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Noise of summer

Summer jams that show how the 1990s made us dumber

Photo: Justin Rose, License: N/A

Justin Rose

Illustration by Justin Rose


1995: Ine Kamoze, 

"Here Comes the Hotstepper"

If you lived in an urban environment in 1995, you couldn't dodge this one. Now, there's nothing wrong with dancehall. In case you were still on your micro scooter in the mid-1990s, we can assure you that dancehall was huge. But there were so many artists who were much cooler, from Barrington Levy to Shabba Ranks, with sweet bass lines and warm Jamaican cadences. I guess nobody could appreciate that, because we had to settle for this anthem, which was all junked-up with scratching, samples and such mass-appeal nonsense as the chorus of "Land of a Thousand Dances." Yeah, he's a murderer. He murdered dancehall. Get him!


1996: Los del Mar, 


If you want proof that the national intelligence took a precipitous drop during the 1990s, we present as Exhibit A the fact that this song spent fourteen fucking weeks at No. 1. I mean, here's a song so dumb it made No Mercy's "Where Do You Go" look sophisticated. A song with almost no lyrics in English really takes the pressure off people to know the words, and the dance is just simple enough to work at an Omaha wedding. Worst of all? That note held before the word "Macarena" that sounds like the singers all stepped on an upturned tack at the same time. You wish Susan Powter were there to scream, "Stop the insanity!"

1998: Madonna, 

"Ray of Light"

What do you do when you have a singer past her prime but trying to remain relevant? Just hire a production team that will take all the latest sonic trends and bundle them up into a package to promote her. It will sound almost exactly like a really cool commercial for American Express. Especially if you have a music video that shows lots of neat time-lapse stuff and doesn't show how old the recording artists has become. Not only was this song just not that good, but the singing doesn't stand up in the age of Auto-Tune. And yet we were exposed to it 20 times per day.


1999: Ricky Martin, 

"Livin' La Vida Loca"

Lofted by a late '90s enthusiasm for Latin-oriented music (see 1999's Buena Vista Social Club), this track was pounded into our brains all summer, no doubt helped along by boy-crazy girls gaga over Ricky. Unfortunately for them, they'd all have an easier time scoring a date with a Might Morphin' Power Ranger. But we can't feel too bad about this song assaulting our eardrums all summer. We soon got our revenge. It was called "She Bangs."