50 best-selling tracks of the ’90s

50. Toni Braxton – ‘Un-Break My Heart’

50. Toni Braxton - 'Un-Break My Heart'

We’ve done our 100 Best Songs Of The Nineties, but here are the 50 that actually sold the most. 50. Toni Braxton – ‘Un-Break My Heart’. Toni Braxton’s Diane Warren-penned power ballad stuck around for four months with the aid of a dance remix and a vocal that ached with the hunger of the defeated. Sold: 770,000

49. Ricky Martin – ‘Livin’ La Vida Loca’

49. Ricky Martin - 'Livin' La Vida Loca'

49. Ricky Martin – ‘Livin’ La Vida Loca’. Ex-Menudo kid Ricky Martin tapped into something here, coming up with an upbeat hen night alternative to ‘I Will Survive’ and scratching a brash Latin pop itch that no one knew they had. In the end he was just the Trojan horse for Enrique Iglesias. Sold: 775,700

48. Chumbawumba – ‘Tubthumping’

48. Chumbawumba – ‘Tubthumping’. And what a sellout. Chumbawumba were the sand in the agitpop ointment, ever-ready to put backs up but never likely to have a hit. But suddenly they’d written a killer chorus and their lager culture satire became the anthem of lager culture. It’s so post-modern it hasn’t happened. Sold: 780,000


47. Simply Red – ‘Fairground’

47. Simply Red - 'Fairground'

47. Simply Red – ‘Fairground’. Shamelessly lifting the clattering samba percussion from The Goodmen’s ‘Give It Up’ (but giving due credit), Mick Hucknall greeted his post-‘Stars’ future with a mid-tempo ballad that sounded like an on-the-money dance track. Everyone got on board the rollercoaster and Hucknall had a new diamond for his gnasher. Sold: 783,000

46. Baddiel & Skinner & Lightning Seeds – ‘Three Lions’

46. Baddiel & Skinner & Lightning Seeds - 'Three Lions'

46. Baddiel & Skinner & Lightning Seeds – ‘Three Lions’. God knows there had been rubbish official England songs. All of them, in fact, except for Englandneworder’s ‘World In Motion’ and… that’s it. But Baddiel and Skinner understood the crazed emotional DNA of the England fan and Ian Broudie knew a hook. Went to No.1 twice during Euro 96 fever and again in 1998. Sold: 785,000

45. Gina G – ‘Ooh Aah… Just A Little Bit’

45. Gina G - 'Ooh Aah... Just A Little Bit'

45. Gina G – ‘Ooh Aah… Just A Little Bit’. Considering some of the bilge competing this year, Gina G’s moment in the spotlight feels like an all-time Eurovision peak. An unshakeable chorus and SAW-revivalist production from remix specialist Steve Rodway aka Motiv8 almost made us forget G was an Australian interloper. Sold: 790,000

44. ATB – ‘9PM (Till I Come)’

44. ATB - '9PM (Till I Come)'

44. ATB – ‘9PM (Till I Come)’. A leading suspect for the dissemination of the pervasive trance pipe organ sound – actually created on a guitar here – Andre Tanneberger scored huge with his debut single, aided by suitably breathy vocals from Yolanda Rivera. It’s the woozy sound of Ibiza when it’s just too hot. Sold: 790,000


43. Spice Girls – ‘Spice Up Your Life’

43. Spice Girls – ‘Spice Up Your Life’. A raucous samba statement of intent that saw the Spice Girls return after the colossal success of their debut album. It’s not big on melody but instead represents their solidifying sense of commercial purpose, a slogan made song. Sold: 800,000

42. Robbie Williams – ‘Angels’

42. Robbie Williams – ‘Angels’. For better or worse, ‘Angels’ is the song that turned Robbie’s career around. Some banal chart positions had Chrysalis thumbing through the contract, but ‘Angels’ – with its murky origins in verses written by uncredited songwriter Ray Heffernan – became an everyman anthem that re-established Williams as everyone’s slightly irritating pal. Sold: 828,000

41. Spice Girls – ‘Goodbye’

41. Spice Girls - 'Goodbye'

41. Spice Girls – ‘Goodbye’. ‘Goodbye’ was a drab farewell to the departed Ginger Spice by a quartet now missing their essential – loopy – spark. It might as well have been a goodbye to the rest of us too as the Spices soon spluttered, fuel drained, to the finish line. Sold: 833,500

