Best of 1998 – the Rest of 1998

The Quest For Perfect Pop…..Part Two

The Billboard singles chart position is indicated in square brackets after the text,where applicable [tracks not released as commercial singles in North America are identified]. I’ve also indulged in quoting some of the lyrics of the songs (with apologies for any gaffes).

550 Music
CD: Sunburn

“All that shimmers is sure to fade…..”

Perhaps not the most optomistic song of the year, but one Fuel-ed by a dynamic, sincere performance, which got it to the Top 10 of the Modern Rock chart. Another band whose second CD will be worth waiting for. [BB: #42]

CD: “Dr. Dolittle” movie soundtrack

It’s kind of hard to look past Timbaland’s contributions – he’s everywhere lately. But Lady Aaliyah is the winner here with a sultry performance which makes mincemeat out of a rather straight-forward lyric. [BB: #21]

Beastie Boys
Grand Royal-Capitol
CD: Hello Nasty

The boys are back and better than ever with this incredibly clever, rockin’ rap. Throw in the kitschy robot and some great rhymes, and you have an instant classic. It took a while to grow on me – I thought it sounded so odd on the radio – but then I realized that was the whole point! Records like this need to exist just to make you remember that rock music does not need to be literal. [BB: #28]

24. IRIS
Goo Goo Dolls
Warner Sunset
CDs: “City Of Angels” movie soundtrack and Dizzy Up The Girl

The most popular gorgeous ballad of the year – yeah, those three guys from Buffalo, NY who gave you the equally lovely “Name” in 1995 did it again – is also one of the best, destined to be in recurrent play on radio for the next five years. And do you know anyone who’ll mind? [CD track – BB: #9]

Jimmy Ray
CD: Jimmy Ray

Think back – back – back – to the beginning of the year……. that guy with the pompadour – no, not Brian Setzer, you’re only in the summer – yeah that guy who wrote the song about himself! Well it was fun while it lasted, even if it didn’t become as popular as the classic “Duke Of Earl”. Next only to The Beastie Boys in ’98 for a bizarre, if infectious, set of rhymes, placed adjacent to an early 60’s set of sensibilities. [BB: #13]

CD: My Way

This second single from Usher’s debut CD showed what a sophisticated ballad a 19 year old can make these days with the help of a producer like Babyface. The amazing thing, though, is that Usher has a great voice and conquered the younger female quotient thing tout de suite – he’s set for a half dozen CD’s, to start. Not surprisingly, “Nice and Slow” went straight to #1 on Billboard’s Singles chart – something that somehow eluded the even-better first single from late ’97, “You Make Me Wanna…”. [BB: #1]

Deborah Cox
CD: One Wish

Like its model – Toni Braxton’s “Un-break My Heart”, my #10 song of 1996 – “Nobody’s Supposed To Be Here” was designed to be both a ballad and a dance track. It works splendidly in both versions – the latter in particular is jubulant, positively exciting in its sincerity. Another Grammy contender, Canada’s Cox is a talent who will be around for a long time. [BB: #2 at time of writing]

Bif Naked
Aquarius (Canada)
CD: I Bificus

This hard-edged rock record found its popularity Canada-wide when it was released as a CD single with both original and dance mixes included. This success bodes well for Vancouverite Bif, who certainly knows how to write a hook when she decides to veer away from the truly abrasive stuff in her CD. The rock version is a standout, a grandchild of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” for sure. [CD single – Canada only]

Luaka Bop-Warner
CD: When I Was Born For The Seventh Time

“Brimful Of Asha” was one of the most spry singles of the early part of ’98, rejoicing in something those of us outside of Indian culture don’t know about: The 45’s of the title singer. So translate it into tossing your old vinyl on the turntable and revelling in the music you love. Very simple, and effective, a number one UK hit for this British band. [did not chart]

30. THE DOWN TOWN (remix)
Days Of The New
CD: Days Of The New

One of the most powerful new voices of the year comes from the lead singer of Days Of The New, 18 year old Travis Meeks. The urgency in his voice puts across the dirty-sounding intrigue which “The Down Town” conveys, especially in the remixed version which was played on modern rock radio. The Kentucky-based group received a tremendous reception from album rock and modern rock radio, and has also acquired quite a following. If “The Down Town” is an example of what’s to come, the next CD by Days Of The New will be a Top 10 item. [CD track]

Ultra Naté
Strictly Rhythm
CD: Situation Critical

“Found a cure to get me through another day….”

