“Black Velvet”

’90s No. 1s Revisited: “Black Velvet”

The fifth No. 1 song of the 1990s was “Black Velvet” by Alannah Myles, a Canadian singer known as a One Hit Wonder in the United States, although she did chart with her follow-up, “Love Is,” which reached No. 36. She hasn’t appeared on the U.S. charts since, but she continued to be relatively popular in her native Canada through the mid-’90s, and still releases music today.

“Black Velvet” is an ode to Elvis Presley, who had died 12 years prior to this song’s late-1989 release. It’s a mid-tempo blues song with a memorably fat, syncopated bass line (later heavily borrowed by Melissa Etheridge in “I’m The Only One,” her biggest U.S. hit to date). Myles’ vocals oscillate between clean and raspy, soft and loud, pleasant and slightly annoying.

Let’s take a listen to “Black Velvet”:

The chorus of “Black Velvet” is hooky and invites the listener to sing along. And the rockin’ instrumentals provide a nice contrast to the synth-heavy ballads and dance tracks that generally define the year.

“Black Velvet” succeeded as a cross-genre breakthrough, hard enough to climb the Rock charts, soft enough to climb the Adult Contemporary charts. It’s a solid, well-designed piece of songwriting that shines through amid a clean instrumental. But, still, it’s a little dull.

Does it hold up? “Black Velvet” has an evergreen quality and sounds as if it could have been released yesterday. It may not be on many playliststoday — it’s not on ours, at least — but it’s well-spun in karaoke bars and digital jukeboxes. The thematic focus on Elvis, however, feels a bit overplayed at this point, 40 years after his death (at age 42).

Dopeness: 3 out of 5 Birkenstocks

Birkenstock BirkenstockBirkenstock

Alannah Myles
“Black Velvet”
2 weeks at No. 1, starting March 24, 1990
Preceded by: “Escapade,” Janet Jackson
Followed by: “Love Will Lead You Back,” Taylor Dayne

’90s No. 1s Revisited is a regular feature on “Was It Dope?” where we walk through every No. 1 song of the 1990s on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in order, give it another listen, and answer two critical questions: Was it dope? And does it hold up?

– John

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