Billboard Hot 100 Top Ten 4/13/1996: the remix

Alfred took on the top 10 Billboard Hot 100 from 20 years ago this week. I’m taking it back.

10. “Til I Hear It From You”/”Follow You Down,” Gin Blossoms: Remember double-sided hits? Remember when the only white pop/rock to make chart inroads was the adult-leaning stuff, the stuff for which Adult Top 40 was invented as a format? Remember the ’90s? This is the stuff supermarket and drugstore playlists are made of. Forever. As bland as it gets. C

9. “Doin’ It,” L.L. Cool J: Uncle L rides that sample of “My Jamaican Guy” until it weeps. The sexiest song in his catalog. A

8. “Not Gon’ Cry,” Mary J. Blige: The Waiting to Exhale soundtrack is a real wonder, a nearly perfect marriage of songwriting, production, and artist selection, this being Exhibit A. The Queen of Wronged-Woman Anthems gets the ultimate Wronged-Woman Anthem, thanks to Babyface. He won his second of three consecutive Grammys for Producer of the Year off of this album (and also Eric Clapton’s “Change the World,” which I don’t hate), and he earned it. And it’s absurd that Exhale wasn’t even nominated for the then-new award (in its third year) for Best R&B Album (which was undeservedly won by someone we’ll deal with momentarily). That said, what Blige does here is give voice to Angela Bassett’s Bernadine Harris, a woman being slapped in the face with a divorce; it’s also a great marriage of a “theme” for a movie character. Everything about this, in fact, is perfection. A+

7. “1, 2, 3, 4 (Sumpin’ New),” Coolio: He was the mid-’90s Flo Rida, the rapper of choice for pop fans, especially after the colossus that was “Gangsta’s Paradise.” This Chic- and Tom Browne-sampling dancefloor-filler is a pleasant trifle that I didn’t remotely remember. B

6. “Sittin’ Up In My Room,” Brandy: Another perfect marriage of singer, song, and production, again from Babyface’s Exhale soundtrack. The bass pops politely, and Brandy’s teen-dream singing is like the Brenda Lee of “I’m Sorry” with some grit. Lime sherbet on a summer’s day. A

5. “Down Low (Nobody Has to Know),” R. Kelly featuring Ronald Isley: My #1 single of ’96, grand high R&B drama akin to a ’30s Bette Davis movie. Kelly the producer pushes Isley to wring every last drop out of his voice, and Isley obliges. I believe every moment. A+

4. “Ironic,” Alanis Morrissette: It is what it is, which is a nothing-special singalong. B-

3. “Nobody Knows,” The Tony Rich ProjectThis is the motherfucker who won that Best R&B Album Grammy, over Oleta Adams (eh), Curtis Mayfield (ok), Me’shell Ndegéocello (WHAT) and Maxwell (ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME). He’s basically Bernadine Harris’s husband, a black man who wants to be white; note that this song hit #2 pop and Adult Contemporary, but only #11 R&B. And a cover of it by Kevin Sharp spent 4 weeks atop the Country chart in early ’97. 25 years earlier this would’ve been a hit for Jim fucking Croce. F

2. “Always Be My Baby,” Mariah Carey: The original is light and airy, essentially a meringue (and still in rotation on most AC stations). The version I will forever love, however, is Jermaine Dupri’s Mr. Dupri Remix, which gloriously samples “Tell Me If You Still Care” by the S.O.S. Band, an ’82 top 5 R&B single produced and written by — well, whaddaya know — Jimmy “Jam” Harris and Terry Lewis. (Fun fact: it was because of the sessions for the S.O.S. album On the Rise that Harris and Lewis were fired from the Time by their boss Prince, because a freak blizzard kept them from making it to the next date on the 1999 tour. I’d argue this song alone is worth it.) The Mr. Dupri Remix, which was constantly hammered on R&B radio in the spring of ’96, also features lovely background vocals from Xscape and a sharp rap from Da Brat, inexplicably always better on other people’s (namely Mariah’s) records than on her own. Carey’s vocal, re-sung for this remix, is better too: it’s more soulful and it’s sexier. Original: B-, Remix: A+

1. “Because You Loved Me,” Celine Dion: Machine-made for maximum impact, written by Diane Warren and produced by David Foster, it’s basically the aural equivalent of wallpaper paste. I think Dion tends to get a bad rap, but this song plays to all of her worst tendencies, and she predictably oversings the fuck out of it. D


About thomasinskeep

I write about music.
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