EntertainmentMusicThe best songs of each year (1990-1999)

The best songs of each year (1990-1999)


The last decade of the Millennium was a period in which many things from the 20th century ended up dying and other new ones were growing, preparing us all for the new time that awaited us beyond the (dreaded) year 2000.

In the technological aspect with the Internet explosion and the arrival of .com, geopolitically with the appearance of new countries, economically with the establishment of a uniform system for the whole world, socially with the establishment of multicultural societies… and on the scene music with the arrival of new sounds to the radios.

Also important, as a note related to music, were the changes experienced in the physical supports for listening to music. The transition from cassette to compact disc and even the arrival of MP3, or the disappearance of VHS, which had served so well to record concerts or watch music videos.

At the sociological level, we can identify the youth (within which we include people between the ages of 14 and 30) who lived through the ’90s with sections of Generation X, which in general terms are characterized by being very social, committed, concerned around the world, pioneers in the use of technology (the desktop PC, the CD…), they used the Walkman , they lived through the end of the Cold War… they are the parents of the millennials . It is the so-called ‘Nocilla Generation’ in the case of Spain.

1990: new decade and new sounds

The year in which Spain began to have several television channels (Antena3 began in January and Telecinco in March) was a year of transcendental milestones in the world. A group of physicists from CERN launched the first web server and inaugurated the famous www, democracy returned to Chile, Lithuania became independent from the Soviet Union, NASA put the Hubble Space Telescope into orbit, Iraq invaded Kuwait, Nelson Mandela left from prison, Margaret Thatcher resigned… it was a year of change within a period (1989-1991) in which the whole world changed forever.

At the end of the previous year, in November 1989, the Berlin Wall had fallen, giving way to a new geopolitical, political and social stage in Europe. The Soviet Union, the largest country in the world, was undergoing a serious crisis that would make it disappear “little by little”, in a process that took many months. Under this umbrella of turbulent political reality, young people continued to live their lives and listen to music. These are some of the songs that first played on the radio in 1990:

Musically we do not find in the 1990 playlist many great songs that have gone down in history, as if it happens in other years. We can highlight the lively ‘U Can’t Touch This’ that we all know how to hum, the melancholic ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ and ‘Enjoy the Silence’ by the electronic Depeche Mode.

On the other hand, if the Run-MCD had been pioneers in hip-hop and the first to get a Gold Record and a Grammy for this genre in the mid-eighties, in the nineties another rapper managed to spread rap among the youth: MC Hammer, one of the proper names of the decade. The American rapper made the whole world shake with his famous ‘U Can’t Touch This’. He made gold quickly, although he had problems with an old eighties star who denounced him for using a phrase from ‘Super Freak’, a song that had been a hit in 1981 and which we already reviewed in the previous article about the hits of the ’80.

In 1990, a renewed Madonna with ‘Vogue’, the newcomer Mariah Carey with ‘Vision of Love’, Bette Midler (who had also had a #1 the previous year and was living her golden age) also placed hits at the top of the Billboard chart. or George Michael, who had to add a ’90’ to his ‘Freedom’ because he had already released a song with the same name years ago as part of Wham!.

1991: Smells of Teen Spirit

The grunge rock genre will always be associated with the Nirvana group. Despite their short life (1987-1994), these Americans managed to consolidate in popular culture a new sound that had been born in the northwest corner of the country, in the State of Washington. With his album Nevermind (1991) alternative rock went from the underground to the mainstream , that space so hated by alternative rockers themselves (how ironic, to become famous thanks to what you criticize!).

‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ is already one of the hymns of the nineties. It was Nevermind ‘s hit and the song that VH1 and Rolling Stone chose as #1 of the decade and #9 of all time, respectively. Much has been written and spoken about the meaning of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, and although it has been popularly welcomed as a revolutionary, anti-establishment or critical song with conformist society, the truth is that Kurt Cobain himself assured that he did not I wrote songs trying to give them meaning. He was anti -mainstream even for that.

Pearl Jam was also another group that joined grunge with their album  Ten , which included famous songs like ‘Black’ or ‘Alive’. The Seattle band would be one of the most consistently successful groups of the decade, releasing records in 1991, 1993, 1994, 1996 and 1998, unlike their neighbors Nirvana (they were all from the Seattle, Washington area), whose career was tragically cut short with Cobain’s death.

