Sunday, 27 January 2013

The Best Of 1990 - part 3

JUMP TO: 100-76 II 75-51 II 50-26 II 25-1

We're halfway through my countdown of my favourite 100 songs from 1990, and as I write this, the latest Triple J Hottest 100 has just been announced. I like a grand total of eight songs from the list. I'm not really surprised - my taste and that of the audience of the national broadcaster have never really been in sync.

Wilson Phillips: three girls, one song... or at least it felt like that

Back in 1990, if the Hottest 100 as we now know it had been in existence, it would no doubt have been packed with songs by The Stone Roses, The Charlatans, Happy Mondays, Faith No More, Ratcat and The Hummingbirds - and they would have been the more commerical inclusions.

Instead, at that stage, voters could pick any song from any year for inclusion - and only one single from 1990 made it into that year's list: "Nothing Compares 2 U" by Sinead O'Connor. Sinead doesn't make my countdown, but in this batch of songs there are plenty of other female artists, with some dance and R&B thrown in for good measure.

Number 50 "Rub You The Right Way" by Johnny Gill
In 1990, New Edition went their separate ways to explore solo(-ish) projects. Johnny, who'd joined the boy band after Bobby Brown had been kicked out and when it looked like Ralph Tresvant would also leave, landed a string of hits from his self-titled album (not to be confused with his self-titled debut album, which was released in 1983). "Rub You The Right Way" was the most successful - and my favourite - but "My, My, My" and "Fairweather Friend" (number 100 on this list) also performed well. Meanwhile, Bell Biv Devoe scored with "Poison" and "Do Me!", and Ralph had a hit with "Sensitivity" (all of which placed between 101 and 200 for me).

Number 49 "Time" by Kim Wilde
Mentioned below

Number 48 "Love Child" by Sweet Sensation
Mentioned in Part 1 and previously featured here

Number 47 "Get Up! (Before The Night Is Over)" by Technotronic featuring Ya Kid K
What a difference a year makes. After being kept in the shadows while bumbag-wearing model Felly lip synced in the music video for "Pump Up The Jam", Ya Kid K, who'd actually performed on that song, received proper billing for the follow-up (in some countries, at least) and even got to appear in the music video. 1990 was a good year for Ya (is that what she was called for short?) - she also performed on Technotronic's "Rockin' Over The Beat" and Hi Tek 3's "Spin That Wheel". What I never knew until recently was that Ya Kid K and MC Eric (who rapped on "This Beat Is Technotronic") got married! Wonder if Felly was invited.

Number 46 "Can't Stop" by After 7
Male vocal trio After 7 was comprised of Keith Mitchell, and Melvin and Kevon Edmonds - the latter two being brothers of Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, who we saw back in Parts 1 and 2. Naturally, the group was produced by LaFace and their associates, and this was their best and biggest US hit. After 7 continued recording until the mid-'90s and even eventually landed an Australian hit with "'Til You Do Me Right", but disbanded after a 1997 retrospective collection. These days, a line-up in which Melvin is replaced by his son Jason still tours.

Number 45 "Another Night" by Jason Donovan
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 44 "Policy Of Truth" by Depeche Mode
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 43 "Hello" by The Beloved
This was the track that introduced me to synthpop group The Beloved - and it was one of those list songs which seemed to be popular at the time (see also: "We Didn't Start The Fire" by Billy Joel, "Born To Be Sold" by Transvision Vamp). It wasn't their first single - far from it, since the band had been releasing music since 1986 - but it was their biggest success up until that point and was followed by a re-issue of "Your Love Takes Me Higher" (number 53 on this list) and "Time After Time (number 70). The three singles were featured on Happiness, which is still one of my favourite albums.

Number 42 "Madly In Love" by Bros
Ah, Bros, how quickly the tide turned. In 1988, there was no hotter act in pop than the Doc Marten-wearing trio. By 1990, the group, down to just Matt and Luke Goss, missed the UK top 10 for the first time since their breakthrough with this release. Sure, it was the fourth single from second album The Time, but five songs from Push had gone top 5 so that's no excuse. Oddly, "Mady In Love" was, in part, lyrically and melodically identical to "Too Much", the lead release from The Time - which may have had something to do with its relative lack of success, despite being a far superior song.

