Saturday, May 28, 2011

Best of the 90s: 1990.

Kathy and I roadtripped to Seattle on Tuesday night for a brief-but-amaaazing visit. Seattle and the coolest, bestest friends ever who we saw there would rank VERY high on my list of favorite things, which I could discuss more but my thoughts would probably devolve into this:


That's how I felt about our trip.

Anyway, during a moment of blaring N'Sync on the trip up there (obviously), I had the thought that I really wanted to devote more time to writing about the 90s on here since I like them SO MUCH. I also like lists. So I was thinking I could do a few lists of great 90s songs intermittently, and then I said NO. NOT ENOUGH! I should profile the greatest of the 90s YEAR BY YEAR! Yes! And at first I thought I would choose five songs from each year but after perusing some Billboard lists, five songs is just NOT ENOUGH EITHER! So I'm going with 10. We'll see how it goes. And then Kathy said, "You should talk about movies and TV and stuff too!" And I said, "YEAH!!!"

So essentially. We acted like VH1's "I love the 80s/90s/whatever" had never existed. And we were pretty proud of ourselves. But Mo Rocca's got nothing on me! Uh, maybe! And anyway, who doesn't like watching those re-runs on VH1? Even if you've seen them ten times before? If they even still show re-runs of these shows? Is VH1 exclusively reality TV now? When was the last time I watched VH1? (A long time ago.)

So, without further adieu, let's begin Jill Does the 90s. I thought the earlier years would be harder since they're further away in my memories, but I was totally wrong.

(NOTE: Most of these songs actually came out in 1989, but according to Billboard, were some of the most popular songs of 1990, so that's what I'm going with.)

Jill's Top Ten Songs of 1990

Nothing Compares 2 U, Sinead O'Connor

Have you EVER heard a more epic love song or watched a more intensely-serious-on-the-verge-of-tears video performance? You think so? Well, I think you're full of shit. Because nothing compares to Nothing Compares 2 U, Sinead style. (SEE WHAT I DID THERE?!) If you think the "2 U" spelling of the title is annoying/surprising/less classy than the actual song, you'd be correct, BUT, it's because the original is actually by Prince. And Prince gets a pass, since he did all his annoying spelling stuff before the Internets, so it's less thirteen year old girl on MySpace, more weirdish Prince genius, so, at least I personally feel better about it. Remember that time she ripped up a picture of the Pope on live television? That was good times. 1990'S, I MISS YOU! 

Poison, Bell Biv Devoe

You have to watch an ad to get to this video, but it's worth it. (Plus, the ad I watched was for Jack in the Box and was actually pretty funny, even if that Jack head is super creepy.) There are so many good things happening in this video: so much green screen dancing, so much sweet booty, and so much great early 90s fashion. Those black and white vertical striped pants in the shockingly steamy alley are particularly hideous.

The inclusion of this song, also, is dedicated to our very special friends Ellie & Matt. Last Christmas, Matt discovered that Ellie was unaware of the genius that is Poison by Bell Biv Devoe, which resulted in a Poison-infused Christmas type of time. When we met them for breakfast on Christmas Eve in Raleigh, they were wearing Christmas sweatshirts they'd made with Matt's family the night before. Matt's looked like this:

Do YOU have friends with Bell Biv Devoe inspired Christmas sweatshirts? I didn't think so. I am a lucky person.

Opposites Attract, Paula Abdul

Oh, Paula of the 90s, I miss you. (But who doesn't?) 1990: a time when it was cool to dance with a rapping , tap-dancing animated fox in your video! What a special time. This video really sticks in my memory--I feel like I remember every part of it so well, from dancing on the trash cans to plopping on the car seats in the alley to dancing up the animated stairs to the roof. Also, Paula's half-high-ponytail and oversized shirt (black and white vertical stripes, AGAIN!) on the rooftop are really something else.

I also dedicate this song to Sam and Steve, two of our best friends (who are getting married!), who are an Oppposites Attract type of couple. When they first got together Kathy and I thought it would be AMAZING to perform this song at karaoke and dedicate it to them. Even though we had PLANNED THIS IN ADVANCE, we didn't think it'd be a good idea to give the song a listen beforehand, apparently. And it was one of those epic karaoke failures when you get on stage and realize: 'OH MAN I HAVEN'T LISTENED TO THIS SONG IN AGES. I THOUGHT I KNEW HOW IT WENT BUT NOW I HAVE NO IDEA! OH GOD! WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME! AH! OH GOD WHY ARE THOSE WORDS ON THE SCREEN GOINGSOFAST!' Clearly we were not the seasoned karaoke performers we are now. But, Sam and Steve pretended to be excited about it. (Like I said, they're good friends.)

