Boyz II Men, Lisa Loeb, And So Much Ace Of Base: A Look Back At Billboard’s Top 10 Songs Of 1994

Twenty years ago, in 1994, a great number of things happened in the world of music. Nas and Biggie dropped their iconic debut albums. Green Day and Oasis released Dookie and Definitely, Maybe, respectively, which had a profound effect on the direction popular rock music would go for the rest of the decade. Kurt Cobain died on April 5, a scant four weeks after a baby named Justin Drew Bieber was born in Ontario. (Probably unrelated, but worth looking into.) The landmark case Campbell v. Acuff-Rose, Inc. was tried before the Supreme Court, certifying parody as a fair use of another artist’s work, and resulting in the highest legal authority in the land listening to 2 Live Crew’s version of Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Woman,” which contained lyrics like “Big hairy woman, You need to shave that stuff/ Big hairy woman, You know, I bet it’s tough.” What a country.

Anyway, with all that in mind, and because 2014 is winding down, I thought it would be fun to look back at Billboard’s Top 10 songs from 1994. Are we remembering it with rose-colored glasses, as one tends to do when one gets nostalgic? Probably. Definitely.

Away we go.

1) Ace of Base – The Sign

Congratulations, you have this song in your head now!

Yes, even with all the notable music released in 1994 — and I do urge you to glance at both the full Top 100 and this list of albums that came out that year — “The Sign” by Ace of Base took home the top spot on Billboard’s year-end list. We loved weird Swedish Eurodancesynth pop music so much back then. Don’t believe me? Stick around as we work our way through this chart.

While we’re on the subject, did you know that Ace of Base founding member Ulf Ekberg was in a neo-Nazi rock band in the 1980s called Commit Suicide that performed songs with lyrics like, “Men in white hoods march down the road, we enjoy ourselves when we’re sawing off n—–s’ heads/ Immigrant, we hate you! Out, out, out, out! Nordic people, wake up now! Shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot”? That’s not good! But he has also apologized profusely for it a number of times since then, including in this statement to the Huffington Post. That’s, uh, better!

We are learning so much already.

2) All-4-One – I Swear

Proof 1994 was a goofy year: All-4-One, a store brand version of Boyz II Men, charted ahead of Boyz II Men on the singles list with a song that stayed at number one for 11 weeks, despite the fact that Boyz II Men had a song that was at number one for a record-setting 14 weeks IN THE SAME YEAR and only slipped to number two in week 15 because BOYZ II MEN RELEASED ANOTHER SONG THAT BUMPED IT OUT OF THE TOP SPOT. This is madness. We should be ashamed of ourselves.

But I digress. Hey, here’s something you might not know about “I Swear”: it is the song the a capella group sings in The Social Network right as Divya Narenda finds out that Zuckerberg created Facebook, and they get the lyrics wrong. The group sings “You’ll never cry those happy tears” instead of “You’ll ONLY cry those happy tears.” That doesn’t even make sense! She’ll never be happy enough to cry? YOU’RE RUINING THE MEANING OF THE SONG. Totally took me out of the movie.

As far as I can tell, there are three possibilities here: 1) Aaron Sorkin, the writer, messed up; 2) David Fincher, the director, messed up; or 3) the Harvard a capella group at the time was a bunch of dang idiots and the producers of the film were so committed to accuracy that they wrote the group’s incompetence into the film. Perhaps I have spent too much time thinking about this.

3) Boyz II Men – I’ll Make Love to You

This is the aforementioned record-setting Boyz II Men song that was inexplicably bumped below groups of copycats and Swedish interlopers to end up at number three. Fun fact about this song: The second Boyz II Men song that nudged it out of the top spot after 14 weeks was the far superior “On Bended Knee,” which stayed at number one for three of the final four weeks of the year. The song that butted in for one week to break up its reign? “Here Comes the Hotstepper” by Ini Kamoze. What a magical time to be alive.

Oh, and shoutout to my fellow 9-14 year olds in 1994 who asked their parents or grandparents for this CD for Christmas and specified “The one with ‘I’ll Make Love to You’ on it, please.” Holiday fun for everyone.

4) Celine Dion – Power of Love

There is only one song titled “The Power of Love” and it is sung by Huey Lewis. I refuse to recognize this … this fraud. This unscrupulousness. This bald-faced Canadian chicanery.