Number 41 "Gas Stop (Who Do You Think You Are)" by Boxcar
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 40 "Vision Of Love" by Mariah Carey
In 2013, it's easy to forget there was a time when Mariah Carey wasn't a music superstar - but in 1990, she was just the latest in a long line of female pop singers whose record companies hoped would become the next Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson or Madonna. From the start, Whitney was the obvious comparison given Mariah's penchant for big ballads and a vocal range that actually surpassed Ms Houston's (remember when that squeal was an amazing novelty?). "Vision Of Love" was her debut single and shot straight to number 1 in the US - a position she'd become very familiar with very quickly. This is still one of my favourite Mariah songs - surpassed only by 1991's "Someday".

Number 39 "Fantasy" by Black Box
Mentioned below

Number 38 "I'm Your Baby Tonight" by Whitney Houston
Speaking of Whitney, here she is with the first single taken from her third album, which shared the same title. Recorded with LA Reid & Babyface, "I'm Your Baby Tonight" received a much-needed remix for the European and Australian release - a ploy used a couple of years later for Janet Jackson and Luther Vandross's "The Best Things In Life Are Free". The original US version (which you can hear by clicking on the song title above) clearly worked for that market, giving Whitney another number 1 - and ensuring her overall tally of chart-toppers was secure for a good few years. It took until 1997 for Mariah to overtake Whitney on that front.

Number 37 "That's What I Call Love" by Kate Ceberano 
With one of the best tracks from her Brave album - and the final single to be lifted from it - is an artist I wish had kept delivering music like this instead of getting sidetracked by Andrew Lloyd Webber and guitar-based pop/rock during the rest of the decade. There wasn't a proper video made for this release (the budget must have been blown on double-A side "Brave/Young Boys Are My Weakness") so a live performance clip was used instead.

Number 36 "Giving You The Benefit" by Pebbles 
Here's another act produced by LaFace, and one who was still married to LA Reid at the time, with the first single from her second album, Always. Always was one of a handful of albums I had brought back from the US for me in 1990 (from memory, two of the others were by Karyn White and Seduction) and, like all CDs in America in those days, it came packaged in a longbox. As far as I'm aware, longboxes, which were the same height as vinyl record sleeves, were never used for packaging CDs in Australia - and they were thankfully phased out a few years later.

Number 35 "World In My Eyes" by Depeche Mode
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 34 "Think" by Information Society
Next up: another song I probably would never have heard were it not for American Top 40, since the synthpop stylings of Information Society didn't receive any other airplay in Australia at all. As a result of liking "Think", I sought out the group's album, Hack, which contained another great single, "How Long", and also delved back and discovered their hits from 1988 and 1989.

Number 33 "Hold On" by Wilson Phillips
I can't watch the video for this song without thinking of the parody version which appeared on Aussie sketch comedy show Fast Forward (featuring Kath, Kim and Sharon!). In recent years, the song received a new lease of life thanks to its use in Bridesmaids, but in 1990, "Hold On" launched the daughters of The Beach Boys' Brian Wilson, and John and Michelle Phillips (from The Mamas And The Papas) onto an unsuspecting public. Always way bigger at home in the States (they had three number 1s there) than anywhere else in the world, Wilson Phillips only really had this one hit in Australia, although I remember a heavily discounted "You Won't See Me Cry" sneaked into the top 50 for a few weeks in 1992.

Number 32 "Summer Rain" by Belinda Carlisle
1990 was a good year for Belinda. In Australia, she scored a top 10 hit with this track, while in the UK, it was "(We Want) The Same Thing" (number 161 on this list) which did the trick. I also liked "Runaway Horses" (number 61), which wasn't as successful, although the album of the same name, which contained all of those, plus her 1989 singles, "Leave A Light On" and "La Luna", was a big seller. In 2004, Australian dance/pop trio Slinkee Minx not only had one of the worst names ever, but also took "Summer Rain" back into the Australian top 10 - and even ended up charting one place higher than Belinda at number 5.

