Thursday, April 29, 2010

20-Year Flashback: May 4, 1990

What were you doing twenty years ago this week?

Allow me to jog your memory. The Hubble Space Telescope was launched aboard Space Shuttle Discovery. West and East Germany agreed to merge their currencies. Latvia declared independence from the Soviet Union. The Episcopal Church of the Philippines was granted full autonomy. And Billboard’s top 10 hits in the U.S.A. for the week ending May 5, 1990 were as follows:

On the radio, this song didn’t do much for me. But in the context of the album Rhythm Nation 1814, in its full six-minute glory, it somehow works. Not one of her most memorable songs by any stretch, though.

At the time this went down as one of my favorite songs of the year. It still passes muster. Steven Tyler wails with the best of them, and as usual, I can’t quite reach the same notes he can. At the time I had just fallen out with my best friend, and this song felt just right: anguished and intense.

Cool, smooth, jazzy, but still pop. Add a very mellow new jack swing beat underneath, and this hit was in the right place at the right time.

So what, exactly, is whip appeal? I asked WikiAnswers. That’s kind of a disappointing answer, but I suppose it makes sense. No matter … Babyface still makes me groove every time I hear this one.

Sorry—I couldn’t find the original radio edit on YouTube, which is a shame, because it’s a pretty great song, especially that amazing synthesizer solo.

The story song had been a dying art for a long time by this point. What a bizarre way for it to come back … you want what? And why? You know, they do have adoption agencies …

A classic. This song was slapped onto her I’m Breathless album of songs inspired by the movie Dick Tracy. That was a total mismatch, but both the album and this song were great.

I still can’t hear this song without immediately skipping to the next one!

Does it get any shallower than this? The 1980s were over, but the obsession with money was just beginning.

OK, yes, this song, while over-produced, is absolutely amazing, and so is the video. American Top 40 ranked this as the overall top hit of 1990. But if you want a real treat, listen to the original version, a duet between Prince and Rosie Gaines.

Overall impressions two decades down the road: Top 40 music was in the doldrums. But I was 17, so this will always be a nostalgic time for me—Michael Bolton notwithstanding!

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