Oh, the '90s. You were a weird time (though not quite so weird as your younger brother, the '80s).
But we do look back on the '90s with a lot of fondness and, as we've noticed more and more, as much nostalgia for those years as we had for the '80s about a decade ago.
With late-'90s-era bands Sugar Ray, Smash Mouth, Gin Blossoms, Vertical Horizon and Fastball coming to Stir Cove on Friday, we started thinking about music in the '90s, which was dominated by both boy bands and grunge as well as Mariah Carey and Garth Brooks.
In the '90s, rock music was mostly dominated by grunge. Out with Poison, Ratt and other metal bands and in with distortion and flannel shirts.
Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden are among Omahan Laura King-Homan's favorite bands, and they all were popular in the mid-'90s. “The music of the early to mid-'90s felt revolutionary, like you were in the middle of something important. Of course, I was in college, so everything felt that way,” she said. “You still see teenagers wearing Nirvana T-shirts today, which I think is awesome.”
Added Jared Bakewell of Omaha: “Pearl Jam was the '90s.”
Among '90s favorites of Wayne Brekke, host of the Worlds of Wayne music podcast, are college rock staples such as Lemonheads, R.E.M., Teenage Fanclub, Our Lady Peace and others. “The list goes on,” he said. “College radio playing music that was not Nirvana or Backstreet Boys. There was some amazing music that wasn't so mainstream. Even today some of it doesn't sound dated.”
Punk rock saw its biggest revival in the '90s with the popularity of bands such as Bad Religion, The Offspring, Rancid, Social Distrtion and, of course, Green Day. “Dookie,” the band's debut major-label effort, probably brought the most mainstream attention to punk rock.
After the success of Seattle bands such as Soundgarden and Nirvana, the sound started popping up everywhere. Post-grunge bands such as England's Bush, Atlanta's Collective Soul and Chicago's Smashing Pumpkins became extremely popular with their more commercial sound.
If you're wondering whom to blame for One Direction and the Jonas Brothers, look to the '90s. During the second half of the decade, the boy bands reigned supreme on pop radio. N'Sync and Backstreet Boys led the charge, but others including 98 Degrees, All-4-One and Boyz II Men were all big-time groups.
Kristina Jackson of Lincoln loved the boy bands. Recently, she even went and saw New Kids on the Block and Backstreet Boys tour together, but her favorite was always N'Sync. Her favorite song: “'Bye Bye Bye,' of course,” she said. “The dance is so fun that they do in the video. Pretty much every time someone hears that song, they start to do the 'Bye Bye Bye' dance.”
According to Marq Manner, some of the best music of the '90s came out of the U.K. and Ireland, including Massive Attack. And the most innovative genre of the decade was electronic music. “By the mid-'90s, with groups like Underworld, Future Sound of London and Sven Vath maturing the sound and Chemical Brothers and Prodigy making it fun, I think it was the most innovative music of the '90s.”
Country in the '90s was dominate by one dude (and his headset microphone). Garth Brooks had 14 No. 1 country hits, beginning with “Two of a Kind, Workin' on a Full House” and “The Thunder Rolls” in 1991 all the way to “Two Pina Coladas” and “To Make You Feel My Love” in 1998. (And let's all agree to forget about his 1999 rock project under the name Chris Gaines.)
VH1 referred to the '90s as “hip hop's golden era.” 2Pac, The Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z, Warren G and Nate Dogg, Dr. Dre, Eminem and Snoop Dogg either debuted or released their most important efforts during the decade.
Top 20 Pop Artists of the '90s
As determined by Billboard in its “1999: The Year in Music” issue, these are the top artists of the '90s, listed alongside their number of charting singles and albums.
1. Mariah Carey (30)
2. Janet Jackson (25)
3. Garth Brooks (14)
4. Boyz II Men (23)
5. Celine Dion (23)
6. Madonna (32)
7. TLC (15)
8. Whitney Houston (22)
9. Michael Bolton (22)
10. Toni Braxton (11)
11. R. Kelly (23)
12. Shania Twain (13)
13. Backstreet Boys (9)
14. Monica (9)
15. Ace of Base (11)
16. Aerosmith (18)
17. LeAnn Rimes (11)
18. Pearl Jam (14)
19. En Vogue (17)
20. Brandy (13)