IIS? Paula Cole, Jennifer Paige, Sarah McLachlan and a surprise!

Adult Contemporary music. The late 90’s were filled with it. From 1997-1999 the Top 40 was riddled with AC artists. Some well known like three of the artists featured here today plus other, more obscure ones. For me AC is a mixed bag. I remember most of these songs because my mother was an avid listener of Y98, a radio station in Saint Louis. Y98 would battle it out with 101.1 The River for audiences.

For me these were strange times. We had just moved to Saint Louis from Nantucket in 1996 and in 1997 we moved to Saint Peters (unincorporated St. Charles County really) I had started at a new elementary school called Fairmont Elementary. My mother would always have The River or Y98 blasting away in the car. During this time I would also listen to the alternative stations. Back then I wasn’t that into music and would listen to whatever came on; this includes those meddlesome Backstreet Boys and 98 Degrees (I’ll review them at a later date)

This was a time of newfound feelings. Unfortunately this stage of the 90’s was often marked by dull music. I remember a survey done in my third grade class about what kind of music we listened to. Most said Backstreet Boys, but there was a few that answered with the Big Three that I’ll be posting.

Song #1 Where Have All the Cowboys Gone? By Paula Cole (1997)

Wow, could this song get any more AC or 1997? This is the kind of music that soccer-moms of the late 90’s listened to. Perhaps what is interesting about this song is, is that it did phenomenally well, reaching #8 on the Hot 100. To me this was one of those songs you had to endure while waiting for the more hip stuff to come on the radio.

Paula’s band seems to hold their own and production doesn’t seem too slick.

The song is about a dysfunctional relationship that breaks apart. The woman longs for the days when the man supposedly acted like John Wayne. The video screams 90’s. It’s hard to believe this song is nineteen years old. I heard it the other day on a local station here on the Cape. It brought back a flood of memories, like being in second grade and getting ready to move to St. Peters.

So, is it shit?

I’m sorry, but I have to say it. This song, while dated, has grown on me. That doesn’t mean it isn’t total shit, but it’s certainly close. The rhythm is good. The lyrics are cheesy as hell, and what the hell is going on at the end after she is done yippie yaying? It sounds as though she’s trying to relive the 50’s. Hey Paula, I know where the cowboys went, they disappeared into the depths of the Hot 100, only to resurface occasionally. 1/5

Song #2 Crush by Jennifer Paige (1998)

Holy shit could you get any more 1998 than this song? Ms. Paige lit the chart on fire with her #3 hit Crush. It debuted on the 4th of July, 1998 and stayed on the chart for twenty five freaking weeks. This song was everywhere and I mean everywhere. Y98 played the hell out of it and to a lesser extent the River. I heard this song the other day at the store. It’s still out there and being played, even though she only had two hits. I guess she’s a two hit wonder then.

For me, this brings up memories of the summer of 1998 and the trip to Salem, MA my dad and I took. No, this song does not remind me of him. 96.3 The Rose also played it if I recall, then again the Rose played everything; they didn’t stick to a chart.

So, is it shit?

When I look back on it now, I have determined that yes, this song is shit. A big steaming pile of it. She wouldn’t make it during  this decade, as most of the artists would steamroll right over her. 1/5

Song #3 Angel by Sarah Mclachlan (1997)

Sometimes you encounter a diamond in the rough. In a mine of really bland AC music comes this gem. The piano makes it somber and Sarah’s voice is soothing. The song captured listeners attention back in 1997 when it was released as a single. It reached #4 on the Billboard Hot 100. In airplay it reached #2. It was her largest hit. Not even her other hits Building a Mystery, Sweet Surrender, or Adia came close to the juggernaut that this song was. KEZK 102.5 in St. Louis played this almost twice an hour, it was requested that much.

For me, Christmas of 1998 comes to mind in the memory department. It was the first song that KEZK played after switching back to their format from all Christmas music. That happened at midnight December 26th. That same day I flew to Nantucket to spend the rest of 1998 there.

So, is it shit?

As I stated above, sometimes you find a diamond in the rough. This song is that diamond. Despite it coming out during a bland time in music, everything is going for it; the vocals, the piano. This is piano rock at its finest moment. I’m not that much of a fan of piano rock (I’m looking at you, Fiona Apple) I recommend that you listen to this song and appreciate it for what it is. 5/5

Song #4 It’s All Right, It’s Okay by Leah Andreone (1997)

Adult Contemporary is a fickle genre. Hell, the late 90’s were a time of flash-in the-pan artists. I had first heard this song back in 1997. I do not know much about Ms. Andreone, only that this was her big “hit” which peaked at #57 in January of 1997. Unlike the juggernaut AC artists, Ms. Andreone released two albums: Veiled (1996) and Alchemy (1998) It’s All Right, It’s Ok was a song more suited to Y98 and the River, KEZK wouldn’t have touched this with a fifty foot pole. The emotion in this song is raw and she seems to scream the lyrics. Perhaps the record executives heard it and decided that since it was the 90’s and raw, angsty stuff was in; they could give this album a green light.

So, is it shit?

You betcha. Her screamy, whiny voice irritates the hell out of me, especially at the end. How this was greenlit for a single amazes me. Whenever this song came on, my mother would change the station. If it irritated her, which nothing really did on the radio then you knew it was shit. -1/5


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