In the 1990s, popular music genres experienced an explosive explosion of creativity. Boy bands like Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC, as well as girl groups such as Spice Girls, charmed millions with catchy tunes and synced dance moves, while grunge/alternative rock challenged mainstream musical norms with its dark lyrics.
The 90s marked an exciting era, dominated by iconic songs such as Fiona’s viral “that b*tch” track and Sweden’s biggest band’s dance craze hit. Relive some of this decade’s top hits with our Pop Music 90s playlist!
Boy Bands & Girl Groups
In the ’90s, boys and girls alike fell head over heels in love with boy bands – girls especially. From ‘NSYNC to Backstreet Boys, their catchy hooks and harmonious vocals continue to appeal and draw huge audiences even today; from social media influencers and skeptical views of fame.
TLC and Destiny’s Child were among the pioneers of modern female musical acts during the ’90s, setting standards with their combination of pop, hip hop, R&B and funk as a unique sound that was both contemporary and classic. More recently there is Little Mix, who use their popularity to promote positive body image and gender equality through music.
House of Pain’s “U Can’t Touch This,” as well as their hit single, “Jump Around,” were instrumental in sparking the 90s rock revival. These songs combined modern elements with old-school influences like samples or interpolations from older hit songs for an energetic sound.
In the ’90s, R&B boy bands like Jodeci, 112, and Blackstreet rose to prominence. These slick-voiced groups added sophistication to Rhythm and Blues while singing about issues that mattered at the time – such as breaking up after an argument. Fans of 90s hip hop still use their tracks today as ways to add nostalgia and authenticity into their own hip hop music.
Pop Punk & Post-Grunge
Post-grunge was one of the most beloved genres in 90s pop music. A subgenre of Alternative Rock, post-grunge combines grunge-inspired guitar riffs with catchy choruses and radio-friendly production for an upbeat, energetic sound ideal for concerts or dancing around your room with someone special.
Creed, Nickelback and 3 Doors Down were among the first wave of post-grunge bands to gain widespread fame during the mid to late 90s, pioneering this subgenre with mainstream appeal while maintaining their signature grunge sound that resonated with young adults. Post-grunge bands often utilize power chord progressions and punk-influenced drumming styles for an uptempo rhythm that makes audiences move forward at lightning speed.
Though grunge had run its course by the turn of the millennium, many artists continued to produce albums and tour. As alternative metal and rap-rock became more mainstream forms of music, grunge began losing ground. Still, post-grunge artists such as Three Days Grace and Puddle of Mudd remain highly-acclaimed today.
Pop-punk music has seen a recent resurgence, thanks to bands such as All Time Low and Paramore who are inspiring teens to live life their own way. This revival is being fuelled by lockdown-induced nostalgia: when life feels uncertain and uncertain prospects loom ahead.
If you need an anthem to encourage being yourself, look no further than Des’ree’s powerful rendition of “This Kiss.” Her powerful song reminds listeners not to conform even when everyone tells them otherwise.
R&B & Neo-Soul
During the 1990s, R&B music reached its pinnacle, with many of its premier artists like Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige and Brandy rising to the forefront with songs that showcased their incredible talents. Additionally, this decade saw the neo-soul movement come into being; drawing inspiration from classic soul but adding in grooves from various other eras like funk and hip hop for added texture; also known for featuring smooth vocals and live instrumentation with artists like Erykah Badu D’Angelo and Maxwell used this genre to connect more emotionally with their audiences and connect more intimately with audiences.
Neo-soul artists frequently employ the genre to explore social and cultural issues that were important to them at that moment in time. One of the most stirring songs to emerge from neo-soul was Michael Jackson’s “Black or White”, which challenged people’s assumptions about race perceptions; its release caused considerable discussion both among fans and media alike.
Sisters With Voices was a renowned R&B trio in the 1990s. One of their popular tracks, ‘Weak,” stands as an evergreen message about vulnerability and self-love that still resonates today. Another hit from Montell Jordan called “This Is How We Do It,” was an uptempo dance track perfect for moving to.
In the 1990s, R&B and neo-soul music saw its introduction. Drawing inspiration from classic soul music but incorporating elements from other genres such as hip-hop, funk and jazz, this genre often refers to itself as contemporary R&B; some musicians prefer calling it neo-soul instead as it places greater focus on artist expression and authenticity than contemporary R&B which may sometimes sound synthetic and artificial.
Though the ’90s may be best remembered for gangsta rap and boy bands, there was also plenty of dance music ranging from Miami base genre to Eurodance that gave people energy for dancing. One song which stands out is Tag Team’s hit “Whoomp! There It Is”, with its upbeat rhythms and energetic singing making this track enjoyable to dance along to.
KLF, the British acid/house group, are famous for their distinctive style of music which blends rap with electronic beats. “3 AM Eternal” from their album XOYO makes an excellent selection as it features brief interludes of lyrical singing that add a fresh edge and provide space between driving beats for danceable movement – adding another level of interest for listeners as the changing beats keep people dancing and keep them interested!
Dance music from the ’90s is widely utilized in workout routines as it helps get people moving fast and burning calories quickly. While new songs make great workout playlists, many classic ’90s tunes remain relevant today as well.
Ace of Base’s “One More Time,” featuring upbeat rhythms and catchy lyrics that keep people moving, makes an excellent selection for this playlist. Furthermore, J. Lo’s performance of it in Hustlers propelled its fame further.
Los Del Rio’s Latin pop style makes them a fitting selection to wrap up this list of pop music from the 90s. Their iconic song “Macarena” will instantly bring back memories of middle and high school dances; perfect for this playlist.
Social & Cultural Issues
Many 1990s pop songs focused on social and cultural issues that generated discussion between friends and family members, such as Michael Jackson’s Black or White which challenged our perceptions of race. Other artists explored spirituality and personal growth with their music such as Wannabe by Spice Girls or Killing Me Softly by Fugees.
Alternative rock bands that emerged during the 1990s included Hootie and the Blowfish, Creed, Collective Soul, Alice in Chains, Counting Crows, Smashing Pumpkins, Def Leppard, R.E.M, The Offspring and 4 Non Blondes to name just a few. These acts fused ska, punk and metal influences with pop music genres to produce some of the decade’s most interesting tunes; whether addressing social or political issues or simply trying to make great pop songs – their music made its mark on history!
The 1990s also witnessed an emergence of female rappers such as Salt-N-Pepa, Lil’ Kim, and Foxy Brown – starting with Salt-N-Pepa’s Salty Bum and later Lil’ Kim and Foxy Brown – who often did more than provide good tunes; they encouraged women to be themselves just like Spice Girls did with their catchy yet fun tunes. Country singers gained momentum during this era such as Clint Black (neotraditionalist) or Mary Chapin Carpenter; Brooks & Dunn (new wave southern rock).
Genre-blending dance tracks were immensely popular during the ’90s, thanks to DJ Dmitry, Towa Tei and Lady Miss Kier’s genre-hopping Groove Is in the Heart track and Whitney Houston’s version of Dolly Parton’s iconic I Will Always Love You in The Bodyguard soundtrack – two songs which remain timeless dance floor hits over three decades after their original releases.