Coming up with a list of the top 100 songs of the 90s was no picnic. Bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam introduced grunge, a sub-genre of rock that enjoyed huge popularity in the first half of the 90s. Dance music and trance/techno also started to hit the mainstream radio waves. Rap didn’t fade away as a temporary fad as many people predicted it would in the 80s, gaining in popularity and even challenging pop and rock music for radio play time. It was also a decade of one hit wonders where a seemingly unprecedented number of bands and solo artists enjoyed huge hits only to fade away and never be heard from again.
With all this to balance in building my list of the best songs of the 90s it took a lot of agonizing to narrow it down to a mere 100. Without further ado, here are the songs:
100 – ACDC – Thunderstruck – Arguably the greatest hard rock band of all time, ACDC has been cranking out metal anthems for more than three decades now. This classic track from the 1990 album The Razor’s Edge is great to bang your head to, as can be clearly be seen from the song’s video.
99 – The Wallflowers – One Headlight – Fronted by legendary singer-songerwriter Bob Dylan’s son Jakob, The Wallflowers weren’t truly a one hit wonder, but there is little question that this mellow melody was their best song. One Headlight made it all the way to number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and also spent some time as the #1 video on VH1.
98 – Cher – Believe – Whether she is acting or singing there is little argument that Cher is one talented lady. She took advantage of the dance music craze of the nineties, taking this high energy tune all the way to #1 in several countries and earning a Grammy for her efforts.
97 – Pearl Jam – Alive – Only Nirvana was more influential in launching the genre of grunge music in the 90s than this Seattle band. Their debut album Ten was a huge smash hit, and this song was their first release from the album.
96 – Blackstreet – No Diggity – Another one hit wonder of the 90s, this R&B song went all the way to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1996, and captured a Grammy award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.
95 – Ice Cube – It Was a Good Day – A departure from many of his early music with gangsta rap group N.W.A., and even from many of the other tracks on his album The Predator this song is widely recognized as one of the best rap songs of all time.
94 – Sublime – What I Got – From the group’s final album in 1999, What I Got marked the group’s peak on mainstream radio, reaching #1 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart and even cracking the mainstream top 40 at #29 on Billboard’s hot 100, a rare feat for a ska band.
93 – Public Enemy – 911 is a Joke – Always controversial and confrontational, iconic rap group Public Enemy (Chuck D and Flavor Flav) harshly criticizes the 911 emergency system in this 1990 hit from their Grammy award-nominated Fear of a Black Planet album.
92 – The Cranberries – Linger – A little Irish flavor to this list of the top 100 songs of the 90s. Linger was a surprise ballad from this alternative rock band. It charted at #3 in their home country of Ireland, and went all the way to #8 on the US Billboard charts.
91 – Nirvana – Come as You Are – Though not nearly as popular with the mainstream crowd as Smells Like Teen Spirit this track from Nirvana’s Nevermind album is among the band’s best work, and despite the relative infancy of grunge music at the time managed to crack the top 40 back in 1992, getting all the way to #32 on the US Billboard charts.
90 – Alice in Chains – Rooster – One of the best rock bands of the 90s it would be a crime not to include at least one of their songs on this list. Some might argue that Man in the Box is a better song, but I am citing personal preference on this one. The best song, in my humble opinion, from the band’s incredible 1992 album Dirt.
89 – Lou Bega – Mambo No. 5 – This entry on the list is actually a cover of Perez Prado’s 1949 mambo/jive song. Lou Bega’s 1999 song got huge air play that year and though some might be so sick of it that they are groaning at its inclusion on this list its chart success can’t be denied. It reached #1 in multiple countries that year, including an impressive 8 week stint at that position on the Australian music charts.
88 – Montell Jordan – This Is How We Do It – Another one hit wonder is also one of the best dance songs of the 90s. Montell Jordan’s song was all the rage on radio stations and in clubs back in 1995. The track has been featured on too many dance music compilations to name and made it all the way to number 1 on the Billboard charts.
87 – Snow – Informer – I’m not sure whether to classify his music under rap/reggae or something entirely different. From the cleverly titled 1993 album 12 Inches of Snow this song lit up the airwaves in 1993, spending a staggering 7 weeks at #1 on the charts that year.
