The 50 Best Pop Singles Of 1995 (Featuring New Interviews With Alanis Morissette, Garbage, Kylie Minogue, Monica, Ace Of Base & More!)

Robbie Daw | December 9, 2015 8:22 am


Dr. Dre Keep Their Heads Ringin

By 1995, Ice Cube was tired of his hometown being depicted as hell on earth. He certainly played a role in all that, as both a member of gangsta rap group N.W.A. and featured actor in Boyz N the Hood. Yet, like Montell Jordan, he was aware that South Central Los Angeles knew how to have fun as well — hence the stoner comedy Friday, directed by longtime pal F. Gary Gray. “We know it had its bad moments, but for the most part, there’s no place I would rather grow up,” Ice Cube told Rolling Stone.

Like Ice Cube, fellow N.W.A. member Dr. Dre raps with his chest puffed out. On record he can sound intimidating, menacing even. Thanks to his own “Keep Their Heads Ringin’,” however, Friday got the no-brainer pop hit it deserved for its official soundtrack. Zingers include  “Get popped like a pimple, so call me Clearasil.” Then of course, there is that hook — ladies singing like a bell that tolls at Dr. Dre’s command, which is dumb fun. Kind of like Friday. — CHRISTINA LEE


Adina Howard Freak Like Me

The funky synths that open Adina Howard’s classic debut single “Freak Like Me” would have you believing the singer originated from the West Coast, but she was actually bred from the Grand Rapids of Michigan. Still, her introductory cut was full of drop-top low rider vibes (and the massive shout out “ain’t no party like a West Coast party” on the song), as Howard let her freak flag fly. The song was a testament to the times for women in hip hop and R&B; groups like Salt-N-Pepa and TLC were challenging sexual boundaries, as the ladies became the provocateurs on the mic, accenting catchy tunes with naughty innuendos. “Freak Like Me” joined the charge and propelled Adina Howard to R&B royalty rather quickly.

The song was almost the prehistoric version of Destiny’s Child’s “Soldier.” “Let me lay it on the line, I’ve got a little freakiness inside,” Howard coos on the track, complete with a video where she’s rocking hot pants and a leather jacket, while sliding on yellow satin sheets. There’s also a gender role flip in the track with, “C’mon and I will take you around the hood on a gangsta lean,” meaning Adina wants to drive the guy around the ‘hood, as she leans to the right in her car (or his?). In the video, she’s on a manhunt with her girls in a Mercedes convertible. Talk about #goals. — KATHY IANDOLI


Mariah Carey One Sweet Day

The longest running #1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 was released in November 1995, as the second single off Mariah Carey‘s fifth album, Daydream. A pair-up with Boyz II Men, themselves no strangers to the top of the charts in that era, “One Sweet Day” was posed as a harmless, straight forward ballad reminding us that those in our lives who have passed away are never far from our hearts. The song spent a whopping 16 weeks at #1, a feat that was most recently almost (but not quite) matched by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars“Uptown Funk,” which racked up 14 weeks atop the Hot 100 this past spring.

The irony is that — real talk, people — “One Sweet Day” is hardly the best song from either the Mariah or the BIIM oeuvres. In fact, playing it now, it’s kind of hard to imagine how this made it to the top while, say for instance, Carey’s classic “Can’t Let Go” never did. Right place, right time, perhaps. — ROBBIE DAW


In 1995, the world wasn’t sure whether Michael Jackson could be trusted. The King of Pop had faced child sexual abuse allegations two years prior. Moreover, as fitting as it read on paper, his relationship with Lisa Marie Presley seemed to some like a publicity stunt. The couple lounges topless at Greek temple ruins in director Wayne Isham‘s “You Are Not Alone” video, though as they whisper to each other, there is zero sexual tension. Lisa Marie even looks over her shoulder at the camera, as if to make sure we’re watching them.

Still, the R. Kelly-written “You Are Not Alone” did wonders to earn Michael forgiveness. It became the very first song to debut atop the Hot 100 — the first in a string of 24 songs to do so that was book-ended 20 years later by current chart topper “Hello” by Adele — and it would be the last of his 15 #1 singles. To be honest, this ballad’s chart success likely had nothing to do with its actual subject matter: “You Are Not Alone” imagines that Michael already is alone, while still hopeful that the woman who abandoned him will return soon. The reason why “You Are Not Alone” still resonates, even six years after his death, is the hook; Michael’s promise to always be there has always seemed sincere. — CHRISTINA LEE

36. SEAL, “KISS FROM A ROSE”(Interview)

Seal 1995

Originally released in 1994 as the second single from Seal’s sophomore LP, “Kiss From A Rose” failed to crack the Billboard Hot 100. The Trevor Horn-produced ballad would top the chart a year later when director Joel Schumacher decided to use it in Batman Forever. It played over the closing credits, and left a lasting impression on moviegoers — such a large impression that the track was re-released with a new video and began its slow march to #1.

“Kiss From A Rose” was not only a belated commercial success, but also critically lauded. It would go on to win Record of the Year and Song of the Year at the 1996 Grammys and earn Seal the gong for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.

“We’ve always been tight,” Seal explained to Idolator in October about “Kiss From A Rose” producer Trevor Horn. “We’ve always been a strong part of each other’s lives. I’ve known him for 25 years. He’s also, as well as being my producer, he’s also been my music partner.”

