On with the show.
- Goodnight Girl – Wet Wet Wet – 4 weeks, January 19th to February 15th
The first number one of the year is also coincidently the dullest. Last time we saw Wet Wet Wet we saw them butchering a classic from The Beatles, this time we see them do an original song – and the results are not much better, though for slightly different reasons. Marti Pellow is still not a very good vocalist, with many moments of flatness and straining to hit the high notes; given how most of the song is dominated by him it makes Goodnight Girl quite difficult to listen to all the way through. Musically there are some OK uses of strings used in this song but they often feel quite wasted thanks to the incredibly dull nature of the song; the melody feels far too gloomy for a song that seems to be trying to be upbeat with its lyrics. Those lyrics are also very banal with its lovey dovey spirit and overall trite nature; it’s so generic that you’ll forget them once the song ends. This leads to one of the least exciting ways to begin a chart year I think I’ve ever seen and shows off the overwhelmingly dull nature of Wet Wet Wet.
- Stay – Shakespeares Sister – 8 weeks – February 16th to April 11th
The song that holds the record for the longest stay at number one for an all-girl group, in no small part thanks to the famous video, Stay is a much more engaging ballad than the last entry. That’s mainly thanks to the gloomy and somewhat gothic feel to it that gives it its own identity compared to many other love ballads of the age. This is reflected in the haunting and minimalistic keyboard line that runs through the song, being pretty much the only instrument for the first verse and the chorus before being joined by the bass and drum beat for the second verse. Marcella Detroit also delivers a haunting and fearful vocal performance, though the production of the song gives her vocals somewhat of a vibrato that can get a little tiring at times. The part of the song that stands out most however is the bridge, where all the instruments, most notably the guitar, come crashing in at once to give a delightfully dark spirit to it, with Siobhan Fahey delivering a very strong and throaty vocal performance to contrast Marcella’s airy soprano that give Stay an almost nightmarish quality to it. This all adds up to a great ballad that feels dark and haunting yet uplifting and positive at the same time.
- Deeply Dippy – Right Said Fred – 3 weeks – April 12th to May 2nd
Despite being far much more known for the very silly I’m Too Sexy, the only time where the brothers Fairbrass reached the top spot in the UK was with their follow-up Deeply Dippy. The former song was a rather annoying brag about the supposedly attractive qualities of the singer and had an obnoxiously low and tuneless vocal performance. Deeply Dippy is better by comparison; I enjoy the guitar intro with the sound of the plucked strings sounding marvellous, especially as little ripples of electric guitar strum around them. These give the song a wonderfully groovy edge to it, especially when the song erupts with glorious trumpets and drums midway through. Richard Fairbrass’ vocals are also much better this time around, being a bit more soulful and less obnoxiously deep, even if his obvious accent comes through a few too many times. As such, Deeply Dippy is a far superior song by Right Said Fred even if it’s far from their most remembered number.
- Please Don’t Go/Game Boy – KWS – 5 weeks, May 3rd to June 6th
Italian Eurodance group Double You did a rendition of Please Don’t Go by KC and the Sunshine Band that became a massive hit in Europe, hitting the top spot in Belgium, Netherlands and Spain. The UK couldn’t get the distribution rights to the song though – and so Network Records got British band KWS to do a rerecording that rocketed up to the top spot. Clearly they saw something in a dance version of Please Don’t Go that I don’t really see. It’s merely an OK song, with the title being repeated practically all throughout whenever the lead vocals aren’t being performed being incredibly irritating by the sheer number of times it gets repeated. Singer Delroy St. Joseph himself is also no Harry Wayne Casey with his voice being very tuneless and hampered by its low pitch. Musically the remix is very uninspired with a standard drum machine and the keyboard line being repeated ad nauseum to the point where it gets utterly exhausting – whether or not you listen to the 3:40 single mix or the 6:13 album rendition (which makes it seem as though the producers accidently put the song on repeat) you’re going to be left with an absolute headache and exhaustion from the sheer overrun of the song and all the utter repetition that makes this version of Please Don’t Go so irritating.
