeeam....” Hmm. Not working for me.

Part of Your World (The Little Mermaid)

I will admit, when I look at that stuff, I do find it to be awfully neat. In fact, the collection seems to be just about complete. It just screams, “Think that Ariel is a girl who has everything!” But then I must fight my instincts and realize that the human artifacts in Ariel’s undersea cave can never equal the glory of having human legs. She may rock the shell bra, but that’s not enough to get her out there walking on one of those--what do you call it? Streeeeets.

Beauty and the Beast (Beauty and the Beast)

There’s something uniquely charming about a ballad crooned by a kindly matronly teapot. It’s just that much better when you find out that teapot is actually Angela Lansbury of Murder, She Wrote; she’s got serious cross-generational appeal. Grandparents, rejoice!

Reflection (Mulan)

You know you’re looking at a serious Disney ballad when the single version is performed by Christina Aguilera--she can really belt it out. “Reflection” has just the right balance of heartfelt emotion and grrrrl power. It’s like watching the Spice Girls rescue a puppy. Kind of. Okay, not really. You come up with a good comparison, then. Really, give it your best shot. Tough, huh?

You’ll Be In My Heart (Tarzan)

Just in case you ever wondered what it would sound like if the mastermind behind “Sussudio” recorded a heartwarming Disney ballad, here’s your opportunity to find out. Phil Collins’ “You’ll Be in My Heart” charted well on the Billboard Top 100, rising to the 21st spot--not bad for a Disney song.

Colors of the Wind (Pocahontas)

Speaking of decently-charting Disney songs, Vanessa Williams’ end-credits version of this Pocahontas ballad peaked at #4 on the US charts. It’s undeniably cheesy, but at least it has an underlying message. Well, it does if you ignore the fact that Disney completely ignored all actual historical and/or cultural elements of the real Pocahontas story in their retelling. It’s a message, sure, but probably not a historically accurate one. Oh well--at least it’s catchy.

Can You Feel the Love Tonight? (The Lion King)

Well? Can you? The falling-in-love-with-an-old-platonic-friend-in-a-matter-of-minutes montage certainly helps move things along at a steady pace. With the aid of these handy visual, you will indeed feel the love. Tonight.

Runner Up: Circle of Life. Only you can memorize the words in the intro, though. Otherwise, it’s just not worth it.

Go The Distance (Hercules)

I’m not ashamed to tell you I kind of like the Michael Bolton version that plays out the credits. Well, not that ashamed. Perhaps I should be more ashamed to admit I have the Spanish version--performed by Ricky Martin, no less--on my iPod.

God Help the Outcasts (The Hunchback of Notre Dame)

I felt compelled to include a song from all of the Disney musical animated films of the decade, but truthfully this one doesn’t pack quite the same punch as some of the others. Sorry, Esmeralda--you’re just not doing it for me here. There’s cheesy and then there’s over-the-top milking for emotional responses. Add in the Bette Midler version and it’s just too much to bear.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Sesame Street Songs

Some children's entertainment is timeless. If well-executed, a children's show or song has the potential to amuse and engage children across the span of generations. Admittedly, the fact that children are incredibly easily won over may play a part in the perseverance of these songs; most kids tend not to be especially discerning in their taste, nor do they have even a remote sense of what is irritating. Not to mention the fact that many parents are too cheap to replace the old hand-me-down CDs and videocassettes over the years--I know that kept my family watching scratchy VHS tapes for years after their prescribed shelf life had expired. Why buy a new copy of "Follow That Bird" or "Sing the Alphabet" when the original is still in working condition? Exactly.

Whatever the reason for its perseverance, Sesame Street has captured the hearts of children from the 1960s on and its appeal to each subsequent generation has remained strong. The show's music that drew in children in the 70s often remained beloved by children of the 90s and beyond. Many of the versions seen below are from the 70s but have been since replayed or re-recorded for new young viewers. The songs are extremely catchy and make for easy sing-alongs--perfect for children, but as an adult, it occurs to me they would be perfect for my iPod as well. Excuse me for a moment--I'm off to iTunes to add "Put Down the Ducky" to my road trip playlist.

As is the case in everything you see here at Children of the 90s, memory is subjective. Songs that stand out as my favorites probably differ somewhat from your own, so share your own most memorable Sesame Street tunes in the comment section. In fact, you could even link to a video of the song so we can all reminisce along with you! Sound like I'm asking you to do my job? Possibly. I asked nicely, though, so I think we can let it slide.

By the by, if you're looking for your favorite Sesame Street famous musical guests, fear not; I haven't forgotten them as a blatant omission. I've already got a whole post devoted to them. Check it out. See, I'm not so lazy as I might have seemed when I asked for your contributions to this list. I accept your apology for the snap judgment. Don't worry about it.

