The Hunt For The Most 90's Song of All Time: Part Two

Shawn Mullins – “Lullaby” (1998)

90’s Band Name: The name “Shawn” is pretty 90’s, for some reason. This guy just sounds like someone who played the 2 PM spot at every 90’s radio station festival, right after Joey McIntyre, or The Corrs. (3/10)

90’s Musical Stylings: Spoken-word growl over an acoustic lick, followed by a soaring chorus. (4/10)

90’s Cred: One of those singles that sparked conversations, wondering “who is it about?” Extra points that one of the most likely celebrities it was referencing was Drew Barrymore (+3). The lyrics also get a shot in at LA while he’s at it – “kind of like Nashville, with a tan.” (3/10)

Pop Culture: Got to the 90’s too late to have much impact, but did end up in an episode of MTV’s “Undressed.” (2/10)

Music Video: The actress from the music video played John Travolta’s daughter in Face/Off (+1). Mullins also has trouble lip-synching to his own song. There are also lots of “we’re in a club” effects – multiple exposure, sped-up-then-slowed-down footage, blown out shots. It’s such a lame club it looks like one of those hastily-assembled sets from a multi-cam comedy three seasons after everyone stopped trying. Things shift to black and white for an extended sequence as the lead actress “learns something” (+1). I kind of wish I’d chosen to do Mullins’ “Shimmer” instead, which features bad 90’s CGI and what looks like Corey and Shawn (there’s that name again!) from “Boy Meets World” picking on a black kid. (2/10)

Final Score: Really surprised how low this one ranked, but I guess it’s not quite as 90’s as it would seem. (14/50)

Paula Cole – I Don’t Wanna Wait (1997)

I couldn't get the video to embed without autoplaying, so I'm linking to the video here. I highly recommend you watch.

90’s Band Name: “Paula” is pretty 90’s. See: Abdul, Poundstone. (3/10)

90’s Musical Stylings: Acoustic guitar, soaring choruses. Standard acoustic-girl 90’s stuff. (4/10)

90’s Cred: Her first big break was doing a duet on VH1 with Melissa Etheridge (+1). Her first album’s cover is described on Wikipedia as : “Featured photographs of Cole with a boyishly short haircut, wearing loose fitting black sweatclothes, combat boots and nose ring” (+1).   Her second album was dedicated to "the inner fire of all life. May our seeds of light open, brighten, and sow peace on earth” (+4). Toured with Lillith Fair. (+2) (8/10)

Pop Culture: Was the theme song for – and remains permanently inseparable from – “Dawson’s Creek.” Nothing else is needed for 90’s cred. (8/10)

Music Video: Told as a “love story through time.” The music video directors took their name off of it after the version most shown on MTV was one edited so it was out of chronological order. The video shows Cole standing in a dusty room full of clocks with a wind machine (+1) on her. Almost immediately, this is happening (+2):

And then it only gets more awesome after that. When I talk about 90’s videos, this is what I’m talking about – an incredible amount of enthusiasm from everyone to be as “artistic” as possible; very little payoff. In each timeline, we meet Cole’s lover, and when he finally meets his end, he sits on a couch, covered in a old-man makeup, with a Drama 102 “palsy shake” going (+2):

And then Cole covers him with a black veil, to symbolize Death (+3). Great fun. Also, I have no issues with Paula Cole’s looks, but it’s fair to admit that not everyone gets to be a convincing flapper girl, Paula. Play to your strengths. Like, posing naturally in a field (+2):

Couldn’t have enjoyed this more. (10/10)

Final Score: Rough start there at the beginning, but the video and “Dawson’s” tie-in make this a force to be reckoned with. (33/50)

Salt-N-Pepa – “Let’s Talk About Sex” (1991)

90’s Band Name: The three band members are “Salt” “Pepa,” and “N.” I’m just kidding. That would be silly. The last band member is actually named “DJ Spinderella.” (9/10)

90’s Musical Stylings: The song starts with someone – Pepa, I think – shouting “Spinderella, cut it up one time!” before the snare hits. Then there’s a very 90’s beat, followed by female rapping, all of it by Pepa. The only time the other two members interact with the song is to shout “men!”, in response to, “ladies, what’s my weakness?”  (8/10)

