’90s No. 1s Revisited: “I Don’t Have The Heart”
The twenty-first No. 1 song of the 1990s was “I Don’t Have The Heart” by James Ingram. This was Ingram’s second U.S. chart-topper, following 1983’s “Baby Come To Me” with Patti Austin. He may best be known, however, for a song that peaked at No. 2 — “Somewhere Out There,” an iconic ballad he recorded with Linda Ronstadt for the 1986 animated classic An American Tail. In total, Ingram had charted on the Billboard Hot 100 nine times prior to “I Don’t Have The Heart,” and would subsequently do so only once more, on 1998’s “Give Me Forever (I Do),” with John Tesh, peaking at No. 66. Between those final two appearances, Ingram stayed productive, racking up two back-to-back Best Original Song Oscar nominations in the mid-’90s. His most recent studio album was released in 2008.
“I Don’t Have The Heart,” one of the most beautiful songs of the decade, falls into the Adult Contemporary column alongside many hits in 1990-91. It has R&B influences as well, foreshadowing the surge in popularity of that genre from 1992-98, before the turn-of-the-millennium pop explosion.
Give a listen to “I Don’t Have The Heart”:
If you don’t think this is a beautiful track, you don’t have the heart, or the ears or the brains. This song would work as a piano-only instrumental recording, or as a poem without music. Put them together, and you get a pitch-perfect ballad that tugs on the heartstrings without yanking on them shamelessly. It’s a breakup song, but unlike most breakup songs, it’s tender, considerate and mature: The singer cares about the person to whom he’s singing, but not enough to stay together.
All that said, upon a re-watch … The concept behind this video is pretty awkward. You bring your girlfriend to a rehearsal and sing this to her from the stage, with dozens of instrumentalists and backup singers as witnesses? That’s a cruel and strange move. And contrary to the message of the song! Jerk.
Was it dope? It was lovely, but not necessarily dope per se. The popular kids were not cranking “I Don’t Have The Heart” up on their Walkmans (Walkmen?). But we were.
Does it hold up? Well-written songs with gorgeous melodies always hold up. But this type of music, which was mainstream in 1990, now would be relegated to an Adult R&B radio station, ignored by the mainstream. We comb iTunes week after week, and can verify that the R&B category is among the least-frequently updated, and the most disappointing, generally. So the issue isn’t necessarily that music like “I Don’t Have The Heart” isn’t popular anymore, it’s that it’s simply not being made at all. A shame.
Dopeness: 5 out of 5 Birkenstocks
’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?