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1992: Year of Music in Review

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.”

About Daryl D

  • http://www.robot-of-the-week.com Christopher Rose

    Daryl, the biggest problem you face is that you’ve chosen to write about the worst musical decade of the second half of the 20th century. Good luck!

  • Daryl d

    Christopher:

    Yeah, I know it’s the worst musical decade. I was going to start with the 1980s but I wanted to save “the best” for last. As bad as the 1990s were for music, it is nowhere is bad as this decade though.

  • JC Mosquito

    1980′s the best musical decade? Nope, they run a close second to the 90′s for the worst. How’s that for an unsupported opinion disguised as a statement of fact?

    Oh, right – I assumed everyone already knew that.
    :)

  • zingzing

    daryl: “it [1993] just wasn’t a groundbreaking year.”

    jesus christ. maybe there wasn’t much great pop music (and every year has SOMETHING, so i doubt that), but you just need to get off the charts, especially when using the word “groundbreaking.” next to NOTHING is groundbreaking by the time it has reached the charts. it’s usually a watered-down, whitewashed ghostly flicker of the real stuff, with only a hint of actual experimentation and art actually making it through.

    i’m beginning to think you know very little about music, other than what was on the charts.

    (although your explanation of billboard/country was educational. but, still, just because radio suddenly knows how popular country music is doesn’t mean it suddenly got more popular. i’m sure that the increased corporate attention did, eventually, mean more sales… and the attendant white wash and soul devourment.)

    chris: “the biggest problem you face is that you’ve chosen to write about the worst musical decade of the second half of the 20th century.”

    not true! the pop charts were pretty bad, but the independant labels were releasing some classic stuff. i’ll agree that the 60s-80s produced more mainstream greatness, but the 90s–riding the coattails of the 80s–were an explosion of underground talent. the known musical universe was suddenly so much larger, and therefore, better.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Hey Zing…You said it brother!

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer.php?name=gonzo%20marx gonzo marx

    93 wasn’t groundbreaking?

    try this clip ….if that ain’t groundbreaking enough for the whole year…i dunno what is…

    nuff said…

    Excelsior?

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer.php?name=gonzo%20marx gonzo marx

    crap..and here i’d misplaced what year it was out…

    1992 brought a big groundbreaker that i had missed, as Important as Opiate or End of Silence…which i mentioned earlier

    Pantera released Vulgar Display of Power on Feb 25th 1992 – so take a Walk and experience intensity and music that hit you like a steel toed boot in the crotch…

    heh

    Excelsior?

  • Daryl d

    zingzing: I worked in top 40 programming. So Top 40 is my expertise and I don’t claim otherwise. At least in the 1980s and 1990s, there was a lot more variety in Top 40.

    JC: I was born in the 1970s and didn’t really get to “experience” music until the 1980s, the decade I grew up (although some may say I never did). So while I love a lot of music from pre 1980, it just doesn’t mean as much to me because I didnt really experience it. So, I pretty much have to choose from the 1980s, 1990s, and the 2000s as to what my favortite musicle decade is and 1980s wins hands down. I expecially love the early 1980s: Journey, John Cougar, Billy Idol, Laura Branigan, Irene Cara, Prince, early Madonna, Pat Benatar; Chaka Khan; The Police; Toto; Styx; Hall & Oates, etc.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer.php?name=gonzo%20marx gonzo marx

    “I expecially love the early 1980s: Journey, John Cougar, Billy Idol, Laura Branigan, Irene Cara, Prince, early Madonna, Pat Benatar; Chaka Khan; The Police; Toto; Styx; Hall & Oates, etc.”

    /dies gasping

    all i can say is ewwWWWwwWWwwww!

    but that’s just me..and to each their own as far as what scratches that sonic itch…what some find wonderful, others flee from with bleeding ears

    that’s one of the beautiful things about Music…most of it is completely subjective as to what speaks to the Individual

    sometimes it’s in how a song is played, the difference between full out screaming electric and acoustic mellowness can transform that acoustic pop song into a powerful and raging beast…

    i’ll give an example…we all know Motorhead
    are all about “everything louder than everyone else”…but here’s one of their songs done on acoustic, same people, same Music…but big difference in how it’s played as to how it comes across…

    some like spicy, some like sweet…all a matter of Taste, imo

    just a Thought…

    Excelsior?

