Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Question: Music Of The 90's

I'm working on putting together a compilation of songs from the '90's for one of my younger sisters who pretty much missed that decade musically, because of her age. Now I confess, I only really caught the second half of the decade myself, however, it seems to me that the mid-to-late-'90's were a high point in music. Maybe everyone feels that way about the music of their high school years, but I stand by it.

The problem is narrowing down the list of songs. I'm only making one CD, which means roughly 20 songs, probably a few less. Right now I've got quite a sizable list of songs to pick from. I'm gonna throw it out here, and I'd like people recommendations. Folks like Ben and Jeff and Mike, I'm expecting you to come through for me here. Other regular readers who have any insight into music from the '90's, your insight is also much appreciated.

Pick as many as 20 songs that you would include on a '90's album. They don't have to be ones on my list, as I'm sure I've overlooked some good ones. And I'm not going for just representative stuff (you'll notice there are no boy band songs), I'm going for the songs I think people who missed '90's music should make sure they hear. I won't do more than 1 by any single artist though, so keep that in mind. Some artists have multiple nominations, so pick between them.

Now, without further ado, the list of potential songs:

Alanis Morissette - Hand in My Pocket
Barenaked Ladies - If I Had $1,000,000/One Week
Beck - Loser
Billy Joel - River of Dreams
Cake - Sheep Go to Heaven/Stickshifts & Safetybelts
Chumbawumba - Thubthumping
Collective Soul - The World I Know
Corky & The Juice Pigs - The Only Gay Eskimo
Counting Crows - Mr. Jones/Round Here
The Cranberries - Zombie
Crash Test Dummies - Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm
Dave Matthews Band - Crash
Deana Carter - Strawberry Wine
Everclear - Wonderful
Fastball - The Way
Garbage - Special
Gin Blossoms - Follow You Down
Goo Goo Dolls - Iris/Name
Green Day - Basket Case/When I Come Around
Harvey Danger - Flagpole Sitta
Joan Osborne - What If God Was One Of Us
Lit - My Own Worst Enemy
Local H - Bound For The Floor
Macy Gray - I Try
Matchbox Twenty - Real World
Marilyn Manson - The Beautiful People
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones - The Impression That I Get
Moby - Run On/Porcelain
Natalie Merchant - Kind & Generous
New Radicals - You Get What You Give
No Doubt - Spiderwebs
Nirvana - Smells Like Teen Spirit
Oasis - Wonderwall
The Offspring - Pretty Fly (For A White Guy)
Pearl Jam - Better Man
Prince - Pussy Control
Radiohead - Creep
R.E.M. - Losing My Religion/Night Swimming
Red Hot Chili Peppers - Californication
Reel Big Fish - She's Got A Girlfriend Now
Santana - Smooth
Shawn Mullins - Lullaby
Sheryl Crow - If It Makes You Happy/Strong Enough To Be My Man
Simpsons Cast/Michael Jackson - Happy Birthday, Lisa
Sixpence None The Richer - Kiss Me
Smash Mouth - Walkin' On The Sun
Soul Asylum - Runaway Train
Spin Doctors - Jimmy Olsen's Blues
Third Eye Blind - Semi-Charmed Life
Tori Amos - Cornflake Girl
Train - Meet Virginia
Tracy Chapman - Give Me One Reason
Verve Pipe - The Freshmen
The Wallflowers - One Headlight
Weezer - The Sweater Song

Ok, there you have it. Advise away!

Tonight I'm gonna party like it's 1999


AGJ said...

Oh Matt, finally a subject that I can really sink my teeth into. First off, are you looking for the best of the top ten or more the most influential? Maybe you are looking for break-out hits. You are right to stray from the Boy Bands, but why is this? The reason: Over-played and still regulars on the "Top-40" stations. I will follow up with not to put on the playlist and then I will suggest what I would put on as the most influential/best of the '90's.

Just remember to end with "Closing Time" by MN's own Semisonic.

AGJ said...

90's Music

This was the decade of independent movement. It was also the era of slackers and under-achievement. It was the age of "Sophmore-Slump" - whereas the best music of the bands were typically in the Second Album, not their breakthrough.
This will be remembered as one of the greatest times in music history. Many influences and cultures started to come together at once. It was the age of rap; it was the age of cutting the long hair of stadium rock; it was the end of rock excess; it was the age of plaid; the second coming of rebellion; a new sexual revolution; a new dress code deemed appropriate by the wearer. It was the '90's... and man do I miss those years.

Nate said...

