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Top 42 Best 90s Songs

The 90s might seem like just yesterday to you, or they might seem like some sort of long-gone era shrouded in mystery. I guess it all depends on how much, if any, of this colorful decade you lived through.

Music in the 90s exploded, fracturing into sub-genres and sub-sub genres more numerous than we have time to name. At the same time, music was still controlled by the big record companies and TV channels like MTV, so there was still a push to make big, highly-produced tracks and glittery videos.

And, whether you love Rock, Hip-Hop, R&B, Pop, Country, or all of the above, this is a decade that has more than enough hit songs to suit you. So, get ready for my list of the best 90s songs.

Best 90s Songs

Contents

Top 42 Best 90s Songs

Rock

Let’s kick it off with my choices for the best 90s Rock songs.

Thunderstruck – AC/DC

What better band to start our Rock section of the best 90s songs list than AC/DC? This band started in the 70s, in the land down under, of course. And they were still rocking hard until just a couple of years ago.

That incredible stamina is apparent in their 1990 album, The Razor’s Edge. And the track “Thunderstruck” is about as big and rowdy as you can get.

This song starts with guitar maniac Angus Young tapping a great melody while the drums come in hard and heavy. Then chanting of “Thunder” builds up the energy until the full beat finally comes in.

This song is so electrifying…

I can see why they called it “Thunderstruck.” Although technically, I think you get struck by lightning, not thunder. Never mind, none of my business. This song rocks, and it rocks hard.

Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana

When Nirvana came out with Nevermind in 1991, it blew up the music world and pronounced loud and clear that a whole new style of music was here. (It also made a generation misspell “never mind,” but nevermind about that!)

What style?

Well, it was called “grunge” in the media, though singer/guitarist Kurt Cobain never used this label and indeed seemed to hate it. Whatever it was, it was loud, brash, and in-your-face angst-filled Rock.

“Smells Like Teen Spirit” is the track that got everyone to stand up and notice Nirvana. It’s dirty and gritty, with a dark edge. The contrast between the verses and the chorus is probably what sets it apart. And why it’s one of the greatest Rock songs from the 90s.

The verses are relatively quiet, like a growl, and then the chorus blows up into a full-fledged bark. And the lyrics? Somewhat undecipherable, but in the chorus, a statement is made about this generation, “I feel stupid and contagious – Here we are now entertain us!”

November Rain – Guns N’ Roses

Also, coming from 1991 is one of the most epic rock ballads of all time. It is, of course, “November Rain” by Guns N’ Roses from the first of their two 1991 albums, Use Your Illusion I.

Why do I say epic?

This song is nine minutes long, making it one of the longest songs to ever make it into the Billboard Hot 100 Top 10. It’s multi-layered, features a full orchestra, and has two screaming Slash guitar solos. Yeah – epic!

This song is accompanied by an equally epic video…

At the time, it was the most expensive music video ever made. It portrays the love and loss of a rockstar’s wife after he cheats too many times.

It starts with Axl Rose on the piano with the oohs and ahhs of a chorus behind him, then builds up to the first of Slash’s solos, a mournful and sparse one. After that, the music takes a dark turn and comes back to Slash playing a blistering, screaming solo while Axl wails.

This video has also been viewed nearly 2 billion times and counting, making it truly one of the biggest songs ever. And, without question, the biggest 90s Rock and Roll song.

Rusty Cage – Soundgarden

Another 1991 heavy Rock song that defines the 90s is “Rusty Cage” from Soundgarden. Like Nirvana, the Seattle band was squeezed into the largely made-up Grunge genre, but their sounds are very different.

I know “Black Hole Sun” may be a more popular choice, but I couldn’t say by any means that it’s the band’s best song. With “Rusty Cage,” Soundgarden gives us a screamer.

Let me explain…

This song has one of the coolest intros ever, with dueling guitars playing a similar lick. Then the drums come in, and things get fast and lively.

The third part of the song is a heavy, hard-to-count-along-to breakdown. Throughout, Chris Cornell’s incredible voice cuts through the music with a pained wailing that has never been imitated.

