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The Grahammy's 90/90
Volume 4, Number 5
Thursday, January 6, 2000

"Kinda like MTV 1515 on Mad Dog 20/20 but not really"

Singles. No, I'm not alluding to Cameron Crowe's 1992 opus about Gen X. No, I'm not talkin' bout those handy portions of Kraft cheese you can pick up in the dairy section of your local supermarket. And no, I'm not referencing the marriage status of 83.67346% of you on this distribution list. What I actually referring to are those shimmering moments of music when a particular band or artist momentarily grabs hold of the national Zeitgeist with an anthem that makes everything at that moment in time seem a-okay. Aka singles. Some groups have the knack for coming up with the perfect hook, a great backbeat, or a spot-on sample that propels their work into our collective conscious. They represent slices of life, and thus, are exceedingly difficult to quantify. Each song is interpreted/understood by the individual and filtered through events and experiences uniquely their own. As I was bemoaning on the last edition of The Grahammy's 90/90, music is SO personal that I know that some of you are going to have some qualms about what did and didn't make the list. That's Coolio by me. To each his/her own. Word is born. But these are the 45 Greatest Singles Of The Decade as voted on by your humble narrator. And in an attempt to try and best represent what the Decade In Singles meant to me with both depth and breadth, I limited the number of artist appearances to one. Each band or artist mentioned below is represented by their best shot at the heavyweight crown, the One Shining Moment They Reached For The Stars (if you will). So, in conclusion, remember to never rub another mans' rhubarb. And with that...

