VOICE OF THE BRAND 1991
Howdy, this is Brandon Stransky with my debut column here for VinceRussoBrand.com and I'm proud to be a contributer here and hope you enjoy it.
Before we get into the meat of the column, I know most of you come here to read about wrestling and I will certainly touch upon that in future columns but I want to bring a little bit of variety to what's here and add a little extra flavor and delve into other areas of not just entertainment, but the world itself and our society as a whole. Where we are, where we've been, and where we're headed. All of these things will at some point be visited.
But for this week's column we're going to hop in our DeLorean and head back to a year that quite frankly, changed music as we know it and that year is 1991.
Just to set the stage for people, we had Bush Sr. in the White House. Operation Desert Storm concluded in February, and the Soviet Union would be dissolved by the end of the year. Yes the world was indeed changing and so too was the musical landscape.
For the last decade, rock music had been dominated by heavy metal and hair bands with stage presences and appearances that were just as loud as the music they would play in front of thousands upon thousands of screaming fans in an era where excess ruled and was indeed the epitome of the phrase "sex, drugs, and rock and roll."
But by the turn of the decade people were beginning to grow tired of this trend. What few people knew was that while David Lee Roth was telling the world that they might as well jump, there was a burgeoning alternative rock scene underground that was a brewing storm with all of the ingredients in place, just waiting for the right moment to kick down the door and show the world that alternative rock could not only be as successful as mainstream music, but have the ability to overtake it.
And it is with that I bring to you the top five albums from the year 1991 that shaped this musical revolution that is still being felt to this day. In an effort to remain subjective, many factors were used in rating these albums including critical acclaim, influence on future artists, chart performance of the album as well as it's singles, awards and nominations, and RIAA certifications are the criteria used to rate the following five albums.
5. Temple of the Dog-Self Titled
Following the untimely passing of Mother Love Bone lead singer Andrew Wood to a drug overdose, his roommate Chris Cornell of Soundgarden wanted to do a tribute album to his fallen friend and recruited former Mother Love Bone members Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament along with Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron, and Gossard's childhood friend Mike McCready to round out the line-up. Eddie Vedder, who was in town to audition for the band that was being formed by McCready, Gossard, and Ament, provided backing vocals to some of the songs on the album. The result was a masterpiece that still stands the test of time today.
CHART PERFORMANCE: 5
Hunger Strike-Mainstream Rock Tracks: 4, Modern Rock Tracks: 7
Say Hello to Heaven-Mainstream Rock Tracks: 5
Pushin Forward Back-Uncharted
RIAA CERTIFICATION: Platinum
4. Red Hot Chili Peppers-Blood Sugar Sex Magik
With the death of their original guitarist and their drummer quitting, the Red Hot Chili Peppers managed to fill those slots with John Frusciante and Chad Smith and also had switched records labels from EMI to Warner Brothers. Prior to the release of this album, the band had seen moderate success but it was the release of this one that they finally started to see breakthrough mainstream success. It still had the staples of their earlier work and signature sound of punk and funk, but started to go in a more melodic direction with songs such as "Breaking the Girl." It's biggest hit however came in the form of the ballad known as "Under the Bridge." This album has appeared on many best of charts and become an inspiration and influence for many bands that followed. An interesting side note is that two of the other bands that appear on this list opened for the Chili Peppers on their tour in support of this album.
CHART PERFORMANCE: 3
Give it Away-Modern Rock Tracks: 1, Hot 100: 73
Under the Bridge-Modern Rock Tracks: 6, Mainstream Rock Tracks: 2, Hot 100: 2
Breaking the Girl-Modern Rock Tracks: 19, Mainstream Rock Tracks: 15
Suck My Kiss-Modern Rock Tracks: 15
RIAA CERTIFICATION: 7x Platinum
3. R.E.M.-Out of Time
Earlier when I had mentioned the storm brewing in the alternative rock underground, it was R.E.M. that was at the forefront of that storm, making waves and being a primary influence of many of the bands that would become successes in the 1990s. Every album they had released up until this point had gotten them closer and closer to breaking through the glass ceiling and reaching the mainstream and they managed to do just that with the release of this album on the back of the smash hit single "Losing My Religion" which in turn ended up becoming their signature song. Ironically the band saw most of their success when they were in the middle of a hiatus from touring and it's crazy to imagine just how much more successful they would have been had they not gone on that hiatus.