In 1996, this song was also covered in a very slow and sensitive country style by the Man in Black, Johnny Cash, on his Grammy Awarded album Unchained. That’s the mark of a great song.

Enter Sandman – Metallica

If Soundgarden isn’t heavy enough for you, metal legends Metallica might be your choice of best 90s songs.

“Enter Sandman” is definitive of the band’s early 90s work, and it came out in 1991 on their self-titled 5th album that year. Even if you’re not a metal fan, this song still helps to define 90s music more than most.

This is another epic…

With a long, slow-building intro of guitar work and pounding drums. After a minute, the full beat breaks out with the bass pounding hard and the guitars chugging.

James Hetfield starts singing in his powerful, throaty voice, and the words and chords are meant to sound dark and creepy. I guess it’s supposed to scare kids?

The chorus, “Exit light – Enter night – Take my hand – We’re off to never-never land” is simple but memorable. Just thinking about it makes my neck sore. Oh, those head-banging days!

Even Flow – Pearl Jam

Yet another band that was grouped into the “Grunge” label was Pearl Jam. In 1991, they released their debut album, Ten, which ended up being a massive success that started the band on a tangent toward fame.

“Even Flow” was the second single from that album and was a heavy rocking song that combined bluesy guitar riffs with an edge of harder Rock. The lyrics are about a possibly homeless and mentally ill man living on the streets.

Eddie Vedder’s deep, powerful voice helped to start a husky male voice style that lasted throughout the decade.

Give It Away – Red Hot Chili Peppers

Our last 1991 song (geez, so much happened in music that year!) comes from the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

This California Funk-Rock band had been going for almost a decade before they put out Blood Sugar Sex Magik in 1991. The album was a huge success, and it was spearheaded by the track “Give It Away.”

This song is brilliant…

Drummer Chad Smith lays down a monstrous Funk beat, and Flea’s bass line plays off it perfectly. John Frusciante’s funky guitar chords are a perfect complement and create a perfect backdrop for the vocals.

They’re mostly rapped by Anthony Kiedis, though in a way that was unique and unlike what was going on in Hip-Hop at the time.

Combined with a weird black-and-white video of the band getting funky in the desert, this song was a massive success that has helped the band stay in the spotlight up to the current day.

Killing in the Name – Rage Against the Machine

It’s hard to believe that this song came out way back in 1992, but it’s true. “Killing in the Name” was the first single release from Rage Against the Machine’s self-titled debut album that year. It put out a new sound and helped to kick off a genre – for better or worse – Rap Metal.

This is the band’s signature song, and it’s easy to see why…

The sound here is huge, with hard, heavy drums and thick bass driving things along. Tom Morello’s guitar work is at times heavy, at times unique, and DJ-scratching-inspired.

Zac de la Rocha’s angry vocals spit like a cobra in this protest song against police brutality. And we all know and love to sing along to the outro, “F*ck you I won’t do what you tell me!” That alone made it one of the most well known 90s songs.

Loser – Beck

“Loser” was the song that broke Beck. I mean that this was his breakout success which was recorded as a single in 1993 and got tons of play on indie radio stations. Then it was later re-released as part of his album, Mellow Gold.

Before this song hit…

Beck was a homeless musician playing on the street and in small clubs where it was hard to get the audience’s attention. So, he began making up bizarre and ludicrous poetry to get people to listen. This song came out of that style.

Beck apparently prepared some lyrics but went into the studio and winged it. In six hours, this song was recorded, with him rapping over a cool drum break with a twangy slide guitar and even a jangly sitar.

I’m not sure where this song belongs…

Is it Rock, Hip-Hop, Blues, Folk, or what? The chorus “Soy un perdedor – I’m a loser baby – So why don’t you kill me” came from Beck listening to his playback – he thought he was the worst rapper ever and called himself a loser!

But this caught on and became a sarcastic anti-culture anthem for people who weren’t part of the capitalist boom of the 90s.

Cannonball – The Breeders

While the legendary Pixies took most of the 90s off, bassist Kim Deal transitioned to another successful project. Along with her twin sister Kelley (of Kelley Deal 6000 fame). The sisters played guitar and added Josephine Wiggs on bass and Jim Macpherson on drums to form The Breeders.