We Didn't Start the Fire, Billy Joel

When Kathy and I saw Billy Joel live, he sang this, but prefaced it with: "Who knows all the words to this song? I don't know all the words to this song. Why did I put so many words in this song?" It was funny, although I think he was drunk. In fact, I think he's drunk most of the time. I couldn't find a decent embeddable official video, so this is one someone made--there are apparently several of these on the internets--of all the things mentioned in the song. This is pretty cool, but I almost didn't want to include it because of the way the user describes it on YouTube: "A Spectacular video I made." Spectacular! Well, someone thinks pretty highly of themselves!

There are so many wonderful things about this song, but the best part is how everyone sings it the same exact way. This same exact way usually sounds like this: "MUMBLEMUMBLEMUMBLE JFK BLOWN AWAY, WHAT ELSE DO I HAVE TO SAY!!!" You are always so proud of those random words and phrases you know! It is such a triumph to hit them right on cue!

This song is dedicated (yes, another dedication) to Wes, our valedictorian and one of the best people I have ever known, who re-wrote this song our senior year of high school with all current events which had happened since 1989. I remember not knowing what half of the stuff he mentioned even was, but knowing that it was AMAZING. What a guy/smartypants.

Roam, B-52s

Oh man, I had no idea this song came out in 1990, but I'm SO glad it did so I can include it here. To be honest I don't remember listening to this song in the 90s much, but I discovered it when I was in college and LOVED IT, I guess ten years too late. For, 1) You can't deny the need to jump around and clap your hands and kick your feet in an adorable, fun-loving manner when listening to this song. Fun-loving! 2) Anything discussing the option of being able to "roam around the world if you want to," as if this is a feasible option, at all, for anyone other than millionaires, satisfies the wanderlust-fueled-idealist inside of me who really wants to believe this is a feasible option, just maybe. Seriously, I love this song.

Rhythm Nation, Janet Jackson

Uh, yeah, badass.

Janie's Got a Gun, Aerosmith

Kathy frequently talks about an interview she saw once with Steven Tyler where he talked about the creation of this song. From what she (frequently) recounts, it went something like this: he read a story in the newspaper about a girl, and then woke up in the middle of the night, jolting from his bed and spontaneously singing: "CHICK-OHM-BO-BUM-DU-DUM, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE!" It is incredibly hard to transcribe, by the way, exactly what he says at the beginning of this song. In any case, imitating the CHICK-OHM-BO-BUM-WHATEVER part is one of Kathy's favorite things in life, but sadly I think the interview is lost to time. Or, I am just too lazy of a Googler at this point after already wasting so much of my life trying to find embeddable videos for all of this junk, to really try to find it.

The moral of the story is, this is one of the best Aerosmith songs of all time. I think it's my favorite, actually, aside from Dream On, which I believe shouldn't count because Dream On was from such a weird drug-fueled time that it doesn't even sound like Aerosmith to me, and so I count it differently. Anyway. What a delight to be able to include it in my first Best of the 90s post! Also, there are some really lovely Steven Tyler mouth shots in this video. Also, no one can dress up a mic stand like he can. His mic stands and Stevie Nicks could have beautiful, bohemian babies.

Epic, Faith No More

Everything about this song and video really is epic. From the dude's outfit, to his dance moves, to the downpour that obviously happens on set, to the way he opens his eyes real wide in a scary way while he's singing, to the constant lightning, to the hair length of every member of the band, to the guitar solo at 2:25. Really, though, did you get a good look at the outfit? In seriousness, the piano that ends this song is genius. AND, spoiler alert, in case you were lulled into complacence by that pretty melody, the piano immediately BLOWS UP IN YOUR FACE AFTERWARDS!

PS. Do you think the green stuff being thrown through the window at the beginning of the video is actually gak?

Downtown Train, Rod Stewart

Okay, I admit it. Rod's raspy old voice gets me sometimes! I know! Leave me alone! Also, did you know that the original version of this song is by Tom Waits? Now you do. If I had to dedicate this one to somebody--which might be getting annoying at this point, so let's pretend I'm not doing it--but IF I were to dedicate it, I'd probably think about Lou and that one time I visited him in New York in college when he sang the Tom Waits version over and over, for some reason, the entire time. Lou, by the way, has a wonderful ability to passionately latch on to things and convince you they are the best things in the world, at least for ten minutes. That weekend, it was Tom Waits and Downtown Train.

Anyway, there are two notable things about this video. (Which, again, is not Tom Waits, and so not in any way badass.) 1) The passionate violin playing by the set where Rod is apparently pretending to be homeless? Violins by fires in trash cans. Yes. 2) The girl on the downtown train that Rod/Tom is pining over is sporting a long french braid which is completed by a huge scrunchie. Yes times two!

Something Happened on the Way to Heaven, Phil Collins

(I also couldn't find a decent embeddable official video for this song, so you're stuck with a live version, which doesn't even really start until :50 in, wherein Phil Collins is real old, and has apparently hired a guitarist from ZZ Top, which is pretty awesome.)

