Top Ten Summer Hits of 1998: A Look Back

Each summer on the blog, I recount the top 10 summer hits from 30, 20, and 10 years ago. Last week was 1988 and the sounds of three decades ago. If you missed it, you can find it here:

Today we move to 1998 and the tunes burning up our CD players (if we were lucky enough to have one in our car) 20 years ago. As with previous posts, I rank each track from 1 (summer bummer) to 10 (summer smash) and reveal the most important truth: is said song on my Apple Music?

Let’s get to it!

10. “All My Life” by K-Ci & JoJo

We start off quite well with this ballad from K-Ci and JoJo, who originally rose to fame with the R&B group Jodeci. It’s schmaltzy, yes, but in the best way and it gets the job done with the singers expert vocal performances.

My Ranking: 9 and a half

Is It On My Apple Music?: Yes

9. “Crush” by Jennifer Paige

I must confess to having no recollection of this track when I saw it was #9. Listening to it again, it’s a pleasant enough ditty from the one-hit wonder. That said, it’s also rather forgettable.

My Ranking: 6

It Is On My Apple Music?: No

8. “Make It Hot” by Nicole featuring Missy Elliot and Mocha

Timbaland was mostly busy around this time stirring up classics for Aaliyah and Missy Elliot. Yet he concocted this gem for Nicole with assists from Elliot and Mocha. It was her only major hit, but it’s a terrific example of its producer’s wizardry behind the boards.

My Rating: 9

Is It On My Apple Music?: Yes

7. “Come with Me” by Puff Daddy featuring Jimmy Page

Combine Puff’s love of sampling with the guitar riffs of Jimmy Page’s “Kashmir” and promoting the summer’s unfortunate Godzilla reboot? You get a hit… albeit one that is just as ultimately disappointing as the film in which it appeared on the soundtrack.

My Rating: 5

Is It On My Apple Music? No

6. “My All” by Mariah Carey

Ms. Carey has certainly had her share of powerful ballads. “My All” is an effective one, though I don’t rank it among her most memorable.

My Rating: 7

Is It On My Apple Music?: Yes (but mostly because I have her greatest hits and don’t listen to this one hardly at all)

5. “Adia” by Sarah MacLachlan

The Canadian singer is now mostly known for causing you tear up during commercials to help dogs, but she had a string of hits including this one. I’ve never been a big fan and this track does little for me, despite her lovely voice.

My Rating: 5 and a half

Is It On My Apple Music?: No

4. “My Way” by Usher

The title track from Usher’s multi-platinum album is a Jermaine Dupri produced banger that spent lots of time being played loudly in my 1987 Ford Thunderbird 20 years ago. Check out Tyrese in the video as well.

My Rating: 9

It Is On My Apple Music?: Yes

3. “Too Close” by Next

An incredibly catchy R&B song from a band that didn’t produce many more hits. This one, however, could still be a massive hit today.

My Rating: 9 and a half

Is It On My Apple Music?: Yes

2. “You’re Still the One” by Shania Twain

Another Canadian crooner had her first major crossover hit with this ballad. It moved Twain out of just being known as a country act to one with serious pop appeal.

My Rating: 8

Is It On My Apple Music?: No

1. “The Boy is Mine” by Brandy & Monica

It’s no “The Girl is Mine” by Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney, but this mid-tempo pop track paired two of the era’s most successful R&B singers to hugely successful results on the charts. Looking back now, I don’t love it (I could list stronger tracks by both Brandy and Monica) but it’s decent.

My Rating: 7 and a half

Is It On My Apple Music?: No

And there you have it! The sounds of 1998 in the summertime…

I’ll return soon with 2008.

Superfly Box Office Prediction

Superfly debuts in theaters this Wednesday and hopes to bring in a primarily African-American crowd with some other action fans mixed in. The film is a remake of the 1972 blaxploitation crime flick that starred Ron O’Neal. That early 70s effort is remembered more today for its killer soundtrack by soul legend Curtis Mayfield. This one has a soundtrack overseen by hip hop star Future. Its music influence includes its director who goes by Director X and he’s best known for shooting videos for Usher, Drake, Rihanna, and many others. The cast includes Trevor Jackson, Jason Mitchell, Michael Kenneth Williams, and Jennifer Morrison.

The success or failure of Superfly will certainly depend on the attendance of its intended audience. Younger crowds may not be familiar at all with its four decade old plus source material and that could provide a challenge. On the other hand, I’ve seen plenty of advertising – particularly during the NBA playoffs.

I’ll project this falls a under double digits for the Friday to Sunday portion of the weekend and struggles to catch double digits for the five day premiere.

