Studio 89 - Music that defined the year 1989

4th July 2024

Posted in: Articles | Playlists

As we celebrate the launch of Studio 89, we look back at the music that defined the year 1989; the launch of our original Studio speaker.

We have picked out our favourite songs from the albums below. Check out our 1989 playlist.

Listen on:  Spotify   Tidal



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3 Feet High And Rising

De La Soul | Tommy Boy

The debut album by the New York City trio De La Soul, 3 Feet High and Rising is a landmark within the hip-hop genre. The record is widely known for its heavy and inventive use of samples, incorporating an impressive range of different genres and artists including Johnny Cash, James Brown, Michael Jackson, and Kraftwerk.

Upon release, the album was praised as one of the best of all time in its genre and is highly influential on the 1990s alternative hip hop scene.

Despite the group’s long-lasting absence from streaming services due to copyright issues, as of 2023 this innovative album can now be enjoyed on all the major platforms.

Highlights: The Magic Number, Eye Know, Me Myself and I

Listen on:  Spotify   Tidal    Apple Music    Qobuz



The Pixies | 4AD - Elektra

Also a breakthrough sophomore record, for the Boston-band Pixies, the alternative rock classic is regarded by critics as one of the best albums of both the year and decade.

The album is known for its distinctive lyrics and loud-quiet dynamics and draws on the band’s influences including surf rock and punk rock. In turn, Doolittle is highly influential, particularly on the following decade’s indie and grunge scenes.

Highlights: Wave Of Mutilation, Here Comes Your Man, Monkey Gone to Heaven

Listen on:  Spotify   Tidal    Apple Music    Qobuz


Like A Prayer

Madonna | Sire - Warner Records

The fourth album by Madonna, Like a Prayer was a smash hit for the Michigan-born pop icon, having topped album charts in over 20 different countries. The title track was also an international hit, similarly topping the charts in 20 different countries.

The album, which implements elements of rock and dance music, incorporates deeply introspective lyrics dealing with subject matters including the singer-songwriter’s religious upbringing and relationships with family members.

The album has been noted for influencing the work of many acts in the following decades, including Christine and the Queens, Ariana Grande, and Rihanna.

Highlights: Like a Prayer, Express Yourself, Cherish

Listen on:  Spotify   Tidal    Apple Music    Qobuz


Paul's Boutique

Beastie Boys | Capitol Records

The follow-up to their 1986 Licenced to Ill, Paul’s Boutique is arguably the greatest hip hop record of all time.

Following their successful first record with the hit ‘(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)’, the act was ridiculed as a ‘one-hit wonder’. However, they proved the doubters wrong with this record, which like De La Soul’s record, Paul’s Boutique makes heavy and creative use of a range of artists including Elvis Costello, Sly & the Family Stone, Led Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd.

Despite poor initial sales due to a lack of marketing, the album was a huge critical success and has been dubbed the ‘Sgt Pepper of hip hop’, appropriate given the album was sampled on the track ‘The Sounds of Science’.

Highlights: Shake Your Rump, Egg Man, Shadrach

Listen on:  Spotify   Tidal    Apple Music    Qobuz



The Cure | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

The Cure’s groundbreaking album is often regarded as the band’s best output. Their 8th album in only 10 years, Disintegration sees the band return to their dark, introspective roots and forgoing the more commercially friendly sound featured on previous record Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me.

The album was inspired by frontman Robert Smith’s anguish of his upcoming 30th birthday, realising that all his idols had released their masterpieces by this milestone. Upon release, the album was met with near-universal acclaim and is regarded as one of the best gothic rock albums of all time.

Highlights: Lovesong, Lullaby, Disintegration

Listen on:  Spotify   Tidal    Apple Music    Qobuz


The Sensual World

Kate Bush | Fish People

The overlooked sixth studio album by Kate Bush, The Sensual World was the follow-up to 1985’s Hounds of Love.

The album features an array of different instruments, inspirations, and guest musicians. Cellos, fiddles, harps, and mandolins can all be heard on the record, and Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour receiving praise for his guitar work on two of the tracks.

Like her previous works, lyrical inspiration on this album is found from classic literature, including references to James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ and William Blake’s ‘Jerusalem’. Whilst not her most recognisable output, it shows Bush as a more mature songwriter.

Highlights: The Sensual World, Never Be Mine, This Woman's Work

Listen on:  Spotify   Tidal    Apple Music    Qobuz


Full Moon Fever

Tom Petty | Geffen

The debut solo album by the American guitar legend Tom Petty. The album opens with the hit singles ‘Free Fallin’’ and ‘I Won’t Back Down’, arguably two of the best singles in Petty’s entire catalogue.

Full Moon Fever was well-received by fans and reviewers alike upon launch. Critics praised the strong track list, struggling to find a weak point in the record. The album features Travelling Willburys bandmates George Harrison, Roy Orbison, and Jeff Lynne, the latter of whom also helped produce the record.

Highlights: Free Fallin', I Won't Back Down, Love Is a Long Road

Listen on:  Spotify   Tidal    Apple Music    Qobuz


Pretty Hate Machine

Nine Inch Nails | The Bicycle Music Company

Another debut record, this one from the Cleveland-based band Nine Inch Nails. Also featuring synth-pop and electronic rock influences, the album helped to define the new industrial rock genre which was popular in the 1990s. The record also explores lyrical themes of betrayal and angst.

Despite initially only modest commercial success, the album received critical praise upon release and established the band as a prominent alternative rock act.

Highlights: Head Like a Hole, Terrible Lie, Sin

Listen on:  Spotify   Tidal    Apple Music    Qobuz


The Stone Roses

The Stone Roses | Sony Music UK

Released on the same day as Disintegration, The Stone Roses’ self-titled debut was released as part of the burgeoning ‘Madchester’ scene of the late 80s and early 90s, which also included the likes of Happy Mondays and Inspiral Carpets. The band pulled from several influences, including classic rock, garage rock, jangle pop, and dance music.

In turn, their debut record would serve as an important inspiration for Britpop and indie rock, including Oasis, Kasabian, and Blur.

Whilst praised when it was released, the album has only retrospectively received its accolades as one of the finest and influential albums of all time.

Highlights: I Wanna Be Adored, She Bangs the Drums, I Am the Resurrection

Listen on:  Spotify   Tidal    Apple Music    Qobuz



Nirvana | Sub Pop Records

One of the bands directly inspired by the Pixies’ work was Nirvana, who released their debut Bleach in 1989. Bleach laid the groundwork for their genre-defining second album Nevermind, released two years later.

The grunge album was received positively by critics upon release, though not an immediate commercial success. However, it was popular on the American college radio stations, and received more widespread interest upon the release of their bestselling sophomore album.

Highlights: Blew, About A Girl, Love Buzz

Listen on:  Spotify   Tidal    Apple Music    Qobuz


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