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1993: The Year of Popular Music In Review

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1993 definitely wasn’t a groundbreaking year in the pop music world but it wasn’t an awful year either. It’s safe to say that by 1993, alternative music wasn’t quite “alternative” anymore and dance music, for the most part, had retreated back to the underground. The Hip-Hop explosion continued while traditional R&B music took a back seat.  

Perhaps 1993 will be best remembered as a year when Michael Jackson, the self-proclaimed “King of Pop,” allegedly became the fallen King of Poop. In a rare Oprah interview, Michael surprisingly turned the bad press he had been getting for the past year around. As a result, his Dangerous album rebounded, turning “Heal the World,” “Who Is It,” and “Will You Be There” into hits. But as the alleged child sex pervert learned, you can only fool the public for so long. Oh, we also learned that if you are rich, you can buy your way out of trouble.  

Although dance music seemed to move underground in 1993, Ace of Base started to pick things up with their release of The Sign, the biggest guilty pleasure album of the 1990s. The album didn’t fully catch on until 1994, but “All That She Wants,” the first single, certainly made the rounds of radio stations in late 1993.

The most successful artist of the year was Whitney Houston, whose Bodyguard soundtrack, as well as all the singles released from it, sold by the millions. In March of 1993, “I Will Always Love You” posted its 14th week at number one, a new record that would soon by broken by Boyz II Men. Meanwhile, Whitney clone Mariah Carey also had a successful year with the release of the album Music Box.  

After a two year absence, Janet Jackson returned to the pop music world with a vengeance as her Janet album became the biggest international selling album of her career. The once plump Jackson turned into a petite sex symbol and wasn’t afraid to verbalize orgasmic thoughts in her music. It’s such a shame that these days Ms. Jackson is remembered more for a floppy tit than any of her musical output.  

On December 16, 1993, Nirvana gave what is often considered the best Unplugged performance ever for MTV. Even though Kurt Cobain would sadly leave us four months later, this performance lives on forever.  

Here are my picks for the ten best singles of 1993:  

1. “Everybody Hurts” by REM: Out of all the singles REM has released, this is the one that stands out the most. The lyrics are simple, but extremely effective. Michael Stipe’s vocal performance on this single is also extremely impressive. Some of the lyrics include: “If you're on your own in this life/the days and nights are long/When you think you've had too much of this life, hang on.” The song became an inspiration for people to ride out bad times and hang on for better days.  

2. “Ordinary World” by Duran Duran: This comeback single, about someone trying to get over the loss of a loved one, returned Duran Duran to the status of a credible musical group rather than the teenage girlie group they turned into in the mid eighties. This tearful (but joyful) song included the following lyrics: “But I won't cry for yesterday, there's an ordinary world somehow I have to find /And as I try to make my way to the ordinary world, I will learn to survive." 

3. “That’s The Way Love Goes” by Janet Jackson: This seemed like Janet’s remake of Madonna’s “Justify My Love” but Janet did it much better. The slow, groovy beats backed with Janet’s sexy voice became the musical theme of wet dreams everywhere. 

4. “Show Me Love” by Robyn: It’s hard to believe that this song, a mixture of dance pop, and hip-hop, is from 1993 since this was heard on the airwaves and dance clubs almost every year in the 1990s. Robyn sings, “Show me love, show me life/Baby show me what it’s all about/You’re the one that I ever needed/Show me love and what it’s all about.” The QD3 Fat Boy Remix is perhaps the best remix ever done for a single.  

5. “I’d Do Anything For Love” by Meat Loaf: Anything produced by Jim Steinman is great but this musically and vocally adventurous song tops almost anything he has produced, with the exception of “Total Eclipse of The Heart” by Bonnie Tyler. Meat Loaf kept singing, “I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that.” The question on everybody’s mind was, “What’s that?” 

6. “I’ll Never Get Over You (Getting Over Me)" by Expose: Who would have thought that the band that brought us such bubble gum hits as “Point of No Return” would score with this brilliant ballad that many of us were able to identify with. Some of the lyrics include, “I try to smile so the hurt won't show/Tell everybody I was glad to see you go/ But the tears just won't go away /Loneliness found me, looks like it's here to stay."

7. “Hero” by Mariah Carey: The world’s favorite human dog whistle finally released a meaningful song that she didn’t over sing (a very rare thing in Ms. Carey’s career). The song was well written, inspirational, and topped the charts in the fall of 1993. Some of the lyrics include, “Lord knows, dreams are hard to follow-don’t let anyone take them away/Hold on, there will be tomorrow-in time, you’ll find the way.” Mariah must have listened to this song over and over after Glitter came out.  

8. “Will You Be There” by Michael Jackson:  A great release from his Dangerous album and the film Free Willy. Judging from the scandal that haunted Michael two months after the release of this single, one probably wondered what “willy” this song referred to. 

9. “No Rain” by Blind Melon: This song brings back memories of hot, humid summer nights with yellow bee girls. In fact, the bee girl from the “No Rain” video, is what people remember more than the actual music to this song. This is quite shameful because the childlike chorus and jumpy guitar bridges make this song a pleasurable listen any season or year. 

