Where Are They Now? 1992’s Biggest Pop Acts – Rolling Stone
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Where Are They Now? 1992’s Biggest Pop Acts

Catch up with Kriss Kross, En Vogue, Sir Mix-A-Lot and more

Kriss Kross, En Vogue and Sir Mix-A-Lot

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Music history was made on January 25th, 1992 when Nirvana's Nevermind knocked Michael Jackson's Dangerous from the top of the Billboard album chart. Countless articles noted this as the moment when grunge/alternative music took over mainstream culture. It was certainly a big moment, but a quick glance at the Hot 100 singles from that week show a more complex story. The top song was "All 4 Love" by Color Me Badd. Ce Ce Peniston's "Finally" was number five, and Right Said Fred were at number 10 with "I'm Too Sexy." Grunge was only one relatively small part of the pop music universe – MC Hammer, Genesis and Amy Grant also had huge hits at the time. Here's a look back at other acts of 1992 that didn't quite have the historical impact of Nirvana. 

By Andy Greene

Mr. Big

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Mr. Big

Then: Hair metal may have been dying a quick death by 1992, but nobody bothered to tell Mr. Big. The Los Angeles quartet had the misfortune of jumping into the hair metal scene in 1989, which was like starting a Beanie Babies collection in 2001. The party was just about over before they even got there. Most hair metal bands wait a few years into their career to unleash the big power ballad, but Mr. Big must have known the clock was ticking. They released "To Be With You" in January of 1992 and it went nuclear. After just a few weeks it knocked "I'm Too Sexy" from the top of the charts. (Nirvana never had a single crack the top five.) They managed to squeeze out a couple of minor hits in the next couple of years, but nothing that even remotely compared to the success of "To Be With You."

Now: It's difficult to explain why, but Mr. Big had a huge audience in Japan from day one – even before "To Be With You" hit. They split after a farewell tour in 2002, but seven years later the original lineup reformed for a triumphant tour of Japan. In 2011 they released What If . . . , their first album in a decade. It didn't even chart in America, but it was a Top 10 hit in Japan. Along with Poison and Mötley Crüe, they are one of the few hair metal bands still touring with their original lineup. 

Boyz II Men

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Boyz II Men

Then: As if anyone needs to be reminded, Boyz II Men were huge in the 1990s. Few groups scored more hits during the course of the decade. Their debut album CooleyHighHarmony landed "Motownphilly" and "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday" on the charts, but things reached the next level in 1992. That's when "End of the Road" hit. It topped the charts all over the world and became the single biggest Motown hit ever, and that's a label with a lot of hits. Their next album, 1994's II, was equally massive, and they seemed like they might become the new Temptations. 

Now: Maybe it was the rise of the boy bands, but the wheels fell off the Boyz II Men cart in the late Nineties. Simply put, people simply stopped buying their records. Things got worse in 2003 when Michael McCary quit due to health problems. Unlike most Motown acts, they didn't hire a replacement, opting to carry on as a three-piece. Something about a three-man Boyz II Men just didn't look right. Most of their recent albums have been covers collections. The group is still very visible onstage, though – they tour like maniacs. This summer they hit the road with the New Kids on the Block and 98 Degrees. They have a Las Vegas show now at the Mirage Hotel. When you think about it, their story isn't very different from most Motown bands that had a lot of huge hits in a very short time period and then spent decades playing them on endless tours. 

Sir Mix-A-Lot

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Sir Mix-A-Lot

Then: Do we even need to write anything down here? Is there one person on the planet that doesn't know Sir Mix-A-Lot is the genius behind "Baby Got Back?" And we don't use the term "genius" lightly. Every second of his tribute to big asses is perfect. It's been 21 years, and it's still impossible not to sing along to every word whenever the song comes on. The video is equally amazing. He somehow talked his label into funding a video where he stands in the middle of a giant ass. MTV was only allowed to show it at night, but it didn't matter. Even six-year-olds soon knew the line, "My anaconda don't want none. Unless you've got buns, hun."

