In going through my basement recently, I unearthed an old container of audio cassettes that I hadn’t seen in more than a decade. Hidden in that case was something that amazed me as much as it embarassed me: A single of Skee-Lo’s “I Wish.”
I can’t believe I did it, but I can remember playing the rap song, rewinding the tape and listening to it again … and again … and again.
That got me thinking about songs from my formative years. For every “Crazy” by Aerosmith, there seemed to be at least three “Cult of Personality” type songs from the likes of Living Colour.
Following are a few of my favorite one-hit wonders and other guilty pleasures from the 1990s. Some of them had musical ability but couldn’t make a big push for Hit No. 2. Others among them, well, got lucky. Please feel free to leave comments with any omissions or other discussion on the subject.
LIVING COLOUR: I actually like many of this group’s songs, and I count its “Vivid” album among the world’s hidden treasures. But really, no one will know their songs except for “Cult of Personality,” which is still played on rock radio and appeared on “Guitar Hero 3.” These guys could really wail, which makes me just a tiny bit sad that we didn’t get more from them. I’d put this song on any top-10 music list from the ’90s.
SKEE-LO: “I Wish” wasn’t even that huge a hit, but its fun and breezy feel gave the song its own certain charm, as did its everyman message of someone who can’t quite obtain what they want. Allow me to be the first one to admit that I still get a bit of a charge from this song; it’s OK, you can admit it, too.
COOLIO: “Fantastic Voyage” was popular for this rapper from his early days, but it was “Gangster’s Paradise” that really put him on the map. As far as rap songs that try to convey a serious point, you can’t do much better than this. And, because I think it’s such a brilliant send-up, here’s Weird Al’s parody, “Amish Paradise.”
VANILLA ICE: OK, so “Ice Ice Baby” is really his claim to fame. But I remember him better for something else: Dancing like a handicapped monkey wearing a frozen diaper to “Ninja Rap” in “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze.” If this doesn’t convey everything that was creepishly wrong with the ’90s, nothing does. Go ninja, go ninja, go!
MC HAMMER: While we’re on the subject of movie soundtracks, I prefer to think of MC Hammer for his “Addams Family” theme song than “U Can’t Touch This” or his other songs. Sure, it was corny, but it fit the movie well. As for the film, it’s perhaps the most underrated movie of the entire decade, as its intelligence and subtle humor are hard to beat.
EXTREME: It’s overindulgent hair band balladry at its utmost, but “More Than Words” is still catchy, pleasing and pretty good.
A TRIBE CALLED QUEST: Another group that I think never got the attention it deserved, this rap conglomarate is best known for the excellent “Scenario,” featuring an early Busta Rhymes. The way this group mixed hip-hop with jazz and soul still hasn’t been matched, as “The Low End Theory” is one of the better end-to-end records I’ve heard. And tell me that glare Redman gives in the upper left corner as he’s chowing down on that piece of chicken isn’t priceless.
HOUSE OF PAIN: Please, like your foot doesn’t still start tapping when you hear this one come on.