’90s No. 1s Revisited: “All My Life”
The one hundred eighteenth No. 1 song of the 1990s was “All My Life” by K-Ci & JoJo. This track was the act’s second and final chart-topper, the other being as featured performers on 2Pac’s “How Do U Want It” in 1996. Prior to becoming a duo, K-Ci & JoJo were half of the popular ’90s R&B quartet Jodeci, which scored a string of hits in the first half of the decade. Both iterations of this lineup are regarded as seminal contributors to the ’90s music landscape, which was perhaps the most hospitable decade to all-male R&B groups outside Motown’s heyday in the ’60s. But after the ’90s, the popularity of K-Ci & JoJo and their ilk started to wane, and they have not charted since 2001’s “Crazy,” which reached No. 11. Currently, as of this writing, there are no multi-person R&B singing groups on the Hot 100. Because this sub-genre seems to be on a 30-year cycle of popularity, though, we expect to see a resurgence in the 2020s. You heard it here first!
“All My Life,” which K-Ci & JoJo also wrote and produced, starts off with a simple, sentimental piano riff and builds to an emotional outpouring of gratitude for a long-awaited love, incorporating thematic and vocal elements of Gospel and Soul music. The song remains a popular choice for wedding first dances due to its slow tempo and straightforward romanticism. The earworm chorus is exceptionally catchy; I (John) still find myself singing this song out loud around the house for no particular reason, as it burrowed itself into my consciousness at the time of its release.
Take a fresh listen to “All My Life”:
This song is a divine accomplishment, easily one of the best love ballads of the decade. And the lyrics of the chorus are genius. It starts with: “All my life / I’ve prayed for someone like you,” indicating patience (“All my life”) and faith (“I’ve prayed”), and a wish to find love in general (“for someone like you”), not with someone specific. This makes the protagonists seem gentlemanly and mature. Then we get: “And I thank God that I / That I finally found you,” adding a theme of gratitude (“I thank God”). By now, we smile, because the singers’ prayer was answered (“I finally found you”). But, the ending of the chorus calls the status of the relationship into question: “I hope that you feel the same way too / Yes, I pray that you do love me too.” The listener wonders, then, about the stage of this relationship. Is it just starting out? Is the protagonist proposing marriage? We don’t know! And so we root for the singers; we’re on their side. This brings the audience into the protagonists’ emotional head space, and is why, we think, the track had and still has such deep resonance.
Does it hold up? As mentioned, “All My Life” comes from a sub-genre that hasn’t been popular in at least 15 years, so modern ears will detect many ways it seems dated, from the over-expressive vocals to the instrumental arrangement and everything in between. But, as mentioned, its status as a “classic” makes it appropriate for weddings and other sentimental occasions on which relationships are celebrated.
Dopeness: 5 out of 5 Birkenstocks
K-Ci & JoJo
“All My Life”
3 weeks at No. 1, starting April 4, 1998
Preceded by: “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It,” Will Smith
Followed by: “Too Close,” Next
’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?