Seal Kiss From A Rose

“He owns the studios where I’ve recorded a great deal of my albums,” the Brit continued. “It’s all about being free and being comfortable with someone and trusting someone and being vulnerable in front of that person. When you can do that you can do anything. Trevor’s just remarkable. He’s an incredible human being.”

As evidenced by “Kiss From A Rose,” the producer also knows how to frame Seal’s powerful pipes better than anyone else. “I don’t trust anyone with my voice as much as I do with Trevor,” he revealed. “I just always know that I’m going to be taken care of. He doesn’t let anything get in the way of the narrative. He will never sacrifice the narrative for a cool guitar line or a nice bit of orchestration. He just won’t do it.” — MIKE WASS


Sheryl Crow Strong Enough

Sheryl Crow sings in a thin, brittle voice that reveals its limitations when she reaches for notes beyond her range. But here, it works. Her weakness is gut-punchingly powerful on “Strong Enough,” one of the most nakedly vulnerable vocal-and-lyric combinations ever recorded. Its stripped-down simplicity sent the song to #5 and helped deepen Crow’s bubbly “All I Wanna Do” persona, setting the stage for the remarkable maturity she’d show on her self-titled follow-up album.

Oh, and to reassure Crow and all the “complicated ladies” out there, country superstar and Sheryl hair doppleganger Travis Tritt scored a hit with his mansplainy answer song, “Strong Enough To Be Your Man.” (Spoiler alert: he is!) — JONATHAN RIGGS


Bucketheads The Bomb

Who would have predicted that The Karate Kid, Part II balladeer and former lead singer of Chicago, Peter Cetera, would experience a mid-’90s career renaissance as a house music diva? (Not even Miss Cleo!) But that’s exactly what happened when noted remixer/producer Kenny “Dope” Gonzales (Lisa Stansfield, Madonna, and Debbie Gibson were just a few of his clients) lifted a vintage slice of Chicago’s “Street Player,” dressed it with a funky kick, edited the hell out of the horn section and Cetera’s vocals and turned it all out as “The Bomb!”

Aside from being one of the more eccentric dance tracks of the period, “The Bomb!” stands as one of the few truly underground records that crossed over to mainstream radio, reaching #5 on the UK singles chart and eventually peaking in the US at #49 on the Billboard Hot 100. More importantly, it was the basis of “I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho)”, Pitbull’s 2009 breakout single. So, in a weird, teeny-tiny, obscure kind of way, we may have Peter Cetera to thank for Pitbull. What a world! — JOHN HAMILTON


Dave Grohl had written some solo scraps while he was still in Nirvana, and in the months after Kurt Cobain‘s suicide he started fleshing out that material to help get through the loss. Much of this ultimately became his self-titled solo debut as Foo Fighters, which was an improbably loose, playful release.

This was apparent immediately with lead single and album opener “This Is A Call.” It was grunge without the baggage, quirky and fun where Nirvana was acerbic and tortured. Commercialized grunge runoff was already dominating by the summer of 1995, but when the long-haired Nirvana basher joined the fray with this nimble single, for better or worse he legitimized the movement, giving it something the Bushes and Seven Mary Threes of the world never could: authenticity. — CARL WILLIOTT


Notorious BIG One More Chance Stay With Me Remix

The original “One More Chance,” off Notorious B.I.G.’s brutal 1994 debut Ready To Die, was him treating sex as if it was strictly business. “Hit you with the dick, make your kidney shift,” he raps, though his voice is so cold that it almost sounds like a threat. “One More Chance” begins with several women leaving him voicemails, demanding to know why he dared not call them again. You’d be forgiven for wondering why they bothered.

B.I.G. claims that he hasn’t changed in the candlelit “Stay With Me (Remix)” — “Heartthrob? Never / Black and ugly as ever.” Yet, because of how his loose, easy flow glides over “Prince” Charles Alexander‘s instrumental (he sampled two R&B tracks, one of which was by Barry White), “One More Chance / Stay With Me” did better to show why anyone would find him hard to resist. It debuted at #5 on the Hot 100, joining Michael and Janet Jackson‘s “Scream” as the highest single debut ever at the time. — CHRISTINA LEE


Bush Comedown

In the mid ’90s, contradictions in popular music were harder to digest — specifically the “sellout alt rock” oxymoron, which Bush often seemed to flaunt. Their debut Sixteen Stone was initially seen as a safe, softened-up approximation of Nirvana, grunge created by someone charting out metrics like engagement and reach. But that was a complicated trick to pull off, and the duality was best expressed on third single “Comedown,” which seamlessly fused the sleaziness and sneering of grunge with the sexiness and brightness of Top 40 radio (a place the song indeed reached, peaking at #30).

It starts with swooping guitar parts and a lurching bass groove that comes straight from the pelvis, but that angsty psychedelic sprawl morphs into a singalong chorus full of yearning and proto-Coldplay guitar theatrics. “Comedown” may be best remembered for spawning one of the era’s iconic fish-eye lens videos, but it proved Bush was more than just a British Nirvana knockoff. To be that cold you couldn’t make something this warm. — CARL WILLIOTT