It’s the double A-side title on this record that’s far more interesting as it’s another contender for hardest song to be a number 1 single. Game Boy is a tune that’s intended for intense club raves with its pounding keyboard rhythm and strong drum beat, as well as samples of a woman’s gleeful shout and a man’s stuttered voice. It is a very strange song, going from the gloomy sounding club rave to containing a more upbeat piano riff to the grinding sound of seemingly mechanical devices before heading back into the main melody. As such it’s a hodgepodge of dance related stuff that becomes very messy when stacked upon one another but there’s definitely signs of a strong club tune buried within it and it’s far more exciting than the better promoted other A-side.
- Abba-esque (EP) – Erasure – 5 weeks, June 7th to July 11th
It’s fitting that a band as super camp as Erasure would have their biggest success in the UK with a collection of covers by ABBA, a group renowned for having a solid gay fanbase. Thanks to this and the juggernaut best seller Gold: Greatest Hits, ABBA fever really came back with a vengeance in the 90s and it’s not too hard to see why this EP would be a catalyst for that. Consisting of four covers of ABBA songs from all points of their career – Lay All Your Love on Me, S.O.S., Take a Chance on Me and Voulez-Vous – the EP takes these classics and gives them a stark and somewhat darker feel whilst not removing the fun that ABBA imbued in them in the first place. This is mainly achieved by making the songs more minimal and bare, mostly relying on simply the keyboards and quiet drum machines, giving them this haunting spirit that makes you begin to question the original songs – S.O.S. in particular sounds far more desperate and frightening than the original. Even the most upbeat of the covers, Take a Chance on Me, seems more gloomy thanks to the beeping keyboards that give the song a dark and futuristic quality to it. With many of the songs sounding as though they were rearranged into a minor key, the EP becomes that much more sinister. Lead singer Andy Bell also performs the songs with a darker feel to it – he doesn’t have the range that Agnetha and Frida both possessed on the songs but he manages to contribute to the EP’s more sinister atmosphere with his gloomy sounding vocals that again help to emphasise how ABBA’s songs possessed lyrics that were somewhat gloomy yet hid behind upbeat and joyful music. Erasure really manages to expose these themes and help to make these songs their own in a great little collection of covers.
- Ain’t No Doubt – Jimmy Nail – 3 weeks, July 12th to August 1st
In the grand tradition of actors trying to make a breakthrough into the world of music there’s the star of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet and Spender, Jimmy Nail. With an album that featured an insane amount of contributors in the form of George Harrison, David Gilmour, Gary Moore and Sam Brown, his first album Growing Up in Public dropped to a good commercial reception and was led off by this song, a mix between a soft rock ballad and an R&B tune. Nail spends surprisingly little of the song singing, preferring to go for a slow speaking style for the verses, which is quite effective with its gloomy nature. When he does break into song for the chorus though it’s pretty good with his vocals being quite uplifting to go alongside the almost gospel-esque spirit of the song. It’s really the music of this song that propels this one upwards, especially in the chorus which has a wonderful upbeat spirit to it, especially with the appearance of trumpets blaring through; this can be best seen in a good solo. The lyrics are a little generic in their break-up spirit and the female vocals are a little bit of a non-presence but Ain’t No Doubt is ultimately a rather successful transition from acting to music by Jimmy Nail.
- Rhythm Is a Dancer – Snap! – 6 weeks, August 2nd to September 12th
This song may be infamous for containing what is often seen to be among the worst lyrics of all time; in the rap breakdown, where Turbo B still hasn’t improved in his craft from The Power, we get greeted by the line “I’m serious as cancer when I say that rhythm is a dancer”. The fact that family and health groups were critical of the use of the word cancer for a fluffy pop song is irrelevant; the worst crime is that as a result of trying to rhyme the two words “dancer” is mangled beyond belief with its pronunciation. It’s abysmal, I tell thee, and deservedly is the most mocked bit of this song.