  • zingzing

    daryl: “I worked in top 40 programming. So Top 40 is my expertise and I don’t claim otherwise. At least in the 1980s and 1990s, there was a lot more variety in Top 40.”

    here’s the thing. you present an opinion based upon this knowledge, and that’s fine and good. your knowledge of top 40 music is probably much greater than mine. the problem is that top 40 music seems to be pretty much the limit of your knowledge, and thus, your opinions. i’m not sure that this is the case, but it certainly seems that way. it wouldn’t be a problem if you wouldn’t make statements like “1993 wasn’t groundbreaking” or “TLC was the best r&b/hiphop group,” as these things are simply not true.

    you do realize that 99.99% of music happens outside of the top 40, right? and that there is basically a 100% chance that there is something better out there that hasn’t been whittled down to what’s going to make money.

    if all you know is top 40 type stuff, and i don’t know that to be true, i feel sorry for you. go explore! there is so much out there.

    there are some people out there who don’t really listen to music, but you aren’t one of them. but, from what i can tell, you’re like a person who claims to love movies, but doesn’t want to see anything with subtitles or anything that’s not the current hit movie. it’s frustrating to see.

  • http://www.robot-of-the-week.com Christopher Rose

    You are all musically bonkers but in entirely different ways!

    zingzing – what underground stuff? If you name any artist on Creation I shall have to come to the USA and slap you with a large cod!

    gonzo – what exactly is it that you consider groundbreaking about Tool? I thought the track you linked to was not bad but very predictable.

    Daryl – I love the 80s too, which I reckon to be second only to the 60s, with the 70s coming in third – but I despise most of the artists you list. With two or three exceptions, what a bunch of formulaic schlock!

  • zingzing

    chris: “what underground stuff? If you name any artist on Creation I shall have to come to the USA and slap you with a large cod!”

    in the 90s? i’ll just list entire scenes/genres. it’s easier.

    ok. how about…
    the louisville (slint, palace, etc) and chicago (tortoise, jim o’rourke, etc) post-rock scenes?
    warp records/idm,
    french (filter) house (daft punk, etc),
    trip hop (at least in the beginning),
    elephant 6 collective (athens),
    ambient house (orb, etc),
    ambient drone (mogwai, godspeed, etc),
    beardy rap (el-p, anticon),
    native tongues (tribe, de la soul, etc),
    jeff buckley (a genre unto his own),
    touch&go mid-90s (shellac, jesus lizard),
    space gospel (spiritualized, etc),
    japanese noise rock (boredoms, etc),
    69 love songs (if you don’t know what this is, you deserve to be shot),
    twee pop (belle & sebastian, etc),
    lo-fi (pavement, guided by voices, etc)…

    it goes on and on. give me the patience to do a little research and i could triple this list.

    and that is ignoring so much… so many groups, like disco inferno, bark psychosis, elliot smith, radiohead, bjork, wilco, primal scream (creation!), dave fridmann, yo la tengo, built to spill…

    and those are all groups most people have heard of. and still, i’m just barely scratching the surface.

    the 1990s was an interesting time. music’s always interesting, and every decade has its wonderful groups and individuals. music never stagnates, especially since punk opened the doors so that anybody could do it.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer.php?name=gonzo%20marx gonzo marx

    Chris Asks – “gonzo – what exactly is it that you consider groundbreaking about Tool? I thought the track you linked to was not bad but very predictable.”

    well..the clip i showed was a video done by the guitarist for the track…but it has to do with a few things, remember this is 92/93 we’re talking about…and *heavier* music was not the thing…neither was playing in off time counts, or a lead bass….then there was the subject matter of the lyrical content

    this clip of Prison Sexthe lyrics for the album here

    again the video is the work of the guitar player…if i am not mistaken, besides “Hush” which i linked earlier, you never see the band in their videos

    added to this is the sheer Performance Art in their live show… all of this together was a big shift at the time, nothing quite like it out there at the time, and they just got better as they went along…just saw them July 13th, and they still rip the face off the vast majority of arena shows (just short of 10,000 in Portland)

    it’s merely my Opinion, as an enthusiast for the genre, and at the time a gigging bass player, and based on the general Scene during the time period under discussion

    your mileage may vary

    Excelsior?

