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Search for the Best Pop Song of the 1990s: “What’s Up?” by 4 Non Blondes

This is one blog’s search for the definitive “Best Pop Song of the 1990s.” Ground rules can be found here. This will be done by analyzing these songs far more than any song, or thing, deserves to be analyzed. You can find the other entries here.

“What’s Up?” by 4 Non Blondes
Released June 23, 1993
Reached #14 on the Billboard Hot 100

I was a little surprised to see that this song never made it higher than 14 on the Billboard charts, which led me to look at the songs that were number one during the months when this song would have had major airplay. The song “Weak” by SWV was number one for two weeks during this period. SWV! Also, Meat Loaf had the number one song for five weeks in November-December of 1993. I hope you feel shame, 1993.

Anyway, 4 Non Blondes. Here we go:

Twenty-five years I’m alive here still
Trying to get up that great big hill of hope
For a destination
This is one of those classic songs that begins with acoustic strumming tailor-made for any first time guitar player, followed by an electric guitar riff tailor-made for any second time guitar player. I feel like the 90s were full of those. Also, I have spent my entire life believing that the first line was “Twenty-five years and my life is still.” This version makes more sense, but barely.
I realized quickly when I knew I should
That the world was made up of this brotherhood of man
For whatever that means
What does that mean? Seriously. What the hell does that mean?
And so I cry sometimes
When I’m lying in bed Just to get it all out
What’s in my head
And I, I am feeling a little peculiar.

Did Linda Perry just create emo?! Read more…

My Favorite Alabama Shakes Song of the Moment

“Be Mine”:

Search for the Best Pop Song of the 1990s: “Losing My Religion” by R.E.M.

This is one blog’s search for the definitive “Best Pop Song of the 1990s.” Ground rules can be found here. This will be done by analyzing these songs far more than any song, or thing, deserves to be analyzed. You can find similar posts here.

Now a guest post by Zack:

“Losing My Religion” by R.E.M
Released February 19, 1991
Reached #4 on the Billboard Hot 100

If there is a “dark horse” for best pop song of the ‘90s, it has to be R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion.”

The tune by the Athens, Georgia, band was a surprise Grammy-scoring smash of 1991. Surprising not because the band wasn’t talented, but rather because the song seemed just so unconventional and had such a dramatic tone.

It actually could be considered a great example of a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. No, really. Think about it. Have you a better example?

Parts, parts, parts.

Pop music is all about parts, and none of which is more important than the hook. The hook, which is more often than not a catchy chorus, can be the difference between making millions and making rent. Because really, if you think about it, Marcy Playground is definitely not a great band, but does anyone who grew up in the ‘90s not know the lyrics to “Sex and Candy”? Exactly. That group of Minnesota clown shoes raked in dollars hand over fist, all because of that little six-word (I smell sex and candy here) hook.

Parts, parts, parts.

Something else the usual hit pop single has is a “relatability.” For the sake of argument I’ll just reference Marcy Playground again. Who can’t relate to sex? No one, that’s who. Even virgins relate, and maybe to even a more extreme degree than your average slut, because not having sex to a virgin is much more important than getting laid to the average skeez.  And candy? Well, if you don’t like candy, or can’t relate to it, then you suck at life. Period. Read more…

Journey Through the Rolling Stones Discography: Part Three, Exile and Slow Decline

The Rolling Stones are unquestionably one of the greatest rock bands of all time. They have released over twenty albums since the early 60s. Reading through Keith Richards’ autobiography Life (my review here) made me realize how few of these I have actually given a chance. I have since dedicated myself to listening, through the wonder of Spotify, to every Stones album* released to date. This is part three of that trip. (Part one; Part two)

*Until 1967 albums released in the UK were often reconfigured for U.S. release. I’m only listening to the US versions. Also, these are studio albums, not live or greatest hits compilations.


Exile on Main Street

Released May 12, 1972

Need to know: Considered by most to be the Stones greatest album, including Rolling Stone which listed it as the 7th best album of all time in 2003. These people are wrong, but barely.