86 – Lisa Loeb – Stay (I Missed You) – To call the 90s the decade of one hit wonders would be accurate in my opinion and this is yet another of many examples you’ll see on this list. With a look more stereotypical of a librarian than a musician Lisa Loeb burst on the scene with this 1994 hit, becoming the first artist to ever have a number one single without a recording contract.
85 – Hootie and the Blowfish – Only Wanna Be With You – This song from Hootie and the Blowfish’s smash debut album Cracked Rear View seemed to be on the radio once ever hour back in 1995, though it peaked at #6 on the U.S. Billboard charts that year. Though the band has since faded into obscurity they avoid the dreaded one hit wonder moniker due to two other hits from the same album – Let Her Cry and Hold My Hand that cracked the top 10 that year.
84 – Matchbox 20 – 3 A.M. – This band is definitely a “multi-hit wonder” and songs like Push, Real World, Back 2 Good and, of course, 3 A.M. launched them into superstardom in the late 90s. The band went into hiatus for several years while front man Rob Thomas worked on some solo projects, but since 2007 the band has been reunited much to the delight of their massive fan base.
83 – Meredith Brooks – Bitch – One of the most interestingly named songs on this list of the best songs of the 90s, this 1997 song from the album Blurring the Edges enjoyed massive success that year, charting as high as #2. The song would be Brooks’ only major hit. Funnily enough she almost didn’t include it on her album because of the concern that the “strong language” of the song. Good thing she changed her mind, or she’d be a no-hit wonder.
82 – Kris Kross – Jump – A pair of prepubescent rappers who had trouble putting their clothes on the right way make the 82 spot on my list. There might not be much lyrical meat to this one, but you can’t deny that it is catchy, and if you happen to hear it in the club you won’t be able to ignore the overwhelming urge to bounce.
81 – EMF – Unbelievable – This high energy dance track from UK band EMF took the UK and the U.S. by storm back in 1990, reaching #3 in the band’s home country and all the way to number one on the U.S. Billboard charts. This song still gets regular play on radio and in clubs alike and never fails to fill the dance floor when the DJ cues it up.
80 – Cypress Hill – Insane in the Brain – One of the most distinctive rap groups of all time, Cypress Hill is well known for their collaborations with other popular rap groups including House of Pain and Funkdoobiest. Their signature hit Insane in the Brain is one of the genre’s most iconic songs, and the chorus is easily one of the most recognizable in rap music.
79 – Sarah McLachlan – Building a Mystery – One of the most underrated artists of the 90s, in my opinion, Sarah McLachlan’s hauntingly melodic music is perfect for those looking to unwind and relax. With an amazing vocal range McLachlan is one of the most talented mainstream singers I’ve ever heard. Though the song only made #13 on the U.S. charts it spent 8 weeks at #1 in her home country of Canada, and earned McLachlan a Grammy award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.
78 – Fastball – The Way – Though Fastball recently released their 5th studio album they haven’t really achieved any mainstream success since their 1998 album All the Pain Money Can Buy. Their hit single from that album The Way went all the #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts and hit number one on the rock charts, earning the band a Grammy nomination. For those who listen carefully you can hear brief samples of Jewel’s Foolish Games and Madonna’s Vogue at the beginning of the song.
77 – Right Said Fred – I’m Too Sexy – I almost cringe putting this tune on a list of top 100 songs, but the fact remains that it was a huge dance hit in the early 90s. It spent 3 weeks at number one that year. If you are too young to remember the song and want a good laugh, look up the video on YouTube.
76 – Marcy Playground – Sex and Candy – It’s a little hard to believe this song actually became a hit back in 1997. After all, anybody who can carry a tune can sing it just as well as lead vocalist John Wozniak, and the accompanying music wouldn’t challenge an 8th grade band student. Still, the song is one of those tunes that seems to get stuck in your head and is a good karaoke choice for your friends with a narrow vocal range.
75 – Deee-Lite – Groove Is in the Heart – One of the most original songs on this list, Groove Is in the heart is one of the best dance songs of the 90s. Funky and feet-tugging the song is a hybrid between funk, rap, with a little bit of disco thrown in for good measure. Rapper Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest lends his superb vocal skills to the track as well. The song hit number one on the dance charts and eventually spilled over into the mainstream music consciousness as well, making it all the way to number four on the Billboard Hot 100.
