Tied to the 90s: In defence of Aqua
I grew up in the 90s and so the music from that decade has a special place in my heart, it was my introduction to pop music and the soundtrack to my early teens and childhood.
So when the Huffington Post tweeted that the worst song of the 90s had been decided clicked the link and found an article about a Rolling Stone poll that named Aqua’s “Barbie Girl” as the worst song of the decade.
I’m sorry but I have to disagree. In fact, I feel a lot of the list is unfair, as while many of the songs are far from genius they’re the kind of feelgood bubblegum pop that gets people dancing and puts a stupid grin on your face (“Achy Breaky Heart”, “Tubthumping”, “MMMBop”).
And “Barbie Girl” definitely fits with that, sure its a slightly creepy, not brilliantly sang ode to a toy but its hardly an utter travesty of a song, hell its not even the worst Aqua song of the 90s, have another listen to “Doctor Jones”, its awful.
BG is naff and daft, but that’s the appeal. Pop music needs to hold on to the bands who have a sense of humour, otherwise its just all people trying to be cool and pouting. People don’t realise that the Aquas, Billy Rays, MC Hammers and Hansons are just as much a part of what makes pop music great. This obsession with cool is not what music is about, music is about provoking emotional reactions, sometimes this is with sad songs, or rage filled calls to arms for the disaffected, and sometimes its just a dopey song about a plastic lady that makes you smile and have a dance.
I defy anyone to listen to it and not smile a little bit.
Anyway, this whole thing got me thinking about the 90s and so here are my personal top 10 worst songs of that decade, in no particular order (all gleaned from Wikipedia’s list of 90s number ones, yes these were all number ones):
1. Chocolate Salty Balls- Chef from South Park
A weak joke that got old real quick. Isaac Hayes, how the mighty fell.
2. Because We Want To- Billie
Before she became Billie Piper, average actress she was Billie, below average singer. Her debut hit was this irritating effort clearly meant to capture youthful rebellion albeit in a smiley, innocent way.
3. My Heart Will Go On- Celine Dion
The reason for my cousin’s middle name (I’m not joking, my mum’s side are a little chavvy) and the soundtrack to one of the worst films of the decade, this hung around the charts like a bad smell. My big sis had the Titanic album, and I should have a medal for not killing her with it.
4. Any of Robson and Jerome’s Three (yes, three) number one singles.
The most persuasive argument in the “Simon Cowell is evil and a cultural vandal” theory, he convinced the favourites of the nations mothers to release an album. Bland covers of iconic tracks followed, and its only Robson Green’s bizarre likability that stops me from hating them completely.
5. C’est La Vie- B*Witched
The 70% denim girlband burst onto the scene with this infuriating, nonsensical single. They embraced they’re Irishness by doing some awful riverdancing and inexplicably went on to have 3 more number one singles, and if you can name more than 1 of those, kill yourself now.
6. ????- Westlife
Pick your least favourite, which is a tough choice, its like picking which type of cancer you’d least want to have.
7. Candle In The Wind 1997- Elton John
I like the original, its a touching song about a guy discovering Marilyn Monroe through cinema and lamenting the hard times she went through. But Elton John ruined it by gracelessly tweaking the lyrics to commemorate the life of Diana Spencer (and cash in on the ridiculous, disgusting public grief). Urgh.
8. Tragedy- Steps
Take a quality Bee Gees track, give it to 5 Redcoats with ideas above their station, add a stupid dance routine, repeat ad nauseum, destroying the original’s appeal and giving idiots something to dance to at weddings and school discos.
Now I like cheesy pop, but I loathe Steps. Unlike S Club 7 there was no sense of fun, because looking into H and Co.’s eyes you could just see a vaccuum of despair.
9. Blue- Eiffel 65
Do I need to explain why this song is awful?
10. Millenium Prayer- Cliff Richard
Ah, Cliff Richard is as much a part of Christmas as the rise in domestic violence. This was probably his worst effort as he crowbarred the words of the Lord’s Prayer to the tune of Auld Lang Syne. Truly remarkable in the depths of shite it plumbs. Can we bring back feeding Christians to lions for one last performance?
Now I don’t want to end negative so here are my top 10 best 90s songs! Again, they’re in no order.
1. Torn- Natalie Imbruglia
My Neighbours crush could never hope to match this simple, beautiful ballad which has probably become one of the classic pop songs for the ages.
2. Parklife- Blur
Britpop was brilliant, the rewriters of history may poke fun at it now but it was part of an early 90s optimism and confidence. Of the big 2, I’ve always been slightly more in the Blur camp and this witty tale of everyday life is one of their best efforts and for me is the sound of the 90s.
3. Its Like That- Run DMC vs Jason Nevins
Just a great dance track.
4. Gangsta’s Paradise- Coolio feat. L.V.
Coolio never got anywhere near matching the quality of this effort, and no matter how many stupid reality TV appearances he does this will be his legacy. Its a brilliant, atmospheric rap track that helped bring the genre into the mainstream and is one of the genre’s all time classics.
5. I’d Do Anything For Love (But I won’t do that)- Meat Loaf
Its Loaf at his overblown, campy best with a power ballad of truly epic proportions.
6. Jump Around- House Of Pain
Still makes a party go off. A plethora of cultural references make it very much of its time and its probably one of my favourite all time songs.
7. Don’t Speak- No Doubt
No matter how rubbish Gwen Stefani’s solo output got you kept hoping she’d strike the form No Doubt had. This heartfelt, melancholic ballad about a relationship falling apart is wonderfully crafted and still sounds great.
8. Baby One More Time- Britney Spears
Britney’s debut song is still among her best and for purely selfish reasons it reminds me of my second major popstar crush (after Louise) and of my teenage years. Its also taken from the first album I ever bought, and it was on cassette. Christ, I’m old.
9 and 10. The Kids Aren’t Alright by The Offspring and What’s My Age Again? by Blink 182
The 90s were the heyday of punk pop and for about 6 months, all I listened to were Offspring’s Americana and Enema of the State by Blink 182, they soundtracked pretty much all my teens and these are my two favourite tracks from those albums. Its before Blink 182 went all serious and when The Offspring were probably at their best at amalgamating punk and pop.
Any thoughts? 90s songs you love/hate? You know what to do. LLAP.