So popular were “Found A Cure” and last year’s primo club anthem “Free” that a full CD of songs from American dance diva Ultra Naté was finally released. This is a happy marriage of production, voice, and lyric, all set to an irresistible beat. Right now Ultra Naté is what dance music is all about. And it’s no wonder that her contribution to the Stars On 54 cover of Gordon Lightfoot’s “If You Could Read My Mind” helped it become a huge hit, particularly in Canada. [did not chart]

CD: Mo’hagany

Simply put: “Touch It” is the sauciest record of the year. Just while you’re groovin’ to the sound of Monifah’s voice against the revolving sample from Laid Back’s 1984 one-hit “White Horse”, you realize that she’s – she’s singing about THAT?!? [BB: #9]

Chris Isaak
CD: Speak Of The Devil

Chris released his first record of truly new songs since ’95, and teased us a bit with the advance promotion of “Please” before Speak Of The Devil hit the stores. And “Please” is requisite Chris Isaak, all forlorn, tender, with imagery shot through a shaded lens. No slouch this guy – but get a hold of the CD for 40 minutes more of the same, and then some. [CD track]

Faith Evans
Bad Boy-Arista
CD: Keep The Faith

Faith came back in ’98 and did good by kicking off her second CD Keep The Faith with the seductive, mid-tempo “Love Like This”. Now this record revolves around a sample from a Chic record – but I don’t know which one! It is a trademark Bernard Edwards-Nile Rodgers riff. And it’s capped nicely by a vocal from someone who is from the Puff Daddy stable but is only now starting to receive due credit on her own. [BB: #7 at time of writing]

Run-DMC vs. Jason Nevins
CD: Ultimate Dance Party 1999 (among others)

This no nonsense reworking of an early Run-DMC record (circa 1982) hung tight right from its release in mid-1997 through all of 1998. It was a number one record throughout Europe and Britain, a Top 10 hit in Canada (on import sales alone) and in the U.S., well, it “bubbled under”. Jason Nevins’ recreation also succeeded on one other level – it’s simply impossible to resist cranking it on your car stereo. [did not chart]

David Usher
EMI (Canada)
CD: Little Songs

Moist’s lead singer released Little Songs early in ’98 to immediate fanfare, because it hardly sounded like the intensity-driven Moist songs of the past three years. In fact, “Forestfire”, with all of its subtlety and slight edges, seems like a chain of random thoughts all put together to form sequences of striking imagery. Moist fans loved the album, and “Forestfire” was a substantial modern rock hit. Little Songs wasn’t released in the U.S., but maybe when Moist makes its mark there with its next CD we’ll see new fans demand it.  [CD track – Canada only]

Jeff Buckley
CD: Sketches For My Sweetheart The Drunk

More songs from the departed Jeff’s posthumous CD, both of which show different sides of this multi-faceted talent. “Sky”, like “Mojo Pin” from his Grace CD, is heavily Led Zeppelin influenced, and a wonder to hear high notes struck so purely. “Nightmares” initially is creepy, almost sounding like a foretelling of Jeff’s own death. Taken separately from that, it’s heavily influenced by producer Tom Verlaine. All you have to do is hear Verlaine’s early 80’s CD’s like Dreamtime or Words From The Front, and you’ll hear how much Jeff sings like a shadow within his own song. In any case, these are two highlights from the Sketches CD, which is a must own. [CD tracks]

Dru Hill featuring Redman
Def Jam/Island
CD: “Rush Hour” movie soundtrack

After the enormous U.S. success in ’96 with Dru Hill’s ballads like “In Your Bed”, the group came back with an interesting angle. This song from the Jackie Chan movie “Rush Hour” emphasizes a freaky Latin rhythm with a flowing rap from Redman. While this song did wear out its welcome with me, there’s no denying its striking initial impact when heard on the radio. And that’s what makes people buy records. [BB: #3]

Savage Garden
CD: Savage Garden

Though my heart is still with the underrated “To The Moon And Back”, old and young alike found favour with this contemporary classic, which almost didn’t make the Australian duo’s CD. Darren and Daniel proved to be a surprise to critics who watched their concert, which was a dazzling, exuberant crowd-pleaser. It’s impossible not to feel warm and fuzzy next to the one you love when you play this one. [BB: #1]

– December 18, 1998


Published on September 20, 2009 at 3:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

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