The 1990s presented a wind of change in the music industry. Hair metal was on its way out, and the angst-riddled youth of Generation X was ready for something that spoke to them. In 1991, Nirvana released Nevermind, and the grunge music scene was officially underway. While many bands would follow suit, others chose to forge their own path, and define a sound all by themselves. The rise of hip-hop to the front and center of mainstream music was another major part of the music scene in the 1990s, as was the rebirth of boy bands for pop music.
To say that the 1990s offered a wide array of genres on the radio is an understatement. MTV was a huge part of many acts' success, so artists from all different facets of music had a shot at making it big and collecting a quick buck. An interesting video combined with a catchy melody was a recipe for success. I mean, how else do you explain Barbie Girl being as big as it was? It was quirky, catchy, and was widely accepted in a time where many genres were able to succeed.
Some of the songs on released during the 1990s still have us singing along two decades later. The possibilities for this list are endless, and I'm confident that you'll let me know in the comments section some tracks that you feel should have been included. The songs found on this list are some of the catchiest tunes in a decade that had too many songs to possibly sing along to. While there are a number of others that hold a place in your heart, these songs encompass a number of different genres, and still keep audiences singing right along.
15 Bittersweet Symphony - The Verve (1997)
To start our list, I've selected a song that's title is very fitting for the circumstances surrounding its history, as well as a song that's music and lyrics have had the world hooked for nearly 20 years. In 1997, the English rock band The Verve burst onto the scene in the United States with the release of the song Bittersweet Symphony. The strings in the song are instantly recognizable, and Richard Ashcroft's lyrics had fans everywhere singing along.
14 C.R.E.A.M - Wu-Tang Clan (1994)
Straight from the slums of Shaolin, Wu-Tang Clan struck in a major way in 1993 with the release of my all-time favorite hip-hop album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). There was nothing like it at the time, and the Wu have always maintained a unique sound that is all their own. Though the album is packed with classics, few have withstood the test of time and have been as catchy as C.R.E.A.M has. Even though Ghostface is left off of the track, the group has more than enough talent to bring forth some real heat in its music.
13 Jumper - Third Eye Blind (1998)
Third Eye Blind exploded onto the scene in the 1990s, and choosing just one of their catchy songs to include on this list was a bit difficult. With its use in Jim Carrey's film Yes, Man, I chose to use this song because it got stuck in my head all over again. Coming out one year after its album's release, Jumper was a major hit for the California band, reaching as high as number five on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and cementing the band's popularity in the expiring decade.
12 Loser - Beck (1993)
For the last 30 years, Beck has made a living by producing his own unique brand of music that seems to go against the grain. He can't really be placed into one specific genre, and the multi-instrumentalist has proven his talents time and time again, despite being quirky as hell. Make no mistake about it; Beck is as talented as they come, and in 1993, his song Loser would bring him his first taste of mainstream success.
11 MMMBop - Hanson (1997)
As a product of the 1990s this song never fails to crack me up. I remember 1997 like it was yesterday, and Hanson became a phenomenon with the release of MMMBop. My dad would tease me mercilessly about liking the track, and I denied with such passion that I'm sure that he was able to see right through my Hanson loving facade. How could anyone not like this song?
10 California Love - 2pac ft. Dr. Dre (1995)
Perhaps the biggest song released in his legendary career, 2pac's California Love is an ode to the greatest state in the United States, and is still a banger in the state all these years later. Released as a double A-side with How Do U Want It just one year before his tragic death, California Love was a massive success for 2pac, reaching the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100.
9 Two Princes - Spin Doctors (1993)
Two Princes by the Spin Doctors holds a unique distinction in the sense that very few people know the actual title of the song. Most would assume that it's called Just Go Ahead Now, as those words are used during the hook of the song. Nevertheless, the band's 1993 single was a huge success, and is one of the most recognizable songs of the decade.
