Yesterday, I randomly found myself on Billboard.com looking at their charts. Scrolling through the list, I remembered something I used to love looking at several years back: The historical charts. Seeing what songs were big five, 10 or 15 years ago.
I clicked on the chart from 15 years ago, and was shocked to see that I recognized pretty much every song. Fifteen years ago was 1993 at this point (which temporarily freaked me out) -- and at this point in 1993, at age 14, I knew my music.
Here are 11 highlights from the Billboard chart of 15 years ago. (Apologies to all who read this in the archives... that link won't work and I don't want to get a cease-and-desist for transcribing the list here.)
The number one song is UB40's "Can't Help Falling In Love". Which was featured in the movie "Sliver". (Ha! "Sliver"! Remember that mess? If there was ever a movie that was just begging to be shown once a month on Showtime 4 at 10:30 P.M., it's "Sliver".)
This number one is not exactly groundbreaking -- that song was a huge hit for Elvis and it's pretty timeless, so there's always money to be made in a cover.
In fact, here's a list of other people who've covered it (thanks to Wikipedia for filling in the gaps in my memory): Perry Como, The A*Teens, Rick Astley, Julio Iglesias, Bob Dylan, Shirley Bassey, Clay Aiken, Katharine McPhee and, most importantly, COREY HART.
Tag Team's "Whoomp! There It Is"
95 South's "Whoot, There It Is"
Number two is Tag Team's "Whoomp! (There It is)". People my age will remember that the summer of '93 was a famous battleground between two almost identical songs: Tag Team's "Whoomp! There It Is" and 95 South's "Whoot, There It Is". This week, "Whoot" was only number 12, and never got higher than 11.
Why "Whoomp" was ultimately more successful than "Whoot" is something of a mystery, and probably worthy of some deep academic research. My guess: I just watched both videos, and "Whoot" comes across much more dirty South than "Whoomp".
And, in 1993, white people weren't ready for the dirty South. So "Whoomp" won out because, for better or worse, for rap to be commercially successful, white people have to buy it too.
Radiohead's "Creep" was number 41. If back then you would've told us that (1) that would be Radiohead's most commercially successful song and (2) regardless, they'd become the quintessential "cool band" of the 2000s... I'm not sure a single person in the world would've believed you.
"Boom! Shake The Room" by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince was number 39 this week, 15 years ago. That's pretty significant because, as I speculated when I saw that and my research confirmed, that was the last hit single that they had together... before DJ Jazzy Jeff went on to great things (like playing the role of "Jazz" on a hit NBC sitcom) and the Fresh Prince disappeared under the rock of obscurity.
There are a few fantastic one-hit wonders on the list. "Slam" by Onyx at number 14... "Dazzey Duks" by Duice at 15... "Show Me Love" by Robin S. at 16... and "What's Up" by 4 Non Blondes at 19. I really loved that last one. You can still say "And I pray, oh my [high pitched voice] God, do I pray" and every single person from this generation knows exactly what you're referencing.
Of course, none of those compares to H-Town's "Knockin Da Boots" at 22. Because that song is the answer to one of my favorite trivia questions ever: This was the first song ever sang on "American Idol".
Seriously. Some girl sang it, did a mediocre job and got dismissed by the judges.
And now I lay back and wonder what the guys of H-Town thought when they saw that. Was it, "Some girl just sang our eight-year-old song on national TV" or "Holy shit, we're getting a royalty check"?
SWV's "Right Here (Human Nature)"
There are two SWV songs in the top 13. Two! "Weak", obviously, at number six (it peaked at number one). And some song called "Right Here (Human Nature)", which I don't remember, at number 13.
Apparently it peaked at number two. I've got to think that this week, or one near it, was the highlight of the women of SWV's collective lives.
[Note: So after I wrote all that, I went on YouTube and actually watched the video for this song and I completely remembered it. I even remembered a lot of the lyrics. And for some reason it made me really nostalgic. I have no idea why. Something about these women singing "right here waa waa" brought back a whole flood of summer-after-8th-grade memories. I wonder if that's going to happen to me when 15 years from now I hear "No Air" or "When I Grow Up".]
There are two songs on the list that I really like but didn't discover (strangely enough) until the past few years: Sting's "Fields of Gold" and Big Daddy Kane and Spinderella's "Very Special". Not sure how I missed either of those. I guess I wasn't the "with it" 14-year-old I thought I was.
Number 37 is "Run To You" by Whitney Houston, from "The Bodyguard" soundtrack. Has there ever been a soundtrack that came even close to that in terms of success? Even completely obscure and not-that-good songs like "Run To You" were hits off it.
This has to be the quintessential example of great soundtrack, shitty movie. I can't think of another one that even comes close. ("Mannequin" maybe?)
Kris Kross "Alright"
Some Kris Kross song called "Alright" is number 23. This led me to Kris Kross's Wikipedia page, which educated me that these guys actually had a LOT of singles make the charts. (Not just "Jump" and "Warm It Up").
I went to YouTube to reacquaint myself with "Alright". Apparently, since this was 1993 and not 1992, Kris Kross had outgrown their clothes backwards phase and were now in their "we're gangsta, we swear" phase.
I did not remember this song.
And finally, I'd be remiss not to mention the song that was number three this week... its peak position... and which, arguably, is the most timeless song on the list. "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" by the Proclaimers!
I think I'd pay $25 to see a Proclaimers concert. Which doesn't seem like a lot but keep in mind, most county fairs (where I assume they play) only cost $5 to get into ($3 if you're a veteran)... so I think offering to pay a 500% premium on that is pretty generous.
This post was originally published on Tuesday, August 19, 2008 at 12:00:00 PM under the category Music.