90’s Cred: Was later re-written for AIDS awareness as “Let’s Talk About AIDS” (+1). Was later nominated for a Grammy for “Best Rap Performance” – the first female rap group to do so (+1). I feel like there should be more to write here for an act this big, but they’ve mostly disappeared without an online trace since the 90’s. One of them did have a kid with 90’s NBA star Kenny Anderson, though (+1) – however, not the one named “Lyric.” Nor the one named “Jazz.” Nor either of the sons named “Kenneth.” (3/10)

Pop Culture: Was not featured on any movies or TV shows, as far as I can tell. Maybe I shoulda done “Whatta Man.” (0/10)

Music Video: Parts of it are black-and-white, but it becomes colorized once the band starts dancing (+1). Features the band dancing on the beach in front of the Santa Monica Pier in sequined denim jackets (+1). Actually their second consecutive video to feature them on the beach in front of the Santa Monica Pier. The video switches back and forth between putting them in tight black spandex (+1) and incredibly baggy pants and jackets (+2). In both formats, their earrings are just massive. (5/10)

Final Score: What seemed like it would be a powerhouse ended up being kind of a dud. (25/50)


Lisa Loeb & Nine Stories – “Stay (I Missed You)” (1994)

90’s Band Name: How 90’s is the name “Lisa”? (+2) I also connect alliteration with the 90’s, though that may just be me. I always wondered about “Nine Stories,” assuming it was just an affectation, but it turns out there really was a backing band, like the Wailers or the Heartbreakers. In fact, Loeb played with a number of flannel-clad people she met in college (at Brown! (+1)), including, for a period, Duncan Sheik (+2) before settling into Nine Stories, a band named after a J.D. Salinger book (+2). (7/10)

90’s Musical Stylings: Acoustic guitar, gentle singer-songwriter vibe, but gets big during the chorus. Something that can be sung sadly but loudly by movie characters on a car ride home after a tough break-up. (7/10)

90’s Cred: Was famous for her straight brunette hair + glasses style, so much so that when someone is wearing glasses you can still call them Lisa Loeb and sometimes get a laugh, depending how lame your friends are (+2). Managed to have this song be a number one single in the US while not having an actual recording contract, purely because it was featured in the movie Reality Bites (+2) – a gig she got by being close friends with Ethan Hawke (+3), who lived in a nearby apartment in New York (+1). He passed her song on to Ben Stiller (+2), who added it to the end credits, and I don’t have to write any further because this is already a (10/10) and we haven’t even gotten to her time in Lillith Fair yet.

Pop Culture: Was featured in other things – an episode of “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” for one – but the only thing that matters is that the song was featured in Reality Bites, a movie so 90’s that it’s the movie people point to as defining the 90’s. (8/10)

Music Video: This music video was actually directed by Hawke, which gives it 90’s cred all over before we even start (+3). It features her wailing her way through an artfully dilapidated empty apartment (+1) in one long shot (+1), interacting only with the small gray cat that perches on the rusty iron furniture spotting the room.  (5/10)

Final Score: A known 90’s quantity proves more and more indicative of the era the deeper you dig. A very strong (37/50).


Celine Dion – “My Heart Will Go On (Theme from Titanic)” (1998)

90’s Band Name: Nothing particularly 90's, other than being a foreign-sounding solo act. (2/10)

90’s Musical Stylings: Lush, overdramatic strings, wailing electric buried in the mix - classic 90's adult contemporary stuff. (4/10)

90’s Cred: It sold 15 million copies, so it's the best-selling single of 1998, and one of the best-selling singles of all time (+2).  It won several Grammys (including "Record of the Year") (+2), won an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, a Billboard Music Award, and even a Japanese Gold Disc award, whatever that is. This song was truly inescapable. The success of this song led to the creation of Aerosmith's "I Don't Wanna Miss A Thing" for Armageddon (+2).  At the height of the song's popularity, radio stations played a version that had dialogue from Titanic over the instrumental portions of the song (+2). How insane does that sound now? (8/10)

Pop Culture: Was played over the end credits of Titanic, the biggest movie of the 90's and, at the time, ever. Also an episode of "Daria." Huh. (8/10)

Music Video: This music video is entirely footage from Titanic, (+2) combined with shots of Dion standing on a very digital version of the bow of the Titanic  (+1). As the wind machine hits her (+1), you can see the blue screen around the edges of her hair.  (4/10)

Final Score: Seems like it should have a higher score, but time has aged this from a 90's song into a standard bit of dramatic pop singing that just happens to take place during the 90's. Only its connection to the Titanic phenomenon gives it a score as high as (28/50).