Matt, This is a really unfair assignment, we are talking about arguably the best musical decade ever! As such, coming up with any list of 20 will by definition leave out way too much, especially with the 1 song per artist stipulation, to try and define the greatness of a band with a single song is ludicrous! Anyways, I did what I could.

1. Hand in My Pocket(Alanis Morisette)
2. If I had a $1,000,000 (BNL)
3. Dammit (Blink 182)
4. Runaround (Blues Traveler)
5. Machinehead (Bush)
6. Never there (Cake)
7. Mr. Jones (Counting Crows)
8. Zombie (Cranberries)
9. Wonderful (Everclear)
10. Lie in our Graves (DMB)
11. When I come Around (Green Day)
12. 3 AM (MB 20)
13. Smells like Teen Spirit (Nirvana)
14. Spiderwebs (No Doubt)
15. Alive (Pearl Jam)
16. Paranoid Android (Radiohead)
17. Otherside (RHCP)
18. Smooth (Santana)
19. Disarm (Smashing Pumpkins)
20. My Name is Jonas (Weezer)

Matthew B. Novak said...

Nate - That's exactly what makes it a great assignment. And look at how much agreement there is: 9 of your songs were on my list of potentials and there were only 4 artists that you thought I didn't represent.

You seemed to have stayed away from one-hit-wonders. Any reason? I think those are a big piece of any decade's best music, hence New Radicals, Sixpence, Harvey Danger, etc. There were lots of one-hits that I left off too (LEN's Steal My Sunshine, for example) because that can only take you so far, but I'm curious as to why you pretty much avoided them altogether?

My word verification is: barfomil. Which sounds like really bad tasting baby formula.

Mike said...

I actually made a two-CD 90's comp for Ben after he complained that his late arrival to the alt-rock scene had caused him to be grossly unaware of certain records. I will cull it for suggestions when I get home.

However, one piece of advice: trying to narrow it down to a single CD may be well nigh impossible. Any reason not to expand to at least two?

Quinn said...

This'll take some time. Finals week in my neck of the woods, so I'm afraid I can only watch this debate from afar. Might I make 2 quick statements - first, Vanilla Ice had his one hit in '91, and around that same time period Weird Al really broke out (maybe his second or third wind, I think, because he was big for my parents, too). Also, '90 is when Flood was released, no? Anyway, good discussion.

patric said...

I'm not gonna rank these, i'm just gonna give you 20....

Nirvana: Smells like Teen Spirit
Beck: Where It's At
Pearl Jam: Even Flow
Four Non Blondes: What's Up
Cranberries: Ode To My Family
Butthole Surfers: Pepper
Better Than Ezra: Good
Weezer: The Sweater Song
Blink 182: Dammit
GreenDay: Basketcase
Smashing Pumpkins: Today
No Doubt: Just A Girl
Weird Al Yankovic: Amish Paradise
Red Hot Chilli Peppers: Give It Away
Radiohead: Creep
Presidents of the USA: Lump
Crash Test Dummies: Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm
Garbage: Only Happy When it Rains
Stone Temple Pilots: Plush
Oasis: Wonderwall

Matthew B. Novak said...

Mike -

The point is to make it nigh impossible. That's what's so intruiging about the challenge. Anyone could come up with an unending list of great songs from the '90's. Putting a limit on it forces you to make the hard choices. That's more fun. The other, more practical, reason behind it is that realistically my sister is more likely to listen to and get to know and love one CD than she is two, where one will get overplayed and one underplayed, and so on. We're just laying a foundation here, not giving her the whole structure of music from the '90's.

Quinn -

Stick around. I'm sure this discussion will go on for a while, so when you get the chance, I'd love to hear your suggestions.

Patric -

No need to rank.

Two suggestions for Dammit by Blink 182. I've gotta confess, I'm not a big Blink fan. How strongly do people feel about that one?

Jeff said...

Man, so many places to go with this...

Nirvana - All Apologies
Soundgarden - Black Hole Sun
Live - All Over You
Smashing Pumpkins - 1979
Gin Blossoms - Hey Jealousy
Blues Traveler - Hook
Foo Fighters - Everlong
Semisonic - Closing Time (AGJ's right, gotta end with this one)
Green Day - Basketcase
RHCP - Under the Bridge
DMB - Satellite
Hootie and the Blowfish - Old Man & Me/Time (admit it, you rocked out to Hootie)
Our Lady Peace - Superman's Dead
Matchbox 20 - Push
Collective Soul - Shine
Seven Mary Three - Lucky
Mighty Joe Plum - Fifteen Stories
Toadies - Possum Kingdom
Sponge - Plowed
Guster - Airport Song/Rocketship

I think that's 20. There's so much I'm missing. Alanis? That Breeders song that was all over the radio in '98 or so? BNL? Bush? Beck? Cake? Yeesh...

