(Pictured: Vanessa Williams, 1992.)
The early 90s was no golden age for pop music. My re-listening to American Top 40 shows from the 90s has not always gone well. But let’s take a bash at the one from March 14, 1992. It uses Billboard‘s Hot 100 Airplay Chart, as distinct from the Hot 100 itself. Hot 100 Airplay would not have been as volatile as sales charts driven by Soundscan, and it could accommodate radio hits not released as physical singles.
40. “Hazard”/Richard Marx
31. “I Can’t Make You Love Me”/Bonnie Raitt
30. “Until Your Love Comes Back Around”/RTZ
29. “I’ll Get By”/Eddie Money
28. “Mysterious Ways”/U2
15. “Tears in Heaven”/Eric Clapton
14. “I Can’t Dance”/Genesis
“Rock” as a thing was on its way out in the early 90s. U2 became their own genre, kinda, and managed to carry on for years thereafter; Genesis and Phil Collins had a bit of gas left in the tank, but only a bit. Eddie Money is on his last Top 40 hit; Richard Marx would have three Top 40 hits after this, Clapton two, and Bonnie Raitt one. RTZ featured Brad Delp and Barry Goudreau from Boston and would never return to the Top 40.
39. “Live and Learn”/Joe Public
38. “Vibeology”/Paula Abdul
37. “I’m the One You Need”/Jody Watley
36. “Paper Doll”/PM Dawn
35. “You Showed Me”/Salt-n-Pepa
34. “What Goes Around Comes Around”/Giggles
33. “Too Blind to See It”/Kym Sims
32. “Keep It Comin'”/Keith Sweat
I like the organ line that keeps resurfacing in “Too Blind to See It,” even as I feel that there is practically no difference between it and the preceding six records. Hot take: the new jack swing/hip-hopification of pop created a lot of profoundly boring music.
There was a radio thing on this show that drove me nuts: the transition from Keith Sweat’s big beats at #32 to Bonnie’s bluesy ballad at #31 with Shadoe talking over the intro. Didn’t it occur to anybody on the production staff to put a jingle or something between them? It’s the kind of train wreck that a radio music programmer would usually try to avoid. Better to roll from Bonnie into “Until Your Love Comes Back Around” at #30.
27. “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted”/Paul Young
26. “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me”/George Michael and Elton John
Paul Young’s taste in covers (and he did a lot of them) was pretty good. A lot of people love this version of “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,” but I am not one of them.
25. “If You Go Away”/New Kids on the Block
24. “Everything Changes”/Kathy Troccoli
23. “I’m Too Sexy”/Right Said Fred
22. “Romeo and Juliet”/Stacy Earl
21. “Uhh Ahh”/Boyz II Men
20. “Thinkin’ Back”/Color Me Badd
The show really blurs here. Hard as it is to believe, I may never have heard “I’m Too Sexy” past the first line until this show. The rest of it doesn’t ring a bell at all. Also: “Uhh Ahh”? What kind of a title is that?
19. “Beauty and the Beast”/Peabo Bryson and Celine Dion
10. “Missing You Now”/Michael Bolton with Kenny G
2. “Save the Best for Last”/Vanessa Williams
Fossils: the jingly, echoey production on “Beauty and the Beast” and “Save the Best for Last”; Michael Bolton, veins standing out on his forehead as he yowls his devotion; and Kenny G’s noodling saxophone.
18. “It’s a Love Thang”/CeCe Peniston
17. “The Way I Feel About You”/Karyn White
16. “Breakin’ My Heart”/Mint Condition
13. “Finally”/CeCe Peniston
12. “Justified and Ancient”/The KLF featuring Tammy Wynette
11. “All 4 Love”/Color Me Badd
9. “Tell Me What You Want Me to Do”/Tevin Campbell
More new jack blur, although there’s something about “Finally” that appeals to me where similar records on the show do not. “Justified and Ancient” strikes me as a band thinking, “Who’s the most unlikely, buzz-generating person we could get to sing this?”
LDD: “More Than Words”/Extreme. Belinda from Johannesburg has written several times to an American named Eric, whom she met during a ski vacation in Austria, but she hasn’t received a reply. She wants to thank him … for changing her views on South African politics. Long Distance Dedications: different host, still mostly worthless.
8. “Make It Happen”/Mariah Carey
7. “Diamonds and Pearls”/Prince
6. “Good for Me”/Amy Grant
5. “To Be With You”/Mr. Big
4. “Masterpiece”/Atlantic Starr
3. “I Love Your Smile”/Shanice
“I Love Your Smile” was just off five weeks at #1 on the show despite being insert shrug emoji here.
1. “Remember the Time”/Michael Jackson
In my head, 30 years doesn’t seem very long ago. But then we remember the time when Michael was still a transcendent cultural figure, before the child-abuse allegations, and it suddenly seems like ancient days.
A couple of years ago, reader Adam was kind enough to send me a list of links to several of the Shadoe-era AT40 shows. I have some left, so we may do this again.