74 – Bell Biv DeVoe – Poison – When Bobby Brown parted ways with R&B group New Edition members Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins and Ronnie DeVoe split off to form their own group. The group enjoyed several top 40 hits during their relatively short time together between 1990-93, and Poison was their signature hit, reaching #1 on the R&B charts, and #3 on the Billboard Hot 100.
73 – Fatboy Slim – The Rockafeller Skank – One of the best names on this list of best songs, this particular tune was decidedly lacking in lyrical content, simply repeating the phrases, “Right about now, the funk soul brother. Check it out now, the funk soul brother.” over and over again. However, something about the song appealed to listeners, particularly over in the UK where the song went all the way to #6 back in 1998.
72 – En Vogue – My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It) – One of the biggest female R&B groups of the past 20 years, En Vogue has sold over 20 million albums worldwide. Their album Funky Divas went multi-platinum, and featured a pair of top ten hits. One was Free Your Mind, and My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It) the other. The album would go on to garner 5 Grammy nominations, and established the “Funky Divas” as one of the biggest R&B groups of the 90s.
71 – 2PAC Featuring Dr. Dre – California Love – Though fans of legendary rapper Tupac Shakur will argue that this lyrical poet that many consider one of the best rappers of all time has multiple songs far superior to this one, this particular list’s main criteria is mainstream popularity and chart success and this song, which spent 2 weeks at #1, is by far the late rapper’s most well known, and is widely considered one of the best hip hop songs of the 90s.
70 – Fiona Apple – Criminal – An eclectic mix of jazz, rock and pop, Fiona Apple’s music is unique to say the least. She launched onto the music scene with her 1996 debut album Tidal. Her biggest hit from that album, and in her career to date was Criminal, which was a top 40 hit, and featured a controversial video that showed Apple in various states of undress.
69 – The Presidents of the United States of America – Peaches – A not so humble name for a humble band from Seattle. The band has enjoyed such hits as Lump a cover of the Buggles’ Video Killed the Radio Star and Peaches. A strangely titled song with even strangers lyrics the song managed to catch on, cracking the top 40 back in 1996, and earning a Grammy nomination.
68 – Bush – Glycerine – First we had grunge bands, then we had “post-grunge” bands. British band Bush fits into the latter category. In 1996 Glycerine reached #1 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart, and though it only reached #28 on the Billboard Hot 100 it remains quite popular today, getting regular airplay on U.S. radio stations.
67 – Foo Fighters – Big Me – This one gets a nod mostly on the strength of its music video rather than the chart success of the song itself. Big Me was a clever parody of Mentos commercials and is one of the funniest, most original music videos of the 90s.
66 – Smashing Pumpkins – Today – This one is one of the best karaoke songs on this list. From alternative rock band Smashing Pumpkins the song charted fairly well on the rock charts and is recognized as this popular band’s signature hits.
65 – Green Day – Basket Case – Few alternative or punk rock bands were more popular in the 90s than Green Day. This song is about band frontman Billie Joe Armstrong’s battle with extreme anxiety. The song was one of several smash hits from the album Dookie and spent 5 weeks atop the rock charts, earning the band a Grammy nomination.
64 – Jamiroquai – Virtual Insanity – Without question one of the most original artists on this list, Jamiroquai isn’t exactly a household name when it comes to the mainstream music consciousness. However, they have a devoted fan base who are more than happy to keep the band to themselves. This 1997 track didn’t do much damage on the charts, reaching #38 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart, but still earns a deserving spot on the list of the top 100 songs of the 90s.
63 – Naughty by Nature – O.P.P. – A two hit wonder rap group that had a brief moment in the sun in the early 90s, Naughty by Nature created music that made you want to get up and dance. Their 1991 hit O.P.P. was their signature song, and owes much of its success to its heavy sampling of the Jackson 5 hit ABC. The song made it all the way to #1 on the rap charts, and #6 on the mainstream Billboard charts.
62 – Color Me Badd – I Wanna Sex You Up – If you spent a significant amount of time in night clubs in the early 90s then you no doubt heard this song hundreds of times. The anthem for lonely (or just promiscuous) singles looking to hook up, you could rely on this song two or three times a night. It dominated the charts in several countries, reaching #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, and getting to #1 on the New Zealand and UK singles charts, and earned itself a Soul Train Music Award for Best R&B/Soul Song of the Year.
