25 Best Songs of 1990


1990 was a year of dramatic global transition. With the reunification of Germany, the toppling of the communist government in Yugoslavia, and the defection of the Baltic States, the Soviet Union was on the verge of collapse.

Even as the Cold War drew to a close, Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait signaled the start of a new era in the Persian Gulf region. War with the U.S. loomed on the horizon.

Also on the horizon? The World Wide Web. 1990 was the year that Tim Berners-Lee created the world’s first web server. This was also the year that the very first web search engine was invented. His name was Archie.

So how did we mark this year on the charts?

With dance pop–Madonna, Janet Jackson, and Paula Abdul; Candy Rap and New Jack Swing–Bel Biv DeVoe, MC Hammer, and Johnny Gill; Hair Metal–Poison, Bon Jovi, and Nelson.

Re: Nelson. These peroxide blonde twin sons of Ricky Nelson had the 20th biggest hit of the year with “(Can’t Live Without Your) Love and Affection.” This hit makes Nelson the partial answer to a trivia question. Beginning with their grandparents, Ozzie and Harriett, and culminating with Gunnar and Matthew’s chart-topping hit here, the Nelsons are the only family in music history to enjoy a #1 hit across three generations.

1990 also saw the growing presence of electronic music on the charts, with club-friendly fare like Technotronic, Snap!, and C&C Music Factory exploding into popularity.

Also, Bolton. Lot’s of Michael Bolton.

And remarkably, in a year dominated by stalwart hitmakers like Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, and George Michael, the #1 song of the year was…you guessed it…”Because I Love You (The Postman Song)” by Stevie B. Since it doesn’t make my “Best of” list, I’m including it here for your edification.

I’m mostly here to be positive, but bully for you if you can get through this song. Bonus points if you can explain how in the holy hell it bested Sinead O’Connor’s transcendent and heart-wrenching cover of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U.”

The 25 Best Songs of 1990

With that, let’s return to a time of international tension and fluorescent day-glo fashions.