Top Adult Contemporary Songs of 1994
by Alex Cosper

BOYZ II MEN - I'll Make Love To You
ALL-4-ONE - I Swear
ACE OF BASE - The Sign
BOYZ II MEN - On Bended Knee
R. KELLY - Bump N' Grind
CELINE DION - The Power of Love
SHERYL CROW - All I Wanna Do
MARIAH CAREY - Without You

1994 Top Pop Hits
1994 Top Albums
1994 Top Ballads/Adult Contemporary
1994 Top Country Hits
1994 Top Dance Hits
1994 Top Modern/Alternative Hits
1994 Top R&B Hits
1994 Top Rock Hits

Throughout the 90s, a good percentage young people focused heavily not on their future careers, but how to blow cash at night clubs on the weekends. The night club was the social center where friends met to have fun. It was the meeting place to plan out how to get sex, drugs and more entertainment. As the singles charts and hit radio became more refined as a soundtrack to the club scene, something creepy was quietly going on within a different dungeon of society.

In 1994 the average pop music fan probably couldn't tell you much about private prisons. The system had been around since the pre-Civil War era, but not to the extent that it rapidly expanded in the 90s. Even though violent crime stats actually fell signifantly throughout the 90s, the private prison system was expanding as a result of the "war on drugs."

Prisons have become overcrowded in the 80s, so governments turned to the private sector, paying them $30 to $60 per day per bed. That was about the average cost of a pair of concert tickets, a stack of CDs or a fun night of bashing. The economy of the 90s soared, as young people had plenty ot disposable cash to invest in a wide range of disposable entertainment, which included illegal drugs.

Hip hop because the soundtrack to this culture. By this point it was common for the mainstream to associate hip hop music with the African-American community since most of the top rappers were of that ethnic group. It was in 1994 that gangsta rap artist Coolio came on the scene with album It Takes a Thief, which was a big seller on the strength of the cover of the upbeat Lakeside soul/dance hit "Fantastic Voyage." Not that Coolio was the first gangsta rapper, as that honor is often attributed to NWA in the late 80s.

The album It Takes a Thief featured the song "Gangsta's Paradise," which would be a pop hit the following year. It was a more laid back sound with a melodic chorus. From a tempo and texture perspective, it could've been considered elevator rap or a rap ballad. There had alread been a few of those hits in the past, but now slower, tamer, almost wallpaper versions of gangsta rap were becoming part of the pop norm.

The rise of Coolio was simply an interesting time marker in the combination of gangsta rap becoming a normal part of the pop and night club scene and the rise of private prisons. It was in 1994 when Wackenhut Corrections Corporation because its own publicly traded company as a spin-off from an earlier private prsion. Had you invested in WCC stock at that time you would have become very wealth in the next few decades. The fact that the music industry invested in private prisons might seem shocking to some people, but remember that the guys at the top only care about one thing and that's money.

Coolio turned out to be one of several rappers sent to prison by the end of the decade for the same type of crimes they joked about in their raps. For Coolio it was robbery. Private prisons had entered the corporate world of investing and investors needed to keep these prisons filled with inmates to keep checks flowing in from the government.

So hip hop, as it started to take over the pop charts in the mid-90s, became a convenient soundtrack to popularize criminal behavior with a sense of humor. The pop scene loved it and so did investors in private prisons. WCC later became the GEO Group, a stock that rose astronomically by the 2010s.

Meanwhile, the fact that the pop chart had become so flooded with the r&b "urban sound" began to have an affect on the adult contemporary sound as well. No longer was it so lily white all the time. Not that it had anything to do with gangsta rap, but AC stations simply began to warm up more to playing an increasing number of soulful ballads like "I'll Make Love To You" and "On Bended Knee" by Boz II Men, two singles that accounted for a combined 20 weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in 1994.

Both singles were huge hits on the adult contemporary charts. Yet the group's earlier hit "End of the Road" from 1992 featured pretty much the same r&b vocal harmony style with slick production and a laid back sound, but was mostly ignored by AC stations, despite being a huge ballad on the pop charts.

So while alternative radio was breaking away from the mainstream, AC was moving toward it. Another emerging fragment of the adult pop sound since the late 80s had been the development of the smooth jazz radio format, which also mixed r&b with pop, along with jazz crossover music.

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