From the moment the Berlin Wall fell, it was clear the 90s would be a decade like no other. From the introduction of home computers to the advent of the internet, the world was changing rapidly, and – as even the most cursory glance at the best 90s songs shows – our musical appetites were more diverse than ever.
For Gen Xers who needed a soundtrack to their pre-millennial angst, the alt-rock boom, ignited by groups such as Nirvana, R.E.M. and Red Hot Chili Peppers, gave rock’n’roll the blood transfusion it needed. In response, a mildly patriotic fervour stirred in the UK, and the Britpop movement was spawned, spearheaded by the likes of Oasis and Blur.
At the same time, hip-hop was exploding worldwide, which led to a new “Golden Age”, ruled by gangsta rappers such as The Notorious B.I.G. Meanwhile, the proliferation of dance music in nightclubs inspired innovations in production that widened the scope of electronica and its many emergent subgenres.
As our list of the best 90s songs shows, the decade was a joyously fertile period full of new musical heroes to champion…
Listen to our 90s playlist here, and check out our best 90s songs, below.
20: Alanis Morissette: Ironic (from ‘Jagged Little Pill’, 1996)
Canadian rock goddess Alanis Morissette scored a US Top 5 hit in 1996 with Ironic, the third single to be released from her Grammy-winning album, Jagged Little Pill. Emerging from the post-grunge afterglow, Ironic is a streamlined, pop-infused blast of alt-rock produced by Michael Jackson songwriter Glen Ballard, with Morissette singing her lyrics with a sarcastic roll of the eyes. “We were just trying to make each other laugh,” Morissette told Q magazine in 1991 of writing the song. “We weren’t even thinking about ironies at all, which is probably the most ironic thing about the song.” Even though killjoys point out the lyrics missed the meaning of “irony”, you don’t need a degree in English literature to enjoy it. Just lay back, pick the black fly out of your Chardonnay, and enjoy one of the best Alanis Morissette songs for the 90s anthem it is.