Month: June 2013

Ninety 90’s Songs: Fantasy-tastic

Rollerblading, an official 90’s activity. Combine the agility of figure skating with the retro-ness of roller skating, and just a dash of fashion faux pas knee pads and you’ve got the perfect way to enjoy a sunny day in the 90’s. Or as a role in a Mariah Carey video.

#69 “Fantasy” by Mariah Carey. One of the most successful musicians of the 90’s and in history, Mariah Carey charted hit after hit, after hit, after hit, after hi- well okay you get it. In a calculated move to venture into Hip Hop territory, and of course garner more sales (mo’ money!), “Fantasy” sampled the irresistibly catchy “Genius of Love” by the Tom Tom Club and debuted at the top of the charts.

Even today, the song’s theme of carrying a cosummate crush provides a strong nostalgic been there done that but in a good way feeling. The simplicity with which Mariah executes her multi-octave musing inspired young girls of the 90’s to indulge in their own fantasies of singing like her even if they sounded like mewing cats. In fact, shows like American Idol provided the proper forums for those dreams to be dashed or delivered. Carey herself even did her own stint as a judge, which must have felt beneath her from the perspective of her towering vocal range.

The video is a casual romp in the park. Amusement park. It debuted on September 7th of 1995 (happy birthday to me), and was directed completely by Mariah Carey due to her displeasure with previous videos. To be honest, I’m not sure I’d brag about that, not that the video is bad, but it’s not that special either. Regardless, no matter how many roller coaster riders’ faces are blurred because they were unpaid, the video supports the bubblegum themes that the song embodies.

Whether she’s slinging on roller coasters, rollerblading on the boardwalk, getting chased by a creepy rapper clown, or dancing through the sunroof of a jeep, Mariah never fails to sport her midriff and continues 20 years later to release hits while taking care of her young children, including her husband Nick Cannon.

Ninety 90’s Songs: Heyeyeyeyeyey…

The first few years after the Cold War ended young, opinionated musicians no longer had a prevailing societal problem against which to rail their creative angst. On the other hand, free of oppressing issues to fight, these same young people were free to be grungy and angry for absolutely no reason. Even the hippies of the 60’s had to maintain their fight against “the establishment”, but in the 90’s their equivalents could put out feel good music just for the hell of it.

#70 “Whats Up?” by 4 Non Blondes. Cleverly named to differentiate themselves from the oh so popular 4 Blondes(?), “What’s Up?” was their only big hit. Lead singer/guitarist Linda Perry is still a prominent songwriter and producer nowadays, so it’s hard to say this song is her own personal peak. For the band, this song made them a one hit wonder.

Infamously, the song has simple lyrics and completely lacks the phrase “what’s up” and instead has a load of “heys”. Too bad Gary Glitter’s “Rock and Roll” became known as “The Hey Song” first. The music is pretty simple too. One of the first things I taught myself on guitar were the chords to this song.

The video is where we really get a taste for what the 90’s were all about. Combat boots. Top hats (with goggles?). Long hair. Shaved hair. Piercings. More piercings. Piercings covered by plaid and second hand clothing. Dreads on chicks. And let’s not forget the prevalent 90’s motif of switching between black and white/color footage.

Commonly referred to on many “worst song lists” and an easy mark for parody, “What’s Up?” epitomizes early 90’s alternative culture and perpetuates a decade of indie ladies with strong personalities making popular music.

Ninety 90’s Songs: Then What Can Phil Collins Do?

There was a funky song released in the early 90’s that used to make me sad. There was this awkward sounding man singing about not being able walk or dance or sing (which I definitely agreed with). Hearing this on the radio, but not seeing the video because I didn’t have the attention span to pay attention to such things, I imagined some invalid in a wheelchair using a specially rigged microphone to help him record the song.

#71 “I Can’t Dance” by Genesis. Had I known the relevance of Phil Collins and the big deal that is Genesis, I would have had more favorable opinions as a child. This song was a single from the bands fourteenth, yes, fourteenth studio album. The track fared quite well on the charts in both the US and UK, and was even nominated for a Grammy. Silly young me.

What’s also incredible about “I Can’t Dance” is its departure from Genesis’ normal style. Instead of a grandiose, complex composition, we got a stripped down, quirky tune that insists on being catchy. Unlike so many other musical groups, even after fourteen albums, and Phil Collins’ solo ventures, they still managed to push their limits and have fun with music.

The video is an intended parody of early 90’s commercials. Among poking fun at the flashy beach locales, red-lipped vixens who date iguanas, a no pants night at a dive bar, there are interludes with oddly uncoordinated “walking”, the eponymous dance to the song. Even the very end of the video references Michael Jackson’s videos, and proves after all that Phil Collins can dance.

Ninety 90’s Songs: Is Animated Batman Just For Kids?

As a child I watched “Batman: The Animated Series”, because, guess what, I was a child and that was the market to which the show was geared. It was a cartoon, yes, but it also featured story lines that were highly conceptual, and any child who understood what depth of maturity and understanding were, without necessarily having either, knew this show had some of that going on.

#72 “I Never Even Told You” by Tia Carrere, from the soundtrack to Batman: Mask of the Phantasm by Shirley Walker. While the film was a box office bomb due to lack of proper marketing for something as grand as the 76-minute full featured film offered, it has subsequently found cult success through VHS and DVD sales, thankfully to probably the same 22 fans who love the film enough to support 22-handedly the film’s post-theater release.

Constantly argued as one of the best Batman films ever, even compared to Christopher Nolan’s excellent trilogy of Batman films, Mask of the Phantasm wore the big boy pants as a feature film. The voice acting, animation, and production values maintained and even surpassed those of the television series that spawned it, and the soundtrack and implementations of mature themes were definite examples of aspects that evolved past and originated from The Animated Series.

Composer Shirley Walker was one of few female Hollywood composers of her time, and she elevated the soundtrack of Batman, which was originally based on Danny Elfman’s stellar work, into something epic and evocative of the story which Mask of the Phantasm so deftly told, and did so more tenderly and poignantly that most Batman films ever produced.

90’s singer/actress Tia Carrere does an admiral job of providing a proper 90’s R&B ballad for the closing credits which echoes the melancholic themes of the film’s tragic love story (the best love story Batman has ever had in a feature film). While there is no official video, there is also posted a clip from the film’s opening credits that showcases Walker’s fantastic score.

Though tragically a box office bomb, and a cult classic (which means it is still relatively successful among hobbyists, geeks, nerds, and people with disposable income towards things that aren’t popular), Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is one of the best Batman films ever made, with a surprisingly and engagingly mature story despite its obvious marketing towards children and young adults. The soundtrack, as well, is a jewel that further promotes the brief film’s timelessness.