The 250 Best Songs of the 1990s (2023)

Listen: Sinéad O’Connor, “Nothing Compares 2 U”



Pulp: “Common People” (1995)

Formed in 1978 by a couple of Sheffield teens, Pulp slogged through lineup and label shifts without commercial success—until the Britpop explosion of the mid-’90s provided a new world stage for their fifth album Different Class and its career-defining lead single. A much sexier, stirring, and more appropriately cynical UK counterpart to “Uptown Girl,” “Common People” was the story of ceaselessly magnetic frontman Jarvis Cocker’s art school dabbling with a rich girl who was excited by the idea of slumming it with poor folks like himself. He humored her—and was happy to sleep with her—but the song was a harsh criticism of class tourism by people who would never know poverty, a populist anthem built for hours of sweaty dancing regardless of socio-economic status. –Evie Nagy

Further Reading: Different Class Sunday Review

Listen: Pulp, “Common People”

Go! Discs / London

(Video) LIVE REACTION to Pitchfork's Top 250 Songs of the 1990s List


Portishead: “Sour Times” (1994)

Portishead are masters of digital psychedelia, of artificially eroded samples and breaks that encase fiery yearning in soothing layers of ice. Situated in the unbridgeable gap between fantasy and fate, the Bristol trio endures as a monument to our own sublimated desires. “Sour Times” spins this existential despair into a fatalistic noir dreamscape. Vocalist Beth Gibbons tosses and turns over a sinuous bassline and guitarist Adrian Utley’s best Morricone riffing, bathing in the cursed knowledge of a lost love’s inescapable power. The song draws its hypnotic majesty from the thrill of Gibbons’ graceful rage, poised between succumbing to an eternity of longing and spitting venom in destiny’s eye. It’s a haunted waltz for star-crossed androids, damned to soundtrack disconnected hearts far beyond the singularity. –Phillipe Roberts

Further Reading: Dummy Sunday Review

Listen: Portishead, “Sour Times”



George Michael: “Freedom! ’90” (1990)

George Michael’s subdued and pensive sophomore solo album Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1 showed a different side of the frequently bubblegummy superstar, and “Freedom! ’90” laid bare its mission statement: Sometimes the clothes do not make the man. Perhaps to the chagrin of every hungry schoolgirl, the star’s image never graced Prejudice, neither on its cover nor its videos. The music was to speak for itself, and on “Freedom!” it did so using a “Funky Drummer” break and Madchester-y piano riff. The song’s strut mounts until an ebullient choir detonates, repeatedly harmonizing the song’s title. That freedom was to be achieved, in Michael’s estimation, via image revision: “There’s something deep inside of me/There’s someone else I’ve got to be.” Attempting to conjure authenticity in show business is about as easy as declaring yourself vegan while only eating at steakhouses, but “Freedom!” is about concept, not practice, suggesting the journey to happiness rather than the destination. For the classic video, Michael enlisted a slate of high-profile lip-syncers—Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista—who helped provide beautiful scenery on his quest. –Rich Juzwiak

Further Reading: Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 Reissue Review

(Video) Pitchfork's 250 Best Songs of the 1990s - A First Take!

Listen: George Michael, “Freedom! ’90”

Loud / RCA


Mobb Deep: “Shook Ones, Pt. II” (1995)

“Shook Ones, Pt. II” is so rich a text that isolated elements of it communicate more style and biographical depth than nearly any other introduction in hip-hop’s history. There’s the Herbie Hancock piano that Havoc morphed, in his mother’s apartment, into one of rap’s most unmistakable basslines; there’s Prodigy’s opening ad-lib—“To all the killers and the hundred-dollar billers/For real niggas who ain’t got no feelings”—and what it suggests is being elided in his verses; there are those hi-hats, which people believed for years to be the sound of stoves in the Queensbridge Houses sputtering to life. Even the mesmerizing siren loop tells a story: It’s lifted from a song by Quincy Jones, whom Prodigy’s grandfather taught to read music. And still, all of this becomes secondary when P raps—about the burn of bullets in flesh, about hoping to die in a place like Queensbridge, and about how, if you don’t watch yourself, “the next rhyme I write might be about you.” –Paul A. Thompson

Further Reading: The Infamous Reissue Review

Listen: Mobb Deep, “Shook Ones, Pt. II”


(Video) The Greatest RnB & Hip Hop Megamix Ever ★ 90s & 2000s ★ 250 Hits ★ Best Of ★ Old School


Fiona Apple: “Criminal” (1996)

