15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

by Enio Chiola

9 May 2012


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5. The Lemonheads
Come on Feel the Lemonheads, 1993

The Lemonheads’ cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson” got them on commercial radio. But it was their follow-up Come on Feel the Lemonheads that showed what a mastermind of alterna-pop lead signer Evan Dando can be. Arguably the inspiration for such pop/rock indie-darlings as Death Cab for Cutie and the Shins, the Lemonheads’ music often overshadowed by Dando’s notorious drug abuse and the revolving door of bandmates. Come on Feel has a continuous one-two punch, beginning with “The Great Big No” and ending with “Big Gay Heart”. Unfortunately, this record never gave the Lemonheads the push into the limelight that they deserved, mainly because many other bands like Gin Blossoms and Tonic developed the proper amount of suckiness to get to the top of the charts.

4. Me’Shell NdegéOcello
Plantation Lullabies, 1993

At some point Me’Shell NdegéOcello was pigeonholed as a weepy female singer/songwriter—probably because she toured with Lilith Fair for a couple of years. It’s a shame really, because her debut album Plantation Lullabies is nothing short of a masterpiece. The album is a whirlwind of insightful political and social thought—regurgitated in the most verbose manner in many graduate sociology courses—tempered with some heartbreaking, emotional tunes. NdegéOcello played practically every instrument on this album, earning her the idiom of “the female Prince”. The powerhouse tune that takes the cake though is the post-feminist kick-ass “If That’s Your Boyfriend (He Wasn’t Last Night)”, which is made better (if you can believe it) by its stunning video. Plantation Lullabies encompassed every bit of the ‘90s that everyone in the ‘90s refused to acknowledge.

3. Madonna
Erotica, 1992

There was a whole lotta naked Madonna being thrown at us in the early ‘90s. Unfortunately, her (let’s admit it) amazing nakedness obscured the quality of this, her most adventurous record. A gritty and dirty release, Erotica is often overlooked as the album that came out after the mega-hit single “Vogue”. Although there are moments that falter on the album, conceptually and cohesively it was the first time that Madonna proved that she could create a full-focused and intense little record, as only a true sexual icon could. Though Erotica failed to produce a number one hit, tracks such as “Erotica”, “Bad Girl”, and “Secret Garden” remain among the best of her career.

2. Annie Lennox
Diva, 1992

When the Eurythmics announced that they would be parting ways, there was some speculation that Annie Lennox would flop without her partner-in-crime David Stewart. She floored pretty much everyone when “Why” hit and proved that a partner would only provide needless filler to her magnitude. The aptly named Diva was less a reflection of Lennox’s persona and more an intelligent and beautifully crafted album by the solo female singer. The record managed to remain on the charts for 72 weeks, and proved that mainstream hits can favor diversity when she released singles “Walking on Broken Glass” and “Little Bird”.

1. En Vogue
Funky Divas, 1992

En Vogue had class coming out of the wazoo, and it wasn’t until its 1992 sophomore release Funky Divas that this became painstakingly apparent. En Vogue, the girl-group brainchild of Thomas McElroy and Denzil Foster, recorded a masterful R&B classic with this LP. Roller-coastering through a topsy turvey of various musical genres, Divas managed to remain intact as a solid R&B album. Terry, Maxine, Cindy, and Dawn proved that pop stars can be sexy without being half-naked floozies. Unfortunately, this stellar record is often underrated simply because En Vogue was (admittedly) not created by any organic means. The girls were brought together by their producers, and for too many, this form of music making was too cold and sterile to be truly worthwhile. Little did we know that this would fail to be an issue about 15 years later.

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