’90s No. 1s Revisited: “This Used To Be My Playground”
The sixty-second No. 1 song of the 1990s was “This Used To Be My Playground” by Madonna. This was the Queen of Pop’s 10th chart-topper and her third of the decade, following “Vogue” off the Dick Tracy-inspired CD I’m Breathless and “Justify My Love,” one of two new tracks to appear on the greatest-hits compilation The Immaculate Collection. “Playground” was produced for the film A League of Their Own, a critical and commercial success that co-starred Madonna as a baseball player in the 1940s. It can be heard during the closing credits, although curiously it does not appear on the soundtrack.
Although Madonna may best be known as a Dance artist, her tally of Adult Contemporary hits is impressive. “Playground” is one of 13 Top 5 hits Madonna has had on Billboard’s AC chart, and the first one of the ’90s. A melancholy and somewhat drowsy ballad, “Playground” offered listeners a throwback to Madonna’s ’80s output, being reminiscent of “Live To Tell.” Even her style in the videos is similar. In doing this, Madonna also was reassuring audiences that she hadn’t completely abandoned the classic pop format, having strayed from it on her two previous singles from Immaculate Collection.
Let’s listen to “This Used To Be My Playground”:
“This Used To Be My Playground” is a bit of a snooze, and it’s not among Madonna’s best-known or most-beloved tracks. Even her most devoted, rabid fans kind of go “Meh” to this song. But overall it’s a nicely produced, pretty, pleasant, innocuous song. It successfully elongated the mood set at the end of A League of Their Own.
The release of this track anchored Madonna and kept her mainstream amid somewhat controversial projects, as it followed “Justify My Love” and preceded the coffee table book Sex and the Erotica album, both of which were released just two months after “Playground” reached No. 1. So it wasn’t necessarily a dope single, a la “Vogue,” but it was a well-calculated career move.
Does it hold up? Madonna has left this song in the past, having neither performed nor discussed it since 1992. So in that sense, no. But musically, nothing about the track sounds particularly dated, other than perhaps the light electronic piano used in the opening, and the prominent bass.
Dopeness: 3 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?