Rubber Duckie

Now here's a song with some serious mass appeal: in 1970, Rubber Duckie actually charted at a peak number 16 on the Billboard Hot 100. Not too shabby for a song intended to encourage children to bathe.

C is for Cookie

Ah, how we long for the days when Sesame Street's favorite cookie addict was still allowed to freely extol the virtues of sugar-laden snacks. While Snopes has since discounted the raging internet rumor alleging a switchover from Cookie Monster to Veggie Monster, our furry blue cookie consumer doesn't seem quite as ravenous for sweets as he once did. In my day, C was for Cookie and that was good enough for me.

Elmo's Song

Play this one at your own risk. I'm telling you, once it's in there, there's no removing it from your brain. It's entirely likely you will spend at least 24 hours repeating the "La la la la, la la la la, Elmo's soooong" chorus over and over again in your head. Elmo draws you in with his benign cuteness and then BAM! Total cerebral takeover. Well played, Elmo. Well played indeed.


Oh, poor, misguided Big Bird. He sees the alphabet written in chalk on the sidewalk and jumps to the conclusion that it's a long word with a meaning known only to the wise. Children without a comprehensive knowledge of the alphabet are probably equally perplexed by the meaning of "ab-cer-def-gee-jeckle-mernop-kur-stoove-wik-siz," but hopefully they can deduce that they possess an intellectual potential superior to Big Bird and figure it out eventually.

Bein' Green

This song gave Kermit a bad rap for melancholia--his lament of his green hue does seem like a bit of a downer. Apparently a major proportion of child viewers failed to understand that he actually felt okay about being green by the end of the song. That's what you get for trying to engage children through subtlety: total misunderstanding.

Put Down the Duckie

Hoots the Owl tells it like it is. Ernie naively thinks he can play the saxophone while clinging to his dear rubber duckie, but he is sadly mistaken. I suppose you could deduce some sort of anti-materialism message from the song, but most kids probably learned only not to attempt to play the saxophone while holding a small yellow rubber duck.


"Sing" remains one of the most-sung songs on Sesame Street, which is nearly as impressive as how many versions of the word "sing" I managed to squeeze into this sentence. The Carpenters' cover in 1973 even hit number 3 on the Billboard charts. It's since become a Sesame Street standard; perhaps there's some guest star initiation clause that requires celebrities to churn out a version of "Sing."

The People in Your Neighborhood

This one could possibly stand to be updated for the current decade; the people in our neighborhood have expanded to include the digital cable installation man and the guy in India allegedly named "Mike" who talks us through our Windows 7 installation. That's not to diminish the importance of the postman and the fireman, of course. It's far more likely that kids will still have aspirations of growing up to be one of those than an outsourced technology customer service associate.

I Love Trash

There's not really a "message" in this one, per se, but it stands alone on cuteness. That is, if you consider a garbage can-dwelling monster waxing poetic on the virtues of a good broken telephone or rusty trombone to be "cute." For the record, I do.

I Don't Want to Live on the Moon

Like Ernie, I too feel that I'd like to visit the move, but setting up permanent residence seems like a mistake. That's the lesson here, right? An anti-gravity locale is a tough full-time homestead? Okay, okay, fine, maybe it has something to do with appreciating what you have here at home. Darn you, Sesame Street, and your resonant life lessons.

Monster in the Mirror

We could all take a page from Grover's book: rather than being frightened by the monster in his mirror, he chooses to befriend it. To be fair, he is that monster, but I'm sure there's a nugget of educational wisdom in there somewhere. I think it's hidden in the "Wubba, wubba, wubba, woo, woo, woo" section.

Ladybug Picnic

Learn how to count and delight in watching ladybugs engage in adorable picnic activities? Where do I sign up? Of course, not all of the lyrics are totally relatable for small children. That line about the ladybugs' conversation about the high price of furniture and rugs and fire insurance for ladybugs may have gone a tad over their heads, but luckily they were distracted by the cute animation.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Children of the Nineties One-Hit Wonder Mash-Up : 1999

We're still working our way (albeit extremely gradually) through the one-hit wonders of the 1990s. Up today: 1999, a glorious year for wildly popular songs from a group of artists who for the most part quietly faded into obscurity. 1999 was particularly ripe with one-hit phenomenons, giving us some of the most memorable and inexplicably bizarre top-charting hits of the decade.

In many of these cases, it's more than clear why an outrageously top-selling follow-up was not in the cards for these performers. The general public felt we have heard more than enough from many of these artists; without this sentiment, we may have been subjected to such unnecessary hits as "Green (Do Bee Do)." No thanks.

