Though we might have all grown up listening to completely different genres of music and become radically different people to one another since then, there is one thing that can always unite the millennial generation — and that's those songs that every millennial knows the lyrics to. You know exactly the sort of scenario where this makes itself abundantly clear, too: You're at some kind of a social gathering, maybe there's even a little (or a lot) of wine going around, and you're beginning to think that you might not have anything in common with these people when a song comes on with the power to unite every single one of you.
Whether you actually like the song in question is completely irrelevant, because somehow these songs have surreptitiously sunken their teeth into your subconscious and have refused to let you go. Sometimes you won't even be aware that you actually know all the words to a certain song, but here you are, dancing on top of a table reciting Britney Spears word-for-word. The truth is that the majority of these songs are prime slices of ‘90s and early 2000s nostalgia, and throughout that wonder decade of MTV music video marathons, group hangs at friends’ houses, and vast collections of TV and movie soundtracks, these throwback songs have repeatedly entered our lives and become non-erasable parts of collective identities.
1. Coolio - "Gangsta's Paradise"
I'm not even going to lie to you, this song is legit one of my all-time favorites, and I've rapped it (badly) more times than I ever probably should have. And in all likelihood, so have you.
Power and the money, money and the power / Minute after minute, hour after hour / Everybody's running, but half of them ain't looking / What's going on in the kitchen, but I don't know what's cookin'
2. Will Smith - "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It"
I'll bet you're probably thinking, "Nah, I definitely don't know all the lyrics to this," but just you give it another listen and as soon as you hear that melody drop I can promise you, you definitely do.
Everybody lookin' at me / Glancin' the kid / Wishin' they was dancin' a jig / Here with this handsome kid / Ciga-cigar right from Cuba-Cuba / I just bite it / It's for the look / I don't light it
3. Spice Girls - "Wannabe"
Every. Word. Even the rap. Spice Girls fans, don't you try to deny it.
What do you think about that now you know how I feel / Say you can handle my love are you for real / I won't be hasty, I'll give you a try / If you really bug me then I'll say goodbye.
4. Ace Of Base - "All That She Wants"
OK, so things might get a little mumbly on the verses, but you know damn well that when that chorus kicks in that you'll be singing (and whistling) along.
It is a night for passion / But the morning means goodbye / Beware of what is flashing in her eyes / She's going to get you
5. Alanis Morrisette - "You Oughta Know"
The anthem of empowerment for all jilted lovers, "You Oughta Know" is the furious rant that you still keep stealthily locked up in your heart in case of emergencies.
'Cause the joke that you laid on the bed that was me / And I'm not gonna fade / As soon as you close your eyes and you know it / And every time I scratch my nails down someone else's back / I hope you feel it... well can you feel it?
6. TLC - "No Scrubs"
Bafflingly, it's 2021 and guys are still hanging out the passenger side of their best friend's ride to holler at us, so there's a good reason why we will never forgot these particular lyrics.
A scrub is checkin' me / But his game is kinda weak / And I know that he cannot approach me / 'cause I'm lookin' like class and he's lookin' like trash / Can't get with a dead-beat ass
7. Lisa Loeb - "Stay (I Missed You)"
If there is a way to be anything other than totally in love with this song until our dying days, then I'd love to hear it.
Some of us hover when we weep for the other who was / dying since the day they were born / well, this is not that / I think that I'm throwing, but I'm thrown.
8. Nada Surf - "Popular"
OK, so this one's definitely a little more obscure, but I have definitive proof that there's a subsection of millennials who know every lyric to this tremendous song and can act each line out as dramatically as the song deserves.
Make sure to keep your hair spotless and clean / Wash it at least every two weeks / Once every two weeks! / And if you see Johnny football hero in the hall / Tell him he played a great game / Tell him you like his article in the school newspaper!
9. Aerosmith - "I Don't Want to Miss A Thing"
Listen, you don't want to admit it and neither do I, but we both know that we've somehow memorized every last lyric to this song. Personally, I blame Ben Affleck.
I just wanna hold you close / I feel your heart so close to mine / And just stay here in this moment / For all the rest of time, yeah, yeah, yeah!
10. Beastie Boys - "Intergalactic"
And you totally do the robot over the chorus, right? Every time.
Jazz and Awol that's our team / Step inside the party disrupt the whole scene / When it comes to beats well I'm a fiend / I like my sugar with coffee and cream
11. Britney Spears - "...Baby One More Time"
I mean, there are probably more than a few Britney songs we could be including here, if we're being perfectly honestly with ourselves.
Oh baby, baby / The reason I breathe is you / Boy you got me blinded / Oh pretty baby / There's nothing that I wouldn't do
12. Semisonic - "Secret Smile"
Now that we can kind of all agree that "Secret Smile" is actually a euphemism for something super grown up and a little naughty, it only makes those lyrics all the more fun to sing, right? That's maturity, my friends.
So use it and prove it / Remove this whirling sadness / I'm losing, I'm bluesing / But you can save me from madness
13. Backstreet Boys - "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)"
I mean, this Backstreet Boys bop had to make the list, of course.
Now throw your hands up in the air / Wave them around like you just don't care / If you wanna party let me hear you yell / Cuz we got it goin' on again
14. Missy Elliott - "Work It"
Absolute, complete lyrical genius.
Let's get drunk, that's gonna' bring us closer / Don't I look like a Halle Berry poster / See the Belvedere playin' tricks on ya
15. Hole - "Celebrity Skin"
It's 100% impossible to sing any of these lyrics without instantly lifting your leg up on a chair, strumming your thigh like a guitar, and doing your rawest Courtney Love impression.
Oh, make me over / I'm all I wanna be / A walking study / In demonology!
