Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Best albums of the '90s

Let's take a lengthy look back at (what I thought was) the best albums of the '90s.

1. Alanis Morissette - Jagged Little Pill (1995)
Alanis Morissette's star may have faded this decade and any recent attempts of a new release have foiled, but in the mid '90s there weren't an alternative, pop/rock female artist who could do it better. Her masterpiece third album was a resplendent piece--and a pretty good bandwagon to jump on at the time (as it sold 34 million copies worldwide and was nominated for 6 Grammys, winning 4). Plugged with rage--a slick combination of acoustic styled ballads, mid-tempos and your archetypal fashioned alternative pop/rock numbers, all fronted by Morissette's off pitch, but still bearable vocal. The vengeful hit single "You Oughta Know" is just among the many highlights--the chorus is terrific. The string and drum backed ballad "Hand In My Pocket" is another favorite. The carefree "Ironic" which became the albums biggest hit in the U.S. is another one I really love. This is possibly the most ambitious album ever recorded by a teen.

(Standout tracks: You Oughta Know, Ironic, Right Through You, Hand In My Pocket, You Learn, Perfect, Forgiven)

2. Céline Dion - Falling Into You (1996)
After three English releases that solidified Céline Dion's name as a household name, she capitalized on that success with her fourth album--which made Dion a force in pop music to be reckoned with. Winning 2 Grammys and selling up to 30 million worldwide, Falling Into You, isn't just amongst the best albums of the '90s, but possibly among the best pop albums of all time. It's packed with some spectacular pop moments like the 7 minute climatic, Jim Steinman produced ballad "It's All Coming Back to Me Now" (the accompanying video was just as dramatically haunting). The famous remake of Eric Carman's 1975 hit "All By Myself" in which features that wonderful moment where Dion hits that long note, where the breathtaking orchestra soars behind her and plays out just as dramatic. More highlights include the melodic ballad "Because You Loved Me" and the energetic remake of "River Deep, Mountain High."

(Standout track: All By Myself, It's All Coming Back to Me Now, River Deep, Mountain High, Because You Loved Me, Call the Man, I Don't Know, Dreamin' of You, Falling Into You, Fly)

3. Janet Jackson - janet. (1993)
Showing she was socially conscious on 1989's Rhythm Nation 1814, mostly filled with hard hitting, cutting edge beats and rhythms--Janet Jackson let loose on her fifth album, it was the first time Jackson has portrayed her more sensual side to the world--stemming from the sultry lead single "That's the Way Love Goes" thumping a slick soulful bassline, fronted by Jackson's smooth vocal. Among the albums biggest highlights is the dark, new jack swing inspired "If" in which we find Jackson successfully attempting more haunting, deep vocals on the verse before letting up on the hook and chorus. The vengeful "This Time" which includes some interesting operatic moments and the piano ballad "Again" are also favorites. One of the albums notable moments would be on the seductive "Any Time, Any Place" which is among Jackson's most sensual offerings to date, laced with a soothing jazzy horn, lenient clicks and piano keys. The janet. album is her best work.

(Standout tracks: If, Thats the Way Love Goes, Any Time, Any Place, Again, This Time, Because of Love, Funky Big Band, Whoops Now, What'll I Do)

4. R. Kelly - R. (1998)
During the '90s, arguably R. Kelly was the best male R&B artist of that decade and through the decade he released 3 back to back, consecutively brilliant albums--so it's hard to pick a favorite but nevertheless, his fourth album (2-disc) was a fantastic album, that really capitalized on '90s R&B. Plugged with funky urban tinged basslines (which mostly featured on the first disc) and a series of passionate and constraining ballads (which mostly featured on the second). The albums biggest highlights mostly come up on the second disc--the fantastic orchestral ballad, duet with Celine Dion on "I'm Your Angel" which has become a forgotten chart topper. The signature, uplifting ballad "I Believe I Can Fly" (which is among my favorite songs of all time). The funky piano laced, click and clap backed "Spendin' Money" is fine number from the first disc. The sexy mid-tempo "Half on a Baby" and the old fashioned ballad "If I Could Turn Back the Hands."

