Picture this. You’re at the gym. You’ve selected the number of sets and reps within the workout you have planned for the day. You’re taking the steps up to the weights and track at a decent pace, all the while looking at Spotify for music to ramp up your workout.
You see a pre-made category on the screen called “Time Capsule”. Sounds perfect to get you going for a great workout. You hit the play button, making the critical mistake of not checking to see if your earbuds are connected via Bluetooth.
With the volume at a dangerous level, the music begins to play from your phone’s speaker…quite loudly. “I’m too sexy for my love, too sexy for my love, love’s going to leave me. I’m too sexy for my shirt, too sexy for my shirt, so sexy it hurts.”
Oh, the looks you get from the dude bros, fashionistas, and hell, even the cardio people texting on their phones look up. You know you must quickly remedy the situation. It’s a bit like that feeling in the middle of winter when you’re walking into your office (pre-pandemic) and slip on the ice in front of your building full of windows. No matter the amount of pain you might be in, you jump to your feet faster than a dog when they hear the word “squirrel”.
Why the panic? Because this 1991 #1 smash hit from Right Said Fred is the epitome of a guilty pleasure. It’s catchy, it will stay in your head for the rest of the day, and most of all, it’s embarrassing to be caught listening to.
While not all the tracks on our ten are embarrassing (6 of them hit #1), they are none-the-less listed on many guilty pleasure playlists on Spotify, Apple Music, as well as iTunes. We created a playlist that actually would work well for a workout…so have a listen and like our playlist on Spotify…just remember to connect to Bluetooth!
As we’ve done in the past, join us to revive, relive, and relate to arguably the best of 90’s guilty pleasures. Here we present ten classic hits we appreciate the most (in no particular order). If you have a favorite that didn’t make our cut (or disagree with our own list), feel free to share your thoughts within the comments. We’ll definitely take a listen!
ICE ICE BABY (1990) – VANILLA ICE
Robert Van Winkle, otherwise known as Vanilla Ice, topped the charts in 9 countries with this single. Lifting the bassline from the Queen/David Bowie 1981 track “Under Pressure”, this B-side to his remake of “Play That Funky Music”, didn’t become popular until DJ David Morales began playing it in clubs instead of the A-side, with “Ice Ice Baby” becoming the first hip-hop single to top Billboard’s Hot 100. With its success came legitimate legal and “street cred” issues with the uncredited sampling of “Under Pressure” (settled out of court) and Eminem stating he didn’t want to rap anymore after hearing it. Love it or leave it, “Ice” is an earworm that is hard to put out of your head once you’ve heard it. 8/10
Peak Position in the US – #1 / UK – #1
U CAN’T TOUCH THIS (1990) – MC HAMMER
MC Hammer sampled the opening riff from Rick James’ “Super Freak”, combining it with a video featuring harem pants, gold lamé and electric dance moves, resulting in multiple Grammy nods, including the first rap song to be nominated for Record of the Year. Featuring lyrics like “Stop! Hammer time!” and “Can’t Touch This” that became pop culture catchphrases, the song was both catchy and cutting edge for its time. To my ears, it hasn’t aged well, but it’s still a fun tune to hear every now and then. 7/10
Peak Position in the: US – #8 / UK – #3
LIVIN’ LA VIDA LOCA (1999) – RICKY MARTIN
Translated in English to be “Livin’ the Crazy Life”, this smash by Puerto Rican singer Ricky Martin about the exploits of a dangerous woman exploded to the top of the charts in more than 20 countries. Both music critics and audiences loved the sinister nature of the lyrics and the pulsating rhythm of the beat. “LLVL” was nominated for 5 Grammys, including Record and Song of the Year at the 42nd Annual Grammy Awards. 8/10
Peak Position in the: US – #1 / UK – #1
WANNABE (1996) – SPICE GIRLS
