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One Hit Wonders Of The 90s

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by Steven G (subscribe)
Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler...Former teacher... Scientist... Published author... Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published November 21st 2018
The 1990s really did hgave some good music
A while ago I looked at one hit wonders of the 1980s. Being that was the time of my teenagehood, I thought that was probably going to be where the past music I wrote about would live. However, I recently wrote a column about 1999's songs, and that got me thinking about the one hit wonders of the 1990s as well. Thus, this column was born.

Musically, the 90s gave us grunge, saw the rise of rap and hip-hop to the mainstream, and saw the demise of 80s synthpop. Rock was still around, pop was still around, although European stylings came more the fore. And computer technology started to take a firm hold on the way music was recorded. We also saw Napster and the rise of file sharing, MySpace and a new way of self-advertising, and home PCs and a brand new way of self-recording that would see the need for professional studios and lots of money being spent diminish in the 2000s. And CDs finally achieved world music domination, with the Sony Discman a common sight everywhere.
floppy disc, computer, 1990s
Hey! Remember these? Everywhere in your house... Just everywhere...

However, as in all musical time periods, there were still a heap of one hit wonders for us to look at and wonder, "What if…".!

A few honourable mentions to start: Nothing Compares 2 U by Sinéad O'Connor (1990); Whoomp! There It Is by Tag Team (1992); Jump Around by House of Pain (1992); No Rain by Blind Melon (1993); One Of Us by Joan Osborne (1995); How Bizarre by OMC (1996); Bitch by Meredith Brooks (1997); Steal My Sunshine by Len (1999).

And, no, the Rembrandts' I'll Be There For You (the theme from Friends) is not a one hit wonder, as they had a chart entry with Just The Way It Is Baby.

And so here is my list, in year order. Enjoy!

Walking in Memphis by Marc Cohn (1991)

This song came out when I was at university (the first time) and we heard it all the time in the uni bar. Interviews at the time with Marc Cohn said that song was autobiographical about some time he spent in Memphis and what he realised about himself and everything else while he was there. Again, the lyrics are pretty cool, very well written and deep. He seemed poised to become a new Dylan or Springsteen… but he just faded from the world stage. Shame. This song is fantastic.

Life Is a Highway by Tom Cochrane (1992)

To be honest, I'm not really sure what this song is about, as the allusions are lost on me, but the track rocks along nicely and I enjoy the chorus. I like the concept of life being a highway that we should just ride all night long. Like I said, not one hundred percent sure what that means but, strangely for me, that does not matter. The music is catchy and the chorus is singable.

Baby Got Back by Sir Mix-a-Lot (1992)

Okay, I'm admitting I like this rather stupid song about liking girls with larger bottoms, released before the whole big butt craze (Kardashian, Minaj, Azalea, et al) really came to the fore. What was great about the song and its lyrics is that it actually said that the singer prefers larger women, not the skinny models everyone else seemed to fawn over. And I reckon that's why I like it – my preferred body type is not model-thin. But the song is crazy-catchy, especially those opening lines, after the girls talk about a friend's behind: "I like big butts and I cannot lie…"

Breakfast At Tiffany's by Deep Blue Something (1996)

A song of hope – a guy and his girl have broken up, she's clearly told him that they have nothing in common and he cites their shared love of a film released probably before either of them were born as that something. Another catchy, jaunty, guitar-based song, and one that I felt for sure would lead to the band getting somewhere. But they seemed to fall completely off the radar. Still, the song is a very cool one and I still listen to it (and, yes, I bought the CD single…).

Tubthumpin' by Chumbawamba (1997)

A track that could well have been included in my column about misunderstood songs. While often used as a song to celebrate resilience (in Australia, it was even used in a rugby league – Superleague – TV advert), it is about getting so drunk you can barely stand, and then coming back to do it the next weekend. It is a celebration of weekend binge drinking. However, that is by the by. It is a damn catchy song. Listen to it and try to get that chorus out of your head. You won't be able to for a while – it is one of the most pervasive ear-worms ever recorded!

Bitter Sweet Symphony by The Verve (1997)

I'm pretty sure The Verve had some other hits in the UK, but to the rest of the world, this was their one song. Unfortunately, it borrowed a musical piece from the orchestral arrangement of a Rolling Stones song, and the subsequent court case almost overshadowed the song itself. Lyrically it is quite depressing, a nihilistic look at life. But that does not take away from its wonder as a piece of music and greatness as a song.

Torn by Natalie Imbruglia (1998)

This is a cover version that is better than its original (and could well have been in that column). Natalie Imbruglia went from soap opera actress to pop singer quite seamlessly, unlike many of her ilk, and it seems strange that none of her subsequent songs did anything, not even in her native Australia. I even bought the CD single! The lyrics are quite wonderful, about a woman whose relationship could not live up to the expectations she had built up in her mind about it. Her delivery is pained and poignant, as if she actually lived.

It would be amiss of me to not mention Alex Lahey's frankly superb version of the song from Triple-J's Like A Version of 2017. Hers is by far my favourite version of the song, but that does not take away from Natalie Imbruglia's quite striking version.

Lullaby by Shawn Mullins (1998)

This song, with its distinctive spoken verse and well-sung "Rock-a-bye" chorus is, lyrically, almost a 1990s version of Dylan's Like A Rolling Stone – a girl who was a bit of a social butterfly, now living with her mother and on harder times. But, in this case, the singer is trying to make her feel better, not denigrating her. It is a glorious piece of music, and to me it feels ambiguous as to whether he succeeded in making her feel better or not, with the "Bye-bye" refrain at the end. A song that makes the listener think – all too rare.

You Get What You Give by New Radicals (1998)

In Australia, this song was used to advertise motor vehicles. I think the thing most people remember about the song is the beginning, the awesome count-in, and then they tend to tune out. I was at a school disco when I was a teacher, and the kids all screamed that opening out, and then ignored the rest of the song. Shame. It actually has a really good message that you should believe in yourself and do what you want, no matter what anyone else says. So, a good song with a cool message. And a bizarre video clip about kids taking over a shopping mall…

She's So High by Tal Bachman (1999)

Yes, I talked about this one already. Tal is the son of Randy Bachman, of Bachman-Turner-Overdrice (You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet) fame. And it seemed the musical fruit had not fallen far from the tree. However, he seemed to fade from public consciousness after this song and its mammoth world-wide success. Yes, it was used to death, but the lyrics are wonderful and literate and he has a very fine voice. I hope we do hear from his again one day.

And that's my list! What do you think? What did I leave out? Comments always more than welcome!

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Your Comment
Nah. not my favourite decade...
by May Cross (score: 3|5601) 452 days ago
All part of the soundtrack of my life. The 90's were amazing! The rise of raves, the rise and rise of punk, and the seismic shift in music delivery. Thanks Steven. Great article mate!
by Michael Genrich (score: 3|1622) 424 days ago
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