Few really saw this coming on the pop charts. Nirvana's Kurt Cobain did admit in interviews he was, "trying to write the ultimate pop song." However, most industry insiders thought the song was far too heavy for mainstream pop consumption. It was when music fans first saw the video on MTV that it generated a frenzy. Ultimately, "Smells Like Teen Spirit" peaked at #6 on the pop singles chart and suddenly alternative rock had entered the mainstream with a vengeance.
At the time, the 14 weeks Whitney Houston spent at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with "I Will Always Love You" was an all-time record. The 11 weeks at #1 on the R&B chart set a record as well. The song itself began as a country hit by Dolly Parton, but it is the Whitney Houston version, with a riveting a capella opening, that became one of the biggest hits of the 1990s.
"Mysterious Ways" began life as in improvised demo. The band U2 in particular liked the bass line Adam Clayton created. However, finding a proper melody to fit the bass part proved difficult. The song finally made progress when guitar player The Edge introduced a new pedal-based sound. "Mysterious Ways" was one of the most funky songs the band had yet recorded. With critical acclaim at its back, the song reached #9 on the pop singles chart.
The poignant lyrics written by Red Hot Chili Peppers lead vocalist Anthony Kiedis for "Under the Bridge" emerged out of the feelings of despondency and loneliness while he battled drug addiction. The ballad connected strongly with mainstream pop audiences, and it became the band's first top 10 pop hit peaking at #2.
5. Wreckz - N - Effect - "Rump Shaker"
"Rump Shaker" was in part a product of new jack swing architect Teddy Riley and in part a product of his protege Pharrell and his production partner Chad Hugo. Although it inevitably received criticism for objectification of the female anatomy, "Rump Shaker" is unmistakably catchy and memorable.
"Black Or White" is one of the most ambitious of Michael Jackson's singles in his already stunning career. Musically it blends elements of dance music, rap, and hard rock. Traditionally the guitar riff that is a centerpiece of "Black Or White" has been credited to Slash of Guns 'n Roses, but in a 2010 interview he denied having played it. The song went to #1 around the world and sold more than a million copies in the US.
After one time of hearing this riveting blend of rap and rock, you will likely never forget the sampled saxophone squeal from Jr. Walker and the All Stars that leads off every bar. This white hip hop trio climbed all the way to #3 on the pop singles chart with this party classic.
Boyz II Men uncorked the biggest hit Motown single of all time with this classic of romantic pain. It surpassed the earlier achievements of the Jackson 5's "I'll Be There." The song was recorded for the soundtrack of Eddie Murphy's movie Boomerang. It set an all-time record of 13 weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 until that was surpassed just a few months later by Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You."
Arrested Development introduced a vein of positive, Afrocentric rap to the pop charts with their breakthrough single "Tennessee." The song won a Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo Or Group. It also went to #6 on the pop singles chart and topped the R&B chart.
Rock legend Eric Clapton wrote this song in response to the tragic, accidental death of his four year old son Conor. It touched an emotional chord among pop fans and became one of the biggest hits of Eric Clapton's career peaking at #2. Eric Clapton also took home Grammy Awards for Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Male Pop Vocal Performance.