61 – Collective Soul – Shine – This is a band that has really spanned several genres over their extensive recording career. An alternative rock band at heart they’ve also crossed over into the mainstream rock and pop music genres from time to time. Their 1994 smash hit Shine spent 8 weeks at #1 on the rock charts.
60 – Sugar Ray – Fly – Anyone who has heard Mean Machine or any of Sugar Ray’s early works would be surprised that it is the same artist that released the massive 1997 hit Fly. Sure, maybe the band sold out, but they spent 8 weeks atop the rock charts and most definitely reaped the biggest payday of their careers. Wouldn’t you do it?
59 – Jewel – You Were Meant for Me – Jewel burst on the scene in 1996 with her hit album Pieces of You. Your Were Meant for Me was the second release from the album and built on the success of her previous single, Who Will Save Your Soul>. The song catapulted all the way to #2 on the Billboard charts, and won an MTV Music Video Award for best female video for the song.
58 – Barenaked Ladies – One Week – I’m not sure how much play this band gets in the U.S., but as a Canadian I can tell you they pretty much dominate our airwaves. They have had a string of huge hits here, and though If I Had a Million Dollars is probably considered their “signature song”, this 1998 hit is the song that truly gained the band worldwide recognition, going all the way to #1 that year. If you really want a challenge, try to karaoke this song. You’ll be out of breath in a hurry I can promise you.
57 – Rage Against the Machine – Killing in the Name – This one bucks the trend of high charting songs on this list of the best songs of the 90s. However, this is one of the best hard rock songs of the decade, and isn’t really the type of song that would hit mainstream radio, so there you go. It still continues to be popular 17 years after its release, and a cover version was featured in the hit video game Guitar Hero II.
56 – Christina Aguilera – Genie in a Bottle – One of the biggest recording stars of the past decade, Christina Aguilera made her debut in a huge way with this monster hit that spent 5 weeks at the top of the charts. Genie in a Bottle was also nominated for a Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, and was a big reason why Aguilera took home the Grammy for Best New Artist.
55 – Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch – Good Vibrations – Though Mark Wahlberg is now best known for his work as an actor, starring in films like The Departed and Boogie Nights once upon a time he was the frontman for a hip hop band, and still enjoys one hit wonder status for this dance/rap song that went all the way to #1 in the U.S. and UK way back in 1991.
54 – Sheryl Crow – All I Wanna Do – It was a “fun” year for Sheryl Crow back in 1993 as she leapt into the music spotlight with the release of her Tuesday Night Music Club album. Her debut release from the album, All I Wanna Do reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, and earned her Grammies for both Record of the Year, and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.
53 – Lenny Kravitz – Are You Gonna Go My Way? – A classic rock song, pure and simple, this song failed to crack the Hot 100, but soared to #1 on the Album Rock Tracks chart and #2 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart. The opening riff of the song is among the most recognizable in music. The song continues to be popular, and appears as a playable track in both the Rock Band and Guitar Hero video game franchises.
52 – Offspring – Pretty Fly for a White Guy – This punk rock song starts out the same as Dep Leppard’s classic rock anthem Rock of Ages before taking off in a blend of punk and pop with some pretty amusing lyrics along the way. The song was a smash hit in Europe, hitting #1 in several countries there and also features one of the best music videos of the 90s.
51 – Blur – Song 2 – Though the band had several popular songs in the UK, it was this 1997 song that introduced the band to the U.S. population. Featuring hard to decipher lyrics and an overdriven chorus the song wasn’t your typical “radio hit”. It did manage to get to #55 on the U.S. Hot 100 Airplay charts, and went to #2 on the UK singles charts.
50 – The Verve – Bitter Sweet Symphony – It is only appropriate that yet another one hit wonder would mark the entrance into the top 50 songs of the 90s. With Bittersweet Symphony it looked like The Verve was poised to launch a massive music career. Unfortunately, they blew their wad on this one quality track, reaching #12 on the Hot 100 before fading into obscurity.
49 – *NSYNC – Tearin’ Up My Heart – One other legacy the 90s left us with was the explosion in popularity of the so-called “Boy Band”. There was no bigger Boy Band in the 90s than*NSYNC. Fronted by the now solo Justin Timberlake the band was hugely popular, particularly among the teenage girl demographic. This song was the second single on their 10X Platinum album, *NSYNC and really launched the band into superstardom.
