Music Madness ROUND 1: 1990’s Bracket
Let’s take a step back in time and vote for our favourite albums of the 1990’s! If you haven’t voted on the first bracket yet, go do it! Polls for the Since 2000 Bracket will be kept open until noon on Wednesday, March 13th. These 1990’s polls will be open for 5 days. Get to it!
OK Computer – Radiohead (1) vs. The Blue Album – Weezer (16)
Yet again, Radiohead has the number one seed with quite likely the best reviewed album of the decade – although it was a close call between Ok Computer and Nirvana’s Nevermind, which has the #3 spot. Pitchfork called this album its #1 of the decade, and virtually every 90’s decade list has it in their top 5.
I don’t know how to describe Weezer’s self-titled album with the blue cover other than a mid nineties nostalgic favourite. It seems that even those who were not of age in 1994 consider songs like “Say it Ain’t So” and “Buddy Holly” nostalgic. Reviews were positive upon its release, but in general, I’d say the average listener is more excited about Weezer than the critic. For example, Rolling Stone placed this record at #297 on their 500 Greatest of All-Time, while readers voted it 21st Greatest Album ever.
Achtung Baby – U2, 1991 (8) vs. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill – Lauryn Hill, 1998 (9)
I have already had complaints about this match-up. Achtung Baby is classic U2, right before they lose some of their less-adventurous listeners. Recently it was re-released for its 20th anniversary, which boosted its sales again and continued the album’s success. So far, the album has sold 18 million copies worldwide, and is a favourite of the band members themselves.
Some of the best rap and soul music of the decade came from this one album. With her first solo record after being a Fugee, Hill’s Miseducation won the most Grammy awards that any female recording artist had won up until that year. It has also been featured in countless lists of best hip hop records, best of the decade, and all-time greatest. And I have plenty to say about it here.
Illmatic – Nas, 1994 (5) vs. The Score – The Fugees, 1996 (12)
Although initial sales were low, Illmatic went on to become a hip hop classic, regarded by many to be the best of the 90’s and even all-time. The Source gave the record a 5 mic review – a success reserved only for the best of the best, and MTV.com named it their 2nd best rap album of all-time.
The Score is a well loved album, and regularly makes an appearance on unranked best hip hop album lists. It made it into the brackets by draw, but I have to admit that I was personally rooting for it to be here. Don’t know if it is liked enough to beat Nas, but at least it has a fighting chance. Read more about what I think here.
Jagged Little Pill – Alanis Morisette, 1996 (4) vs. Christina Aguilera – Christina Aguilera (13)
Alanis scored on this creative makeover: anger suits her. Jagged Little Pill has so far sold over 33 million copies, making it the third-highest selling album of the decade. On top of that, the album is regularly acclaimed in decade lists everywhere, giving Alanis the comfortable #4 spot of the conference.
Here we have Christina’s start to a long reign in pop music; it’s hard to imagine her as the teeny bopper we often mixed up with Britney Spears (was that just me?). No matter what you think about the music she makes, this woman proved to have the voice to go with the attitude, making her not merely a pop star, but a certified diva.
What’s the Story Morning Glory – Oasis, 1995 (6) vs. Poison – Bell Biv Devoe, 1992 (11)
Oasis’ What’s the Story was initially not so well reviewed, but has come to be considered a britpop classic. The record was a commercial success from the get-go, breaking records in its first week of sales in the U.K. Today the album has sold more than 12 million world-wide, and everyone with a guitar can play “Wonderwall”.
Bell Biv Devoe broke off from their former (and larger) R&B group New Edition, with this New Jack Swing classic. Poison is here by luck, but if this bracket were about what you can dance to, it would be a sure win.
Nevermind – Nirvana, 1991 (3) vs. All Eyez on Me – 2pac, 1996 (14)
It was a hard call whether to place Nevermind at #1 with the amount of critical success it has received. Rolling Stone has placed it in the #17 spot for their 500 Greatest Albums of All-Time list, and in the United States alone, the album has sold 10 million copies. This record is also credited with bringing both grunge and alternative rock into the mainstream.
Another one of the greatest rap albums of the 1990’s, though All Eyez on Me made it here by draw. The double-album contains 5 singles – more than any of the other 2pac albums – including a remix of “California Love”, “How Do U Want It”, and “I Ain’t Mad At Cha” – and those are just on the first disc.
Life After Death – Notorious B.I.G., 1997 (7) vs. Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness – Smashing Pumpkins, 1995 (10)
Notorious B.I.G.’s final album (actually released posthumously) was also his most successful album, marking a shift in gangsta rap, and bringing it into more mainstream success. Life After Death has sold 10 million copies in the US alone and has radio-favourite singles, “Mo Money, Mo Problems”, “Sky’s the Limit”, and “Hypnotize”.
Even though Mellon Collie was released as a double disc (and therefore cost more than the usual single CD), it still debuted on Billboard at #1, signalling the beginning of some surprising commercial success for the album. I had a number of people suggest it to me when creating the brackets, which is why it sits in the #10 spot of the 1990’s Conference.
Come On Over – Shania Twain (2) vs. Jesus Freak – DC Talk (15)
This is perhaps the strangest match-up in Music madness, period. Shania is here because to this day her Come On Over album is the most sold record of the 90’s (not including The Bodyguard soundtrack, which I didn’t count for this competition). Surprised? Do not underestimate the power of a country-pop crossover.
The country-pop goes head-to-head with the Christian rock record that managed a few top-40 radio crossover tracks itself. Certainly there is nostalgic value for the 25-30-somethings that grew up going to youth group – DC Talk was the most accessible band, mixing rock, hip hop and pop styles. The draw squeaked this surprise entry into the #15 spot.