Songs of '89
October 3, 2022 7:19 AM   Subscribe

For no good reason, I'm making a playlist of songs from 1989. What are your favorites?

Songs, not albums, please, not necessarily the biggest hits, or even singles (there are plenty of lists like that already), imaginary bonus points for variety and non-English voices.
posted by box to Media & Arts (41 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Indigo Girls’ Closer to Fine was THE song of the summer of 1989 in my corner of the world.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 7:33 AM on October 3, 2022 [13 favorites]

Best answer: "She Drives Me Crazy" Fine Young Cannibals
posted by theora55 at 7:38 AM on October 3, 2022 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Ministry - Thieves
Gang Starr - Positivity
posted by so fucking future at 7:43 AM on October 3, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Thing Called Love, Bonnie Raitt
posted by Sweetie Darling at 7:47 AM on October 3, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: The Ocean Blue - The Ocean Blue: Between Something and Nothing, Drifting, Falling, Vanity Fair - basically a US version of the Smiths but better because they aren't endlessly mopey. Like this song, which the Arcade Fire ripped off and turned into a hit: Frigid Winter Days
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:49 AM on October 3, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Oh that was a fun year. Straight-up made for aerobicizing (with a little emo thrown in)

Blame it on the Rain: Milli Vanilli
De La Soul: Me Myself & I
The Cure: Pictures of You
The B52s: Roam
Paula Abdul: Straight Up
Ton Loc: Wild Thing
AND Young MC: Bust a Move!
Roxette: The Look
Edie Brickell: What I Am
Technotronic: Pump Up the Jam
Depeche Mode: Personal Jesus
10000 Maniacs: Trouble Me
Miss You Much: Janet Jackson
... and definitely Indigo Girls: Closer to Fine, as noted above
posted by nkknkk at 7:50 AM on October 3, 2022 [8 favorites]

Best answer: It really was a great year for music, I'll go for Head Like A Hole which always reminds me of the sheer exhilaration of those first heady days of freedom away from where I was brought up.
posted by tardigrade at 8:11 AM on October 3, 2022 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Pixies: Debaser
Tears for Fears: Woman in Chains
Michael Penn: No Myth
RHCP: Knock Me Down
Concrete Blonde: God is a Bullet
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:24 AM on October 3, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I have thought about this particular year of music before, in part because you can see the coming fragmentation of musical genres.

An industrial track list:
Ringfinger from Pretty Hate Machine off the first album by NIN
Thieves from The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste from the fourth album by Ministry
More and Faster off of KMFDM’s UAIOE
Tin Omen from Skinny Puppy’s Rabies.

There is so much industrial/thrash/metal, and there was no way I would have predicted Front Line Assembly’s anti-fascist tracks on Gashed Senses & Crossfire would remain relevant, timely even.

Meat Beat Manifesto’s Storm the Studio
Godflesh’s Streetcleaner
And the seminal:
Sepultura's Beneath the Remains

Rap albums
  • De La Soul 3 Feet High and Rising
  • Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique
  • Queen Latifah’s All Hail the Queen
  • Geto Boys Grip It! On That Other Level for Southern Rap
  • D.O.C. No One Can Do It Better for gfunk
And Public Enemy dropped the “Fight the Power” 
single in 1989.

Alternative albums
  • Fugazi 13 Songs
  • Nirvana Bleach
  • Minor Threat Complete Discography
  • The Cure Disintegration
  • The Stone Roses The Stone Roses
  • New Order Technique
  • Pixies, Doolittle
  • The Jesus and Mary Chain’s Automatic Head On.
  • The Red Hot Chili Peppers* Mother's Milk
*problematic fav
posted by zenon at 8:31 AM on October 3, 2022 [8 favorites]

Ah, I borked the formatting of the second two lists of tracks: alas I must work and will return with a fix and a proper list of songs
posted by zenon at 8:33 AM on October 3, 2022

Best answer: One or two from my listings, not including several already listed above. Your definition of 1989 may differ slightly from mine.

XTC: Mayor of Simpleton
Elvis Costello: Veronica
Stone Roses: Fools Gold
Kitchens of Distinction: The 3rd Time We Opened the Capsule

Neil Young did Rockin' in the Free World that year, I think, as a more elder figure maintaining a bit of respectability at the time.

The Replacements were near the end of their run; the radio-friendly I'll Be You and Achin to Be are both filed under 1989 in my folders.