  • JC Mosquito

    … and this is what happened in the period most would call post punk – instead of relatively few musical genres from which to choose or express one’s allegiance, the 1980s & onward are all over the place, little chunks of scenes, labels, bands, and genres – the Balkanization of Rock and Roll. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s sure hard to get people to agree on what’s good anymmore.

  • http://www.robot-of-the-week.com Christopher Rose

    Hey zing, thanks for the response.

    I never really got Slint, Tortoise et cetera; they just seemed like a continuation of an already tired line of rock to me, although because of that preconception I wasn’t really paying them much attention.

    Similarly, the whole Warp thing didn’t capture my attention that much, although I accept in retrospect that the scene was more interesting than I thought. Ursula is good mates with the wife of one of The Black Dog by coincidence.

    At the time, amongst other stuff, I was heavily involved with a bunch of European labels like Crammed Discs in Belgium, New Rose in France and Contempo in Italy so maybe I didn’t have enough headspace left for the above!

    Daft Punk were fun in a mindless and forgettable kind of way but I never really took to the whole new hippie dance scene; having fought and won the punk wars against the hippies, I wasn’t really up for seeing them come back in a new disguise. Still not.

    As to the rest, I don’t really find much creativity there and there was certainly more vital stuff around. I believe we actually worked on some Magnetic Fields stuff but not the 69 Love Songs trilogy. I counter your derisory death shot by responding that if you don’t know bands like Holy Toy or Huge Baby, to name but two, you can join me up against the wall! LOL

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    “… and this is what happened in the period most would call post punk.”
    [I have to chime in here]
    Well, when did punk officially end? Seriously, because besides the bastardization of Rock, Metal was going pretty strong in the mid-late 70′s. Sure, for the most part,with exception to Maiden, it was a heavier blues version but you weren’t stuck listening to disco especially with the albums that Black Sabbath came out with.RUSH was a great alternative as well.

    As for 1992, and why TooL was “groundbreaking”… Gonzo was pretty much correct.But, it wasn’t necessarily who made the video but the topic “it” covered. Their sound was original, again, for a time when people who were slaves to the Billboard Charts thought that Metal was dead.I still think that they catered to the Alternative crowd because there wasn’t any real guitar work being done,BUT, they still knew how to play their instruments in a time when bands like Nirvana,Mudhoney,etc.. sucked major ass!!

    For the early 90′s I would still have to pose Dream Theater,Death,Atheist & Cynic as the most groundbreaking. They really took elements that weren’t thought of as heavy and pushed the envelope.I shouldn’t have to discuss DT.Death was forging ahead with what is now called Technical /Melodic Death Metal. Atheist, in ’93,visualized a metal album(“Elements”) that was heavily influenced by latin rythmns,Jazz, with lyrics about Nature and tried not to use much,if at all, doublebass. As for Cynic, noone was doing what they did back then..NOONE!

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    *One More Note:* Honestly, these bands that I listed weren’t playing it safe. They really were blowing peoples’ minds…Trust me, listen to those releases and think about the time frame. That stuff wouldn’t have made the charts because it was pretty hard to “get”. I still wonder how I was drawn to it at such an early age. Probably, because I was all over the place musically anyways.

  • zingzing

    “I never really got Slint, Tortoise et cetera; they just seemed like a continuation of an already tired line of rock to me, although because of that preconception I wasn’t really paying them much attention.”

    hrm. slint was pretty groundbreaking. out of them flowed american post-rock (british post-rock was a different thing) and math rock (which never really went far). they certainly had a way with tension that few other bands had. tortoise, being from chicago, were quite different. their stuff fused jazz, rock, krautrock, techno, avant… if that was a “tired line of rock,” it certainly was a nebulous one. i’m more of a fan of jim o’rourke than tortoise, but the chicago scene had many facets, tortoise just being the most famous.

    “Similarly, the whole Warp thing didn’t capture my attention that much, although I accept in retrospect that the scene was more interesting than I thought. Ursula is good mates with the wife of one of The Black Dog by coincidence.”

    really? your wife is named ursula? that’s awesome. black dog was pretty good. autechre is a favorite of mine.