The choice for the last spot was a tough one. It was between Phil and the Humpty Dance, and I chose Phil. I CHOSE PHIL OVER EARLY 90S HIP HOP, AFTER I'D ALREADY EXPOSED MY UTTER UNCOOLNESS BY CHOOSING ROD! Does this make me the ultimate loser? Yes, yes, I think so. Regardless, we listened to a lot of Genesis and Phil Collins in my house in the early 90s, and I still hold a little soft spot for him in my heart. I mean, a little one, but it's there. And when we're discussing Phil Collins, I think the spectrum goes something like this:
Oh man. Unfortunate:
His cover of Can't Hurry Love. Honestly--why.
       Kinda weird, but vaguely enjoyable:
               The best it's gonna get, and you know you like it:                            
               Something Happened on the Way to Heaven.
But I mean really--how many times can he say he's sorry?

1990 on film
I'll briefly mention what was happening in movies & TV for each year, but won't go into great detail because 1) I'm not as good at it; 2) if anyone is still reading at this point I'm impressed.

The top grossing film of 1990 was Home Alone. Here is my favorite story about Home Alone that I've probably told you before if you know me in person: I was one of those Home Alone haters growing up, until I studied abroad in Europe in the fall of 2007. We flew back to the US in mid-December, at which point we were starting to really miss our families and such. Like, oh, ANOTHER amazing gothic cathedral? ANOTHER adorably quaint European town full of charm and history? YEAH WHATEVER, I MISS MY MOM AND SUBURBAN SPRAWL. One of the last weekends before we left, to help appease us silly Americans during the holiday season, the people in charge at the place we were staying showed us Home Alone. And inwardly, I groaned. And then we watched it, and nothing could have been a better choice. Home Alone suddenly made me miss America SO BAD I wanted to bawl. So, essentially what I'm saying is, Home Alone = America! Also, then I met Kathy, who knows the entire film, literally, by heart. And it's hard to be a hater on something loved so deeply by the person you love.

There were some other great films in 1990: Ghost! Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg and, well, ghosts! Dances With Wolves! Kevin Kostner and stereotyped Native Americans! PRETTY WOMAN! Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, you made my mom happy forever!

And let's not even talk about TV! Golden Girls! Roseanne! A Different World & the Cosby Show! Murphy Brown! Who's the Boss? Doogie Howser! THE WONDER YEARS!!!!

Jill in 1990
So, I turned 7 in 1990, and started first grade. I hardly remember things from five years ago, so I do not remember 1990 real well. (I will probably not start to remember anything well until maybe 1997.) The only thing I really remember is how I spent my Friday nights. I think this was around the period of my parents' divorce, so it was a transition period of Friday nights: I used to always spend Friday nights getting pizza at Two Guys in Honesdale and then spending the night at my grandparents', watching endless hours of Golden Girls and Empty Nest while my grandma scratched my back. After that, I usually spent Friday nights with my dad, watching endless hours of TGIF, often at my other grandparents' house. He let us eat Pop Tarts on Saturday mornings! It was exciting. I think I spent most of my down time collecting trolls, and then writing stories about said trolls. My Aunt Anita always told me they were good. She is a kind person. I still shared a red-and-yellow-themed bedroom with my sister, who was listening to a lot of New Kids on the Block at the time.

I also think my first grade teacher's name was Mrs. Brown. She had a sweet rocking chair that she'd sit in to read us Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Runaway Ralph. Runaway Ralph was the shit.

And that, my friends, was 1990. It took me ten years to write this, so we'll see when I get up the energy for 1991.


  1. I find it pretty amazing that I love all of this music, all of those movies and TV shows and remember them as something from my childhood but really, I was 5 in 1990 and not even allowed to watch TV or the Radio at that point...

  2. I still can't believe you hated Home Alone. Seriously.

  3. I am laughing so hard right now remembering the troll stories. The main character was Richard Troll. You wrote about him the entire way from PA to Florida one time. Which is awesome, and which I just thought about earlier when Dave and I drove past one of those vans with a television built in for the kids to watch, and I was like, if we have kids they are NOT watching tv in the car. Because then they would never have the opportunity to fill an entire journal with troll stories, and write an amazing blog about it later in life!

  4. I LOVE the 90s. I also LOVE "We Didn't Start the Fire" like, seriously. It's history AND music. Two of my favorite things!! I know most of the words, and have sung it at karaoke on more than one occasion.  <3

  5. Oh man. The main character was totally Richard Troll! Although now that I actually think about it, this was probably more in the 3rd-4th grade range. I doubt my literary prowess was up to the level of Richard Troll in 1st grade. Apparently I overestimate myself in my memories. Remember how you, myself, AND Anita were in the backseat during that PA-FL trip? How was that a good idea?

  6. Seriously. It's because the amazingness of all of this stuff transcends time!

  7. Ha! Really it was more "thought I was too cool for Home Alone." I mean, Macaulay Caulkin? Psshh. Thank god Kathy--and the castle!--set me straight.


    I would love to do karaoke with you sometime. It's a dream!