House of Love: I Don't Know Why I Love You is a great track.
posted by gimonca at 8:41 AM on October 3, 2022 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I have Tone Loc also doing Funky Cold Medina that year.
posted by gimonca at 8:42 AM on October 3, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Robyn Hitchcock’s Queen Elvis came out that year. Madonna of the Wasps and One Long Pair of Eyes

Throwing Muses - Dizzy

Also the Connells’ Fun & Games album. Something to Say, Uninspired, and a whole lot more.
posted by sesquipedalia at 8:52 AM on October 3, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The Mekons' extremely under-known The Mekons Rock'n'Roll was released in 1989.

Learning To Live On Your Own

One of a small number of albums by a small number of bands that I still like as much as I did when I first heard it as a teenager. It had a lot to say to the young person that I was and still has something to say to the old person I've become.

The Pogues Peace and Love came out that year too - not nearly as good as their earlier stuff, but at the time I could not get their earlier stuff so it was top-notch to me.

White City (about gentrification in that part of London, not particularly about white people) is the one that has stayed with me: " Oh, sweet city of my dreams Of speed and skill and schemesLike Atlantis, you just disappeared from view". Fastest nostalgia in the west.

And Warren Zevon released the extremely underrated Transverse City, IYAM maybe his best album. Now, I admit that it skirts cringe, but it skirts cringe to achieve something so that's okay:

Transverse City, which recurs to me a lot - "we have come to see tomorrow, we have given up today".

That was a good year, music-wise. I had a little bit of money from some part time work and although you couldn't really get a huge selection of music in the suburbs, I did manage to get the best of the available albums.
posted by Frowner at 8:57 AM on October 3, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Norman Cook (Fatboy Slim) had his first solo UK chart success with the double-A-side Blame It On The Bassline/Won't Talk About It, featuring MC Wildski and Billy Bragg respectively on vocals.

At the time, though, I was more impressed with Jive Bunny: The Album.
posted by offog at 8:57 AM on October 3, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Lou Reed - Dirty Blvd
Primal Scream - I'm Losing More Than I'll Ever Have
Bob Mould - See a Little Light
JAMC - Head On
Smithereens - A Girl Like You
Camper Van Beethoven - Pictures of Matchstick Men
Peter Murphy - Cuts You Up
New Order - Run
posted by snofoam at 9:41 AM on October 3, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Debaser, Wave of Mutilation, or Monkey Gone to Heaven from Pixies' Doolittle
Dirty Blvd or Busload of Faith from Lou Reed's New York
Flying Cowboys from Ricky Lee Jones' eponymous album, or Love Is Gonna Bring Us Back Alive
Plainsong or Pictures of You from The Cure's Disintegration
Waterfall from The Stone Roses' eponymous album (lots of other options there too)
Head On from The Jesus and Mary Chain's Automatic
Thieves by Ministry, as already suggested, or Burning Inside
Baby I Don't Care from Transvision Vamp's Velveteen
posted by snarfois at 9:46 AM on October 3, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Chain Gang — Art of Noise feat. Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens
Deadbeat Club — The B-52's
Chalkhills And Children — XTC
The Devil's Coachman — Robyn Hitchcock 'n' The Egyptians
Вася – Васильок — The Wedding Present (Ukrainian John Peel Sessions)
Zobi La Mouche - Les Négresses Vertes
posted by scruss at 10:09 AM on October 3, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: 2nding "Debaser" by Pixies
"I Just Wanted to See You So Bad" and "Passionate Kisses" by Lucinda Williams (89 singles off an 88 album)
2nding "Head On" by JAMC
"Nick of Time" by Bonnie Raitt
"Pictures of Matchstick Men" by Camper van Beethoven
"I'll Be You" and "Achin' to Be" by Replacements
"It's Funky Enough" and "The Grand Finale" by DOC
"Hey Ladies" by Beasties Boys
"Why Is That?" and "Who Protects Us from You?" by Boogie Down Productions
"Knowledge" by Operation Ivy
"Margin Walker" by Fugazi
"Miss You Much" by Janet Jackson
"Love Shack" by B-52s
"Wrath of Kane" by Big Daddy Kane

Lotta great Tom Petty, Cure, everything on the De La Soul album
posted by kensington314 at 10:10 AM on October 3, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: A bunch of the above, but I'll throw in So Alive by Love and Rockets, Lovesong and Pictures of You by the Cure, and Stand by R.E.M. as still adored major singles from that era.

I don't much care for them at this point, but Paradise City, Patience, and Welcome to the Jungle are immediately evocative of the year. Same with We Didn't Start the Fire and Hey Ladies.

