’90s No. 1s Revisited: “All The Man That I Need”
The thirty-first No. 1 song of the 1990s was “All The Man That I Need” by Whitney Houston. This gorgeous ballad was the ninth of Houston’s 11 chart-toppers, and in our opinion, her very best (and most underrated) work ever. The vocals are stunning, and the song itself makes no wrong turns.
“All The Man That I Need” is a remake of a 1981 recording by Linda Clifford. The original is perfectly pleasant, but listening to the two back-to-back underlines how adept Houston was at breathing her own energy into material and making it her own. This skill would most famously be flexed on 1992’s “I Will Always Love You,” also a remake.
Let’s enjoy “All The Man That I Need”:
Such incredible talent is on display here, by Houston as well as songwriters Dean Pitchford and Michael Gore, the duo behind “Fame,” performed by Irene Cara, from the film of the same name. This is the perfect marriage of beautiful music and a beautiful performance.
Was it dope? As mentioned, in 1991, Adult Contemporary was mainstream, and by 1992, with the rise of Grunge and Gangsta Rap, it started to become sidelined. As evidence, note that in 1991, 10 of the 18 songs that topped the Adult Contemporary chart also topped the Hot 100, which crosses all genres. That’s quite a big overlap. In 1992, this overlap shrank to just 4 of 19. And by 1993, it was just 2 of 13 (the first two of the year). So things changed a lot when Nirvana and Dr. Dre came along. But before then, in a pre-cynical world, yes, wonderful music like this was broadly considered dope. “All The Man That I Need” was played on Top 40 radio and MTV, as well as on Adult Contemporary stations and VH1.
Does it hold up? Because of the use of real instruments, it does hold up very well. This certainly belongs on anyone’s list of wonderful love songs. It’s not cheap, trite or corny. It’s warm, sweet and glorious.
Dopeness: 5 out of 5 Birkenstocks
“All The Man That I Need”
2 weeks at No. 1, starting Feb. 23, 1991
Preceded by: “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now),” C+C Music Factory f/ Freedom Williams
Followed by: “Someday,” Mariah Carey
’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?