Music Is Life
I grew up with an incredible love for music. I can’t play an instrument worth a lick or sing in any form other than nails on a chalkboard. I’m eclectic in my tastes, enjoying a wide range of genres, timeframes, and artists. However, I’m partial to music released in the late 80s and all the 90s.
I hit my pre-teen years in 1990 and spent much of the decade in musical heaven. I lived in parts of Southern California and Las Vegas, Nevada, during those years. As I reflect, the Grunge movement heavily influences many of my favorite songs from that era.
Paring down my favorite songs of the 90s became more challenging than I thought it would be. There is so much fantastic music from that period. I’ve agonized over this list, shuffled and reshuffled, but now I present to you my top songs from each year of the best musical decade.
- 1990: “Tonight” – New Kids on the Block
I had two prized possessions at the tender age of ten: my bike and my Walkman. I wasn’t very far from either. Despite my poor singing ability, several girls in the neighborhood and I would get together and horribly sing (sorry Joey!) NKOTB songs. As expected, we were the New Girls on the Block. No record deals for us.
- 1991: “More Than Words” – Extreme
Mellow. Sweet. Sappy. It was all the things my 11-year-old self thought love was about. I planned to walk down the aisle to my adoring husband-to-be to this song. That might still happen one day.
- 1992: “Smells Like Teen Spirit” – Nirvana
I had the biggest moo-eyes for Kurt Cobain and Dave Grohl. I took to wearing a flannel even in the summer’s heat because I thought it was exactly what a 12-year-old girl should do. I came very close to seeing them in concert, which I’m sure would have blown my mind.
- 1993: “Hey Jealousy” – Gin Blossoms
I first read about them in a teenage magazine then lucked upon their “Dusted” album at a local flea market. I played it until it skipped too much to enjoy. This song puts me in the best mood. It’s one of my go-to happy songs, even today.
- 1994: “Loser” – Beck
You can’t help but slow your pace to groove along. Back before you could download music, you’d spend hours listening to the radio with a cassette tape and your recorder at the ready, hoping to catch your favorite song just right. I had “Loser” not only on one tape but two! Plus, this song has the best line of any song ever. Get crazy with the cheese wiz, friends!
- 1995: “Gangsta’s Paradise” – Coolio
This was one of the hardest years to pare down to one selection (“’Til I Hear It From You” by Gin Blossoms and “Lightning Crashes” by Live get equal love from me), but I had to pick the song I felt had the most significant influence on me. I can look back and admit that some appeals may have been a freckle-faced white girl blasting Coolio, yet the song came when I was waking up to social injustices in the world. I wasn’t sure how to vocalize them just then, but I knew they were there, and it helped me connect with things I couldn’t express at the time.
- 1996: “Just A Girl” – No Doubt
Again, not a singer, but Gwen Stefani made me wish I was. I never considered myself a girly-girl either. I didn’t bother with hair and makeup. I bought my first bright red lipstick that year.
- 1997: “Mmmbop” – Hanson
Another tough year to pick only one (from a list of 12), but the blonde trio wins out. I first heard the song on my way home from a traumatic event. It was the catchy tune I needed to lift my spirits some. It is one of my top played songs to this day. When I hear it, I’m reminded of the blue sky behind dark clouds. Thank you, Hanson, for chasing many a heavy memory away.
- 1998: “The Kids Aren’t Alright” – The Offspring
Two words: Dexter. Holland. Sexy, talented, and smart – a winning combination. My high school best friend got me hooked, and I spent much of my paychecks buying their CDs. My dream of seeing The Offspring in concert happened nearly 12 years after I first heard their album Americana. It was everything I dreamed it would be, and I got to listen to this song live. Best. Night. Ever!
- 1999: “I Try” – Macy Gray
She’s another artist that made me wish I had a singing voice. Smokey and sultry, she belts out the right balance to hit you right in the feels. Singer or not, I can’t keep myself from warbling out the lyrics in my loudest voice. I feel strangely empowered by this song.
What are some of your favorite songs from the 90s?