Originally posted on So So Gay on 29 April 2013
In the halcyon days of the early 90s when Justin Bieber and the One Direction boys were mere twinkles in their respective parents’ eyes, the music charts were awash with a varied and brilliant selection of songs from a quirky bunch of artists. Not to sound like a cardigan wearing granddad, but music was totally amazing back in my day.
Allow me to demonstrate…
Sugarcubes – ‘Hit’
Background: Once upon a time, the mighty Björk was part of a group called The Sugarcubes. Formed in 1986, Björk was the group’s vocalist and was typically brilliant on ‘Hit’, one of the band’s biggest, err, hits. This amazing song was also later covered by Diana ‘The Claw’ Vickers on her début album, Songs from the Tainted Cherry Tree.
Best Bit: Björk making a pair of dolls partake in some ‘sexy time’ during the video.
Adamski & Seal – ‘Killer’
Released: March 1990
Background: In the early 90s, the ex-Mr Heidi Klum burst on to the music scene with this massively successful collaboration with dance producer Adamski. It hit #1 in the UK, knocking Madonna’s ‘Vogue’ off the top spot, and remains one of Seal’s biggest songs to date.
Best Bit: Seal’s smooth yet husky vocal, while Adamski wanders around looking like an utter wazzock in the video, which is full of amazing computer-generated special effects. For 1990.
Sinéad O’Connor – ‘Nothing Compares 2U’
Released: January 1990
Background: Before she went all batshit crazy (or perhaps she was just hiding it well), Sinéad had her career-defining moment with this stunning Prince penned number; she even mustered real tears for the music video when she unexpectedly thought about her late mother. Where did it all go wrong?
Best Bit: ‘I can eat my dinner in a fancy restauraaaa-aaa-aaaaant’
R. Kelly – ‘She’s Got That Vibe’
Released: February 1992
Background: R. Kelly originally appeared on the music scene in the early 90s with his own entourage/back-up group, Public Announcement. Sadly for them though, ol’ Tiny Eyes ditched Public Announcement shortly after their album together, Born into the ’90s. Rather surprisingly, the group have remained active over the years, releasing a handful of albums though never matching their success with R. Kelly.
Best Bit: R. Kelly pioneering the ‘arbitrary list of female names’ lyrical flourish later used by Lou Bega on the brilliantly awful ‘Mambo No. 5’.
Roxette – ‘Joyride’
Released: February 1991
Background: In the late 80s and early 90s, Marie Fredriksson and Per Gessle were wildly successful as the rock-pop duet Roxette. In fact, they are Sweden’s second most successful musical export (after ABBA, obvs) and have been continually releasing new material ever since, though have struggled to recapture the peak of their success during the early part of the 1990s.
Best Bit: Marie’s emphatic delivery of the ‘rocks you like a baby!’ line. Also, the fact that it was subsequently covered by Alvin and the Chipmunks. Amazing.
Paula Abdul – ‘Vibeology’
Released: November 1991
Background: While these days better known to millions across the globe as the much-loved pet of super heterosexual and fellow American Idol judge Simon Cowell, not to mention seemingly permanently high on…let’s say life, Ms Abdul was a pop chart botherer. Whether dancing with cartoon cats or mumbling incoherent pleasantries at contestants, Paula Abdul has always been a great source of entertainment.
Best Bit: ‘HORNY HORNS!’
Shakespears Sister – ‘Stay’
Released: January 1992
Background: Before that twerp covered it on X Factor, the epic ‘Stay’ was a monster number one hit for rock-pop duo Siobhan Fahey (Bananarama) and Marcella Detroit, more commonly known as Shakespears Sister. It quite rightly managed to stay at the top of the charts for eight whole weeks and is lifted from their excellent second album, Hormonally Yours.
Best Bit: Siobhan Fahey’s vodka-fuelled performance as Death in the music video.
Enigma – ‘Sadeness (Part I)’
Released: November 1990
Background: OH MY GIDDY AUNT, THIS SONG WAS EVERYWHERE. Enigma was the musical brainchild of Romanian-born Michael Cretu. ‘Sadeness (Part I)’ was the début single taken from the music project’s first studio album, MCMXC a.D., which topped the album charts in no less than 41 countries. I refer you to my first statement.
Best Bit: The saucy French minx whispering her lines ‘Sade, dis-moi…Sade, donne-moi’.
SWV – ‘Right Here (Human Nature Mix)’
Released: July 1993
Background: Standing for ‘Sisters With Voices’ (insert sassy finger snap here), SWV are an R&B trio whose greatest success was at the start of the 90s when they released the classic singles ‘Weak’ and ‘I’m So into You’. However, their crowning glory was perhaps one of the first ever commercial mash-ups. The trio re-released their début single, ‘Right Here’, as a masterful blend with Wacko Jacko’s 1983 hit ‘Human Nature’. The result is classy R&B amazingness, to use the technical term.
Best Bit: It’s all rather brill, to be honest.
Kym Sims – ‘Too Blind to See It’
Background: American singer and co-writer of one of CeCe Penniston’s biggest hits, ‘Keep On Walkin’, Kym Sims was sadly a bit of a flash in the pan with this great song. Follow up single ‘Take My Advice’ didn’t fare too badly – and the accompanying album is actually rather good – so it was a pity that her music career basically ended here.
Best Bit: The thieving cow manages to use my entire repertoire of dance moves during the video.
C+C Music Factory – ‘Things That Make You Go Hmmmm….’