In 1991 the Simply Red were also successful with their famous ‘Stars’, Bryan Adams with ‘Everything I Do’ and Extreme with ‘More than Words’. It was a year in which old rockers from other decades also climbed back to the top of the music charts, such as Tom Petty, Scorpions or U2. Hard rock continued hand in hand with Guns N’ Roses and Metallica, and new sounds came thanks to Seal, a singer who embraced soul and R&B and who inserted himself into what is called ‘adult contemporary music’.

1992: the saddest year?

We don’t know what the young people of 1992 were thinking, probably born between 1967 and 1977, but this group of teenagers and twenty-somethings chose that year for the top of the music charts a series of songs with a leitmotiv : the bitter, the sad , the gray Were they that depressed?

It is enough to take a few phrases from the most famous songs of 1992 to realize that gray atmosphere that prevailed on the radio: «Lonely as I am, together we cry» («Lonely as I am, together we cry») sang the Red Hot Chili Pepper in ‘Under the Bridge’, «If you think you’ve had too much of this life… well, hang on» («If you think you’ve had enough of life… well, hang on») said REM in ‘Everybody Hurts’, Eric Clapton sang to his recently deceased son in the sad ‘Tears in Heaven’, Metallica offered us their ballad ‘Nothing Else Matters’, the Cranberries made us cry with ‘Linger’… but the anthem of depression certainly did. composed Radiohead with ‘Creep’. ‘Creep’ was so so sad that for a moment the radios preferred not to play it, because it was so depressing.

The death of Freddie Mercury at the end of the previous year was perhaps a good reason to face 1992 with sadness. A vibrant voice had trailed off. Gone were the happy eighties tones that invited you to dance at the disco. Now the young people identified themselves with other sounds and other letters. Much deeper, romantic and melancholic. As Homer Simpson summed up when talking to the singer of the Smashing Pumpkins: “Thanks to your sinister lyrics, my children have stopped dreaming of a future that I cannot provide for them.” Without a doubt, a great phrase to understand the music of the early nineties.

The melancholic tone of 1992 was combined with lively rhythms that also reached the top of the music charts, such as the famous ‘Jump Around’ or ‘Baby Got Back’. Billy Ray Cyrus also wanted to talk to us about something sad in ‘Achy Breaky Heart’, but he did it with a rhythm that made the skeleton move. That year also began to publish Moby, one of the most outstanding artists of electronic and ambient music , with a leisurely and calm beat.

The explosion of melancholic and depressive themes in 1992 can be related to the climate of success of alternative rock in general, and of grunge in particular, which during those years (1989-1995) dominated the music scene. In all the clubs the hits of Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Soundgarden, Radiohead, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, REM, The Cranberries, Oasis, Blur, The Verve were playing… songs that had not been thought to sound on generalist radio stations. , and that moved from mouth to mouth in university environments and on the streets. A new youth that rejected the prevailing, televised consumer society clung to the sounds of loud distorted guitars and embraced the depressing mood of lyrics that said there was no future in such a world.

1993: a year with a female voice

In theaters two great successes carried Spielberg’s signature: ‘Jurassic Park’ and ‘Schindler’s List’. The first won millions (it was the highest-grossing film in history until the Titanic liner arrived), and the second won awards (seven Oscars, including Best Picture).

1993 can be remembered as the Whitney year. ‘The Bodyguard’ was a success at the box office. Released in November of the previous year, it was still able to be the second highest grossing film of the year 1992. Its soundtrack became the best-selling in film history. Starring Whitney Houston who was making her big screen debut, the famous songs from the film (‘I Will Always Love You’, ‘I Have Nothing’…) were also sung by Whitney herself, who became a recognized star. world. It must be remembered, however, that Whitney Houston had already known her success with her first two albums, in 1985 and 1987. But without a doubt, starring in a blockbuster led her to expand her audience. A success that, as is known, she did not know how to manage well.

After having introduced herself to the world with great success in Mariah (1990), the American singer Mariah Carey reached the top with Music Box (1993), which contained the number ones ‘Without You’, ‘Dreamlover’ and ‘Hero’. It is estimated that 28 million copies were sold.

