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Music of the 90s – Good or Bad?

Some have labeled the music of the 90s the worse in history. But others think it some of the best music due to its originality and variety. Which is it?

The 90s was a time of new subgenres, old bands coming back to life and an era of one-hit-wonders. It was a time when hip-hop was displacing metal as the top-selling genre. Subgenres that were being created included things such as rap-rock. And then there were bands like Creed and Nickelback who were labeled as creating what was called butt-rock, music which focused less on complexity and musical talent and more on radio-friendliness as well as emotional impact on its listeners. And yet, the 90s was the era of pop hits that you either found annoying or loved such as Achy Breaky Heart by Billy Ray Cyrus, Ice Ice Baby by Vanilla Ice, Macarena by Los Del Rio, and Candle In The Wind by Elton John.


The early years of the 1990s began with a surge in popularity for music genres like techno (often called dance or house music). Groups like Technotronic entered the Billboard charts with big hits like “Pump Up the Jam” and “Get Up (Before the Night is Over)”. Similarly, the hip-hop music scene achieved popularity with artists like MC Hammer and Tone Loc.

Between 1992 and 1993, with the popularity of sexual lyrics dominating the airwaves, alternative music began making mainstream radio. Bands like Pearl Jam and Soundgarden became common names. Their lyrics were new and words that people who felt outside of society connected to. Songs like Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” marked the beginning of the grunge and alternative rock phase that remained popular throughout the mid-1990s. 

The hopelessness that grunge bands sang about started wearing thin by late 1995.

And people were looking for something fresh and new, something that felt happy. To fill the niche were bands like Hootie and the Blowfish, Sister Hazel, and The Bodeans. Melodies were upbeat and lyrics were positive. These bands also created a resurgence in songs that dealt with love and relationships through ballads and happier-sounding songs. “All For You” by Sister Hazel was a popular song about the things a person does for another in a relationship while, contrastingly, “Let Her Cry” by Hootie and the Blowfish dealt with a tearful breakup that deeply hurt both people. 

”Happy rock” paved the way for the “bubblegum pop” that followed in the waning years of the decade. Artists such as Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera quickly dominated the mainstream pop music scene well into the late 1990s and beyond. Surprisingly enough, the sexual lyrics and innuendos also came back in the songs of this era that was one popular in the early years of the decade, but they were more blatant than before. Videos were more sexual in nature as well.

Then there were the boy bands. The Backstreet Boys, 98 Degrees, and N’Sync found a resurgence that older boy bands such as the New Kids on the Block from the late 1980s may have seen. 

Was the 90s a time of great music or confusion? Such a decision may be too subjective to make. Professionals say one can’t judge pop music until another generation of kids are born – will they be drawn to it and recreate it or think it is the worse thing they ever heard. Seems like only time can tell.

Jeff Bachmeier is owner of 977music.com, an online music and online radio station network providing live streaming Internet Radio channels with music from the 50’s thru Today. Users can also choose to create their own customized on demand playlist through their own social media profile. For more information please visit http://www.977music.com.

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  • About the Author:
    Jeff Bachmeier is owner of 977music.com, an online music and online radio station network providing live streaming Internet Radio channels with music from the 50’s thru Today. Users can also choose to create their own customized on demand playlist through their own social media profile.

    For more information please visit 977music.com.