Month: October 2013

Ninety 90’s Songs: The Not-MTV Real World

There’s a term called post-grunge which details several bands that arose after the prominence, and subsequent absence, of Nirvana. The first wave immediately following Nirvana adhered closely to that style of music, but eventually post-grunge came to include later bands that may (or may not) have diluted what grunge was supposed to be with a much more WASP-friendly pop sound. Even today there are some post-grunge acts still lingering around, but you’d need to take a chisel to their shiny pop music complexions to find it cowering within (ahem, Nickelback).

#60 “Real World” by Matchbox 20 (or Twenty, whatever…) Hailing from Florida, of all places, Matchbox 20 (Twenty) hit the music scene with an alternative/post-grunge sound with just enough Florida in it to appeal to the masses. Just like fellow Floridian KC and his Sunshine Band brought disco to the white people en masse in the 70’s, so did the boys in the matchbox bring this sound to the pop charts.

While “Real World” was released in ’98 as a single, it was recorded with their first album “Yourself or Someone Like You” in ’96. The first couple of singles released from the album had a harder edge, with single “Push” gaining some notoriety for seemingly romanticizing physical abuse. Maybe that’s why they chose the bright cheeriness of “Real World” to put out next, that and the MTV reality show progenitor “The Real World: And some poor city” was airing quite popularly.

This lighter fare gave Matchbox Twenty (20) some great airplay, especially on the Top 40 and the, at the time, new Adult Top 40 charts. They failed to break into the tens on the Modern Rock and Mainstream Rock charts, though, and so Matchbox 20/20 was forever destined or doomed to become more of a pop act.

Even now Matchbox Twenty20 is still kicking whenever front man Rob Thomas isn’t going solo and singing along with Carlos Santana, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Whether they chose to or it was providence, riding the wave of pop helped their careers since Rock and Grunge were already beginning to fade by the mid-90’s. It’s better that Matchbox Twenty (20?) didn’t pound that last nail into the Rock coffin. Nickelback was wanting to do that for themselves.

Ninety 90’s Songs: You Gotta Be… Another Monochrome Video

Unless you are reading these blog entries in numerical order, then you know that I’ve remarked on the prevalence of black and white music videos. To be fair, there’s nothing wrong with that trend and it continues to this day, but it just seems that the early and mid-90’s have more than a fair share of the style.

#61 “You Gotta Be” by Des’ree.  It’s unfair to call Des’ree a one hit wonder since this popular ’94 hit led to her contributing a single to the revisioned “Romeo + Juliet” (and just for your information Romeo + Juliet = Tragic Love). “You Gotta Be” is like the little sister to the oh-so-feel-good “Hold On” by Wilson Phillips. Once those first few piano notes play, you know you’re in for 4 minutes of clean fun and affirmations.

Adult Contemporary in the 90’s gained a cult-like status, by which I mean most of it was meant to indoctrinate you into some flash in the pan cult. Perhaps that’s taking it too far, but this song definitely fits that bill. The lyrics remind me of chants I had to sing in church and the repetition is meant to drown out your daily woes and troubles with a mish mash of musical motivation. Yay repression…

The video supports this theory. Filmed in black and white (curse you 90’s!), the white background juxtaposes against your high priestess. Garbed in new-age tunic and trousers, she begins by accompanying her lyrics with some faux-sign language, which makes sense since the 90’s were full of other things like faux-fur, faux-French, faux-leather, and a proliferation of faux-breasts.  Soon she reveals herself to be one of five aspects (eat that Jesus!).  If you think that’s scary, just wait until later in the video when she inverts her colors and goes crazy like Galadriel from Lord of the Rings,  beautiful and terrible as the dawn.

All will love Des’ree and despair.


Ninety 90’s Songs: Whatever Happens When Alanis Is In The Street…

There’s always that one person at a party who says, “Oh, no. Don’t let me have tequila. I go crazy on tequila.” Someone else says, “Rum makes me violent!” or , “After having whiskey I can’t remember a thing.” Those people are usually expressing a healthy level of caution towards potential substance abuse problems. But if you ever heard someone say, “Put me in the street and I will throw pies, kiss random boys, and get all naked and sing!” you’d probably consider having her committed.

#62 “Thank U” by Alanis Morissette. In the mid-90’s Alanis Morissette emerged with vivid lyrics and raucous energy. The be-dreaded Canadian prescribed us jagged-little pills and educated us on how to use irony.  She was an inspiration to awkward young women who didn’t fit in and the music charts alike, lighting up both and ushering in a wave of female singer-songwriters in a way that Tracy Chapman could only dream about.

“Thank U” from 1998’s “Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie” doesn’t one-up Alanis’ previous efforts from “Jagged Little Pill” but it does stand up quite well to them. This single is her most successful in her post-Pill career, and her highest highlight (Besides dating Ryan Reynolds, but who hasn’t done that?). Once again, almost a sequel to her video for “You Learn”, Alanis takes to the streets bearing her soul, and her soles, by stripping completely naked like the Eve of LA.

Her antics are tame despite her nudity. Instead of flailing around in dreads (Please don’t flail, since your hair hanging so precariously this time around) performing random acts of chaos, she instead stands rather solemnly and in slow motion at various locations. Occasionally creepers will reach out from the hyperspeed world to touch Alanis’ bare flesh. As usual, Morissette’s stunts goose you, and then her meaningful lyrics and Siren-esque voice lull you into emotional transcendence.


Ninety 90’s Songs: Len-cest

I’m an only child who also happens to be (mostly) an introvert. I can interact quite well with people despite this condition, as long as those interactions remain within certain boundaries. There are a few things I can try to handle that come from the extroverted types, but some things cross the line. Excessive touching between strangers may be odd, but to me there’s a line that even family can cross.

#63 “Steal My Sunshine” by Len.  Want to know what the late 90’s were like? This video pretty much sums it up. Bug-eye sunglasses. Tank tops (a.k.a wife beaters in tribal looter speak). MTV-like beach fun. “Steal My Sunshine” was a big hit during the summer of ’99, the last summer not only of the decade or the century, but of the millennium. Hence the decadence.

The song is cheery and the rhythm, featuring a sample from Andrea True Connection’s “More, More, More”, is monotonous without being grating so it blends in with your summer-partying-drinking haze. The song focuses on a flirty back-and-forth between the two singers and the video slices and dices your perspective with retro-esque squared off cutaways and party-wide camera panning. Eventually all the crew gather around the flirty duo while the male lead rubs his underarm funk all over his friends.

What is most striking about the video isn’t learning that the romantic late afternoon/early evening footage was a product of most of the video budget being spent on their nightly alcoholic binges and subsequent morning hangover recoveries. It’s from learning that the leading couple are in fact related, but not by marriage. Yes, the Romeo and Juliet in this video are from the same family, not feuding ones. Perhaps we can chalk up their lax boundaries to late 90’s hedonism.

Regardless, Len managed to resurrect a disco hit to inflate their one hit wonder with a lot of life. It’s good to know we knew how to party like it was 1999 in 1999, even if we had to do it with our siblings.