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


La Bouche Be My Lover

“La da da dee da da da da!” Who knew a string of non-sensical lyrics could change the way I thought of dance music forever? Despite being born years after the heyday of Hi-NRG and Eurodance, my glow stick still waves proudly as if I was old enough to remember those hazy underground NYC club nights from that era (the 1998 film A Night At The Roxbury had a lot to do with the obsession as well). La Bouche’s “Be My Lover” is one of those songs that continue to feed the nostalgic vein that courses through me without shame.

This German dance duo, comprised of rapper Lane McCray and late singer Melanie Thornton, created blood-pumping tunes that combined energetic waves of synths with incredibly soulful vocals that kept bodies moving way longer than those endless rounds of Sex On The Beach cocktails ever could! Looking back at it now, it may come across as just another Eurotrash song to an unknowing ear. But for people like me who hold dance music to the same standard as pop or R&B, “Be My Lover” still provides a sense of euphoric escape that continues to refuel the spirit. — BIANCA GRACIE


Weezer Say It Ain't So

“Buddy Holly” and “Undone” were brilliant, but they also suggested Weezer might be reliant upon winking gimmickry. Then the third single from The Blue Album arrived, proving quiet/loud and clear these guys could do heavy, hooky angst just as well as their mopey, flannel-clad peers.

“Say It Ain’t So” is probably Chapter 1 in the “Weezer invented emo” narrative, but no matter how many sensi-dude whines about disappointing dads the “Like father, stepfather!” bridge would go on to inspire, this song’s legacy rests on the massive verse-chorus payoff. That feedback squall marking the switch from soft to loud as the knuckle-dragging power chords batter against the chorus, that was the 1995 version of the drop. — CARL WILLIOTT


Here’s an experiment: take the manic energy and hooks of decades of female-fronted UK punk like X-Ray Spex or The Slits, make it all a bit more palatable by smoothing out the screaming and rough bits, and you have yourself trans-Atlantic hit potential. This was what Elastica did well for a brief blip in the mid-’90s. Punk purists decried them as derivative, all the more so because bandleader Justine Frischmann was born London posh and the whole endeavor seemed like a one-off rich kid dalliance, her relationship with Blur lead singer Damon Albarn icing on the cake. But, oh my, the band’s breakout single “Stutter” and the no-holds-barred earworm “Connection” are such good, simple, streamlined, punk-pop that you kind of have to throw all those critiques out the window.

There’s so much energy in “Connection”s massive wall of fuzz, guttural Oooahs  and high-pitched two-tone synth line, it’s hard not to feel like you’re moshing in a gritty subterranean Camden Town club. Frischmann’s “I barely give a shit” throaty delivery only ups the song’s cool factor. Elastica fizzled out after a less successful second album, but Frischmann paid her fame forward: she shared a flat with and was an early supporter of a visual artist named Maya Arulpragasam, who would go on to write music of her own and come to be known as M.I.A. — ALEXANDER CHO

27. 2 PAC, “DEAR MAMA”

2Pac Dear Mama

Afeni Shakur was a positive influence on her first child, Tupac. She told him to read Shakespeare. She also had him attend the Baltimore School Of Performing Arts, where he started rapping. Then the budding MC’s mother grew addicted to crack cocaine, which had her using welfare payments to care for her children until Tupac moved out in 1989. She would only reconnect with her son after completing a 12-step rehab program, after he rose to stardom with his 1991 debut 2Pacalypse Now. Their story is extraordinary.

Tupac was in jail for two counts of sexual abuse when he released “Dear Mama,” though the love letter to Afeni complicated the world’s view on him and hip hop at large. It was the third rap song recognized by the Library Of Congress as a recording of historical significance, because of its portrayal of a single mother’s struggle to raise her children without familial or governmental support. But Tupac also made it universal by saying what every parent wants to hear from their child: “You are appreciated.” — CHRISTINA LEE


Kylie Minogue 1995 Nick Cave

With Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato making headlines with their sexy image overhauls and comparatively edgy new albums, 2015 is very much the year of the reinvented teen queen. However, their transformations pale in comparison to the one Kylie Minogue went through 20 years ago when she teamed up with Nick Cave for Murder Ballads highlight “Where The Wild Roses Grow.”

The Aussie pop icon had tried to break the chains of bubblegum-pop stardom a year earlier with an indie-pop leaning LP, but there were still doubts about her commitment and capabilities. They evaporated when she effortlessly morphed into Eliza Day — the victim of Nick Cave’s riverside skull-crushing.