“I’ve been a bad, bad girl,” Fiona Apple purrs like a vixen in an old man’s sex dream, knowing that at 18, a woman is young enough to get preyed on and old enough to get pilloried. “Criminal” is her most popular song, potent like a spiked drink, selling a leering public a sexual fantasy while pointing out the fucked-up dynamics underneath. A piano trembles as if announcing the sudden onset of an earthquake, and Apple confesses to the sin of being “careless with a delicate man,” her voice dripping with irony. Men are so tough until it’s time to take responsibility, then they’re helpless and angry like children. But Fiona howls out for punishment, sounding irresistible while fessing up to her crime. As a new generation of girls likes to say: I support women’s rights, but more importantly, I support women’s wrongs. –Cat Zhang

Further Reading: Tidal Sunday Review

Listen: Fiona Apple, “Criminal”



Mazzy Star: “Fade Into You” (1993)

A slow waltz beat, a few Dylan chords, a pedal steel like a lamp from an attic window, and Hope Sandoval’s downy voice, full of melting vowels and pregnant pauses: “Fade Into You” taps into the sweet exhaustion at the end of it all. Marketed as a make-out anthem off Mazzy Star’s major-label debut, it was the mainstream peak for this dream-pop duo that evolved out of psych group Opal, and the platonic ideal of a melancholic slow-dance song. Even as its dusky, enveloping aura echos through Beach House’s deliberate dream pop, Taylor Swift’s glittering indie folktales, and Faye Webster’s weary steel-guitar slides, the ache of the original goes unanswered: The space between us is small yet enormous, the only way forward straight into oblivion. –Anna Gaca

Further Reading: So Tonight That I Might See Sunday Review

Listen: Mazzy Star, “Fade Into You”

(Video) Hits Radio 1 Live Pop Radio' Top Hits 2022 Pop Music 2022 New Songs 2023 Best English Songs 2022 New

Ruffhouse / Columbia


Lauryn Hill: “Doo Wop (That Thing)” (1998)

Lauryn Hill is tender and fierce on her first solo single, offering empathy and stern counsel to women and men in troubled relationships. On Fugees songs she’d often harden her flows (or “add a ‘motherfucker’ so you ignant niggas hear me,” as she puts it on “Zealots”), but here and throughout The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, her rapping is conversational, assured. Motown soul, gospel, and hip-hop converge as she glides over bright horns, crisp drums, and a jingly key riff. She sounds bent on channeling every sound and inspiration she’s ever had, harmonizing, scatting, rapping, and humming. The music video features a split-screen motif that pictures her as both modern and retro, but the real takeaway from this song is that she is simply herself. –Stephen Kearse

Further Reading: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill Sunday Review

Listen: Lauryn Hill, “Doo Wop (That Thing)”



Daft Punk: “Around the World” (1997)

The music doesn’t begin so much as surface, as if “Around the World” arises from some great depth, that lowpass filter cutting out the high-end without obscuring the “fundamental” signal. And then the song fully emerges, the bass suddenly going like something stolen out from under Bernard Edwards’ fingertips, the hi-hat doing that bright, open chhh business on the offbeat. The up-from-underground stuff turns out to have been sort of poignantly appropriate. “Around the World” was an exhumation, disco as reworked in post-industrial Chicago and Detroit, then adapted anew by two blessed weirdos from Montmartre, Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo.

(Video) My Top 250 of 1988 songs


What was the #1 song of the 90s? ›

The song "One Sweet Day", performed by Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men, spent 16 weeks on top of the chart and became the longest-running number-one song in history, until surpassed in 2019 by "Old Town Road". Janet Jackson earned six number-one singles on the chart during the 1990s.

What's the biggest hit of the 90s? ›

The Official Top 10 biggest singles of the 1990s
6 more rows
Nov 11, 2022

What songs topped the charts in the 90s? ›

  • HOLD ON by Wilson Phillips.
  • IT MUST HAVE BEEN LOVE by Roxette.
  • POISON by Bell Biv DeVoe.
  • NOTHING COMPARES 2 U by Sinéad O'Connor.
  • VISION OF LOVE by Mariah Carey.
  • VOGUE by Madonna.
  • DO ME! by Bell Biv DeVoe.
  • HOLD ON by En Vogue.