The biggest hit from this band, and one of the most fun songs of the 90s rock scene, was “Cannonball.” It came out on the band’s 1993 album, Last Splash. This song has a poppier sound than Pixies material, but still follows that band’s format.

It mixes a quieter, sweeter verse with a loud, shouted chorus for a great effect. You get a bubbly bass line, heavy distorted guitars, and sweet/sour vocals in this Indie Rock darling of a song.

Self Esteem – The Offspring

In the mid-90s, Rock music turned towards Pop-Punk. And, The Offspring was one of the leading bands in the genre. Like RHCP, they came out of Cali and had been rocking for a decade before hitting it big in 1994.

The song that pushed their success was “Self Esteem,” one of their slower, less edgy songs. Rather than being a speedy Punk song, this track was closer to Indie Rock, except with more powerful guitar work, making it more palatable to the general public.

It’s the lyrics that make this song a winner…

It’s a knock on people with poor self-esteem. Lines like “I know I’m being used – That’s OK man cause I like the abuse” and “The more you suffer – The more it shows you really care, right? Yeah!” are funny but also hit home and make many people take a look at their own behavior.

Basket Case – Green Day

The title of the biggest Pop-Punk sensation has to go to Green Day. Coming out of the 2nd-wave So-Cal Punk scene of the late 80s, Green Day found huge mainstream success with their 1994 album, Dookie.

This album had a string of successes, with “Longview” and “When I Come Around” finding big audiences.

But, it was “Basket Case” where the band’s real sound shone through. This song is faster, peppier, and funnier, too. Green Day’s songs are full of humor and straight-ahead rocking, and this was a welcome contrast to the darker “Grunge” scene. This song is bright, energetic, and just plain fun.

Doll Parts – Hole

Hole’s Courtney Love will probably forever be remembered for her relationship with Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain. But she also had a pretty successful career in her own right. By 1994, Cobain was gone, and Love was continuing to make angry, Punk-inspired music with Hole.

“Doll Parts” is a song about women being reduced to their parts and their image rather than their substance. The song is uncharacteristically slow and quiet for the band, but it ends up in a darker, harder place.

Love screams, “Someday, you will ache like I ache”, a line which resonated with angsty teenagers everywhere.

Undone – The Sweater Song – Weezer

Weezer came out of nowhere when they dropped their debut self-titled album in 1994. Songs like “Say It Ain’t So” and “Buddy Holly” became instant nerd-rock hits. But, it was probably “Undone – The Sweater Song” that is the most memorable track from this first album.

This song is pretty weird, and that got people’s attention. It starts with the band playing chilled music while people talk in the background about going to a party, then the vocals come in with Rivers Cuomo trading lines with bassist Matt Sharp singing in falsetto.

Cuomo’s voice then suddenly explodes in the chorus, which hits hard and heavy. That old tried and true formula once again. Weezer’s song works because of this contrast, powerful singing, screaming guitars, and an all-around fun sound.

Wonderwall – Oasis

The Brits were happy to invade once again in the 90s, and their biggest contribution to Rock was Oasis, aka “The Sex Beatles.”

They found a lot of success in North America…

But, it’s impossible to overstate just how big this band was in the UK, with hit after hit making them the biggest band of the decade there.

In 1995, they put out the album, (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, and “Wonderwall” was an immediate hit. This track is a slow crooner, written about an imaginary friend that could someday save you from yourself.

“Maybe you’re gonna be the one that saves me – And after all, you’re my wonderwall” is a surprisingly touching and sensitive line for an otherwise very coquettish band.

Everlong – Foo Fighters

When Nirvana ended upon Kurt Cobain’s death, Dave Grohl took some time off, then started on a new project which became the Foo Fighters. They’re still going now, and Grohl is known as one of the hardest-rocking frontmen around as well as being a beast of a drummer.

With “Everlong,” the Foo Fighters achieved their 1990s pinnacle. It came from their second album, The Color and the Shape, which was released in 1997.

This song is everything you want from this band…

Grohl’s vocals are strong. The lyrics are passionate. The chorus is explosive, and the drumming is really out of this world. Sadly, this is also the last song drummer Taylor Hawkins played live with the band before his untimely death in 2023. R.I.P.