It turns out the seed for “Where The Wild Roses Grow” was sown in the early ‘90s by the enduring diva’s then-boyfriend. “Five or six years prior to recording the song, Michael Hutchence had said to me, ‘My friend Nick Cave would really love to do a song with you,’” Kylie tells Idolator. “I didn’t really know who he was talking about.”

“I said, ‘Yeah, great’, and didn’t hear anything else until much further down the line,” she continues. “1995 was the era of being post-modern and ironic, and if I hadn’t known that it was coming from a really sincere place over many years, I might not have done it. Also, by that stage I did know more about Nick Cave.”

The song and its eerie visual now hold a special place in the hit-maker’s heart. “When I heard the song, without hesitation I was in,” Kylie remembers. “I loved it and I was excited about the prospect of doing something different. It holds up really well and I think the video is one of my favorite videos.”

The murder ballad didn’t chart in America, but it reached #2 in Australia and was a surprise hit across Europe. More importantly, it gave Kylie the credibility she had been craving since leaving PWL. — MIKE WASS


Smashing Pumpkins Bullet With Butterfly Wings

Anticipation for The Smashing Pumpkins’ third studio album was at a feverish level after the runaway success of 1993’s Siamese Dream and their replacing Nirvana as Lollapalooza headliners following Kurt Cobain’s death in 1994. The suspense was heightened when Billy Corgan and Co. announced they would give the world two discs of new material. “Bullet with Butterfly Wings,” the lead single off of the double album Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness, screamed onto radio stations and MTV in October 1995 with a frenzied violence only hinted at in previous Pumpkins outings. It was as if the wistful and romantic Pumpkins of the two previous LPs finally tapped into their violent id. Giving the finger to those critics who complained that Siamese Dream was overproduced and Corgan’s challenging voice too filtered, “Bullet” debuted a new sound: even more outrageously overdubbed guitars combined with painfully raw vocals. It worked.

Despite all their rage, Corgan and his crew cleaned up at record stores. Mellon Collie, buoyed by “Bullet,” debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 and went on to become their most successful album, eventually gaining a Diamond certification from the RIAA. The video, directed by grunge-era maestro Samuel Bayer (“Smells Like Teen Spirit,” among many others), is notable for the introduction of the now iconic black “ZERO” shirt. It’s also a moment of Pumpkins transition frozen in time, the final appearance of Corgan’s boyishly confused Siamese Dream-era locks before the full realization of his Uncle Fester-esque dome. — ALEXANDER CHO


Take That Back For Good

In every corner of the globe save for America, a country then preoccupied with alt-rock and hip hop, boy bands were as essential a part of the mid-1990s as the butt-part haircut or baggy jeans. And in Europe, it was UK five-piece Take That who were ruling airwaves, video channels and teen mags with their handsome mugs, homoerotic imagery and nonstop string of ballads and hip-pop jams.

That the group’s pop masterpiece “Back For Good” managed to break the US market barrier and crack the Top 10 — mind you, Take That’s only single to appear on the Billboard Hot 100 — was a true testament to member/writer Gary Barlow‘s talent; the song doesn’t just demonstrate his skill at song craft, it also underscores his knack for tapping into our collective emotions. Add the fact that “Back For Good” rose to the heights of the American chart after band member Robbie Williams had departed, and it’s all the more astounding. — ROBBIE DAW


“In the Meantime” is one of those songs that everyone seems to have heard, but whose creators no one can remember. Don’t blame yourself; Spacehog never really made any other dents in pop music history. The band, a crew of Englishmen living in Manhattan, titled their debut album Resident Alien. It went Gold, and “In the Meantime” hit #1 on the mainstream rock charts. The song is a weird, graceful pastiche, managing to be both soaring and quirky at the same time. It’s almost as if they decided to pull out all the stops for this one, knowing they’d only really have one chance. If the opening bars sound slightly intellectual, it’s because they are a sample from avant-classical UK collective Penguin Café Orchestra. The chorus, powered by booming syncopated chords and a loopy riff, is eminently catchy, yet totally indecipherable (“We love the all the all of you”), and there’s an uplifting guitar solo outro — plus even a wistful piano coda! What’s not to love?

The ’90s—what a special time, gifting us little bits of pop-rock fluff like this one, which has a special place in the pantheon of one-hit alt-rock wonders next to Len’s “Steal My Sunshine” and Semisonic’s “Closing Time.” Of note: lead singer Royston Langdon went on to marry — and separate from — actress and rock royalty-spawn Liv Tyler— ALEXANDER CHO