From the electronic perspective, What Time Is Love by the KLF was important. I remember The Definition of Love by K-OS. Worlock by Skinny Puppy. Round and Round by New Order. French Kiss by Lil Louise. Cuts You Up by Peter Murphy. Can U Dig It and Def Con One by PWEI.

Madchester was getting big in 89. The Happy Mondays and Stone Roses had a bunch of notable stuff as did 808 State.

Here Comes Your Man by the Pixies. Higher Ground as performed by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The Real Thing by Faith No More was released in 1989 but didn't get hugely popular until 1990 when Epic became a hit. Free Fallin' and other hits from Full Moon Fever. No Myth by Michael Penn. The Dinosaur Jr. cover of Just Like Heaven. Wicked Game. Head On by the Jesus and Mary Chain. Loud Love by Soundgarden. God Damn The Sun by the Swans.

It wasn't released that year, but Say Anything pushed In Your Eyes to prominence that year.
posted by Candleman at 10:13 AM on October 3, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Cui Jian's Rock and Roll on the New Long March came out that year. Nothing To My Name was the song that that was played at Tian An Men.

Rock And Roll On The New Long March itself is my favorite song although the opening of Nothing To My Name is absolutely engraved on my brain.

The whole album is amazing. I definitely first heard it before I could do more than pick out a word here and there in Mandarin; it's not something where you need to understand all the lyrics.
posted by Frowner at 10:19 AM on October 3, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I know you said songs and not albums, but there were some solid albums mentioned above where you could find multiple great songs for 1989:

The B-52's released "Cosmic Thing" that year, which was totally my album of the summer. It doesn't just give you "Roam" or "Love Shack," but "Junebug" or "Bushfire."

From "Stone Roses" my choice would be "She Bangs the Drum" over "Fool's Gold," but it's hard to go wrong.

k. d. lang and the Reclines released "Absolute Torch and Twang" that year, which gives you "Luck in my Eyes" and "Pullin' Back the Reins" (written by lang), "Full Moon Full of Love" (written by Leroy Preston and Jeannie Smith), and an excellent cover of Willie Nelson's "Three Days."

If you need to slow things down, take "Baby Plays Around" off Elvis Costello's "Spike."

Adrian Belew's "Oh Daddy" (off "Mr. Music Head") got some play on MTV for a while.

Bonus 1988 releases big in 1989 (or later):
R.E.M. released "Green" in 1988, so despite the name "Pop Song '89" doesn't count.
The Proclaimers' "Sunshine on Leith" was also a 1988 release, but "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" didn't peak on the US singles chart until 1993, so I'm not sure what year I'd put it in anyway (I think I picked it up in 1990 or so, and I never saw "Benny & Joon," so 1993 was a very confusing radio year for me).
posted by fedward at 10:32 AM on October 3, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Sensual World - Kate Bush
Back to Life - Soul II Soul
French Kiss - Lil Louis
Pacific State - 808 State
Manchild - Neneh Cherry
Ride Board - The Colorblind James Experience
posted by misteraitch at 10:37 AM on October 3, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Seconding some songs, adding my own:

* I can still sing the lower harmony part in "Closer To Fine", which should tell you something about how much I listened to it.

* "Back To Life" was a major hit amongst my acting studio cohort, as were a lot of other late-80s-early-90s hip-hop songs. This time warps me back to college like whoa.

* "In Your Eyes" did enjoy a resurgence, but if you want to be more strict about stuff that was only released in 1989, Peter Gabriel also did another album of movie music - Passion, which was him riffing on his score for the film Last Temptation Of Christ. It's Peter in all his world-music-mashup-with-gibberish-droning glory. The big single was Za'ar, but my own picks are A Different Drum or It Is Accomplished.

* Speaking of film - this was the year that Tim Burton's Batman came out. And while we've gotten more complex Batman movies since, this one had the best score - not because of Danny Elfman, but because of Prince. Here's his Batdance.

* Hey, did you know Tears for Fears had an album in 1989? They did. Here's the title track.

* Free Fallin' will forever be associated in my memory with a weird moment from early on in a relationship.

* David Bowie did a weird sort of quasi-metal thing called Tin Machine in 1989; here's the title single from that album. It....baffled people who were used to Bowie's usual stuff and he dissolved the project pretty quick.

* John Lee Hooker did an album called The Healer in 1989 and my father immediately snapped it up. Here's that title track, with Carlos Santana on guitar.

