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101 Best Songs of 1990 - #1 George Michael - Freedom '90 (1 Viewer)

#37 Madonna - Vogue

After finalizing (or at least almost finalizing) my rankings of 101 songs, I always check it against the latest Rolling Stone Best 500 Songs of All Time to see where I stand. Their list always get a lot of flack, but at least for the narrow range that I'm checking against (1986 - 1996), the selections seem pretty good even if the placement is somewhat off.

Vogue is the first song in the 1990 countdown to appear on the Rolling Stone 500. Sure I get it - it was a big pop hit, dancefloor filler, and gay anthem. Who cares whether Madge was truly showing appreciation for Black/Latino drag culture or just successfully appropriating it like she's done so many other times?

Madonna originally intended Vogue to be a B-side on a single (Hanky Panky) from her cabaret album I'm Breathless (aka the **** Tracy soundtrack). That album was terrible but Sire recognized that Vogue was not and quickly pressed it as single and hired David Fincher to produce the iconic video. I guess my only argument with Rolling Stone is that Vogue is neither the 139th best song in R&R history nor the 2nd best song from 1990. Even #38 for the year feels a little high.
 
Bono trying to look pensive in With Or Without You.

The cover of War was B&W, too. Lots of B&W for U2. They've been a cinematic band for a long time, haven't they been? Heck, even though the live version of "Sunday Bloody Sunday" was a color video, it looked so cold there and was so filled with dramatics that it could or even should have been black and white.
 
It's a great song, really. I'm just interalizing scorchy's stripper with throwing this one on the jukebox today. That is all. It sounds pretty much 33 years old, for sure.

Nothing like my version of a strip club, which is back in the aughts and features LIl' Jon. Hwarf.

Get low. Get low. Get low.

What do you think they play at strip clubs these days? Does modern consciousness even allow for them on any fun level? Do we just fork over the money at the door and see nudity if we're lucky? How do the 23'ers do it? Does it come with an Emma Goldman lecture?
I am no longer a strip club aficionado for several dozen reasons, none of which have to do with evolving mores (my own or the world's). These days,most ladies who in the past would have been inclined to dance can make more money on OnlyFans without having to deal with a bunch of old creepers in person. I would guess current Hip Hop is the music du jour (or nuit as it is) just like 10 years ago.

Back in the late 90s/early aughts though, pre-kid and Mrs. Scorchy working 80 hrs a week at the law firm and me being bored, I frequented (once a week?) a seedy blue collar club in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia. That's the exact kind of place where you were just as likely to hear Pantera and Korn as 50 Cent. I miss that place.

I haven’t been to one in quite awhile. I always enjoyed it but not sure I would now. At my age (43) I’d feel a bit creepy

Anyway one of the nicer ones, the girl told me they don’t play rap or hip-hop because of the clientele it attracts

#39 Alannah Myles - Black Velvet

As a 17 year-old boy in early 1990, did I love this song because of the music or was it the video with Alannah Myles in black chaps and white shirt, all raven-haired and sultry? My wife slaps my hand to make sure I stop on Black Velvet whenever we're scanning channels on SiriusXM (I probably would have anyway), so that points to the former. She also always brings up how hot Alannah was, so maybe it's the latter? I can say for sure that I remember this video better than the ones associated with probably 90 percent of the tracks from 40-100. A shallow reason for pushing it up into the top 40 but I used similar criteria on deciding which of many Janet Jackson songs to feature in the next few days.

Black Velvet was released as the lead single in Alannah's native Canada in the summer of '89 and became a top 10 hit there. Atlantic followed it up with a US/worldwide release in January 1990, and it soared to #1 in the States and went top 5 in a half-dozen other countries. The song also garnered her a grammy win for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance. I was certain Alannah Myles was a one-hit wonder, but her follow up (Love Is, which I swear I've never heard) briefly reached the Billboard Top 40. She's put out 5 more albums since and managed a few hits in Canada and northern Europe (???).

