Bottom Feeders is back! And this time, we’re going ’90s on your ass. If you missed the two ’80s editions, here’s the deal. Bottom Feeders takes a look back at every song that hit the Billboard Hot 100 charts, but only if they didn’t crack the top 40. It’s not meant to be a comprehensive review of each tune or each artist, but rather my view of the music I grew up loving. It’s meant to bring back all the great and really crappy songs that have faded into oblivion over time for one reason or another And, the series is designed to get discussions going about the music. I don’t have expert knowledge of every song posted here but I want to hear from you with your memories of the tunes, comments about a artist or general thoughts.
Section 1: The Ass End
“Under the Water” 1997, #91 (6 weeks) (download)
For the first time in the series, I’m invoking the “general rule.” I established it back in the ‘80s edition, but revamped for the ‘90s, the rule is now this: If it belongs in Lilith Fair, it will not get near Steed’s ears.
I don’t really think of the soulful sounds of Anita Baker as coming from the ‘90s. She’s an ‘80s artist to me. It kind of makes sense as she only had one top 40 hit in decade after hitting it big with “Giving You the Best That I Got” and “Sweet Love” among other quiet storm staples. But by the early ‘90s her sound didn’t really progress and she seemed to get somewhat caught in the transition to more modern sounding stuff. Strangely enough though, “I Apologize” won her a Grammy in 1995 for best R&B female vocal even though it didn’t do too well on the charts. But we all know how the Grammys can be.
“I O U” 1992, #93 (4 weeks) (download)
Baker wrote this song back in the early ‘80s when the UK funk group Freeez took it to #1 on the dance charts. That group was led by John Rocca who had a very feminine voice to begin with so if Baker wanted to update it for the ‘90s, picking a female to sing was a good call. However, while the original is actually decent, this version certainly is not better and the female vocals by Nikeeta just aren’t very good.
Oh, and quite obviously, this is an Arthur Baker sighting, ya’ll.
“Tarzan Boy” 1993, #51 (12 weeks) (download)
What the fuck you might say here? Yeah, “Tarzan Boy” hit #13 back in ’85/’86 but in 1993 it was used in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III and was rereleased as a single – so two years before Jimmy McShane died of AIDS, he had a hit on his hands again thanks to talking turtles. Surprising too is that the original was the version that charted even though the B-side to the single was a new remix for 1993.
“Holding My Heart” 1990, #93 (2 weeks) (download)
The two members of Bang were born in Greece but formed in London at the tail end of the ‘80s. After having minor success in the UK, they released the album Clockwise in 1990 which contained their only US Hit, “Holding My Heart.” They are very reminiscent of Go West to me.
B Angie B
“I Don’t Want To Lose Your Love” 1991, #54 (8 weeks) (download)
B Angie B was Angela Boyd who got her career started by her future husband, producer James Earley who introduced her to MC Hammer. She was a backup singer on both Let’s Get It Started and Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em and then also did some performing with his protégés, the Oaktown 3.5.7’s. Hammer signed her to his own Bust It records where she put out her debut album consisting of mostly dance flavored R&B and this cover of the Emotions’ “I Don’t Want To Lose Your Love.” Sales weren’t good so she was dropped and ended up releasing only one more album, though I do read that she’s making music again now.
’97/’98 were my prime college years working at WTSR in Trenton, NJ. I’m pretty sure that’s why I’m shocked that these songs didn’t get higher or tunes like “If I Had $1,000,000” didn’t chart at all. At least before “One Week” hit the charts, these guys were pretty much a college radio band and we played the hell out of their first couple records. I still like “One Week” though I know it gets the “cheesy” label more often than not at this point. Even more surprising though is that “It’s All Been Done” couldn’t crack the top 40 as the follow up to a #1 smash. It’s not exactly a bad song.
“So Help Me Girl” 1997, #44 (20 weeks) (download)
Like the Ridgely to your Michael, Gary Barlow was one of the four “other guys” in Take That next to Robbie Williams. Now granted, at least to us in the US, Williams wasn’t the unmistakable star in the group like George Michael was to Wham! but he became the guy everyone knew from it eventually. Barlow would appear to be the second most famous member of the five-piece as he wrote many of the Take That tunes and seems to enjoy passing his songs on to Donny Osmond of all people. “So Help Me Girl” is a decent cut off his debut solo record, the first of two albums he would do on his own. Oh and like Robbie Williams he’s sickeningly handsome. Fucker.
“So What’Cha Want” 1992, #93 (5 weeks) (download)
No respect for the kings of white hip-hop here. “So What’Cha Want” is one of my favorite singles from them off of the uneven Check Your Head album. But what’s really surprising is that “Sabotage” only bubbled under. But it’s a great example of MTV vs. radio. The video for “Sabotage” is iconic but I guess it lost some magic without the visual effects.
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“Baby It’s You” 1995, #67 (4 weeks) (download)
The Beatles charting three times in the ‘90s with songs that had no business mixing in with the likes of the rappers of the day is a testament to the power of the group. “Baby It’s You” was recorded in ’63 for their appearance on Pop Goes the Beatles, released as Live at the BBC as a 69 cut double disc set.
Sort of like the Wu-Tang Clan has its members and then “affiliates” that get the benefits of saying they belong to that crew but they get the rejected beats and shitty rhymes, The Beatnuts are an “affiliate” of the Native Tongue collective led by A Tribe Called Quest, The Jungle Brothers and De La Soul that usually promote afrocentric topics. The difference between the Wu affiliates and the Native Tongue ones is that the latter actually have some great artists in them like The Beatnuts and Prince Paul. These guys were the only Latin members of the crew so the lyrical content was a little different but the sound is consistent with the overall vibe of all the bands. Intelligent music, subtle and jazzy while still having a strong hip-hop feel.
“Off the Books” featuring both Big Pun & Cuban Link is a song I don’t remember hearing much growing up, but “Watch Out Now” is a masterpiece of the genre without a doubt, well written and catchy as hell. Bump this one.
Beats International was the band formed by Norman Cook (afterwards to be known as Fatboy Slim) after he left the Housemartins in the late ‘80s. Their debut album was a dancey affair more along the lines of “Won’t Talk About It” with a little dub reggae mixed in. Their follow up record in 1991 featured much more of the dub that made “Dub To Be Good To Me” their signature song. That of course is a remake of “Just Be Good To Me” by the S.O.S. Band and while Cook played bass on the record, with this tune it’s a sample of the Clash’s “Guns of Brixton.”
Beck’s career path around this point really got interesting. I mean, “Loser” is an iconic angst-ridden song that everyone thinks they can sing word for word but really don’t have a fucking clue what he’s saying. Who knows if Beck really knows what he’s getting at half the time with the random string of words he spews. But it was Odelay in 1996 that was the truly fantastic album from start to finish and while you can’t deny it was a little quirky, it was totally accessible too. Somewhere along the line he lost me though. Mutations wasn’t nearly as good as Odelay and then Midnite Vutures kind of put him into the land of the wacked out space monkeys. I know critics love him and they creamed themselves over the brutally mellow Sea Change in 2002 but I’ve since lost the ability to understand a damn thing the guy is doing. And it’s even kind of ruined Odelay for me as I never go back to it.
Another artist that I’d normally say how in the fuck did they still have hits this late into their career but considering that I love them, I’m not surprised. I mean, “Paying the Price of Love” is pretty cheesy with its pseudo hip-hop beat and Barry gets his voice to registers that I swear only dogs should hear but it still has those melt-away harmony vocals. And “Still Waters” is actually a damn good song which probably should have been a bigger hit.