While alive, he certainly gave it his all, just like in the lyrics: “The only thing I’ll ever ask of you – You’ve got to promise not to stop when I say when.”

Pop & Dance

Well, that covers the Rock section of the best 90s songs. Now, let’s pick up the pace and look at the best Pop songs from the 90s.

Black or White – Michael Jackson

In this section of the best pop and dance hits from the 90s, who better to start with than the King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson?

Following hit after hit throughout the 80s, Jackson kept the momentum going into 1991 when he released the album, Dangerous. “Black and White” was among the hit songs on that record. It was massive, going to #1 in the charts and selling 3x platinum in the US alone.

This song is about racial harmony, with Jackson repeating that “It don’t matter if you’re black or white” throughout the chorus. The music is very upbeat with a bit of a Hard Rock edge, and MJ’s vocal performance is as energetic as ever.

It also didn’t hurt that the video for this song was awesome…

During the playout of the song, it showed people’s faces of all races blending into each other continually. This was the first time this technology had been used so successfully, and it was a game-changer.

Nightswimming – R.E.M.

R.E.M. was big on college radio all through the 80s and had some minor hits in that decade as well. But, when Automatic for the People came out in 1992, it proved that this band had grown and matured.

Tracks like “Man on the Moon” and “Everybody Hurts” showed the depth and versatility of the band. But “Nightswimming” was arguably the loveliest song the band put out on this album.

This is a gentle, spacious track…

With just Michael Stipe singing over a piano and bass accompaniment, something new for the band. The lyrics show off Stipe’s poetic skills perfectly.

They capture a moment of nostalgia for youthful innocence, a moment when friends go night swimming together. The sound is sweet, making this a peaceful lullaby to help you drift off to sleep.

Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover – Sophie B. Hawkins

New York singer Sophie B. Hawkins isn’t a huge name on the music scene. However, the song “Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover” is one of the most defining Pop songs of the 90s.

This track, which came out on her debut album, Tongues and Tails, in 1992, was a sleeper hit that made it into the Top 10 in the US and around the world as well.

This song is built around a slow groove and is very well produced…

It has Rock, Pop, and even Funk and Soul elements built in, giving it a wide appeal. But it’s the chorus that’s just so infectious.

“Damn, I wish I was your lover – I’ll rock you till the daylight comes – Make sure you are smilin’ and warm – I am everything, tonight I’ll be your mother – I’ll do such things to ease your pain – Free your mind and you won’t feel ashamed.”

What Is Love? – Haddaway

If you’re looking for one of the biggest dance hits of the 90s, this is it. “What Is Love?” from German-Trinidadian artist Haddaway came out in 1993 and was an impossibly huge hit around the world.

It zoomed up to #1 in the Dance charts in 13 countries in Europe before moving across the globe. It sold millions of copies and won numerous awards as well.

So, what does this song offer?

The song is built around a simple House beat with some funky keyboard and synth sounds, giving it body. There’s a great female vocal hook that complements Haddaway’s vocals perfectly.

“What is love? – Baby, don’t hurt me – Don’t hurt me no more” is one of the most memorable lines in Dance music of the whole decade. This song was also immortalized as the head-bobbing theme song for Saturday Night Live’s “Roxbury Guys” Sketches and the later movie A Night at the Roxbury.

The Sign – Ace of Base

If it’s Dance-Pop you want, it’s Dance-Pop you’ll get – from Ace Of Base, of course. This Swedish Pop group was dubbed the “New Abba” thanks to their 2-man, 2-woman membership, and treacle-sweet harmonies.

In 1993, they put out The Sign, their first North American album, and achieved massive success with it. The biggest contribution to this success was undoubtedly the title track, “The Sign,” which is a sort of Techno-Reggae-Pop hit.

This song was huge, hitting #1 and staying there for six weeks, plus garnering the group a Grammy nomination. It’s actually a break-up song, with the lines “I saw the sign – And it opened up my mind,” hitting home with anyone looking for clues that their relationship was on shaky ground.

