The Fantastic 40 – Episode 10: Top-40 Chart Domination for 1990


Welcome, everyone!

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
  • Prince
  • Madonna
  • 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),

Michel’le (29),

Snap (36)

and En Vogue (37).

Even Vanilla Ice (39) got into the act with back-to-back Top 5 hits.

New artists:

Artists with other sounds made their debuts, including:

Maxi Priest (38),

After 7 (15),

Lisa Stansfield (14),

Wilson Phillips (3),

Nelson (34),

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.

Among them:

Motley Crue (20),

Babyface (19),

Depeche Mode (17)

and, yes, Michael Bolton (8).

Final bows:

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),

Aerosmith (16),

Madonna (5),

Taylor Dayne (4)

and Phil Collins (2) claimed spots once more.

Next time:

We wrap up the series… with 1991!

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Chuck Small

Journalist-turned-high school counselor. Happily ensconced in Raleigh, N.C., with hubby of 31 years (9 legal).

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Famed Member
Online Now
November 14, 2023 9:13 am

One dog’s opinion: “Roam” is the best song here. Those wacky, amazing harmonies get me every time.

Nice work, Chuck, it’s too bad this series is coming to an end.

Famed Member
Online Now
November 14, 2023 10:56 am
Reply to  Virgindog

The B-52’s remind me of Green Day: A few moderately successful albums, and then one humongous break out.

Don Was’ production talents really helped to make that album soar.

JJ Live At Leeds
Famed Member
November 14, 2023 11:42 am
Reply to  Virgindog

Roam was overshadowed by the massive success of Love Shack over here. Its not as overtly in your face and screaming for attention as Love Shack but I think its the better song.

Pauly Steyreen
Famed Member
November 14, 2023 12:33 pm
Reply to  Virgindog

It’s one of the best songs of all time!

JJ Live At Leeds
Famed Member
November 14, 2023 11:38 am

Big divergence this year across the ocean.

The ones I’ve never heard of;
– Michel’le
– After 7
– Seduction
– Sweet Sensation (not to be confused with the British Sweet Sensation that a UK #1 in the 70s with Sad Sweet Dreamer

None of the above had a top 40 hit over here. A feat matched by these who I have at least heard of;
– Johnny Gill
– Nelson
– Expose
– Bad English

Lastly there’s another three who only reached the top 40 once;
– Alannah Myles – fair enough Black Velvet reached #2 but she never came close to a follow up
– Bell Biv Devoe
– Warrant – only just made it into top 40, #34 for Cherry Pie.

For the most part it looks like we didn’t take to RnB in the same way.

En Vogue had a decent run of hits here but they look to be the exception. Unfortunately we did take Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer to our hearts, even if only for a brief period.

Famed Member
November 14, 2023 11:27 pm

Sweet Sensation with Sad Sweet Dreamer was so much better than anything the US Sweet Sensation ever put out. And apologies for us exporting Vanilla Ice to your shores.

Active Member
November 29, 2023 1:54 pm
Reply to  Ozmoe

Disagree. I’ve never heard “Sad Sweet Dreamer” but US Sweet Sensation has literally brought me hours and hours of aural pleasure since the 80’s. Coincidentally, I’ve been listening to their albums for the past couple of days. “Sincerely Yours” was #1 on my personal chart for 5 weeks, “Take it While it’s Hot” is total fun, especially at the gym. And their only Hot 100 #1 “If Wishes Came True” was #1 when I left home for college.

Famed Member
November 14, 2023 1:35 pm

Another great entry!!

My Top 3 are:
“Freedom ’90”
“Enjoy The Silence”

Phylum of Alexandria
Famed Member
November 14, 2023 1:41 pm

While I don’t love the mushy ballads, I do love those New Jack Swingin beats, the fun rock and metal jams, and two killer songs named “Hold On.” Another solid year.

Famed Member
November 16, 2023 3:33 am

“Deadbeat Club” is genuinely moving. I can picture the band walking the streets of Athens, scaring the locals. And the song features my favorite Kate Pierson/Cindy Wilson in tandem performance. I’m just guessing that this song means the most to the band. “Dry County” and “Topaz” are amazing album tracks.

Can you verify this? Somebody told me that Taylor Dayne’s career fizzled out because she didn’t listen to her people. Dayne insisted on writing her own songs.

“Janie’s Got a Gun” is an outlier. It’s the only Aerosmith song I like.

Ah, Ghost. “The Pottery Wheel Song”. Also, the filmmaker should have trusted Whoopi Goldberg. She had the acting chops to make the audience believe that Sam was inhabiting her body when they dance. It’s the difference between being and not being in the National Film Registry.

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