8 Under the Bridge - Red Hot Chili Peppers (1992)
1991 was a huge year for music. Pearl jam released their album Ten, Nirvana released Nevermind, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers released Blood Sugar Sex Magik. The three classic albums were all released within a month's time, and the music industry would be forever grateful. In the case of Blood Sugar Sex Magik, it included some of the Chili Pepper's biggest songs, but no song in their catalogue has been able to duplicate the success of Under the Bridge.
7 Smells Like Teen Spirit - Nirvana (1991)
This is the song that catalyzed an entire movement in the 1990s. Nirvana's album Nevermind is regarded as one of the greatest in music history, and Smells Like Teen Spirit is the band's most recognizable hit to date. While Kurt Cobain's guitar playing on the track has been compared to More Than a Feeling by Boston, no one can deny how insanely catchy that intro riff truly is.
6 Macarena - Los Del Rio (1995)
I'll be completely honest here; I have absolutely no idea what this song is about. I couldn't tell you the lyrics, and I sure as hell can't explain how it seemed to randomly catch fire around the world in 1995. Nevertheless, here I am 20 years later writing about it. Written and recorded by Los Del Rio, Macarena was a phenomenon in the 1990s, and I have truly horrible memories of doing the dance at middle school dances in my awkward youth.
5 I Want It That Way - Backstreet Boys (1999)
Towards the end of the decade, the rebirth of boy bands helped redo the landscape in pop music. The early 1990s saw a decline in the groups, as New Kids on the Block eventually faded away. Lou Pearlman (yes, the crooked one himself) helped bring boy bands to relevancy, and he was manager for both the Backstreet Boys and NSYNC. The Backstreet Boys were successful beyond words, and I Want It That Way dominated the radio in 1999.
4 Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) - Green Day (1997)
Prior to the release of their album Nimrod, Green Day helped spark the 1990s punk revival with the success of their album Dookie. The punk scene in Berkeley, CA helped the genre become relevant again, and bands like Green Day and Rancid are to thank for that. This song, however, is as far away from punk as one can get. The song was a drastic change in sound for the band, but would be one of the biggest songs of the decade.
3 Wonderwall - Oasis (1995)
English rock band Oasis has had quite the history. On one hand, the band has cranked out some incredible music, and Wonderwall may be the best of the lot. On the other hand, the band was unstable at best, as brothers Noel and Liam Gallagher have had no problem in publicly calling each other out, and even getting into fights during live performances. Despite it all, Oasis was one of the best bands of the 1990s and Wonderwall is one of the decade's catchiest tunes.
2 Enter Sandman - Metallica (1991)
Metallica is the biggest metal band that has ever walked the planet. In the 1980's Metallica, along with Megadeth, Slayer, and Anthrax would bring thrash metal to household worldwide, and would encourage the youth of the 1980's to grow out their hair and wear way too much denim. As the decade progressed, the band continued to build on their popularity and expand their sound. At the turn of the decade, Metallica would release their album Metallica (often referred to as The Black Album), and the band's change in sound brought both backlash and massive sales.
1 Killing Me Softly - The Fugees (1996)
It's not often that a cover version of a song becomes the definitive version, but that's exactly what happened back in 1996 when The Fugees unleashed Killing Me Softly. The original version, performed by Lori Lieberman, was a smash hit back in the 1970's and the song has been covered many times since. Appearing on The Fugees classic album The Score (which is one of the greatest albums of all-time), Killing Me Softly provided enough spark to garner a certification of 6x platinum.
Sung by Lauryn Hill, most people would assume that it's a solo song by the artist, as the other members of the group are virtually non-existent on the song. While her own record The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill solidified her as a bonafide star, her work on Killing Me Softly is what warmed people up to the talented singer. The song would go on to win a Grammy Award, and the music video would win an MTV Video Music Award. Killing Me Softly helped define the group's legacy, and remains one of the catchiest songs ever written.
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