48 – C+C Music Factory – Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now) – No song defines the dance craze of the early 90s like this one. You couldn’t spend an hour in a night club without hearing it, and it seemed to pack the dance floor every time the DJ spun it. It held the #1 spot on the dance charts for an impressive 5 weeks, and even spent a couple of weeks atop the mainstream Billboard Hot 100 back in 1991.
47 – Vanilla Ice – Ice Ice Baby – As much as we like to laugh at him now there was a time when the world went wild for this one hit wonder’s signature song. One of the biggest (not necessarily best) rap songs of the 90s, the song went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 – the first hip hop song to ever do so – and made Robert Van Winkle (AKA Vanilla Ice) a household name.
46 – LL Cool J – Mama Said Knock You Out – Back to back rap songs on this list of the top 100 songs of the 90s. LL Cool J proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that his career was far from done with this hard hitting hip hop classic. The song earned LL Cool J a Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance in 1992.
45 – Goo Goo Dolls – Iris – Under duress from a club owner to change their name (from Sex Maggots) if they wanted to perform, the band came up with the decision to call themselves the Goo Goo Dolls. One of the more unusual names on this list to be sure, but the strange moniker hasn’t hurt sales at all as the band has sold more than 9 million albums in the United States. Their signature hit is the song Iris was written for the City of Angels soundtrack and soared all the way to the top of the charts, earning the Goo Goo Dolls 3 Grammy award nominations along the way.
44 – Spin Doctors – Two Princes – Another 90s band that shone like the sun for a few months before their career faded into shadow. The Spin Doctors were a two hit wonder with their hits Two Princes and Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong, and the alternative rock band got plenty of mainstream radio play. Two Princes reached #7 on the Hot 100 charts, and was listed on VH1’s Greatest Songs of the 90s.
43 – Shania Twain – You’re Still the One – Few artists have been able to blur the line between country music and pop as well as Shania Twain did during the 90s. With hits like Any Man of Mine and Don’t Be Stupid this gorgeous Canadian songstress achieved mainstream music success far beyond the dreams of most of her country music peers. With 1998’s Come on Over Twain reached #2 on the Hot 100 charts and the song went on to receive an incredible 4 Grammy nominations, winning two in the categories of Best Country Song and Best Female Country Vocal Performance.
42 – Joan Osborne – One of Us – A song with a little more depth than most of the rest of the fluff music that comprised the 90s, this one asked tough theological questions. Despite, or maybe because of, the religious theme of the song it resonated with listeners, and it became a huge hit in early 1996, reaching #4 on the charts and receiving 3 Grammy nominations, including one for Song of the Year.
41 – Weezer – Buddy Holly – One of the most consistently successful alternative rock bands over the past decade and a half, Weezer crossed over into popular music consciousness with the 1994 release of Buddy Holly. The song reached #2 on the rock charts, and the accompanying music video featuring the band superimposed into an episode of the TV show Happy Days was one of the best of the 90s.
40 – Will Smith – Getting’ Jiggy Wit It – Though looking back many people might consider this one of the most irritating songs of the decade, there can be little debate that this was a massive hit for rapper/actor Will Smith back in the day. It spent 3 weeks at the top of the charts in 1998, and earned Smith a Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance.
39 – The Fugees – Killing Me Softly With His Song – Originally composed in 1971 by Norman Gimbel and Charles Fox this song has been covered by numerous artists over the years. Roberta Flack won 3 Grammy Awards and had a #1 hit with the song back in the 70s. Though The Fugees’ version was not quite as successful, it did reach #2 on the Airplay charts in the U.S. and was a massive hit across the pond, topping the UK singles charts.
38 – The Notorious B.I.G. featuring Puff Daddy & Mase – Mo Money Mo Problems – Considered by most longtime fans of rap music to be one of the greatest rappers of all time, the late Biggie Smalls hit #1 for two weeks with this song, though he never got to enjoy its success as it was released posthumously following his death in a drive by shooting in early 1997.
37 – Chumbawamba – Tubthumping – I couldn’t tell you what this song is about, but I do know that the catchy tune was a massive hit for one hit wonder band Chumbawamba back in 1997. Yes, in retrospect, it is a pretty annoying song, but I bet you liked it back then.
