’90s No. 1s Revisited: “I’m Too Sexy”
The fifty-sixth No. 1 song of the 1990s was “I’m Too Sexy” by Right Said Fred. This was the English trio’s first single, and although they are often incorrectly labeled a One Hit Wonder, they had a minor follow-up hit with “Don’t Talk Just Kiss,” which reached No. 76. They haven’t charted in the U.S. since, but they enjoyed a good five years of consistent mainstream success in their native U.K.
Everyone knows this song because it’s become one of the most referenced novelty recordings in history, appearing in countless TV shows, films and commercials. It’s a tongue-in-cheek dance song about vanity and fashion, half-spoken and half-sung. At its essence, it’s an attitude statement, not a demonstration of vocal talent or production mastery. It’s, at best, a good example of hook-writing. But at the time of its release it dovetailed on the nation’s interest in seeing sex move into the mainstream, coming off the somewhat goody-goody ’80s. In fact, there’s been a No. 1 song with “Sexy” in the title in each of the past five decades except the ’80s. Right Said Fred’s was the second ever, following Rod Stewart’s 1979 chart-topper “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?”
Let’s revisit “I’m Too Sexy”:
This is the type of recording that’s taken on such a post-1992 life that it’s hard for those of us who lived through it to remember when it was simply a new song on the radio. It doesn’t even sound like a song anymore; it sounds like a joke. To its credit, it’s original, fun and slyly incisive. It’s certainly not, however, as good as the song it kept at No. 2, “I Love Your Smile” by Shanice.
Was it dope? We didn’t like this single when it came out, but we acknowledged that it hit a cultural nerve. As we’ve discussed previously and mentioned above, the U.S. seemed to be going through some type of adolescent phase sexually during the early ’90s. Songs like “Baby Got Back,” “I Touch Myself,” “Let’s Talk About Sex,” “Cream,” “Humpin’ Around,” “Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover” and “People Are Still Having Sex” were all hits around this time. None have a particularly sophisticated view on the subject, but people seemed tickled by the fact these songs were on mainstream radio, MTV and (to a lesser extent) VH1. This song also was released around the pinnacle of the popularity of supermodels, so its references to that world were timely.
Does it hold up? It’s dated, but obviously it has nostalgic appeal and is still commonly referenced and widely known, and that’s an accomplishment considering 24 years have passed. It’s not really something anyone would listen to and appreciate as a piece of music, though.
Dopeness: 2 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?