This is only the second Billboard #1 listed in the countdown so far with 5 more to come. More on that later.

Much to my pre-internet confusion, Atlantic also gave the song to country artist Robin Lee, who had a hit with it on country radio at the same type Alannah was burning up the pop charts. I swear the video must have been shot by the same director, but Robin Lee lacked Alannah's voice and vibe.

She really belts this one out. Great pick
 
#36 Ride - Vapour Trail

The video is technicolor instead of black & white, no one is gonna confuse Ride with Madonna, and Rolling Stone likely never considered Vapour Trail for their Best 500 list, but here it is at #36. Ride's debut album Nowhere was a shoegaze classic, earning it a spot in rock critic Robert Dimery's 1,001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. The record's closing track Vapour Trail became a frequent last call signifier at the local indie night (a Closing Time if you will for all of us Anglophiles). Pitchfork ranked it at #145 on its Best Tracks of 90s list.
 
Was Queensryche on the proggy end of the metal spectrum?
Most definitely. My friends who really listened to Queensryche (I just absorbed it via osmosis) loved Rush, Dream Theater, etc.

Anyway, I'm Queensryched out. #37 forthcoming.
My brother only had enough money to buy an EP tape when we were killing time at Long's Drugs, so he bought the Queensryche debut EP based on cover art alone. After listening to that POS, I couldn't have been more shocked that they became a real band with radio hits. Listening to it now, you can hear hints of what they'd become, but at the time they just sounded like an especially screechy Maiden clone.
 
#39 Alannah Myles - Black Velvet

As a 17 year-old boy in early 1990, did I love this song because of the music or was it the video with Alannah Myles in black chaps and white shirt, all raven-haired and sultry? My wife slaps my hand to make sure I stop on Black Velvet whenever we're scanning channels on SiriusXM (I probably would have anyway), so that points to the former. She also always brings up how hot Alannah was, so maybe it's the latter? I can say for sure that I remember this video better than the ones associated with probably 90 percent of the tracks from 40-100. A shallow reason for pushing it up into the top 40 but I used similar criteria on deciding which of many Janet Jackson songs to feature in the next few days.

Black Velvet was released as the lead single in Alannah's native Canada in the summer of '89 and became a top 10 hit there. Atlantic followed it up with a US/worldwide release in January 1990, and it soared to #1 in the States and went top 5 in a half-dozen other countries. The song also garnered her a grammy win for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance. I was certain Alannah Myles was a one-hit wonder, but her follow up (Love Is, which I swear I've never heard) briefly reached the Billboard Top 40. She's put out 5 more albums since and managed a few hits in Canada and northern Europe (???).

This is only the second Billboard #1 listed in the countdown so far with 5 more to come. More on that later.

Much to my pre-internet confusion, Atlantic also gave the song to country artist Robin Lee, who had a hit with it on country radio at the same type Alannah was burning up the pop charts. I swear the video must have been shot by the same director, but Robin Lee lacked Alannah's voice and vibe.

I used to love the chicks that sang this at karaoke.
 
Was Queensryche on the proggy end of the metal spectrum?
Most definitely. My friends who really listened to Queensryche (I just absorbed it via osmosis) loved Rush, Dream Theater, etc.

Anyway, I'm Queensryched out. #37 forthcoming.
I never thought they were particularly proggy. Maiden are proggier. I'm hot and cold on Rush and never could get into Dream Theater.

You would like Rage for Order, David.

Geoff Tate was a goth at heart
 
#35 Public Enemy - Welcome to the Terrordome

I got so much trouble on my mind

This was a tough one and I was really tempted to substitute Welcome to the Terrordome with Brothers Gonna Work It Out or Burn Hollywood Burn. Critics that call Terrordome PE's masterpiece aren't wrong: the Bomb Squad's production sounds like straight chaos, the James Brown samples are especially hot, Flava Flav throws out a few lines from Scarface, and Chuck D is at his most fierce. Unfortunately, some of that ferocity is a bit...er... problematic at best. Not gonna get into it except to say later in the song, Chuck gets pretty equal opportunity with his anger.
 
