My Top Ten Songs of the ’90s; or Goddamn It

My Top Ten Songs of the ’90s:

 

  1. “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong”

The Spin Doctors is the most overlooked and underrated band of all time.  There, I said it.  What’s wrong with making bubblegum pop?  Nothing … nothing at all, and they did it so well.  Every single album they put out did not have one bad song on it.  It’s not like that Radiohead bullshit that you have to listen to, like, eight times just to find a hook or figure out if you even like it.  No, no.  Their music isn’t like that.  Everything in a Spin Doctors song is a hook, a hook that stays with you forever.

Of course, this is subjective, but I like this song more than any of their others, even over “Two Princes,” because it is linked with a person that I was very close to back in high school.  I remember being in a car with him on a beautiful summer day with this song on repeat.  He had just gotten his license, and we were experiencing independence and freedom for the first time.  The windows were down, and we sang this at the top of our lungs, over and over.  Like I said, it was freedom, but not weak-ass, libtard freedom, but unregulated, unfettered, gold standard, I-don’t-give-a-fuck-if-you-don’t-have-healthcare, right-wing libertarian, fuck you freedom.  Life has never been better than that summer.

This friend was part of the obscure bubblegum pop scene of the early ‘90s (a small, but very intense subculture).  The group’s motto was “live hard and happy.”  Any emotional state that was not related to general happiness was really frowned upon and even prohibited among this group.  It was strict.  The cancellation of The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. hit him hard.  He told me he was feeling pretty shitty about it.  I told him that it was perfectly normal to feel bad if something you like comes to an end.  However, he was so deep into that scene and its rules that he put on The Archies’ “Sugar, Sugar” (basically, the bubblegum scene’s “Star-Spangled Banner”) and drove 60 mph into a retirement home, killing himself and injuring four others.

 

  1. “Mambo No. 5”

I knew about Lou Bega years before his 1999 hit “Mambo No. 5.” A friend of mine was really into the underground mambo scene of the early ’90s (again, a small, but very intense subculture). Like with most people in that scene (it was hardcore by any standard — I saw a group of Burning Man regulars amazed by the amount of heroin he injected and cocaine he snorted in just a few hours), he didn’t make it and died of a drug overdose in 2001 (I miss him dearly).

Anyway, when Bega broke into the mainstream, it was a bittersweet thing for those that followed his earlier work (success always seems to make an artist less cool), but this song had universal appeal … it was just a matter of time before it broke. It was so relatable. Being male, I know how difficult it is to have so many women interested in you and constantly hanging around for some dirty, filthy sex and how even more difficult it is to choose which one to engage in that dirty, filthy sex.  With some stellar lyrics, Bega just kind of says have dirty, filthy sex with all of them.  I can’t argue with that.  Who can?  Here’s to constantly fuckin’.

 

  1. “Fuck the World”

If Kierkegaard represents existentialism and Camus represents absurdism, then, I think the boys of ICP should bump off Nietzche as the representative of nihilism, just take a look at these lyrics:

“Fuck, fuck this shit, fuck, give it to me

If I only could, I’d set the world on fire

If I only could, I’d set the world on fire

If I only could, I’d set the world on fire

Say, “Fuck the world”, fuck the world

If I only could, I’d set the world on fire

Fuck em’ all, fuck em’ all

Fuck you, fuck me, fuck us

Fuck Tom, fuck Mary, fuck Gus

Fuck Darius, fuck the West Coast

And fuck everybody on the East

Eat shit and die, or fuck off at least

Fuck pre-schoolers, fuck rulers

Kings and queens and gold jewelers

Fuck wine coolers

Fuck chickens, fuck ducks

Everybody in your crew sucks, dumb muthafucks

Fuck critics, fuck your review

Even if you like me, fuck you

Fuck your mom, fuck your mom’s mamma

Fuck the Beastie Boys and the Dali Lama

Fuck the rain forest, fuck a Forrest Gump

You probably like it in the rump, fuck a shoe pump

Fuck the real deal, and fuck all the fakes

Fuck all 52 states, ooh

And fuck you, fuck you

If I only could, I’d set the world on fire

Say, “Fuck the world”, fuck the world

If I only could, I’d set the world on fire

Fuck ’em all, fuck ’em all

If I only could, I’d set the world on fire

Say, “Fuck the world”, fuck the world

If I only could, I’d set the world on fire

Fuck ’em all, fuck ’em all

Fuck Oprah, fuck opera, fuck a soap opera

Fuck a pop locker and a cock blocker

Fuck your girlfriend, I probably did her already

Fuck Kyle and his brother Tom Petty, Jumpsteady

My homie fuck ’em, what are ya gonna do

Fuck that bitch, fuck you

Yeah, well, fuck you too

Don’t bother to analyze these rhymes

In this song I say fuck 93 times

Fuck the President, fuck your welfare

Fuck your government and fuck Fred Bear

Fuck Nugent, like anybody gives a fuck

You like to hunt a lot, so fuckin’ what

Fuck disco, Count a Monte Cristo

Fuck Cisco, and Jack and Jerry Brisco

And fuck everyone that went down

With the Titanic, in a panic

I’m like, fuck you all

If I only could, I’d set the world on fire

Say, “Fuck the world”, fuck the world

If I only could, I’d set the world on fire

Fuck ’em all, fuck ’em all

If I only could, I’d set the world on fire

Say, “Fuck the world”, fuck the world

If I only could, I’d set the world on fire

Fuck ’em all, fuck ’em all

Fuck Celine Dion and fuck Dionne Warwick

You both make me sick, suck my dick

Fuck the Berlin Wall, both sides of it

And fuck Lyle Lovett, whoever the fuck that is

Fuck everybody in the hemisphere

Fuck them across the world and fuck them right here

You know the guy that operates the Rouge river draw bridge

In Delray on Jefferson? Fuck him

Fuck your idea, fuck your gonorrhea

Fuck your diarrhea, Rocky Miavia

Fuck your wife, your homie did, he’s fuckin’ you

Fuck the police and the 502

Fuck Spin, Rolling Stone, and fuck Vibe

Fuck everybody inside

Whoever’s on the cover, fuck his mother

Fuck your little brother’s homie from around the way

And fuck Violent J”

Honestly, the only reason this one makes my list is because I thought I was the only one with a fevered, intense hatred of Dionne Warwick.  Fuck her!  I’m glad someone finally said it.

This song makes me feel less alone, which I feel is the primary function of art.

 

  1. “Cotton Eye Joe”

How can you not love this song?  An EDM version of an old folk standard.  Moonshine meets MDA.  Two things that probably shouldn’t go together, but really, it’s a marriage  that will last forever, which I guess isn’t that special because all marriages do.  Love is answer, always remember that.

This is one of those songs you can put on repeat and be transported to another time and space.  Also, once the female vocalist pelts out her part in the most non-shrill voice possible, it transcends our understanding of absolutely everything and becomes the most beautiful sound humankind has ever created.

I don’t know if this song was a hit within the rave culture of the ‘90s, but I will say that I regret not getting into that scene.  I was the right age for it, but I didn’t feel like I was cool enough.  It’s a shame because the people I did meet that were into it were super interesting.

 

  1. “Forever”

In my heart, I’m a poet, and that makes me an appreciator of lyrics over all components of a song; this song contains the best lines ever written by a non-retarded adult (it’s very important to use that adjective to put this into context):

“I make punk rock

and I mix it with the hip hop

I get you higher then a tree top

You wanna roll with the Kid Rock”

It’s perfect and beautiful.  It’s also the best song when you’re drinking with your buddies, which I basically do 24/7.  I love beer and drinking and smoking and fucking and strip clubs and my rural roots and shit!

 

  1. “Psycho Circus”

Who was the coolest band in the ‘70s?  KISS.  Who was the coolest band in the ‘80s?  KISS.  Who was the coolest band in the ‘90s?  Who was coolest band at the turn of the century?  KISS.  Who is the coolest band currently?  I think you know the answer.

This song cemented their standing in the ‘90s as the best rock band of that decade, and it was also such a breath of fresh air.  The song came out of nowhere and really left a solid impression, on fans and the industry.  For years, KISS had been accused by uppity music critics of phoning it in.  This song obliterated that bourgie notion.

At the time, nothing else sounded like it.  To this day, nothing else sounds like it.   It’s not some bland, generic rock song.  It’s a four minute and seventeen second sonic revolution that influenced every musical genre and all of pop culture since its release.  The proof, just ask any of the millions of KISS fans in their twenties how they got into the band; nine out of ten of them will say “Psycho Circus.”

Another thing that really makes this song a standout is Paul Stanley’s powerful, badass sibilance during the chorus.  Chills, man.  Every.   Goddamn.   Time.

 

  1. “All Star”

Again, it’s bubblegum pop, but again, what’s so wrong with that?  Same answer, nothing.