Number 31 "Love Will Lead You Back" by Taylor Dayne
Australian fans who'd liked Taylor's 1988 singles "Tell It To My Heart" and "Prove Your Love", which to that point had been her only two top 50 hits here, must have been somewhat surprised to a) hear her belt out a big ballad and b) see her with her new, more subdued look. Of course, Taylor had already gone down the slow showstopper route before - with US top 5 hit "I'll Always Love You" - but "Love Will Lead You Back" was both a way better song than that and actually a huge success locally. She lost me with subsequent singles from the Can't Fight Fate album, "I'll Be Your Shelter" and "Heart Of Stone", but their pop/rock sounded went down a treat with Aussie radio stations.

Number 30 "I Need Your Body" by Tina Arena
Even though I didn't watch Young Talent Time growing up (I preferred to hear the original artists, not a bunch of precocious, over hairsprayed teens singing covers), I, like everyone in Australia, knew who "Tiny" Tina Arena was. In 1990, Tina succeeded where countless other former YTT cast members from the '80s had failed - by releasing a song that rocketed into the Australian top 5 and went platinum (an achievement which was much rarer back then that it is now). The fact that Tina completely ignores this part of her musical history is pretty insulting to all those who bought the track. It's one thing to ignore early songs or albums released before you scored your first hit, it's another thing entirely to pretend one of your biggest songs doesn't exist.

Number 29 "Two To Make It Right" by Seduction
Like The Brat Pack, who we saw back in Part 2, Seduction was a group written for and produced by Clivill├ęs & Cole. Comprised of Idalis DeLeon, April Harris and Michelle Visage, the trio achieved their greatest US chart success with this song, but released a bunch of other great singles from Nothing Matters Without Love, including "(You're My One And Only) True Love" (number 84 on this list), "Heartbeat" (number 86) and "Could This Be Love" (number 200). The group was short-lived - after Idalis left in 1990, she was replaced by Sinoa Loren, before the new line-up called it quits in 1991.

Number 28 "King Of Wishful Thinking" by Go West 
By 1990, chances are anyone who'd been a fan of this British duo back in 1985 (when they'd last had hits in Australia) had forgotten all about them. However, a song on one of 1990's biggest soundtracks, Pretty Woman, ensured them renewed attention and, since the song was quite good, saw them back near the top of charts around the world. Years later, in the mid '00s, I saw Go West perform at one of those retro festivals - and, despite being on the same bill as ABC, Tony Hadley from Spandau Ballet, Wa Wa Nee and Real Life, they gave the standout performance of the night.

Number 27 "I Don't Know Anybody Else" by Black Box
Following up "Ride On Time" was never going to be easy, but Black Box not only did it once, with this Australian and UK top 10 hit, but again with "Everybody Everybody" (number 85 on this list) and once more with "Fantasy" (number 39), a cover of the Earth, Wind & Fire track. The hits from the Dreamland album would keep coming in 1991 with "Strike It Up" and the Italian dance act even broke the States - although, unlike Technotronic, Black Box kept up the pretence that model Katrin Quinol performed the songs and not former Weather Girl Martha Wash, who'd later sue for royalties and credits. Martha also performed vocals on Seduction's "(You're My One And Only) True Love", making her one of the most featured vocalists on this list.

Number 26 "I Can't Say Goodbye" by Kim Wilde
The most featured artist on this list, however, is the singer who bookends this batch of songs - "Time" was back at number 50. Also in my top 100: "World In Perfect Harmony" (number 60), "Can't Get Enough (Of Your Love)" (number 74) and "It's Here" (number 88). All five tracks were taken from Kim's Love Moves album, which unfortunately was nowhere near as big as her previous album, 1988's Close. All five tracks weren't singles in the UK, though, with "Can't Get Enough..." and "World..." only surfacing on the continent. Of those that did come out in the UK, none cracked the top 40. In Australia, it was even worse, with not one single from the album making the top 100. Still, even if no one else cared, I did - and Kim was my favourite overall artist for the year.

In Part 4: a couple of the year's biggest global hits and, to balance that out, a couple of big old flops. Plus, a cartoon cat, a featured singer who'd go on to be much bigger than the main artist and a soccer song that was actually listenable...

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