40. No Doubt – ‘Don’t Speak’

40. No Doubt - 'Don't Speak'

40. No Doubt – ‘Don’t Speak’. No Doubt hit paydirt with this deliciously awkward record that dissected Gwen Stefani’s failed relationship with bassist Tony Kanal, Stefani pouring it out while Kanal looks a bit humiliated stage left. See how it did in our 100 Best Songs Of The Nineties. Sold: 834,000


39. Mark Morrison – ‘Return Of The Mack’

39. Mark Morrison - 'Return Of The Mack'

39. Mark Morrison – ‘Return Of The Mack’. With his Bobby Brown hairdo, gold chains and red-carpet attitude Mark Morrison was a star in his head long before ‘Return Of The Mack’ made it happen. The swaggering R&B cut matched the Americans at their own game but Morrison couldn’t capitalise, habitually falling foul of the law and spending his best years banged up. Sold: 837,000

38. The Righteous Brothers – ‘Unchained Melody’

38. The Righteous Brothers - 'Unchained Melody'

38. The Righteous Brothers – ‘Unchained Melody’. Originally the theme for 1955 movie Unchained (see?) ‘Unchained Melody’ was a standard for 10 years before The Righteous Brothers made it their own. Bobby Hatfield’s masterclass in yearning received its 90s boost when Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore got down to some forniclaytion in Ghost. Sold: 840,000

37. B*Witched – ‘C’est La Vie’

37. B*Witched – ‘C’est La Vie’. “What are you loike?” etc. Baby twin sisters of Boyzone’s Shane, Edele and Keavy Lynch led relentlessly perky Irish outfit B*Witched straight to No.1 with this and their next three singles. ‘C’est La Vie’ even shoehorns a middle-eight jig into its cavalcade of stereotypes. Sold: 850,500

36. Chef – ‘Chocolate Salty Balls’

36. Chef - 'Chocolate Salty Balls'

36. Chef – ‘Chocolate Salty Balls’. Yeah, this is how Isaac Hayes will be remembered, delivering sub-bass innuendo behind a cartoon facade. It’s terrible of course, but – even lethally compromised – Hayes manages to invest the mayhem with some hot buttered soul. Sold: 850,900

35. Everything But The Girl – ‘Missing (Todd Terry Remix)’

35. Everything But The Girl – ‘Missing (Todd Terry Remix)’. The 1994 version of ‘Missing’ had at least a foot on the dancefloor – in defiance of EBTG style – but Todd Terry gave it the final push, his deep house beats complementing Tracey Thorn’s rich melancholy pine. Slowly burning, it spent five months on the UK chart and an entire year on the Billboard Hot 100. Sold: 870,000

34. Lou Bega – ‘Mambo No.5 (A Little Bit Of…)’

34. Lou Bega – ‘Mambo No.5 (A Little Bit Of…)’. It owes plenty to Cuban bandleader Perez Prado’s 1949 original, of course, but much of the appeal of Lou Bega’s deathless version is down to some, by 1999, quaint names – Erica, Rita etc – and crunching hi-hatting beats that act as a totalitarian edict to get on the floor and look an arse. Sold: 880,000

33. Will Smith – ‘Men In Black’

33. Will Smith - 'Men In Black'

33. Will Smith – ‘Men In Black’. Standard half-cocked latter-day Will Smith nonsense that sucks all of its plus-points out of a Patrice Rushen hook and the movie screenplay. “They won’t let you remember” – opportunist genius. Sold: 883,000

32. Cliff Richard – ‘Millennium Prayer’

32. Cliff Richard - 'Millennium Prayer'

32. Cliff Richard – ‘Millennium Prayer’. You have to admire the chutzpah – is that the right word here? – of the man, singing The Lord’s Prayer in Methuselah-time in a brazen attempt to bag the Christmas No.1 for the third time in 11 years. It would’ve worked too if it wasn’t for that pesky Westlife. Sold: 895,000

31. East 17 – ‘Stay Another Day’

31. East 17 - 'Stay Another Day'

31. East 17 – ‘Stay Another Day’. This is how you get a Christmas No.1: tack some bells onto a soupy ballad and swan about in snow-white snorkel parkas. To give them their due, this has a sticky tune, a heartbreaking story – apparently about Tony Mortimer’s brother – and some sterling vocal harmonies from Brian, Tony, Jane and Freddie. Sold: 910,000

30. Spice Girls – ‘Say You’ll Be There’

30. Spice Girls - 'Say You'll Be There'

30. Spice Girls – ‘Say You’ll Be There’. The one that proved ‘Wannabe’ was no fluke – pelting to No.1 three months after the debut – and revealed a shonky sexiness we didn’t realise the Spices had, but liked to imagine all the same. That’s down to the R&B flava oozing through the bassline and the unexpected harmonica going all ‘I Feel For You’ on our bewildered asses. Sold: 930,000