Superfly opening weekend prediction: $5.3 million (Friday to Sunday), $7.2 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

For my Incredibles 2 prediction, click here:

For my Tag prediction, click here:

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

In the humorously titled Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, there’s a gag involving the terrific Will Arnett that only takes up maybe three minutes of screen time. He plays the host of “CMZ” (think TMZ) as he hilariously chats with his staff of gossip reporters and furiously downs big gulps and other assorted beverages. It struck my funny bone so much that I found myself wondering how good a movie would be if it were just about them. Then I remembered that taking memorable three minute bits and stretching them into feature length comedies usually doesn’t work.

There are other moments in Popstar that work. Yet it didn’t quite change my theory above. Fans of “Saturday Night Live” are familiar with The Lonely Island, Andy Samberg’s music group responsible for several YouTube friendly videos packed with catchy lyrics and musical icon cameos. Here, Samberg and his colleagues Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone (that pair share directing duties) make up The Style Boyz – a hip hop pop trio that hit it big. Yet it’s Kid Connor (Samberg) that was the Justin Timberlake (who cameos), Beyoncé or Method Man of the group and branches out on the solo tip. Taccone’s Kid Contact becomes his DJ and Schaffer’s Kid Brain leaves the business to become a farmer in Colorado (wonder where that development will lead to??).

We pick up as solo act Connor4Real is set to debut his sophomore album, which is a disaster looming. Along the way, Popstar parodies the extreme narcissism of its industry while throwing in plenty of ridiculous songs. None of them really hold a candle to the brilliance displayed in the granddaddy of music doc spoofs, This is Spinal Tap.  As mentioned, there’s just not enough solid material to totally justify the 90 minutes here.

One mistake is that the Lonely team who wrote the screenplay seem to believe that cameos count as jokes. There are tons and tons of cameos. Admittedly some work (Seal’s bit is a trip and Timberlake gets to flex his comedic chops), but many others leave no impression. For the performers not playing themselves, a little of Samberg’s Connor goes a long way. Sarah Silverman and Tim Meadows are mostly background players as his publicist and manager. And the versatile Joan Cusack pops up so briefly as Connor’s hard partying mom that I can only think her part was left on the cutting room floor.

While there are laughs to be had here, you’re probably better off looking up the trio’s SNL work. They’re shorter and more consistently funny. See if you can find Arnett’s scenes too…

**1/2 (out of four)

Hands of Stone Box Office Prediction

***BLOGGER’S UPDATE (08/23/16): It was announced today by the Weinstein Company that they are significantly changing their release pattern for Hands of Stone. The film was originally scheduled to debut this Friday on approximately 2,000 screens. Now, it will premiere on only 800 screens with a wider roll-out on Wednesday (08/31). This forces a shift in my prediction for it. My $6.1 million estimate is now $3.2 million.

Centering on the relationship between real-life boxing legend Roberto Duran and his trainer Ray Arcel, Venezuelan filmmaker Jonathan Jakubowicz brings us Hands of Stone next weekend. Edgar Ramirez plays the fighter with Robert De Niro as his corner man. Costars include Usher (playing Sugar Ray Leonard), Ana de Armas, Ellen Barkin, Ruben Blades, and John Turturro.

The pic premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May to a mixed reaction after sitting on the shelf for over two years (not a good sign). Movies about the sweet science have been prevalent this decade with hits like 2010’s The Fighter and last year’s Creed. They had the benefit of critical acclaim and Oscar buzz. There was last summer’s Southpaw with Jake Gyllenhaal, which managed to do just OK with a $52 million overall gross.

Hands of Stone arrives in the dog days of August, where new titles typically fight to reach double digits. The Weinstein Company is distributing and they’re rumored to be making a push for De Niro in the Supporting Actor Academy race. They will probably not be successful like Sylvester Stallone was for Creed. And this will likely not pack much of a punch in the box office ring.

Hands of Stone opening weekend prediction: $3.2 million

For my Mechanic: Resurrection prediction, click here:

For my Don’t Breathe prediction, click here:


Oscar Watch: Hands of Stone

Having premiered at the Cannes Film Festival yesterday, the boxing biopic Hands of Stone hopes to be the next film in that genre to garner Oscar attention, much like Rocky, Raging Bull, and The Fighter before it.

The pic focuses on the legendary Roberto Duran, played here by Edgar Ramirez and casts Robert De Niro as his trainer Ray Arcel. Of course, Mr. De Niro won his only lead Actor gold statue for his lauded role as Jake La Motta in Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull in 1980 and he would competing here for Supporting Actor.