CHART PERFORMANCE: 1
Losing My Religion-Modern Rock Tracks: 1, Mainstream Rock Tracks: 1, Adult Contemporary: 28, Hot 100: 4
Shiny Happy People-Modern Rock Tracks: 3, Mainstream Rock Tracks: 8, Hot 100: 10
Near Wild Heaven-Did not chart in US
Radio Song-Did not chart in US
Texarcana-Modern Rock Tracks: 4, Mainstream Rock Tracks: 7
RIAA CERTIFICATION: 4x Platinum
GRAMMY AWARDS AND NOMINATIONS:
Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal-Losing My Religion: Won
Best Alternative Music Performance-Out of Time: Won
Best Music Video, Short Form-Losing My Religion: Won
Record of the Year-Losing My Religion: Nominatied
Song of the Year-Losing My Religion: Nominated
Album of the Year-Out of Time: Nominated
Best Rock Song-Radio Song: Nominated
2. Pearl Jam-Ten
Part of the background leading up to the release of this groundbreaking album was covered earlier with Temple of the Dog in which all current Pearl Jam members were involved in. Once the Temple of the Dog project had been completed, the newly christened Pearl Jam headed into the studio to crank out this album that combined lyrics containing matter that was quite dark and sometimes disturbing, along with social issues with the heavy guitar, hard-rock influenced sound that was a staple of the Seattle scene. But it was Vedder's vocals which became the hallmark of the band's sound. His voice distinctive enough to where you could easily pick it out just by listening as well as his ability to go from normal sounding to a vibrato which would be duplicated by later Pearl Jam albums. Even though it took a year for this album to catch on, it no doubt is regarded as one of the all-time greats as well as being one of the few alternative rock albums to sell over 10 million albums in the US alone.
CHART PERFORMANCE: 2
Jeremy-Modern Rock Tracks: 5, Mainstream Rock Tracks: 5
Evenflow-Modern Rock Tracks: 21, Mainstream Rock Tracks: 3
Black-Modern Rock Tracks: 20, Mainstream Rock Tracks: 3
Alive-Modern Rock Tracks: 18, Mainstream Rock Tracks: 16
RIAA CERTIFICATION: 13x Platinum
Honestly, my opinion aside, there really is no contest when it comes to what was the best album of the year in 1991, not just in alternative rock, but music as a whole. This was the album that opened the floodgates for an entire genre and the music field has never been the same since. Every song on the album could easily have been a single but the ones that were chosen for that role were the absolute cream of the crop such as "Come as You Are" "Lithium" and "In Bloom." But neither of those three were able to match the success and influence that the lead single and first song off of the album , "Smells Like Teen Spirit" did. The song quickly became revered as an anthem for angst-ridden apathetic teens and was a staple of 90s culture. And it was on the back of this song that a musical revolution took place where alternative rock was now finally considered equal to it's mainstream counterparts and got the attention and praise it had so rightly deserved.
CHART PERFORMANCE: 1
Smells Like Teen Spirit-Hot 100: 6, Modern Rock Tracks: 1, Mainstream Rock Tracks: 7, Dance Club Songs: 14, Hot Dance/Electronic Songs: 27
Come As You Are-Hot 100: 32, Modern Rock Tracks: 3, Mainstream Rock Tracks: 3
Lithium-Hot 100: 64, Modern Rock Tracks: 25, Mainstream Rock Tracks: 16
In Bloom-Mainstream Rock Tracks: 5
RIAA CERTIFICATION: Diamond
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