Was Queensryche on the proggy end of the metal spectrum?
Most definitely. My friends who really listened to Queensryche (I just absorbed it via osmosis) loved Rush, Dream Theater, etc.

Anyway, I'm Queensryched out. #37 forthcoming.
My brother only had enough money to buy an EP tape when we were killing time at Long's Drugs, so he bought the Queensryche debut EP based on cover art alone. After listening to that POS, I couldn't have been more shocked that they became a real band with radio hits. Listening to it now, you can hear hints of what they'd become, but at the time they just sounded like an especially screechy Maiden clone.
I love that EP. it’s raw and you can tell the band was young but there is also a ton of greatness. It did sound like Maiden which is likely why I also loved it from the first listen. QR did mature and really pulled it together by their next album and then kept it going through a Empire.
 
#35 Public Enemy - Welcome to the Terrordome

I got so much trouble on my mind

This was a tough one and I was really tempted to substitute Welcome to the Terrordome with Brothers Gonna Work It Out or Burn Hollywood Burn. Critics that call Terrordome PE's masterpiece aren't wrong: the Bomb Squad's production sounds like straight chaos, the James Brown samples are especially hot, Flava Flav throws out a few lines from Scarface, and Chuck D is at his most fierce. Unfortunately, some of that ferocity is a bit...er... problematic at best. Not gonna get into it except to say later in the song, Chuck gets pretty equal opportunity with his anger.

Can’t truss it came on my playlist the other night those guys put out some great toons
 
#34 Happy Mondays - Step On

You're twistin' my melon, man

The last of the Madchester lot from 1990. At their best, Happy Mondays were my favorite of the bunch, and IMO, Pills 'n' Thrills and Bellyaches is their best album. Not that tough of a call given that the first two were pretty inconsistent and the next one was such a cluster that it bankrupted their record company. If you haven't seen 24 Hour Party People, Tony Wilson of Factory Records sent the Mondays to Jamaica to record their follow up to the platinum selling Pills n Thrills - with a large per diem - because he wanted to get the band away from the drug scene in Manchester and the Caribbean was "opiate free." Not crack free though and Shaun Ryder especially blew through loads of cash on it. According to Wilson, "I chartered a flight straight over and as the plane was coming into land, I witnessed Shaun and Bez wheeling a sofa down to the street apparently to sell for binge funds." He also learned they had been trading the equipment from Eddy Grant's studio for crack. Oops.

Step On is a banger though and became the Monday's biggest hit - #5 UK and #57 US Hot 100. Amazing groove, but my favorite part will always be Shaun growling "Call the cops!" during the intro. I linked the performance from Top of the Pops because Bez dancing can't not make me laugh - especially since fatguyinalittlecoat moves just like him.
 
You're twistin' my melon, man
Still use this phrase regularly anytime I am feeling exasperated with a conversation.

I still introduce people to the Happy Mondays, and really, a bunch of ecstasy and dancing is exactly what the youth today need. Actually, most adults I meet as well.
 
#33 Edie Brickell & the New Bohemians - A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall

Before I checked my memory against google, I would have sworn this song marked the end of Edie Brickell's brief run in the spotlight. Her debut album with the New Bohemians was everywhere in late '88 and '89, and then A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall got a lot of play in early '90, then she married Paul Simon and :crickets:. I had totally forgotten she and the band had a follow-up record in the fall of 1990 (Ghost of a Dog) that I briefly owned then quickly sold back. I wasn't alone - the reviews were terrible as well.

On the other hand, the cover of Dylan's A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall, released as the only single from the Born on the Fourth of July soundtrack, is really, really good. I say that even though I've still never hunted down the original. The way she sings "black dog" in the next-to-last verse gets me every time.*

* Originally I linked the official video, but apparently the whole fourth verse with that lyric was cut from the single. Weird.
 

