Liner Notes

The Year That Was: 1993

by Benjamin Ray

Well into the grunge and alternative movement, 1993 was the time for the big Seattle bands to release follow-ups and for a number of bands to offer debuts. It was a year of pretty darn great rock and pop albums, a few one-hit wonders of note and a huge year for female-led rock.

Giving a big middle finger to the albums that made them famous, Nirvana and Pearl Jam released In Utero and Vs. to big sales and somewhat confused audiences. Trying to reclaim the spirit of the band before the fame, Nirvana's harsh, difficult album forced the listener to love or hate it, no middle ground. Pearl Jam put an angry punk spin on their sound, easing off the big-hearted moodiness of Ten for a more raw, personal approach.

The Smashing Pumpkins, building on their little-heard 1991 debut, served up Siamese Dream, which became a touchstone of the alt-rock movement and has some listeners saying, years later, that it is still better than Nevermind. Other alternative highlights included Blur's Modern Life Is Rubbish, Brad's Shame, Candlebox's debut, the Breeders' "Cannonball," Cracker's "Low," Seven Mary Three's "Cumbersome" and Mazzy Star's plaintive "Fade Into You." The Tragically Hip also put out the solid Fully Completely, Urge Overkill offered up "Sister Havana" and the Flaming Lips Transmissions From The Satellite Heart. Other debuts included Counting Crows' August And Everything After, Collective Soul's Hints, Allegations And Things Left Unsaid and Radiohead's Pablo Honey.


Women ruled much of the year. Melissa Etheridge made a big splash by admitting her sexuality on Yes I Am, but Sheryl Crow topped it with the very good Tuesday Night Music Club, which went on to win several Grammies despite accusations over the songwriting credits. Liz Phair also offered Exile In Guyville, an ambitious and daring record, Ace Of Base had the smash The Sign, the Cranberries debuted with Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We? and Sarah McLachlan broke through with Fumbling Towards Ecstasy.

In ‘80s holdover news, Aerosmith went ahead and released Get A Grip anyway. Much to the chagrin of longtime fans, the album's four soundalike ballads ("Crazy," "Cryin'," etc.) all got MTV airplay and created legions of new female fans. Duran Duran came back to life with a second eponymous disc and the excellent "Come Undone" and "Ordinary World," Depeche Mode offered the fine Songs Of Faith and Devotion and U2 put out Zooropa, an offbeat little electronic pop disc. Oblivious to all trends, Jimmy Page united with Whitesnake singer David Coverdale for Coverdale/Page, and against all odds, it was a darn good CD, if out of step with the times. Lenny Kravitz also offered his best song, "Are You Gonna Go My Way," from the album of the same name, Guns ‘N’ Roses called it a day after released their covers album The Spaghetti Incident and Meatloaf returned out of nowhere with Bat Out of Hell II and "I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)."


In pop music, Mariah Carey continued her dominance with "Hero," Bryan Adams had a hit with "All For Love," Janet Jackson bared her soul (and other things) on janet, Billy Joel released his final studio release with River Of Dreams and Phil Collins offered the serious Both Sides. Of course, no ‘90s year would be complete without one-hit wonders, and 1993 had a few of them, such as "Whoomp! There It Is," "Informer," the hated "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm," "Bad Boys" (from the show COPS), "What Is Love" and, of course, "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)."

Hip-hop, still reeling from Dr. Dre's The Chronic the year prior, didn't have as much to offer, but notable releases included Snoop Dogg's downright friendly (for gangsta rap) Doggystyle, the Wu-Tang clan dropped 36 Chambers and A Tribe Called Quest offered Midnight Marauders. Less popular yet very good albums included Black Moon's Enta Da Stage and Souls of Mischief's 93 'Til Infinity. Even De La Soul had some fun with Buhloone Mindstate, a departure from their first two records and Cypress Hill had its biggest hit with "Insane In The Brain."

And that, friends, is the Year That Was in music.

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