And for the hell of it, you can definitely throw "Ice Ice Baby" (1990) in there for laughs. Or the heavy metal version (1998).

Emily R Powell said...

I basically chose from your list, but here are my picks:

1-Barenaked Ladies - One Week
2-Beck - Loser
3-Billy Joel - River of Dreams
4-Cake - Sheep Go to Heaven
5-Collective Soul - The World I Know
6-Counting Crows - Mr. Jones
7-Dave Matthews Band - Crash
8-Everclear - Wonderful
9-Joan Osborne - What If God Was One Of Us
10-Matchbox Twenty - Long Day
11-Natalie Merchant - Kind & Generous
12-No Doubt - Spiderwebs
13-R.E.M. - Losing My Religion
14-Red Hot Chili Peppers - Californication
15-Shawn Mullins - Lullaby
16-Sheryl Crow - If It Makes You Happy
17-Soul Asylum - Runaway Train
18-Third Eye Blind - Semi-Charmed Life
19-Tori Amos - Silent All These Years
20-The Wallflowers - One Headlight

Nate said...


I didnt purposefully avoid including any one hit wonders on my list, that was entirely coincidence. With such limited real estate, my goal was to include the absolutely indispensable. And to address the Blink 182 question, regardless of whether you like them or not, they were certainly a huge presence on the 90s music scene. But if you want to include a 1 hit wonder, then I vote for Semisonic, "Closing time".

AGJ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matthew B. Novak said...

Jeff -

Wow, that's a ton of groups not on my list! And the last song I deleted from the sample list was Hootie's "I Go Blind", which is one of my favorites of theirs. The more I think about it, the more they need to be on the list. Probably "Hold My Hand".

Emily -

I'm curious, how well do you feel you know the music of the '90's? Because you're kind of on that generational edge, right? I like having your insight into this for that reason. Thanks!

Nate/Everyone -

I suggested "My Own Worst Enemy" by Lit, almost in place of a Blink 182 song. I feel like that's a song that could be dropped into a Blink set and no one would know the difference. Thoughts?

Matthew B. Novak said...


LOL. Now you know my pain.

AGJ said...

Sorry Matt, I had to delete the last message. It was not prepared properly... please stay tuned for an edited version.

Stephanie said...

Whatta Man - Salt-n-Pepa & En Vogue
Nuthin' But a "G" Thang - Dr. Dre
Good Riddance - Green Day
Pink – Aerosmith
Make Em' Say Uhh!, Master P
I'll Be Missing You, Puff Daddy and Faith Evans
It's Your Love, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill
California Love - 2Pac
Head Over Feet - Alanis Morissette
Tha Crossroads - Bone thugs harmony
Spiderwebs - No Doubt
The Distance – Cake
All The Small Things - Blink 182
Crash Test Dummies- Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm
Pretty Fly For A White Guy - the Offspring
Ghetto Supastar - Pras Michel
Closing Time – Semisonic
Love Rollercoaster - Red Hot Chili Peppers
I'm Not A Player - Big Punisher
Everybody's free - Baz Luhrmann

Mike said...

I respect the challenge, but you should really care more about your sister's happiness than the challenge, and thus make at least two if not three CDs. :)

Anyway, new question: are we trying to find the best 20 songs of the 90s, or are we trying to find 20 songs that encapsulate the 90s? For example, Puff Daddy sucks, but if the goal is encapsulation, then he would probably need to make an appearance.

Emily R Powell said...

Matt, you're right - I am on the edge there. I'd say I'm fairly familiar but I'm pretty sure I discovered some of the music after the fact, including probably a good amount of what I picked. But, I think it's notable maybe even especially because of that reason--90's music that made a strong impression on me even if I didn't actually first hear it in the 90's.

Melanie said...