What were the top 3 songs in 1990? ›

BILLBOARD TOP 10 of 1990
  • Hold On. Wilson Phillips.
  • It Must Have Been Love. (from Pretty Woman) Roxette.
  • Nothing Compares 2 U. Sinead O'Connor.
  • Poison. Bell Biv Devoe.
  • Vogue. Madonna.
  • Vision of Love. Mariah Carey.
  • Another Day in Paradise. Phil Collins.
  • Hold On. En Vogue.
Dec 28, 1990

What was the biggest selling song of the 90s? ›

Elton John had the best-selling single of the decade with "Candle in the Wind 1997"/"Something About the Way You Look Tonight", a tribute to Princess Diana. Cher had the best-selling single of the decade (as well as of all time) by a female artist, with the single "Believe".

What was the biggest hit of 1999? ›

Cher (pictured) topped the list with "Believe" after the song was number one on the Hot 100 chart for four weeks, making her the oldest female artist to top the chart.

What was popular in 90s? ›

Slip dresses, bomber jackets, scrunchies and plaid flannel shirts were all the rage during the '90s — and many of these fashion trends are working their way back into vogue (although some of these pieces may have never left your closet).

What was the most streamed song of the 90s? ›

It's no surprise that Oasis—the biggest-selling band of the Britpop era—leads the way, with “Wonderwall” the single most-streamed song from the decade and “Live Forever” in seventh place.

What is Number 1 song of all time? ›

Blinding Lights

What music did people listen to in the 90s? ›

The most popular style of music in the '90s was hip-hop, closely followed by rap and contemporary R&B. Hip-hop redefined the Billboard charts in the early '90s and continued to dominate for two decades.

What was the #1 song in 1991? ›

Bryan Adams' “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You” remained atop the Billboard Hot 100, racking a seven-week reign in all. His summer smash from the movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves went on to become not only Billboard's No. 1 song of the summer of 1991, but the top title of the entire year.

What are some old songs that everyone knows? ›

classic songs everyone knows
  • Bohemian Rhapsody - Remastered 2011Queen.
  • Mr. ...
  • I Want to Know What Love Is - 1999 RemasterForeigner.
  • Nothing's Gonna Stop Us NowStarship.
  • RosannaTOTO.
  • I Don't Want to Miss a Thing - From "Armageddon" SoundtrackAerosmith.
  • Video Killed The Radio StarThe Buggles.
  • Man in the MirrorMichael Jackson.

Who was the biggest music star of the 90s? ›

21 Of The Most Famous Singers Of The 1990s
  • Michael Jackson.
  • Elton John.
  • Prince.
  • Madonna.
  • Whitney Houston.
  • Tupac Shakur.
  • Shania Twain.
  • Mariah Carey.
Sep 27, 2022

What was popular in the 90s dance? ›

Mem the Macarena, the electric slide, or the Cha Cha slide? Guess we were doing a lot of sliding in the 90's!

What was the 1 song in 1992? ›

Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1992
1"End of the Road"Boyz II Men
2"Baby Got Back"Sir Mix-a-Lot
3"Jump"Kris Kross
4"Save the Best for Last"Vanessa Williams
96 more rows

What was the number one song in 1995? ›

Gangsta's Paradise

What songs were #1 in 1990? ›

  • Phil Collins, “Another Day in Paradise”
  • Michael Bolton, “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You”
  • Paula Abdul (Duet with the Wild Pair), “Opposites Attract”
  • Alannah Myles, “Black Velvet”
  • Taylor Dayne, “Love Will Lead You Back”
  • Tommy Page, “I'll Be Your Everything”
  • Sinead O'Connor, “Nothing Compares 2 U”
  • Madonna, “Vogue”
Jun 13, 2017

What are the top 20 songs of the 90s? ›

Entertain us.
  • Pulp, “Common People” (1995) ...
  • Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott, ”The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)” (1997) ...
  • Pavement, “Gold Soundz” (1994) ...
  • Dr. ...
  • Bikini Kill, “Rebel Girl” (1993) ...
  • Notorious B.I.G. With Mase and Puff Daddy, “Mo Money Mo Problems” (1997) ...
  • Blackstreet, “No Diggity” (1996) ...
  • Nirvana, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (1991)
Aug 28, 2019

What was the #1 song of 1993? ›

I Will Always Love You

What was the #1 song of 1996? ›

The year started out with "One Sweet Day" by Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men and ended with "Un-Break My Heart" by Toni Braxton.

What was the biggest hit of 1998? ›

Top Hits of 1998
  • BelieveCher.
  • My Heart Will Go On - Love Theme from "Titanic"Céline Dion.
  • I Don't Want to Miss a Thing - From "Armageddon" SoundtrackAerosmith.
  • Save TonightEagle-Eye Cherry.
  • You're Still The OneShania Twain.
  • Kiss MeSixpence None The Richer.
  • IrisThe Goo Goo Dolls.
  • The Kids Aren't AlrightThe Offspring.

