Television played a big part of music in the 90's. A hit TV show could easily create hit music. From reality shows to dramas, and even Prime Time Comedies, 90's music created the perfect soundtrack.
In 1989, Fox debuted the hit television show "Cops." The series followed police pursuits, arrests and altercations. The theme song to the show featured "Bad Boys" by Inner Circle. Inner Circle was a reggae band that came together in 1968 fronted by brothers Roger and Ian Lewis. The group had recorded several albums throughout the 70's & 80's. While they were fairly popular in the Netherlands during that time, they had not found success in the United States until their 1987 recording was used as the opening for "Cops." The song was first released on their album One Way. In 1993, the track became an International hit as the theme to "Cops." The song rose to #8 on the Billboard Hot 100. It's success led to a follow up single, "Sweat (A La La La La La Long)". The single "Bad Boys" would find continued success in the film Bad Boys starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence.
In 1990 Fox became "The Fourth Network." The shows on the network were controversial and witty. "Married . . . With Children" became one of the first sitcoms to truly challenge the conventional family. On "The Tracey Ullman Show," Ullman revived the variety program. Among the skits and segments aired a short cartoon by Matt Groening. The cartoon quickly gained popularity and would transcend the show it originated on to become one of the longest running TV shows in history. Like "Married . . . With Children," "The Simpsons" challenged the conventional family unit. Bartmania swept the Nation and the Simpsons were everywhere. Bart Simpson's "Eat My Shorts" attitude was received with National attention. Bill Cosby labelled Bart "a bad role model." President George W. Bush even chimed in with a pledge to make American families more like "The Waltons" and less like "The Simpsons." However "The Simpsons" were a marketing machine that could not be stopped. Bed sheets, towels, board games and trading cards all promoted the show. "The Simpsons" even found unlikely success on the radio. Geffen records released The Simpsons Sing The Blues in 1990. The album featured tracks from Homer, Marge, Maggie, Lisa and Bart. The biggest success from the album was "Do The Bartman," featuring Nancy Cartwright as Bart Simpson. Adding to the track's success were backing vocals from co-writer Michael Jackson. With heavy rotation from MTV, it was the number one video from January to March. In the United States, the song was never released as an official single other than for radio and video play. This was highly unusual at the time. Because it was not available as a retail single, the song was not eligible for inclusion on the Billboard Hot 100. Had it been, the song would easily have hit #1 (as it had done throughout the world). As a result, the song peaked at #11 on the Airplay charts. The follow up single featured Yeardley Smith as Lisa singing "Deep, Deep Trouble." This song was released as a single, but did not capture the success of "Do The Bartman" and peaked at #69 in 1991.
In 1991, The Commitments found success on the big screen following the path of working class youths as they attempt to become a soul band. Fox brought this concept to television with the show "The Heights." The show followed a group of young adults determined to make it as a band. Jamie Walter's starred in the show and sang the theme song "How Do You Talk To An Angel?" Unlike the show itself, the song was a hit and sailed to #1 in 1992. The song actually ended Boyz II Men's 13 week streak at #1 with "End Of The Road." It sat at #1 for 2 weeks only to be knocked off the top spot by Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You." The song was not only a commercial success, but a critical success as well being nominated for an Emmy for "Outstanding Individual Achievement In Music And Lyrics." "How Do You Talk To An Angel" became the first TV theme song to hit #1 since 1985's "Miami Vice Theme" by Jan Hammer. It was also the first #1 by a fictional band since 1969's "Sugar Sugar." Shortly after the single dropped off the charts, Fox cancelled "The Heights." The show never even ran it's entire season. Jamie Walters would go on to reach the Top 40 as a solo artist in 1994 when his single "Hold On" would climb to #16. He would also find future success on Fox starring as Ray Pruitt on "Beverly Hills, 90210."
BEVERLY HILLS, 90210
From 1990 to 2000, the most famous zip code in America was that of Beverly Hills; 90210. Aaron Spelling's show brought the soap opera to a new demographic on Prime Time television. Shannon Doherty, Jason Priestly, Luke Perry and Tori Spelling became household names thanks to the show. After Fox experience success musically with The Heights, they decided to implement music into the television show. Released on the Giant label, Beverly Hills, 90210: The Soundtrack included some of the biggest names in music. Paula Abdul, Color Me Badd and Tara Kemp all contributed singles to the show's soundtrack. While the actual theme song to the show was included on the album, it was never released as a single. However other album cuts did become Top 40 hits.
Shanice's "Saving Forever For You" was the first single released from the Soundtrack. It was Shanice's third single to reach the top 40 after her mega hit "I Love Your Smile" and the Johnny Gill duet "Silent Prayer." The video featured Brian Austin Green and played out as a scene from the TV show with Green reprising his role as the school's radio station DJ.
The following single was the powerhouse duet "Love Is" featuring Vanessa Williams and Brian McKnight. The single peaked at #21. In addition to being featured on "Beverly Hills, 90210," the song also appeared on the "Beverly Hills, 90210" spin-off "Melrose Place."
In addition to launching Teen Idols on television, the show also brought international fame to a new teen idol musician. Blond haired, blue eyed Jeremy Jordan found success from the inclusion of "The Right Kind Of Love" on the show's Soundtrack. The song was also used as the closing theme to several episodes of the show. This exposure helped the song peak at #14 on the charts.