Glory Box – Portishead

I’ll be honest here. I didn’t know where to put this song because it was just so unique. “Glory Box” comes from the 1994 album, Dummy by UK Electro-Trip-Hop band Portishead and was a defining song of the 90s.

This track is dark and bluesy, with a slowly descending bass line and swirling guitars mixed with ethereal strings. This is all over a very cool, laid-back Trip-Hop beat that provides an excellent ambiance.

And singer Beth Gibbon’s vocals are unforgettable here, strong in parts and so mournful and fragile in others – a masterpiece.

Common People – Pulp

UK band Pulp has surprisingly been around since the late 70s, but their biggest success came in the 90s. And the biggest song of theirs is certainly “Common People.” This track came out in 1995 and was an instant hit that defined the 90s Britpop movement.

This track is fun and full of great Pop energy, with Rock elements and a driving beat. But the lyrics are surprisingly deep. Singer Jarvis Cocker gives us a satirical look at wealthy people slumming it with the “common people.”

The song is both funny and serious at the same time, with biting lines like, “I wanna sleep with common people – Like you – Oh what else could I do – I said I’ll see what I can do.”

Alright – Supergrass

Supergrass isn’t a household name, at least not in the US. But, this UK band, part of the mid-90s Britpop movement, is responsible for one of the most iconic songs of the 90s. In 1995, Supergrass released their debut album, I Should Coco, and “Alright” from that album became a big hit.

This is a fun, Pop-Rock song with a fast beat…

It’s driven by bouncy bass and perky guitars, making this a great uplifting track. Lyrics like, “But we are young, we get by – Can’t go mad, ain’t got time – Sleep around if we like – But we’re alright” helped to define the generation (X or Y?) it was aimed at, and it really connected.

This song was included on the soundtrack for the 1995 film, Clueless, which no doubt added greatly to its exposure and success.

Ironic – Alanis Morissette

Alanis Morisette started as a teeny-bop dance queen in the early 90s. But, by 1995, she had completely changed. She moved down to L.A, lived a rock star lifestyle, and had some rough experiences.

This helped her put out Jagged Little Pill, showing a tougher, more angst-ridden side of the artist. However, “Ironic” was a different track on that album.

Rather than being hard-edged…

It was a sweet and sugary Pop-Rock song that helped to turn her career towards the adult contemporary side of things. In this simple slow song, Alanis sings about (possibly) ironic situations that add dimension to life.

The verses are quiet and sweet; then, the chorus hits with a louder, Indie-Rock sound. This track was a big hit, winning awards all over the place and giving Morisette a place in music history.

My Heart Will Go On – Celine Dion

Diva Celine Dion was no stranger to 90s hits. But, when she released “My Heart Will Go On,” she found her signature song and biggest success to date. This sweeping ballad was part of the soundtrack, and the most memorable track from the 1997 smash hit movie Titanic by director James Cameron.

I don’t know about you, but when I think of Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet embracing at the bow of the Titanic, I think of this song. And not just me, but everyone. That’s why it’s one of the best 90s songs ever.

Celine’s vocals will titillate you, “Near, far, wherever you are.” The music starts quiet and emotional before building up and up into a giant crescendo that can bring you tears. This song has it all – pure, perfect vocals, beautiful strings, and even a key change. What more could you ask for?

Everybody (Backstreet’s Back) – Backstreet Boys

The Backstreet Boys were the biggest boy band of the 90s. They had hits in 1996, then came back with their sophomore album, Backstreet’s Back, in 1997, as though they actually went away for a while.

“Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” was the anthem for their return and the successful (sort of) title track to that album.

One year older and wiser…

The Boys were ready to “rock your body right” with this upbeat track. The music is smooth and beautifully produced. The vocals are clear and crisp, as always with the boys, and the music is a mix of dance, power pop, and R&B designed to make the crowd swoon.

Combine this with their Thriller-inspired zombie dance, and this song was a huge 90s hit.

Around the World – Daft Punk

One of the most famous dance hits ever belongs to the French DJ duo Daft Punk. These helmeted dance floor heroes released their debut album, Homework, in 1997, and the track “Around the World” took off as a major club hit.

It hit #1 on the charts in five countries, gaining its place in dance music history. This song has a simple structure with a strong, thick, bass-heavy beat and spinning synth sounds.

