’90s No. 1s Revisited: “Save The Best For Last”
The fifty-eighth No. 1 song of the 1990s was “Save The Best For Last” by Vanessa Williams. This would be Williams’ only No. 1 hit. Prior to “Save The Best For Last,” she’d had five Hot 100 hits, the biggest being “Dreamin’,” (peak: No. 8) in 1988 and “Running Back To You” (peak: No. 18) in 1991. She’d follow “Save The Best For Last” with seven more hits, our personal favorite being the immediate follow-up, “Just For Tonight,” which peaked at No. 26 later in 1992. The most successful of her subsequent releases were a duet with Brian McKnight called “Love Is” (No. 3, 1993), “The Sweetest Days” (No. 18, 1994) and “Colors Of The Wind” (No. 4, 1995) from the animated film Pocahontas. She hasn’t charted since 1996, when “Where Do We Go From Here?” peaked at No. 71, although every few years she’s tried.
Williams has a sweet, tender voice, but treated her recording career as a series of business projects, lending her talents to the material provided to her but not trying to make any lasting statements of self-expression. But her talent and the talent of those around her gave us a fine catalog of outputs, “Save The Best For Last” being the best known. She also has had a successful acting career, where she’s sometimes known as “Vanessa L. Williams” to avoid confusion with another actress named Vanessa Williams.
“Save The Best For Last” is a ballad about a woman grateful for the love of someone who for a long time saw her as just a friend. It was No. 1 not only on the Hot 100 but also on the R&B chart and the Adult Contemporary chart. Why it was saved as the third single from the Comfort Zone album rather than having been released with feverish enthusiasm as the first single is a curiosity. The track was an obvious smash out of the gate.
Let’s listen to “Save The Best For Last”:
This is an exquisitely professional production featuring a beautiful melody, clean string arrangements, nice bass touches, and the appropriate level of emotion so as to make it believable but not corny. It couldn’t be better suited to Williams’ voice. The song’s only flaw is that while it does sometimes snow in June, the sun never goes around the moon. That always irritated. us.
Was it dope? Yes-ish. “Save The Best For Last” carried the torch for the type of original studio pop ballads that were so successful in 1991 (e.g., “All The Man That I Need,” “Rush Rush“) but were fading in popularity by 1992. When “Save The Best For Last” reached No. 1, you have to scroll all the way down to No. 47 to find another original studio pop ballad by a female (“Can’t Let Go” by Mariah Carey). So this song was dope despite itself. As we’ll see going forward in the ’90s, no matter what trend may come up — Grunge, Lilith Fair, Gangsta Rap — there are always opportunities for these types of ballads to strike a chord with the public. Celine Dion’s career is based on this fact.
Does it hold up? For anyone with taste, yes. There are many songs from the ’90s, ballads especially, that generate comments on YouTube like, “Wow, why don’t they make beautiful music like this anymore?” And this is one of those. So it holds up when one bothers to find it. Everyone else deserves to be subjected to songs like “Panda” by Desiigner, the current No. 1 single in the U.S. as of this writing. Don’t get us started.
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?