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by Rob Harvilla

January 17, 2013

The 50 Best Songs of 1990

by Rob Harvilla  |  January 17, 2013

Welcome to The 50, a Rhapsody scheme in which we attempt to compile the biggest, best, most historically remarkable songs of every year. Our final list of 50 tracks -- presented here in no particular order, ideally flowing like a time-traveling DJ set -- has been argued over and (grudgingly) agreed upon by our full editorial staff, so don't (entirely) blame Rob. Please enjoy.

Let us now contend with 1990, a year way more redolent of the '80s than the '90s, which oughta delight fans of hair metal (and Damn Yankees in particular). The year-end Billboard chart informs us that Wilson Phillips' "Hold On" was the almighty jam of the year, heralding a boom time for AOR soft rock seized by such luminaries as Michael Bolton, Phil Collins and Roxette; the critics, according to that year's Pazz & Jop poll, preferred infectious dancefloor jams from Snap!, Black Box, Madonna, Suzanne Vega (that was a weird one) and especially Deee-Lite. The poppier end of rap saw breakout singles from Vanilla Ice, MC Hammer and Digital Underground; the rappier end of rap stuck with the scowling likes of Public Enemy and Ice Cube.

Who else? Young Mariah Carey and Sinead O'Connor both had huge years. And then there's the weirder stuff here: They Might Be Giants' "Particle Man" falls into the "volatile memory detritus" category and is non-negotiable, here joining other no-one-called-it-that-yet alt-rockers from The Cure to The La's to Sonic Youth. Twin Peaks, the weirdest network TV show ever, scared the crap out of everyone, as did New Kids on the Block, the One Direction of their day, or vice versa. Prince did OK with "Thieves in the Temple," though the best Prince-penned song of the year was undoubtedly The Time's "Jerk Out." Plus there's a ton of other songs coming soon to a wedding near you, from "Poison" to (if it's a particularly cool wedding) "Everybody Everybody" to (if it's a really cool wedding) "Just a Friend." Enjoy both the noise and the silence, and have fun out there.

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