“Wannabe” is the debut single by a group originally known as “Touch”, later dubbed the Spice Girls. While a song is normally cut over the course of a day or two in the studio, this track was locked and loaded within an hour. Its positive female empowerment message resonated across the globe, and the introduction of the video in May drove media and press interest in the all-girl group and the catchy single. Music critics around the world had mixed reviews of the single, calling it “melodious but disposable” as well as “not good…not clever…but fun”. Nothing says critical revenge like having your song top the charts in 37 countries. 7/10
Peak Position in the US – #1 / UK – #1
LARGE THAN LIFE (1999) – BACKSTREET BOYS
Although not the smash hit that “I Want It That Way” was, this second single from the BSB “Millenium” album fits perfectly within our ten choices of 90’s guilty pleasures. The video holds a Guinness World Record as the 14th most expensive music video ever made, with production costs estimated to exceed two million dollars. That budget, like its namesake…is larger than life! 7/10
Peak Position in the: US – #25 / UK – #5
MY LOVIN’ (YOU’RE NEVER GONNA GET IT) (1992) – EN VOGUE
Featuring a sample of the James Brown song “The Payback”, this lead single from En Vogue’s second album reached number 1 on Billboard’s R&B chart for 2 weeks, languishing for 3 consecutive weeks on the Hot 100 behind the juggernaut single “Jump” by Kriss Kross. Accolades for the single include a lock on the 6th position on Billboard’s “100 Greatest Girl Group Songs of All-Time” list in 2019. Funky Divas indeed! 8/10
Peak Position in the: US – #2 / UK – #4
WHAT IS LOVE (1993) – HADDAWAY
Eurodance artist Haddaway released this single with great success throughout Europe, reaching number one in 13 countries, followed shortly successfully throughout the world. Oddly enough, the writers and producers of the single envisioned the artist singing it in the style of Joe Cocker, which in Haddaway’s eyes was not possible. He instead locked himself in the studio for eight or nine days, emerging with the song as we know it today. Will Ferrell & Chris Kattan sent it into the stratosphere with their use of the track in their ongoing “Roxbury Guys” skits on SNL. 7/10
Peak Position in the: US: #11 / UK: #2
GANGSTA’S PARADISE (1995) – COOLIO
American Rapper Coolio (along with singer LV) interpolated Stevie Wonder’s melody from 1976’s
“Pastime Paradise” for the Michelle Pfeiffer film “Dangerous Minds”, climbing to the top of the Billboard Hot 100, and landing the year’s biggest hit single. The following year, Coolio got into a mild legal spat with “Weird Al” Yankovic over his parody “Amish Paradise”, which was later settled amicably. 9/10
Peak Position in the: US: #1 / UK: #1
GOOD VIBRATIONS (1991)
Billboard magazine noted that Mark Wahlberg “enters Vanilla Ice territory with a lightweight pop/rap track” from the debut album by Marky Mark & The Funky Bunch. Aided greatly by the out of the box model looks of Wahlberg and the vocal expertise of singer Loleatta Holloway, the infectious single topped the chart in the United States and three other countries in the summer of 1991. 7/10
Peak Position in the: US – #1 / UK #14
BELIEVE (1998) – CHER
Jettisoning her customary pop/rock sound for an all-out assault on the dance floor, Cher’s “Believe” broke ground on multiple fronts. It became the #1 solo female single of all-time in the UK. It pioneered the use of distorted auto-tune on Cher’s vocals in a way never used before, but subsequently imitated again and again. It sold an incredible 11 million copies around the world. Lastly, Cher became the oldest female solo artist to top Billboard’s Hot 100. As cheesy as it sounds today, it’s the very definition of a guilty pleasure. 9/10
Peak Position in the: US – #1 – UK #1
So, there you have it. What are your thoughts on our Top 10 Guilty Pleasure Songs of the 90’s? What did we leave out? What doesn’t deserve to make the list? Leave your thoughts via a comment on the page!
Before you leave, please check out our previous entries in the “Our Ten” series here on Moteventure!