As we all know, every decade has its great music and its not-so-great music. It isn’t easy to sift through all the rubble and find the worst songs of a decade, but we’ve done just that. Check out our worst 90s songs list below. I’m sure you’ll agree with some and be, ahem, perhaps a bit angry about others.
“Macarena” – Los Del Rio
What was the worst song of the 90s? For many, the first song that comes to mind is “Macarena,” the mega dance hit from the textbook definition of a one-hit wonder, Los Del Rio.
It’s bad enough that the song was so huge when it came out, topping the Billboard Hot 100 chart and other charts around the world. It’s even worse that we still have to hear the song around three times a year, that is, whenever we attend a wedding.
Oh well. At least most people at wedding receptions are drunk enough to enjoy it, even if they aren’t able to hit all the dance steps.
“Barbie Girl” – Aqua
If “Macarena” isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of worst 90s songs, “Barbie Girl” by Aqua probably is.
As far as a combination of catchiness, emptiness, and stupidity goes, few things top “Barbie Girl.” And I’m not just talking music. I’m talking anything. In life. Ever.
I’m embarrassed that, like me, Aqua is half Norwegian. I used to say that it’s hard to be humble when you’re Norwegian, but now I’m not so sure.
“Man! I Feel Like a Woman” – Shania Twain
I figured I’d go with two obvious choices before I pissed everyone off with a more broadly popular song. There’ll be more to come. Stay tuned. .
Country music went pop for the 500th time in the 90s. The only 90s pop country artist bigger than Shania Twain was Garth Brooks, and you better believe one of his songs makes this list.
The whole package of this song is awful, from its simplistic, derivative riff to the stupid Robert Palmer parody video.
It does use the word “prerogative,” though, so I gotta give it credit for that. It’s still one of the worst 90s songs.
“Torn” – Natalie Imbrulgia
Annoying, whiney songs warbled by female singers were something of a popular sub-genre in the 90s. See: Lisa Loeb, Jewel, and the mercifully forgotten Natalie Imbruglia. “Torn” was her only hit.
“What’s Up?” – 4 Non-Blondes
Alright, I admit that I used to like this song when it first came out. I never realized how universally hated it is until recently, but now I understand.
It’s the chorus.
“HAAAAY YAAAY YAAAY YAAY YEAH, HAAAY YAAAY YAAY, I SAID HAAAY…”
It probably also reminds too many people of terrible nights they’ve spent singing Karaoke and regretting their decisions the next morning. I’m pretty sure it’s the most-played Karaoke song of the 90s. Hell, get a few drinks in me and maybe even I’ll sing along, even though I admit that it’s one of the worst 90s songs.
“Fly” – Sugar Ray
Believe it or not, Sugar Ray started out as a relatively heavy punk band before they descended into lame pop flexes like “Every Morning” and “Fly.” Both are among the worst 90s songs, but the singer who interjects throughout the whole thing makes the latter narrowly worse.
“I’m Too Sexy” – Right Said Fred
The problem with many songs that people think are the worst of any decade is that they’re too fun. Everyone likes a little fun, but kitsch wears off real fast.
That’s what happens with English band Right Said Fred’s huge dance hit “I’m Too Sexy.” You kind of laugh at it the first time you hear it, get a little sick of it by the tenth time, and want to throw your radio across the room by the 20th.
“Who Let The Dogs Out” – Baha Men
The amount of cultural currency “Who Let the Dogs Out” had in its time is borderline shameful. Even worse, people are still making parodies of it.
The song doesn’t even allow you to blink before it beats you over the head with its obnoxious chorus. I expect better from the junkanoo genre myself.
“I’ll Be There For You” – The Rembrandts
As much as I hate it, I have to give Friends some credit: they combined the worst show of all time with the worst theme song. That’s some once-in-a-generation stuff right there.
“MMMBop” – Hanson
“MMMBop” is one of many examples of low hanging fruit on this worst 90s songs list. I mean, come on, who still needs to make fun of Hanson in 2023? Plus, they’re just such nice kids. Well, adults now, but you know what I mean.
The worst thing about “MMMBop,” obviously, is its chorus, which is as catchy as it is nonsense.
