Missed our review of episode one of Greatest Hits? Check it out here!
WARNING: SPOILERS OF ARTISTS AND SONGS AHEAD.
The nostalgic 90’s and early 2000’s was brought back to life on the last episode of Greatest Hits on ABC.
The show started with a cold open featuring Arsenio Hall and Kelsea Ballerini, and R&B group All-4-One (seen above). Hall claimed that he was a part of the group for a short time in the 90s, but was given the boot because of “creative differences.”
In reality, he was kicked out because he could not sing, and this was very obvious when he tried singing a portion of All-4-One’s hit “I Swear” from their self-titled debut album.
Although the segment was a somewhat humorous start to the show (even though we could see the punchline coming from a mile away), there was just one problem: All-4-One’s first album came out in 1994. The inclusion of this song on a show featuring music between 1995 and 2000 skid the surface of acceptance.
Not counting All-4-One, the first act of the show was probably THE act of the 90s, the Backstreet Boys, who sang their classic, “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back).”
The song sounded more mature coming from the group, but it still kept the 90s-boy-band charm that wooed fans then and today. Their performance also had a rock concert feel to it, with bright lights and some pyrotechnics. It reminded us a little bit of Kiss.
The Backstreet Boys put on a great performance that left their fans screaming for more (and they would, but more on that later).
The next act to take the stage was rapper Coolio, who was joined by CeeLo Green for “Gangsta’s Paradise.” The energetic song had flow, but Coolio’s microphone was muffled throughout the performance, which made his lyrics barely understandable.
Green’s singing gave this rather gritty song a little soul, and the choreography from the hoodlum dancers in the background was a nice touch.
Following Coolio and CeeLo was country singer, Jewel and pop singer, Tori Kelly. They sang “You Were Meant For Me” from Jewel’s debut album, Pieces of You.
Jewel and Kelly are both known to have smooth singing voices, so having these two paired up was fantastic. They had near-perfect harmonizing throughout the song, and it was a beautiful touch to this love song.
Next up was rapper, actor, and Lip Sync Battle host LL Cool J, who sang “Loungin’” with one of his most famous fans, Wiz Khalifa. LL did not lose a beat since the late 90s, and his performance with Khalifa had the whole crowd singing and beat bouncing along.
“Loungin’” would quickly transition into Khalifa’s recent hit, “We Dem Boys,” a favorite of LL’s.
Both rappers traded lyrics back and forth, which made for an amazing duet between past and present hip-hop. The audience loved the performance so much that there were a couple of times that their singing could be picked up by ABC’s cameras.
Hanson would take the stage next to sing two songs of their own. The first was an acoustic version of their hit “MmmBop” from their 1997 album Middle of Nowhere.
The band has grown up much since the late 90s, and the song, like the Backstreet Boys’ “Everybody,” sounded more mature. However, the harmonization sounded better than before.
Indie-pop band Echosmith joined the now grown-up band to sing “Thinkin’ ‘Bout Somethin’” from Hanson’s album Shout It Out. The song, an argument between an ex-boyfriend and girlfriend, was sung as a duet between the two bands, which was rather fitting. The guitar and organ solos in the middle of the song sounded very soulful, and reminded me of George Harrison’s and Billy Preston’s work on The Beatles’ last album, Let It Be.
The song sounded awesome…except that Shout It Out was released in 2010, way beyond the timeframe of the episode.
The Backstreet Boys came back (alright!), and were joined by pop singer Meghan Trainor to sing another classic, “I Want It That Way,” to finish the show. The inclusion of a female voice in the song was very unique, and it made the song fresh and new.
The audience once again loved the performance, and their singing was very audible at one point. Trainor sounded outstanding with the boy band, and it even left us wanting to hear more. If any of this episode’s pairings should expand beyond the show and do more collaboration or go on tour, it should definitely be Meghan Trainor and the Backstreet Boys. Just imagine them singing “All About That Bass.” Come to think of it, you do not need to. Just watch this!
Episode two of Greatest Hits left us with more questions than answers about the overall goal of the series. At the top of the show, Arsenio Hall talked about how all of the performing artists were paired with popular artists of today, and merging yesterday with today.
Is this supposed to be the show’s goal? If so, then why was Pitbull the only modern artist featured in the series premiere?
Some of these songs were fun to hear again, but the ball was dropped on double-checking some release dates.
If the show wanted to stick to strictly music from 1995 to 2000, then All-4-One should have been asked to use another song for the cold open, and “Thinkin’ ‘Bout Somethin’” should not have been performed, since it was released way later than the 1995-2000 period.
One big genre was missing from this episode: grunge rock. This was immensely popular in the 90s. Where was Soundgarden, the Smashing Pumpkins, or R.E.M? They were at the peak of their popularity during this time. Although rap had good representation in this show, we did not see any dedications to the most popular rappers, like Tupac Shakur, The Notorious B.I.G., or N.W.A.
Maybe we’ll see them in the 1990-1995 show.
3 1/2 LPs (out of 5)
Predictions: Next week’s episode will focus on the greatest hits from 1985-1990. It has been confirmed that Bret Michaels of Poison will perform. We think that more of the hair metal bands will make an appearance, like Def Leppard and Bon Jovi. We also might see appearances from more of the era’s popular artists, like Cyndi Lauper and Madonna. Prince was also very popular during this time, so it would be nice to see a tribute to him.
Keep it locked on WONC.org next week for episode three of Greatest Hits!
Featured photo courtesy of Byron Cohen and ABC.