This is partially a note on methodology, but mainly a way to have one place where this whole quixotic, time-consuming project can live. Also, I have made a playlist of it, for listening.
I’ve called these “Pop Songs” using a fairly expansive definition of “Pop” which with a few exceptions just means “songs by bands”. For no reasons that would hold up under scrutiny other than to refine the scope of the thing and to play to my actual knowledge and interest this does not include individual pop stars like Madonna or Britney, hip hop, anything instrumental or jazzy, or any songs by Green Jello. Remember those guys? I have no idea why they just popped into my head, but that’s the kind of thing we’re dealing with here.
Also, I’ve tried (and occasionally failed) to limit this to one song per band, per album, because nobody wants to hear me do a track-by-track exegesis of June of 44′s Four Great Points.
I won’t go too much into the dark, nerdy magic behind the spreadsheets I made to get this list together before I started writing it up, but as a loose guideline, I used four scales to determine the rank of each song: 1. Objective musical value (oops, yikes), 2. Value to me (did I love it then?, do I love it now?), 3. ’90s-ness, and 4. Influence (on, like, future, non-’90s bands). As an example of how this worked in practice, “Hey Jealousy”, clearly the greatest song ever written, got extremely high marks in categories 2. and 3. and extremely low marks in categories 1. and 4. (because let’s be honest), which is why it is where it is on the list and (spoilers) not at #1.
This list is designed to be skimmed through and strongly disagreed with and occasionally nodded sagely at, and I hope you enjoy it. It’s been really fun to make.
Here’s the list, in 10 parts:
And if you want to listen along, here’s a playlist of all the songs that exist on Spotify, which is most of them. Have fun!
Some time in the year 2000, I got a message from my roommate while I was on a weekend trip saying simply that something really bad had happened and that I should call. There could only be one disaster catastrophic enough to warrant that much urgency, and, with a rising horror, I knew what it was immediately: My CDs had been stolen. All 700 of them. Someone had kicked down our door and ignored my TV, VCR, and laptop in favor of obliterating half a lifetime of collecting and curation in one cruel blow. All I had left were the 12 albums in my CaseLogic travel pack. In the months that followed (during which they were essentially all I had to listen to) these would come to be known as the 12 Apostles (if you’re interested, it was kind of an odd mix: My Bloody Valentine’s Isn’t Anything, Get Up Kids’ Something to Write Home About, At the Drive In’s In Casino Out, A St. Etienne comp., Wilco’s Summerteeth, Placebo’s Without You I’m Nothing, an Art Blakey album, Blur’s 13, and some other stuff I don’t remember anymore).
But so the weird thing was that here I was in a new millenium with an unpleasantly fresh start and a shockingly material, non-metaphorical break from everything I had lovingly tried to salvage from a decade of musical exploration and discovery. Just me and 10 years of memories and an uncertain future of pop music stretching out in front of me without a scrap of continuity to hold me over except 12 random-ass CDs in a CaseLogic as a reminder that there was once a time when I devoted abundant amounts of energy to collecting little pieces of plastic and arranging them on my wall in some absurd and arcane and complicated filing system as a statement about myself and my tastes and my own weird little journey through the magical undefinable frustrating musical world of the ’90s.
About a year later (after a daring sting operation by two Dundee detectives) I miraculously had all my CDs returned to me, but that’s another story and anyway, it wasn’t really the same anymore.
Here’s my top 20:
I used to dress up for shows. The only time I dress up now is for weddings, so it’s weird to think, but I used to cogitate pretty hard about whether my tight (probably polyester) pants were too tight or just the right tight, and which T-shirt had the right (probably pretty vague) message for the occasion, and which of my 30,000 track jackets was just the right level of washed out and frayed at the edges to suit the rigorous demands of the Mooney Suzuki/Makeup/Ruby Dare/Delta 72s show I was headed out to that night in my Dad’s 1991 Toyota Camry. (I used to dress up for raves too, but that’s a different, horrifying, and certainly baggier story.)
And there’s definitely something that’s pretty silly and even maybe slightly distasteful about that (which in fairness was not a thing that I was totally unaware of at the time), but there is also something I miss about it – the idea of belonging to a thing that seemed so important that you had to have a uniform for it. I’m sure that this is a function of growing older and not a function of, like, “people don’t dress up for shows anymore”, but I’m also sure that it’s a bit different every time and that the way in which it was different in 1998 (or thereabouts) was pretty fucking sweet.
Here’s 20 more songs:
Let’s just say that Safe House isn’t exactly going to save Mr. Reynolds’ acting career.
A safe choice for Mr. Reynolds, but he doesn’t exactly take it to the house.
bring the house down is better.
Safe to say, Ryan Reynolds doesn’t bring the house down. In Safe House.
In the movie Safe House, actor Ryan Reynolds saves the day but he can’t save a hackneyed old concept from boring the audience. House.
Safe House is a safe bet for a night at the movies, but ultimately there’s no one home.
No one is safe. OK, no.
If you want a night out of the house, you’re safe with Safe House, but you’d be better off saving your money and getting housed instead.
House it going? Jesus. Fuck. FUCK.
-Inspired by @McCarrick
The big question in Trixie’s mind wouldn’t stop bothering her. What about S-E-X? Like, she knew how to do it – that you light candles and put rose petals on the bed and light jazz or whatever – but with David, she wanted it to be special. And also, it had been such a long time for her – almost two weeks since Alistair had been lost at sea! – and she wasn’t sure she even remembered how it worked anymore.
She sighed sensuously. How did a small-town librarian with nerdy and demure but also secretly kind of sexy glasses who had never left her small town – never even left the library! – end up in such a predicament? Out of nowhere, three men had disrupted her quiet life among the stacks and changed it forever – an architect from the big city; a soft-spoken ranch-hand from some kind of ranch where you have pitchforks or whatever but don’t have to work with manure; and now a helicopter detective?! How she longed to be back inside that helicopter, spinning through the air on the way to a crime scene and Frenching passionately with David as the wind rushed through her hair but not too much.
She sighed languorously. Perhaps life would have been easier if Xavier and James and David hadn’t all accidentally turned up in her small town due to, respectively, an architects’ convention and a dark past that was best left behind, some kind of farm-related thing, and a broken down crime helicopter. At least she had her library and her passion for teaching children about the joy of reading books or magazines or whatever. She sighed obstreperously. And what about S-E-X?