Every #1 Hit Song From 1993 Ranked From Worst to Best

Featuring Janet Jackson, Meat Loaf, Mariah Carey and more

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Every #1 Hit Song From 1993 Ranked From Worst to Best

From the start of July through August 2023, we’re ranking every Billboard #1 hit from 1973, 1983, 1993, 2003 and 2013 from worst to best in each respective year. Last week, we looked at what 1983 had to offer—including chart-toppers from legends like Billy Joel, Michael Jackson, Toto and Bonnie Tyler. It was a relatively dense list, with 17 entries across a 52-week span. That number continues to shrink this time around. Today, we’re looking at all 11 tracks that found musical immortality in the year of 1993. Over half of the list dominated the charts for five weeks or more, while three of the tracks held court for at least seven weeks.

As is the case with the era these songs come from, there are quite a few duds. I would argue that half of this list is forgettable. Luckily, the other half of the list is brimming with some of the best pop and rock tracks of the entire decade, let alone just 1993. But, to score a #1 hit is an achievement that makes your career immortal in some capacity—whether the songs are good, great or just plain awful (see #11 below). These artists put in the work and got to the promised land. 1993 offered up a great mix of one-hit wonders and legends just getting their greatness started. From songs by UB40 to Janet Jackson to Mariah Carey to, yes, Whitney Houston, here is every #1 hit from 1993 ranked. —Matt Mitchell, Assistant Music Editor

11. Snow: “Informer”
Reggae singer Darrin Kenneth O’Brien, grew up in [checks notes] Toronto, the son of an Irish-Canadian cabdriver. The performer known as Snow was charged with attempted murder after a stabbing incident in a club. But before reporting to prison, with the help of Jamaican-born DJ Marvin Prince, he got signed to Elektra and recorded his debut album, 12 Inches of Snow. He was in jail when the album’s single “Informer” became an unexpected #1 hit and was later acquitted. Snow would have other songs get radio play, but none had the staying power of “a licky boom boom down.” —Josh Jackson

10. UB40: “(I Can’t Help) Falling in Love With You”
Talking about UB40 makes me sound and feel as old as I am. Because I’m aged enough to remember when this British reggae group were political firebrands in their earliest days, writing furious songs against the Thatcher administration, the threat of nuclear war and environmental destruction. But around the late ’80s, they realized there was money to be made in writing lover’s rock and covering old soul and pop songs. Hence, the recording of this moldy chestnut previously associated with Elvis Presley and taking it to the top of the charts. Like most covers of its ilk, it didn’t need to exist as the band didn’t do much with it beyond adding some horns and a loping reggae beat. It’s not good for anything beyond a junior high gropefest ca. 1993. —Robert Ham

9. SWV: “Weak”
According to Brian Alexander Morgan, the songwriter responsible for this sultry slow jam, when he worked with SWV in the studio on “Weak,” lead vocalist Cheryl Gamble hated it and “gave me a real attitude when we recorded it.” How must she have felt when the song became the group’s second Top-10 hit and their first #1? Whatever frustration she may have had with the song, Gamble gave it her all, fully embodying the romantic bliss and sexual thrills wound into each line. This is the kind of quiet storm, baby-making music that just doesn’t get made anymore. —RH

8. Silk: “Freak Me”
Georgia R&B group Silk were certainly not the biggest soul act of their era, but their debut album Lose Control was a pretty great entry into echelons of rizzed-up pop music. “Freak Me,” in particular, was a deft, technicolor articulation of bedroom extracirriculars. The punch of the track, a steadfast admittance of “‘Cause tonight, baby, I wanna get freaky with you,” feels a bit cringey in retrospect. But “Freak Me” is bound by its era, as artists were pulling from the blueprint of artists like Barry White and Anita Ward and pushing them to an 11. This is the type of stuff that Silk Sonic was trying to replicate, a sensual ode that lays a focus on sex, sex and more sex. Silk have all but faded into obscurity but, like their peers Ginuwine and Keith Sweat, numbers like “Freak Me” can still conjure something in somebody, somewhere. —Matt Mitchell

7. Peabo Bryson & Regina Belle: “A Whole New World”
Just a few months before Disney completed the circle with the birth of Disney Theatrical Productions Limited, which would take its animated movies to the stage, the Mouse released yet another animated musical inspired by Broadway. 1992’s Aladdin once again featured music by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman (The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast), with Tim Rice finishing the lyrics after Ashman’s death. Voice actors Brad Kane (Aladdin) and Lea Salonga (Jasmine) sing “A Whole New World” in the film, but the single released in 1993 used the end-credits version featuring Peabo Bryson and Regina Belle. It spent one week atop the Billboard charts before winning Disney’s its only Song of the Year Grammy. —JJ

