Barenaked Ladies – “One Week”
90’s Band Name: A bar band that chose their name on a whim because they thought it would be funny, then stuck with it because they were scared to lose what few fans they had. The 90’s is the last time this could’ve happened. We don’t even have “bar bands” anymore, unless the bar is in Clive Davis’ kitchen. (4/10)
90’s Musical Stylings: Barenaked Ladies are undeniably a 90’s band, but the production on “One Week” makes it seem like it could’ve come any time the past 20 years. However, it does feature as classic 90’s trope: white people rapping during pop music. (4/10)
90’s Cred: The band’s breakout single, the song famously spent all of one week atop the Billboard pop charts, before it was pushed off by a Monica song. Like most BNL singles, the trick wasn’t that it dominated the charts, it’s just that it didn’t leave them, hanging around for almost a year. Much more importantly, it was parodied by Weird Al Yankovic at one point. (3/10)
Pop Culture: I thought that this is where this song would shine. In movies or television shows, when someone wants to indicate that a scene happened in the late 90s, they’ll often play “One Week” – or so it thought, because I’d seen it once on “The West Wing” and that episode of “How I Met Your Mother” with Katie Holmes. It turns out the only examples of this are on “The West Wing” and that episode of “How I Met Your Mother” with Katie Holmes. It was featured in American Pie and 10 Things I Hate About You, though, so it’ll get a couple points for that (4/10)
Music Video: Directed by McG (+3) and featured a Pussycat Doll, which has nothing to do with the 90’s but does make it easy to understand how McG ended up producing that bizarre “The Next Pussycat Doll” show. It also features – and I say this with love – the uncoolest band I’ve ever seen. From Tyler Stewart’s glasses, to Ed Robertson’s goatee, to Stephen Page’s… everything… this band is just impossibly uncool. Look carefully at Stephen Page’s face. That’s the face of a guy who is the fourth-funniest guy on your trivia team, but thinks he’s definitely the funniest guy on your trivia team. Ed Robertson’s facial hair is an abomination. He also raps an entire verse without ever taking off his guitar, as if the music video needed him so keep strumming the whole way through. There’s a Chitty Chitty Bang Bang reference and a Dukes of Hazzard reference, neither have anything to do with the song or with what’s happening in pop culture at the time. It’s a disaster. Nothing about this video works. (5/10)
Final Score: We’ve come to the point in this search where we need to talk about what this whole thing is. This is a very popular song from 1998, and it’s permanently connected with the era. But while it’s a particularly 90’s song, it’s not only a 90’s song. It’s a popular song from a 90’s band, and it can still be played today without someone saying “man, remember when we used to listen to stuff like this?” In the same way that Guns N’ Roses are an 80’s band, but “Sweet Child of Mine” is not the most 80’s song of all time. That probably belongs to… I dunno, “Mr. Roboto,” maybe. I don’t know the 80’s that well. The point is, “One Week” only scores only a (20/50), and I’ve learned my lesson about what kind of songs to feature in this section.
Spice Girls – Wannabe (1996)
90’s Band Name: Looks like I learned my lesson quickly. Spice Girls sounds like (and is!) a girl pop group, which is a very 90’s thing to be. Remember girl pop groups? Lukewarm harmonies and cheetah-print spandex? Ah, the memories. (7/10)
90’s Musical Stylings: Bubblegum pop and a lot of people who can’t sing that well coming together to sing not that well together. Could’ve come from any era if it wasn’t for that electronic piano sound, the screechy shout-singing (“I wanna HUH! I wanna HUAH!”), and a long white-person rap (“so here’s the story from A to Z, you wanna get with me, you gotta listen carefully.”) that sounds like it was written in half an hour. But it wasn’t, because the whole song - and this is true - only took half an hour to write. So they couldn’t have spent more than five minutes on the rap. (9/10)
90’s Cred: Obviously, this category is gonna have a perfect score, because during their height, there was no one bigger than the Spice Girls. In fact, when you think about it, the Spice Girls may be the biggest novelty music act of all time. This song went to number one in 98 different countries and led to Spice Girls mania, and eventually led to the creation of Spice World, a whole movie just about the Spice Girls. Trivial Pursuit declared them the biggest cultural icons of the 1990’s, a poll they won by 80 percent. That’s insane. (10/10)
Pop Culture: Smaller than you’d expect. Outside of Spice World, “Wannabe” was featured on an episode of “King of the Hill,” (+1) an episode of “Daria,” (+1) an episode of “Sabrina The Teenage Witch,” (+1) and for some reason, the movie Small Soldiers (+1) (remember Small Soldiers? It was like a dark version of Toy Story where the government created evil toy soldiers that went to actual war with humanity. Which I’m not opposed to, because Small Soldiers made $55 million, so our herd could probably use some thinning). It was also featured in Contact somewhere (+1), which seems just impossible. Anyway, Spice World gives them a pretty good bump here, too. Looks like it’s a (7/10)
Music Video: There’s so much to cover here. The video was shot all in one shot (+1), on a distorted fish-eye lens (+1), and features the band in a collection of skimpy neon outfits (+1), most of them belly-baring in some fashion (+1). They rush into a snooty hotel filled with old people with monocles (yes, there are multiple monocles in this video) and just wreck the place with their “girl power” (+2). This video could not look less rehearsed. The band trips over things, runs into walls, and consistently fails to hit their marks. They have a short dance break (+2) in which most of them mess up their parts. Their label was concerned that the girls’ rowdiness would be considered “threatening,” which has more than a smattering of sexism to it. Since the video was (ahem) obviously shot in cold weather, it was banned in some parts of Asia. (8/10)
Final Score: Cripes. I knew that this song would be a powerhouse, but I didn’t realize it would be this dominant. There’s just no way to disconnect the Spice Girls from the 90’s, and this song proves that. We might already have our winner. A dominant (41/50).
