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.