Packaging My Adolescence, Part the First
Greetings, everyone out in blogland. Or, alternatively, both of you reading this. It was brought to my attention last Friday that VH1, your one-stop shop for retro pastiche, had compiled a list of the "100 Greatest Songs of the 90s." Obviously this struck me as something that would tickle my fancy, since anyone who knows me knows that 1.) I love making and talking about lists, especially those that are pop culture-related, and 2.) I am weak. Hence, as an exercise for the upcoming bowl season, when I will be (hopefully) posting every day and (theoretically) doing a running diary/liveblog/SOC of a game, I decided to watch this silly special and talk about it, bloggy-style.
VH1 has done one of these before, an abomination called "The 100 Greates Songs of the 80s." I call this an abomination for many reasons, but the most obvious ones are that "Take On Me" was in the 20s and the number one song was Livin' on a Goddamn Prayer by Bon Jovi. I fucking hate that song. While an 80s version of this gimmick seems like it would be right in the wheelhouse of a man who created an eight-disc (and counting) mega-mix of 80s pop, the 90s represent the epoch during which I aged from nine to nineteen. As with most kids, this was the time when I discovered that there was music other than what my parents listened to, bought wholesale into the seemingly-rebellious-but-secretly-totally-popular-and-conformist rock genre du jour (they called it "grunge" for a while), and then developed a more nuanced personal taste and went off to college to talk about it endlessly. Like you do. ANYWAYS, this list theoretically chronicles my formative years of being immersed in pop music, so I'm interested to see what's on here.
Two more things: I'll be goddamned if I know what the hell the criteria was for "greatest song" status. For the 80s version I'm pretty sure it was an online fan vote (how the hell else would Livin' on a Fucking Prayer get ranked so high, if not by collar-popped douchebags hitting "vote" and "refresh" alternately?), and this probably was too. Since my previaling opinion on the world is "people are stupid," I'm not going in optimistic. Secondively, I have seen a lot of what's on here, because, as I said, I was made aware of this listing last Friday. It was pointed out to me by coworker, pick 'em participant, and possible reader Ben, who sadly lamented that (SPOILER ALERT) there was no Dave Matthews Band on the list. Let's not hold that against him.
All right, let's get down to it.
Okay, right away they tell us that these results are based on an online vote. They also opened with a montage of video clips that gave away - if you can pick out the videos shown - thirty-six of the songs, by my count. I could be off by one or two. Note that we are not given a definition of what "greatest" means. Is it "most popular"? Is it, you know, "goodest"? Um, "best," I mean? Is it quality, is it sales, is it what songs a bunch of idiots remember if they see the names on a list? Some combo meal of any of those? Fucked if I know.
100. Gerardo - Rico Suave
Yeah, this song was huge, and I'm pretty sure that everyone felt kind of bad about it even then. Someone named Alison Becker says that if this song comes on and you're not singing along, "you're an asshole." Well fuck you, too, bitch. Present-day Gerardo is a minister and says "there's life after being an artist." Let me be the umpteenth person watching this to say, "how the hell would you know?"
99. Missy Elliott - The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)
I hate this song. I hated it then and I hate it now (by the way, you'll probably see that phrase a lot in the next few days, assuming I'm lame enough to keep doing this). Though it's kind of astonishing to see how, um, spherical Ms. Elliott used to be. Everyone interviewed talks about how "different," "weird," and "spacy" the track was/is. The synonym I'd use for it is "shitty."
98. EMF - Unbelievable
Since I grew up watching "NBA Inside Stuff," I've probably heard this song somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 times, because it was used for commercials and "jam session" clips non-stop for what seemed like five years. Jesus, that video uses a lot of strobe lights. Announcer lady says that EMF failed to have a follow-up hit, but that's bullshit: they had another tune called "Lies," and I remember that the video was black and white and featured a lot of mud.
97. Prince - Gett Off
Seriously? This song? Wasn't "Cream," off the same album, like, fifty times more popular?Anyway, there's lots of obvious jokes from the commentators about the title of the track and how every single song Prince ever wrote is about fucking. For "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" fans, the video features Season 2 cast member Robia LaMorte (Ms. Calendar) dancing around in her unmentionables. Yay.
96. -- Oh wait! Here are some "songs that missed the cut"!
"105." - Wu-Tang Clan - Protect Ya Neck -- I don't think I've ever heard this. In a related story, I am super-white. Okay, that's the only one for right now.
96. Nelson - (Can't Live Without Your) Love and Affection
Who the fuck voted in this thing? At least Hollywood Steve and the guy who played Michael McDonald in "Yacht Rock" showed up. Still: snore.