Released: June 1991
Background: While probably best known for their début single ‘Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)’, American dance/hip-hop outfit C+C Music Factory’s third single ‘Things That Make You Go Hmmmm….’ is arguably their best. With tongue-in-cheek lyrics and an animated and fun delivery, this song is a joy to listen to and never drags over its nearly five and half minute duration.
Best Bit: ‘GURLFRIEND!’ and ‘Yeah, why you guys always ask me that?’
Cathy Dennis – ‘Just Another Dream’
Background: Predating her status as a pop-writing goddess (‘Toxic’, ‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Head’, ‘Sweet Dreams (My LA Ex)’, ‘About You Now’), Cathy Dennis was the standard bearer for carrot-topped singers across the land. Perhaps best known for her updated version of Fonda Rae’s ‘Touch Me (All Night Long)’, it was with hits like ‘Just Another Dream’ that Dennis showed she had her own skills as a songwriter.
Best Bit: The retina-burning colour palette used in the video.
Snap! – ‘Rhythm is a Dancer’
Released: April 1992
Background: German (don’t mention the war!) Eurodance act, Snap! had their greatest success at the start of their career, in particular with début single ‘The Power’ and this track, ‘Rhythm is a Dancer’, taken from second album The Madman’s Return. If brooding and pulsating electro-dance music with a female vocalist singing highly repetitive lyrics is your bag, press play now!
Best Bit: ‘I’m serious as cancer when I say rhythm is a dancer’ – also possibly the worst bit, depending on your point of view.
Betty Boo – ‘24 Hours’
Background: Much like the aforementioned ginger goddess Cathy Dennis, Alison Clarkson (aka Betty Boo) has spent her recent years contributing songs for other artists such as Louise Nurding and the late Girls Aloud. However, in the early 90s Clarkson was releasing brilliant, attitude filled pop songs as her kick-ass alter-ego, rapping and rhyming all over the shop. Her simply brilliant début album, Boomania, was an excellent blend of pop and hip-hop.
Best Bit: Beating Craig David by a full 10 years in utilising the days of the week for a song’s chorus.
Simply Red – ‘Something Got Me Started’
Released: September 1991
Background: Ginger number two on this list is self-confessed ladies man, Mick Hucknall – sorry to remind you all of that fact. Anyway, in the early 90s, British soul group Simply Red became tremendously successful with their fourth studio album, Stars, which to this day remains one of the top 20 biggest-selling albums ever in the UK. ‘Something Got Me Started’ was the lead single from this iconic album.
Best Bit: Hucknell’s orgasmic grunt. Special mention must also go to his dance ‘moves’ in the video – clearly what attracted all those ladies.
Vanessa Williams – ‘Save the Best for Last’
Released: January 1992
Background: Many moons before she was the divine Wilhelmina Slater, the lovely Vanessa Williams cooed her way on to the music charts with little ditties like this. ‘Save the Best for Last’ went on to become the biggest hit from her music career.
Best Bit: That the song makes you feel like a soppy bastard for loving it.
Erasure – ‘Love to Hate You’
Released: September 1991
Background: Synthpop duo Erasure – comprising Andy Bell on vocals and Vince Clarke (Yazoo) on keyboards – are a bit of a British music institution, though the height of their success was in the late 80s and early 90s. Taken from their fifth studio album, Chorus, ‘Love to Hate You’ is also one of the pair’s most successful singles.
Best Bit: The slightly bonkers video which doesn’t really make much sense.
Incognito featuring Jocelyn Brown – ‘Always There’
Background: British acid jazz band Incognito are an enduring music act, even if they have never really had any stratospheric success. One of their biggest hits was a cover of Ronnie Laws’ instrumental track of the same name. For this they drafted in US singer Jocelyn Brown who brought her booming voice to add some real panache to the song, helping it hit #6 on the UK charts.
Best Bit: Jocelyn hacking up phlegm every time she delivers the line ‘Locked in your prison…’
Crystal Waters – ‘Gypsy Woman (She’s Homeless)’
Background: This worldwide smash hit was originally penned by Crystal Waters for dance act Ultra Naté, but the producers loved her demo version so much that they gave her a contract and the rest, as they say, is history. Whilst not remaining prolific over the ensuing years, Waters has been releasing a steady stream of singles for much of the 22 years since this, her début single, was released.
Best Bit: Waters flying in the face of convention, achieving a hit single while generally refusing to sing in tune.
MC Hammer – ‘Addams Groove’
Released: December 1991
Background: Taken from his third studio album, Too Legit to Quit, (seriously, that was its name) ‘Addams Groove’ is also used, unsurprisingly, on the official movie soundtrack for The Addams Family. Rather impressively, MC Hammer (born Stanley Burrell) has been consistently releasing albums ever since his early 90s heyday, while also dabbling with life as an ordained minister and being a bit of an über-geek.
Best Bit: Hammer making a music video with the cast from The Addams Family, rather than only having clips.
Eternal – ‘Stay’
Released: September 1993
Background: Eternal are the greatest British girl group ever, second only to the Spice Girls. The group’s numbers may have dwindled like a musical version of 10 little Indians, but that didn’t stop them producing some fine R&B music during their existence. ‘Stay’ was their superb début single back in 1993 and the bar remained high for an impressive amount of their presence on the music scene.
Best Bit: ALL OF IT. Listen, love it, buy it.
While the early 90s weren’t entirely devoid of musical missteps – we don’t like to talk about the Christmas #1 incident of 93 – there was much to be lauded about the music from this period as I’m sure you will agree. And if you don’t? Well, you’re wrong.
In case you want to experience this article as a playlist, check out the accompanying Spotify playlist below.