#MusicMonday – January 25, 2021

Imagine a world where time drifts away slowly, a world where music carries you away…

…and unicorns exist in the woods while a woman does half-assed pirouettes to Enigma music.

It’s a world of greatest hits spread out across two compacts discs (previously records and 8 Tracks) or cassettes, with music set to bizarre imagery, or just clips from the music videos they spawned. Operators are always standing by, a blue screen lets you know how to order, and Time Life always devoted 30 minutes in the wee hours of our very 1990s Saturday nights to plugging music that takes you back, makes you fall in love, or just makes you pull out your wallet because “hey, these songs are amazing!”

If this Music Monday already looks different, it is because I’ve decided to try something different this week. Inspired in part by the mention of Cool Rock a few weeks ago when “Africa” was the featured song of the week, it got me thinking about all the compilation albums I saw advertised in the 1990s. Time Life, Mystic Music, TVMusic4U – they made it, you saw it, and you (or someone you know) probably owned at least one of these albums.

I personally don’t know anyone who owned Pure Moods, but someone out there did, based solely on the visions of unicorns in the woods alone!

If you watched enough daytime/super late night television in the 1990s, you’ve come across at least five commercials (or one informercial) promoting the incredible compilation albums of music you know and love.

Even your esteemed author at this very keyboard, typing this very sentence, has fallen for the hypnotic luring of these commercials.

In early 2000s (sometime around 2003-2004), I happily bought two albums from TVMusic4U (you can look them up, but they don’t exist anymore), Red Hot and Totally 80s.

I LOVE these albums, and listened the heck out of them when I was in college. Years of seeing them advertised built up to me having some disposable income (thanks part time job!) and needing these in my life. I also spend many a late night Saturday night channel surfing after Saturday Night Live in the late 1990s, only to come across the greatest Time Life infomercial ever, promoting a whole collection of love songs and hosted by former soap opera stars.

This is the commercial version, but I watched the actual infomercial many times before it seemed to just vanish around the time I graduated high school.

You could (almost) never find these treasures of music glory in stores (and they made sure you knew that!), so you had to call to order, or eventually order them online, and wait the required 4-6 weeks for those CDs or cassettes to arrive.

But oh man, it was worth the patience you needed to have as you awaited getting lost in music mix heaven.

These compilations ran the music industry gamut – hard rock, soft rock, lite rock, adult contemporary, moods, decade-specific, genre-specific, artist-specific, love songs, holidays. You name it, the 1990s and some music company had a compilation album for that, along with the mandatory voice over telling you about the album, or even a singer or TV star hosting the infomercial. The hits were “amazing, beautiful, perfect, hot, funky, romantic, HUGE and nostalgic.” The imagery was always people dancing, people romancing, and flames burning up the screen. We watched in excitement as the song titles scrolled up on the screen, looking to see what was on these albums. Or, if you’re me and watched the one where Jack Wagner sang “All I Need” to the chick co-hosting with him (who was not his wife), you cringed.

These compilations were not new or novel in the 1990s, and they’re still around today, but arguably, the decade that was silly with “Insert Number Here Greatest Hits” and “Not Sold in Stores” was the 1990s. You couldn’t get away from those commercials, and eventually, you stopped fighting and gave in to that Pure Moods commercial, which was like a Harlequin Romance Book cover come to life, complete with Enigma music.

You watched the music video for “Return to Innocence,” admit it!

As I said, these albums are still around, and were around even before the 90s went crazy with them. Time Life probably still makes a pretty penny on selling you nostalgia on physical media. I’ve even seen YouTube playlists that people have made of these compilation albums. However you listen to them, there is no denying the awesomeness of these compilation albums, they really were everything the commercials promised!

Even unicorns existed!

I combed YouTube for the best of the best 1990s compilation commercials, and well, I found two great playlists. Bask in the glory of music amazingness, and may it bring back all kinds of memories for you, the way it does for me.

Have a great Monday, and enjoy the “Not Sold in Stores,” “X Number of Greatest Hits” music!

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