29. Take That – ‘Back For Good’

29. Take That – ‘Back For Good’. Everyone knew Gary Barlow could pen a tune, but earlier Take That singles were just a dry run for the compact, slushy but catchy-as-a-cold ‘Back For Good’. It deserved its monstrous sales for the emotional weight Barlow puts into “coffee cup” alone. Sadly, conflicting hairstyles and beards portended the beginning of the end. Sold: 959,000

28. Oasis – ‘Wonderwall’

28. Oasis – ‘Wonderwall’. Heavy with Beatley references as ever – this time to Wonderwall, a spiritual, er, peeping tom movie scored by George Harrison – ‘Wonderwall’ shifted from a soppy tribute to Meg Mathews to a conveniently non-specific terrace anthem. That’s the Gallagher skill. For Oasis it’s quite exploratory; minor-key and unresolved. Sold: 966,000

27. Natalie Imbruglia – ‘Torn’

27. Natalie Imbruglia - 'Torn'

27. Natalie Imbruglia – ‘Torn’. This was a cover of a 1995 song by California’s Ednaswap, and later Trine Rein – but you wouldn’t have known, not until someone pointed it out. For all the subterfuge, ‘Torn’ was an unusually excellent pop introduction for an ex-Neighbours star, Imbruglia announcing herself as a singer of character and promise. Oh well. Sold: 982,000

26. Eiffel 65 – ‘Blue (Da Ba Dee)’

26. Eiffel 65 - 'Blue (Da Ba Dee)'

26. Eiffel 65 – ‘Blue (Da Ba Dee)’. Like so much great pop, ‘Blue (Da Ba Dee)’ is meaningless tosh. But unlike so much great pop, it’s garbage. Still, simple means direct, and even though the Italian trio defiled their Italo house ancestry they spoke straight to the hearts and feet of a million punters. Sold: 1,023,000

25. Michael Jackson – ‘Earth Song’

25. Michael Jackson – ‘Earth Song’. If we can usher all the Jesus and Jarvis stuff over to one side for a moment, ‘Earth Song’ is actually kind of stirring. Jacko sets the scene, bemoans everything we’ve fucked up and then wails rather gloriously about it all. The thing is, if he was indeed the Messiah he should’ve done something about it. Sold: 1,038,000

24. Spice Girls – ‘2 Become 1’

24. Spice Girls – ‘2 Become 1’. The third single from the by-this-point unstoppable Spice Girls had to be a ballad – that’s the natural order of things when you’re aiming for a third straight No.1 with your third release; just look at Frankie Goes To Hollywood and B*Witched. Doesn’t hold for Jive Bunny & The Mastermixers though. Sold: 1,072,073

23. Boyzone – ‘No Matter What’

23. Boyzone - 'No Matter What'

23. Boyzone – ‘No Matter What’. In a bid to divest themselves of any unlikely credibility they might’ve borne, the Irish boyband covered a song from the Andrew Lloyd Webber Jesus-parable musical Whistle Down The Wind. It was co-written by Meat Loaf’s songwriting foil Jim Steinman. Is that better? Sold: 1,074,000

22. Whigfield – ‘Saturday Night’

22. Whigfield - 'Saturday Night'

22. Whigfield – ‘Saturday Night’. So much more than a dance routine, Sannie Carlson’s eurosmash was violently catchy, the brainchild of Italian producer Larry Pignagnoli who had also had a hand in Spagna’s 1987 hit ‘Call Me’, another monster holidaymakers had brought back from the Costa del Sol. Whigfield’s quacking delivery was at least half the ephemeral appeal. Sold: 1,092,000

21. Robson and Jerome – ‘I Believe’/’Up On The Roof’

21. Robson and Jerome - 'I Believe'/'Up On The Roof'

21. Robson and Jerome – ‘I Believe’/’Up On The Roof’. The singing pretend soldiers’ second No.1 was another double A-side of limp covers: ‘I Believe’, the hoary 50s croon that Frankie Laine took to No.1 for 18 non-consecutive weeks (a record!) and ‘Up On The Roof’, the Gerry Goffin and Carole King classic recorded with way more feeling by The Drifters and Laura Nyro. Sold: 1,093,000