(Standout tracks: I Believe I Can Fly, I'm Your Angel, Home Alone, Only the Loot Can Make Me Happy, If I Could Turn Back the Hands, Half on a Baby, Don't Put Me Out, Ecetera, Reality, Gotham City)

5. The Bodyguard Soundtrack (1992)
Possibly among the most important and biggest selling soundtrack of all time, selling a mass of 42 million worldwide it also won the Grammy for Album of the Year. There are only a few cases were the soundtrack actually succeeds the movie--and this is one of those rare cases. The album was chock full of fantastic songs, both uptempo and balladry. It's easy to forget that it's not just a Whitney Houston album, after the first 6 solid tracks performed by Houston--other artists also contribute to the albums highlights like Kenny G's soulful, bluesy "Even If My Heart Would Break" laced nicely with horns, strings and piano, Lisa Stansfield's upbeat "Someday (I'm Coming Back" and Soul System's rendition of Bill Withers' 1972 classic "Lovely Day." Back to the Whitney's side of the album--the first 4 tracks are as solid as ever--her signature ballad; her vocally powerful rendition of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You," the romantic "I Have Nothing" I've always loved the horns they incorporate on here, the heartrending "Run to You" and the classic '90s dance-pop styled remake of "I'm Every Women."

(Standout tracks: I Will Always Love You, I Have Nothing, Lovely Day, I'm Every Women, Run to You, Even If My Heart Would Break, Someday (I'm Coming Back), Queen of the Night

6. Mariah Carey - Daydream (1995)
I have a full review for this album coming soon so I don't wanna say too much. Daydream is my favorite Mariah Carey album and possibly one of the most solid pop albums ever created. Daydream was the first time Mariah had incorporated elements of R&B and hip-hop into her music--which was also reflected in the phenomenal collaboration with Boyz II Men on the uplifting ballad "One Sweet Day" which stayed atop the Hot 100 for a whopping 16 weeks. The lead single "Fantasy" is also among the highlights, sampling Tom Tom Club's 1982 hit "Genius of Love" it was also more urban than anything Carey had did at the time. The dreamy "Underneath the Stars" and the acoustic, urban soaked "Always Be My Baby" are also favorites.

(Standout tracks: One Sweet Day, Fantasy, Always Be My Baby, Open Arms, When I Saw You, Underneath the Stars, Forever, I Am Free)

7. Madonna - Ray of Light (1998)
After the lukewarm reception of her previous album, Bedtime Stories, Madonna waited 4 years before releasing another. With a new lease on life, Madonna churned out the best album of her career, Ray of Light, was her first step into electronica--with help from techno producer William Orbit, who produced the some of the albums greatest moments, like the trance styled "Swim" the retro synth fronted, guitar backed "Candy Perfume Girl" thumping a dark, trip-hop designed bassline, the very very unusual "Shanti/Ashtangi" and the spacey cultured closing number "Mer Girl." The best Madonna/William hook up is on the retrospective opening number "Drowned World/Substitute for Love," the title track is another knockout. More highlights include the haunting "Frozen," the synth styled, melodic laden "The Power of Goodbye" and sweet ode to her daughter "Little Star."

(Standout tracks: Drowned World/Substitute for Love, Ray of Light, Mer Girl, Frozen, Nothing Really Matters, The Power of Goodbye, Little Star, Skin, Candy Perfume Girl)

8. Backstreet Boys - Millennium (1999)
Capitalizing on the teen-pop era was the third (second U.S.) album from Backstreet Boys. Millennium became an earth shattering smash for the boys, selling a staggering 40 million copies worldwide. I would've named it the best pop album of 1999. With the help of pop genius, Max Martin--they carved out a perfect pop album, plugged with fresh catchy numbers such as the worldwide hit and possibly signature song "I Want It That Way," the haunting harmonious ballad "Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely" and the persistent, energetic "Larger than Life."