Another singer who has 1993 engraved on her biography is Janet Jackson. She won the Grammy for Best R&B Song for “That’s the Way It Goes” and charted as many as six of her Janet singles from her. on the US Hot 100 chart. Also, Janet. it was #1 on the Billboard 200.

The radio stations of 1993 continued to have a female voice thanks to the fleeting group 4 Non Blondes, which placed the well-known hit ‘What’s Up’, one of the hymns of the nineties, at the top of the music charts. Strangely 4 Non Blondes broke up the following year.

“All I can say is that my life is pretty plain” (“All I can say is that my life is quite simple”) sang the Blind Melon in ‘No Rain’ reminding us that we were in the grunge years. This Californian group suffered depression in their own flesh: their singer died of an overdose in 1995.

In 1993, old rockers like Meat Loaf also returned with the great ‘I’d Do Anything For Love’, in a style that some called “Wagnerian rock”, or Paul McCartney (who was already fifty) with ‘Hope of Deliverance’. This year the first video game of the FIFA series was put on sale and the scandal of the accusation of child sexual abuse against Michael Jackson broke out.

1994: another sad year

On April 8, 1994, millions of young people mourned the death of Kurt Cobain, who was found dead in his home after having shot himself in the head three days earlier. He was 27 years old. The voice of grunge faded drastically, although it was true that Cobain was dragging a long period of depression and in which he had already had suicide attempts. In any case, it was a before and after for the genre, since Nirvana, the most important group in the grunge movement, dissolved immediately.

This year the melancholic tone continued to dominate the music scene with songs like ‘Streets of Philadelphia’ by a mature Bruce Springsteen, ‘Lightning Crashes’ by Live, and other songs like ‘Lost for Words’, ‘I’ll Stand By You’, ‘7 Seconds’ or the sad ‘Ode to My Family’. Rhythms that were not suitable for dancing, and perfect to listen to on a rainy day and think about how bad the world was.

In 1994 the old rockers Pink Floyd returned to the world scene with the release of The Division Bell , a triumphant comeback that charmed critics and was criticized by Roger Waters, co-founder of the band and former member since 1983. The legal problems between Waters and the rest of the members of Pink Floyd had been overcome, but the relationship was still bad. In any case, David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Richard Wright went on a world tour to carry the Pink Floyd name around the world again. It was historic: at the time ‘The Division Bell Tour’ was the most successful tour in history, selling more than 5.3 million tickets. Songs like ‘Coming Back To Life’ or ‘Marooned’ (winner of a Grammy) showed that the Pink Floyd sound was still alive after 25 years of success.

1994 was also the year of Marilyn Manson, who played his famous ‘Sweet Dreams’ at all hours, an unforgettable cover of the Eurythmics original, which appeared on the 1983 hit list, and of Green Day, which finally achieved success. with his album Dookie . The Cranberries published ‘Ode to My Family’ remembering the victims of the wars in Yugoslavia, which in those years bled the Balkans dry. His album No Need To Argue is one that every lover of good music should listen to sometime.

1995: the year of britpop

This year, young people around the world had a difficult decision to make: whether to buy Sega’s Saturn or Sony’s PlayStation. But there was a much more important discussion for millions of teenagers: Oasis or Blur.

Britpop is a subgenre of alternative rock that emerged during the 1990s with strong influences from 1960s groups (mainly The Kinks and The Beatles). The bands that embraced Britpop published highly elaborated material in sound, with a delicacy that set them apart from other rock groups (an example of this is the work of The Verve). It was what was in style during those years (1994-1996), and the fight to be at the top of Britpop was carried out by two English groups: Blur (from Essex County) and Oasis (from Manchester).

This battle was very popular because they certainly looked like sister bands. They played within the same genre, both were English, the leaders of both had a lot of genius, both had been formed in 1991… and in 1995 both released an album. Blur released The Great Escape in September and quickly managed to reach #1 on the music charts with ‘Country House’. A month later, Oasis released (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, and hit the radio with up to six singles, including the famous ‘Wonderwall’.  

Some wanted to see in the growth of Britpop a genre that responded to grunge. Blur’s Damon Albarn was very clear in 1993 when, after being asked if Blur were an “anti-grunge” group, he replied: “Well, that’s cool. If punk appeared to eliminate hippies, then we’re going for grunge.”