Calloway – I Wanna Be Rich (1990)
Our first request! Daniel asked me to cover Calloway’s kitschy one hit.
90’s Band Name: They’re a band named after their last name, like future entry Hanson, which is enough of a pattern to grant them a few points, but I don’t know if it’s enough to separate them from non-90’s bands like Van Halen, Bon Jovi, and Santana. However, their first names were Vincent and Reginald, which amuses me for some reason. You wouldn’t think two brothers named Vincent and Reginald would start a band together. Maybe a fox hunt coordination company. (3/10)
90’s Musical Stylings: Okay, this is gonna be trouble. I’m sorry, Daniel, but despite appearing in the 90’s, there’s nothing 90’s about this song. It’s an 80’s song to its core: the drum machine and crazy drum fills, the synth, the plinking keyboard, the falsetto on the bridge, the random whistle blowing, the moaning all through the breakdown. It’s just an 80’s track that came a year too late. However, it is awfully fun, and I think it’s worth sticking with this breakdown because the music video is fantastic. (0/10)
90’s Cred: They’re a one-hit wonder (+1), so they get a point, but nothing more. However, their Wikipedia entry ends with this: “After the hits dried up, the Calloways concentrated on production work. Yet they still release albums to this day.” I see your sneaky snideness, Wikipedia, and I love it. (1/10)
Pop Culture: It was used in an episode of “Beverly Hills 90210.” Gotta count for something. (1/10)
Music Video: HOO BOY. Where to begin?
This video starts with the two Calloways in their living room, in glorious sepia-toned footage, just doing bro stuff. You know, dancing, playing on their keyboards, ironing, lifting weights, all while singing to each other. You know, like brothers do. There are lot of tight shots of both the weightlifting and the ironing, as if the director watched Vincent (or Reginald) iron and told the cameraman, “make sure you get a lot of this hot ironing action.”
Speaking of hot action, there is a ton of weightlifting footage in this video. Reginald (or Vincent) really wanted to show off his athletic prowess, so there he is, pumping barbells over and over again. Since watching someone do curls is a bit dull, the cameraman zooms wildly in and out as he lifts. At one point, the cameraman accidentally zooms in on his crotch, then quickly drops the camera down so that it’s filming Vincent (or Reginald)’s sock. For some reason, this makes the final cut.
By the first verse, the guys are complaining about how they have no cash and everything’s going wrong (possibly because they spend all their time ironing and lifting instead of looking for jobs). Their car gets repossessed, a storyline that is easy to grasp because the video has 8 separate shots of the boys waving their arms and yelling at a man who tows their car away from their house. Just for safety, they also have this:
A shot of the repossession notice itself.
Almost immediately, however, the narrative goes the other way, as we are briefly introduced to this mysterious figure.
Who is she? Someone unattainable, apparently, because of the lack of riches. Perhaps she is a very expensive prostitute.
The video finishes with an exceptionally poorly choreographed dance sequence, punctuated by a series of spinning high kicks. The band is clearly really into these high kicks, because, midway through one of Reginald (or Vincent)’s kicks, the video cuts to the crowd cheering, then cuts back to Vincent (or Reginald) finishing the kick. Epic.
Were this a “Most 80’s” or “sexiest ironing” video, I would award them ALL THE POINTS. As it is, (0/10). Sorry, boys.
Final Score: Not 90’s. But I’m glad I got to be a part of this. (5/50)