36 – Destiny’s Child – Say My Name – Though Beyonce is now rocking a pretty darn successful solo career, back in the 90s she was part of the all girl R&B supergroup Destiny’s Child. Together, the group sold over 50 million albums and strung together 4 number one hits, including this track, which squeaks onto our list due to the December 1999 release of the album The Writing’s on the Wall on which the song is featured.
35 – Celine Dion – My Heart Will Go On – There was no bigger film in the 90s than Jame Cameron’s epic motion picture Titanic, and everyone and everything connected with the hugely successful movie seemed to achieve superstardom. Celine Dion was no exception, and her 1997 theme song was the biggest selling single in the world in 1998, topping the charts in multiple countries, and landing Dion an Oscar as well as a whopping 4 Grammies for good measure.
34 – Salt-N-Pepa with En Vogue – Whatta Man – Another R&B female supergroup – En Vogue – and one of the most influential female rap groups of all time – Salt-N-Pepa – team up to give us our #34 song on this list of the best songs of the 90s. The song topped the rap charts, went to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100, and was nominated for both a Grammy and an American Music Award.
33 – Mariah Carey – Vision of Love – As flaky as she might be no one can deny that diva Mariah Carey has an amazing set of pipes and she demonstrated them yet again in 1990 with this massive hit song. Vision of Love hit #1 on the charts and earned Mariah Carey 3 Grammy nominations, including Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for which it won.
32 – Hanson – MMMBop – The trend on this list that was started with songs like Getting’ Jiggy Wit It and Tubthumping continues with this tune by boy group Hanson. Yes, it is another track that would probably make many people’s list of the most annoying songs of all time, yet it is hard to keep from this list considering it went to #1 in oh, 27 countries or so. Love it or hate it, it holds a deserving spot on the list.
31 – Spice Girls – Wannabe – What was I just saying about annoying songs? Before manufactured, hot, all girl groups like the Pussycat Dolls came along the Spice Girls were dominating the music biz back in the 90s. The song spent 4 weeks at number one in the U.S., and topped the charts in an additional 21 countries back in 1996. Thankfully the folks at the Grammies had better taste as the song didn’t receive a single nomination despite its success.
30 – Oasis – Wonderwall – The British Invasion continues with this English rock band’s signature hit from 1996. Despite the fact that Liam Gallagher claims he can barely stand singing the song, and there are probably more than a few people who can no longer stand listening to it back in the 90s it reached #2 on the UK singles charts, #8 on the U.S. charts and earned 2 Grammy nominations.
29 – Soundgarden – Black Hole Sun – You knew grunge music was going to rears its, well, grungy head again. This song by Seattle band Soundgarden spent an impressive 7 weeks atop the rock charts back in 1994 and won a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance as well as nabbing a nomination for Best Rock Song.
28 – Eric Clapton – Tears in Heaven – If this was a list of the best songs of the 60s or 70s you know Eric Clapton’s name would be all over it. Widely recognized as one of the best guitarists of all time Clapton slows it down in this soul-baring song about the grief Clapton experienced following the death of his young son.
27 – Third Eye Blind – Semi-Charmed Life – One of the biggest hits of the late 90s, this song continues to get plenty of radio play, and has been featured in numerous movie and TV shows over the years. Back in 1997 it hit #1 on the rock charts, and #4 on the mainstream music charts.
26 – Radiohead – Creep – Though this English alternative rock band doesn’t enjoy a lot of mainstream radio play, back in 1993 they enjoyed a rare worldwide hit with Creep. It was original released as a single in 1992 with little fanfare, but enjoyed enormous success after they included it on their 1993 album Pablo Honey.
25 – Ricky Martin – Livin’ La Vida Loca – Though American Idol fans might recognize this artist due to William Hung’s atrociously bad audition version of She Bangs, Ricky Martin’s signature song was the massive international hit Livin’ La Vida Loca which he released in 1999. The song was immensely popular in the U.S. where it spent 5 weeks at #1 that year.
24 – Counting Crows – Mr. Jones – Though Mr. Jones didn’t have the chart success many of the other songs on this list did it has withstood the test of time far more successfully and is still on regular rotation on many radio stations today.
23 – Backstreet Boys – I Want It That Way – If there was a challenger for *NSYNC as the world’s most popular band it would be this group. They have sold over 100 million albums worldwide since forming in 1993, and have had a staggering 13 top 40 hits. I Want It That Way though it only peaked at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100, spent multiple weeks at #1 on many other music charts, including setting a record for most consecutive weeks at #1 on the Billboard Mainstream charts.
