The 50 Best Pop Singles Of 1995 (Featuring New Interviews With Alanis Morissette, Garbage, Kylie Minogue, Monica, Ace Of Base & More!)
22. EVERYTHING BUT THE GIRL, “Missing (Todd Terry Remix)” (Interview)
Just months before Todd Terry’s remix of Everything But The Girl’s “Missing” became a worldwide smash, the English duo – we’ll call them EBTG – were dropped by their record label. In her autobiography, Bedsit Disco Queen, Tracey Thorn (who made up EBTG with her now-husband Ben Watt) speculated that the label was “feeling a bit sick. They owned the song, but they no longer owned us.” Approached by label reps, the respected DJ Toddy Terry had quality material to work with.
“They let me do my thing on the mix.” Terry tells Idolator. “I always like to mix hard beats and soft vocals; that always works well on the dance floor, so I had what I needed.”
In fact, the track is very close to the original, with Terry adding a new beat while retaining the melody and structure. There’s nothing extraneous here – 1990’s EBTG tunes were marked by an elegant economy. The songs didn’t need extra dressing.
In either version, “Missing” is a noir-ish study in wistful longing, with a hint of lonely-but-relatable stalker in the lyric. The song is carried by Thorn’s gorgeously sad vocal. On 1995 radio, that voice rose right up over the decaying (and now corporate) grunge era. Like the arrival of Adele 15 years later, the world responded and made “Missing” a massive hit.
Terry, who’s never met EBTG in person, says today that he knew the song and the mix were great for radio — even a #1. “I was not that surprised.” — STEPHEN SEARS
21. ALEX PARTY, “Don’t Give Me Your Life” (Interview)
Diana Ross And The Supremes‘ “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” Britney Spears‘ “Stronger,” JoJo‘s “Leave (Get Out)” and Kelly Clarkson‘s “Since U Been Gone” all spring to mind when it comes to great kiss-off anthems throughout the annals of pop, but in 1995, it was all about one big F U to a no-good ex blaring from club speakers across the globe: “Don’t Give Me Your Life.”
Alex Party was an international group comprised of Italian producer brothers Paolo and Gianni Visnadi, a DJ by the name of Alex Natale and British vocalist Shanie Campbell, the epitome of powerhouse dance diva. The Visnadis were quite prolific at the time, in that they had their hand in another Italo house act, Livin’ Joy. (More on them further up the list!)
“At the beginning, the idea was to create something more oriented to the underground scene, but apparently it was a successful project — so starting from that point we decided to add a voice,” Paolo Visnadi tells Idolator, while looking back on the origins of Alex Party. “Regarding Shanie Campbell, she was introduced to us through the historical label UMM, or Underground Music Movement.”
The quartet’s varied experiences gave “Don’t Give Me Your Life” a unique sound and a sophisticated flare compared to the other stomping grooves at the time. The song easily leaped into the Top 40 on the Italian singles chart, but its biggest successes were in the UK, where it peaked at #2, and on the US dance chart, which saw the club cut rise to #5.
“The means of productions back then were not like today, and the production phase was actually more challenging,” Paolo says. “I remember that the hardest part was the huge amount of work during the assembly, once the vocals were recorded on tape. After that, every single phrase from the vocals was sampled individually and controlled via midi with an Atari computer.”
As for Paolo’s current endeavors, he tells us, “At the moment I’m very focused on running Rising Park, the studio I’ve opened with my partners, based in Venice. I have many upcoming projects ready to be released.” — ROBBIE DAW
20. MONICA, “Don’t Take It Personal (Just One Of Dem Days)” (Interview)
There’s always been something about Monica’s debut single, “Don’t Take It Personal (Just One of Dem Days),” that sets it apart from the other hits of 1995 — something that makes it resonate all these years later. Is it the plaintive, a cappella intro? The loping, sample-heavy track that acts as a gritty counterpoint to her sweet yet assured vocal? Maybe it’s the lyric which, despite taking no less than six songwriters (not counting credits for the Public Enemy and LL Cool J samples), employs a simple and surprisingly mature sentiment for a 15-year-old singer: I’m angry inside, but if you give me some time alone it’ll pass.
Actually, it’s all of those things — and I’d be remiss if I didn’t give special mention to that video. Like a looking glass into everything cool about the ’90s, it’s a stylish, black-and-white slice of life with fresh-faced Monica in an array of era-specific outfits (flannel, puffy jacket, floppy hat) in a funky apartment, pining over her boyfriend and his doomed, toaster-sized cellphone.
“The video that everyone saw,” begins Monica today, taking time out of promoting her new album Code Red (out December 18 — pre-order on iTunes) to indulge Idolator in our 1995 love fest, “was actually the third time we shot the video. The first video, shortly after it was shot, I cut my hair. My mom — and of course, the label — was pissed. I didn’t understand imaging and the fact that in the video, I had long black hair, and now looked like a totally different person. The second video was just horrible and the third was perfect. We shot it in New York, in the streets and freezing cold, but it was real and reflected my personality more. Thank God [“Don’t Take It Personal” producer] Dallas Austin, aka Pops, believed in me and fought for the third shoot!”
Despite those video issues, not to mention some stiff chart competition from a slew of hip hop-leaning R&B ingenues, Monica had little to worry about in terms of having a hit. Prepped for success by TLC’s main collaborator, the aforementioned Austin, the Georgia native came straight out of the gate with “Personal,” landing high atop the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and hitting #2 on the Hot 100. She even scored Top 5 status as far away as New Zealand and Australia. The teen took her sudden stardom in stride.
“I was shocked yet honored and grateful,” Monica explains. “Where I’m from, it wasn’t commonplace to experience that level of success so young. My family kept me grounded in the process. So I never lost the humility that, to me, makes a person special. I just remember pure gratefulness and a little disbelief.”
It was an auspicious start to brilliant career, with attendant album Miss Thang eventually going triple Platinum and spawning four more smashes in the forms of double A-side single “Before You Walk Out of My Life/ Like This and Like That” and its follow-up, “Why I Love You So Much.” The album itself lived up to its sassy title and then some, paving the way for a 20-plus-years career that continues with “Just Right for Me,” a recent hit in the upper reaches of Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart. Wrapping it all up for us, Monica looks back at her beginning with a rightful amount of pride.
“Dallas named my first album Miss Thang because I never let people make decisions for me,” she says. “Even at 13, if a record didn’t reflect my true beliefs, I either didn’t do it or rewrote it, or he rewrote it to fit me. I’m thankful for that, because when I look back over my career, I smile with no regrets.” — JOHN HAMILTON