Each week, through my Somewhere in Time column, I hop in my DeLorean GIF and travel back to a moment in our pop-culture past to reevaluate just what we as a nation thought was good. This time out, we use Kevin Costner’s Draft Day as an excuse to take a jaunt back to July 28, 1995 to survey the landscape circa the project that you and I both know was his creative peak. (Talk to me when you have your own stunt spectacular at Universal Studios Hollywood, Dances With Wolves.) Let’s count down the top ten music videos of Waterworld premiere week, according to VH1. Why VH1? Because you just know Costner was a VH1 kind of guy.
10. Blessid Union of Souls, “I Believe”
I hate to start the countdown off this way, I really do. And it’s impossible to know what’s least palatable about this song: The eighth-grade-poetry-assignment lyrics that wildly oversimplify the world’s ills? The clipped, nasal lead vocal that somehow manages to be more unpleasant than seeing the words clipped and nasal right next to one another? The actually pretty decent piano hook that pleads to be dragged into a better song? All fair choices, but all wrong: The most objectionable aspect of this song comes at 2:01, when the lead singer (Barry Blessid or whoever; I don’t know, you look it up) unleashes the single most sexless “UHHHH!” in pop music history. Watch at your own risk. (The best thing about this song is that it’s not “Hey Leonardo [She Likes Me for Me],” a song that will straight up send me into a rage blackout.)
9. Blues Traveler, “Run-Around”
Blues Traveler was a fixture on the hacky-sack circuit during my college years, but there’s only so far you can get in the height of the video age when your lead singer weighs 450 pounds and dresses like a survivalist. So when it came time to break them to a wider audience, A&M Records hatched a wonderful, terrible plan: The video for “Run-Around” features a whole different, much more camera-friendly band miming the song, while the real band appears only occasionally and completely in shadow. BT gets the Carnie Wilson treatment, with HORDE-Tour Dorothy and her gang as Chynna and Wendy. I mean, sure, the case could be made that they’re making a point about the banality and inauthenticity of music video itself, but that’s just having your cake and letting John Popper eat it too. But I will grant bonus points for a rare post–Remote Control appearance by the late, great Ken Ober.
8. Boyz II Men, “Water Runs Dry”
Boyz II Men come to you with a song called “Water Runs Dry,” and you have no choice but to stick them in a desert in billowy, cream-colored pajamas. Your hands are tied.
In July of 1995, if you were eating at the Yorkville Inn at 88th Street and Second Avenue in New York City, your water glass had absolutely gone dry, because I was your waiter. During the day, I was an entry-level media planner for a huge advertising agency, making a pittance and deserving much less. In order to support my social life, I put the central mission of advertising (“lie, grandly”) into action, fabricated a long résumé of restaurant work, and picked up a couple of night shifts a week. I am nowhere near as good a waiter as I am a liar; one night, I showed a young couple to their table, handed them their (paper) menus over a (lit, uncovered) candle, and launched into the specials before I realized to my horror that the top right corner of the lady’s menu was burning. With all the client-meeting composure I could muster, I said: “Pardon me, ma’am, your menu is on fire. May I offer you a new one?” I quit that night, over the objections of absolutely nobody. The world is a safer place with Dave Holmes at the table.
7. Paula Abdul, “My Love Is for Real”
Deserts were hot, hot, hot in the summer of 1995. This song never quite caught on, and “Crazy Cool” probably should have been the single, but please note the moment at 1:45 when Paula Abdul learns that one cannot run gracefully on sand in heels. A dancer should know this.
Like a post-Spellbound, pre-Idol Paula, VH1 was in a state of flux in 1995. Pop-Up Video and Behind the Music were still a couple of years away, and their strategy of casting cool kids like Moon Zappa and Corey Glover as VJs wasn’t quite paying dividends. Worst, the nighttime “Crossroads” video hour, at its inception a Jayhawks-y early example of what would become the Adult Album Alternative format, had become just another block of Melissa Etheridge and Rod Stewart videos. Still, at least it wasn’t Basketball Wives.
6. Dionne Farris, “I Know”
This is a perfect pop song, and although Dionne Farris deserves to rake in residual checks and live out her days in comfort, I actually like the fact that “I Know” is underappreciated. You simply never hear this song anymore, so every time you do, it’s like running into that college friend you always wish you’d gotten to know better. Fun fact: This video was directed by Zack Snyder. Just in case you were wondering why there were so many slow-motion shots of Dionne Farris’s glistening pecs and abs.
5. Rembrandts, “I’ll Be There for You”
Friends had just finished its massive first season and was about to get even bigger; the 8 p.m. slot, the soundtrack, the Super Bowl episode, and the “Who Drank the Diet Coke?” ad all still lay ahead. We were pre-Russ. These were magical times. And indeed, Friends mirrored my own life. I was 23, single, urban, carefully coiffed. There were six of us who spent all our time together. We had keys to each other’s places, and we wore an unfortunate number of bowling shirts. So did we watch? Let me say this: Each Thursday night, at the appropriate moment in “I’ll Be There for You,” we clapped four times. (Also this side note: I assumed I was the Chandler of the group, but in those days before BuzzFeed quizzes, it was impossible to know for sure.)
4. Annie Lennox, “No More I Love Yous”
Listen, I will go to the mat for Annie Lennox, but have you heard the original “No More ‘I Love Yous’” by the Lover Speaks? It is a perfect mixture of ’70s AM gold and ’80s 4AD goth-pop and it kills me that it wasn’t a hit on its own. We can fix this, people.
3. Bryan Adams, “Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman”
This one is from the Johnny Depp–Marlon Brando–Faye Dunaway film Don Juan de Marco, the movie that made America say: “Wait, Marlon Brando and Faye Dunaway were in a movie together? When will the rehearsal footage hit YouTube?” This July 1995 weekend is a significant one in movie history; aside from Waterworld (which, despite its reputation as a megabomb, opened at No. 1), we also got Kids, a movie that made me more afraid of sex and the East Village than I already had been, and The Net, in which Sandra Bullock made us believe she was a woman who’d spend her time talking in internet chat rooms and eating delivery pizza, simply through relaxed eyebrow maintenance.
2. Hootie and the Blowfish, “Let Her Cry”
As much as those first couple of Friends seasons felt like real life, they weren’t perfect. The apartments were enormous even by television standards, there were no gays or black people, nobody ever repeated an outfit. Yet nothing rang as false as the gang’s devotion to Hootie and the Blowfish. West Village twentysomethings with Cracked Rear View in their collection? Preposterous — that only happened in Murray Hill.
1. Michael and Janet Jackson, “Scream”
The budget for this ludicrous video was $7 million, at least $5 million of which was earmarked for space urns. Let me see if I can summarize the action: Michael and Janet are Hot Topic astronauts, orbiting the earth in a Roomba, where they dance, play cybersquash, and yell. Aaaand … that’s about it. Much more interesting is the promo for Michael’s HIStory greatest-hits compilation, in which he becomes an androgynous European tyrant. Enjoy!