The Hits of 1990: Let's Dance Again
Rap, R&B, Dance Pop dominate - again
The big news event of 1990 was the start of the Gulf War. Iraq invaded Kuwait in August and Operation Desert Shield began in earnest with shock and awe. The 2 Germanies were officially reunited following the final destruction of the Berlin Wall. An economic recession began in the United States, a hole in the ozone layer was discovered over the North Pole, and Pioneer Electroninc sold the first GPS sytem in a new car. There was news in technology as well. The first web page was written after a working proposal for the Internet was put forward, Windows 3.0 was released, and a 16 megabit microprocessor was developed and made ready to market. The Hubble Space telescope was placed in orbit, and the Voyager and Pioneer space probes continued their success stories.
What happened in 1990's music?
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees for 1990 consisted of Louis Armstrong, Hank Ballard, Charlie Christian, Bobby Darin, The Four Seasons, The Four Tops, Gerry Goffin and Carole King, Holland, Dozier and Holland, The Kinks, The Platters, Ma Rainey, Simon and Garfunkel, and The Who. It was good to see songwriters getting credit for classic songs. The death of Stevie Ray Vaughan was a sad shock for rock and roll lovers everywhere. The first MTV Unplugged show was broadcast, starting a major trend. A band that would soon be called Pearl Jam played their first gig in Seattle. Neil Young and Crazy Horse finally got back to reality with their album Ragged Glory, while Dylan retreated into wonderland with the nursery-rhyme based Under the Red Sky. Madonna caused lots of trouble for herself all over the world, but reaped the benefits of the publicity. And a new generation of Americana artists raised on punk rock and weaned on country music started making seminal, influential recordings: Uncle Tupelo, Green on Red, John Doe, Soul Asylum and others. The decade was starting off on the right foot.
Top Hits of 1990
The top 5 worldwide songs of 1990 were, in order, Nothing Compares 2 U by Sinead O'Connor, Vogue by Madonna, Ice Ice Baby by Vanilla Ice, U Can't Touch This by MC Hammer, and It Must Have Been Love by Roxette. Other hits in the top 100 for the year were by Bel Biv Devoe, Phil Collins, en Vogue, Janet Jackson, and Technotronic. Except for Billy Idol and Bon Jovi, the top song list was amazingly bereft of anything resembling rock. It was looking like one of those cyclical returns to dance-pop. But there was something else afoot, a major trend for the new decade.
Lite Rap, White Rap, Hip Hop and R&B
All kinds of artists, old and new, black and white, cool and not-so-cool, helped to create a movement towards what was essentially a hybridization of various forms of black music. Rap was splitting up into genres such as white rap (Vanilla Ice, Beastie Boys), lite rap (MC Hammer, LL Cool J), hard rap (NWA, Ice Cube, Public Enemy), and hip hop (A Tribe Called Quest, Brand Nubian, Run DMC). Smooth R&B spiced up by rap, rock and pop was being made by Paula Abdul, Janet Jackson, Bel Biv Devoe, and many others. And then there was 2 Live Crew, still getting arrested for making Bad Rap music.
Big Ones, Great Ones
Some of the best-selling albums of 1990 were made by Janet Jackson, Phil Collins, Michael Bolton, MC Hammer, and Paula Abdul. Yes, Aerosmith had a hit album and so did Motley Crue, but they and the B-52s and Billy Joel just couldn't add up to any kind of representation for real rock music. On the other hand, some excellent albums were released this year that ultimately vindicated the first year of the decade on best album lists. The Pixies, Janes Addiction, the Cocteau Twins, Sonic Youth, Happy Mondays, Public Enemy and Megadeath all made classic records, but not enough. Things would start looking up soon.