Like every other teenage boy, loved this song and this album, but it will forever be burned in my brain due to my best friend who bought the album based on this song, only to hate the rest of the album. For months, whenever possible, he would bring up "that F****** Alannah Myles album", to the point where just saying something was "Alannah Myles" was something that was disappointing. Lucky for her, this only lasted for a year or so until that same buddy bought Schubert Dip for that one song.

Picking which albums to spend your hard earned funds on was serious business back in the day.
 
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@Dr. Octopus - sorry and thanks for the link. I always avoided because Dylan's voice grates (not an original opinion, I'm sure). Hell of a songwriter though (also not an original opinion.)

I think I told this story a while back, but my first experience with Bob was during some award show in the late 80s where he wore the harmonica apparatus on his face. I asked my gf's parents if "he's 'flicted or something."
 
Catching up on the last several days with some thoughts.

Joey's a great song and I think we still have a Bloodletting cassette somewhere in our basement.

Cemetery Gates is a banger. I'm not super familiar with Pantera's catalogue, but I've never understood how the inferior Walk gets so much more airplay on most radio stations.

I had forgotten about the Black Velvet video until this thread. I remember my teenage self also enjoying the video images of Amy Grant, Mariah Carey, and of course Helena Christensen from the Chris Isaak video.
 
#32 - Janet Jackson - Love Will Never Do (Without You)

Speaking of videos enjoyed by our teenaged selves, oh man was this a good one. Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814 ruled both '89 and '90, charting seven (!!!) top 10 singles, four of which went to #1. Three of those #1s were released in 1990 but I only made room for one of them - as huge as the songs were, they weren't in my orbit the same way as ones by other artists with multiple entries.

I was already leaning Love Will Never Do over Escapade and Black Cat, but convos with both Mrs. Scorchy and the esteemed @Ramsay Hunt Experience solidified the decision. Both mentioned the scintillating video in selling their choice.
 
#33 Edie Brickell & the New Bohemians - A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall

Before I checked my memory against google, I would have sworn this song marked the end of Edie Brickell's brief run in the spotlight. Her debut album with the New Bohemians was everywhere in late '88 and '89, and then A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall got a lot of play in early '90, then she married Paul Simon and :crickets:. I had totally forgotten she and the band had a follow-up record in the fall of 1990 (Ghost of a Dog) that I briefly owned then quickly sold back. I wasn't alone - the reviews were terrible as well.

On the other hand, the cover of Dylan's A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall, released as the only single from the Born on the Fourth of July soundtrack, is really, really good. I say that even though I've still never hunted down the original. The way she sings "black dog" in the next-to-last verse gets me every time.*

* Originally I linked the official video, but apparently the whole fourth verse with that lyric was cut from the single. Weird.
I like Tomorrow Comes, from her debut solo album in 1994. That's about the only post-1990 thing I've ever heard from her.

Re the original, I'm gonna guess that folkie Dylan is not your thing.

ETA: Looks like you confirmed that. :laugh:
 
I was introduced to Dylan by that Edie song. I remember being incredibly moved by it and thinking "That's astounding. What great lyrics." Turns out -- BOOM -- Dylan. I never really followed up on it until later in life (See the Dylan thread). But this was the first time, even though I'd heard "All Along The Watchtower" a bunch of times, that I became aware of Dylan as a real cultural and artistic touchstone.

Brickell's version will always be better than Bob's to me, much like Hendrix's version of "All Along..." will be for most other people.

I personally think those are two of the finest covers I've ever heard, which says something about the originator.
 
Oh where have you been, my blue-eyed son
Oh where have you been, my darling young one. . .


Chills when a woman sings that.

I'm going to have to backtrack on the "better than" comment. I think I like Bob's version better at this point in my life. Edie's sounds too lush to these ears right now.
 
A comment on Public Enemy, and I tell this story often, so you can stop reading if it's redundant.