* "The Senusal World" is one good option from that particular Kate Bush album. I can also suggest Love and Anger, Heads We're Dancing, and This Woman's Work.

* Finally: The Waterboys released their album Fisherman's Blues. As tempted as I am to insist you put in the whole damn album, I'm going to confine myself to just a few choices:

Fisherman's Blues
Sweet Thing (This is a cover of a Van Morrison song, they make it their own)
When Ye Go Away
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:08 AM on October 3, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: 1989 playlist of what I was listening to then. There may be some stuff released before '89 on there that we listened to that year, but most of it is primo 1989. An excellent year for music.
posted by gingerbeer at 11:30 AM on October 3, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: The Road to Hell by Chris Rea has some amazing songs, and the whole album is great.
posted by Enid Lareg at 11:54 AM on October 3, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I was taking the train around Europe that summer, and Sinéad O’Connor’s version of Nothing Compares 2 U was playing everywhere, constantly.
posted by LizardBreath at 12:08 PM on October 3, 2022 [4 favorites]

goes without saying, but please post your final list!
posted by kensington314 at 12:46 PM on October 3, 2022

Best answer: Someone already mentioned "The Sensual World" by Kate Bush, and I'd also add from the same album "Love and Anger" because it is a deep and incredible song, and "This Woman's Work" because of its enduring popularity and relevance.
posted by kensington314 at 12:48 PM on October 3, 2022

Best answer: In Your Room -- The Bangles
My Brave Face -- Paul McCartney
Sowing the Seeds of Love -- Tears for Fears
Ana Ng -- They Might Be Giants
Principal's Office -- Young MC
posted by kimota at 1:22 PM on October 3, 2022

Best answer: Hey, I wandered off on a brainstorming tangent. This is probably weird. Sorry not sorry. Big lists:
posted by Pronoiac at 2:11 PM on October 3, 2022 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, y'all! I don't know if this will be the final incarnation, but here's what I have today. I stopped at 100 for, again, no good reason. These suggestions have been great, so if you have more please add. Don't pay too much attention to the track order, I'm more of a shuffler (Spotify):

Prince - Partyman
Cher - If I Could Turn Back Time
Madonna - Like a Prayer
The B-52's - Deadbeat Club
Natalie Cole - Miss You Like Crazy
Janet Jackson - Miss You Much
Kool G Rap & DJ Polo - Road to the Riches
Neneh Cherry - Manchild
Michel'le - Something in My Heart
Rickie Lee Jones - The Horses
Indigo Girls - Kid Fears
Elvis Costello - This Town
Pixies - Mr. Grieves
Ciccone Youth - Addicted to Love
Geto Boys - Life in the Fast Lane
The D.O.C. - D.O.C. and the Doctor
Camper Van Beethoven - Pictures of Matchstick Men
Love and Rockets - No Big Deal
Fugazi - Margin Walker
Operation Ivy - Take Warning
EPMD - Please Listen to My Demo
Ice-T - You Played Yourself
Gang Starr - Words I Manifest
Tracy Chapman - All That You Have is Your Soul
Shawn Colvin - Diamond in the Rough
Tears for Fears - Sowing the Seeds of Love
The Jesus and Mary Chain - Head On
Nirvana - About a Girl
Selena - Contigo Quiero Estar
Queen Latifah - Wrath of My Madness (DJ Premier remix)
Jungle Brothers - Acknowledge Your Own History
Soul II Soul f Caron Wheeler - Back to Life
Technotronic f Ya Kid K - Move This
Lisa Stansfield - What Did I Do to You?
Paula Abdul - Cold Hearted
Nine Inch Nails - Down In It
Ministry - Burning Inside
Jane's Addiction - Ocean Size
Dinosaur Jr. - Just Like Heaven
Midnight Oil - Beds Are Burning
R.E.M. - Orange Crush
The Bangles - In Your Room
Mudhoney - Here Comes Sickness
Skinny Puppy - Worlock
Cyndi Lauper - I Drove All Night
Atlantic Starr - My First Love
Lucinda Williams - Passionate Kisses
Jody Watley - Real Love
Bobby Brown - Every Little Step
Kwame - The Rhythm
Depeche Mode - Personal Jesus
Kate Bush - Love and Anger
Anita Baker - Giving You the Best That I've Got
Edie Brickell & New Bohemians - Circle
Young MC - Principal's Office
Tone Loc - Cheeba Cheeba
Tom Petty - Zombie Zoo
Boogie Down Productions - Who Protects Us From You?
Information Society - Walking Away
Stephanie Mills - Something in the Way (You Make Me Feel)
Regina Belle - Baby Come to Me
The Sugarcubes - Planet
Texas - Prayer For You
Throwing Muses - Dizzy
The Lightning Seeds - Pure
XTC - Mayor of Simpleton
Robyn Hitcock & The Egyptians - Madonna of the Wasps
10,000 Maniacs - Trouble Me
The Cult - Fire Woman
The Stone Roses - She Bangs the Drums
Big Daddy Kane - Smooth Operator
Slick Rick - Mona Lisa
Nice & Smooth - Funky For You
Dead Moon - Dead Moon Night
Concrete Blonde - God is a Bullet
Swans - God Damn the Sun
Stevie Nicks - Rooms on Fire
Beat Happening - Pajama Party in a Haunted Hive
LL Cool J - Goin' Back to Cali
Fine Young Cannibals - Don't Look Back
The Blue Nile - Seven A.M.
Galaxie 500 - Another Day
808 State - Pacific 202
Beastie Boys - The Sounds of Science
The Ocean Blue - Between Something and Nothing
Bonnie Raitt - Nick of Time
The Connells - Something to Say
Michael Penn - Walter Reed
Mano Negra - Sidi h'bibi
Cui Jian - Nothing to My Name
Les Negresses Vertes - Zobi la mouche
De Kift - Code het alfabet
Jaz-O f Jay-Z - Hawaiian Sophie
KMFDM - More & Faster
Skinny Puppy - Tin Omen
Martika - Toy Soldiers
Julee Cruise - Floating
Ann Wilson & Robin Zander - Surrender to Me
Lita Ford f Ozzy Osbourne - Close My Eyes Forever
Public Enemy - Fight the Power
posted by box at 2:13 PM on October 3, 2022 [8 favorites]