16. Limp Bizkit - "Rollin'"
I add this song with deep regrets. Limp Bizkit continues to haunt me to this day, but I also inexplicably know so many lyrics.
You wanna mess with Limp Bizkit? (yeah) / You can't mess with Limp Bizkit (why?) / because we get it on every day, and every night (oh)
17. The Cardigans - "Lovefool"
The Romeo + Juliet soundtrack was killer, right?
Reason will not lead to solution / I will end up lost in confusion / I don't care if you really care / As long as you don't go
18. Bran Van 3000 - "Drinking In LA"
Quite possibly one of the weirdest and greatest one-hit wonders of the ‘90s.
I woke up again this morning with the sun in my eyes / When Mike came over with a script surprise / A Mafioso story with a twist, / A "Too Wong Foo, Julie Newmar" hitch / Get your ass out of bed, he said: I'll explain it on the way.
19. Marcy Playground - "Sex And Candy"
Speaking of weird and wonderful songs of the ‘90s, this one comes pretty high up on that list, too. Get yourself a tall drink, sit back, and just let those lyrics out.
And then there she was / In platform double suede / Yeah there she was / Like disco lemonade
20. Eagle Eye Cherry - "Save Tonight"
Eagle Eye Cherry was a tall, talented jar of man honey, and this song speaks right to the heart of anyone who longs to sip wine next to a roaring fire for one final night with a dream babe.
There's a log on the fire / And it burns like me for you / Tomorrow comes with one desire / To take me away (ohh it's true)
21. Weezer - "Buddy Holly"
This song is just total joy, is it not?
What's with these homies, dissing my girl? / Why do they gotta front? / What did we ever do to these guys / That made them so violent?
22. Kelis - "Caught Out There"
If you're anything like me, then you know every lyric from Kelis' debut album, Kaleidoscope, but this is the one that everyone knows.
So sick of your games / I'll set your truck to flames / And watch it blow up, blow up, (ha-ha-ha) tell me: / How you gonna see it now?
23. *NSYNC - "Bye Bye Bye"
You may hate me, but it ain't no lie — you know every line.
I'm giving up I know for sure / I don't wanna be the reason for your love no more/ Bye Bye / I'm checkin' out / I'm signin' off / Don't wanna be the loser and I've had enough
24. Fountains of Wayne - “Stacy’s Mom”
Not sure why a song from the perspective of a prepubescent boy is so undeniably catchy, but it works. The combination of humor and classic early 2000s pop rock in this song is unmatched.
Stacy, can I come over after school? / We can hang out around by the pool / Did your mom get back from her business trip? / Is she there, or is she trying to give me the slip?
25. Oasis - “Wonderwall”
There’s a reason it’s everyone’s go-to song on the acoustic guitar.
Backbeat, the word is on the street that the fire in your heart is out / I’m sure you’ve heard it all before, but you never really had a doubt
26. The Verve - “Bitter Sweet Symphony”
Something about the violins in this song makes it sound so cinematic and emotionally intense that you just have to scream the lyrics.
I let the melody shine, let it cleanse my mind, I feel free now / But the airwaves are clean and there’s nobody singing to me now
27. Natalie Imbruglia - “Torn”
This is a certified sing-your-heart-out banger, regardless of whether it's at a throwback dance party or just in your living room with a glass of wine.
Illusion never changed / Into something real / I’m wide awake and I can see / The perfect sky is torn
28. Third Eye Blind - “Semi-Charmed Life”
Not that any of us really knew what we were singing about when this song came on back in the day.
I believe in the sand beneath my toes / The each gives a feeling, an earthy feeling / I believe in the faith that grows / And the four right chords can make me cry
29. Destiny’s Child - “Say My Name”
Early Queen Bey! Back when she was just a little worker bee. This song still holds up as very singable.
If you took it there, first of all, let me say (say) / I am not the one to sit around and be played / So prove yourself to me, if I’m the girl that you claim (claim) / Why don’t you say the things that you said to me yesterday? (yesterday)
30. Vanilla Ice - “Ice Ice Baby”
I don’t think anyone would willingly call this song their favorite retro track, but we all certainly know (most of) the lyrics.
Dance, rush the speaker that booms / I’m killing your brain like a poisonous mushroom / Deadly when I play a dope melody / Anything less than the best is a felony
31. Christina Aguilera - “Genie In A Bottle”
There’s no throwback list complete without the other reigning princess of pop at the time.
The music’s bangin’ and the lights down low / Just one more dance and then we’re good to go / Waiting for someone who needs me / Hormones racin’ at the speed of light / But that don’t mean it’s gotta be tonight
32. Goo Goo Dolls - “Iris”
There may be no more screamable anthem in the history of millennial songs than this one.
And you can’t fight the tears that ain’t coming / Or the moment of truth in your lies / When everything feels like the movies / Yeah, you bleed just to know you’re alive
33. Wheatus - “Teenage Dirtbag”
Good ol’ ‘90s teenage self-deprecation — and we love a good storyline.
She rings my bell / I got gym class in half an hour / Oh, how she rocks / In Keds and tube socks
34. The Cranberries - “Linger”
This brooding alt-rock ballad is timeless Irish poetry and a truly iconic piece of ‘90s music culture.
You know I'm such a fool for you / You've got me wrapped around your finger / Do you have to let it linger?
35. Céline Dion - “My Heart Will Go On”
What is the ‘90s without Leo and Kate? You’d be pressed to find a millennial who doesn’t know every single lyric and vocal riff of this song.
Love can touch us one time / And last for a lifetime / And never let go 'til we're gone
Now, there are probably dozens of songs that I've somehow forgotten about that should be on this list. And I'm sure I'll be reminded of exactly what they are at the next party I attend, when I suddenly realize that I know the words to far more songs than I'd care to.
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