Queer Music of the 1990s

What makes compiling lists of queer music by decades more challenging as we move forward in time is that the number of songs from which to choose keeps increasing greatly. For today’s playlist, I started with a list of several hundred songs by out LGBTQ+ acts or with LGBTQ+ subject matter, from which I whittled it down to the 30 tunes below. I second guess myself a lot. Should three of the first four songs be by straight-identifying acts? Should I include a lightweight novelty number over something by Maria McKee? (I decided yes, though I love Maria.) I didn’t necessarily choose my favorites. Instead I went for songs/acts that were on some level trailblazers. Here they be:

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Records of the Year

The Grammy Awards are being presented tonight. Woo. It’s billed as “music’s biggest night,” just as May 7 through May 16 is billed as “the biggest week in American birding,” if only because ten days is a lot for one week. Birders. Am I right, people? Performers at this year’s Grammys include Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak doing their new song, because what better way to celebrate the music of 2020 than with a single that was released last week? Performers I’m looking forward to include Miranda Lambert, Cardi B, HAIM, Megan Thee Stallion, Brittany Howard, Doja Cat, Dua Lipa, and Billie Eilish, whose “Everything I Wanted” is up for Record of the Year. That’s my favorite of the nominees, though I think the award will go to Beyoncé for “Black Parade,” and I have no problem with that. However, if the award goes to that record I never heard of until I started typing this sentence, sneakers will be thrown at my television (though that record may be good for all I know). For Album of the Year my vote goes to Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters, as it was handily the best album of 2020. It probably won’t win, seeing as it wasn’t nominated. What was nominated over Apple’s album? That Coldplay album you forgot about and the Jacob Collier album you never heard of until you started reading this sentence (though that album may be good for all you know). Of the albums nominated, I’d pick HAIM’s. It’s very good. Not Fetch The Bolt Cutters good, but very good nonetheless. If HAIM win I hope they hand their award to Fiona Apple live on the telecast, which would be super impressive, seeing as they won’t be in the same room. I’m sure tonight’s show will include a tribute to dead people done by living people who are no match for said dead people. I’d rather want a montage of clips of the dead people performing when they were living people. <Fill in the blank> screaming is not representative of what made Aretha Franklin amazing. No disrespect to <fill in the blank>, but there’s more to being the Queen of Soul than having a mic and ovaries.

It’s easy to shit on the Grammys, as they are so shittable, but to be fair, not every Record of the Year is as terrible as 1988’s recipient, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” Here are thirty of the better winners:

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Throwback Thursday: 1992

It’s Throwback Thursday, and on today’s playlist we go back to 1992. Compiling this list made me notice (or remember) what a kickass year for music 1992 was. The success of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” a top ten pop hit around the world months after it was sent to alternative radio, came as a complete surprise to the band’s record label and management, and seemed to kick open the doors for weirdos and freaks (I use those terms affectionately) to find their place in the sun and on the charts.

The left field entries weren’t solely from the guitar rock field. Shakespear’s Sister’s “Stay” was a song (or two songs) that stood out from the pack and was not something one would have expected from a former member of Bananarama and someone who co-wrote and sang backup on Eric Clapton’s hit “Lay Down Sally.” And Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy” endures all these years later.

To me this era was a golden age for hip hop. Arrested Development, Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth, Kris Kross, Das EFX, Sir Mix-A-Lot and House of Pain hit creative peaks, while rap duo P.M. Dawn hit number three with “I’d Die Without You,” an unexpected ballad with nary a hint of the hip or hop.

Nineteen ninety-two was the year we met Mary J. Blige and Billy Ray Cyrus. It was the year many more people got to know Red Hot Chili Peppers, k.d. lang and En Vogue. And while new names were dotting the Hot 100, there was still room for more hits from Michael Jackson, Madonna, Prince, Whitney Houston and U2.

Here are thirty musical highlights from 1992, a year that most definitely was not wiggida wiggida wiggida wack.

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Throwback Thursday: 1984

Madonna! Prince! Bruce! Michael! Chaka! Cyndi! Rockwell! Boy! The best of 1984’s pop stars/hits made a mark that remain part of our consciousness nearly forty years later. The influence of upstarts who didn’t crack the Hot 100 – The Smiths, The Replacements, Run-D.M.C. – has been acknowledged in the years since. For those who wish to relive those days, for those who wish they were living then, and for those who wish to associate 1984 with something other than a misunderstood piece of classic literature or the most recent Wonder Woman movie, this playlist is for you. Happy Throwback Thursday!

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A Martin Luther King Day Playlist

“You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations.” – Martin Luther King, Jr. 1963

“He had a dream now it’s up to you to see it through, to make it come true” – “King Holiday”

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Throwback Thursday: 1988

Nineteen eighty eight was, on the US pop music chart, one of those in-between years. The “New Wave” British invasion had greatly subsided and England wasn’t as much of a presence on the charts as it was a few years earlier. Rap was increasing in popularity and hitting the top 40 more frequently, though it was still a far cry from the dominant position it holds today. Of the hip hop song’s on today’s playlist, only two made it onto the Billboard Hot 100 – LL Cool J’s “Goin’ Back to Cali,” which peaked at #31, despite selling a million copies, and Rob Base & D.J. E-Z Rock’s “It Takes Two,” which peaked at #36, despite selling two million copies. Alternative music lived up to its genre name as an alternative to the music on the pop chart, so if you wanted to hear Sonic Youth or The Dead Milkmen or The Primitives, you had to tune into college radio or the stations on the left side of your FM dial. Those artists, alongside U2, R.E.M. and INXS, could be found on Billboard’s Modern Rock chart, which premiered in September of 1988. New Jack Swing tracks from artists such as Keith Sweat remained popular on Black radio and crossed over, while Black artists such as Tracy Chapman and Living Colour failed to make much of an impression on Black radio. So-called Hair Metal was a presence on the pop chart; grunge would help fix that in a few years. Configuration-wise, CDs outsold vinyl LPs for the first time in 1988, though cassettes outsold both.

Here are thirty of 1988’s finest:

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