Reason(s) to listen: This is the grandaddy of all Stones albums in most people’s minds. Any conversation discussing the greatest albums of all time will no doubt reference this one. I once wrote a long post revisiting the greatness of this album. While I don’t think it’s their best, I do think it’s close, and wouldn’t argue too strongly with anyone who claims it is. The main reason to listen to this one is because it is as good as everyone says it is, but also so you don’t feel out of the loop the next time a greatest albums conversation starts. If you’re overly familiar with any Stones album, it should probably be this one.

Reason(s) to ignore: The only reason someone would ignore this album is if they flatly hated the Stones and every note of music they had ever produced. So, you would basically have to be an idiot. The album is a tad bloated though.

Essential track(s): “Tumbling Dice,” “Sweet Virginia,” “Loving Cup,” “Torn and Frayed,” and, well, any song not titled “Turd on the Run.” That song sucks.


Goats Head Soup
Released August 31, 1973

Need to know: Most consider this the beginning of the downside of the Stones career. The legendary Lester Bangs wrote the following upon the album’s release, “There is a sadness about the Stones now, because they amount to such an enormous ‘So what?’ The sadness comes when you measure not just one album, but the whole sense they’re putting across now against what they once meant…” Exile to this isn’t quite the equivalent of jumping off of a cliff, but there is a marked drop-off in quality.

Reason(s) to listen: Look, this is still a solid album. It’s definitely better than 90% of everything that has been released in the past five years. The Stones were coming off of one of the greatest stretches in rock and roll history. They couldn’t sustain it forever. I have this album. I listen to it often. It includes “Angie.” Listen to it.

Reason(s) to ignore: The album cover is pretty freaky. That might scare you. I have a hard time looking at it for long periods, but the album is still worth listening to.

Essential track(s): “Angie,” and that’s really about it. “100 Years Ago” is good and there are quite a few solid songs, but you won’t be using this album for too many Stones’ mix tapes.


It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll

Released October 16, 1974

Need to know: This was the last Stones album for guitarist Mick Taylor, and the first album Jagger and Richards produced under the pseudonym “The Glimmer Twins.” Every Stones album from this point forward would be produced by them or in collaboration with another producer. This was not a great development.

Reason(s) to listen: Honestly, it’s hard to come up with one. While Goats Head Soup still shows some of the Stones greatness, this album does not. This album is actually quite awful. They even return to covers with The Temptations’ “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg.” It’s not a great cover. I guess some people like the cover song, but I am not one of them. It strikes me as something AC/DC would come out with. You know, one of those rock and roll songs that does nothing but talk about how awesome rock and roll is. I am not a fan of those. I already know how awesome rock and roll is. That’s why I’m listening to the Rolling Stones.

Reason(s) to ignore: Because it deserves to be ignored. After listening to the previous four to five albums (depending on how you feel about Goats Head), this album is enough to make me physically angry. It’s the beginning of the Stones going through the motions of being rock and roll stars, rather than making great rock and roll. This would continue for the majority of their remaining career.

Essential track(s): “Time Waits for No One” is one of those countryish acoustic songs that the Stones have always pulled off better than anyone. This is no “Sweet Virginia” but it’s a solid effort. Sadly, it’s the only track worth recommending here. If you want to listen to the opposite of an “essential track,” listen to “Fingerprint File.” Herman’s Hermits would be embarrassed to have released that song.


Black and Blue
Released April 23, 1976

Need to know: This was the first Stones album with Ronnie Wood as a replacement for Mick Taylor. Keith Richards said of this album, “”Rehearsing guitar players, that’s what that one was about.” It’s garbage.

Reason(s) to listen: Some tracks on this album sound like a lot of other terrible rock music in the ’80s, except this album came out in 1976. Maybe the Stones were ahead of their time?

Reason(s) to ignore: There is a song on this album entitled “Cherry Oh Baby,” which is the worst attempt at reggae maybe ever. That song alone is enough to toss this album into the garbage buried under 5 million copies of Their Satanic Majesties Request.

