Last updated on December 16th, 2022 at 10:22 pm
The 90s were an extraordinary time for music. Many genres were prominent, including rap, pop, grunge, alternative, and more. Check out our list of the best 90s songs.
“Smells Like Teen Spirit” – Nirvana (1991)
No list of the best 90s songs would be complete without Nirvana and their iconic “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” This song’s anger and powerful riffs were resonant to an entire generation. Kurt Cobain’s nonsensical lyrics that still seem to make some kind of sense made the song even more unique.
“Smells Like Teen Spirit” defined the 90s and brought grunge rock to the masses. It paved the way for bands like Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Mudhoney.
“Killing in the Name Of” – Rage Against the Machine (1992)
Inspired by police brutality and inequality, “Killing in the Name Of” is an ageless song, still played and sung during protests and similar activities today. The song’s mixture of rapping and heavy guitar riffs greatly influenced the late 90s Nu Metal wave, including bands like Limp Bizkit and Korn.
Rebellious lyrics and unique music make “Killing in the Name Of” one of the best 90s songs. Unfortunately, the lyrics are still relevant.
“I Will Always Love You” – Whitney Huston (1992)
Who hasn’t screamed the chorus of this song from the top of their lungs in a poor attempt to sound like Whitney? Whether you’d like to admit it or not, let’s be real, we’ve all done that.
“I Will Always Love You” was a huge hit, hitting number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and staying there for four weeks.
The timeless love song was originally written and recorded by Dolly Parton. It was about her love for country star Porter Wagoner, who discovered her.
“Baby Got Back” – Sir Mix-A-Lot (1992)
There are few more popular and culturally ubiquitous songs than Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back.” It contained controversial lyrics for its time and the music video was banned from MTV. Despite those barriers, it was still the second biggest song in America in 1992. It also held the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for five weeks.
If not one of the best 90s songs, “Baby Got Back” is least one of its most famous.
“Gangsta’s Paradise” – Coolio (1995)
“Gangsta Paradise” took over the music charts in 1995 with the speed of light and won Coolio many awards, including a Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance. It was the number one biggest-selling single of 1995.
Fun fact: Coolio sampled Stevie Wonder‘s “Pastime Paradise” for his iconic song. It was also famously parodied by Weird Al Yankovic as “Amish Paradise.”
“Don’t Speak” – No Doubt (1995)
A song to cry your heart out to, pop/ska/punk band No Doubt’s “Don’t Speak” is an emotional masterpiece and one of the best 90s songs. Gwen Stefani wrote it when she and Tony Kanal, the bassist of No Doubt, broke up.
This heartbreak anthem became an international single. It was the most-played song on American radio in 1996 and is still often played on the radio.
“Macarena” – Los Del Rio (1995)
Who doesn’t know and love the choreography of legendary “90s dance tune “Macarena”? Its colorful video and the catchy, uplifting rhythm helped to make it beloved worldwide.
The song hit #1 on Billboard and topped the list of VH1’s Greatest One-Hit Wonder of All Time.
“Ironic” – Alanis Morissette (1996)
Grammy-award-winning Alanis Morisette album Jagged Little Pill contains many hits, including “You Oughta Know,” “You Learn,” and “Hand in Pocket.” The biggest, though, was “Ironic.” Its witty songwriting and angry-yet-self-critical style make it one of the best 90s songs.
Some have criticized the lyrics for not mentioning anything that’s actually ironic, but its authors, Morisette and producer Glen Ballard, claim that it was intentional to make the song…wait for it…ironic. Not sure I buy it.
“Wannabe” – the Spice Girls (1996)
From its infectious half-rapped verses to its big chorus, “Wannabe” by Spice Girls is one of the great earworms of all time.
This female independence anthem launched the career of the Spice Girls, making them one of the most popular female groups on the planet. “Wannabe” is the best-selling single by a female band worldwide, cementing its place among the best 90s songs of all time.
“Man, I Feel Like a Woman” – Shania Twain (1997)
Another powerful female anthem, Shania Twain’s massive hit “Man, I Feel Like a Woman” played a large part in her career skyrocketing.
The country-pop track won the Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal Performance. Its famous video is a role-reversed version of Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love” video.
“My Heart Will Go On” – Celine Dion (1997)
Would you believe that Celine recorded the demo of this song in only one take and that the demo is the version used in the Titanic? Crazy but true!
Known as the main theme of Titanic, “My Heart Will Go On” has sold over 18 million copies worldwide.
The song’s catchy melody, simple but profound lyrics, and Dion’s angelic voice easily make it one of the best 90s songs.
“Mmmbop” – Hanson (1997)
Hands down, “Mmmbop” by Hanson is one of the catchiest songs ever. You don’t even need to hear it to get it in your head. It’s no wonder why it was number 20 on the VH1’s 100 Greatest Songs of the 90s.
The Hanson brothers have said that the melody of “Mmmbop” was first a background melody for another song. Since it was too good not to be a whole song, it became the pop sensation we all know and love.
“Baby One More Time” – Britney Spears (1998)
Britney Spears changed the course of pop music when she appeared in the late 90s. It all started with “Baby One More Time,” her first-ever single, which immediately became a number-one hit worldwide. More than 10 million copies of this song have been sold.
The fun music video, with the school uniforms, was something new and unexpected on the music scene, so many teenagers quickly became Britney’s fans.
“Believe” – Cher (1998)
South Park parodies aside, this comeback hit from 60s rock icon Cher was one of the biggest and best 90s songs.
“Believe” was hit the number one spot on the Billboard charts. She was 52 then, making her the oldest female to reach number one, which provided her with a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.
“I Want It That Way” – Backstreet Boys (1999)
Many boy bands were huge in the 90s, but the Backstreet Boys were unrepeatable. All the girls loved them, all the boys wanted to be them.
Their signature song, “I Want it That Way,” was one of the biggest of the 90s, winning the group three Grammys.