Just because you were looking for some help and I was bored at work :) Here's what I agree on and I think it's a fair assessment! :) Maybe you should put a "hidden track" as a secret surprise. I have so many memories from so many of these songs! Good luck with your final product! ~Melanie

1. Barenaked Ladies - If I Had $1,000,000/One Week
2. Chumbawumba - Thubthumping
3. Dave Matthews Band - Crash
4. Deana Carter - Strawberry Wine
5. Matchbox Twenty - Real World
6. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones - The Impression That I Get
7. No Doubt - Spiderwebs
8. Pearl Jam - Better Man
9. Prince - Pussy Control
10. Red Hot Chili Peppers - Californication
11. Third Eye Blind - Semi-Charmed Life
12. Sheryl Crow - If It Makes You Happy
13. Train - Meet Virginia
14. Sixpence None The Richer - Kiss Me
15. Smash Mouth - Walkin' On The Sun
16. Shawn Mullins - Lullaby
17. Gin Blossoms - Hey Jealousy
18. Tim McGraw and Faith Hill -
It's Your Love
19. Soul Asylum - Runaway Train
20. Semisonic - Closing Time

patric said...

my approach to this was a microcosm of what i remembered enjoying during the 90s. and then i thought about why i enjoyed them. basically it came down to what songs did i sing along with, and which songs do i still sing along with? i think that has a lot to do with my list. i want to recreate my 90s experience.

Matthew B. Novak said...

Mike -

Are we trying to find the best 20 songs of the 90s, or are we trying to find 20 songs that encapsulate the 90s?

Basically, some combination of the two. If I had to put it into a single formulation I would say "If you only had 20 songs from the '90's to play for a person (with no artist duplicates) which songs would you pick?"

Matthew B. Novak said...

Question for everyone:

Not a single person has gone with a Moby song. Seriously? Moby was EVERYWHERE in the late '90's. Can we honestly leave Moby off the list?

And only one person has included Oasis. That's a huge surprise.

archduke f. f. said...

This was absurdly difficult, and I'm still not satisfied with my list.

1. Nate Dogg and Warren G/Regulate
2. Oasis/Wonderwall
3. Beck/Where It's At
4. Wallflowers/One Headlight
5. DMB/Ants Marching
6. Blues Traveler/Run Around
7. Soul Coughing/Circles
8. The Cardigans/Lovefool
9. Green Day/When I Come Around
10. Weezer/Say it Ain't So
11. Elliot Smith/Angeles
12. Blur/Song 2
13. REM/Nightswimming
14. Third Eye Blind/Semi-Charmed Life
15. Beastie Boys/Sabotage
16. Ben Folds Five/Brick
17. Smashing Pumpkins/Today
18. Pearl Jam/Yellow Ledbetter
19. Nirvana/Come As You Are
20. Radiohead/Paranoid Android

Just missed: They Might Be Giants/Birdhouse in Your Soul

Goo Goo Dolls/Iris

Collective Soul/The World I Know

Semisonic/Closing Time

The Offspring/Come Out and Play *Do not, I repeat, DO NOT put "Pretty Fly for a White Guy" on any album, ever. Ever.

Matthew B. Novak said...

Oh, don't worry, Pretty Fly would never actually make it on. It's just there as a tribute to some of the ridiculous stuff that managed to be well recieved. It's fun enough, but not fun enough to be worth passing on.

Matthew B. Novak said...

Oh, and TMBG doesn't even get considered for this list because that band gets passed on on it's own merits. They're less of a '90's band, and more of their own phenomenon.

Quinn said...

Okay, finals have been grades, summer fates decided. I have a list, too. Mine's kind of representative of what I listened to in the 90s, but also what I think of when I think of the 90s. I also had the experience of moving across the country in the 90s, from Chevy Chase, MD to SLC. Big difference, and different music tastes, too. I think it has a significant impact on my list.

U Can’t Touch This – MC Hammer
Zombie – The Cranberries
Motownphilly or I’ll Make Love to You – Boyz II Men
Buddy Holly – Weezer
Give Me One Reason – Tracy Chapman
Gangsta’s Paradise – Coolio
Machinehead – Bush
Creep – Stone Temple Pilots
Spiderwebs – No Doubt
Where it’s at – Beck
Ice Ice Baby – Vanilla Ice
Smells Like Nirvana – Weird Al Yankovic
Mary Jane’s Last Dance – Tom Petty
Wrong Way – Sublime
Come out and play – The Offspring
Distance – Cake
All over You – Live
Intergalactic – The Beastie Boys
Bullet with Butterfly Wings – The Smashing Pumpkins
Roll to Me – Del Amitri

Quinn said...

Finals have been *graded*. Boy I'm tired. Anyway, to answer your question Matt, Moby wasn't even on my radar until I hit Collegeville. Strange, but I didn't even know that stuff existed.

