1993! You are a wealth of musical riches! How am I to be happy with a mere ten songs of your excellence? By picking fifteen instead, that’s how. Turn up yer speakers, kids, we have a bit of (almost) everything this week.
If — Janet Jackson
Oh my, this song. The dancing. The guitar. The sexy-business. I played the album janet. roughly eleventy-gerbillion times after I won it from the local radio station. I was ten, cleaning my room with the radio on, and I’d been vacuuming. When I turned off the vacuum, I heard, “Ninth caller wins!” Wins what? I didn’t know, but I dialed anyway.
Hello! You’re the ninth caller! Do you have your Pepsi Flambingo cards?
Your Pepsi Flambingo cards.
I… um… I don’t even know what that is. So, no.
At this point, I think the DJ realized he was talking to a child and he told me to come down to the station and I could pick up a free CD or tape. My dad had a CD player, but I was still rockin’ the cassettes, so I looked over their available selection and picked this Janet Jackson album. I don’t remember that DJ’s name, but hat-tip to him.
Shoop — Salt-N-Pepa
Ya’ll. Ya’ll. You know you weren’t even close to cool in 1993 unless you knew all the words to this song. And I still know the words, so you better believe while writing this I am enthusiastically rapping along. Never mind the appropriateness of a ten-year-old knowing this song — I recorded it off the radio and my friends and I took turns listening to it on my Walkman at school.
I wanna thank your mother for a butt like that…
Get it, girl.
Who Am I (What’s My Name?) — Snoop Doggy Dogg
Not even gonna lie, I love West Coast ’90s hip-hop. I don’t own a lot of it, but whenever I hear that whiny synth and grinding bass, I am almost guaranteed to gasp, “I love this song!” and then much dancing ensues. I know, I know, a lot of it disagrees with any sort of feminist principles, but sorry, this… this is my jam.
Also, the dog representations of different people in the video make me giggle. The girl shaking her formerly cocker spaniel braids? The dogcatchers dancing with their nets? It’s a classic.
Are You Gonna Go My Way — Lenny Kravitz
Lenny, Lenny. Darling. Why’d you have to go and cut those dreads? Those dreads were your power, if we are to follow my Samson-esque theory, since you became less musically interesting post-haircut. (See also: Black Eyed Peas: Late ’90s? Interesting. 2000s? They cut the dreads… and hired Fergie. And released a song called, “Let’s Get Retarded.” sigh.)
I digress. I have loved this song since the first moment I heard it. The guitar and the drums are narcotic, that’s how good they are. I love dancing to this song too.
How Do You? — Radiohead
Hey, remember when Radiohead still had guitar-based songs? I know, it’s sort of a fuzzy memory at this point, isn’t it? Pablo Honey is best known for “Creep,” of course, but I felt like picking another song. “Creep” is great, but I like “How Do You?” because it reminds me of rock shows played in dingy little clubs, with the singer screaming out over the sweaty crowd, and everyone leaves with their ears ringing, high on a good time.
Animal Nitrate — Suede
We’re inching towards the BritPop portion of the ’90s, friends. Get in. Although “pop” connotes something more sanitized for the general public, what I liked about BritPop was that it appeared unconcerned with what the public thought, and the music was fantastic. Here we have an androgynous (and difficult) singer, Brett Anderson, and in the video, people in underwear and animal masks. Yet it was one of the bestselling debut albums in the UK, ever. I have it, and I should really put it on more often.
Heart-Shaped Box — Nirvana
This video creeped me out as a kid, but I’d watch it anyway because I liked the song. The woman with the wings who looks to have no skin and the child in the KKK hood are intended to be disturbing, of course, but I also like to keep a respectful distance from crows and butterflies. But the song? The song is fantastic.
I remember some sort of Wayne’s World special on MTV where Wayne and Garth would comment on videos, and for this one, Wayne said, “Did he just say ‘Hey, Wayne?!’” Half the time, I still hear “Wayne” instead of “Wait.”
Human Behaviour — Björk
Yes, we can finally talk about Björk! If we want evidence that aliens from other planets are already here, perhaps she is one of them because I’ve always felt that her way of being goes beyond “eccentric genius.” The video for “Human Behaviour” is a strange-wonderful time, as are most of her videos. Dancing along to Björk feels like an ancient, primal endeavor.
Run Baby Run — Sheryl Crow
Maybe we don’t feel like it’s cool to like Sheryl Crow anymore, but I really like her ’90s albums. Tuesday Night Music Club is quite good, and this is the opening song. It’s bluesy and melancholy, and I dig it.
Disarm — The Smashing Pumpkins
I always meant to buy Siamese Dream, and I never got around to it. Still, it has some fantastic songs. “Disarm” hints at where they would eventually head with Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness, what with the swelling strings and other symphonic touches. It’s lovely.
Laid — James
Ah, a catchy song about a fucked up relationship with a video that has men in dresses, strange masks, and subtitles. I love it. It’s so very weird to watch, yet so fun to sing. Once, when my son was a baby, I heard him singing, “I think you’re so prett-eeeeee….” It was only the start of the funny musical things that would come from him.
Here and Now — Letters to Cleo
I loved ladies like Letters to Cleo’s Kay Hanley. Still do, really. Semi-ratty hair, jean shorts with black tights, layered shirts — I was all about that look. “Here and Now” is so quintessentially early-to-mid ’90s, and I am happy every time I hear it.
Fade Into You — Mazzy Star
Oh, what great brooding music this is. Hope Sandoval’s voice is ethereal and otherworldly in its ability to command one’s attention. Mazzy Star’s introspective qualities make for excellent writing music — much of what I accomplished in middle and high school sprang from them. “Fade Into You” is a woozy, beautiful good time.
Ice Cream — Sarah McLachlan
I always thought the sentiment of this song was nice, yet honest:
Your love is better than ice cream / better than anything else that I’ve tried […] everyone here knows how to fight…
It marks the end of a search, a search perhaps one didn’t even know they were conducting. It expresses that common desire to have a relationship work out, just once. Once is sometimes all that we need.
Because The Night — 10,000 Maniacs
Yes, yes, of course Patti Smith’s original is some major badassery, but as I said before, I was ten in 1993, and so I knew the 10,000 Maniacs cover first. It must have been on the radio once an hour. Whereas Patti Smith is a call to arms, Natalie Merchant purrs the lyrics by comparison. I love the strings, the soaring quality of the song. Maybe one day, when I get the urge to sing with someone again, we can cover this song. I wouldn’t mind it turning into a Patti/Natalie hybrid.
So when you’re finished dancing and singing along to everything here, do take a look at all the fine music for 1993, and let me know your favorites. I may have extended my list to 15 this week, but believe me, I could have done 15 more.