6. Mariah Carey: “Hero”
The second single from her third album Music Box, “Hero” is Mariah Carey’s stadium-sized ballad. Inspirational, memorable and beautiful like Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You,” “Hero” quickly established Carey as one of the world’s greatest pop stars. It’s an inspirational track full of supportive kindness, the type of slow-burn gem that the charts just eat up. That is not to diminish what Carey has perfected on “Hero,” though. Few ballads can endure with such immense weight, yet “Hero” has been up to the task for 30 years—as it remains one of Carey’s most performed songs across her entire career. “There’s an answer, if you reach into your soul,” she sings. “And the sorrow that you know will melt away.” With a lush piano and atmospheric soundscapes surrounding her perfect vocal performance, “Hero” is a timeless homage to R&B and gospel. —MM

5. Janet Jackson: “Again”
There was no way to keep Janet Jackson out of the upper reaches of the pop charts in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Nor did anyone want to. Her work with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis was that strong and her presence in pop culture was that powerful to behold. So, it was with little effort or surprise that Miss Jackson landed her sixth #1 with this heartfelt ballad originally recorded for the closing credits of Poetic Justice, the film that featured Janet as the lead. The sweep of the music mirrors Jam and Lewis’s lyrics of a rekindled romance complete with a piano hook that sounds like a heart skipping a beat — a melody that Jackson follows with her candle lit, impassioned vocal turn. This is the stuff of magic. —RH

4. Meat Loaf: “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)”
It’s amazing that, in retrospect, Meat Loaf’s “I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)” was the only rock ‘n’ roll track to top the charts in 1993—given how great of a moment grunge, metal and alternative were having at the time. And even then, it’s not a straightforward rock song by any means. It’s a power ballad that was, essentially, a comeback song for Meat Loaf, who’d been in a lull ever since his masterful debut album Bat Out of Hell 16 years prior. The singer tried to strike gold by retreading the same idea, including naming his new album Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell—and you’d be wrong to think he did anything but succeed. “I’d Do Anything for Love” was a smash-hit (and the only #1 hit in Meat Loaf’s career). Written by his longtime collaborator Jim Steinman, Meat Loaf’s vocal performance is one of his absolute best in the 40-plus years he was in the zeitgeist. “As long as the planets are turning, as long as the stars are burning,” Meat Loaf sings. “As long as your dreams are coming true, you better believe it, that I would do anything for love.” Though the album version of the track was 12 minutes long, the single was trimmed down to just five. Done in a duet with Lorraine Crosby, “I’d Do Anything for Love” is an arena-sized, anthemic cue that remains, in my opinion, Meat Loaf’s greatest work. —MM

3. Janet Jackson: “That’s the Way Love Goes”
Janet Jackson’s self-titled 1993 album, Janet, is a perfect album in many, many ways. A big part of that is because of the lead single “That’s the Way Love Goes,” which topped the Billboard Hot 100 for eight weeks in 1993. It’s the longest running #1 single that any member of the Jackson family ever made, which only strengthens my argument that Janet was an eons better popstar than Michael. Nevertheless, “That’s the Way Love Goes” is a sensual blockbuster that flirts with ballad status. The only thing preventing it from that designation is that the song is just so damn hypnotic. The production from Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis is immaculate. In an explosive fusion of hip-hop loops, R&B, funk and soul, “That’s the Way Love Goes” samples James Brown’s “Papa Don’t Take No Mess” and The Honey Dippers’ “Impeach the President.” It’s a brilliant, transcendent and erotic benchmark in Janet’s career. —MM

2. Mariah Carey: “Dreamlover”
Though “I Will Always Love You” is the most talked-about pop track from 1993, the greatest pop track from that year is, without a doubt, Mariah Carey’s “Dreamlover.” Using a sample of the hook from The Emotions’ “Blind Alley,” Carey put together a mid-century soul track glossed atop a hip-hop-tempo backbeat for the lead single off her 1993 LP Music Box. With a Hammond B3 organ from Walter Afanasieff that can transform any composition across rock ‘n’ roll’s vast spectrum of subsets, “Dreamlover” has a groove that is relentless, catchy and lovely. Though you might consider the production on the track to be relatively simple, it arrives with a masterful, uncluttered shine that metabolizes into melodic, breezy instrumentation. “I need a love to give me the kind of love that’ll last always,” Carey sings. “I need somebody uplifting to take me away babe, oh, yeah, yeah.” Like an acrobat floating in thin air, Carey transcends even the most familiar pop-chart boxes in the name of graceful, romantic and velvet confidence and attitude. —MM

1. Whitney Houston: “I Will Always Love You”
Whether or not Dolly Parton wrote “I Will Always Love You” on the same day as “Jolene” or a few days apart, as she now says may be the case, the muses were quite content to focus all their attention on her tour bus somewhere in Tennessee in 1973. Parton’s version was already a gorgeous ballad for the ages, but Whitney Houston transformed it into one of the most powerful and heartbreaking proclamations of love and loss in pop music history. Houston was at the peak of her vocal prowess when she recorded the song for the 1992 film The Bodyguard and her performance That sax solo Kirk Whalum! That key change after the most pregnant of pauses! That quiet vocal run in the outro! This is a masterclass in how to sing a soul ballad. —JJ

Catch up on the 1973 list here and the 1983 list here. Listen to a playlist of these 1993 hit songs below.

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