Best answer: I'm disappointed in the metalheads of mefi that Metallica's One hasn't been mentioned yet. The album came out in '88, but the single and video were released in 1989 and it was HUGE.

Also in metal:

Faith No More - From out of nowhere
Skid Row - Youth Gone Wild
Motley Crew - Kickstart my Heart
posted by griffey at 5:47 PM on October 3, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Ah memories. Thank you for posting the list and enabling my trip down high school memory lane. My contributions, not mentioned so far:
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 8:28 PM on October 3, 2022

Best answer: Yo La Tengo - Barnaby, Hardly Working
Pere Ubu - Waiting for Mary
The Vulgar Boatmen - Drive Somewhere
Cocteau Twins - Heaven or Las Vegas
The Wedding Present - Brassneck
Caetano Veloso - Estrangeiro
Philip Glass - Mad Rush
Steve Reich - Different Trains
posted by hydrophonic at 10:46 PM on October 3, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A few to add:
1. Three big songs from Scotland: Love and Regret - Deacon Blue, I don't Want A Lover - Texas, Del Amitri - Nothing Ever Happens
2. David Byrne was getting interested in Brazilian music and released some compilations such as this one. The songs were older than 89 mostly but this album bought them to international attention.
3. Kiss the Girl - Little Mermaid soundtrack.
4. Sit Down by James was to be heard wherever there were students, in my recollection.
5. The Sundays - Here's Where The Story Ends
5. Pale Fountains - Jean's Not Happening - great but under-appreciated song.
posted by rongorongo at 11:46 PM on October 3, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Disappointed - Public Image Ltd
So Alive - Love and Rockets
Regina - Sugarcubes
Veronica - Elvis Costello
Waiting for Mary - Pere Ubu
Don't Crash the Car Tonight - Mary's Danish
Smoke Rings - Winter Hours
Turn You Inside
No Parachutes, Dragonhead - Throwing Muses
posted by horsegnut at 6:15 AM on October 5, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I think that 1989 was a high point for U.S. thrash metal. Elimination (from Overkill's Years of Decay) is an exemplary thrash metal classic song and album. Pairs well with Exodus' Toxic Waltz.
posted by JDC8 at 5:30 PM on October 5, 2022

Best answer: A few more metal classics that were staples on MTV's Headbanger's Ball from 1989:

Kreator: Betrayer

Nuclear Assault: Critical Mass

Voivod: Astronomy Domine
posted by JDC8 at 9:18 PM on October 6, 2022

Response by poster: Fun fact: both Critical Mass and Astronomy Domine appeared on earlier versions of my list :)
posted by box at 6:39 AM on October 7, 2022

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