Sappy songs I just can’t get enough of…
(A.k.a. songs that I listen to after drunkenly stumbling home, in the secret comfort of my room.)
Everyone has secret indulgences, whether it’s an unnecessary pedicure, an extra slice of cheesecake, or listening to that Jennifer Lopez album that no one knows you own (not that I would admit something like that either). Personally, I enjoy lulling away the time with a little YouTube surfing, and reminiscing about my lost youth via watching vintage videos with such poor quality that they look like it they were uploaded straight from VHS, through a soft lens filter that leaves everything fuzzy but the heavy synthesizers.
As a teen in the 90s, I developed a secret love for sentimental love songs and power ballads. There was nothing greater than sitting in my room, singing “Nothing Compares 2 U” while flipping through a Sassy magazine. And I couldn’t get enough of the low-budget, cheesy music videos that dominated this loud and bright Gen X decade, especially when they involved cell phones that were often larger than a boot. Here are some of the greatest hits that I (not so secretly) can’t live without. ¤ C.Ho.
“Summer Rain,” Belinda Carlisle (1990)
When Belinda Carlisle decided to pursue a solo career, no one believed that she would make it without The Go-Gos. But with numerous charting singles, she proved that inoffensive 90s pop music was a force to be reckoned with – or at least a force that was hard to resist.
Why I Won’t Admit It: Have you seen the video? Not only does Carlisle do a weird two-step dance during the chorus, but she’s also sporting a weird 90s version of clogs. The army-inspired music video is also reminiscent of Green Day’s “Wake Me Up When September Ends,” but with less angry girlfriends and war-torn countries, and more dancing in rain.
Why I Secretly Love It: This song is 90s cheesiness at its best, and Carlisle is a perfect example of the poppy goodness spawned from that era. With a dance track that would be the equivalent of a modern-day Britney Spears single, Carlisle sings her heart out about not understanding love (“ooh, love is strange,” she perceptively croons at one point), or 90s fashion for that matter, but forgetting it away with a romantic romp in the rain. A bonus is that the music video looks like a karaoke video – but it’s not!
Choice Lyrics: “Oh my love it's you that I dream of, oh my love since that day. Somewhere in my heart I'm always dancing with you in the summer rain.”
More Carlisle: Belinda scored a number of other hits in the 80s, most notably the Vegas-inspired “Leave a Light On” (1989), “Circle in the Sand” (1988), the bubbly “Heaven Is A Place on Earth” (1987), and the heavily synthesized “I Get Weak” (1988), which features Madonna boy-toy Tony Ward, bright red lipstick, a penchant for shoulder pads, and the elusive teased mullet look.
“The One,” Elton John (1992)
This once flamboyant British performer turned adult contemporary staple released this chart-topping song immediately after the omnipresent “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me.”
Why I Won’t Admit It: Come on, it’s Elton John.
Why I Secretly Love It: Set against a melodic backdrop, “The One” is probably one of the sappiest songs you’ll ever hear on the radio – and yet, its allure lies in its sappy excess, and how it openly revels in it. Does this song include lyrics about stars? Check. Does this song include natural allegories that hardly make sense but nonetheless sound like poetry? Check. Does this song include similes about what love feels like? Check. Does this song believe in soul mates and want you to find yours? Check. “All I ever needed was the one.” Don’t we all need that John, don’t we all.
Choice Lyrics: “And all I ever needed was the one, like freedom fields where wild horses run. When stars collide like you and I, no shadows block the sun.”
“Stay,” Shakespears Sister (1992)
Shakespears Sister, comprised of Siobhan Fahey, formerly of girl pop group Bananarama, and partner Marcella Detroit, delivered this rock ballad that eventually became the volatile group’s biggest hit before Shakespears Sister disbanded in 1993.
Why I Won’t Admit It: No one probably remembers this song, or Shakespears Sister for that matter.
Why I Secretly Love It: There’s nothing greater than a love song that also comes neatly wrapped in a concept: in a nutshell, Detroit pleads with her lover to stand by her side in the same manner that she’s stayed by his. In the music video, the girls take it one step further by conceptualizing a deathbed scene where Detroit begs her lover not to give up, while Fahey plays a devilish vixen, attempting to lure Detroit’s lover to the other side with a maniacally delivered bridge. In retrospect, Fahey as the grim reaper would have been more apt, but the costume wouldn’t have been as fun to wear.
Choice Lyrics: “If this world is wearing thin, and you're thinking of escape, I'll go anywhere with you, just wrap me up in chains. But if you try to go out alone, don't think I'll understand.”
“Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough,” Patty Smyth and Don Henley (1992)
You wouldn’t know it from her subsequent hits, but Patty Smyth was something of a notorious singer back in her day, hanging out with the likes of Van Halen and The Eagles. With the release of “Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough,” she scored her highest charting song to date.
Why I Won’t Admit It: Admitting to your teenage friends that you like an adult contemporary song will surely make you the most popular girl in the class.