    “At the time, amongst other stuff, I was heavily involved with a bunch of European labels like Crammed Discs in Belgium, New Rose in France and Contempo in Italy so maybe I didn’t have enough headspace left for the above!”

    see, something did happen in the 90s.

    “Daft Punk were fun in a mindless and forgettable kind of way but I never really took to the whole new hippie dance scene; having fought and won the punk wars against the hippies, I wasn’t really up for seeing them come back in a new disguise. Still not.”

    heh. daft punk is pop music, at least by their second album. their 90s work was the beginning of something that is actually just really blossoming today. songs are shorter, they make actual albums, and no one stinks at the beginning of the night, only at the end.

    “As to the rest, I don’t really find much creativity there and there was certainly more vital stuff around.”

    well, to each his own. if i’m finding creativity and vitality in so many different places, and you are finding it in others, what does that say? that there was plenty to go around? that the 90s weren’t half bad?

    “I believe we actually worked on some Magnetic Fields stuff but not the 69 Love Songs trilogy. I counter your derisory death shot by responding that if you don’t know bands like Holy Toy or Huge Baby, to name but two, you can join me up against the wall! LOL”

    see? never heard of them. and i had quite expected you to have heard of magnetic fields, which is why you deserve to have been shot if you hadn’t. holy toy looks pretty obscure. polish/norweigian? and experimental? if you want to go all experimental and avant, the above list would be totally different. and huge baby looks totally connected to a time and place, although they do sound interesting.

  • http://www.lookoutforhope.com Tom Johnson

    If you only go by charts, then yes, the 90s were a pretty dismal decade. If you go by, well, pretty much anything else, the 90s was an outstanding decade filled with a near orgasmic release of music that flew out of every corner of the sonic spectrum. How anyone could and would want to limit themselves to only “top 40″ is beyond me. Just having to hear “top 40″ on a daily basis would drive me to more interesting, creative music like what many of us have been talking about being so notable. How it didn’t do this to Daryl is a mystery.

    Comment #39, from Daryl: Tom…this is clearly an opinion piece. Although I don’t constantly state its my opinion because it should be assumed

    Just the fact alone that people are taking such offense at your choices and your write-ups about each shows that you are not presenting what you write as opinion. There’s a certain amount of leeway given by readers to someone who makes it obvious, without saying “in my opinion” every single line, that what they’re writing is simply their view, which they don’t give to someone who makes bold, grand statements, doesn’t back them up with any particular evidence to support them, and then bristles when confronted about them.

  • Daryl d

    Tom, people here will take offense at anything I do since they are part of the Bruce Springsteen Fanboy club and I tell the truth about him in my articles. In this article, I wasn’t insulting him a bit and just stating facts.

  • http://culturesalad.blogspot.com Ray Ellis

    You’re right, Daryl. Everyone here is part of a supersecret Springsteen collective, the likes of which dwarf all other secret organizations. It’s just your misfortune that your name came up when it was time for the sacrifice.

  • http://www.myspace.com/x15 Douglas Mays

    ZZ, re: #37…. Gotcha, we are on the same wavelength. It just takes some bitching on a thread to figure that out.

    gotta jump, but thanx for clarity.

    best,
    DM

  • NORTHSAM

    EXCELLENT ARTICLE BROUGHT BACK MEMORIES OF MY GRADUATION YEAR 1992

    I LIKE YOUR BEST LIST BUT DONT’ NECESARILY AGREE WITH YOUR WORST LIST. “CAN’T LET GO” BY MARIAH CAREY AND “BABY GOT BACK” BY SIR WHATEVERHISNAME IS ARE CLASSICS.

  • Erin

    I was born in 1992. :)

  • Katey

    I was born in 1992 to and im quit surprised as I read this overview.

  • JewelChick

    I have always disliked country music, but I wholeheartedly disagree with the estimation of Whitney Houston’s version of “I Will Always Love You” as being better than the original. She took a beautifully sweet, heartfelt love song and turned it into a joke with her strangely multisyllabic interpretation of the word “I.”

    Parton’s version makes you cry. Houston’s version makes you laugh . . . or vomit.