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Listed: Songs from the 90’s, part two

November 11, 2009

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The ’90s spawned the terms Generation X and Pepsi Generation. The revolutionary, plugged-in expanse between 1990 and 1999 symbolized the crystallization of youth culture—when technology, creativity and limitless possibility reached an amalgamated zenith. It was when rap and MTV became mainstream, Kurt and Big lived and died, and everything became inextricably linked with corporatism.

This list of definitive ’90s songs is by no means actually definitive (click for part one). Instead, we wanted to take a moment to revel in our youth and explore the pop culture moments that make up our collective psyche. Regardless of whether you get with, smile at, or treat these moments with familiar scorn, chances are they fit seamlessly into your retrospective scope like Pizza Hut and slap bracelets. And don’t forget to share your favourites with us in the comments.

oasis90 copy

1996: Oasis – Don’t Look Back in Anger

Yes, “Wonderwall” is catchy. But when What’s the Story Morning Glory dropped, a seminal album itself, “Don’t Look Back in Anger” was the song that cemented Oasis as a timeless band. Maybe it’s the inherent Beatles influence, with the tambourine, piano intro or Ringo-esque syncopation of drummer Alan White. Maybe it’s the guitar riff, which to this day is emulated by tweens in video games. Or maybe it’s just because despite all their asshole antics, perhaps in spite of themselves, Oasis crafted one of the greatest melodies of the past 50 years. It’s too bad they knew it, too.—Simon

weezer90

1996: Weezer – Across the Sea

Weezer invented emo. Like, the entire genre of music and now subculture of youth identification? Weezer. For every jaded fan (and there are a lot of us out there), “Across the Sea” marks a highpoint in musical signposts. A perfect mix of melancholy, distortion laden grunge, power-pop melodies and crunchy Fender riffs held together with quaintly sad sack lyrics such as, “As if I could live on words and dreams and a million screams, oh, how I need a hand in mine to feel.” And remember, this was before emo was cool; for better or for worse.—Simon

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1996: Fiona Apple – Criminal

The cloying Lilith Fair movement, awesome identity politics aside, did at least one cool thing – it segued into Fiona Apple. I write a lot about celebrity crushes because the seduction apparatus of film and pop music fascinates the hell out of me — but yo, Apple was (is) the shit. She disgusted me but I wanted her, I felt bad for her but she was kind of a hero, and she set the behind-doors soundtrack for years of battling d’evils to come. Much of that is encapsulated by Mark Romanek’s haunting video, which sadly now just looks like marketing for American Apparel.—Jef

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1997: No Doubt – Sunday Morning

In grade six I idolized Gwen Stefani. Before becoming a pop-song-making, baby-having, overpriced-clothing-line hawking icon, she single-handedly influenced my love of leopard print with her outfit in this video. “Don’t Speak” might be considered No Doubt’s breakthrough hit (even though Tragic Kingdom was the band’s third studio album), but this was the song I lip-synched extra hard to. It’s a microcosm of what the band themselves represented at the time: the transitional antidote to a market exhausted by poor Seattle-grunge knockoffs and anticipating an influx of over stylized pop stars and rappers. I love that you can see esthetic continuity from this video to Gwen’s current stuff (thanks to director Sophie Muller). This song and my desperate sixth-grade love of this band is why I will forever be a Hollaback Girl.—Anupa

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1997: Infinite – Gotta Get Mine

Canadian hip-hop in the late nineties had a distinct sound, less jiggy than it’s flashy American counterpart and ridiculously more rugged. This song literally makes me think of a dude spitting his guts out while wearing a parka in the middle of a wintry, Toronto night. Over supremely delicate production, alongside a pre-Diva-ized Divine Brown (when she rocked a headwrap and went by Divine Earth Essence) Infinite spits meticulous, slang-laden raps like “I’ve got you hooked like a custy lookin’ for cookie” and single-handedly defines a city and a time. One of my favourite hip-hop songs of all time, period.—Anupa

puff90

1998: Puff Daddy (and the Family) – All About the Benjamins

Featuring the opening verse most likely to be memorized by my classmates this side of “Triumph”, Puff’s ragged posse cut was “about living rich and the importance of having money,” says Wikipedia. Gully. Puff was rap’s knight in shiny-suit Armani, sure, but this track knocked regardless of my burgeoning backpack inclinations. In the larger sphere, it spawned an annoying mainstream catchphrase, a Weird Al parody, and a rap-rock zeitgeist remix that capped off grunge survivor Dave Grohl’s decade-definitive trajectory. If you didn’t fuck with this track, you’re a liar, and I want my VHS tapes back.—Jef

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. November 11, 2009 1:05 pm

    Everything about this half of the list is sooo right. I was obsessed and still am with Fiona Apple. I love that she is, consistently high-quality, and although she’s not as prolific as I’d like, when she turns out an album she turns out something amazing every single time. Fuck, with the way things are going in the music industry these days, she’s probably too disgusted to resurface like she did with “Extraordinary Machine.” The question is, do we even deserve another Fiona album?

  2. November 12, 2009 2:23 pm

    Great rundown. I dunno about all the pinnacle of youth culture and technology stuff, but the 90s were rad. Grunge music was slow punk with a better back beat and hip-hop turned into the polymorphic offspring of metal, disco and Devo.

  3. November 12, 2009 4:34 pm

    Zindzi: maybe even more than a new album, I want so bad to see her live. One time I saw a flyer on the internet about a show somewhere in the States with double headliners Jurassic 5 and Fiona Apple. How random! For now, I still have her MTV Unplugged somewhere on VHS. I should dig that shit up.

    Nyaze: Your blog has a great name.

  4. Simon permalink*
    November 13, 2009 3:27 am

    Embracing my inner softie, “Never is a promise” was always my favourite Fiona Apple song.

    And sitting on my bookshelf is a testimonial paperback written by Ma$e during his pastoral stint. Good times.

  5. November 13, 2009 11:43 am

    Weezer most certainly did not invent emo. Sunny Day Real Estate holds that title, and always will.

  6. Simon permalink*
    November 16, 2009 4:30 pm

    Sunny Day Real Estate were definitely emo, but the power-pop aspects of today’s music is without a doubt borne of the Weez.

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