Now: Following up a song like "Baby Got Back" is impossible, but Mr. A-Lot gave it his best. Albums like Chief Boot Knocka and Return of the Bumpasaurus didn't really go anywhere, and he hasn't even tried in the past decade. He hasn't vanished, though. He's one of the best talking heads in the history of VH1, cracking hysterical jokes about everything from The White Shadow to Care Bears. He also makes very good money from the endless afterlife of "Baby Got Back," and overall he seems like a very happy person. God bless the man. He created something that will live for centuries. 

The Heights

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Jamie Walters

Then: Aaron Spelling had a lot of pull at Fox in 1992. Beverly Hills 90210 had captured the attention of teens all across America, and Melrose Place was just starting to take off. So when Spelling and his partner E. Duke Vincent pitched a show about a young rock band, Fox quickly gave it a 13-episode order. Much like the Monkees three decades earlier, the show was also a great platform to promote new music. "How Do You Talk to an Angel" shot to Number One, turning Heights frontman Jamie Walters into a teen sex symbol. It seemed like the start of a big thing, but ratings were weak and Fox yanked it after the initial 13 episodes aired. "How Do You Talk to an Angel" was still high on the charts at the time.

Now: Spelling wasn't willing to give up on Jamie Walters, and in 1994 he cast him as Donna Martin's abusive boyfriend on Beverly Hills 90210. He lasted two seasons. Bit parts in small movies came after that and he even released three solo albums, but nothing got him much traction. He now works as a paramedic in Los Angeles. 

Tom Cochrane

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Tom Cochrane

Then: It's gotta be a little tough to be Tom Cochrane. As the lead singer of Red Rider, he had a string of hits in America and Canada. Their 1981 song "Lunatic Fringe" continues to get tons of airplay on classic rock radio, but even people who sing along to it have never heard of Red Rider. He started focusing on his solo career in the early 1990s, and in 1992 "Life Is a Highway" reached number six in America. The song has had a huge afterlife, and in 2006 Rascal Flatts introduced it to country audiences. But most people in America still don't know Tom Cochrane's name. In the early days of Napster, "Life Is a Highway" was often falsely pinned to Tom Petty. 

Now: Cochrane has always been a star in Canada, and he tours regularly up there, solo and with a reunited Red Rider. He opened up for Bruce Springsteen in Moncton, New Brunswick last year and even joined the headliner on "Twist and Shout." 

Kriss Kross

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Kriss Kross

Then: Jermaine Dupri was shopping at an Atlanta mall in 1990 when Chris Smith and Chris Kelly asked him for an autograph. They were just small kids, but Dupri was impressed by their style and confidence. He took them under his wing, instructed them to wear their clothing backwards and began plotting out their music career. Dupri wrote "Jump" for the duo after watching fans jump up and down at a concert. He thought it would be popular, but was absolutely stunned when "Jump" shot to number one and kids all over America started wearing their pants and shirts backwards. 

Now: Kriss Kross faced the same problem that every kid act eventually faces: puberty. America knew them as 12-year-olds, and suddenly they were twice their old size. Their second LP, 1993's Da Bomb, was a minor hit, but they broke up after 1996's Young, Rich & Dangerous stiffed at record stores. They reformed earlier this year for the So So Def 20th anniversary concert. Just a few months later, Chris Kelly died of a drug overdose in Atlanta. He was 34. 

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Sophie B. Hawkins

Then: Sophie B. Hawkins' 1992 album Tongue and Tails was the kind of debut that most artists dream about. Her first single, the Prince-esque "Damn I Wish I Was Your Love," was an instant hit, even if the racy video was too provocative for MTV. It turned the 25-year-old New York singer-songwriter into a big star, even getting her an invitation to Bob Dylan's 30th Anniversary Concert at Madison Square Garden, where she shared the bill with Neil Young, George Harrison, Tom Petty, Johnny Cash and Eric Clapton. Her 1994 single "As I Lay Me Down" was another huge smash, and she seemed poised for a big career.