20. Babylon Zoo – ‘Spaceman’

20. Babylon Zoo – ‘Spaceman’. There can be few more crushing letdowns in pop than the full single mix of ‘Spaceman’. That speeded-up section in the Levi’s ad sounded thrilling and weird, but Jas Mann’s extended drag was just weird in the “get away from me” sense. The sussed record buyer bought the 12″ for the Arthur Baker remix and then upped the pitch even further. Sold: 1,098,000

19. Teletubbies – ‘Teletubbies Say “Eh-Oh!”‘

19. Teletubbies – ‘Teletubbies Say “Eh-Oh!”‘. Sometimes you have to hold your hands up and admit you’re just not the right demographic. Unless you were a toddler or particularly relaxed student, Teletubbies were never going to float your boat, musically or artistically. This could be The High Llamas though, come to think. Sold: 1,100,000

18. Run-D.M.C. vs Jason Nevins – ‘It’s Like That’

18. Run-D.M.C. vs Jason Nevins - 'It's Like That'

18. Run-D.M.C. vs Jason Nevins – ‘It’s Like That’. Back in 1983, ‘It’s Like That’ became Run-D.M.C.’s debut single, a stark flash of electro rap that pulled no punches in its description of doomed ghetto life. New York producer Jason Nevins got it pumping, his spry remix switching the tone from condemnation to celebration. Bingo, Run-D.M.C. get their first No.1. Sold: 1,110,000

17. Steps – ‘Heartbeat’/’Tragedy’

17. Steps – ‘Heartbeat’/’Tragedy’. Pete Waterman’s petri dish-birthed Kylie throwbacks did the job they were programmed for until H and Claire turned sentient and sold the rest down the river. ‘Heartbeat’ was a bit of Abbaesque fluff but their ‘Tragedy’ cover identified what the Bee Gees had been missing: a dance routine of robotic fluidity. Sold: 1,152,000

16. Celine Dion – ‘Think Twice’

16. Celine Dion - 'Think Twice'

16. Celine Dion – ‘Think Twice’. About as palatable as Dion gets, ‘Think Twice’ was an epic plea that was slow to worm its way into the hearts of the British public, taking months to top the charts then months to be dislodged. Essentially it’s a soul-free version of Jennifer Rush’s ‘The Power Of Love’, a song Dion actually covered a year earlier. Sold: 1,234,000

15. Coolio featuring L.V. – ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’

15. Coolio featuring L.V. - 'Gangsta's Paradise'

15. Coolio featuring L.V. – ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’. With a preacher man’s delivery that was superbly suited for a fire and brimstone sermon on the shabbiness of life on mean streets, Coolio sold ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ with aplomb. He’s not overshadowed by those panicky strings from Stevie Wonder’s ‘Pastime Paradise’, it’s just a satisfying blend. Sold: 1,246,000

14. All Saints – ‘Never Ever’

14. All Saints – ‘Never Ever’. “A few questions that I need to know…” While the grammar might rankle, the gorgeous pop gospel tune soothes, and the split of vocals between Shaznay Lewis and Mel Blatt showed the Spice Girls how it could be done. All Saints were a bit more ‘urban’ (they wore combat trousers), but for a golden moment no less successful. Sold: 1,254,000

13. Fugees – ‘Killing Me Softly’

13. Fugees – ‘Killing Me Softly’. The Fugees’ breakthrough topped the charts a couple of times in the summer of 1996, twice swapping places with the more obvious anthem ‘Three Lions’. ‘Killing Me Softly’ cut through the football fever because Lauryn Hill had the soul, the hurt to match Roberta Flack’s classic version – and Wyclef couldn’t even ruin it. Sold: 1,268,000

12. Spice Girls – ‘Wannabe’

12. Spice Girls - 'Wannabe'

12. Spice Girls – ‘Wannabe’. It’s difficult to recall the stupendous impact the Spice Girls had on their lairy arrival in 1996. A girl group contending on their own terms was unusual in the fading age of Take That, yet it turned out to be the shot in the arm pop needed. ‘Wannabe’ is a mess, of course, but one that enraptured the masses and charmed the critics. Sold: 1,269,841

11. Celine Dion – ‘My Heart Will Go On’

11. Celine Dion - 'My Heart Will Go On'

11. Celine Dion – ‘My Heart Will Go On’. Dion had really hit her lung-busting stride here with a Titanic theme as ubiquitous and divisive as the movie itself. A dreadful, endless parade of vocal histrionics and hackneyed sentiment, ‘My Heart Will Go On’ feels like it’s still at bloody No.1. Sold: 1,310,000

