The Top 40 of the Top 40 of the 1990s, 30-21


October 22, 2015 by billysparrow

As the Internet has not exploded in disgust, I’m assuming my first 10 choices were universally accepted as The Truth. So, here are the next 10 that are bound to be similarly met with a rousing roar of approval.

(The previous 10 can be found here, in case you need a reminder or you just want to reread it and have your mind blown again.)

30. Michael Jackson, “Black or White”  [Peaked at #1, 1/18/92]

It is hard to imagine a time when the premiere of a music video would captivate a nation, but such a time did in fact exist. I remember when this video premiered just before my 15th birthday and the high anticipation that preceded it. I vividly recall being excited and glued to the TV when it aired on Fox. And I didn’t even particularly like Michael Jackson all that much. Sure, my sister had “Thriller” and I didn’t recoil when she played it, but if you asked me I would have proudly declared a greater fondness for “Weird Al” Yankovic’s “Eat It” than for “Beat It.” I am fairly certain that is still the case.

Even so, I got caught up in the Michael frenzy pretty easily before this aired. And I dug the whole face-morphing thing at the end. Or at least the end of the video above. There was, of course, the weird car smashing and crotch grabbing that concluded the full version. That was something.

Anyway, the song’s grown on me over the years, and so has Michael Jackson in general (though I’m still not all revved up about him). That rap break in the middle has certainly inspired me to not spend my life being a color.

29. Black Crowes, “Hard to Handle” [Peaked at #26, 8/17/91]

There are four CDs that might have been the first CD I ever bought: the Kentucky Headhunters’ “Pickin’ on Nashville” (I really liked the song “Dumas Walker”), “Television’s Greatest Hits” (that’s a CD of theme songs, not songs by the band), the soundtrack to “Pretty Woman,” or the Black Crowes’ “Shake Your Money Maker.” And I also had the cassingle for this song. I look forward to the inevitable hipster resurrection of the cassingle.

I’m sure I didn’t know this was an Otis Redding song when I bought either the CD or the cassingle. But even now that I do, I still think it holds up pretty well against the original.

28. Huey Lewis & The News, “Couple Days Off” [Peaked at #11, 6/22/91]

My love for Huey Lewis and the News knows no bounds. But even I must admit that after his sheer dominance in the 1980s (please commence setting the over/under for Huey songs in the 1980s Top 40), the 1990s weren’t a great time on the Top 40 charts for Mr. Lewis and his bandmates. But that is not to say the decade was a bad one. In fact, 1994 saw the release of my favorite Huey Lewis and the News album, “Four Chords and Several Years Ago,” a collection of covers that the world was not ready for or worthy of. But I listened to it many times on my Walkman going to and from classes in my early college years. I feel fairly certain I was the only one doing that on my campus, if not every campus everywhere.

But this song, one of two to chart from the “Hard at Play” album, was on my Walkman earlier in the decade, on the many walks to Ralph’s Famous Ices in the summer of 1991. It was definitely one of my favorite songs of that teenage summer. Of course, in that summer I had every day off and, therefore, was not in any way in need of a couple, but somehow the song resonated anyway. I’m a mystery. Or a blind devotee of anything Huey. You decide.

27. M.C. Hammer, “U Can’t Touch This” [Peaked at #8, 6/16/90]

You will find plenty of odd choices in this Top 40, but I would suggest that anyone compiling their own personal Top 40 who doesn’t include this in there somewhere is either insane or straight-up racist. Actually, those generally go hand in hand so maybe such a person is both. Whatever the case, I think we can all agree that this mythical jerkoff I’ve created is really a creep.

I was a late adopter on M.C. Hammer, and never became such a fan that I bought a CD. But I have seen him live twice (free both times, but, hey, I made the effort) and I will say that, despite the polite imploring, Hammer did in fact hurt ’em on the charts in the 1990s. This won’t be the last Hammer song you see in this Top 40. Yeah, I just spoiled that without even offering an alert. That’s how I roll.

26. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” [Peaked at #14, 3/26/94]

Tom Petty is another one of those guys, like Huey Lewis, that I’ve stuck with from the first time I heard him. I’d make the case for him being one of the most consistent musicians of the last half-century, even with a few clunker albums in the 2000s (perhaps the heroin was to blame), and I’d probably place him firmly in my Top 10 Artists of All-Time (another list you’ll never see, because it gives me the sweats thinking about it).

Some things that make this one a winner for me: the harmonica, “Oh my my/Oh hell yes,” and “Tired of screwing up/Tired of going down/Tired of myself/Tired of this town.” There have been many days when I’ve sung that last quartet out loud.

25. Sheryl Crow, “Everyday Is a Winding Road” [Peaked at #11, 4/5/97]

Two things about this song. First, I had no idea I liked it as much as I did, and it is a testament to my thoroughness and maniacal devotion to compiling this list that it has cracked the Top 25. It kept climbing the charts on the back of that cool opening and the slide throughout. It’s just a really great-sounding song.

Second, is it really “Everyday”? Because that’s stupid and wrong, and it almost makes me want to drop it to 41 simply because of bad word choice. “Every day” is what it should be, no? Or am I the crazy one here? I’ll have to take this up with Sheryl Crow the next time we hang out.

24. Taylor Dayne, “I’ll Be Your Shelter” [Peaked at #4, 7/14/90]

You probably did not expect to see Taylor Dayne on this list (I’m assuming you’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this list, which you probably didn’t even know existed until last week; I see no reason to doubt this assumption). I wasn’t so sure either. This was another cassingle purchase back in the day, but I thought time may have diluted some of its charm. Not so.

I suppose Taylor Dayne will best be remembered for “Tell It to My Heart,” but I think this one’s miles better. That is a debate I’m really not interested in having, though, so let’s just agree to agree that I’m right and save us all a lot of time.

23. Biz Markie, “Just a Friend” [Peaked at #9, 3/17/90]

This one is a marvel, in all of its out-of-tune glory. And it’s another one where I’d think less of you if you told me you hated it. So, there’s a tip if you’re interested in removing me from your life. You’re welcome.

I love that there are some points where it seems like Biz is not going to be able to keep up with the song. I love the grammatical awkwardness of “A year to make love she wanted you to wait.” And I love “a girl from the U.S. nation.” In short, I love this song for its perfect terribleness. Another stupid song that has it all over the smart ones.

22. Wyclef Jean, “Gone Till November” [Peaked at #7, 3/21/98]

Granted, I probably first took notice of this song because of the amazing Bob Dylan cameo in the video (some of his best film work), but then I began to really like it. It’s a damn catchy song, with a helluva hook in the chorus, and those strings in the background give it a little oomph.

I once was one of a vast minority of white people in the audience of a taping of the “Musicians” TV show (on Bravo I believe) that featured Wyclef. I’m pretty sure he played this one and I’m pretty sure I spent most of the song trying not to look so white. It’s a real uphill battle. I’m still working on it

21. Lisa Loeb & Nine Stories, “Stay” [Peaked at #1, 8/20/94]

Do you remember the Lisa Loeb reality show? I feel like you don’t. Or, at the very least, I feel like you don’t walk past a coffee shop where part of an episode was filmed and think to yourself, “Hey, that’s where they filmed part of that episode of the Lisa Loeb reality show!” Every time you pass it. I’m really succeeding at life.

Anyway, my placement of this song kept shifting around, as I tried to decide whether I was giving it a high ranking because of a lingering crush on Lisa Loeb or because it’s actually a good song. I ultimately decided that this was the right spot, but that my perceived fondness for her song “I Do” might have been more crush-related. So don’t look for that in the Top 20 (I think it made the Top 100, but I don’t have that list in front of me).


2 thoughts on “The Top 40 of the Top 40 of the 1990s, 30-21

  1. […] (The Bottom 20 of the Top 40 of the Top 40 of the 1990s can be found here and here.) […]

  2. […] Top 40 of the Top 40 of the 1990s here, here, and […]

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