(Standout tracks: I Want It that Way, Larger than Life, Back to Your Heart, Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely, The One, It's Gotta Be You, I Need You Tonight)

9. Lauryn Hill - The Misedcucation of Lauryn Hill (1998)
After disbanding from The Fugees, Lauryn Hill put out her debut album, which would go on to becoming among the best masterpieces in R&B and Hip-Hop. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, earned Hill 5 Grammys, including Album of the Year and sales of 19 million worldwide. Constructed with hard hitting beats--verging on both Hip-Hop and R&B guidelines and fronted by deep, esoteric lyrics and Hill's gritty vocal--the album is a very compelling listen and possibly among the few strict urban based albums that can appeal to audiences across the genre board. From the anthem styled opener "Lost Ones" through the singles "Ex Factor" and "Doo Wop (That Thing)" to the closing light R&B flavored remake of "Can't Take My Eyes off of You" the album runs seamlessly, it's R&B perfection.

(Standout tracks: Doo Wop (That Thing), Lost Ones, Ex Factor, I Use to Love Him, When It Hurts So Bad, Final Hour, Can't Take My Eyes off of You, To Zion)

10. Britney Spears - ...Baby One More Time (1999)
The power of the debut album from Britney Spears is definitely undeniable. Producer Max Martin, had struck gold with the Backstreet Boys and N'SYNC and Spears was next. The album was a simple yet coercive venture in teen-pop--the painfully catchy piano ridden title track, the energetic stomper "(You Drive Me) Crazy" and the cute pop ballads "Sometimes" and "From the Bottom of My Broken Heart" were all that shaped the album to appeal to teen audiences, which was a result of sales of 25 million worldwide. This may not be Spears' best album (although I like it a lot), but is amongst the most important albums in the teen-pop genre.

(Standout tracks: ...Baby One More Time, (You Drive Me) Crazy, Sometimes, From the Bottom of My Broken Heart, I Will Be There, The Beat Goes On)


rcLoy said...

*Clap Clap Clap*
Great list.
I still remember that Alanis and BSB used to be very very HUGE those days.
Ah, my eternal love for BSB. Can't wait for the new album. =)
Mimi gotta release a single better than Obsessed. We Belong Together is too good. Doubt she can top that. Too bad.

J.Mensah said...

Why thank you! =]

I bet they were huge, sometimes I really wish I'd lived my teens through the '90s--just for the music.

Yeah, Mariah probably will never top WBT -- it's a modern day classic.

You know what, you've actually got me excited for the upcoming BSB album =] did you like their last 2?

ww_adh said...

I lived my teens through the '90s! I won't lie--It was great. Definitely agree with Jagged Little Pill, Falling Into You, Janet and Ray of Light--I love all three. I like the Bodyguard, Millennium, Daydream, and Lauryn Hill although I don't think they'd make my top 10. There's no much rock here--how about R.E.M.'s Automatic for the People? Nirvana's Nevermind? Personally, my two favorite albums of the '90s were Annie Lennox's Diva and Madonna's Erotica.

J.Mensah said...


It just seemed like such a great decade and the only wasy I could've lived my teens through that decade if my mum was one of thoughs teenage ho's who get knocked up at 13--that would've been nice for me =]

Nirvana's Nevermind should've been included. I LOVE that album. I've listened to Automatic but I'm head over heels for it--although so many people praise it. I don't like Madonn's Erotica as much as you, but I thought it was good album.

rcLoy said...

J: I did love their last two. I think I might be biased but seriously, I didn't think it was that bad. Great pop songs. Maybe Mimi comeback overshadowed their comeback at that time. I still remember MC's WBT top the chart for gazilion weeks while Incomplete just hit some like top20 in billboard. Sad cos Incomplete is such a power ballad. There are lots of goodies there. But my personal favourite is either Black & Blue or Millenium. That two is just too good. 90's POP! Plus "How Did I Fall In Love With You" is just pure awesome in the B&B album. You should totally check it out. =)