That said, a few of these acts seemed fairly promising and capable of a long career. For whatever reason, though, even the legitimate musicians among this group have since been relegated to has-been status--at least in the eyes of the pop music charts. It's a tough business, but hopefully they're still milking the royalties from their ubiquitous play in grocery stores and dentist offices. We can only hope.

B*witched: C'est La Vie

Just from the intro, you know this song doesn't take itself especially seriously. The Irish girl group begins their top-charting hit with the spoken exchange, "Some people think I look like me dad," "What? Are you serious?" Brilliant. It's all uphill from here though, from the Three Little Pigs huffing and puffing wolf reference to the ultimately necessary traditional Irish music dance break.

Lou Bega: Mambo No. 5

Lou Bega's cover of Perez Prado's 1949 jive hit quickly shot to popularity, resulting in innumerable parodies of the song's lyrics and structure. None, though, perhaps as ridiculous as the version Lou Bega himself recorded for the G-rated Radio Disney cut. There's no real words to describe the ridiculousness of replacing "liquor store" with "candy story" and extolling the virtues of "A little bit of Minnie in my life/A little bit of Mickey by her side."

Everlast: What It's Like

Ah, now here's a pick-me-up--the story of a beggar outside the liquor store, a pregnant teenager contemplating abortion, and a violent-prone guy with an alcohol problem. Everlast sang the blues over mainstream society's indifference to the plight of the less fortunate. A legitimate and powerful message, no doubt, but not exactly the cheeriest song to top the 1999 charts.

New Radicals: You Get What You Give

"You Get What You Give" is a classic upbeat ode to youth culture, featuring a classic "be yourself" feel-good message. No matter how many times I listen to this song, I've yet to accomplish the difficult feat of actually memorizing all of the lyrics. To this day, the extent of my ability to sing along with this song is, "Fashion shoots with Beck and Hanson, Courtney Love and Marilyn Manson....[unknown]...we'll kick your ass in!" I know there's got to be more than that, but my brain is clearly not wired to remember it.

Eiffel 65: Blue (Da Ba Dee)

Of all of the strange one-hit wonders out there, this has to be one of the strangest. It really pushes the rationale of quality equals popularity for mainstream music. "Blue" truly a difficult song to defend on the basis of quality, though its undeniable catchiness is no doubt the foundation of its rise to fame. It's a serious earworm; one listen and you're destined to be humming this one all day.

Eagle-Eye Cherry: Save Tonight

There's something uniquely appealing about a song with a highly repetitive chorus and lyrics. Eagle Eye Cherry managed to repeat the words, "Save tonight" and "Tomorrow I'll be gone" so many times that they will be forever burned into our memory centers. Oddly enough, I have heard "Save Tonight" numerous times over the past few years sung as a campfire song. Perhaps the simplicity of the chords is to blame, but I can't say I saw that one coming a decade back.

Baz Luhrmann: Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)

Yes, the directorial force behind Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge is the voice of the "Wear Suncreen" song. The song was adapted from a Chicago Tribune column geared toward giving the class of 1997 some "advice, like youth, probably wasted on the young." An urban legend sprung up that the speech was one given as a commencement address by Kurt Vonnegut, a rumor that bore no fruit but spoke volumes about the power of the internet to pull stuff out of nowhere.

Shawn Mullins: Lullaby

Here's another song that shows a song doesn't need to be all sunshine and smiles to top the charts. Shawn Mullins' melancholy tone resonated well with listeners and made for an easy sing-along with its chorus of "Everything's going to be all right, rock-a-bye, rock-a-bye." To this day, I still think of LA as "Nashville with a tan." Thanks, Mullins.

Vengaboys: We Like to Party

"We like to party, we like to party, we like to party, we like to party....We like to party! We like! We to party!" With lyrics like those, how could you not have a hit on your hands? It's tough to imagine the endless laborious hours that went into crafting the perfect words to express the Vengaboy's fondness of partying. Luckily, they had the Vengabus as an apt setting for making the magic happen.

Tal Bachman: She's So High

Whenever I worry about how I measure up to someone potentially superior, I simply use the following litmus test: Is she like Cleopatra? How about Joan of Arc? Any similarities to Aphrodiiiiiiiite? If so, she's probably pretty high above me. A foolproof system.

Len: Steal My Sunshine

If you're looking for a light and fluffy summer song to play out by the pool, "Steal My Sunshine" ought to shoot to the top of your list. It's airy and fun with little substance, making it a perfect choice for a poolside song. I'm still at a loss for the meaning of Len's album title, "You Can't Stop the Bum Rush." Maybe some Canadians out there can enlighten me, but I've always assumed it translates to exactly what it sounds like. Gross.

Digg This!