5) Mariah Carey – Hero

The video for “Hero” is notable because it is just Mariah Carey standing on stage in a concert hall with 40 pounds of curly hair sprayed into a pile on top of her head, wearing a little black dress, and belting her heart all the way out. This was more or less the last we would see of this Mariah, as her transformation into a fabulous busty diva who wears ball gowns exclusively regardless of occasion or time of day would begin shortly thereafter. This makes for a fun conversation topic at parties: Which Mariah do you prefer? (Note: The correct answer is Singing “Fantasy” at the Boardwalk with ODB Mariah.)

Anyway, one other little tidbit about the song “Hero”: No one — steely businessmen, strong single mothers who work three jobs and don’t have time to cry, cynical millenials who dismiss fun out of hand as a principle, NO ONE — is immune to this song after three or four glasses of wine. Oh, you will sing along. And you will have feelings. Mariah Carey will drag them out of you if she has to.

6) Lisa Loeb – Stay

A few things about Lisa Loeb and “Stay”:

  • The big deal about this song was that Lisa Loeb was unsigned at the time her song was plopped onto the Reality Bites soundtrack by Ethan Hawke and proceeded to ride a rocket to the top of the charts.
  • Lisa Loeb has been wearing those glasses for 20 years now, which means she started wearing them before the youngest set of hipsters who have since adopted them were even born. Someone owes Lisa Loeb some money.
  • I have chosen to believe the cat in this video is still alive at age 24 and is healthy and happy and living in a mansion.

Moving along.

7) Toni Braxton – Breathe Again

There is only one question I have about the music video for “Breathe Again” by Toni Braxton: Where did she get the clippers?

I ask because she has long hair during the first half of the video as she’s running in a wedding dress through a giant maze of hedges, but at the 2:15 mark she loses the dress to keep running naked (not the best idea when surrounded by sticks and prickly leaves, but whatever) and once she does it her hair immediately switches to a crew cut. So, I repeat: Where did Toni Braxton get the clippers? Did she find them sitting on a bench, plugged in, and decide to go to work real quick? Did she use hedge trimmers? Or was it just a quickie wig switcheroo while jogging through the maze? Not to nitpick or whatever, but, like, a little continuity would be nice, Toni.

8) Bryan Adams, Rod Stewart, Sting – All For Love

Here’s what I want you to do: Start asking every person you meet what their all-time favorite song is. Every single person. Double back and ask the people you already know, too. Keep doing this until someone answers “All for Love” by Bryan Adams, Rod Stewart, and Sting. Then throw a burlap bag over their head, drive them to the nearest factory capable of bronzing a fully-grown human being and drop them off at the Smithsonian, because you have found the most boring person in the world. What a garbage song. What a garbage nothing of a song.

Want an idea how boring this song is? Watch the video. It opens with a full minute of staged warehouse banter between Bryan Adams and Sting about Rod Stewart being late. That’s it. That’s an entire 60 seconds of the video! This means that somewhere someone (probably Rod) pitched “What if Rod pretends to be late?” and someone else (or maybe Rod again) replied “Yes! Genius!” And they filmed it, watched it in the edit bay, and KEPT IT IN THE VIDEO. For the love of God. This song made the top 10 and “Shoop” doesn’t show up until number 29. I could scream.

9) Ace of Base – All That She Wants

I bet you, like me, first heard this song back in 1994 and jumped to the very literal conclusion that the line from the chorus “All that she wants is another baby” meant our protagonist was looking to have a second or third (or whateverth) child. Oh ho ho, my friend. Look at the lyrics again:

She leads a lonely life
She leads a lonely life

When she woke up late in the morning light
And the day had just begun
She opened up her eyes and thought
Oh what a morning
It’s not a day for work
It’s a day for catching tan
Just laying on the beach and having fun
She’s going to get you

All that she wants is another baby
She’s gone tomorrow boy
All that she wants is another baby
All that she wants is another baby
She’s gone tomorrow boy
All that she wants is another baby
All that she wants – all that she wants

So if you are in sight and the day is right
She’s the hunter you’re the fox
The gentle voice that talks to you won’t talk forever
It is a night for passion
But the morning means goodbye
Beware of what is flashing in her eyes
She’s going to get you

That’s not a lady who is trying to get pregnant. That’s a lady who likes to lay on the beach and party! Possibly because she’s sad and lonely and looking for short-term comfort, but still! They mean “baby” the way TLC meant baby! Not like a tiny human! “All that she wants is another baby” = “All she wants is another man to sleep with and ditch in the morning.” Did … did I just blow your mind a little? I feel like I did.

Also, this song is basically the plot of Species starring Natasha Henstridge.

10) Ace of Base – Don’t Turn Around

Three. THREE ACE OF BASE SONGS IN THE TOP 10. This confirms my theory: The 1990s were actually another dimension.