What song was #1 in 1998? ›

In 1998, Titanic swept the Oscars, and along with the film's success, its Celine Dion-crooned theme song, “My Heart Will Go On,” triumphed on the Hot 100 charts.

What was the #1 song of 2000? ›

There were two collaboration singles that reached number-one on the chart: "Maria Maria" by Santana featuring The Product G&B, and "Thank God I Found You" by Mariah Carey featuring Joe and 98 Degrees.

What was the coolest thing in the 90s? ›

11 Trends That Made You Cool in the 90s
  • BOY BANDS. NSYNC and Backstreet Boys pretty much ruled the world. ...
  • NINTENDO. The late '90s marked an uprising in video gaming. ...
  • FANNY PACKS. ...

What was big in 1990? ›

Important events of 1990 include the Reunification of Germany and the unification of Yemen, the formal beginning of the Human Genome Project (finished in 2003), the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope, the separation of Namibia from South Africa, and the Baltic states declaring independence from the Soviet Union ...

Who was the most famous person in the 90s? ›

1Michael JordanSportsperson (Basketball)
2Oprah WinfreyTelevision personality
3Leonardo DiCaprioActor
4Jerry SeinfeldComedian
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Who has the most hit songs in the 90s? ›

  • Everybody (Backstreets Back) - Backstreet Boys (1997)
  • U Can't Touch This - MC Hammer (1990)
  • Black Or White - Michael Jackson (1991)
  • Gangsta's Paradise - Coolio (1995)
  • Mmmbop - Hanson (1997)
  • Barbie Girl - Aqua (1997)
Apr 11, 2017

What was the most streamed song of 1996? ›

Figures show that 'Don't Look Back in Anger' is the most streamed song from 20 years ago (even besting its original chart ranking). Coming in hot at the number two position is 'Ready or Not' by the American hip-hop group, Fugees.

What is the most famous one hit wonder? ›

1Los Del RioMacarena [Bayside Boys Mix]
2Soft CellTainted Love
3Dexy's Midnight RunnersCome on Eileen
4Right Said FredI'm Too Sexy
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What are the biggest hits of all time? ›

The Billboard Hot 100: All-time top songs
  • #1: "The Twist" by Chubby Checker.
  • #2: "Smooth" by Santana (featuring Rob Thomas) (1999)
  • #3: "Mack the Knife" by Bobby Darin (1959)
  • #4: "Uptown Funk" by Mark Ronson (featuring Bruno Mars) (2015)
  • #5: "How Do I Live" by Leann Rimes (1997)
Aug 5, 2018

Who has the most #1 hits in history? ›

The Beatles, unsurprisingly, lead the way with a record 20 No. 1s, all earned between 1964 and 1970.

Who was a popular singer in the 1990s? ›

Pop music dominated the charts in the 1990s, with singers like Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, and Jennifer Lopez becoming household names. Boy bands, especially Backstreet Boys and NSYNC, definitely had a moment during the decade. And singers like Mariah Carey and Alanis Morissette also made it big during the '90s.

What is ultimate 90s song? ›

1. 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' by Nirvana.

Why is 90s music the best? ›

The beauty of 90s music was both its diversity and the way artists took the styles of previous decades, refined them, then added a sonic dimension and attitude that matched both the optimism and, at times, despair of the decade. Grunge extinguished the raging fire that was late-80s hair metal.

What was the #1 song in 1994? ›

Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1994
1"The Sign"Ace of Base
2"I Swear"All-4-One
3"I'll Make Love to You"Boyz II Men
4"The Power of Love"Celine Dion
96 more rows

What song was #1 in 1989? ›

The two longest running number-one singles of 1989 are "Miss You Much" by Janet Jackson and "Another Day in Paradise" by Phil Collins, which each charted at number one for four weeks.

What was #1 song in 1986? ›

Aside from becoming the unofficial anthem for the fight against AIDS, “That's What Friends Are For” also became the No. 1 song of 1986. The song won Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals and for Song of the Year at the 1987 Grammys.

What are the top 10 most popular songs ever? ›

The Top 50 most iconic songs of all time
  • Smells Like Teen Spirit - Nirvana.
  • Imagine - John Lennon.
  • One - U2.
  • Billie Jean - Michael Jackson.
  • Bohemian Rhapsody - Queen.
  • Hey Jude - The Beatles.
  • Like A Rolling Stone - Bob Dylan.
  • I Can't Get No Satisfaction - Rolling Stones.

