Five Things I Have Learned Watching VH1’s “100 Greatest Songs Of The 90s”

jharv | December 21, 2007 9:30 am
smellslikenostalgia.jpg

If you’ve been paying attention to Idolator lately, it’s pretty clear that, thanks to some “shit, I’m old” spasm, I’ve been on a pretty sad enjoyable 90s nostalgia kick. Still, I wouldn’t have needed the specter of aging to twist my arm to sit through VH1’s 100 Greatest Songs Of The 90s, and of course I’ve been enjoying it in full knowledge of the final list, which hasn’t stopped me from groaning with displeasure when “Ice Ice Baby” is unveiled ahead of “No Diggity,” because I’m a very sick man who probably needs to drop out of American society entirely for some kind of pop cultural master cleanse. But for tonight’s final installment, I believe will heed the words of commenter “orangepixistix”: “I don’t know if I would really say half of this list makes sense as ‘top’ songs for the 90s, but I do think they are the songs that probably stood out for the 90s when it comes to mainstream music…. I sort of wish certain songs were higher and certain songs even made but list but I guess I cannot complain. Every generated list, even if its based on on-line votes, will have some sort of flaw.” So true. And so in lieu of kvetching about things we cannot complain about, here are five things I have learned watching this monstrosity every night this week.

1. Liz Phair thinks “Sex And Candy” is the greatest song of the ’90s: Just jam your thumb in the wound there, Liz.

2. Rock critics are officially swimming in the deep end without the little arm floaty things on these shows: Surely I can’t be the only rock critic hopeful to nervously note this, right? In the midst of the non-stop mugging over the true meaning of “Peaches” (debate thumbnail: Dave Holmes thinks its about fruit, Mark McGrath thinks it might go deeper), Rob Sheffield will pop up to try to add a little winky socio-historical whatever to his quippery (“the Presidents Of The United States Of America were actually signed to an indie label owned by Cheech Marin’s son”*) and he’ll immediately be elbowed aside by Godfrey’s willingness to do the Hammer dance in a flannel shirt or that Squirt TV douche strapping on a pair of fake dreads and singing “Mr. Jones.” I’m already practicing supermaning that ho now for when I’m (hopefully!) called up to the bigs for the “100 Greatest Songs Of The ’00s.” If you’re reading, VH1, I’m making the little pinky-thumb telephone right now.**

3. “Never trust a big butt and a smile”: Why yes, male VH1 talking heads, that is just as true now (high-fives!) as when it was released, when of course I would have been young enough to be confused as to why a big butt would prove a liability later in life. If only I had a time machine and access to Ronnie DeVoe.

4. Comedians on VH1 countdown shows have achieved some no-jokes-necessary zen: Sweetest gig in history. The dude comedians just have to recite the lyrics of the song in question in an exaggerated monotone. (“And all you rappers in the Top 10….” long pause to allow drool to collect in slack jaw “…please allow me to bump thee.”) The chick comedians do the same, except in the voice of Shirley Hemphill. (“You so crazy”–head does 360 swivel–“I think I wanna have your baby!”) This has been a long and ongoing process and so surely someone has written an entire thesis (or blog post) on it re. the dumbing down of comedy in the context of VH1 listicles, but it’s become the default mode as of this ’90s show, i.e. impossible to ignore, your enjoyment contingent on the kinda thrilling don’t-give-a-fuck-just-please-pay-me nihilism of it all.

4A. My roommate asks: “Are Nelson ever filmed without guitars now?”

5. I don’t care what anyone says, I will enjoy watching these shows until the site of my eyes shrivel up and pop out of my skull: Even with the stack of books piling up unread next to my bed (like Planet Of Slums is going to stand a chance against Hanson kissing Ice Cube’s ass), even with the full understanding of the fact that it’s the same show every time (except exponentially dumber and with different kitsch elements plugged in), even with the even fuller understanding that my enjoyment is predicated on being part of multiple problems (I will not be spared when the comet finally comes), VH1’s gravitational pull (especially when intoxicated) is strong, and I have grown to respect it. Anyone who thinks that makes me a bad person can kick those nasty thoughts on over to 1-900-MIX-ALOT. (Make bug eyes at camera and then cut to the next post.)

EARLIER: VH1 Ranks The ’90s, Blames Gerardo Inclusion On Viewers

* Not actually true.**Totally serious. I have flexible morals and a total lack of shame despite horrid Catholic upbringing. Call me.