There are few things cuter than watching a kid innocently sing a completely inappropriate song. I know this because it appears to be one of the philosophies YouTube was founded on. Growing up in the '90s, there were more than enough sexually explicit, drug-fueled anthems to go around. Between New Kids on the Block and The Backstreet Boys, there was a whole world full of catchy tunes that my young ears could not entirely comprehend. Did that keep me from belting out Boyz II Men's "I'll Make Love To You"? No, no it did not... to be honest, that was probably one of the more innocent of the '90s songs that were totally not kid-friendly.
I know I'm not alone here: You and your besties sang these tunes on the playground too. What's curious is how rare it was for adults to actually call out a kid for crooning "Strawberry Wine." Either it was a more innocent time all around, or teachers just weren't paid enough to shutdown impromptu elementary school group performances of "Baby Got Back."
Either way, even Kidz Bop couldn't make these nine hit songs from the '90s more appropriate for children. Listen to them all below and be prepared to marvel at exactly what you got away with saying under the guise of musical expression.
1. "Mouth," Merril Bainbridge (1995)
Bainbridge's voice is so deceptively sweet, it's hard to tell if she's singing an earnest love song or an anthem about going downtown on a guy unless you really pay attention. "Turn you upside down/Don't want to waste it" doesn't exactly sound like a metaphor when it is accompanied by talks of turning someone on, using restraints, and tasting mouths. I look back on 9-year-old me and cringe because "Mouth" was legit my favorite song in fourth grade.
2. "Sex & Candy," Marcy Playground (1997)
There's just no defending this one. The lyrics include talk of sex, drug use, and some serious tripping out going on. This guy doesn't even know who's in his bed or his chair! Go ahead, think about all the times you sang along with this song when you still thought sex involved fade-outs and strategically placed blankets on Beverly Hills 90210, and your only exposure to drugs was Jessie Spano's Saved By the Bell caffeine pill breakdown.
3. "Baby's Got Back," Sir Mix A Lot (1992)
It's so bad, guys. Parents everywhere, what were you thinking?
4. "You Oughta Know," Alanis Morissette (1995)
The angriest breakup song of all time was beyond popular when it came out, and there are no metaphors here. Morissette talks going down in theaters, breakup sex, and is just generally not a happy camper. At least you learned at a young age that love could suck — hopefully, everything else went right over your prepubescent head.
5. "I'll Make Love To You," Boyz II Men (1994)
The youngest members of the audience should know there's like a 45 percent chance they were conceived to this song. You're welcome.
6. "Whoomp! There It Is," Tag Team (1993)
Even if you only ever heard the cut version sans profanity, this song is still ridiculously suggestive. If your parents ever caught onto this one, your jumping around your room jam would have been tossed out the window for sure.
7. "Don't Go Chasing Waterfalls," TLC (1994)
It is so obvious now that this song is about death, joining gangs, HIV, and sadness — but when I was a kid, I just focused on the chorus which seemed to be a cautionary tale about chasing bad boys. This was a message a goody-two-shoes like myself used to illustrate to all my friends why Tommy from the Power Rangers should not be their crush because he had too many issues.
8. "Semi-Charmed Life," Third Eye Blind (1997)
Hey, kids! Want some help getting through your semi-charmed life? How about some hard drugs? This song is so obviously about meth and rough sex now that it makes me yearn for the days when I couldn't comprehend any of the lyrics.
9. "Steal My Sunshine," Len (1999)
I'm going to leave you with one of the most cheerful songs ever written about depression. That's right, this sweet late '90s entry may not be as overtly inappropriate as some of the other songs on this list, but it is very clearly about being depressed and surrounding yourself with other people who were depressed.
Weren't the '90s great? So innocent and full of songs destined to teach kids about casual hookups, drug use, and unrelenting sadness.