Hey everybody, long time no chat. I was watching a video compilation on YouTube yesterday, as one does, and I was reminded of a whole bunch of 90s songs that I haven’t heard in a very long time. If you’re like me (a 40 year old man desperately clinging to memories of his youth) you probably listen to a bunch of 90s grunge and alternative playlists on Spotify. That’s cool. No really, it’s cool, what you like is still good and still matters and it is the children who are wrong…where was I? Right, that’s cool but chances are there’s a big chunk of the 90s that you’re missing in between Pearl Jam’s Vitalogy leading into Hole’s Live Through This leading into Temple of the Dog, etcetera, and that’s what we’re going to look at today. So with that, on to the songs!
“Here Comes the Hotstepper” Ini Kamoze
Oh man, what a banger. “Here Comes the Hotstepper” came out in 1994, a year that longtime readers know was my most formative year. With all that forming some things necessarily have to fall through the cracks though, and while I of course know this song when I hear it or when somebody mentions it (nobody mentions it), when it’s not smacking me right in the face I’ve memory holed this Ini Kamoze jam. “Here Comes the Hotstepper” was a huge hit and also featured prominently in the movie Ready to Wear (Pret-a-Porter) a Robert Altman movie that nobody ever mentions when they talk about Robert Altman, but that I’ve seen. Ini Kamoze were actual Jamaican dancehall stars whose lyrics were way easier to understand than fake Jamaican Canadian Snow’s in “Informer.”
This song’s super fun. Give it a listen and briefly remember that.
“Live and Learn” Joe Public
Is this new jack swing? It sure sounds like new jack swing. This song came out in 1992, and I just found out who sang it three minutes ago. The group is Joe Public but you’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s Bel Big DeVoe, a new jack swing group that people have actually heard of. I didn’t learn a lot from the Wikipedia for “Live and Learn” apart from it sampled a bunch of songs, including James Brown’s “Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved” and Steeley Dan’s “Peg,” among others. I also learned that it is Joe Public’s biggest hit which shouldn’t be surprising except to the extent that it suggests that they had other hits. Also Joe Public was from Buffalo, NY, so new jack swing nearly made it to Canada.
I don’t think that I actually consider this to be a good song, but it has a vaguely positive message and certainly has a chorus that I now remember.
“Your Woman” White Town
Have you ever heard of White Town? I’d certainly never heard of White Town. I always assumed that this song was by some Blur or The Verve adjacent band, not an actually famous band but sort of a “Von Bondies edging its way into the Detroit Garage Revival” situation for mid-90s Brit pop. It’s not. It’s actually a lot more interesting than that. White Town is one guy, and he’s Jyoti Mishra, an India-born Brit, who also happens to be a straight-edge Marxist. He was inspired to start a band after seeing the Pixies in 1989, and in 1997 “Your Woman” charted in the US and UK.
I’m bad at finding this kind of information on the Internet but I feel like this song popped up in several TV shows and movies in the late 90s-early 2000s. It certainly appeared on the soundtrack of many MTV shows.
“Move This” Technotronic
Speaking of songs that appeared in other media, “Move This” was actually made famous by a Revlon commercial. The song was originally released in 1989, and its commercial popularity in 1992 made it a Billboard hit. In the past I wrote about “Groove is in the Heart,” a truly wonderful song that somehow wasn’t engineered in some Nordic music lab. Well “Move This” a) isn’t nearly as good as “Groove is in the Heart” and b) is very much a Nordic creation. The Nordic creator is Technotronic, aka a Swiss dude named Jo Bogaert who is very much not the young African fashion model/rapper who fronts the music video. Hard to believe that a song that gained prominence via a Revlon commercial isn’t a bastion of authenticity, I know. It is kind of catchy, though.
“Insensitive” Jann Arden
One more. Did I really save an adult contemporary song for last? I think I did! Is that what this is? I know that when this song came out in 1994 somebody in my house liked it, I just can’t remember if it was my mom or my sister. Again, this was 1994, I had a lot of important stuff to cram into my brain that year. Look, I’m not going to pretend this isn’t a boring song. It absolutely is, and also it feels like each verse is a run-on sentence. I included it because I truly forgot that this song existed at all. Yet it did, and it made it all the way to #12 on Billboard’s Hot 100. It also made it to #4 on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary Chart, which still doesn’t clear up who was the biggest fan of the song in my house because my older sister has always sort of been a middle aged lady even in 1994 when she was 16.
Hey, we remembered some songs together! I hope you had fun doing it. If you want to remember some more stuff you should check out my book 80s Baby: A Story of Childhood Told Through Stuff. You can get it in paperback or as an eBook.
Thanks for reading! I’ll be back sometime soon.