Month: February 2013

Ninety 90’s Songs: Flinch

Yes, flinch. It’s what happens when I hear the opening chords to this song. You might also say that I wince, and even sometimes cringe. Putting that aside, it’s a catchy song but only because it was supposed to be catchy, kind of like McDonald’s has been engineered to taste good despite the fact that it’s not all that good for you.

#87 “I’ll Be There for You” by The Rembrandts. In case you have been lobotomized in the past five years, let me remind you that this was the theme song for the popular television series “Friends”. It wasn’t my style of sitcom, personally, but I watched several episodes over the course of its lengthy run and was usually entertained. I can’t say the same for the song.

It’s not that it’s terrible. It’s just that I don’t think the song is very honest, or has much integrity. You see, the song was only intended to play over the opening credits montage. That’s it. Only afterwards did someone add more to the song to make it suitable for radio. You can even see the evidence of the sloppy rush job in the lyrics. The opening verse boldly states, “So, no one told you life was gonna be this way.” The second verse retcons it: “Your mother told you there’d be days like these”.

Are you saying my mother is a nobody, Rembrandts?

Anyway, it’s obvious that the song’s relevance is not because of its outstanding musical and lyrical contributions, but because it gave “Friends” a chance to advertise via music video and radio. Imagine if “Seinfeld” had a catchy song on the radio, or they fleshed out that guitar-twang-thing into a three-minute masterpiece. Or what if Kelsey Grammer released his jazzy tune from the end of “Frasier” to the airwaves? Back in the nineties, it wasn’t improbable.

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Ninety 90’s Songs: Sad Marquis

Remember those “Pure Moods” commercials that advertised track after track of new age music? You probably had a friend in the nineties who was into yoga (back before it was a “thing”) and crystals and astrology who used to listen to that stuff. Maybe you thought new age music was boring because it made you sleepy. Maybe that’s why you listened to it, because it resolved a particularly bad bout of insomnia.

#88 on the list is appropriately enigmatic Enigma’s “Sadeness Part 1”. This song hit the big time primarily because there nothing else like it, and in turn helped expose to the 90’s underground genres of music that had lurked in the shadows during the 80’s while disco, synthpop, new wave, and hair metal reigned supreme.

If anything “Sadeness Part 1” is a guilty pleasure. The mix of a downtempo hip hop beat, Gregorian chant (which was sampled and led to a lawsuit), the seductive whispers of a French woman who is practically begging the Marquis de Sade to “tell her” and “give it to her”, and the piping of an earthy, primitive pan flute results in a contortion of context and themes. Think you are listening to some stodgy religious music? Think again! Sex in a church, I tell you, sex in a church. No, not a church. A cathedral. Or the Vatican.

Despite the contortion of context, this song only whispers about sex, literally, whereas other artists usually strip themselves naked and scream about it, so “Sadeness Part 1” is more sensual than anything else. The strange mix of cultures and moods cleverly balances itself without seeming over the top. Even the video looks like something out of a fever dream, but it refrains from overt sexuality and subtly implies its sensuality without ever becoming tasteless.

Overall, the modern popularity of the new age, downtempo, and electronica genres owes much to the success of “Sadeness Part 1”. Enigma bridged a gap between the mainstream and underground cultures with this one, which contributed to the success of other artists who dabbled in this style of “enigmatic” music like Moby, and Sarah Brightman, and even Madonna later in the decade.

Ninety 90’s Songs: Where Did Love Lead You?

Whatever happened to Taylor Dayne? Turns out her career is chugging along well enough, but I would have figured she’d have been a bigger hit. She had everything, it seemed, to hit Mariah Carey-esque heights, but before such a thing even happened for Mariah. She had the voice, the power, the glory, and the biggest set of lips. Surely that was enough.

#89 “Love Will Lead You Back” is barely a 90’s song. From the album “Can’t Fight Fate”, it debuted in January of 1990 and it has that in-between feel of an R&B hit trying to find its way out of the 80’s and into the 90’s. If the guitar solo had any harder an edge, we would definitely be veering into Joan Jett or Pat Benatar territory, but it manages to restrain itself and it faintly echoes something Slash would belt out for Guns N’ Roses.

It’s a classy song overall, and something of a curio amid 90’s music. A grandiose ballad by neither Mariah Carey nor Whitney Houston, yet it still packs a bemoaning, sobbing, musical punch. An interesting fact about the song, it was written by Oscar-nominated songwriter Diane Warren, who wrote music for Celine Dion and that big power-ballad comeback for Aerosmith “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” for terribad film “Armageddon”.

That’s good company to keep (well… except for the whole “Armageddon” thing), and maybe it’s due to being crafted by a skilled songwriter that I enjoy Taylor Dayne’s performance of it so much. If anything, this song heralded the style of soulful pop that continued to be popular for the rest of the decade.

Sit back and have a listen, and pray Taylor Swift doesn’t swoop in and cover this as a duet with Justin Bieber.