Personally, the early 90’s is filled with a treasure trove of lost hits and artists that have been long forgotten about. I’ll be the first to admit that I swept this era of music under the rug for many years myself. Between the awesome synthesized sounds of the 80’s and the edgy, fresh sounds of grunge and hip hop 90’s lies that era that happened right in the middle. From approximately 1990 to about 1992/1993, we saw and heard quite a transformation in popular music. Pretty much anything that was cool during the 80’s slowly vanished away while fresher sounds took over the airways. For me, it is one of the coolest eras to look back on because there was so much variety.
One of the most unique artists of this eclectic era was Wilson Phillips. They were comprised of offspring from members of the Mamas and the Papas and the Beach Boys. In my opinion, for as good as the harmonies of their parents bands were, they both pale in comparison to what these three ladies can do together. Whether you hop on YouTube and check out some of their live clips or simply listen to one of their recordings, the harmonies from Chynna Phillips, Wendy Wilson, and Carnie Wilson are absolute magic. I’ve heard very few male or female harmonies that sound as good or better than these three. However, for the sake of nostalgia, let’s simply focus on some forgotten classics and one that still seems to be universally loved.
For some people, there are a few movies that make them think about this inspiring smash hit from Wilson Phillips debut album. From Bridesmaids to Harold And Kumar Go To White Castle this song has managed to stay somewhere in the back of everybody’s mind for the past 30 years. However, this song always takes me back to a much more innocent time. I was in middle school during the era this group had their biggest success. At that point, I wasn’t too caught up in proclaiming my love for the most edgy artists out there. I simply liked what I liked. In 1990, I loved what I heard from Wilson Phillips. This song was different than anything else on the radio. You could almost say they seemed cool and edgy in their own way. They didn’t use synthesizers or guitar thrashing in their music. Sure, it was a light, easy listening style, but they did their own thing and allowed their harmonies to shine. That was cool and fresh to me.
Release Me And Other Debut Singles
Sadly I never owned the Wilson Phillips debut album. I never actually listened to it until many years later. However, the singles they released made a huge impression on me. If anything, I appreciate some of these songs much more today than I might have back then. For example, their single Release Me, especially when I look back on it today, is a song that is filled with some of their best harmonies and tons of soul. It’s a track that deserves to be played much more on oldies stations than it is….if it’s even being played at all. This track has everything I would ever want in a song. Every word of it is so meaningful and relatable. The video itself is even a great reflection of what this great group was about. It’s a no frills concept that basically revolves around the three of them singing at a piano. Simple basic harmonizing. That’s what this group was all about.
You’re In Love and Impulsive were also very big hits from their first album that I remember hearing quite often. Two great tracks that further displayed the amazing harmonies and talent of this group. Compared to the aforementioned tracks, these two fall a little short when it comes to the lyrical content, but you also have to keep in mind that these songs came out thirty years ago. People looked at things a little differently back then. You’re In Love basically proclaims that they can move on now that the ex has found a new love. Call me jaded, but the overall message of this song seems a bit misguided in hindsight. However, it is a well crafted song and gives you enough ear candy that the odd message of the song can be overlooked.
You Won’t See Me Cry
By the time their second album, Shadows and Light came out in 1992 I think many of us were moving on with the wave of edgier sounds that were starting to flood the airwaves. As a result, this amazing ballad may have been overlooked. Although it did well on the charts, they didn’t capture the listening public’s attention the way some of their debut album singles did. For as much as I liked Wilson Phillips, I don’t really recall being into this song too much back then. Perhaps it was a little too much of a dark and slow ballad for my ears back then. I was only 13 after all. In hindsight, I can hear that this was a pretty heavy song. As an adult, I love it. This song might actually be my favorite track from this group. There is a message within this song that I can really relate to. Personally, I’ve never been one to show a lot of outward emotion. You certainly won’t catch me breaking down very often. Even my wife has only ever really seen me cry maybe once or twice. I’m not at all against showing that type of emotion. It’s just not the way I am/was “programmed”. This song may not have been as big as some of their others, but it really hits home with me.
Give It Up
As far as I know, this was the last single Wilson Phillips released during their 90’s heyday. For as much as I loved this song back then, I can’t say it really holds up that well today. I enjoy it for nostalgic purposes, but this isn’t one of their best in my opinion. What makes this song fun for me is remembering how much I used to anticipate seeing the video on MTV. Other than the interesting guitar solo in the middle of the song, there actually isn’t anything that interesting about this song. Even their harmonies can’t save this one. Sometimes a bad song is just a bad song. I appreciate this one for what it is.
Post 90’s Era
Unfortunately, this amazing group broke up after Shadows and Light ran its course. To be honest, for as much as I can’t imagine this group not being around during the early 90’s, I’m not sure how they would have fit in over the next several years. Music that possesses the type of harmonies and soul that Wilson Phillips music had has become more and more of a rarity. It’s practically nonexistent in today’s popular music landscape. However, it’s good to know that they eventually got back together. Although their past two albums have been covers, it’s good to know they are still active, touring, and atleast putting their trademark harmonies out there on new recordings.
Until recently, I hadn’t done much research on their post 90’s work. I wasn’t sure of whether I wanted to “waste” my time listening to a bunch of covers. However, after giving some of the tracks off their album Dedicated a try, I learned that these are harmonies that I want to hear regardless of whether they are covers or original tracks. These three ladies together can make just about anything song sound amazing. The proof is in this incredible Mamas and the Papas cover of Twelve Thirty:
To me, Wilson Phillips are one of those artists who captured a moment in time. Sure, the early 90’s had a lot of cheesy, disposable music. Depending on your perspective, you either love revisiting this era or you cringe at the thought of it. However, to have that type of attitude may lead you to overlook something really great that is worth remembering. When it comes to Wilson Phillips, I hope people don’t lump them in with other notable acts that don’t necessarily deserve to be remembered. This is a group that was way more talented than most of their early 90’s contemporaries. The peak of their career may have been pretty short, but their work shouldn’t be forgotten. Not only will I always cherish the nostalgia their music brings, I will also appreciate the fact that I decided to revisit their music as an adult. Sometimes it’s worth it to revisit the past. Who knows you may just establish a newfound appreciation for something you already knew you appreciated.