10. Whitney Houston – ‘I Will Always Love You’

10. Whitney Houston – ‘I Will Always Love You’. Speaking of joyless vocal acrobatics and No.1-hogging dread, here’s Whitney, surgically removing any vestige of tenderness from Dolly Parton’s wounded original. The movie it came from – The Bodyguard – was pretty much forgotten as Houston’s theme scorched the terrain around it. Probably a blessing nonetheless. Sold: 1,350,000

9. Puff Daddy (With Faith Evans) – ‘I’ll Be Missing You’

9. Puff Daddy (With Faith Evans) - 'I'll Be Missing You'

9. Puff Daddy (With Faith Evans) – ‘I’ll Be Missing You’. In which Puffy set a new template for hip-hop, eschewing the subtly woven sample and instead rapping over the top of an entire borrowed tune. Here it’s The Police’s ‘Every Breath You Take’ being co-opted whole as record-buyers indulged their grief for a late star they’d rarely bothered with when he was alive. Sold: 1,410,000

8. Britney Spears – ‘…Baby One More Time’

8. Britney Spears - '...Baby One More Time'

8. Britney Spears – ‘…Baby One More Time’. Max Martin, the Swedish producer par excellence, had cut his teeth creating gargantuan hits for the Backstreet Boys and N’Sync but this is where his powerpop instincts really paid off. ‘…Baby One More Time’ is meatily effective, launching a star in Britney that’s barely faded whatever lurid scrapes she gets into. Sold: 1,450,000

7. Bryan Adams – ‘(Everything I Do) I Do It For You’

7. Bryan Adams – ‘(Everything I Do) I Do It For You’. If you were alive in 1991 you’ll be forever scarred by the four months Bryan Adams’ mawkish heap of slop spent at the top of the charts. When it heaved its decaying corpse over the finish line in November we were almost glad to see the return of U2. Sold: 1,530,000

6. Various Artists – ‘Perfect Day’

6. Various Artists - 'Perfect Day'

6. Various Artists – ‘Perfect Day’. Well, at least a decent hill of cash was made for Children In Need. That just about excuses Heather Small’s hurricane roar and Lou Reed’s perfunctory efforts in a grisly murder of his own song. Its origins were a little less altruistic – a promo to show just how rich the BBC’s musical output was. Ah, the good old days. Sold: 1,550,000

5. Cher – ‘Believe’

5. Cher - 'Believe'

5. Cher – ‘Believe’. So Cher unlocks the potential of Auto-Tune. Thanks? With some songwriting heavyweights behind her – including Xenomania’s Brian Higgins – Cher’s belated dance foray was pretty successful. Obviously so in the shops, but also in its textbook disco meld of melancholy and dancefloor kinetics. It stands up either way. Sold: 1,672,000

4. Aqua – ‘Barbie Girl’

4. Aqua – ‘Barbie Girl’. So good it’s good. Anyone with the temerity to disparage Aqua’s fantastic shot at day-glo immortality has no heart, soul nor pop pituitary gland. You don’t get enough concept singles. This one is carried beyond a logical conclusion with method acting from Lene Nystrom and Rene Dif, and a production as smooth and plastic as a tackle-less groin. Sold: 1,722,000

3. Wet Wet Wet – ‘Love Is All Around’

3. Wet Wet Wet – ‘Love Is All Around’. Another movie theme that wouldn’t budge from No.1, but at least Wet Wet Wet had the taste to delete it as soon as support began to wane. While it over-eggs the Troggs’ original until it’s nigh-on unrecognisable, there’s a swaggering power to the arrangement and the preening Marti Pellow shines like his toothy grin. Sold: 1,783,000

2. Robson and Jerome – ‘Unchained Melody’

2. Robson and Jerome - 'Unchained Melody'

2. Robson and Jerome – ‘Unchained Melody’. What the world was missing was another version of ‘Unchained Melody’, and who better to provide it than a couple of personality-free actors with voices reedier than Lou? The music box production was another highlight, David to The Righteous Brothers’ Goliath, only without the slingshot. Sold: 1,840,000

1. Elton John – ‘Something About The Way You Look Tonight’/’Candle In The Wind 1997’

1. Elton John – ‘Something About The Way You Look Tonight’/’Candle In The Wind 1997’. It wasn’t new composition ‘Something…’ that did the business. ‘Candle In The Wind’ was hastily but sincerely rewritten for Princess Diana’s funeral and performed there by an admirably together Elton. Within weeks it was the biggest selling single ever in both the UK and the US. Sold: 4,868,000