45) "
I Think I'm In Love (Chemical Brothers Mix)", Spiritualized (`98) - When I'm not with you, I'm not all myself.
44) "
Blue", The Jayhawks (`95) - Where have all my friends gone?
43) "
Grace, Too", Tragically Hip (`95) - They say I'm fabulously rich.
42) "
#1 Crush", Garbage (`96) - Obsessive sensuality from Shirley (Don't Call Me Marilyn) Manson.
41) "
Oh Rock", Prime Ministers (`97) - The catchiest pop song from a Detroit band since Mitch Ryder's "Devil With A Blue Dress/Good Golly Miss Molly".
40) "
Go", Moby (`92) - Laura Palmer's Theme + breakbeats = classic.
39) "
Friendly Advice", Luna (`94) - Baaaaa baaaaa, bah b ba bah.
38) "
Gold Soundz", Pavement (`94) - We need secrets.
37) "
Standing Outside A Broken Phone Booth With Money In My Hand", Primitive Radio Gods (`96) - The BB King sample was pure genius.
36) "
Violet", Hole (`94) - And the sky was made of amethyst.
35) "
Nearly Lost You", Screaming Trees (`92) - The best grunge song not by Nirvana.
34) "
Ghetto Supastar", Pras feat. Maya and ODB (`98) - Ubiquitous during the summer of `98.
33) "
Birdhouse In Your Soul", They Might Be Giants (`90) - The bluebird of friendliness, like a guardian angel it's always here.
32) "
Get It Together", Beastie Boys feat. Q-Tip (`94) - Like Ma Bell, they got the Ill Communication.
31) "
Silent All These Years", Tori Amos (`92) - Excuse me but can I be you for awhile?
30) "
Cannonball", Breeders (`93) - Contains the best bass line of the decade.
29) "
Fake Plastic Trees", Radiohead (`95) - Mistakenly represented as all that was wrong with college angst in "Clueless"; it's actually everything that's RIGHT about angst.
28) "
Laid", James (`93) - She only comes when she's on top.
27) "
It Was A Good Day", Ice Cube (`92) - Every time I look for the Goodyear Blimp, I'm hoping it's going to read "Ice Cube's A Pimp".
26) "
He's On The Phone", Saint Etienne (`95) - Seeing them do this live at St. Andrew's Hall was a sheer delight.
25) "
My Mind's Playin' Tricks On Me", Geto Boys (`91) - Instead
of celebrating Thug Life, this song takes you deep down into the pitfalls of the lifestyle.
24) "
Groove Is In The Heart", Deee-lite (`90) - Your groove I do deeply dig.
23) "
Thunderstorm", Matthew Sweet (`99) - Exquisite cacophony meets joyously mellow harmonies through the filter of Phil Spector's Wall Of Sound recording style.
22) "
Fantasy", Mariah Carey feat. ODB (`95) - When you walk by every night, talkin' sweet and lookin' fine, I get kinda hectic inside.
21) "
Black Metallic", Catherine Wheel (`92) - The greatest single of the shoegazing era.
20) "
Underwhelmed", Sloan (`92) - If the Beatles were an indie pop band from Nova Scotia, this is what they'd sound like. "Penpals" was a close second.
19) "
Torn", Natalie Imbruglia (`98) - If there was ever a song that was the equivalent of a Pixy Stick, this is it. Highly addictive and ultimately pretty empty, but very, very tasty.
18) "
Born Slippy (NUXX)", Underworld (`96) - Lager lager lager.
17) "
The Humpty Dance", Digital Underground (`90) - I still don't know definitively if Shock G and Humpty Hump were two different people. And I hear Clarky once got busy in a Burger King bathroom.
16) "
Ice Ice Baby", Vanilla Ice (`90) - Don't laugh and don't pretend like you don't know all the words by heart. Contains the definitive sample in the history of hip-hop.
15) "
Unfinished Sympathy", Massive Attack (`91) - 1999 Con D Award winner for Single Of The Decade.
14) "
Tender", Blur (`99) - Words cannot describe the brilliance of this song. It's either 20 years ahead of it's time or 30 years behind, I can't decide.
13) "
Missing (Todd Terry Remix)", Everything But The Girl (`95) - Probably the best love song ever written with over 140 bpm.
12) "
MMM Bop (Dust Brothers Mix)", Hanson (`97) - These little bastards went out and wrote one of the catchiest pop hooks of all-time and then promptly dropped off the radar screen. I thought for sure that the keyboard-playing singer (Tyler? Taylor?) was a chick.
11) "
Wonderwall", Oasis (`95) - Love 'em or hate 'em, Oasis a great singles band. I don't believe that anybody feels the way I do about you now.
10) "
Nothing Compares 2 U", Sinead O'Connor (`90) - Easily the hottest bald chick of all-time. One of Prince's finest songwriting achievements was perfectly complimented by Sinead's soothing Irish lilt and obvious emotional investment.
9) "
California Love", 2-Pac & Dr. Dre (`96) - "Fresh outta jail/out on bail/California dreamin'/Soon as I hit the stage I'm hearin' hoochie screamin". The best hip-hop collaboration of all-time, recorded right before the demise of Death Row Records.
8) "
Radiation Vibe", Fountains Of Wayne (`96) - Probably destined for nothing larger than cult-appreciation, FOW (as they're known in fan circles) writes nothing but 3-minute pop ditties laced with irresistable hooks. This is their triumph.
7) "
Cherub Rock", Smashing Pumpkins (`93) - Billy Corgan's anthemic dis to all the indie-rockers who sold out during the Major Label gold-rush of the Early `90s. Chock-full of vitriol and roaring guitars.
6) "
Last Goodbye", Jeff Buckley (`94) - He was a rare-talent, more raw potential than fully-realized artist. His voice had the uncanny ability to dive and soar across octaves, conveying sheer emotion by changing the pitch of his voice.
5) "
Pictures Of You", The Cure (`90) - Though "Disintegration" hit the streets in mid-1989, this single was not officially released until January of 1990, thereby just squeaking into eligibility. Heartbreak and longing and disappointment and lost love in song. With this and 1987's "Just Like Heaven", Robert Smith bookends the polar opposites of love, from depressive recollection to dizzying delight.
4) "
Smells Like Teen Spirit", Nirvana (`91) - Like I said in my album countdown, what more can be said about Nirvana? Essential.
3) "
Smack My Bitch Up", Prodigy (`97) - Will be forever connected to the out-of-control world of illicit drug-use and endless clubbing thanks to its Best Ever Video by Jonas Akerlund and it's appearance in "Permanent Midnight." Guaranteed to get your blood pumping and to kick-start your heart (without the painful hangover of Motley Cre-ing to worry about). Change my pitch up.
2) "
Bittersweet Symphony", The Verve (`97) - A triumphant moment. Climbing from the ashes of 1995's 89X Fest like a phoenix, Richard Ashcroft's lyrical supremacy and Nick McCabe's guitar soundscapes used to flow seamlessly together into sonic heaven. Forget U2, Oasis, Radiohead, and REM; The Verve are the Best Band In the World. Too bad they don't exist anymore. At this time, Richard was trying to "Hear some sounds that recognize the pain in me...But the airwaves are clean/And there's nobody talking to me now." From the first moment I heard the thumping double beat lay down across the sweeping orchestral melody (ripped shamelessly from the Stones but who cares), I knew that this song was something special. Playing this song on an endless loop one weekend at Wartinbee's former Chicago flat when it first came out (mid-June 1997) is a great memory.
1) "
Common People", Pulp (`95) - Remember when I was speaking earlier about the Zeitgeist? Well, most of you know I'm not quite the Anglophile I used to be. Whereas my posse and I used to try and get the inside scoop on the British music scene in the mid-90s by endlessly pouring through Q and NME and Select, my interest in the British music scene has dampened. It seems that World Domination by Boy Bands has conquered the spirit of Indie Bands on both sides of the pond, especially those that reigned over the British charts during the Glory Days of `94-`96 (like Pulp, Oasis, Blur, Charlatans UK, etc.). But even a few years removed from this musical scene, it's impossible to deny the power and emotion Jarvis and his bandmates laid down on this Anthem to top all Anthems from 1995. Though the subject matter may be foreign (literally) to most of you, the underlying themes are universal. Rich snobbios must go down. As the tension of the song builds, you feel yourself identify with Jarvis Cocker's working-class art student who has had enough of the female socialite out who picks him up while slumming, asking him to try and teach her to "act like common people." The lyrics and music start in a hushed whisper and build into a frenetic crescendo that gives me chills to this day. When Pulp headlined Glasto in `95 and had the crowd of 200,000 + singing along, it must've been a magical moment. Though they only held the public's imagination for a few short months (and never met with any acclaim in America), Pulp's Zeitgiest-capturing single portrayed that one moment in time so effectively that they are proudly awarded The Grahammy Award for Best Single Of The `90s.

Thanks for your patience, until next year...

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