Why I Will Admit It: Part adult contemporary, part country, this bittersweet track perfectly encapsulates the ails of an exhausted relationship. Though I was too young to realize the true meaning of the song, I always felt that “sometimes love just ain’t enough” is a fitting phrase to remember in life. In addition to the sage advice in the title, Smyth, teaming up with Don Henley, also teaches us that loving unconditionally is not always the right answer (“there's a danger in loving somebody too much, and it's sad when you know it's your heart you can't trust”), letting go of anger is the way to go (“I could never change you, I don't want to blame you, baby, you don't have to take the fall”), and the questions we all ask ourselves at one time or another (“are there things that you wanted to say? And do you feel me beside you in your bed, there beside you, where I used to lay?”). What the song sadly sets up but doesn’t answer is how one could “feel like rain.” Pretty soggy, I bet.
Choice Lyrics: Now I don't want to lose you, but I don't want to use you, just to have somebody by my side.
“I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That),” Meat Loaf (1993)
Known for his trademark rock’n’roll appearance and long song titles that often take up two lines on notebook paper, Meat Loaf showed a softer side with this Grammy-winning power ballad that had everyone wondering what he won’t do for love.
Why I Won’t Admit It: The omnipresent single was everywhere in 1993, and even recently showed up in soft drink commercials. If you didn’t grow sick of it, then you probably don’t mind James Blunt or Avril Lavigne or 50 Cent’s “In Da Club.”
Why I Will Admit It: There’s just something grand about a rock ballad that seems to last several hours and includes a music video fit for a feature film (it was, after all, directed by Michael “overblown and overhyped blockbusters” Bay). Incorporating elements of Beauty and the Beast, the narrative of the video goes something like this: a disfigured and slightly pervy Meat Loaf spies a pretty girl bathing in a nearby forest, but runs away before she can spot him. The girl follows the mysterious stranger to his massive castle, where they profess their fears and love through song before the feds burst in, looking to apprehend Meat Loaf. The foxy girl finally sees Meat Loaf’s face and heals him with her love, and the two lovers make like trees and leave, riding off into the sunset. I guess even disfigured recluses get to ride a cool motorcycle once in a while.
Choice Lyrics: Maybe I'm crazy, but it's crazy and it's true. I know you can save me…no one else can save me now but you.
“Come Undone,” Duran Duran (1993)
The super 80s band, revered for such hits as “The Reflex” and “Hungry Like the Wolf,” is reportedly planning a comeback with the help of Justin Timberlake and Timbaland. But this wouldn’t be the first time – back in the 90s, Duran Duran had their first comeback of sorts with Duran Duran (The Wedding Album).
Why I Won’t Admit It: Like any high school crush, the memories are sweeter than the present-day appeal.
Why I Will Admit It: Even though I never understood the song, which mostly plays like a mish-mash of verses written by the Cheshire cat (“chill, is it something real, or the magic I'm feeding off your fingers” goes one of the song’s infamously confounding lines), there’s no denying the appeal of the melancholy melody or the sadness of the lyrics (“we'll try to stay blind to the hope and fear outside”).
Choice Lyrics: Can't ever keep from falling apart at the seams…can't believe you're taking my heart to pieces.
More Duran Duran: You can see more glam rock in the director’s cut of “Ordinary World” (1993), where the band shows us that with an updated ‘do and new duds, rock stars can age gracefully too. (Just for fun, try watching the Gregorian chant version of "Ordinary World.")
“Don’t Let Go (Love),” En Vogue (1997)
In an age where it seems like anyone and their pet Chihuahua can put out an album, this quartet of soul singers, modeled after The Supremes, would put anyone to shame. But while their voices can withstand the test of time, sadly, their often campy music videos cannot.
Why I Won’t Admit It: The group started out strong but after a string of mediocre hits in the late 90s, it was time to retire the love.
Why I Will Admit It: During my angry phase, I would spend incessant amounts of time listening to this song, even though I was single and, most importantly, had no real reason to be angry. The song reached out to me in many ways that many run-of-the-mill R&B tracks don’t. For instance, I did feel that someone “running in and out my life” would make me “confused,” and agreed that stars do speak “like only lovers do,” especially when sung with as much rage and conviction as En Vogue does. On the other hand, I never felt a desire to wear his clothes and “pretend I was [him], and lose control.” And the pre-chorus run (“there'll be some love making, heart breaking, soul shaking, love”) is a little redundant. Luckily, this empowering song coupled with En Vogue’s powerful vocals more than makes up for the grammatical inconsistencies.
Choice Lyrics: “Running in and out my life has got me so confused, you gotta make the sacrifice, somebody's gotta chose.”
Video Bonus: It seems that Mekhi Phifer was quite busy in the 90s – or so the music video for the single would make us believe. A young Phifer (who curiously looks the same no matter what decade) hooks up with each girl from En Vogue, although he seriously gets kinky with Dawn Robinson in what looks like the beginnings of homemade porn. But he gets his at the end, when the girls serenade him at a party with “Don’t Let Go (Love).” At one point, Cindy Herron hilariously kicks her discarded jacket at him, officially cementing my love for her for years to come.