“I Like The Way (The Kissing Game)”

’90s No. 1s Revisited: “I Like The Way (The Kissing Game)”

The thirty-ninth No. 1 song of the 1990s was “I Like The Way (The Kissing Game)” by Hi-Five, a Texas-based R&B group that bridged the New Edition era of the 1980s with the Boyz II Men era still to come. “I Like The Way” was the group’s first of seven charting singles, and their only No. 1, although they had two more Top 5 hits — the generic ballad “I Can’t Wait Another Minute” and the “I Like The Way” clone “She’s Playing Hard To Get.” They last appeared on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1994 with what we think is their best song, “Never Should’ve Let You Go,” which peaked at No. 30. A modified lineup continues to release new material.

“I Like The Way” is an innocent, upbeat pop song about young love. It has a similar ring to Shanice’s “I Love Your Smile,” a smash released a few months later that would peak at No. 2. These songs and others like it are under-credited for their influence on the rest of the decade, which as we will see was heavily infused with R&B sensibilities.

Let’s listen to “I Like The Way (The Kissing Game)”:

We love this genre, but this particular song is an underachievement. The intro is nicely laced with instrumental teases to lure interest, and the chorus is pleasant enough. But there are some issues with this track:

  • This recording squanders having five people in the group. Why sing in unison when you could have some harmonies or interesting vocal arrangements? Reminds us of Bananarama in that sense.
  • The verses seem like quickly penned throwaways.
  • Frankly, the vocal on this track is frequently off-pitch. Maybe it sounds that way to modern ears that have become accustomed to pitch-correcting technologies. But it’s a little painful.
  • In a 4-minute, 30-second song, there’s no excuse to repeat the chorus for the last 1 minute and 40 seconds. It becomes tedious.

Was it dope? At this time, the public for some reason was interested in very young artists. For example, Another Bad Creation (ABC) had two Top 10 hits in 1990-91 when the members were about 10-14. Tevin Campbell had his first hit in 1990 at age 13. Rap duo Kris Kross also were 13 when they went to No. 1 in 1992. And as for Hi-Five, lead singer Tony Thompson was 15 when “I Like The Way” hit the top of the charts. So there was a certain dopeness associated with being young, raw talent, and people were entertained by these artists. Not for long, though. All these acts fizzled quickly (and, sadly, some of these young men went on to have troubled lives, including Thompson, who died in a bizarre Freon-inhalation incident in 2007.

Does it hold up? The reason we ask this question on each ’90s No. 1s Revisited is exactly for cases such as “I Like The Way.” Before we replayed it — when we’d just seen it was the next thing we were going to discuss — we were excited. “Hi-Five — What old-school, throwback fun!” But after listening to the entire track again … that should tide us over for another 25 years.

Dopeness: 2 out of 5 Birkenstocks

BirkenstockBirkenstock

iliketheway
Hi-Five
“I Like The Way (The Kissing Game)”
1 week at No. 1, starting May 18, 1991
Preceded by: “Joyride,” Roxette
Followed by: “I Don’t Wanna Cry,” 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?

– John

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