95. Montell Jordan - This is How We Do It
Holy shit, this was from 1995? I could have sworn it was later than that. I feel old. So, the song: we all loved it. You did, and you did, and so did you. Don't bother denying it. Wait, do we even have to deny it? It's a fun song, right? I mean, I haven't thought about it in forever, but come on. If this came on at a party or in a bar, wouldn't you sing the whole thing? I think I would come pretty close. Also: I don't recognize about 60-70% of these "actors," "writers," and "comedians" commenting on the songs. Montell is currently working on a family-friendly reality show called "Montellivision." I did not make that up.
94. Fastball - The Way
Coworker Jessica said she hates this song, because it got "overplayed" and she got sick of it. I have certainly felt that way about songs before, but I like to think that really good tunes can overcome overplayage. Do I consider this a "really good tune"? Shit, I guess I do. I still like it, at least.
93. Lisa Loeb & Nine Stories - Stay
SHOULD. BE. HIGHER. This song was everywhere, the video was everywhere, it's still on the radio all the time, what the shit is it doing all the way down here with Nelson and (wait for it) Duncan Sheik? I hate you, America. I seem to remember that someone at Rolling Stone wrote an entire article in that particular year-end issue all about the dress she wears in this video. It's fucking iconic. Whoa, a Jewel sighting! Where did she go? Present-day Lisa Loeb is talking about people finding her and her glasses attractive. She even used the phrase "sexy librarian." I assume she must be talking about how she's smoking goddamn hot.
92. Public Enemy - 911 is a Joke
Seeing the kingpin of a reality sleaze genre that has probably caused more penicillin consumption than World War II being mentioned along with the phrases "protest song" and "greatest song" causes no small amount of cognitive dissonance. Once again: suburban, white, lame.
91. Sarah McLachlan - Building a Mystery
Yawn. I did like that tune, "Possession," though. Jewel says this song is like "getting in a bath of warm water." Hoo-kay. I would have said "eating plain toast."
90. New Radicals - You Get What You Give
I've seen this song thrown around on lots of lists like this. I must have missed something. This song annoys me and always has, and I even spent the better part of a year wearing a fisherman's hat in social situations! The singer broke up the band almost right away and has ... produced an Enrique Iglesias record? Zuh?
89. Liz Phair - Never Said
I've got nothing. Wow, an old clip of Liz talking to Tabitha Soren! I miss Tabitha and Kurt Loder. He's not still on MTV, right? Again, never heard this song before. It sounds to me like it's kind of ripping off Sly Stone's "Everyday People." Whatever. She was hot then and has only gotten hotter.
88. Duncan Sheik - Barely Breathing
Announcer lady says this was "an early taste of emo." I never liked this song back then and I fucking hate it now. That's right, he wrote the "Tony-winning smash" "Spring Awakening." Good for him. Some woman says "I think that kind of gave him a new life." Ya think?
87. Billy Ray Cyrus - Achy Breaky Heart
Pop country for stupid people (redundant?). Edwin McCain and Sir-Mix-a-Lot love it. "Achy Breaky Heart" has the Mix-a-Lot Seal of Approval. Sometimes I think that this song was only written so that the "Simpsons" writers could make the "achy breaky pelvis" joke in "King Size Homer." God has a brilliant sense of humor.
86. The Cranberries - Linger
I fucking love this song. I want to listen to the whole thing right now. I don't think I own it - what the hell's wrong with me. iTunes time! Singer Dolores O'Riordan (great name!) apparently had a nervous breakdown and had to semi-retire. Bummer.
85. Cypress Hill - Insane in the Brain
Somebody ordered the London Symphony Orchestra! Possibly while high! Cypress Hill, I'm looking in your direction! The guy from Color Me Badd who kind of looked like George Michael has swelled over the years. He thinks this song makes you feel high. Frontman B-Real is on a paintball team called the "Stoned Assassins." Um, FYI.
84. Snow - Informer
"Snow"! He's white! I don't like this song. Seriously, do you think that this song would have gotten popular and would still be remembered relatively fondly if you could tell what the hell the guy was saying? Rob Sheffield: "If you had to pick two words to sum up the 90s, they might be 'Canadian reggae.'" Right, because of Snow and ... ... ?
83. The Breeders - Cannonball
Ooh, didn't see this one coming. I don't remember the last time I heard this song; it's kind of gotten shuffled away into the recesses of our pop culture consciousness. Or mine, at least. Ben Lee says this song "sounded like smoking pot." I'm sensing a theme here. Rob Thomas says he thinks this song had the best bassline of the 90s. Is me saying that having Rob Thomas say that about you is a backhanded compliment in itself a backhanded compliment to ... myself? What? I think I still like this song, but I haven't heard it in forever.
82. Geto Boys - Mind Playing Tricks on Me
I don't remember this song at all. You would think that I would at least remember their midget rapper. You would be wrong.
81. Paula Cole - I Don't Want to Wait
Guh. Squish. "Comedian" "Lisa Arch": "Paula Cole had sort of this, like, Earth-mother quality to her." Was that because she was always barefoot and didn't shave her armpits? Because that's 73% of what I remember about her.
First hour's down. More to come.