Among the numerous female bands that appeared during the nineties (such as the Spice Girls, All Saints, En Vogue or Destiny’s Child) there was one that achieved special success: TLC. Acronym for Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, Lisa Lopes and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas, TLC is the best-selling female group in the United States and second in the world (just behind the Spice Girls). They were predecessors of Destiny’s Child (Beyonce’s group) and with their striking and provocative style they sounded on the radios of all countries. ‘Waterfalls’ (1995) is perhaps their most famous hit, but we also have them on the 1994 charts with ‘Creep’ and 1999 with ‘No Scrubs’. In 2002 Lisa Lopes died in a car accident and the group faded away, but they had already left 10 unforgettable years fusing R&B, pop and hip-hop.

1995 is also the year of the famous rapper Tupac Shakur, known as 2pac. The publication of Me Against the World  placed him at the top of hip-hop. Today he is recognized as the best rapper in history, and the greatest exponent of West Coast Hip-Hop, a subgenre within hip-hop that took its name from the geographical region where he had emerged (the US West Coast). Precisely his ‘California Love’ is a good example of this West Coast Hip-Hop, to which other rappers like Snoop Dogg or Dr. Dre also contributed. As everyone knows, Tupac was shot to death in Las Vegas in 1996.

1996: adios a la tristeza

«Give your body joy, Macarena». Perhaps the most repeated phrase during 1996 (and much of the rest of the nineties), by the hand of the Spanish duo Los del Río, was a good summary of the new era that wanted to open up, overcoming the gray days of the grunge sound, of ‘Everybody Hurts’ and drastic changes in geopolitics. The war in Croatia (1991-1995), the Bosnian war (1992-1995) and the Bosnian-Croatian war (1992-1994) had already ended, and the fall of the Berlin Wall (1989), crude dismemberment of the Soviet Union (1991) and the Gulf War (1990-1991).

It seemed that the nineties had gotten over a bad start and in 1996 the world was ready to dance ‘La Macarena’ and embrace the upbeat rhythms of the Spice Girls and the Back Street Boys. In addition, Oasis reminded us not to look back with hate or anger, and Eric Clapton encouraged us to “change the world.”

Michael Jackson, who had been on stage since 1964, posted his last #1 with ‘They Don’t Care About Us’. The R&B group The Fugees re-released the classic ‘Killing Me Softly’ to great success and rapper Dr. Dre appeared on two hits of the year: with 2Pac and with BLACKstreet. The song ‘Lovefool’ is also very famous (a typical song that we listen to and we don’t know the name or the group).

In 1996 the punk rock group The Ramones said goodbye to the stage and the Nintendo 64 was released to compete with the PlayStation. Jay Z released his first album, Reasonable Doubt , which featured collaborations with Mary J. Blige and The Notorius BIG, and Alanis Morissette continued to place #1 on her Jagged Little Pill , which she had released the previous year.

To try to profile the youth of the second half of the ’90s, we may have to talk about that unknown xennial generation, born between 1977 and 1983. These new teenagers had not lived their youth in the heyday of grunge and had surely heard Nirvana on their houses because it was playing at full volume in his older brother’s room. Instead, they decked their rooms with posters of 2Pac, Take That, Chayanne, the Spice Girls, and the Back Street Boys, who just put out their first album in 1996.

1997: the year of Titanic

If you have to make each year “The Year of…”, without a doubt 1997 will be remembered as the year of ‘Titanic’. It was more than a movie. It was a world event. Very few people born before the year 2000 do not know ‘Titanic’, and millions have seen it more than once. The figures surrounding this film are dizzying: 89 awards (11 Oscars), 1,800 million dollars raised, fifteen weeks in a row being number one at the box office… It was re-released in 2012 and was a success again (another 350 million dollars).

That year everything related to ‘Titanic’ was a great success. From the young actor Leonardo DiCaprio to the singer Celine Dion, who interpreted the main theme of the film: ‘My Heart Will Go On’. The soundtrack of ‘Titanic’, by James Horner, was a complete success and became the best-selling soundtrack without a predominance of songs in history, with around 30 million copies. The OST of ‘The Bodyguard’ or ‘Grease’ are cases of soundtracks based on songs. The soundtrack for ‘Titanic’, despite being mainly orchestral, was a complete success.