What are the most underrated songs of all time? ›

The most underrated tracks by your favourite artists
  • The Charlatans - Then. ...
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers - Other Side. ...
  • Oasis - The Hindu Times. ...
  • Arctic Monkeys - Riot Van. ...
  • Foo Fighters - Hey Johnny Park! ...
  • Blur - Sing. ...
  • Nirvana - Sliver. ...
  • The Killers - On Top.
Apr 3, 2022

What old songs were made popular again? ›

King's “Stand by Me” (Stand by Me), Louis Armstrong's “What a Wonderful World” (Good Morning, Vietnam), The Contours' “Do You Love Me” (Dirty Dancing), The Righteous Brothers' “Unchained Melody” (Ghost) and Queen's “Bohemian Rhapsody” (Wayne's World) — all hit the top 40 thanks to a new movie placement.

What was the #1 rock song in 1990? ›

Number-one songs
SongArtistReached number one
"Blue Sky Mine"Midnight OilApril 7, 1990
"Metropolis"The ChurchApril 14, 1990
"Enjoy the Silence"Depeche ModeApril 21, 1990
"The Emperor's New Clothes"Sinéad O'ConnorMay 12, 1990
107 more rows

Who was the biggest female singer in the 90s? ›

From art-pop agitators to pop-princess reinventions, the best 90s female singers epitomise a decade of bold fashions – and even bolder music.
  • 8: Madonna. ...
  • 7: Selena. ...
  • 6: Kylie Minogue. ...
  • 5: Mariah Carey. ...
  • 4: Missy Elliott. ...
  • 3: Björk. ...
  • 2: Lauryn Hill. ...
  • 1: Alanis Morissette.
Jun 17, 2021

Who sold the most records in 90s? ›

Decluttr Blog
  • Metallica – Metallica.
  • The Bodyguard – Whitney Houston. ...
  • Falling into You – Celine Dion. ...
  • Cracked Rear View – Hootie & The Blowfish. ...
  • Titanic Soundtrack. ...
  • Millennium – Backstreet Boys. Sales: 9.4 million. ...
  • Ropin' the Wind – Garth Brooks. Sales: 9.3 million. ...
  • Backstreet Boys – Backstreet Boys. Sales: 9.2 million. ...
May 22, 2017

What was the most popular dance in 1991? ›

1991: the Hammer dance.

What is the 1 song of all time? ›

Top 10 songs of all time (1958–2021)
RankSingleYear(s) released
1."Blinding Lights"2019
2."The Twist"1960, 1961 ( re )
4."Mack the Knife"1959
6 more rows

What was the number one song in1991? ›

Bryan Adams' “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You” remained atop the Billboard Hot 100, racking a seven-week reign in all. His summer smash from the movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves went on to become not only Billboard's No. 1 song of the summer of 1991, but the top title of the entire year.

What was the first No 1 hit? ›

The first number-one song of the Billboard Hot 100 was "Poor Little Fool" by Ricky Nelson, on August 4, 1958.

What song spent the longest at number 1 in the 90s? ›

Wet Wet Wet – Love Is All Around (15 weeks)

Taken from Four Weddings and a Funeral, even the band themselves were sick of hearing it during summer 1994.

What is the biggest hit song in history? ›

According to Guinness World Records, Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" (1942) as performed by Bing Crosby is the best-selling single worldwide, with estimated sales of over 50 million copies.

What is the highest listened song ever? ›

The most-streamed song in Spotify history is credited to… The Weeknd's "Blinding Lights." The song, which was released in November 2019, has been streamed over 3 billion times on the platform! This is a huge thing.

What song stayed number 1 longest? ›

"Old Town Road" holds the record for the longest stretch at No. 1 with 19 weeks. It also became the fastest song in history to be certified diamond.

Who had top 10 hits in four decades? ›

Mariah Carey Confirmed As The First Artist To Top The Billboard Hot 100 Chart Across Four Decades.

Which singer have never had a number one hit? ›

Close But No Cigar: 25 Massive Artists Who Never Had A Number One Song. Bruce Springsteen, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, The Who, James Brown.

What song was #1 in 1997? ›

Elton John (pictured) topped the Year-End chart with his double-sided single, "Candle in the Wind 1997" / "Something About the Way You Look Tonight", which was at the top of the Hot 100 for 14 weeks.

Who has the most #1 hit songs of all time? ›

The Beatles, unsurprisingly, lead the way with a record 20 No. 1s, all earned between 1964 and 1970.

What is the longest song to chart on the Hot 100? ›

Most Weeks Spent on the Billboard Hot 100: 91, “Heat Waves,” Glass Animals.


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