“Nookie” – Limp Bizkit
Let’s face it: you could put every 90s Limp Bizkit song on a dartboard, throw a dart at it, and pick that song as one of the worst 90s songs.
I’ve always held a grudge against Limp Bizkit.
Along with bands like Korn, they took the aggression of grunge rock, stripped it of all melody, and added a little rap. This combination spearheaded a big, dumb era of radio rock that still persists.
Where have all the melodies gone? And would it kill them to have a riff with more than two notes?
Of all Bizkit songs, “Nookie” is the worst offender, largely because of just how dumb the lyrics are. Definitely one of the worst rock songs of the 90s.
“Tubthumping” – Chumbawamba
When it comes to the cheesiest songs of the 90s, few songs come close to Chumbawamba’s “Tubthumping.” Its chorus is almost as bad as “Who Let the Dogs Out.” The terrible half-rapped verses, combined with the grating female singer in the pre-chorus, are only icing on the proverbial cake.
“Lullaby” – Shawn Mullins
No, Shawn Mullins, everything is not going to be alright.
And why would he call the song “Lullaby” when he actually says the word “rockabye” over and over? Ugh.
“Mambo Number 5” – Lou Bega
“Mambo Number 5” is just a happy take on Weezer’s “Tired of Sex.” See for yourself. Don’t @ me.
Some of the lyrics are pretty raunchy for a ubiquitous radio hit.
“All Star” – Smash Mouth
This one almost had to wait for the worst 2000s songs list, as it was released on Smash Mouth’s 1999 album Astro Lounge.
I’ve always considered Smash Mouth’s debut single, 1997’s “Walking on the Sun,” to be one of the last 90s alt.rock singles. Looking back on it, the seeds of how annoying this band would get were there even then.
Like so many entries on this worst 90s songs list, “All Star” is marred by a white guy trying to rap. Speaking of that…
“Ice Ice Baby” – Vanilla Ice
What could be worse than the original version of “Ice Ice Baby,” which totally isn’t a ripoff of David Bowie and Queen’s “Under Pressure”? A version in the metal style of Korn. Yup, it happened, and it’s as bad as you think.
“Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” – Green Day
I know, I know, Green Day’s nostalgic ballad would make many lists of the best songs of the 90s. It’s just so damn cheesy, from its too-straightforward lyrics to its overbearingly saccharine acoustic guitar chords and strings. Makes me cringe every time.
“Closing Time” – Semisonic
Speaking of cheesy and too straightforward, “Closing Time” does not get nearly as much ridicule as it deserves.
Throughout the track, Dan Wilson throws out cliche after cliche in the most uncreative ways possible. Its nearest cousin is Yoko Ono’s verses on her collaboration with husband John Lennon, “Luck of the Irish.”
Plus, the chorus is simplistic beyond compare. As much as I want to only build up people with Minnesota connections, it’s just a terrible song, and I’ve never understood its mass appeal.
“Achy Breaky Heart” – Billy Ray Cyrus
What was the worst thing Billy Ray Cyrus ever did: birth Miley or release this song? To paraphrase the great philosopher The Iron Shiek, tell me, bubba.
“Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?” – Paula Cole
Paula Cole’s “Where Have All The Cowboys Gone” has to be #1 on the list of awesomely bad songs of the 90s that aren’t sufficiently derided.
What the hell are those vocalizations she does? It’s one of the most obnoxious hooks of the 90s.
She was right to ask where all the cowboys had gone, though. After all, the biggest country star of the 90s was…
“Friends in Low Places” – Garth Brooks
The only thing that could make “Friends in Low Places” worse would be a rap verse, but that innovation wouldn’t happen in country for another decade or so.
The most annoying part of this song is that the narrator sings about how all his friends are low lives, while Brooks and most of his suburbanite fans wouldn’t have anything to do with those kind of people irl.
“Believe” – Cher
Cher’s comeback (s)hit “Believe” was one of the first popular songs to feature autotune, rendering her voice as fake as both her hair and her face.
If you don’t believe that this song belongs on a worst 90s songs list, maybe South Park can convince you.