Unlike our esteemed editor Jacob, I spent most of my teenage years in the ’90s, so it was very much ‘my’ decade. With that in mind, then, my picks are based around the songs I believe give the best feel of those delightful times, as well as being super-smashing-great tracks in their own right.
Strap yourselves, in, fashion your hair into curtains (tough for me, these days), and join me in a trip back to days where Sunny Delight was so packed with sugar and e-numbers it even took the sting out of Sting’s lute playing.
Yes – McAlmont and Butler (1995) – If pushed for a list of my favourite ever songs, this would be right near the top. Bernard Butler’s new project after leaving Suede, his decision to pair up with singer and lyricist David McAlmont was inspired. A song of hope, of sunlight after a storm, of fixing broken relationships, and one of the most uplifting tracks I’ve ever heard. Never fails to lift me if I’m feeling low.
Still D.R.E – Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg (1999) – A club staple in the early 2000s, this was the standout track in Dr. Dre’s album 2001 (confusingly released in 1999). Superb hooks and beats, and Dre and Snoop rapping like its the early 90s all over again.
Breathe – The Prodigy (1996) With a newly-styled Keith Flint turning from long-haired raver into terrifying neo-punk (and, more importantly, vocalist rather than dancer), The Prodigy crashed back onto our speakers in 1996, first with ‘Firestarter’, then with this. Huge drums, unforgettable guitar hook, SFXs of whips and breaking glass, and those super-threatening vocals. Big beat perfection.
Paranoid Android – Radiohead (1997) – Beautiful, then furious, then beautiful again – this is a masterpiece of writing, performing, and producing. Great lyrics, great melodies, great solos. Top-level Radiohead.
Weather with you – Crowded House (1991) – One of the ultimate early ’90s sunshine anthems, most listeners miss the lyrical brilliance among the singalong chorus. ‘Julius Cesar and the Roman Empire couldn’t conquer the blue sky’? At their best, the Finn brothers had it all: gorgeous vocals, catchy melodies, and meaningful lyrics.
I touch Myself – Divinyls (1990) – Not going to say too much about this one, lest I start blushing, but what a song, what a melody, and a singalong classic in nightclubs well into the 2000s.
Hyperballad – Bjork (1995) – A stunning effort on Bjork’s second mainstream solo album which effortlessly fuses electronica, techno, and free verse lyrics. Superb stuff.
Insomnia – Faithless (1996) – I’d never heard anything like this before, and never have since. Pitch dark production from Rollo and Sister Bliss, and Maxi Jazz’s lyrics and vocal delivery are exquisite. Faithless may have peaked with this, but most artists can only dream of reaching such heights.
3 Lions – Baddiel, Skinner, and Lightning Seeds (1996) – Whether you like football or not, for me, no other song from the 90s captured the zeitgeist quite like this. The sun, Britpop, and a sense of quiet optimism politically: this paean to a brighter future hit the 90s nail right on the head. And, with Ian Broudie at the peak of his infectious melody-writing powers (which is infectious indeed), it’s a great song even without the context of its release.
Better off Alone – Alice Deejay (1999) – 1999 saw Eurodance-pop reach its zenith (you can decide whether that’s a good or a bad thing), and nothing did it better than this effort from the Dutch masters. Fun, bright, and not even a whiff of self-indulgence, I have great memories of dancing like a fool to this as we hurtled into the new millennium.