Following the success of the soundtrack, more albums followed. 1994 saw the release of Beverly Hills 90210: The College Years. Again, the album featured many big names. Hi-Five, Lisa Stansfield and Cathy Dennis were among the artists included. Like the previous album, three of the singles would go on to find success on the Top 40.
Jade had previously scored 3 hits off their album Jade To The Max. Their last Top 40 hit, which was also released on their album Mind, Body & Song, was the soundtrack's "Every Day Of The Week." The song reached #20.
The only single from the album to reach the Top 10 was US3's "Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia)." The song, which peaked at #9 was part of a movement seen in the early to mid 90's in which hip hop was fused with classic jazz. Samples can be found in the song by Lou Donaldson, Donald Byrd and Herbie Hancock among others. The song was also featured in several other movies through the 90's. It appeared in Sisters, Renaissance Man and It Takes Two.
The final single to chart from the Soundtrack was M People's "Moving On Up." While the song just barely cracked the Top 40, reaching #34, it was an International Dance Hit. It blended into the club scene perfectly alongside other European acts like The Real McCoy, Bizarre Inc and Ace Of Base. "Moving On Up" was also featured in several other films, including The First Wives Club, The Full Monty and The Next Karate Kid.
A final album was released in conjunction with "Beverly Hills, 90210." Beverly Hills, 90210: Songs From The Peach Pit varied the format of the album. The song's featured were primarily from the 60's and packaged as songs one would likely hear if they were patrons in the shows fictional 60's themed diner, The Peach Pit.
PARTY OF FIVE
In 1994 Fox launched "Party Of Five." The show focused on a family of five siblings coping with life after their parents were lost in a drunk driving accident. Like "Beverly Hills, 90210," "Party Of Five" launched a new breed of stars to the National level. Neve Campbell would do on to star in movies like Scream and Wild Things. Jennifer Love Hewitt appeared in the I Know What You Did Last Summer films. She also released her own single "How Do I Deal?" and was the inspiration for LFO's "Girl On TV." Lacey Chabert went on to voice Eliza in "The Wild Thornberry's" and become fetch in Mean Girls. From 1994 through the series finale in 2000, the show was both a commercial and critical success. In 1996, it won a Golden Globe for best television series. The show's theme song also brought National success to a local Milwaukee group that had been recording albums since the 80's. Kurt Neuman and Sammy BoDean had recorded a total of 5 studio albums as the BoDeans. But it was the theme song to "Party Of Five" that put them on the charts. "Closer To Free" reached #16 in 1996.
Of course one can't talk about 90's music on TV without mentioning what may be the most famous TV Theme song of all time, The Rembrandts' "I'll Be There For You" from Friends. For 10 years from 1994 to 2004, Thursday night's Must See TV on NBC featured Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer as the friends we all wanted. Year after year the show ended up in the Top 10 of the most viewed shows. It impacted everything from hair styles to coffee shops, and even music.
Michael Skloff and Allee Williams had written the track "I'll Be There For You" in hopes that it would be performed by They Might Be Giants or R.E.M. However the track ended up going to The Rembrandts. The Rembrandts had previously hit the charts in 1990 with the minor hit "That's Just The Way It Is, Baby." For the most part, the group was not well known. In 1995 they recorded "I'll Be There For You" for their album LP. As the show "Friends" began to gain success, radio found itself playing "I'll Be There For You." It shot to #1 on the radio airplay charts in 1995. This year was a particularly interesting one in music. At this time, record companies stopped releasing a lot of songs as singles. Like "Do The Bartman," "I'll Be There For You" did not have a retail single. This meant that despite being #1 on the airplay charts, it was not eligible to be included on the overall Hot 100 chart. With their new found success, The Rembrandts released the single "This House Is Not A Home." "I'll Be There For You" was also included on the single. As a result, this now made the song eligible to chart on the Top 100. Unfortunately, the release came long after the song had peaked on the airplay charts and as a result the song never went higher than #17.
With the success of "I'll Be There For You" came an album. The Friends Original TV Soundtrack incorporated some of the 90's top alternative acts with classic cuts from artists like Lou Reed and Joni Mitchell. Hootie & The Blowfish found radio success with "I Go Blind." Toad The Wet Sprocket charted on the radio with "Good Intentions." The Barenaked Ladies "Shoe Box" introduced many Americans to the Canadian group for the first time.
In 1998 a new network emerged. The WB's "Dawson's Creek" toned down the glitz and glamour of show's like "Beverly Hills, 90210" and "Melrose Place" for a more realistic teen based drama. "Dawson's Creek" launched the careers of James Van Der Beek, Katie Holmes, Joshua Jackson and Michelle Williams. Originally, Alanis Morissette's "Hand In My Pocket" was to serve as the opening song for the show. However, Morissette pulled her song from the project and the title track was replaced with Paula Cole's "I Don't Want To Wait." The single shot to #11 on the charts and surely helped bring about Paula Cole's Grammy win for Best New Artist in 1998. Like "Beverly Hills, 90210" and "Friends," "Dawson's Creek" saw it's own album soundtracks. Songs From Dawson's Creek brought National attention to Sixpence None The Richer, whose hit "Kiss Me" climbed to #2 after appearing on the show. The second album released in 2000, Songs From Dawson's Creek - Volume 2, included Top 40 hits by Jessica Simpson, Evan & Jaron and Five For Fighting.
Remembering the hit music of the 90's.