The only lyrics, the titular “Around the world,” are repeated 144 times in this song, making it one of the most repetitive songs ever produced. At the same time, playing around with the song structure and audio effects allowed Daft Punk to keep the song interesting while you’re shaking a leg to it.

Man! I Feel Like a Woman – Shania Twain

While not strictly a pop star, Canadian Shania Twain was the biggest thing in Country during the 90s, and many of her songs spilled over into Pop and mainstream radio. Arguably, her biggest Country-Pop song was “Man! I Feel Like a Woman,” which came out on her 1997 album, Come On Over.

This song is a whole lot of fun and has everything you could want in a Country-Pop song – a catchy beat, the perfect tempo, a great hook, and just the right amount of twang.

Shania sings about enjoying being a woman and about her ideas of femininity but also called the song a “gay power” song as well. So, whoever feels like a woman, let’s go, girls!

Torn – Natalie Imbruglia

When you hear this Pop song, you can nearly hear the 90s dripping out of your speakers. It’s “Torn,” a song that was written in 1993 and first recorded in Danish, a little-known fact. But the version that we all know is the 1997 cover by Aussie actress and singer Natalie Imbruglia.

Imbruglia took the strong lyrics about a break-up and made them her own. Lines like “Illusion never changed – Into something real – I’m wide awake – and I can see the perfect sky is torn” help us relate to the disappearance of the illusion of a perfect romance.

And the music is just so perfectly 90s. The strong beat and acoustic guitar, along with choral oohs and ahhs, blend together to create a sound that is quintessential 90s Adult Contemporary Pop.

Hip Hop and R&B

Moving right along with this list of the best 90s songs, we enter what many would call the “Golden Age of Hip-Hip.” You can decide for yourself if that is the case as we break down the best Hip Hip songs from the 90s.

Fight the Power – Public Enemy

I’m cheating a bit with the first Hip-Hop song on our list. This song was first released on the soundtrack to the Spike Lee joint Do the Right Thing in 1989. However, Public Enemy put out “Fight the Power” on their 1990 album, Fear of a Black Planet, so I’m still counting it as a 90s song.

This song is big and powerful and angry…

It exalts listeners to “Fight the power!” and “Don’t believe the hype!” and is about the struggle of black Americans in a discriminating society. Flava Flav proves himself the world’s greatest hype man on this track, backing up Chuck D’s powerful rhymes perfectly.

This song has a great groove, tons of energy, and the staying power to make it a Hip-Hop staple well into the present.

U Can’t Touch This – MC Hammer

What do you get when you combine a wicked dance, weirdo baggy pants, and a sample of the legendary Rick James’ “Superfreak”? You get MC Hammer’s 1990 smash hit, “U Can’t Touch This,” that’s what.

This track blew up Hammer’s album Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em and won him a Grammy in the process.

This track is slammin’…

The Rick James sample sets a great groove that’s infectious and danceable. Hammer’s rhymes are a bit vanilla and old-school compared to what was happening in Hip-Hop at the time. But that gave the song more popular appeal.

And the oohs give this song a whole lot of power. For many, this was a soft landing into the world of Hip-Hop that would soon become the biggest trend in music. That’s also why it’s one of the best 90s songs of all time.

Ice Ice Baby – Vanilla Ice

Another song that stood on the shoulders of giants is “Ice Ice Baby.” This song is built around the hit song “Under Pressure” by Queen and David Bowie. When you copy a song with that huge influence already, you can be pretty sure that your song will be a hit, too.

But Vanilla Ice’s lyrical performance is also pretty dope here, and his smooth white boy look helped make this record more approachable. Furthermore, this record was the best-selling Hip-Hop record for over a decade, when it was finally unseated by Eminem.

This track helped to define early 90s Hip-Hop and bring it to a whole new audience. And, if you know any white guys in their late 30s and early 40s, ask them to lay down a few verses. I don’t think you’re going to be disappointed by any of them.

The Humpty Dance – Digital Underground

If you want a throwback to the early 90s Hip-Hop scene, there’s no song better than “The Humpty Dance” by Digital Underground. This track is hugely nostalgic and reminds everyone of good times and slamming parties.

