Apr 28, 2021

What was the best 1990 UK number one single?

Snap - The Power

1990 was a big music year for me. I was 16 going on 17, blossoming from a snot-nosed teenage misery into a slightly older snot-nosed teenage misery.

This mean I have OPINIONS about chart hits in 1990. That's OPINIONS in capital letters. In fact, I'm pretty sure I could grade all of 1990's UK number one singles without much thought at all.

Let's do it. A first-draft blog post, no editing, no research (apart from getting the list from Wikipedia). What were the best UK number one singles from 1990?

Let's go through every dang one of them. Firstly, we have Band Aid II's Do They Know It's Christmas? Bros and Sonia? Pretty terrible, although not as embarrassing as the third one in 2004. Then there was New Kids on the Block's Hangin' Tough, which sounded as tough as a floppy curtains fringe (which hadn't quite hit the mainstream just yet). A bad start to the year. 

Then we have a half-decent run of number one singles. Kylie Minogue turning into a career artist with Tears on My Pillow, a weeping Sinéad O'Connor being iconic on the Prince-penned Nothing Compares 2 U, and Norman Cook foreshadowing his 1990s dance music dominance on Beats International's Dub Be Good to Me. Let's put Sinead and Beats into the top tier, which I will discuss at the end of this blog post.

Remember, this is all first reactions. Looking through the list, typing these words, zero post-editing.

Ah, now here comes Snap!'s The Power, a strange, angular block-party jam with Turbo B looking like a president or something (pictured). I hated this track when it came out: so strange and discordant. I was wrong, of course. This genius track goes straight through to the top tier.

Madonna's Vogue was a huge hit, but it was no Like A Prayer. Adamski's Killer rocked my world in so many ways, and despite a pretty ropy album, this goes through to the top tier, as does England New Order's World in Motion which is the only acceptable football song alongside that crowd-chanty Pop Will Eat Itself track. 

From June onwards, it's a pretty rough run of number ones. Elton John's Sacrifice was the one where he started giving all his royalties to charity. Then came the novelty hits: Partners in Kryme's Turtle Power, which taught kids about the names of classical painters, and Bombalurina's Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini - Timmy Mallett later became a painter himself and has a website called Mallett's Pallet. No joke.

Is it one T or two Ts for Mallett? No time to check: this is all first-draft.

Those novelty hits were bad, but nowhere near as bad as The Steve Miller Band's The Joker, which is one of the worst singles of all time. I'm getting upset just thinking about it. Was this the one with the guitar wolf-whistle? I want this song to die.

This next bunch of number ones, taking us from September through to November, I kind of respect, but they're not for me. Maria McKee's Show Me Heaven is an undoubted tune, The Beautiful South's twee A Little Time has its own charm, and The Righteous Brothers rerelease of Unchained Melody was a chance to revisit one of history's greatest anthems. My mum loved that one. No top tier for any of these, though. 

That leaves us with Vanilla Ice's Ice Ice Baby, only really good for karaoke, and Cliff Richard's Christmas number one Saviour's Day, which I don't think even God would listen to.

So that's the year. Most of the good stuff was in the first half of 1990. Now let's visit the top tier choices, and sort them into some kind of order. We had weepy Sinead and Norman's Beats International and angular Snap! and Adamski's Killer and New Order's football fun. Yeah, I'm pretty sure I can grade this lot without much thought.

The bestest UK number one singles from 1990, as decided on the spot by me.

5. Snap!: The Power 

4. England New Order: World In Motion

3. Beats International: Dub Be Good To Me

2. Sinead O'Connor: Nothing Compares 2 U 

1. Adamski's Killer 

There you have it. Killer was easily the winner: it gave me permission to become my own bedroom-based keyboard wizard. To live my life the way I wanted to be-ee-ee-eee, yeah! I hope I didn't make too many mistakes in this entirely unedited blog post. We should do this again: 1991, maybe. *hits publish*

Further Fats: The Designers Republic vs B12 Records: are the 1990s dead? (2007)

Further Fats: The doctor (Adamski) will see you now (2018)

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