Essential Track(s): There was a time when I didn’t hate the song “Fool to Cry”; then I realized it was on this album. Now I hate it out of principle.


Some Girls
Released June 9, 1978

Need to knowI’m not entirely sure where this came from, but this album is legitimately good. Rolling Stone listed it as the 269th greatest album of all time in 2003. It has sold over 6 million copies.

Reason(s) to listen: It’s a throwback Stones album. This is the album that should have followed Exile. “Miss You” and “Beast of Burden” are as good as the Stones greatest songs. I really can’t exaggerate how great this album sounds after finishing Black and Blue. It’s wonderful.

Reason(s) to ignore: I sincerely believe that “Shattered” is one of the ten worst songs ever made by a “legendary” band. It’s just pure garbage. I’m cringing just thinking about it.

Essential Track(s): “Miss You” and “Beast of Burden” are amazing. “Some Girls” gives you the sexism that you expect and want from Jagger. Really anything not called “Shattered” is worth a listen. “Shattered” is an argument for censorship.


Emotional Rescue
Released June 20, 1980

Need to know: Well, Some Girls was fun while it lasted. Now we’re into the ’80s, and the Stones sadly embraced the ’80s, and all of the shit that came with it, including disco.

Reason(s) to listen: Do you want to hear the Rolling Stones make disco music? Really? If you do, then this is the album for you. The first song is called “Dance (pt 1)” and it is pure disco bullshit terribleness. Things don’t get much better.

Reason(s) to ignore: It’s the Rolling Stones doing disco music. Of course it should be ignored.

Essential Tracks: Their amazing cover of Alice in Chains’ “Down in the Hole.” What? That’s not a Chains cover, but just another mediocre Stones song on an album that starts with a disco track? Shit. Nevermind.

Previous: Part One, The Covers Era; Part Two, Becoming Legends
Next: Part Four, Those Guys are Still Around?

Better Queen Song: Fat Bottomed Girls or Somebody to Love?

Queen is one of those bands that a significant portion of the American public claim to not like. I’m not one of those people. I love Queen. Sure, “We Will Rock You” and “We are the Champions” are basically clichés at this point, but they are clichés because they’re great songs. It’s not Queen’s fault that every high school in America plays “We Will Rock You” during the pregame warm ups for their super important regional quarterfinal volleyball match. They made a great song and people then proceeded to play it the fuck out. Not Queen’s fault.

Having said that, there are two Queen songs that stand above the rest: “Fat Bottomed Girls” and “Somebody to Love”. This post is a completely objective and statistical breakdown of which of those two are better. Let’s get to it.

Complete Objective Criteria #1: If played on a jukebox in a bar in which normal people hang out, which song will get a more favorable reaction?

For me, this one’s easy. “Fat Bottomed Girls” is one of my go-to jukebox songs. I mean, the song starts off with an accapella ode to big girls. In a bar where everyone is wasted and hoping to get laid eventually, Read more…

Search for the Best Pop Song of the 1990s: “Hey Jealousy” by the Gin Blossoms

This is one blog’s search for the definitive “Best Pop Song of the 1990s.” Ground rules can be found here. This will be done by analyzing these songs far more than any song, or thing, deserves to be analyzed. You can find similar posts here.

Next up:

“Hey Jealousy” by the Gin Blossoms
Released in 1993

Reached #25 on the Billboard Hot 100

Here we go:

Tell me do you think it’d be all right
If I could just crash here tonight
You can see I’m in no shape for driving
And anyway I’ve got no place to go

Going into this, I do not know a single name of a single member of this band. For that reason, I am going to refer to the character and everything related to this song as a singular Gin Blossom. Mr. Blossom is apparently homeless, wasted, and couch surfing. Mr. Blossom is pathetic.

