Name: Adam Bernard Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States About Me: Entertainment journalist with 20 years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, and B-movies. Part time ninja. Kicked cancer’s ass. My memoir, ChemBro, is out now!
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Welcome to your weekly dose of pop world musings. Covering all things pop culture, this week I’m hopping into my time machine again, this time setting the coordinates for 30 years ago this week.
Stepping out of my time machine I see all sorts of things I remember fondly from my youth. 1989 was a pretty cool year for me (and for Taylor Swift, since it was the year she was born). I turned 11 years old, and the music was phenomenal, as Top 40 radio was playing every genre imaginable – even giving us some 2 Live Crew after 9pm!
The Billboard Hot 100 from this week in 1989 represents all of those genres, as well as some of the musical shifts those genres were in the process of making as the ‘80s were coming to an end and the ‘90s were about to give birth to a plethora of new sounds.
So let’s get into this exploration of chart history! Of course, since this is Pop Shots, you know everything is seasoned with a little bit of attitude.
1. Paula Abdul – Straight Up
A true pop classic, what’s kinda crazy about “Straight Up” is that Paula Abdul was basically ushering in early ‘90s pop a year early.
I think a lot of us consider this a ‘90s song, because it sounds like it should be a ‘90s song – there’s more of an edge to it than much of the pop music of the ‘80s – but it turns out that Paula, and producer Elliot Wolff, were actually pop music trailblazers.
11. Edie Brickell & New Bohemians – What I Am
A song that sounds just as good today as it did when it was originally on the charts, I’m pretty sure if you slipped “What I Am” into a modern Top 40 radio playlist an entire generation unfamiliar with the song would blow up the phone lines with requests for it, thinking it’s a new release.
25. Guns N’ Roses – Paradise City
There are two things that are especially noteworthy about the Guns N’ Roses classic “Paradise City.” First, it was charting in 1989, over a year and a half after the release of the album it’s on, Appetite for Destruction. So yes, Virginia, there was a time when an album’s life cycle was multiple years, and not just “until next week’s releases.”
Second, two and a half years after “Paradise City” the entire landscape of rock music changed when Nirvana released Nevermind. So GnR essentially packed an entire career’s worth of hits into a remarkably frantic four years.
40. The Bangles – Eternal Flame (In Your Room was at #57)
One of the greatest ballads ever written, performed by one of the greatest voices of the ‘80s, “Eternal Flame” is a perfect song, and I will fight anyone who disagrees.
PS – I still think Susanna Hoffs is amazing (and I only mention this in hopes that she has a Google alert set up for her own name, stumbles upon this blog post, and thinks, “This guy’s awesome! I should do an interview with him!”).
50. Roxette – The Look
Sweden has been known for their pop music exports since the ‘70s, but what made Roxette unique is that they weren’t just pop, they had a rock edge to them that acts like ABBA, and later Ace of Base, didn’t have (although both of those acts were still fantastic).
Roxette gave us a bevy of classics, and “The Look” has always been one of my favorites.
56. Boy Meets Girl – Waiting For A Star To Fall
While many songs on this chart bridged the gap between the ‘80s and ‘90s, “Waiting For A Star To Fall” is so ‘80s – complete with a gratuitous sax solo – that it sounds like it should be from earlier in the decade. It’s also an undeniably great feel-good song. Seriously, just try not to smile. It’s impossible.
60. Fine Young Cannibals – She Drives Me Crazy
If you’re anything like me, you always think of the Fine Young Cannibals mega-hit “She Drives Me Crazy” as a ‘90s song, and feel really old whenever an oldies station slips it into rotation alongside ’60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s classics. Technically, however, it’s an ‘80s song, although it’s definitely one of those aforementioned songs that bridges the gap between decades. Of course, just because it’s from ’89 and not ’90 doesn’t mean we can’t still feel old when we hear it on an oldies station … especially as we crank it up and sing along.
68. The Timelords – Doctorin’ The Tardis
As someone who is a lifelong fan of both Doctor Who, and Jock Jams, I can’t believe I didn’t know about this song until putting together this column. “Doctorin’ The Tardis” combines the theme from Doctor Who with Gary Glitter’s “Rock’n Roll Part 2,” and the result is f*cking fantastic.
As a bonus, the video looks like it was filmed on a budget of “whatever we can find in our couch cushions,” which is kinda perfect for that era of Doctor Who.
89. The Escape Club – Wild Wild West
I’ve always really liked this song. It’s catchy, it crosses genres, and the video has some fun effects in it. Why The Escape Club didn’t become much bigger has always been a bit of a mystery to me, but after a follow up album that didn’t really go anywhere, the London-based band called it quits, eventually making a comeback over a decade later – a comeback that seems to still be going strong, as the band’s Facebook page is somewhat active.
And with that, my time is up for the week, but I'll be back next week with more shots on all things pop.