In 1997 rapper The Notorius BIG, often named the greatest rapper in history and the king of rap on the East Coast, was killed in a shooting in Los Angeles. Rap was experiencing great years in terms of musical production, but also tragic ones: the previous year 2Pac had also been assassinated. Two of the greatest rappers in history, dead in the heyday of the genre.

For their part, Radiohead had another big year in 1997. After having had a worldwide success in 1992, they returned publishing OK Computer and won back the public and the critics. The English The Verve continued with their calm rhythms in ‘Bitter Sweet Symphony’, Elton John rescued ‘Candle in the Wind’ to sing to the late Diana of Wales and Blur placed a new #1 with the noisy ‘Song 2’.

After passing through Take That (1990-1996), where Robbie Williams had reached the peak of success on the pop scene, the British singer dared to go solo and published Life through a Lens in 1997. It was a success, especially thanks to the hit ‘Angels’, which came out in December and didn’t stop playing throughout the following year. A new star was born. Robbie Williams’ career moved at the crest of the wave during the period 1997-2002, posting other #1 hits like ‘Rock DJ’ (2000) or ‘Feel’ (2002). It is estimated that he has sold 75 million records worldwide.

1998: the end of the century approaches

1998 is not a year that produced a great deal of success. Old glories like Cher or Aerosmith got important number ones, and new artists like Shania Twain hit the music charts with force.

Although she had released Come on Over at the end of 1997, Shania Twain was very smart to put out singles for several months until the year 2000. No doubt that allowed the public to continue buying the CD for a long time: the first single came out in September 1997 (‘Love Gets Me Everytime’) and the last one in July of the year 2ooo (‘I’m Holdin’ On to Love’). Between those two dates Shania Twain became gold with hits like ‘You’re Still the One’ (1998), ‘When’ (1998), ‘That Don’t Impress Me Much’ (1998), ‘Man! I Feel Like a Woman’ (1999) or ‘Come on Over’ (1999). Without a doubt, it is an album that deserves to be heard, if only for historical curiosity: it is the third best-selling album in history!

In 1998 the Swedish Emilia also released hits with her famous ‘Big Big World’, the alternatives Semisonic with ‘Closing Time’ or The Offspring with their funny ‘Pretty Fly’. This year the historic video games Age of Empires and StarCraft for Windows went on sale, and very similar movies were released, such as ‘Armaggedon’ and ‘Deep Impact’ or ‘Bugs’ and ‘Antz’. How much did it cost them later to remember which one they had seen! What was the meteorite? And in both of them there was a leading ant?

1999: the crazy life

To the rhythm of ‘All Star’ or ‘Mambo No. 5’ the world danced to the end of the 20th century. Eurodance sounds came from the unforgettable ‘Blue’, which everyone who has been a child in the nineties remembers, and the desire to jump among adolescents was matched by the appearance of young pop stars like Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera, who released their first albums that same year, when they were only 17 and 19 years old, respectively.

The world was preparing for the end of the Millennium (you don’t live that every day). In the European Union a single currency was established, the Euro, in Japan young people bought the new Pokemon Gold and Silver, and in the Netherlands one of the most influential programs in the history of television was released: Big Brother.

Musically, 1999 can be remembered as the year of Californication , the famous Red Hot Chili Peppers album. It sold more than 16 million copies (the biggest Red Hot hit) and included hits like ‘Scar Tissue’, ‘Otherside’ or ‘Californication’, which did not stop playing on the radio throughout the year. It is also the year we met Dido, who released No Angel , the album that contained hits like ‘Here With Me’ or ‘Thank You’, and which was released progressively between 1999 and 2000. An experimental album that blends pop with electronica , trip hop, folktronica and dream pop.

In 1999 there were several hits that still sound in bars and radio stations, such as ‘All Star’ or ‘Mambo No. 5’, songs that are already part of popular culture and that we have all heard at some point. The typical songs that sound and of which few know the author.

1999 is also the year in which teen pop , or adolescent pop, experienced its definitive push thanks to the aforementioned appearances by Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears, who took to an already fairly populated stage, with groups like the Back Street Boys ( since 1993), the Spice Girls (1994), NSYNC (1995), Savage Garden (1993).

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