22 – Dr. Dre featuring Snoop Doggy Dogg – Nuthin’ but a “G” Thang – Rap music really hit its stride in the 90s, and Dr. Dre and Snoop Doggy Dogg (now just Snoop Dogg) were two of the driving influences behind its increasing popularity. Ain’t Nuthin’ but a “G” Thang from Dre’s smash debut album The Chronic went to #1 on both the rap and R&B charts, and soared all the way to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 back in 1993.
21 – Metallica – Enter Sandman – If there is any band that can give ACDC a run for its money as the best hard rock/metal band of the past 3 decades it is definitely Metallica. With a massive hardcore fan base Metallica had enjoyed huge popularity with the heavy metal crowd for years, but it wasn’t until their 1991 release of Enter Sandman that the band entered the mainstream consciousness. The track made it all the way to #16 on the Hot 100 – a rare feat for a track that would fall under the classification of heavy metal – and launched the band into worldwide superstardom.
20 – Beastie Boys – Sabotage – Not only one of the best songs of the 90s, but also one of the best music videos as well. This song continues to be incredible popular 15 years after its release, and is featured in the Rock Band, Guitar Hero and DJ Hero franchises.
19 – Michael Jackson – Black or White – Though he is most well remembered for his massive 80s hits from the albums Thriller and Bad, Michael Jackson’s 1991 album Dangerous was also well received from fans and critics alike. Black or White, the first single from the album, was the biggest selling rock song of the 90s and hit #1 in 20 different countries.
18 – Blind Melon – No Rain – Another one of the biggest one hit wonders of the 90s there can be little question that Blind Melon would not have been saddled with that moniker had it not been for the untimely death of lead singer Shannon Hoon. However, before that they blessed us with one of the best alternative rock tracks ever recorded with 1992’s No Rain. The song reached #1 on rock charts, and hit #20 on the pop charts as well. Fans of the song can download it for both Rock Band 2 and Guitar Hero: World Tour.
17 – Beck – Loser – Another song that has proven to have amazing staying power over the years, the song Loser off Beck’s 1993 album Mellow Gold is one of those songs that is easy to sing along to, making it a popular choice to this day as a karaoke track. Loser took Beck all the way to #1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Modern Rock Tracks, and hit #10 on the mainstream Hot 100 that year.
16 – Smashing Pumpkins – 1979 – This song is alternative rock band Smashing Pumpkins’ signature hit and also was their highest charting song, reaching #12 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the rock charts. The song, which is significantly different from their other work was also recognized at the Grammy Awards, earning 2 nominations, including one for Record of the Year in 1996.
15 – Alanis Morissette – You Oughta Know – We all know that failed relationships make for great music material, and Alanis Morissette proved that beyond a doubt with her 1995 album Jagged Little Pill – an album where she pours out her heart and her considerable angst following her breakup with Dave Coulier. You Oughta Know was the album’s signature song, reaching #1 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart, and winning 2 Grammy Awards for Best Rock Song and Best Female Rock Vocal Performance.
14 – Whitney Houston – I Will Always Love You – Much like Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On from the Titanic soundtrack I Will Always Love You blended diva star power, an amazing voice and a massively popular movie in The Bodyguard co-starring Kevin Costner to produce a smash hit single that was one of the best of the 90s. The song spent an amazing 14 weeks at the top of the charts, a record at that time, and is one of the best selling singles of all time with over 12 million copies sold.
13 – House of Pain – Jump Around – Talk about a song whose popularity just never seems to wane, this bouncy hip hop classic from 1992 still gets plenty of play on radio and in clubs to this day. Back in the height of its popularity it would pack the dance floor and was one of the best mosh songs of its era.
12 – TLC – Waterfalls – From the 1995 album CrazySexyCool this track was a monster hit for the R&B trio, reaching #1 on the Hot 100 charts and staying there for an incredible 7 weeks. The song also received a pair of Grammy nominations, including one for Record of the Year.
11 – Britney Spears – …Baby One More Time – Late in 1998 the world was introduced to the next pop music sensation: Britney Spears. Only 16 years old at the time of its release Britney Spears turned from a relatively unknown teenager into a pop diva virtually overnight. The song was ranked high on the list of the top 100 pop songs of all time by both Rolling Stone and MTV and topped the charts around the world, establishing Spears as the heir apparent to reigning pop princess Madonna.
