The ’90s were an innocent, Nerf ball-throwing good time of scrunchies, faded denim paired with over-sized, plaid flannel shirts, and Clarissa, explaining it all.
Now, I’m not deluded enough to think that just because I had evolved from primordial fetus to tiny human two years before the end of the ’80s, and was independently mobile enough to absentmindedly pick my nose and shove tiny frogs in my pockets by the time the ’90s rolled around, that that means I was “there” for any of it. Truth be told, I only caught on towards the end, when My So-Called Life had already left us Jordan Catalano-less and Daria Morgendorffer was establishing herself as a champion of whip-smart chicks (and as my spirit animal).
But despite the trends that have (thankfully) gone extinct, what seems to have remained from the decade – and what’s certainly stuck with me most – is the music.
Grunge. Alt-rock. And even the occasional nonsensical, embarrassing bullshit from boy bands whose members had even more embarrassing frosted tips in their hair. Either way, if the music wasn’t so good that it was brilliant, then it was so bad that it was good. The ’90s was the first time I frequently found myself veering away from my dad’s Johnny Cash, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Lynyrd Skynyrd (which I childishly – and with a lisp – used to pronounce, “Lin-yerd Skin-yerd”) records to occasionally put in a Nirvana album (the first of which I stole from a boy I had a crush on – because, back then, kleptomania was the surest sign of romantic affections…didn’t you know that?). It was the first time I began to pay attention to the current musical landscape (though, honestly, I’m still under a fairly large rock – by choice this time) and form some deeply rooted opinions.
The music of the ’90s had a lasting impact on the art form – so we celebrate it today, with the following carefully-chosen tracks guaranteed to trigger your nostalgia.
1. “Come As You Are” – Nirvana
There is a time in every girl’s life when she truly believes some shaggy-haired musician is her one true love. For me, it was Kurt Cobain (okay, and young David Gilmour, but the point still stands). I didn’t give a lick that he hadn’t been conscious and breathing for five years by the time I found him – in fact that kind of made it all the more romantic in my maladjusted, girlish mind, because suddenly it was a love that was utterly doomed. Oh, Kurt. If you only knew.
2. “Love, Hate, Love” – Alice in Chains
My all-time favorite AiC song. Once, during the Dark Ages, I stared at a girl sitting across from me in class, whom I really hated, after she’d said something rude and incriminating about me under her breath, and sang-mumbled in my best (but really, it was the worst) imitation of Layne Staley in this song, “I wanna peel the skin from your face.” The terror in her eyes was unforgettable. (Oh, no…have I said too much?)
3. “Get Rid of That Girl” – The Donnas
The Donnas were my loud, snarky, tough-girl answer to the Spice Girls because I thought all that “spice” shit was a terrible metaphor and their outfits were just way too bright for the likes of me. Plus, the Donnas actually played their own instruments. Granted, this song also reminds me of something every crazy-ass chick I’ve ever had the horror knowing would do for the sake of a guy, but, fuck, it’s catchy, isn’t it? Also, their scowls and smirks are perfect.
4. “Falling to Pieces” – Faith No More
Fact: The giant spinning gerbil thing at the beginning of this video used to scare the living shit out of me. And another fact: FNM’s Mike Patton has gone to do some pretty incredible stuff, like this and this.
5. “Stupid Girl” – Garbage
You can’t have a ’90s mixtape without Garbage, especially since practically every teen movie of the decade had their songs on the soundtrack (every teen movie of the decade also starred Freddie Prinze, Jr. – for real, look into that shit). And also, T would’ve killed me dead if I’d failed to put this on the playlist. Garbage is her jam! [Tatiana’s note: It’s all true. Garbage 2.0 was my soundtrack in the ’90s and early 2000s. I listened to “#1 Crush” long before I realized how wildly inappropriate it was to listen to in my mom’s car. I got a VHS tape of their music videos for my birthday and it was amazing. Oh, that Shirley Manson *dreamy sigh*]
6. “How’s It Going to Be?” – Third Eye Blind
When anyone thinks of Third Eye Blind they immediately cue up memories of playing “Semi-charmed Life” on a walkman on the bus during a school fieldtrip, sharing an earbud with a friend, and giggling not-so-secretly about the song’s explicit content (c’mon, that couldn’t have just been me). Or perhaps “Jumper” was your song of choice. But for all the fame and radio air-play those two songs received, “How’s It Going to Be” remains my favorite; got me through some pretty though times, man.
7. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” – Nirvana
Yes, Nirvana again. I couldn’t help myself. Because, KURT COBAIN, guys! Kurt Cobain!
8. “Rearviewmirror” – Pearl Jam
You didn’t REALLY think I’d miss Pearl Jam, did you? It was a toss-up between this and “Corduroy” because of the quiet intensity of the song’s beginning, but it seems whenever there’s a choice to go kind of loud, or louder – I pretty much always choose to go louder.
9. “March of the Pigs” – Nine Inch Nails
And I bet you ALL thought I was going to choose, “Closer,” didn’t you? Don’t lie to me! Y’all should be ASHAMED of yourselves! To be fair though, I did consider it. We’re all going to hell. On a more serious note: “March of the Pigs” is always a top choice for me when thinking of a Nine Inch Nails song because the surprising piano interruptions in between all the aggression give it that special little something and makes it all the more interesting.
10. “Failure By Design” – Brand New
All right, all right, I know – this band just missed the ’90s but I’m throwing them in anyway because, folks, that’s what love is. Am I not allowed to indulge my childhood nostalgia just a little bit? I wrote many, many last-minute homework assignments to this song while wailing, “THIS IS A LESSON IN PROCRASTINATION!” with all kinds of feeling. Plus, it was either this or that irreversibly depressing “Wonderful” song by Everclear. (What are you doing? Why are you clicking on this link? Do you like tears?) Yeah. Thought so.
Wild Card Song #1: “Wonderwall” – Oasis
For some reason, this is the song that every guy who had just learned to play guitar would start playing while strategically positioning himself in a cross-legged pose on some grassy terrain, sensitive diva-frown at the ready, just waiting for all the surrounding panties to drop. Sorry, but did you really think you were being subtle?
Wild Card Song #2: “I Want it That Way” – The Backstreet Boys
Winner of the Song That Makes The Least Amount of Sense award (what’s “it”? Why’s it too late, A.J.?! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, WHAT WAY?!). But you know you love it anyway – I see you sitting there, mouthing along and making sultry A.J. faces. Don’t pretend you weren’t waiting for it.
Did I miss something? Have a suggestion for a future Mixtape Friday topic? Drop us a line, leave us a comment, or tweet @theladybromance and let me know!
Till next Friday,
Turn it up to 11!