Glad to see your TMBG note. I stressed that I had forgotten them, but glad to see they transcend decades.

Emily R Powell said...

I enjoy Moby a lot, but I only know post-90's stuff. So that's why there's no Moby on my list.

Jeff said...

Yeah, outside of "That's When I Reach For My Revolver," I don't remember hearing any Moby until "Play," which was released in '99 and didn't really get a lot of airtime until the decade was out. So I wouldn't consider "Southside" a '90s song (and that'd be the only Moby song I'd consider putting on anything.)

Things I'm surprised haven't come up yet:

Deep Blue Something - Breakfast at Tiffany's (still stuck in my head)

Toad the Wet Sprocket (just plain awesome band that no one remembers, apparently)

Edwin McCain and Darius Rucker - Solitude (I admit, I didn't hear this one until college...)

Blessid Union of Souls - Hey Leonardo (also still stuck in my head)

Lenny Kravitz (really? A '90s mix without Lenny?)

Eagle-Eye Cherry - Save Tonight (I'm pretty sure this was played on the radio every ten minutes back then)

Sister Hazel (more dismayed that I, of all people, forgot about them)

Meredith Brooks - Bitch (every girl who grew up in the '90s loves this song).

Indigo Girls (OK, technically "Closer to Fine was '89, but there's still a bunch of other stuff, and you can't tell me they weren't all over the place during the '90s)

Sarah McLachlan (we do seem to be shafting female artists not named "Alanis," don't we? Speaking of which, if we're going with a Natalie Merchant song, "Carnival" is far superior to "Kind & Generous")

I'm sure there's more.

patric said...

Breakfast At Tiffany's very nearly made my list. I actually took it off...

I never think of Moby as a 90s artist because he really became popular in the early 2000s.

I think there needs to be a good representation of the grunge / seatle music scene. the idea here is to make someone want to find more, right? if there's one-hit wonders, then there really isn't more to find.

Jeff said...

No Alice in Chains, either, though if Mike posts a list that problem would likely be remedied.

Patric's right, there does need to be a significant Seattle/grunge component to the disc, considering it's probably the biggest form of music to surface during the '90s...

Oh yeah, that Screaming Trees song should be on someone's list too. Screw it, Matt, just make a box set.

Anonymous said...

The early 90's ushered in Grunge. Pearl Jam's EVENFLOW, Nirvana's SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT, Soundgarden's FELL ON BLACK DAYS, Alice in Chains, SNUFF THE ROOSTER, and Stone Temple Pilots' INTERSTATE LOVE SONG.


AGJ said...

I ended up with a list of close to 150 songs. Once I got to Dinosaur Jr. and Hum I thought that I might have went too far.

Don't forget the eels. Never forget the eels.

Quinn said...

This was a great idea for a discussion, Matt. After all, I was never a huge fan of music in the 90's, but looking back at what you and every one else has brought up, there was some awesome stuff there. I'm now very jealous of the recipient of your CD. Good stuff, man.

patric said...

you can now hear some of the discussion on last night's episode of Patric Draws.

Ben said...

I'm coming in insanely late in this discussion because...well...I'm not checking blogs with as much regularity as I once did. As a result, everybody's covered most of my favorites. Trying to contribute something new......

I DID once have Mike make a mix CD for me of bands that simply couldn't muster a greatest-hits CD, but made some 90s hits. In that vein, I'd recommend..

Candlebox - Far Behind

Depending on whether you want to include the Godawful Rap-Rock Era that began at the very end of the '90s....

Limp Bizkit - Nookie
Kid Rock - Bawitdaba
Korn - Freak on a Leash

But why expose your sister to that crap?

Speaking of songs that have the word "freak" in it....

Marvelous 3 - Freak of the Week

Maybe the way to go is to include some of the truly great artists and representative samples of some of the major music movements of the 90s.

Major movements:

Grunge - (Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, Smashing Pumpkins)

Punk/Pop-punk - (Green Day, Blink 182 or some equivalent)

Lilith Fair-type solo female artists - (Alanis, Mclachlan, Jewel - how could you forget Jewel? - Shawn Colvin, Lisa Loeb)

90's Adult contemporary - (let's not and say we did)

Post-Grunge/2nd wave grunge - (Bush, Stone Temple Pilots)

Whatever it is No Doubt was.

And, yes....end with Closing Time. I ended my freakin' wedding reception with Closing Time. You HAVE to end with Closing Time.

AGJ said...

Hey Matt,

What was the final cut list? With all of these posts, it would be nice to know what the final playlist included.