Oct 23, 2013

Five Early 90s Female Pop Songs You Didn't Realise You Needed to Hear Again

....or indeed for the first time, for the young (re: uneducated) people out there.

The 1990s was a golden era for solo female pop. The Spice Girls, Girls Aloud and Destiny's Child heralded a new era of pop girl bands from the mid-to-late 90s, before the rise of Britney and Christina once again secured pop music for the solo femmes.

Of course, Madonna was doing her thing throughout all of this, but Madonna's just so far ahead of the pack she should comprise every Top X List of Everything Ever.

Here are five tracks that demonstrate what a young girl might be exposed to musically as her teenage years approached.

5. One of Us by Joan Osborne

OK, so its 1995 release date technically puts it out of the early 90s. But in tone, timbre and intent, it belongs in this list. Most people would probably now know this song as the loving duet Dr Evil and Mini-Me sing in Austin Powers 2, or as the theme for the TV show Joan of Arcadia.

But before that it was a massive hit. It was everywhere, you couldn't escape it. That riff, that yearning voice, that nostril ring she wears in the video clip - it all made Joan Osborne a star. For about five minutes.

Songwriter Eric Bazilian supposedly dashed off the song quickly to impress hit future wife, and offered it to Joan Osborne while working on her album. Her raw vocals turned the "wacky" song about faith and Jesus and the saints and all the prophets into an endearing search for meaning. Despite his hopes, Eric didn't win a Grammy, but he's no doubt made a Bazilian dollars in royalties.

4. Boy in the Moon by Margaret Urlich

You've probably sung along to Margaret Urlich dozens of times and never realised it. The New Zealand-born singer provided the backing vocals in Darryl Braithwaite's 1990 mega hit The Horses. Since then, countless karaoke nights have included some tomfool maxing out the reverb with a "Beeeeeee, little darling!" Sometimes it's not even me.

But Urlich chose not to appear in Dazzer's film clip for The Horses, because she was trying to establish herself as a soloist. 1992's The Boy in the Moon was possibly her biggest hit, a cheerful love ballad supported by an artsy video clip that really highlights the importance of the choker to early 90s fashion. My god, the chokers. They were like an albatross around your neck. 

3. Cry by Lisa Edwards

What did I just tell you about chokers?

I remember getting the CD single of this song from my aunt. I think she'd won it or something and didn't want it. I had that CD for years, just sitting in a rack under Madonna's Erotica and Michael Jackson's Dangerous. I can't remember if I even played it much, just that I felt it boosted my meagre collection.

But who was Lisa Edwards? John Farnham's backing singer, that's who. An experienced session and back-up singer, she somehow managed to score a Top 5 hit with this splendidly dramatic ode to heartbreak, before going back on the road with Whispering Jack about eleventy billion times. 

Researching this post has led me to uncover the fact that this song was actually a cover. English duo Godley and Creme wrote Cry in 1985, and the video shows how New Wave-y it originally was. It also starts out with a pudgy dude crying awkwardly, so I think Edwards deserves points for her theatrical glam black-and-white clip. The tradition of pop stars rolling around on beds was not a new one, but 90s femmes really took it to a new level.

2. Love...Thy Will Be Done by Martika

What did I just tell you about rolling around on beds?

This is the tune that inspired this post. It just randomly popped into my head a few days ago, and I was struck by a deep frission of nostalgic energy. I loved this song in 1991. It was soft, melodic, philosophical and it didn't have a chorus. It was more hymn than song and it always took my breath away 

And it was co-written by Prince! The small, purple-wearing musical genius who's pretty much written everything for everyone. Once you know this fact, you can really hear his guiding hand over the orchestration - the random backing cries ("Satisfied!") and the tumbling, cascading way lyrics would run over each other ("Even when there's no peace outside my window there's peace inside and that's why I can not longer run"). It's magic.

Despite this song doing well in the US and hitting number 1 for ages in Australia, it didn't really help Martika in the long run. After starting so promisingly with the brilliant Toy Soliders back in 1988, dropped out of the limelight after the Martika's Kitchen album was released. Naming an album after a room in your house was probably the reason. Even if I was a brilliant singer, I can't imagine anyone forking out the folding stuff for a copy of Natalie's Bathroom.

1. Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover by Sophie B. Hawkins.

I remember dancing so hard to this song at Tanya Packer's 12th birthday party. That was the party we managed to get a bra off another sleeping girl and hang it off a ceiling light. I know, right? Off the hook. Actually, Tanya Packer was really a bully and the "bad girl" of the school and I'd once gotten in trouble after she wrote me and Melita Grace a letter filled with swear words just because she thought it was cool. My peer-pressure-induced reply (yes, I was weak, I remain weak) was discovered by someone (A teacher? My mother?) and it became an Issue With The Principal. I didn't even have Tanya's original letter to show them because I clearly remember riding my red bike out to the bins (we had a long driveway) to personally dispose of it before anyone could see it. But I tell you, I learned a valuable fucking lesson about language after that whole affair. 

Where was I? Oh yes, Tanya Packer. We parted ways at the end of primary school. I assume she hit adulthood, got knocked up several times by different fellas and now lives a flea-bitten existence somewhere on Brisbane's northside with more children than teeth. I realise that's cruel, but let's face it, she was going that way. You don't know what a head job is at age 10 without certain paths drawing you towards them. Yes, that was how I learned what a head job was. I've never recovered.

I'll admit something though - for a good part of the 1990s, I thought Sophie B. Hawkins and Sarah Jessica Parker were the same person. I'm sure you can understand the confusion - big blonde curly hair, pointy faces, unnecessary middle names/initials. It was only really after Sex and the City began that it dawned on me that SJP probably wouldn't be seen dead in grungy flannel, even in the early 90s.

Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover was a proper rock ballad by a bonafide good singer. SBH had a pleasant raspy richness to her voice, which no doubt inspired the dingy basement setting of the video clip. While this song is no doubt entirely of the early 90s, it retains a certain sense of timelessness. Perhaps it's that deep two-note signature riff, or the way Sophie's soft verses build into the explosive "Damn!" of the chorus. Watch the clip, and I'm fairly certain it will get into your head. But unlike so many other earworms, it's not a wholly unpleasant experience.


  1. Michael Jude Peter Barnes8:05 AM, October 23, 2013

    Wow, reading the names and I thought I don't know any of these songs, but the minute they started to play it all came back.
    Any chance Tanya Packer will appear in the comments below? Its great to discover that snippet of you past where you began to hone your language skills as a writer.

  2. what no Diana Anaid..as long as we stretch out early 1990s by a few years...' I go off!'

  3. Re-watching. I think you missed the best line here:

    Littlefinger: Do you want to be a queen?
    Margaery: No... [pause]... I want to be _the_ queen.