Because I was a little older and less naïve, I didn’t buy into the feel-good vibe the song was trying to sell.  Smash Mouth’s overall body of work didn’t have the same impact on me as the complete discography of the sugary and brilliant Spin Doctors.  This particular song, however, still hit me pretty hard, but not for the obvious reasons.

While we can all agree the song itself is great, I have to confess that the video left a “bigger” impression on me.  When I first saw it, I was very, very attracted to Steve Harwell, the coolest fat guy I’ve ever seen.  Instantly, I wanted to be him so bad.  Fat has never looked so good.

After seeing the video just once — just once — I decided that I was going to gain 100 lbs., and starting at 135 lbs., this was going to be a real challenge.  However, I figured it would be easier than gaining muscle because that requires working out — fuck that shit.  Also, I didn’t think muscles, or a toned body looked as good as pure, Smash Mouth fat.

For the next several months, I just ate and ate, non-stop.  I was averaging 5,000 calories a day.  Somehow, I did it and finally reached my goal of 235 lbs.  I’ve never weighed more or looked as good since.  Unfortunately, my body does not retain weight.  I can eat anything, and I never gain weight.  It sucks.  Anyway, within weeks, all of my hard work was gone.  I had nothing to show for it.   I loved being a fat guy.  I miss it.

Another great thing about the song is its power to make the funny even funnier.  It’s been featured in a lot of very strong comedies, always enhancing the scene perfectly.   For example, if you need a song for a montage featuring an underdog character going through a transformation, this is the go-to song, much like if you need a song to illustrate someone as having a rebellious streak, just play Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild.”  Sometimes, “Born to Wild” can be ironic when used in films.  However, I don’t think any of Smash Mouth’s work could ever be ironic in any context, and that’s interesting in itself.  These guys are earnest; they mean it.

I was a member of a local chapter of a Smash Mouth fan club.  Unlike a lot of people, linked to these songs in this list, they are still alive.  We try to meet up once a year, and I’m actually going to see them in a few weeks.

 

  1. “Scatman (Ski-Ba-Bop-Ba-Dop-Bop)”

When this came out, I just didn’t feel cool enough for it (these people were way cooler than the ravers).  Seriously, the people that were really into this song were truly untouchable.  To this day, these people were, by far, the coolest subculture I’ve ever been around.  They could get into any club without being on the list.  They could get any man, woman, child (too dark?), baby (too dark?), pet, or inanimate object they wanted.  These people were so cool they could bed God with very little to no effort.  To be so cool that God would drop his panties for a little bit of heaven … well, that’s fuckin’ too cool.  Being around this crowd was genuinely hard work.  It was intimidating.  You could never tell them something they didn’t already know.

Somehow, I was lucky enough to know someone that was part of this elite scene of the ‘90s (once again, a small, intense subculture).  One night, I got invited to a party at one the scene’s tastemakers apartment, very exclusive shit.  I love to party, but this was just too much.  I always saw myself cool enough to be Fonzie’s acquaintance, but never Fonzie’s friend.  Needless to say, I was nervous, but looking back, I’m so happy I went.

When we arrived, everyone was talking about how they met the Scatman.  You have to remember, there was no bigger star at the time.  I was exploding with jealously heading their Scatman stories.  Goddamn it, I wanted these peoples’ lives!

I found myself in the living room of this large, swanky, I’m-in-my-late-twenties-and-somehow-already-make-six-figures-a-year-with-an-art-degree apartment, and my heart stopped.  I noticed something, well … someone.

I asked my friend, “Is that who I think it is?”

He nodded in affirmation.

I couldn’t believe it.  It was Danny Lee Clark, Nitro from The American Gladiators.  If you thought he could knock people off of platforms or keep people from scoring during Powerball, you should have heard him scat, a real motherfucker.

This was the single most memorable night of my life, and I’m a 9/11 survivor.  Never forget my ass!  I would love to forget that horrible day, but I want to hold on to my memory of Danny Lee Clark performing a mean acapella scat cover of The Fabulous Thunderbirds’ “Tough Enough” forever.  Put that on a goddamn bumper sticker!

Sadly, this friend died in 2005.  It had nothing to do with being in the scat scene, which was pretty much dead by that time.  Instead, he died of AIDS.  He got it from having all kinds of sex, using intravenous drugs, and a blood transfusion.

 

2. “Addams Groove”

I’m not even going to write anything about this one.  Great work speaks for itself.

 

  1. “Smells Like Teen Spirit”

My choice for number one is actually “Addams Groove,” but after looking at several other lists, they all had this as their number one.  I didn’t want to be labeled as a contrarian or being controversial just to gain attention, so it’s my number one as well.

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