Aside from the weak rap and terrible lyrical choice, Rhythm Is a Dancer is a solid dance track. For the most part it succeeds by not pissing around; it sticks with an effective melody that manages to wrangle itself into your head in a glorious way, whilst Thea Austin does well with the main vocals as they soar up and above the pulsating track. It does get a bit repetitive in places but it manages to work with the club spirit of the song. As such, although it’s bogged down by a poor rap breakdown, Rhythm Is a Dancer is a solid dance number that’s a great improvement on The Power.
- Ebeneezer Goode – The Shamen – 4 weeks, September 13th to October 10th
The most controversial number one of the year comes from a Scottish electronic dance group, who’d have thought it? Thanks to being seen as promoting casual drug use (thanks mainly to the chorus “Eezer Goode” sounding a lot like “E’s a good”, a reference to ecstasy), Ebeneezer Goode was initially banned by the BBC, even though the lyrics clearly tell the audience that you shouldn’t be abusing the drug. Whether or not The Shamen wanted all of the UK to get deep into ecstasy is irrelevant; Ebeneezer Goode works as a strong dance number. The track seems to act as a precursor for more rock based dance music in the future such as The Prodigy with its harder edge and spirit in the music; the drums pound along and it sounds as though there’s some sliding electric guitars in there. This makes Ebeneezer Goode a stomping good number for the club. The vocals are slightly annoying at times, often sounding a bit too obnoxious with the heavy East London sounding accent and the spoken word interferences throughout, but ultimately aren’t awful as they fit the spirit of the lyrics and music, fitting the dark club spirit that the song creates. As such, Ebeneezer Goode is a fun dance number thanks to its hard edge and fantastic production that makes it feel as though it can fill the floors in no time, even by people who’s not feeling the effects of old Ebeneezer.
- Sleeping Satellite – Tasmin Archer – 2 weeks, October 11th to October 24th
A significant one-hit wonder from this decade, Tasmin Archer was never able to capture the same lightning in a bottle effect that this song had with its warm and relaxed mixture of soft rock and soul. It’s a shame as Sleeping Satellite is a luscious number with its smooth and soft feeling to it; musically it’s great with the guitars, pianos and drums coming together in a quietly beautiful harmony and even in their loudest moments, which can be mostly demonstrated in the chorus, they never threaten to drown out the more serene edge of the song. Archer also gives a strong performance, one that demonstrates the power of her lungs and yet feels calm and restrained at the same time; this is made even more effective by the bridge where she las over the soft instrumentation that mixed together gives Sleeping Satellite its haunting edge. This is helped by the slightly gloomy lyrics concerning the Apollo space missions and wondering whether this advance in progress was really for the best. Overall, although it may not be the most exciting number 1 of the year, Sleeping Satellite is an enjoyable number that succeeds thanks to its groovy and calm atmosphere that it carves out as a result of the serene instrumentation and Archer’s vocals.
- End of the Road – Boyz II Men – 3 weeks, October 25th to November 14th
Though Boyz II Men were absolutely enormous in the United States during the 90s (setting the record for most weeks at number one on the Billboard charts twice) they only managed to get one song to number one over here – and it’s for the best that this was their only hit as End of the Line is a very lethargic number. Musically it’s a bore, set over a plodding drum beat whilst an awfully tacky sounding keyboard plays the same annoying notes over and over making the song an absolute bore to listen to. And that’s before we come to the boyz themselves; none of them have much charisma with their vocals, all sound exactly the same and they seem to really struggle with getting anywhere with their vocals. Whenever there’s an attempt to go for the more dramatic vocals it all goes dreadfully awry; most notable is the absolutely horrible performance in the section before the bridge where the singer sounds like he’s about to pass a kidney stone, being a nightmare to listen to. Combined that with generic lyrics trying to get a woman to come back to the singer, a very goofy bridge featuring a low spoken part that can elicit some chuckles, obnoxious improvisations over the chorus and a runtime that goes on and on – the song’s six minutes and feels like it plods on for much longer – End of the Road is ultimately a tired sounding ballad that tries to go for being epic but only serves to make me glad that Boyz II Men never topped the charts again in Britain. Stay in America, boyz.
