In January 1993, Bill Clinton, the 42nd president of the United States, was sworn into office. In February, terrorists set off a bomb in a parking garage of the World Trade Center, killing six. In April, federal agents besieged the Branch Davidian religious cult in Waco, Texas. The European Union was formally established in November. In the following month, notorious drug trafficker Pablo Escobar was killed in a gunfight with Colombian security forces.
On the pop culture side in 1993, the three highest-grossing films were Jurassic Park, The Fugitive and The Firm. The top-rated primetime sitcoms were Home Improvement, Seinfeld and Roseanne. Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You,” Tag Team’s “Whoomp! (There It Is)” and UB40’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love” were the top three Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles.
A 2016 retrospective Vibe article declared 1993 “the year hip-hop and R&B conquered the world.” Hip hop classic Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) dropped, and Janet Jackson’s Janet went on to sell over 14 million copies. In June 1993, seven of the top 10 songs on the pop charts were of the R&B variety, including two from vocal group SWV, “Weak” and “I’m So Into You.” Grunge and alternative rock was at its height in 1993. The year saw the release of seminal albums Pearl Jam’s Vs., Nirvana’s In Utero, Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream and Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville.
The following six one-hit wonders reflect how eclectic the pop charts were in 1993. We’ve included hip hop, soul, dance, and even comedy metal. To qualify as a 360°Sound one-hit wonder, an artist must have just one entry in the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100. Don that plaid flannel shirt, dust off the Sony Discman, and get ready to crank these rad one-hitters.
Digable Planets – “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)”
Songwriters: Ishmael Butler, Craig Irving and Mariana Vieira
Genre: Jazz rap
Billboard Hot 100: #15 on March 6
Jazz rap had a moment in the 1990s with acts like A Tribe Called Quest, Pete Rock & CL Smooth, and Guru’s Jazzmatazz series. One of the best to fuse the genres was Brooklyn hip hop trio Digable Planets.
Their Grammy-winning #15 pop hit “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)” featured the groovy double bass from 1978’s “Stretching” by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. Another tune sampled was 24-Carat Black’s “Foodstamps.” [Click here to read the fascinating story behind the oft-sampled ‘70s funk group].
Positive K – “I Got a Man”
Songwriters: Byron Lee Miller, Roland Bautista, Darryl Gibson and Janice Marie Johnson
Genre: Hip hop
Hot 100: #14 on March 20
Bronx’s Darryl Gibson, better known as Positive K, first tasted success in 1988 with the minor hit “I’m Not Havin’ It,” a duet with rapper MC Lyte. For the song “I Got a Man” in 1992, Positive K sought to follow the same formula, but MC Lyte was unavailable. So, Positive K did both the male and female vocals, pitching up his voice in the studio for the woman’s part.
The song, which sampled A Taste of Honey’s disco hit “Rescue Me,” centers on a dude trying to pick up a chick. She brushes him off by letting him know she already has a man. The music video for “I Got a Man” was one of the first from director Hype Williams.
Tasmin Archer – “Sleeping Satellite”
Songwriters: Tasmin Archer, John Beck and John Hughes
Hot 100: #32 on June 5
British pop singer Tasmin Archer only had one hit, but boy, was it a good one. The lyrically poignant “Sleeping Satellite,” which shot to number one in her native U.K., stood out on the U.S. pop charts with Archer’s soulful vocals and its sophisticated production.
“The line, “I blame you for the moonlit sky/And the dream that died” isn’t a criticism of man’s arrogance in leaving Earth, but more about the lack of further space exploration that might have led to a better understanding of ecological issues,” Archer told The Guardian in 2021.
Archer would notch five more top 40 hits in the U.K. over the next several years. In 1994, she released Shipbuilding, an EP of Elvis Costello covers.
Green Jellÿ – “Three Little Pigs”
Songwriters: Marc Levinthal and Bill Manspeaker
Genre: Comedy rock
Hot 100: #17 on June 12
I wouldn’t call surprise novelty hit “Three Little Pigs” a great song, but it’s certainly an interesting one. It does, however, have a great claymation music video. Theatrical comedy-rock group Green Jellÿ, originally known as Green Jell-O (they changed it following legal pressure from Kraft), formed in 1981 and still tour to this day.
Singer Bill Manspeaker has been the sole constant member. Interestingly, future Tool members Maynard James Keenan and Danny Carey were part of the group in the early ‘90s, and the video for “Three Little Pigs,” a retelling of the classic fairy tale, was directed by Fred Stuhr, who also did a couple stop motion music vids for Tool.
The Proclaimers – “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)”
Songwriters: Charlie Reid and Craig Reid
Hot 100: #3 on August 12
Hailing from Leith, Scotland, bespectacled identical twins Charlie and Craig Reid formed The Proclaimers in 1983. The duo blended folk, rock, soul, and country – all sung in close harmony with a thick Scottish accent. Their signature song, “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles),” was originally released in 1988, reaching #11 in the U.K. and topping the charts in Australia and New Zealand. It wasn’t until its inclusion in the movie Benny & Joon that it became a #3 smash in the U.S.
“I can’t play guitar, so I played it to Charlie, and he changed it to those Buddy Holly-type downstrums,” Craig told The Guardian in 2015. “It’s not a hard song to play. Right from the start, we knew it was catchy, but when we started playing it live, the reaction was tremendous. People make all sorts of interpretations of the lyrics – especially the supposed religious significance of 500 miles – but it’s just a love song. I stuck the Scottish word ‘havering’ in there because that’s just what I’d say. It means talking nonsense, but in America, one DJ thought we were singing about vomiting.”
Haddaway – “What Is Love”
Songwriters: Dee Dee Halligan and Junior Torello
Hot 100: #11 on December 11
Eurodance was all the rage in 1993. The cheesy but fun electronic dance subgenre was characterized by thumping bass rhythms, synth lines and powerful vocals (often with rap verses interspersed).
2 Unlimited’s “No Limit” and Culture Beat’s “Mr. Vain” were two of the big Eurodance hits of ’93, but the most memorable one was Haddaway’s “What is Love,” which topped the charts in 13 countries. While it may be hard to hear “What is Love” without picturing SNL’s Butabi brothers (Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan) bobbing their heads and humping clubgoers, taken on its own, it still slaps three decades later.