Setting: Moot Court arguments, year is 2007, winter semester, first year of law school. Nerves abound. I've smoked hard drugs for the entire first semester and I barely scrape by getting kicked out because of unturned in work in one class. I'm now ten grand in debt with serious ramifications if I fail, both familial and other. I sit down, smoke my drugs, turn the work in, get passed, go on to Moot Court. Serious crisis averted.

So after two weeks of intense preparation and the like (that I don't want to do), I'm arguing this case in front of three established lawyers who are just grilling and killing me. It was weird. I knew the case was unanswerable from my side, yet the instructors they put in charge of us (who didn't know that all journalistic/free speech claims run through Times v. Sullivan, a precedent I had right but everybody -- including the professors that taught our section -- had wrong. I know this because they corrected me. But then, the night of the trial when the real lawyers start asking, it magically changes) proceed anyway. So I get roasted. And after it all (this is getting too long) we go to sit with the lawyers to figure out what we did wrong, etc.

Except a week before, the students decided to have a "pimps and hos" party, which might sound problematic. And it is indeed. Every racial stereotype you can imagine comes out, and pictures are snapped, and it makes waves. National news for law students. So the lawyers start asking us about it. Did we go to the party? Did we know anybody? Then they all go off for five minutes about how inappropriate it was and start scolding us. Never mind the guy I'm arguing with had nothing to do with and neither did I. I didn't even know about it. I'm 33, and don't even know the kids. I look at the guy at one point, tell him we had nothing to do with it (the other kid was a politically correct punk rocker), but he keeps going. And going. Eventually he states his credentials. What does this otherwise totally stereotypical white lawyer say in his defense of himself, clearly a man of the system??

I USED TO LISTEN TO PUBLIC ENEMY IN COLLEGE.

I'll just leave that one there for everybody to determine how ridiculous that was and not comment on it.

**** that guy. To this day.
 
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#31 The Sundays - Here's Where the Story Ends

I don't understand how The Sundays weren't bigger. Their debut, 1990's Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic was legit good and the follow-up Blind was strong too. Then it's like the radio programming gods decided their wasn't enough room for both Harriet Wheeler and Dolores O'Riordan, and boom, The Cranberries were everywhere and the Sundays went the way of the dodo. Wiki says they had a top 10 Modern Rock radio single with Summertime in 1997 but I think someone is just making stuff up.

OTOH, it didn't surprise me at all to learn that Here's Where the Story Ends hit #1 on that same chart in 1990. I could listen to Harriet sing "so I cynically, cynically say the world is that way" on a loop for-freaking-ever.

I really should have made room for my other favorite song from the album somewhere in the top 100 as well. Enjoy I Kicked a Boy.
 
So... getting on a plane this afternoon to take the kid to college - the quarter system gave us another month but honestly he's been feeling a little stir crazy since almost all of his friends have been gone a while. Tomorrow he'll start a 5-day pre-orientation camping trip while the wife tool around a bit in Santa Cruz and San Francisco before making our way back to Palo Alto for Stanford move-in day next Tuesday. All that's to say I'll be keeping up with the thread as much as I can (Mrs. Scorchy believes vacation is for sleeping a lot, something I'm incapable of) but I may disappear a little more that usual. I just didn't want to pull a Tim and fall off the face of the FFA in the middle of a countdown with no explanation (in Tim's defense, he was banned).

As circumstances have it, the next two picks are from the last CD I bought before leaving for college and the first one I bought when I got there. They were by two of my three favorite bands from senior year of HS (the third was that famous college-band the Smiths - guess I was ahead of the curve).*

#30 Pixies - The Happening

Back when I wrote about Velouria, I noted that the Pixies third CD Bossanova didn't take immediate hold with me. The exception was The Happening, maybe because the intro piano and bass, Frank's off-kilter vocal, and Kim's harmonies reminded me of Doolittle. Plus, I love the weird story - especially the extended outro. It alternates with Gigantic as my favorite Pixies song, which might be a hot take (The Happening I mean, not Gigantic) among Pixies fans. I guess in earlier times when conspiracy theories weren't everywhere, I found hearing an un-hinged dude rant and mumble about an alien invasion to be much more fun.