10 – MC Hammer – U Can’t Touch This – Well, here we are in the top 10 songs of the 90s, and rap music, which was such an influential musical genre that decade is again front and center. This song, which samples liberally from the Rick James’ song Super Freak launched rapper MC Hammer into the stratosphere as the song went #1 on the Billboard Hot 1009. The popularity of the song drove album sales, and Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ‘Em sold over 10 million copies. Hammer’s popularity didn’t stop there though. Anyone beyond the age of 25 might remember his cartoon Hammer Man and his goofy KFC popcorn chicken ad.
9 – Red Hot Chili Peppers – Under the Bridge – Another alternative rock/punk band that made the successful transition to mainstream music in the 90s, the Red Hot Chili Peppers turned the trick with the 1992 release of the hit song Under the Bridge. From the album Blood Sugar Sex Magik the song was radically different from other tunes like Give it Away and If You Have to Ask. However, its poignant lyrics and haunting melody resonated with the masses, and the song went all the way to #2 on the charts that year.
8 – Sinead O’Connor – Nothing Compares 2 U – Speaking of poignant lyrics and haunting music, there are few songs from the 90s that compare to this track by Irish songstress Sinead O’Connor in that regard. The song was actually originally written by Prince, but this cover version enjoyed far more success, reaching #1 in several countries and won an MTV award for Best Video in 1990.
7 – Sir Mix-a-Lot – Baby Got Back – Yes, another rap song and another one hit wonder at #7. The song reached #1 and stayed there for 5 weeks in 1992, earning Sir Mix-a-Lot a Grammy award for Best Rap Solo Performance. The song continues to enjoy enormous popularity and is certainly one of the most well known hip hop songs of all time, not to mention a crowd favorite at karaoke nights all over the world.
6 – Madonna – Vogue – As hugely popular as her 80s hits Like a Virgin and Crazy for You were this 1990 single actually dwarfed them in popularity, selling over 6 million copies and hitting #1 in over 30 countries. The accompanying music video is also considered one of the best of the 90s.
5 – R.E.M. – Losing My Religion – One of the biggest, most well respected alternative bands of the past 2 decades, R.E.M.’s biggest hit, without question, is this 1991 track from the album Out of Time. The song hit #1 that year on the rock charts, and earned Michael Stipe and his R.E.M. band mates 2 Grammy awards.
4 – U2 – One – There has arguably been no bigger band on the planet over the past 25 years than Irish rock band U2. The group continues to crank out one quality album after another, and is known for putting on some of the most spectacular concerts in music. The song from 1991’s Achtung Baby may not have enjoyed huge success at the time of its release, only reaching #10 on the Hot 100 charts, but over the years it has established its place as one of the best songs of all time, and has been widely recognized as such by music heavyweights like Rolling Stone and VH1.
3 – Green Day – Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) – Though they are most well known for hard rocking punk anthems like Basket Case, Longview, American Idiot and Holiday Green Day’s best effort, in my humble opinion, came with this 1997 track from the album Nimrod. Like many alternative rock tracks it didn’t chart well with the mainstream music crowd, but in the dozen years since its release its popularity continues unabated and the song still enjoys regular play on radio.
2 – Pearl Jam – Jeremy – One of the biggest, most influential bands of the 90s, Pearl Jam’s Jeremy might not have been their biggest hit in terms of chart success, but the accompanying music video is widely considered one of the best ever made, and it can be argued that the video’s widespread acclaim is at least partially responsible for turning Pearl Jam into the worldwide sensation they are today. Ironically, Pearl Jam has since created major controversy by refusing to produce music videos for their songs.
1 – Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit – Despite their relatively short time together before the death of lead singer Kurt Cobain, Nirvana established themselves as one of the most influential bands of all time. Responsible for popularizing grunge music the band exploded in popularity with the release of their second album Nevermind and more particularly the release of their hugest hit, Smells Like Teen Spirit. It went to #1 on the rock charts and hit #6 on the Billboard Hot 100, establishing both the band and the grunge sub-genre in one fell swoop, and is an easy choice (for me at least) to take the #1 spot on the list of the top 100 songs of the 90s.