- Would I Lie to You? – Charles and Eddie – 2 weeks, November 15th to November 28th
A far better R&B ballad comes in the form of another artist that proved to be a one hit wonder. Charles Pettigrew and Eddie Chacon may not be known for any other songs aside from this one but it’s one hell of a song to have as their only known number. What stands out the most is their vocals – the duo have a very androgynous spirit to their singing, often sounding like the Bee Gees in places. Their work with these falsetto voices work out as their vocals really soar throughout the song right from the outset. This contributes to the uplifting spirits of Would I Lie to You?, especially when combined with the female backing vocals that run throughout the song and make their presence best known on the second verse. The instrumentation is also great with its groovy and spirited piano line that gives the song a relaxed and up-tempo feel to it, combined with the lyrics that aren’t amazing but contribute to the rousing feel of the track. This leads to a song that’s a great soulful listen mainly thanks to its brilliant vocals from the main duo.
- I Will Always Love You – Whitney Houston – 10 weeks, November 29th to February 6th 1993, biggest selling single of the year
It’s a severe shame that this is arguably the signature song of Whitney Houston; it’s a number that’s greatly sappy and overblown, paling in great significance to the simpler and much more effective original version by Dolly Parton. Most of the problems of this version of I Will Always Love You recorded for her star vehicle The Bodyguard stem from the attempts where the song tries to make itself a grand epic with all the hallmarks of a song that would win the Oscar for Best Original Song (pretty moot since the Academy doesn’t allow covers to get nominated for that award). The prominence comes in with the dreadful sparkly synth that enters after the first chorus that gives this version of I Will Always Love You a gloomily dated and 90s feel to it. Houston herself demonstrates many signs of oversinging this song to a great degree, especially in the second chorus, but she does have some moments of sincerity, particularly in the acapella section to the start as she delivers Dolly’s bittersweet lyrics with some subtlety that could save the song…
But any virtues the song had are ruined in an absolute instance by the awful, horrendous, diabetes laden truck drivers gear change. This is infamous and for bloody good reason; it stands out as one of the shining examples of how not to do a key change. It’s signposted in the most horribly obvious way too – the song sounds like it’s fading out on a quiet note before wham! Drum beat and the whole song comes back in again even louder than ever. This is only made worse by the sudden transformation of Ms. Houston into an utter banshee; the way she bellows out “AND IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII-AYEYEYEYE” is absolutely laughable in how horrendously overblown she is and how she sounds like she’s cracking her voice from trying to be so unbearably loud, like she’s trying to impersonate a foghorn. This may be the fastest moment in which a song that could have been OK is completely ruined and knocked down from meh to terrible. Oh, and there’s a horribly squawky saxophone solo and an extra bit of sugary glittery synth at the end just for a final insult. This caps off a song that’s manipulative in its attempts to tug viciously upon audience heartstrings and feels like it was solely made as an attempt to sound like a song that could get nominated for an Oscar.
FINAL THOUGHTS – Before listening to the songs from this year I didn’t have my expectations set up that high. It was a year with a ridiculously small number of songs hitting the top spot – twelve, the lowest since 1962 – most of which I was fairly unaware of, with the one that I did know being deeply putrid. So I was pleasantly surprised when I found out just how many good songs actually hit the top this year – there was plenty of good R&B and some decent dance tracks that got to number one this year. What bought down the year predominantly were, as with some previous years, the sludgy ballads – Whitney Houston’s may have been most prominent but Boyz II Men and Wet Wet Wet also helped to bring the year down with their dull and slow numbers. But they weren’t enough to sink a pretty decent year, even though many of the songs may be somewhat less remembered today.
- BEST SONG – Would I Lie to You?
- WORST SONG – I Will Always Love You
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