Feb 29, 2024

Ultimate 90s number one: A rubbery travesty and something Badd

Britney Spears in school uniform, a monk in a brown habit

I've laid down a gauntlet. What is the best UK number one single of the 1990s? Let's pick up that gauntlet and slap a few more contenders about the face.

The contenders

Britney Spears, ...Baby One More Time  |  Color Me Badd, I Wanna Sex You Up  |  Enigma, Sadeness (Part I)  |  Mr Blobby, Mr Blobby  |  Ricky Martin, Livin' la Vida Loca  |  Spice Girls, Goodbye  |  Spice Girls, Viva Forever  |  Take That, Sure  |  Tasmin Archer, Sleeping Satellite  |  Will Smith, Men in Black

Remember the two criteria for judgement. Is it a banger? Is it bleepy?

Rubbery travesty

I am big and pink and covered in spots, like Mr Blobby. I am clumsy, like Mr Blobby. I talk utter nonsense, just like Mr Blobby. However, this rubbery travesty can shove himself right up his own crinkly bottom. He has no place on this list.

Equally terrible is Color Me Badd and their insistence at sexing people "up". Up where? A dreary r 'n' b dirge for creeps. On the positive side, they're named after a horse. No, really. The horse was called Color Me Bad. The band added an extra D so people didn't get confused.

While we're getting rid of rubbish singles, you might like Ricky Martin's late-90s number one Livin' la Vida Loca, but you're wrong. There are many reasons to admire Martin: there can't be many gay Puerto Ricans as leading lights in pop music. But the song is shash. And annoying. And pants. And also shash. Did I mention annoying?

Hey, Will Smith, I see you sneaking out of the room. Get back here. Men in Black sampling of Forget Me Nots is a clever move, but that's as far as it goes. It doesn't half go on a bit. Let's zap ourselves with a neuralyzer and forget this was ever released.

Viva not quite forever

This brings us to the mid-tier choices in this batch. And they are really mid. Both Spice Girls tracks can be placed at the exact middle of their artistic ouvre. I mean, Goodbye and Viva Forever are fine. FINE. But fine is not good enough for this countdown. Chewits are fine, but I'm not choosing them as my last meal. Actually, that's a bad example. Chewits are amazing. Shower them on me when I get to death row.

Meanwhile, Take That's Sure is one of their poorer number one singles, especially in the light of the two singles that followed this, the blistering Back for Good and the iconic Never Forget. The lesson is: never name your single after a deodorant.

Hunks of monks

This brings us to the final three.

As odes to space exploration go, Tasmin Archer's Sleeping Satellite is up there. It's no Bowie, but what a tune. Turning middle-of-the-road pop music into a bonafide banger, It's got some Madchester-style organ action to boot, which gets it some bleepy bonus points.

If sexy schoolgirls are your thing, then look no further than Britney Spears' breakthrough it ...Baby One More Time. Despite the questionable concept behind the promo video, there's no denying how impressive this was for a debut single. Unfortunately, like much of this randomly-picked list, it doesn't satisfy the bleep factor.

In nomine Christi! Yeah, you heard. The unlikely winner for this batch is a bunch of singing monks. Michael Cretu 's new-age noodlings as Enigma produced this unlikely smash hit. Cretu, who was credited on the single as "Curly M.C", refused to publicise the release, and its Gregorian chant samples got him sued. Instant hit. Beyond the novelty, this is a modern ambient classic, and the album holds up better now than it did then.

Bet you didn't expect the monks to win. There are oodles of other 1990s chart-toppers to come. 

More of the Ultimate 90s number one

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