How do 1991 hits by R.E.M., Paula Abdul, Jesus Jones, and others hold up today? Whitney Pastorek gives 'em another listen

By Whitney Pastorek
Updated July 11, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT
REM: Andy Earle/Retna

Back in July ’91: Rating the top 10 singles

The top 10 singles on the Billboard Hot 100, for the week ending July 6, 1991:

10. ”Here I Am (Come and Take Me),” UB40 Apparently presuming that sensible Americans had forgiven them for 1988’s ”Red Red Wine” atrocity, this English dub/reggae group tossed us this cover of an Al Green song. Personally, I think it burns, but if you’re into this sort of thing — as the rest of the world seems to be; UB40 continue to be very successful just about everywhere but in the States — I can see where you’d find their antiseptic island vibe enjoyable. B-

9. ”Losing My Religion,” R.E.M. After the pop success of their annoyingly addictive 1989 hit ”Stand,” former indie poster children Michael Stipe & Co. were poised for a mainstream breakthrough. It came with a song based largely on a mandolin riff. Go figure. ”That’s me in the corner,” Stipe sang, ghosting about the corners of the video. ”That’s me in the SPOT. LIGHT. Losing my religion.” To this day, 85 percent of Americans have no earthly idea what the lyrics mean. (For the record, the title is a euphemism for getting pissed off.) But 100 percent of Americans agree this is one of the best songs of all time. A+

8. ”Gypsy Woman (She’s Homeless),” Crystal Waters La da dee, la da daa, la da dee, la da daa. That’s about all you need to remember. I think this one’s still on the soundtrack at the Gap, like, once a year. You go, girl. B+

7. ”Place In This World,” Michael W. Smith Let’s blame this one on Amy Grant. In April 1991, the redhead’s first pop single, ”Baby Baby,” hit No. 1, and apparently that made it okay for her Contemporary Christian chart counterpart Smith to claw his way to crossover stardom with this overwrought, keyboard-driven belter (complete with guitar solo ripped straight out of Kenny Loggins’ closet). His gravelly voice and barely masked theology will either make you shudder or start getting a little misty; it depends on whether or not you went to church camp. For the record, I did. Still: C+

6. ”More Than Words,” Extreme I had a lot to say about this simple acoustic cheesefest — how it completely redefined power ballads for the post-hair metal era, how Nuno Bettencourt is maybe the best rocker name ever, how you will be hard-pressed to find anyone between the ages of 25 and 40 who cannot nail both parts of the harmony from memory — but I’m too busy crying. Sorry. A

5. ”Right Here, Right Now,” Jesus Jones There was a girl at my high school who was completely obsessed with Jesus Jones lead singer Mike Edwards… but she was sorta goth, which is why I was shocked to discover their biggest single sounded like late-era Duran Duran with a horn section. My bad. Anyway, this was a great song with a great chorus: ”Right here, right now/ There is no other place I wanna be/ Right here, right now/ Watching the world wake up from history.” No wonder it ended up as a Kmart commercial. B+

4. ”Power of Love/Love Power,” Luther Vandross I know I should be respectful here, but everything about this generic, glossy R&B glop just screams ”I am Luther Vandross and I am coasting on the strength of ‘Here and Now’.” The over-abundance of bells and whistles (literally), the deafeningly splashy high hat, the by-the-book bridge… it’s dentist-office music at best. Although somewhere, Michael Bolton was probably dying to get his hands on a piece of the action. C

3. ”I Wanna Sex You Up,” Color Me Badd Riots broke out at some screenings of New Jack City (the movie whose soundtrack launched this track), but there’s nothing violent about Color Me Badd’s booty call. The oo-oo-oos are unmistakable, the line ”makin’ love until we drown” is way vivid… too bad this R&B group never made it out from under Boyz II Men’s considerable shadow. Also too bad that this title makes me want to scratch my eyes out. B

2. ”Unbelievable,” EMF Actual cowbell and that repeated ”Ow!” are just the icing on this funky-fresh dance groove from a bunch of Vison Street Wear-clad Brits. It was their first single, and yes, they can officially be classified as one-hit wonders. But no matter: Even if you weren’t in high school when this sucker hit, I challenge you not to have a full-on dance party in your office. A

1. ”Rush Rush,” Paula Abdul Remember when Paula was a best-selling recording artist? Good. Now: Remember that she had songs other than the one where she danced with the cartoon kitty? No? Well, this is one of them. It’s the perfect sunset slow jam: that ”Rush? rush” chorus, whispered like a summer breeze; the gentle but urging requests for her love to come closer… oh, Paula. What ever happened to you? B+