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Is it time to cancel the ’90s?

The Pet Shop Boys are living legends... if you're Gen X

Euro-dance euphoria, Stock Aitken & Waterman chart-toppers, hedonistic rave styles and.. scatting? Hannah Head ponders whether it's time to cancel Gen X's queer bop classics

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The distinctive music that filled nightclubs, raves and queer spaces in the ‘80s and ‘90s are the cornerstones to current pop, electronic and club music. When STUN editor, Danny Corvini, asked me to have a listen to some of the most iconic Gen X club hits, I expected to be rolling my eyes to a 1940’s Andrews Sisters classic (sorry Danny). Listening to his selection though, I was surprised to find out how much of my modern music favourites are in fact inspired by these songs. 

Better The Devil You Know 

KYLIE MINOGUE (1990)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tto_nmsND_o

Kylie Minogue’s status as a queer icon seems to transcend space and time with ‘Better The Devil’ being peak Kylie. Despite this, the lyrics tell us the star isn’t immune to toxic relationships. Lines such as “I’ll take you back again” and “I’ll be here every day, waiting for your love to show” are immediate RED FLAGS. I don’t know why the burden is falling on me, some 33 years after the song’s release, but I will say it: Kylie, this man is garbage! If a song with that message was released today, the star’s instagram DM’s would be flooded with pleas for them to drop that loser.  2/5– STALE 🙁

Baby Baby 

CORONA (1994)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHPMWAoAQVI

Looking past the unfortunate band name, this song certainly makes a person move. The high-energy beat is a complete inspiration to many of the electronic sounds you will hear blasting on the dancefloor to this day. The music video is filled with fabulous metallic silver outfits and features an iconic scene of singer Olga Maria de Souza dancing on a bed. However, it is also plagued by a certain ‘90s music video trope: spinning. I don’t know what was in the water back then, or whether the poles were shifting – but is it true dancing was just someone spinning around? These last three decades have taught us a lot, but most importantly… new dance moves. 3/5 – STUN!

You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) 

JIMMY SOMERVILLE (1989)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZtdcMIR5do 

This is one of the most fabulously queer music videos of all time! From the floating head in the sky, the zoom style backgrounds to the numerous shots of crotches in very tight pants; every minute of the music video entertains. If a music video from that era can entrance a TikTok dependent 21 year old, there is truly something magic happening. Oh, and the actual song is an absolute banger too. 5/5 – STUN!

Ride On Time 

BLACK BOX (1990)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M0quXl_od3g

From its complexly layered sounds, extreme strength of vocals and endless beat, this song could easily fit into a modern day hyperpop playlist. However, the repetitive imagery and the lone lip syncing woman in the music video is really just a bit boring. After one minute of the song I felt like I got the gist and was antsy for new stimulation. (Editor’s note: That’s trans model Katrin Quinol in the music video. The vocals are a sample from Loleatta Holloway’s 1980 track ‘Love Sensation’).
2/5 – STALE 🙁

Justify My Love 

MADONNA (1990)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Np_Y740aReI

Between the hypnotic baseline and Madonna’s husky whisper, everything about this track oozes sexuality. The bodies, corsets and black lace that adorn the music video simply act as a cherry on top. A few of Madonna’s lyrics did catch me off-guard though, especially when she specifies that she doesn’t want to be your mother or your sister either – a valid point but takes you out of the fantasy. The eroticism of this song was certainly undermined by a few throw away lines. If this came up on my Spotify playlist, I would skip it! It just got boring! That said, if anyone hasn’t seen RuPaul Drag Race Queen Jaida Essence Hall perform a version of this – I implore you to watch it. It is everything. 3/5 – STUN!

A Deeper Love 

CLIVILLES & COLE (1992)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gt7G9H0mo70 

As a lover of heavy synth, I think this song has the bones of an iconic piece. ‘A Deeper Love’ has a solid beat, interesting music video.. and scatting. I see this as a sign from the universe that all songs should involve scatting. The downfall for Clivilles and Cole is that I didn’t listen to them earlier in this list. Now, all the songs like the same repetitive fodder. Thankfully, I had the post-apocalyptic dance party depicted in the music video to keep me hanging on. 2/5 – STALE 🙁 

It’s A Sin 

PET SHOP BOYS (1987)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRHetRTOD1Q

This song is iconic. The lyrics reflect the attitudes around sexuality at the time, primarily referencing gay men. The song acts both as a mark of triumph, for those who now experience greater acceptance within society, as well as a bleak reminder that queer identities must constantly fight against those who undermine their validity. For any queer person who has struggled to find their footing, this song will really resonate. Now if the message doesn’t get you hooked, I implore everyone to go watch the music video. It was a culty, Rosemary’s baby-esq nightmare and it was brilliant. 4/5 – STUN!

Don’t Give Me Your Life

ALEX PARTY (1994)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJ3WO9k6EE8

Everything about this song feels like a caricature of ‘90 Euro pop. The video is filled with high energy dance, close ups on random body parts, rapidly changing shots, block colours and five different filters. Unfortunately, the most interesting thing about this song was the video. The generic electronic dance beat and lyrics that really said absolutely nothing left me scrambling to listen to anything else just to feel alive again. 2/5 – STALE 🙁

Free, Gay & Happy

COMING OUT CREW (1994)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z2nHKjnXSTU 

This is the most open celebration of LGBTQIA+ identity that I have heard in music! The uplifting lyrics and high energy beat makes you want to move. Even the music video is loud and proud, featuring an iconic scene of queer people feeding each other cake. Turns out we really can have our cake and eat it too! 5/5 – STUN!

Better Off Alone 

ALICE DEEJAY (1999)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lgs9QUtWc3M

This song is the blueprint for electronic dance beats, with mixes of this song still being played in clubs to this day. The uneventful music video, and the fact that only 11 words are said in the song does undermine Alice Deejay’s enduring sound. Dare I say the remix is better. 2/5 – STALE 🙁   

Free

ULTRA NATE (1998)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JgRBkjgXHro 

I could not help but take a good four-minute dance break when I heard this song for the first time. What surprised me was that the ‘Free’ really transforms about two-and-a-half minutes in. Possibly fuelled by the fact that current music does not include bridges, something in this song about three-quarters of the way though caught my attention and made me want to put it on repeat. Though the lyrics themselves were unspectacular, the vocals and quick paced beat made the song feel super fun. 4 / 5 – STUN!

THE VERDICT
If I have learnt one thing about Gen X club culture, it’s that the lyrics didn’t matter as long as they could dance! 

WINNER: TIE – ‘You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)’ by Jimmy Somerville and ‘Free, Gay & Happy’ by Coming Out Crew

BEST MUSIC VIDEO: ‘Justify My Love’ by Madonna

BEST LYRICS: ‘It’s A Sin’ by Pet Shop Boys