And you know it might not be that bad
You were the best I’d ever had
If I hadn’t blown the whole thing years ago
I might not be alone

Wikipedia informs me that this song was actually written by the lead guitarist, who was fired shortly thereafter. Is it a good move to fire the guy who wrote your one big hit song even if he is an addict? I’m not so sure. Also, are you proud to tell people you are/were the lead guitarist of the Gin Blossoms? I’m sure it’s awesome in the moment, but would you advertise that now? Again, I’m not so sure. The Blossoms really have me thinking.

Where were we? Oh yea, Mr. Blossom is emoting about blown opportunities and blah, blah, blah.

Read more…

Listening to The Sheepdogs…

…because they’re from Canada and they remind me a little of the Allman Brothers.

First Impression: Norah Jones New Album is Strange…and Good

Little Broken Hearts by Norah Jones
Released April 30, 2012

***Norah Jones came out with a new album last week. I’m listening to it for the first time while writing this post, so don’t expect any kind of in-depth review. This is really just my first impression. Here we go…

1. “Good Morning

Well, her voice is obviously still amazing. This is an extremely mellow song which fits perfectly with today’s hangover. Basically, I’m digging this.

2. “Say Goodbye

I love Spotify but words can’t express how much I hate their ads. Anyway, to the song. Appears that we’re kicking this song off with a little reggae vibe. It’s weird and I kinda hate reggae, so I’m not too sure about this one. Instead, lets turn our attention to how hot Norah Jones looks on the album cover. It makes me think of that Janet Jackson album cover with the guy holding her boobs. That was hot. This song kinda sucks.

3. “Little Broken Hearts

This one’s better. Has a dark sound to it. This album is really not what I expected though. I expect Norah Jones albums to come with a lot of piano and sexy singing. The piano seems to have vanished. I’m not sure how I feel about that. Read more…

Search for the Best Pop Song of the 1990s: “Mr. Jones” by Counting Crows

This is one blog’s search for the definitive “Best Pop Song of the 1990s.” Ground rules can be found here. Other entries are found here. This will be done mostly be analyzing these songs far more than any song, or really anything, deserves to be analyzed. First up:

“Mr. Jones” by Counting Crows
Released in 1993

Reached #2 on the Billboard Top 40

Here we go:

Sha-la-la-la-la-la-la-la

The stage is set with wonderful guitar chords and Duritz’s chanting.

I was down at the New Amsterdam staring at this yellow-haired girl
Mr. Jones strikes up a conversation with this black-haired flamenco dancer

This song was apparently written by Adam Duritz about himself and bassist Marty Jones of some band called The Himalayans. I prefer to believe that I am Mr. Jones. So, Adam Duritz and I are down at New Amsterdam and I’ve got a black-haired flamenco dancer… Read more…

Search for the Best Pop Song of the 1990s: Ground Rules

***Entries can be found here.

As mentioned yesterday, one innocent text message conversation has led into a never-ending search for the best pop song of the 1990s. For now “Mr. Jones” claims the crown, but a few worthy challengers have been mentioned. I’ve decided it might be fun to take a closer look at some of those mentioned to see if re-listening to one or more of the suggestions will change my mind. First some ground rules for what I mean by “best pop songs of the 1990s”:

  1. This one’s obvious, but it must have been a legitimately popular song during the 1990s. Let’s make the late great Casey Kasem happy and say it must have reached the Billboard top-40.
  2. This one is a little tricky, but no great songs by “legendary” bands. That means no Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins, etc. I realize the definition of “legendary” is entirely subjective but so is this entire exercise; and, it’s my blog so deal.
  3. It must be a song by a band. That means no boy groups, Britney Spears (was that the 90s?), or anything like that. We want bands, people. Bands play instruments. We all love “No Diggity,” but it’s just not eligible.
  4. Lastly, this is all in fun, so please no comments or messages about how my choices suck because your choices are better. It’s my opinion and you suck.

So, there you have it. I’m actually really looking forward to this. Many of the suggestions I’ve heard over the past few days I haven’t listened to, or even thought of, in years. Might even have a couple of guest posts if there’s interest.

Carry on.

“Mr. Jones” by Counting Crows

“Hey Jealousy” by Gin Blossoms

“Losing my Religion” by R.E.M.

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