The '90s was a decade-long turning point for music. It was the era where grunge exploded, the Riot Grrrl movement changed punk forever, and rap and hip-hop moved into the mainstream cultural consciousness. When the top hits of the decade are often compiled, there are so many interesting songs that get overlooked. From tracks that came out of underground movements to one-hit wonders that never received proper recognition, many songs from the '90s deserve more appreciation. For whatever reason, certain artists and tracks are forgotten over time, but it's never too late to revisit some of these songs from the decade.
It's difficult to decide which genre experienced the greatest renaissance during the '90s. Over those 10 years, music drastically evolved and shifted. Technological advancements in music recording and distribution, as well as a changing social and political climate, impacted music of the era, and both factors influenced music. It was a time where women in particular were fighting for a place in the music industry, and their achievements during this period should be recognized. If you are putting together a '90s playlist and want to make sure that important artists or songs aren't getting left behind, be sure to check out the list below:
1. "Feels Blind" — Bikini Kill
Before Bikini Kill hit the punk scene in the Pacific Northwest, the genre largely excluded women. The three rebellious musicians who made up the band, singer Kathleen Hanna, bassist Kathi Wilcox, and drummer Tobi Vail, were sick of punk's male-dominated culture. Their music blasted open a space for female musicians in all genres, but they are often overlooked in music history.
2. "Modern Girl" — Sleater-Kinney
Speaking of Riot Grrrl punk in the Pacific Northwest, let's not forget the formidable Sleater-Kinney. While the band has had a bit of resurgence over the past few years, especially with the release of No Cities To Love in 2015, they struggled to be recognized in the male-dominated industry of the '90s. It wasn't until recently that the world started to truly celebrate Sleater-Kinney's accomplishments, and if you're just getting into the band now, I highly recommend going back through their early '90s discography in case you missed a great song like "Modern Girl".
3. "Fade Into You" — Mazzy Star
This song is pure nostalgia and sadness, and it is definitely one of the decade's most underrated ballads. In fact, I would go as far as to say Mazzy Star is one of the decade's most underrated bands. In a period where alternative rock grew in popularity and influence, the band was just as iconic as any of their alt-rock peers.
4. "Waterfalls" — TLC
While TLC is perhaps most well known for their hit "No Scrubs", this slower and more sentimental song is just as much of a jam. It came out in 1994, a few years before the group really rose to superstardom, and it was a sign of all the talent to come.
5. "Linger" — The Cranberries
The Cranberries were also a massively successful group to come out of this decade, and while "Dreams" was their biggest hit, this single deserves just as much love. The band has reunited in 2017, so now is better time than ever to revisit their classics.
6. "U.N.I.T.Y." — Queen Latifah
The '90s was a key era for rap music, and Queen Latifah wanted to make sure that women had a place in the movement. Since the star went on to have a successful acting career, her beginnings in music are often forgotten. This song remains relevant, as it's a powerful response to how women are disrespected by society and culture.
7. "Shadowboxer" — Fiona Apple
Fiona Apple was a controversial figure in the '90s, especially after her notorious VMAs speech in 1997. She was an artist who truly stood up for herself, and was labeled as a rebel. Unfortunately, the media's perception of Apple often overshadowed her true achievements as a musician, and there are so many classic songs on her debut album "Tidal".
8. "Cool Schmool" — Bratmobile
Bratmobile were another amazing punk band to come out of the decade, and their music inspired pop and punk groups of the next generation. Even though the band have been super influential, people don't always remember them.
9. "Como La Flor" — Selena
Selena is one of the decade's most iconic pop stars, yet her legacy doesn't often get the recognition in mainstream culture. Fans might know "Bidi Bidi Bom Bom" as the star's most famous track, but "Como La Flor" is just as worth the listen.
10. "Cannonball" — The Breeders
The Breeders are another band who pioneered alt-rock in the '90s but don't share nearly enough of the credit. Singer and bassist Kim Deal would become most well known for her work with The Pixies, but her own band is just as worthy of grunge appreciation.
11. "Not A Pretty Girl" — Ani DiFranco
Folk-rock was on the rise in the '90s, and Ani DiFranco was one of the most noteworthy singer-songwriters. Her unapologetic songs paved the way for messier, more honest female voices in folk music. "Not A Pretty Girl" was her biggest single, and her legacy is worth revisiting.
12. "Expression" — Salt-N-Pepa
Salt-N-Pepa are one of the most important, and not to mention danceable, groups to come out of the '90s. While everyone knows staples like "Shoop" and "Let's Talk About Sex", some of the group's earlier hits are just as important. "Expression" is an empowering track that, like most of the rap collective's work, feels good to listen to no matter what the decade.
13. "Bull In The Heather" — Sonic Youth
The friendship between Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon and Bikini Kill's Kathleen Hanna peaked when Hanna appeared in the band's video for "Bull In The Heather". There's a reason that Hanna chose this song for the cameo, as it's one of the band's strangest and best.
14. "Ready Or Not" — The Fugees
The Fugees' album The Score, released in 1996, is significant for many reasons. It launched the careers of soul singer Lauryn Hill and Wyclef Jean, and it was one of the first hip-hop collaboratives to hit mainstream radio. This song is probably familiar to listeners, but the many people may not know the history behind it.
All of these songs are part of what made the '90s such an iconic and influential decade, even if they don't always get the appreciation they deserve. Many of these artists were pioneers, or paved the way in an industry that is often exclusionary. Next time you're looking for some music to feel that '90s nostalgia, these tracks are definitely worth revisiting.