The phrase “out with the old… in with the new” really meant something in 1992. In the previous years of the new decade, the public was still obsessed with 1980s megastars Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson, Prince, and Madonna. In 1992, the love affair with these artists ended, even though some of them would regain their commercial or critical success in the future.
In late March of 1992, Bruce Springsteen, attempting to copy the success of Guns N’ Roses' Lose Your Illusion I and II, released two albums: Human Touch and Lucky Town. Both albums generally received good reviews but were largely ignored by the general public. Even though both albums debuted in the top five on Billboard’s charts, they instantly slipped off the charts. Many said that Bruce Springsteen would have had much better luck had he just released one album instead of two. Others said that abandoning the E Street Band (temporarily) didn’t fare well with his fans.
Michael Jackson, who told radio stations and MTV that he must be referred to as the “King of Pop,” was taking his first step into becoming an international joke in 1992. His Dangerous album was certainly a hit, but didn’t live up to expectations. People began to speak more about his weirdness than his music.
Prince released his Symbol album to mixed reception. Even though the first single, “7,” hit the top 10, the other singles were virtually ignored.
Out of all the megastars of the 1980s, it was Madonna who proved to be the biggest loser of 1992. During the summer, she released one of the best singles of her career, “This Used To Be My Playground,” from the hit movie in which she gave her best acting performance yet, A League of Their Own. For the first time in her career, however, her ego completely overshadowed her musical output. Her album Erotica was released in October of 1992 and contained some great songs. However, she released her book of sexual fantasies, Sex, at the same time. Even though the book sold well, it created one of the biggest celebrity backlashes in history and the music from Erotica was largely ignored.
U2 did not suffer the same fate as other 1980s acts. Their latest album, Achtung Baby, was released in late 1991 to the sound of people yawning, especially since the first single, "The Fly", bombed on the music charts. But in 1992, U2 started their acclaimed Zoo TV Tour and the album started producing hit after hit. “Mysterious Ways” was the best single of 1992 and proved the band wasn’t going away for a long time, at least until 1997.
1992 will mostly be remembered as the year when the musical styles of hip hop, rap, and grunge officially found a mainstream audience. These genres were definitely brewing in previous years, but exploded this year. Nirvana’s Nevermind took off in 1991 with the release of the single “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” The album hit number one on Billboard’s Top 200 in January of 1992. Pearl Jam’s Ten album also broke through this year and turned the band into a stadium act. Even though the Red Hot Chili Peppers aren’t directly considered grunge, the newfound success of this genre certainly influenced their mainstream breakthrough in the summer of 1992, when their single “Under The Bridge” charted at number two.
The most pivotal album released this year was Dr. Dre’s The Chronic, which – for better or worse – mainstreamed gangsta rap. Ever since the release of this album, songs about “putting caps in yo ass” and “million dolla hos” have been released to widespread success. The album contained such notable titles as “The Day The Niggaz Took Over,” “Lil Ghetto Boy,” “A Nigga Wit A Gun,” and “Stranded on Death Row.” “Dre Day,” the first release from The Chronic, hit the top 10 in 1992.
1992 was the year that marked the debut of the TLC, possibly the greatest R&B/hip-hop group to ever emerge on the scene. Their album, Oooooooh…On The TLC Tip, didn’t have the artistic quality the group’s future albums, but spawned out such enjoyable bubble gum hits as “Aint 2 Proud 2 Bet,” “What About Your Friends,” and “Baby-Baby-Baby.”