Top 10 Songs of 1991

In 1991 dance music continued on a hot streak. A new British invasion introduced bands such as EMF and Jesus Jones to the American pop charts. The grunge revolution was just over the horizon. Step back in time to revisit the top 10 pop songs of 1991.

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R.E.M. - "Losing My Religion"

R.E.M. Losing My Religion
Courtesy Warner Bros.

With its distinctive mandolin riff, "Losing My Religion" became R.E.M.'s third top 10 pop hit and their biggest yet peaking at #4. The song topped the alternative and rock charts. It won two Grammy Awards for Best Pop Performance By a Duo Or Group With Vocal and Best Short Form Video. Peter Buck of R.E.M. said the music of the song emerged from his own efforts at learning to play the mandolin. The phrase "losing my religion" is an expression from the American South which means to lose one's temper. Michael Stipe of R.E.M. said in interviews that the song is about unrequited love. 

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Boyz II Men - "Motownphilly"

Boyz II Men Motownphilly
Courtesy Motown

"Motownphilly" tells the story of the discovery of Boyz II Men by New Edition and Bell Biv DeVoe member Michael Bivins. Other groups connected with Michael Bivins including Another Bad Creation and Sudden Impact appear in the "Motownphilly" music video. The song blasted Boyz II Men into the pop spotlight by climbing to #3 on the pop singles chart. The group's gorgeous vocal harmonies soon turned them into one of the top pop acts of the decade. Boyz II Men won the Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance By a Duo or Group With Vocals for their album Cooleyhighharmony which features "Motownphilly." The title of the song refers to the influence of 1960s Motown music and 1970s Philly soul on Boyz II Men.

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Gloria Estefan - "Coming Out Of the Dark"

Gloria Estefan Coming Out of the Dark
Courtesy Epic

The inspirational ballad "Coming Out Of the Dark" was co-written by Gloria Estefan, her husband Emilio Estefan, Jr. and singer Jon Secada. Among the voices in the backing choir are Jon Secada and R&B singer Betty Wright. This was the first single released by Gloria Estefan after suffering a near-fatal traffic accident in her tour bus. The recovery experience inspired the song. It became a #1 pop and adult contemporary hit. The song is included on the album Into the Light which hit #5 on the album chart and earned a double platinum certification for sales.

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C&C Music Factory - "Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)"

C and C Music Factory Gonna Make You Sweat
Courtesy Columbia

"Gonna Make You Sweat" became mired in controversy when the diva vocals of Martha Wash were not credited on the song's release and they were lip-synched in the accompanying music video by Zelma Davis. Martha Wash sued successfully to earn proper credit and royalties for her contribution. Despite the controversy, the power of the recording is undeniable. It was a #1 hit on the pop, dance, and R&B charts. Freedom Williams performs the featured rap. Dance music producers and remixers Robert Clivilles and David Cole are the C and C in the group name. As a team, they were one of the most in-demand production teams of the 1990s. David Cole died tragically due to complications of AIDS in 1995.

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Amy Grant - "Baby Baby"

Amy Grant Baby Baby
Courtesy A&M

Amy Grant was one of the top Christian music artists of all time with a string of six #1 Christian albums when she broke into the pop top 10 for the first time as a solo artist with "Baby Baby." Amy Grant co-wrote the song with Keith Thomas contributing the lyrics. She had previously gone to #1 on the pop singles chart in a duet with Chicago's Peter Cetera on "The Next Time I Fall." With "Baby Baby" she became the first Christian artist to have a solo #1 pop hit in the US. The song also topped the adult contemporary chart and hit #3 on the dance chart.

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EMF - "Unbelievable"

EMF Unbelievable
Courtesy EMI

The loud "Oh!" shout at the beginning of each chorus is the voice of American comedian Andrew Dice Clay. The group EMF are from England and emerged out of the Madchester dance music scene in Manchester, England. "Unbelievable" with its somewhat chaotic sound leavened by a sweet pop melody and vocals went all the way to #1 on the pop singles chart in the US. "Unbelievable" also went to #3 at alternative radio and broke into the top 10 of the dance chart. The group's album Schubert Dip climbed to #12 on the album chart.

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D.J. Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince - "Summertime"

DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince Summertime
Courtesy Jive

D.J. Jazzy Jeff and Will Smith turned away from the joke-filled humorous rap of their early hits to a somewhat more serious and universal tone on "Summertime." The result was their biggest hit single. It topped the rap and R&B charts and went to #4 on the pop singles chart winning a Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance By a Duo or Group. "Summertime" has become a laidback summer classic. It includes an instrumental sample from Kool & the Gang's "Summer Madness."

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Jesus Jones - "Right Here, Right Now"

Jesus Jones Right Here Right Now
Courtesy SBK

Jesus Jones was associated with the Madchester dance music scene out of Manchester, England. Their worldwide breakthrough single "Right Here, Right Now" speaks about being in the history of the moment. It was inspired by dramatic world events such as the fall of the Berlin Wall. The song topped the alternative radio chart in the US and went to #2 on the pop singles chart. The group's album Doubt climbed to #25 on the US album chart.

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Marky Mark & the Funky Bunch - "Good Vibrations"

Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch Good Vibrations
Courtesy Interscope

Mark Wahlberg, aka Marky Mark, is the younger brother of Donnie Wahlberg, a member of New Kids On the Block. Mark Wahlberg was originally a member of New Kids on the Block, but he quit after only three months in the group. He followed his brother on to the pop charts with this single.

The song is ultra-catchy and features powerful dance diva vocals from Loleatta Holloway, but it may be the video which shows off Marky Mark's muscular physique that became one of the biggest factors in the song's success. "Good Vibrations" topped the pop singles chart and reached the top 10 on the dance chart. The group's album Music For the People reached #21 on the album chart and was certified platinum for sales.

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L.L. Cool J - "Mama Said Knock You Out"

LL Cool J Mama Said Knock You Out
Courtesy Def Jam

After "Mama Said Knock You Out," LL Cool J no longer needed to fear his career was on the wane or he would be considered a sell-out to pop success. The song's most famous line is "Don't call it a comeback / I've been here for years." The song was certified gold, topped the rap chart and landed inside the top 20 on the pop singles chart.

"Mama Said Knock You Out" won a Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance. The song includes multiple samples. LL Cool J traces the origin of the song to his grandmother who responded to his concerns about being criticized by younger rappers by saying, "Oh baby, just knock them out!" She makes an appearance in the accompanying music video.