There's a great break down on Genius if anyone cares to read how this was inspired by a War of the Worlds-esque radio show from the 50s.


* Whatever happened to squis anyway? Please no one tag him.
 
I don't think they wanted to be big.

I always enjoy this YouTube channel, Rock n Roll True Stories, and they touch on how this band was never trying to be massive.

Listening to those lyrics and reading them -- and then reading the ones for "I Kicked A Boy," I came away with the feeling that they were very abstract, so you're probably right.

It's that little souvenir from a terrible year...

She apparently narratively told him she only loved him because of his taste in books and did so to be cruel, so he left, and now she can't figure out why she lied and said that to hurt him.

Not exactly chart-topping. Then again, there have been more maudlin songs to top the charts.
 
#29 Jane's Addiction - Been Caught Stealing

On the day after I moved in to the dorms, I made my first trek to Schoolkids Records with a few new friends to buy the long-awaited new Jane's Addiction CD. Much like my experience with the Pixies album, Ritual de lo Habitual was a slow burn. In the long run though, it's still in my regular rotation (boasting one of my favorite songs ever) and I can't remember the last time I listened to Bossanova in full. At the time, Nothing's Shocking was my north star, and Ritual just sounded so much different.

I think I still hold a minor grudge against Been Caught Stealing, it's biggest hit. AFAIK, I was the only person who listened to Jane's at my HS, and my classic rock friends would all rip them whenever I played the tapes in my car. I also wore an excellent Jane's tee sporting lyrics from Ted, Just Admit It on the back that got lots of disdain. Then, when I went back home for Xmas break, all these same jackasses would tell me how much Been Caught Stealing ruled. With time, I can admit it's a pretty damn good song, but it's still my most likely skip on the record.
 
Is it just me or did the songs get way better after 50?
I love the positivity! :laugh:

When we get to the next Billboard #1, I'll be tagging you b/c the list of chart-toppers from 1990 bears out your earlier critique about a "lull" year. I'll go a little more in-depth about how most of them are either middling or terrible.
 
#31 The Sundays - Here's Where the Story Ends

I don't understand how The Sundays weren't bigger. Their debut, 1990's Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic was legit good and the follow-up Blind was strong too. Then it's like the radio programming gods decided their wasn't enough room for both Harriet Wheeler and Dolores O'Riordan, and boom, The Cranberries were everywhere and the Sundays went the way of the dodo. Wiki says they had a top 10 Modern Rock radio single with Summertime in 1997 but I think someone is just making stuff up.

OTOH, it didn't surprise me at all to learn that Here's Where the Story Ends hit #1 on that same chart in 1990. I could listen to Harriet sing "so I cynically, cynically say the world is that way" on a loop for-freaking-ever.

I really should have made room for my other favorite song from the album somewhere in the top 100 as well. Enjoy I Kicked a Boy.
Summertime is awesome, almost as good as this song.
 
it's still my most likely skip on the record.

I loved, loved Jane's before this album came out. I was so confused by it when I got a hold of a copy (first day before the stores replaced the cover with the First Amendment one) and this song was the cause of it. It had been released as a single, sure, but I remember sort of forcing myself to like it. I wondered how a band could sound so similar yet so different. The only track I took to at first was "Three Days" and the rest all sort of just went right by me.

I think I still feel that way. Nothing's Shocking and the XXX "live" album were just so incendiary, so fiery and confrontational. And they rawked. Like hard. "Mountain Song" has one of the best bass intros and guitar riffs this side of the late eighties.
 
Is it just me or did the songs get way better after 50?
I love the positivity! :laugh:

When we get to the next Billboard #1, I'll be tagging you b/c the list of chart-toppers from 1990 bears out your earlier critique about a "lull" year. I'll go a little more in-depth about how most of them are either middling or terrible.

Trust me, I hate C&C Music Factory as much as the next guy.
 

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