10. “Runaway Train” by Soul Asylum: This folkish rock classic spotlighted the plight of runaway teens all over the nation. The song included such moving lyrics as “Runaway train never going back/Wrong way on a one way track/Seems like I should be getting somewhere/Somehow I’m neither here or near."  

1993 didn’t bring us anything as awful as 1992’s “Baby Got Back,” by the vulture sexist pig himself, Sir-Mix-A-Lot. Mr. Mix-A-Lot would soon (thank God!) disappear. However, new villains, such as Onyx, arrived. Here are my picks for the worst singles of 1993.  

1. “Slam” by Onyx: This song gave all rappers a bad name (although many, by this time, had earned it). “Slam. duh duh duh duh duh duh, let the boys be boys.” Give me a f*****g break! Whatever else they were rapping on in the song has remained a mystery since they all sounded constipated.  

2. “What’s Up” by 4 Non Blondes: Okay, so am I supposed to take this group seriously because they chose to distinguish themselves from “dumb blondes?” Lead singer Linda Perry sounds like a bad Chrissie Hynde clone. Listening to Linda Perry attempt vocal acrobatics was almost as painful as the pre-schoolish lyrics.  

3. “Dreamlover” by Mariah Carey: It’s a pig sqealing! No, it’s a dog being run over. Could it be a coyote being pleasured? Unfortunately, it was Mariah Carey “singing”, with lyrics as meaningless as ever. As Mad TV once joked about Mariah’s music, the song sounded like she was making the lyrics up as she was going along. 

4. “Heal the World” by Michael Jackson: This song was released in 1992, but didn’t climb the charts until early 1993. “We Are The World” was bad enough, but Michael Jackson decided to clone it and make it even worse. “Heal the world, make it a better place/For you and for me and the entire human race.” Yeah, whatever.  

5. “Supermodel” by RuPaul: It’s hard to understand why this “human” ever experienced 15 minutes of fame but it’s even harder to understand why “the gay version of Vogue” (wasn’t “Vogue” already gay – not that there’s anything wrong with it) ever made radio station playlists. Was it payola? Was it musical desperation? Work it girl! All the way to the back of the unemployment line in a couple of years, thank God!  

So, it’s your turn to be the critic. What are your favorites from 1993? What songs, from that year, did you despise?

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About Daryl D

  • Qraig

    I think you are confusing “Show Me Love” by Robyn with “Show Me Love” by Robin S., which did come out in 1993. The one you mentioned didn’t chart until 1997.

  • daryl d

    DAMN! You got me! But I’m not blaming it on myself (lol), but rather the two artists for being named “Robin” and having the title of their song called “Show Me Love.” (LOL) NO WONDER WHY THE VERSION I WAS TALKING ABOUT SEEMED SO LATE 1990S!

    Ok, now the Daryl haters on Blogcritics are gonna rag on me for this, but they would be right this time.

  • AFSucks

    This article brought back alot of memories-thanks! I think you can be forgiven for your Show Me Love error as Entertainment Weekly once made the same mistake. That said my favorite single of 1993 was “Fields of Gold” by Sting.

  • RegalBegal

    Some ok choices. Here are mine-

    Best-
    1. Two Princes-Spin Doctors
    2. Man on The Moon-REM (or was that 1992?)
    3. Come Undone-Duran Duran
    4. Deeper and Deeper-Madonna (was that 192?)
    5. Last Song-Elton John (I may have the wrong title it was the one he did about Aids)

  • Qraig

    Don’t let the haters get to you…You’re a good writer…even if you can’t tell a Robyn from a Robin S.

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

    argh…

    my worst list form that year would include just about all the stuff the Article listed as “the best”

    the best from that year?

    Sober by Tool from the Undertow album

    the album’s debut was huge…gold that year, platinum the next..even with all the flack over content and censorship as well as lack of airplay

    your mileage may vary

    Excelsior?

  • daryl d

    Gonzo:

    My brother looked at the list and he completely agreed with you. I guess everybody has different tastes. But I’ll tell you, this article was very difficult to write because the year was so bland, in terms of “popular music.” Notice how I even said, in the title, the year of “Popular Music.” So, you can’t criticize me for not listing unknown acts, although there were probably a lot of good ones.

    I’m looking forward to writing my 1994 and 1995 articles because there is a lot more to work with.

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

    lol daryl…

    but “unknown” act?

    a gold album is unknown?…hitting #50 on billboard at release is unknown?

    ah well..i totally agree with you about different tastes, and it was noted by me that you had used “popular” in the title..

    so no real Objections, since it’s limited to pop songs…

    but still….

    heh, hope ya enjoyed the video

    Excelsior?

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    All I have to say is:

    Death – Individual Thought Patterns!

    By and Far the most progressive/pioneering release for 1993! F*ck gold albums & F*ck Billboard because, in my opinion, they are absolutely useless benchmarks in the realm of creative & satisfying… R.I.P. Chuck Shuldiner!!

    (No offense Gonzo, I understood your point)

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    *BTW* – Here’s my review

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

    none taken Brian..i grok yer point in fullness

    a drummer friend of mine turned me on to Death, good stuff, imo

    Excelsior?

  • siva

    and not a word about a great album from 1993…Smashing Pumpkins’ “Siamese Dream” :(

    oh, well, I guess that’s why this is called a review of POPULAR music…and not a review of good music.