Humpty Hump is a character created by Shock G of the Digital Underground who wears a disguise and is a bit of a clown. He raps this song through this character and even started a silly dance craze based on the song.

The lyrics are funny but also thoughtfully penned and very clever. The music includes a phat beat that’s sampled from Sly and the Family Stone and Parliament. And the “Do-do-do-do me baby – Do the Humpty Hump” chorus will bring a smile to your face any time you hear it.

O.P.P. – Naughty by Nature

Naughty by Nature is a trio from New Jersey made up of two rappers and a DJ. They are still performing, even though their biggest successes were achieved back in the 90s. And the biggest song of all for the group has got to be “O.P.P.”

This track came out in 1991 as well and was a fair bit naughtier, lyrically, than what we’ve seen so far. But it was also a super-fun party song that got people shaking it on the dance floor.

You’ve got great music here…

First of all, with samples from Melvin Bliss and the Jackson 5. This is backed by a thick drum groove that totally bounces.

And the lyrics? They are pretty funny and lighthearted, even if they are about stepping out on your partner. There’s some clever, sneaky wordplay at work here that takes this song to another level.

Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang – Dr. Dre (Feat. Snoop Dogg)

One of the earliest and best-known examples of the West Coast sound is “Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang” by Dr. Dre. This producer/rapper had split with N.W.A. and released his first solo album, The Chronic, in 1992 to wide acclaim.

This album and this track put Dre on the map and also introduced another future Hip-Hop legend by featuring Snoop Doggy Dogg.

Snoop was young here, just 21, but was all ready to steal the show. Dre’s rhymes are solid on this track, but Snoop’s flow is smooth, laid back, and unique.

Where Dr. Dre shines is in the production…

This song is relaxed and sparsely put together, leaving lots of room for the rappers. But Dre uses a great funk sample of “I Want’a Do Something Freaky to You” by Leon Haywood as well as an interpolation of Parliament-Funkadelic to create something special.

What’s it like? “It’s like this and like that and like this and uh.”

Jump Around – House of Pain

One of the most distinctive 90s Hip-Hop songs out there has to be “Jump Around” by the trio House of Pain. This is another track that came out way back in 1992, but it’s one that still gets an amazing amount of airplay even today.

The reason is probably not because of the stunning rapping by members Everlast and Danny Boy. Instead, it’s because of the production. The beat was first put together by DJ Muggs and offered to Cypress Hill and Ice Cube before landing in House of Pain’s laps.

And it proved to be a huge hit…

This track samples Bob and Earl’s “Harlem Shuffle” and Chubby Checker’s “Popeye the Hitchhiker.” It also has a high-pitched whistle sound that gets repeated many times.

The sound is grating and sort of like an alarm, but somehow it still works with this song. Plus, the chorus has a simple “Everybody jump” hook that’s pretty infectious. The whole thing came together to create one of the best and most memorable songs of the 1990s.

Waterfalls – TLC

The track “Waterfalls” came out on Hip-Hop/R&B group TLC’s 2nd album, CrazySexyCool, in 1994 and has found its way into music history. This song showed a softer side of the normally hard-edged rap group, with them singing more soulfully between verses while still showing off their rap skills, too.

The song is a slow grind, but it’s not a romantic track at all. Instead, the song acts as a warning for people to be careful of AIDS and drug habits, both pressing issues at the time.

They sang, “Don’t go chasing waterfalls – Please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to,” as a metaphor for pursuing risky behaviors. But, rather than preaching, TLC made this message sound loving and kind, and cool too.

Tha Crossroads – Bone Thugs-n-Harmony

This song has an interesting success story. It was originally put out on Cleveland crew Bone Thugs-n-Harmony’s second album, E. 1999 Eternal, as “Crossroad.” It was written for a friend and is about life, loss, and moving on.

But, when rapper Eazy-E died in 1996…

The group re-recorded a new version dedicated to the man who was their friend and mentor as well. “Tha Crossroads” was re-born as a single that anyone could relate to, Eazy fans or not. It’s a slow dirge of a jam, but the Bone boys rap quickly and skillfully over the R&B-sounding beat.

