’90s No. 1s Revisited: “Can’t Help Falling In Love”
The seventy-first No. 1 song of the 1990s was “Can’t Help Falling In Love” — titled “(I Can’t Help) Falling In Love With You” outside the U.S. — by UB40, a British reggae band best known for covering songs from the ’60s and ’70s. This single, a remake of an Elvis Presley song that peaked at No. 2 in 1962, was the second of UB40’s two No. 1 hits in the U.S. Their first was “Red Red Wine,” a remake of a 1968 Neil Diamond song that they took into the Top 40 in 1984, then to No. 1 after re-releasing it in 1988. Between those “Red Red Wine” releases, UB40 peaked at No. 28 in 1985 with a remake of the 1965 Sonny & Cher song “I Got You Babe,” featuring Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders. Following “Red Red Wine,” UB40 released what we consider their best efforts: “The Way You Do The Things You Do” (peak: No. 6, in 1990) and “Here I Am (Come And Take Me)” (peak: No. 7, in 1991), remakes of songs by The Temptations and Al Green respectively. Following “Can’t Help Falling In Love,” they would chart in the U.S. only once more, with the follow-up, “Higher Ground,” their only U.S. hit that they wrote themselves. It peaked at No. 45. They continued to have hits in their native U.K., but not in America.
“Can’t Help Falling In Love” was featured on the soundtrack of the Sharon Stone film Sliver, which was highly hyped because of the frenzy Stone had caused over her performance in her prior film, the smash thriller Basic Instinct. Sliver was critically panned but did pretty well at the box office. Clips can be seen throughout the UB40 video.
Let’s revisit “Can’t Help Falling In Love”:
The significant popularity of this track, even today, is hard to explain, as nothing about it, or UB40, is exceptional. (Former) lead singer Ali Campbell seems like an average fellow with a competent voice. The production quality is a bit cheap; it sounds as if it was recorded in a shower. And the band members’ instrumental skills are hard to ascertain on the recording. But this track was a huge smash. It was the third-biggest single of the year, and as of this writing the video has 45 million views on YouTube. And we liked it too.
Was it dope? Whether you’re willing to call this reggae or not, reggae was definitely happening in 1993. “Informer” by Snow hit No. 1; Inner Circle released two Top 20 hits, “Bad Boys” and “Sweat (A La La La La Long)“; Mad Cobra had a Top 20 hit with “Flex“; and there was probably other stuff. What are we, an encyclopedia? So, sure, this was acceptable fare with widespread appeal.
Does it hold up? This track didn’t sound particularly modern even in 1993, so perhaps it doesn’t sound any less modern today. We’d have guessed that there isn’t much of an audience for this now, but YouTube says otherwise. So it probably holds up fine; if you liked it then, you’d probably like it now.
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?