The 90's: An Introduction
By Michele Kadison
Nineties music introduced a huge variety in musical styles and taste. Everything from pop, alternative, grunge, rap, punk, electronic, and one-hit-wonders hit the airwaves along with a wave of snazzy female musicians making huge inroads in the musical firmament. Musical artists turning up in the 90s opened up many horizons, and seemed to give each genre more permission to stretch its limits as far as possible.
The 90's: The Early Days
The early 90s brought in some great dance music with sounds from Technotronic "Pump Up The Jam", C&C Music Factory "Gonna Make Your Sweat/Everybody Dance Now", Snap "The Power", Madonna "Vogue", Sir Mix-A-Lot "Baby Got Back", MC Hammer "U Can't Touch This", Ton Loc "Wild Thing", and Vanilla Ice "Ice Ice Baby."
R&B artists had some stellar hits on the charts, with En Vogue "Hold On", Regina Belle "Make It Like It Was", Skyy "Real Love", Mariah Carey "Vision of Love", Jeffrey Osborne "Only Human", R. Kelly & Public Announcement "Honey Love R", and Jodeci "Stay".
Grunge was born with Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots, and Blind Melon. Nirvana's huge hit "Smells Like Teen Spirit" gave meaning to what was being depicted as a meaningless world and alternative music fans were well satisfied. Techno/house/dance music became a growing phenomenon as the wave of electronic music signified a more powerful entry of the culture into cyberspace. DJs began to become prominent as they created their own name-brand mixes for clubs around the world.
The 90's: The Halfway Point
Around 1995, music's darker side gave way to a lighter feel with bands coming up like Hootie and the Blowfish, the Bodeans, and Sister Hazel. Britney Spears and Cristina Aguilera blew open the charts, creating a sexy pop sound that resonated with a wide range of listeners. Sexual innuendo was becoming more provocative and overt, with videos to back up the heat. Boy bands such as N'Sync, Backstreet Boys, and 98 Degrees ruled the day with their harmonies and distinct personalities that gelled into an ideal music biz product.
Some really powerful bands were rising through the charts in the 90s. Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rage Against the Machine, Alice in Chains, the Goo Goo Dolls, the Foo Fighters, the Dave Matthews Band, Weezer, and Counting Crows all factored in strong during the decade. U2 was coming out with hits as strong as ever, Oasis had a hit with "Wonderwall" and REM issued their powerful song, "Losing My Religion." Punk bands like Greenday and the Offspring along with heavy metal bands such as Metallica, Guns and Roses, and Jane's Addiction were all strong influences on the music scene. Marilyn Manson typified the growing trend towards breaking down barriers in order to take the message to the limit.
Some of the strongest albums of the decade included "The Queen is Dead" by the Smiths, "Doolittle" by The Pixies, "It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back" by Public Enemy, "The Stone Roses" by The Stone Roses, and "Lies and Corruption" by New Order Power. Additionally we had the pivotal albums "Nevermind" from Nirvana, "Grace" from Jeff Buckley, "Blue Lines" from Massive Attack, "Different Class" from Pulp, and "The Good Sun" from Nick Cave.
On the R&B scene, En Vogue, Eryka Badu, Maxwell, Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, TLC, Toni Braxton, Luther Van Dross, and Janet Jackson were going strong. Hip hop and Goth also entered the charts, becoming more mainstream as these relatively new genres garnered radio play.
The 90's: Women of the 90's
90s music was the decade where more women appeared on pop charts than in any former time. Artists like Sheryl Crow, Jewel, Missy Elliott, Queen Latifah, Liz Phair, Erykah Badu, Paula Cole, Shawn Colvin, Tori Amos, and Emmy Lou Harris created a diversity in sound that rocked the scene and brought a lot of great music to the listening public. Throughout the 90s, Marian Carey was on the charts with nineteen hits; Gloria Estefan had nine; Shania Twain, Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, and Allanis Morisette all had seven; Madonna had six; and Janet Jackson had five.
From 1997 to 1999, Canadian singer, Sarah McLachlin created and toured the Lilith Fair, featuring only female singers and successfully demonstrating to the music industry that girl power was indeed something to be reckoned with.
The 90's: A Lasting Influence
The 90s had a tremendous influence on today's musical trends through bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam, which mixed heavy metal and distorted guitar licks with expressive if not depressive lyrics. Radiohead also challenged listeners to pay attention to lyrics that delivered a strong message, asking more than had been asked of music fans in any other decade.
Sean Combs helped to expose more of the hip hop scene with his producing and business savvy. The growth of "gangsta rap" came out of the 90s, and new pop divas sprang up full-blown in the form of Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. Mary J. Blige and Missy Elliott delivered new and exciting images for females through their strong messages combined with danceable beats. Permission was being given to all musical artists to 'get out there and do your thing.' Cross-over became the order of the day towards the end of the decade as more and more artists enjoyed airplay in a variety of markets.
Many of the artists that came up through the 90s still remain strong and consistent in the 2000s, demonstrating that this was definitely a time that spawned class acts with durability and dimension.