The group shows off their singing and rapping skills here, making a beautiful memorial of a track. It ended up being massive, going to #1 in the charts, winning a Grammy Award, and selling double-platinum.

Woo Ha!! Got You All In Check – Busta Rhymes (Feat. Ol’ Dirty Bastard)

Busta Rhymes is hands down one of the most unique and straight-up unusual artists in Hip-Hop ever. This New York rapper started in a group and doing some cameos with other artists. But, when he dropped his first solo album in 1996, it was like dropping a bomb.

Busta’s skills are next to none, and “eenie, meanie, minie, mo” nobody can steal his flow. His style is so off-kilter and unusual, and his bars so original; there’s no one like him out there.

Wait, there is Ol’ Dirty Bastard…

The original version of this classic song has Busta rapping over a funky beat. But there’s also a version with ODB that puts these two together like a dream team. It’s nastier, grittier, and just plain nasty.

No Diggity – Blackstreet (feat. Dr. Dre and Queen Pen)

The year 1996 produced some great songs in all genres, but it was definitely big for Hip-Hop and R&B. So, which is this song? While “No Diggity” is primarily sung by the smooth R&B band Blackstreet, it also features rapping by Dr. Dre and Queen Pen. This gives it the perfect balance for a huge crossover hit.

The music here is just as smooth as the singing. It’s funky with a thick beat that’s just the perfect tempo to get butts up out of seats. And there are too many memorable parts of this song, especially the “No diggity” part in the chorus and the “Hey yo, hey yo, hey, yo, hey yo” refrain at the end.

Say My Name – Destiny’s Child

Beyoncé is a massive star now, but she worked hard to get where she is and deserves that recognition. In her younger days, she was a member of Girl’s Tyme and which then became the R&B group Destiny’s Child.

This group had a string of hits near the end of the 90s, due in large part to Beyoncé’s incredible vocal skill. “Say My Name” is one of the group’s biggest and best songs. It hit the #1 spot in the charts and also won the group a Grammy Award.

This song stands out because of the excellent music, which jumps around between different rhythms and parts in the song. It’s interesting and creates a slightly confused, chaotic mood which is perfect for the lyrics about catching out a cheater.

And the vocals?

The group sounds great here, but as usual, Beyoncé is out front and shining with her superior power and range.

Looking for the Best Songs from any Genre or Time?

Well, you’re in luck. Check out our thoughts on the Best Classic Rock Songs, the Best Hip Hop Songs Of All Time, the Best Bluegrass Songs, the Best R&B Songs of All Time, the Best Funk Songs of All Time for more great song selections.

Also, take a look at our comprehensive articles on the Best 2000s Dance Songs, the Best 70s Songs, the Best Songs of The 2000s, the Best 80s Rock Songs, and the Best 2000s R&B Songs to discover even more incredible music.

And don’t miss our in-depth reviews of the Best Headphones for Hip-Hop, the Best Headphones For Rock & Metal Music, the Most Comfortable Headphones, the Best Headphones for Music, as well as the Best Headphones Under $200 that you can buy in 2023.

The Best of the Best 90s Songs

The 90s weren’t just about neon and Nintendos. A whole lot of great music also came out during this decade.

This was also a time of a great schism, with new genres popping up just about every other week or so. Music was expanding with new instruments, new recording techniques, new styles, and new sounds.

Exciting times!

The songs I’ve listed here aren’t necessarily the best or even the biggest hits. Instead, they’re the songs that define this decade more than any others. As soon as you put them on, there’s no question about which decade they’re from.

It may make you feel old that the 90s are now “retro.” But, at least you can be contented with all the great memories these songs bring flooding back – so enjoy.

And, until next time, happy listening.

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About Warren Barrett

Warren has spent nearly half a century (now that's a long time!) as an ink-stained wretch writing for music magazines and websites and has no plans on giving up soon.

He is curious about all types of music and instruments apart from any genre with 'Urban' in the title. He's also not so keen on Plastic Potted Plants, Reality TV, and any movies with Kevin Costner in them.

He lives in Delaware with his wife Wendy and lots of great memories...

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