If you’re just joining us, it’s 1990. This is not a bad thing because, as Vanilla Ice reminded us last summer, there was no coronavirus in the ’90s. (At this point, you may want to go back and get caught up on the one-hitters from 1960, 1970, and 1980.) As with the one-hitters of 1970 and 1980, we hear stark differences from the music released 10 years prior. The landscape has changed dramatically. People barely knew what a music video was in 1980, and a decade later, MTV was king.
In 1990, cassette sales hit their peak, alternative, indie and hip-hop continued their rise. Hair metal was waning, and a new brooding rock music called grunge was brewing in Seattle. House, techno and Latin freestyle had emerged from underground club music to mainstream commercial success.
To be considered a one-hit wonder, an artist must have placed one and only one Top 40 hit in the Billboard Hot 100. Allow 360°Sound to take you back 30 years as we highlight six of the greatest one-hit wonders from 1990.
Electronic – “Getting Away With It”
Songwriters: Bernard Sumner, Johnny Marr and Neil Tennant
Hot 100: #38 on May 19
Electronic was a supergroup duo formed by New Order frontman Bernard Sumner and The Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr. The first single from their self-titled album, “Getting Away With It,” features guest vocals from another British music legend, Neil Tennant of Pet Shop Boys. Ann Dudley of Art of Noise contributes a gorgeous string arrangement. Hilariously, the lyrics were meant to parody Marr’s melodramatic former bandmate, Morrissey aka The Pope of Mope.
The opening lines: I’ve been walking in the rain just to get wet on purpose/I’ve been forcing myself not to forget just to feel worse.
Electronic’s follow-up single, “Get the Message,” went to #1 on the Alternative Songs chart but didn’t even make the Hot 100. The duo had considerably more pop chart success in their native UK with eight Top 40 singles. Electronic would release two more albums in the ‘90s, Raise the Pressure and Twisted Tenderness.
George Lamond – “Bad of the Heart”
Songwriters: Philip Andreula and Marilyn Rodriguez
Hot 100: #25 on July 21
“Bad of the Heart” was one of the big hits to emerge from the Latin freestyle scene. A form of electronic dance music that peaked in popularity in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, popular freestyle acts included Stevie B, Sweet Sensation, Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam and Exposé. The lyrics are usually vapid and cliché-ridden, but the songs are danceable and fun.
Recorded for independent label Ligosa, the success of “Bad of the Heart” in dance clubs led to Lamond inking a deal with Columba and an LP of the same name followed. “Without You” and “Look Into My Eyes” were hits on the freestyle scene but didn’t crossover like “Bad of the Heart” had. Another fun freestyle one-hit wonder from 1990 was “I Want You” by Shana, which peaked at #40 in January.
Faith No More – “Epic”
Songwriters: Mike Patton, Billy Gould, Jim Martin, Roddy Bottum and Mike Bordin
Genre: Rap rock/Funk metal
Hot 100: #9 on Sept. 8
“It’s IT! What is IT”? While we may never know what “it” is, we do know that Faith No More struck gold with “Epic.” Formed in San Francisco in 1980, Faith No More blended metal, funk and hip-hop and first made waves in the mid-’80s with the college radio hit “We Care A Lot.” Original singer Chuck Mosley left the group and Mike Patton of Mr. Bungle fame filled his shoes. “Epic,” the second single from their enjoyable third album, The Real Thing, went to #2 in New Zealand and #1 in Australia.
The bizarre music video, which featured intense facial expressions from Patton and a fish flopping around on dry land, received a lot of MTV airplay. The follow-up album, 1992’s Angel Dust, sold well and received positive reviews but proved to be too strange to have much crossover appeal.
Concrete Blonde – “Joey”
Songwriter: Johnette Napolitano
Genre: Alternative rock
Hot 100: #19 on Nov. 10
Concrete Blonde’s singer/bassist Johnette Napolitano wrote this song about a love affair doomed by alcoholism for Marc Moreland, guitarist of Wall of Voodoo (best known for the new wave smash “Mexican Radio”).
But if it’s love you’re looking for/Then I can give a little more/And if you’re somewhere drunk and passed out on the floor/Oh, Joey, I’m not angry anymore
Included on the band’s gold-selling third album Bloodletting on the I.R.S. label, “Joey” spent 21 weeks on the Hot 100. Concrete Blonde would go on to release several more albums before disbanding in 2006. The following year, Napolitano released her first solo album, Scarred.
Deee-Lite – “Groove Is in the Heart”
Songwriters: Dmitry Brill, Chung Dong-Hwa, Kierin Kirby, Herbie Hancock, Jonathan Davis
Hot 100: #4 on Nov. 17
Formed in 1986, Deee-Lite were a multicultural trio consisting of DJ Dmitry (Ukraine), Towa Tei (Japan), and Lady Miss Kier (U.S.).
“We formed Deee-lite just as the musical flames of house music and hip-hop were blazing,” Lady Miss Kier told DJ Mag earlier this year. “Even with these two forces, we were also absorbing ‘60s and ‘70s jazz and funk, ‘70s and ‘80s electronic music, and ‘60s acid rock. I consider myself a musical intern for life.”
“Groove Is In The Heart,” the first single from their debut album, World Clique, blends hip-hop, funk, and disco to create one of the most cheerful songs of the ‘90s. Buoyed by the psychedelic, frenetic music video, “Groove” became a worldwide smash and topped the charts in Australia.
The song features a rap from A Tribe Called Quest’s Q-Tip and has funk legend Bootsy Collins on bass.
“I wrote Bootsy a fan letter and included our demo around 1988,” Kier told DJ Mag. “It included the song ‘Groove is in the Heart’. He called back and left a message saying if we ever got a record deal, he would be up for some sessions. I was jumping up and down.”
Jazz icon Herbie Hancock received a writing credit because the tune samples his 1966 composition “Bring Down the Birds” (one of at least eight samples on the track, according to WhoSampled.com). This year, Slant Magazine, named “Groove Is in the Heart” #3 on its list of “The 100 Best Dance Songs of All Time.”
Soho – “Hippychick”
Songwriters: Timothy Brinkhurst and Johnny Marr
Genre: Pop, Electronica
Hot 100: #14 on Nov. 24
Soho were a British dance group fronted by twin sisters Jacqueline and Pauline Cuff. Because “Hippychick” samples The Smiths’ classic “How Soon Is Now,” we have another 1990 one-hit wonder with a Johnny Marr writing credit.
“Hippychick is about a woman who’s been on a demo,” Jacqueline told Vox. “And the policeman charging her turns out to be her ex-boyfriend, who tries to entice her into dropping charges. In the U.S. people are so dim they think it’s about hippies.”
[Editor’s note: Some shit coming out of left field on this one.]