Now: Not long after "As I Lay Me Down" fell off the charts, new singers like Sarah McLachlan, Jewel and Paula Cole started scoring huge hits in America. Hawkins would have fit seamlessly into the Lilith Fair scene, but there was trouble with her third album, Timbre. Sony wanted changes, and Hawkins wouldn't budge. The battle lasted for months, and by the time it was resolved Hawkins had lost major momentum. It stiffed when it finally hit shelves in the summer of 1999. She found more freedom outside of the major label system and continues to tour and record. She played her early hits on Community earlier this year. 

Ugly Kid Joe

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Ugly Kid Joe

Then: Beavis grew a little confused while watching Ugly Kid Joe's 1992 video for "Neighbor." "How come he calls himself Ugly Kid?" he wondered. "He's not even that ugly." Butt-head wasn't going to let that pass. "Do you find him attractive, Beavis?" Turns out the band's name was a parody of the obscure hair metal band Pretty Boy Floyd. Their 1992 single "Everything About You" (featuring Pat from Saturday Night Live) was in Wayne's World, and later reached number nine on the charts. The next year they scored again with a snotty cover of Harry Chapin's "Cats in the Cradle." 

Now: Mercury dropped the band after 1995's Menace to Sobriety tanked. They released an indie record in 1996, and broke up a year later. Frontman Whitfield Crane struggled on his own, and Ugly Kid Joe reformed in 2010. They released the EP Stairway to Hell in 2012. They're touring Europe with Skid Row in October. 

Arrested Development

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Arrested Development

Then: In early 1992, Arrested Development seemed like the future of hip-hop. Public Enemy were already old news, and Dr. Dre's The Chronic wouldn't hit until December. Into that brief window came Arrested Development and their instantly catchy songs "Tennessee" and "Mr. Wendel." The southern rap collective sampled Sly and the Family Stone, Prince and Buddy Guy on their breakthrough album 3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days in the Life of . . ., writing lyrics that were socially conscious and completely clean. It was the kind of rap your parents could appreciate, and they won Best New Artist and Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group. 

Now: The moment that "Nuthing' but a G Thang" hit radio in November of 1992, "Mr. Wendel" sounded like a relic of the distant past. The Chronic ushered in a whole era of gangsta rap. Arrested Development came back in 1994 with Zingalamaduni, but it peaked at number 55 and quickly fell off the charts completely. They broke up less than two years later. Frontman Speech went solo, but after failing to find an audience he reformed Arrested Development in 2000. Three years later, they sued Fox because of a new television show with a familiar name. "Fox has no more right to use 'Arrested Development' for its show than a band would have to name itself after one of Fox's sitcoms," said Speech. The matter was settled out of court. The group recently went on a 20th Anniversary tour. 

En Vogue

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En Vogue

Then: For a few years in the early 1990s, En Vogue seemed like the new Supremes. Hits like "Free Your Mind" and "My Lovin' (You're Never Gonna Get It)" were everywhere, even if very few people could could name a single member of the group. VH1 played their videos on a constant loop, and they were guests on In Living Colour, Roc and even Hangin' With Mr. Cooper. In 1993, they teamed up with Salt-N-Pepa for "Whatta Man." It hit number three on the Billboard Hot 100 and remains their most well-known song.

Now: It took En Vogue five long years to release a follow-up to their breakthrough 1992 album Funky Divas. During that time, Dawn Robinson left the group. They were down to a trio and forced to compete with the Spice Girls and other new groups at record stores. They seemed like yesterday's news, and the album failed to find a mass audience. Subsequent releases did even worse, even after Robinson returned in 2005. Today, the group is in complete chaos. Only two original members, Terry Ellis and Cindy Herron, remain. Robinson and fellow founding member Maxine Jones announced plans to tour as Heirs to the Throne. It never took off, and Jones began touring as En Vogue to the Max. Lawsuits started flying. It got ugly, and in 2012 the judge rules that Ellis and Herron are the legit En Vogue. Despite that, they haven't sent out a tweet since May of 2011 and their sole concert date is in April of 2014. 

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