After our look last week at the Top 100 acts of the 1980s, we’re back for two final rounds of the Fantastic 40:
My personal journal of the artists whose work dominated Billboard’s Top 40 for a calendar year between 1980 and 1991.
We’re looking at the first few years of the “new decade: ” the 1990s.
What were the stories of 1990’s Fantastic 40 ?
Just as 1980 and 1981 were transitional years, from the disco and corporate rock of the ‘70s to a contemporary R&B and new wave British pop of the 1980s, 1990 and 1991 were their own transition period.
Solo artists who had proved dominant in the preceding decade:
- Michael Jackson
- Whitney Houston
- Janet Jackson
- and George Michael, Phil Collins and Bryan Adams – continued to lengthen their hit streaks.
Even the ’70s triumvirate of Elton John, Billy Joel and Rod Stewart entered the new decade ready to prove they could churn out Top 40 singles alongside the newcomers.
As we move into a new decade, we can see shifts in the prevailing sounds and the artists creating them.
The trend: The dominance of R&B-leaning pop and hip-hop.
Bobby Brown, and to a lesser extent Karyn White, Paula Abdul, and even Milli Vanilli made waves in 1989 with a harder-edged “new jack swing” sound.
In 1990, this trend accelerated:
From the variations No. 1 Janet Jackson released from her CD “Rhythm Nation 1814”
to work from Bell Biv Devoe (6),
M.C. Hammer (7),
Johnny Gill (9),
and En Vogue (37).
Even Vanilla Ice (39) got into the act with back-to-back Top 5 hits.
Artists with other sounds made their debuts, including:
Maxi Priest (38),
After 7 (15),
Lisa Stansfield (14),
Wilson Phillips (3),
and, notably, Mariah Carey (13).
Several artists who had prior Top 40 hits were able to pull a string together that put them in the Fantastic 40 for the first time.
Motley Crue (20),
Depeche Mode (17)
and, yes, Michael Bolton (8).
Linda Ronstadt, paired at No. 40 with Aaron Neville, completed her multi-decade chart run with successful duets.
Warrant’s run proved brief as they finished at 32 for this year.
Heart’s strong ’80s comeback finished with their 1990 placement at No. 12.
And the Righteous Brothers – a mainstay of the 1960s who had a brief comeback in 1974 – were 24th for 1990:
Through a strange confluence of a Ghost soundtrack re-release of “Unchained Melody” charting alongside a newly recorded version, each earning enough points to enter Billboard’s Top 40.
Only in 1990:
Soundalike dance-pop acts Seduction (11)
and Sweet Sensation (22) had their moments.
The B-52s (25), album darlings for a decade, broke through late in 1989 and carried over to 1990, with songs from their CD Cosmic Thing.
Bad English, featuring former Fantastic 40 singer John Waite, placed 26th
While Alannah Myles had two singles that put her in spot No. 35.
Time and again:
George Michael came back in position 33.
While Expose were No. 31.
Billy Joel (30),
Richard Marx (28),
Taylor Dayne (4)
and Phil Collins (2) claimed spots once more.
We wrap up the series… with 1991!
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