Hmmm. A legendary actor with an acclaimed pugilist picture to his credit maybe making a return to the Red Carpet? Sounds a bit like last year when Sylvester Stallone was nominated for Supporting Actor for Creed and surprisingly lost to Mark Rylance in Bridge of Spies. In order for Hands of Stone to receive serious Academy attention for the big race (Picture), it would’ve needed even better reviews than Creed. While early reviews are fairly solid, that didn’t happen and you can pretty much count out that possibility. Same goes for Ramirez in Actor.

As for De Niro, the Weinstein Company (who are no slouches at awards campaigning) may pull out all the stops for their actor being recognized. It’s unlikely to occur, however. The great story with Stallone was the near 40 year lay-off between nominations and the connection with him playing the same role being recognized so many decades apart. De Niro, on the other hand, was just nominated four years ago for his work in Silver Linings Playbook. 

While Hands of Stone (being released domestically on August 26) could be a mid-size hit come late summer, Cannes has shown it’s improbable that it’ll be on the minds of Academy voters.


Top 90 R&B Songs of the 1990s: Nos. 30-21

We are a week into my Top 90 R&B Songs of the 1990s and that means part seven and numbers 30-21!

Please click the Music category of the blog to review previous entries. Let’s get to it:

30. “Doo Wop” (That Thing) by Lauryn Hill (1998)

Hill left the Fugees to start a solo career and hit it big with her first album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill and this great first single that marks her only #1 solo hit.

29. “You Make Me Wanna…” by Usher (1997)

The lead single from Usher’s My Way album is among his finest tracks with production from Jermaine Dupri.

28. “I’m So Into You” by SWV (1992)

The female trio had their first top ten hit with this terrific uptempo groove.

27. “Don’t Walk Away” by Jade (1993)

The New Jack swing club anthem gave this girl group their signature hit.

26. “Cream” by Prince (1991)

The Purple One has joked that he wrote this song in the mirror. At least I think he was joking.

**Blogger’s Note: Prince doesn’t allow his videos on YouTube

25. “Not Gon Cry” by Mary J. Blige (1996)

Ms. Mary’s ballad from the Waiting to Exhale soundtrack is among her top career highlights.

24. “Rub You the Right Way” by Johnny Gill (1990)

The New Edition singer had the biggest hit of his solo career with this banger from producers Jam and Lewis.

23. “Too Close” by Next (1997)

The male trio had a monster hit on their hands with its infectious beat and highly suggestive lyrical content.

22. “I Wanna Sex You Up” by Color Me Badd (1991)

The group’s biggest hit came from the New Jack City soundtrack and has certainly stood the test of time.

21. “Fantasy” by Mariah Carey (1995)

Carey’s lead single from her Daydream album is a classic among her staple of #1 hits. It also has an awesome Puff Daddy remix featuring Ol’ Dirty Bastard.

Tomorrow – we’ll get into the Top 20!


Top 90 R&B Songs of the 1990s: Nos. 50-41

We have arrived at part five of my personal Top 90 R&B songs of the 1990s and that means numbers 50-41 coming at you this evening! If you’d like to see what else has made the list, read my previous entries here:

Let’s keep on moving…

50. “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston (1992)

You didn’t think I’d leave Ms. Whitney’s signature tune off here, did you? Her smash hit from The Bodyguard soundtrack is prime crank it up when you’re by yourself in the car bliss. And Dolly Parton wrote it!

49. “Lately” by Jodeci (1993)

Not many artists could pull off covering Stevie Wonder, but Jodeci managed excellently with their beautiful version of this classic.

48. “Hey Mr. D.J.” by Zhane (1993)

The group’s biggest hit is a club anthem.

47. “Jerk Out” by The Time (1990)

Prince brought this group to prominence in the 1980s, but this first single off their album Pandemonium has been a personal favorite for quite some time.

***SO, Prince doesn’t let any music he owns on YouTube. Sorry folks!

46. “At Your Best” by Aaliyah (1994)

Aaliyah’s slow jam from her debut album. Get used to seeing her on the remainder of this list.

45. “Return of the Mack” by Mark Morrison (1997)

Mr. Morrison might not have had other stateside hits, but this banger cements his place in history.

44. “My Way” by Usher (1998)

Usher makes his debut on the list with the title track to his fabulous 1997 album.

43. “Weak” by SWV (1993)

This #1 smash was the R&B ballad of summer 1993. This girl group isn’t done yet on the list either.

42. “My Boo” by Ghost Town DJ’s (1996)

This track would still fill up on a dance floor. If you don’t know this one, you need to.

41. “Feels Good” by Tony! Toni! Tone! (1990)

This influential group peaks here with their greatest single.

And that’s our 90s R&B edition for tonight, folks! We’ll get to the Top 40 tomorrow evening!