It’s time for a flashback to the year 1990. It was the year that Saddam Hussein ordered an invasion of Kuwait, and by August of 1990, U.S. troops were sent to begin what would soon be referred to as “Operation Desert Storm.” 1990 also brought us The Simpsons, along with hit movies Ghost and Pretty Woman. But it was the music of 1990 that overshadowed all pop culture events, with house music starting to become mainstream and rap music finally starting to get the respect many felt it deserved. 1980s musical staples such as Madonna, Janet Jackson, and Bon Jovi were still topping the charts. Let’s take a look at the five biggest hits of 1990, compiled by Billboard.
5. Madonna, “Vogue”
Madonna’s “Vogue” was actually planned to be a B-side of her hit single “Keep It Together,” but the record company liked the song so much that they decided to make the song the first release off the Dick Tracy soundtrack I’m Breathless. “Vogue” felt out of place on an album of 1930s inspired music, but it didn’t feel out of place on Billboard‘s charts. The song topped the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks in May of 1990 and is often seen as the moment when gay culture met mainstream culture. “Vogue” was also a highlight of Madonna’s “Blond Ambition Tour” that started in May of 1990 and ended in August with a huge HBO special.
4. Bell Biv DeVoe, “Poison”
With lyrics such as “Me and the crew used to do her,” some critics found this 1990 hit offensive. However, “Poison,” which hit No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in June of 1990, became a dance party staple for years to come. As Songfacts mentions, Bell Biv DeVoe was formed by members from the 1980s super group New Edition. At the end of the song, the singers even give a shout-out to their former bandmates Bobby Brown, Ralph Tresvant, and Johny Gill.
3. Sinéad O’Connor, “Nothing Compares 2 U”
In 1990, this heartbreak ballad ruled the airwaves and hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in April of 1990. The song was written by Prince, but Sinead O’Connor certainly put her own emotional stamp on it. According to Songfacts, Sinead often associated the song with her mother, who died in a car accident in 1985. “Nothing Compares 2 U” was the last hit Sinead O’Connor would have. She spent the rest of the 1990s being condemned for ripping up a picture of the Pope on Saturday Night Live in 1992.
2. Roxette, “It Must Have Been Love”
Before “It Must Have Been Love,” Roxette had huge hits with “Listen to Your Heart” and “The Look” in 1989. However, this No. 1 hit from June of 1990 became their biggest to date. It was featured on the soundtrack for the blockbuster movie Pretty Woman, which starred Julia Roberts and Richard Gere. The song, originally intended for a Christmas album before Roxette became famous, is still a staple at adult contemporary radio today.
1. Wilson Phillips, “Hold On”
“Hold On” toppled Madonna’s “Vogue” from the Billboard Hot 100 in the Summer of 1990. It was also nominated for a Grammy in 1991 (Song of the Year), but lost to Bette Midler’s “From a Distance.” Wilson Phillips was composed of family members from the groups The Mamas & The Papas and The Beach Boys. The song was written by Glen Ballard, who would soon produce one of the biggest albums in music history, Alanis Morisette’s Jagged Little Pill (1995).
As breezy as the song felt, the lyrics were about overcoming hardships and, to some, suicide prevention. “Hold On” also was a big part of the 2011 blockbuster Bridesmaids, which features Wilson Phillips performing the song. Since its release in 1990, “Hold On” hasn’t been just a hit 1990s song; it’s also a part of pop culture history.
[Photo by Sam Jones/AP Images]