The Median 90s Pop Song: A Participatory Thread

Lots of stuff to do today that has to get done, so I won’t be playing about here today. But for some reason last night I was thinking of what song might best represent the median popular song of the 1990s — that is, the song that would be smack dab in the middle of all the musical and popular trends of the Clinton Era. Not the best song, or the most popular song, but the most representative song. This is the one I came up with:

My question: Can you think of an even more representative, median song? Remember: Not best, or most popular. Representative.

Have fun with it, and see you tomorrow.

116 Comments on “The Median 90s Pop Song: A Participatory Thread”

  1. Does representative inlcude that people should actually recognize it? (I don’t think I’ve ever heard this one, but that could be because I’m from Sweden.)


  2. It’s assumed for the purposes of this exercise that one is in the US, although if one wants to offer up a suggestion for the median 90s song from their country, by all means, please do.

  3. The only one I’m thinking of right now that could possibly rival this one is Alanis Morrissette’s “You Oughta Know”.

    This is a pretty good pick though!

  4. Maybe “Smells Like Teen Spirit”? I generally ignored music in the 90s so that’s just a guess.

  5. John: yes, I figured that. I was just curious as to what would be included in “representative”, since my not ever having lived (or been to) the US means that my idea of how the representativeness of the song worked was rather foggy.


  6. I have to agree with Christopher @4 above. When I think of the 90s, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” immediately comes to mind, even though KC/Nirvana didn’t last past 1994 (fifteen years ago this past weekend in fact).

  7. On the radio this song seemed completely generic, at the time I hated it. But when they played HFStival at a RFK stadium their echoey effects plus an authentic stadium echo actually kind of rocked. Of course, nobody beleives this so I guess you had to be there…

  8. Christian, TKay:

    Dudes, anyone who thinks “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is a median 90s song hid in a hole from 1989 to 2001. It’s at least a couple sigmas out from what the median 90s song would be. Seriously, now.

  9. I was in high school from 96-2000. I listened to this song at an irritating rate. Scalzi hit it on the head.

  10. I actually don’t recognize this song at all either though I know the band. Can you clarify what you mean by “representative”?

    Hey look! This was my first comment. I’ve been following the RSS feed for a while.

  11. The gamut needs to range among grunge and boy band and Lilith Fair veteran and hip hop and swing revival. This is not a question that will be answered this morning.

    To the meditation chamber!

  12. willywoollove @ 11: I think, taking your criteria into account, the most representative pop song of the 90s would be from Prodigy. I’d go with “Firestarter”, simply because that frigging song was everywhere when it was big. A case could be made, I suppose, for “Smack My Bitch Up”, but “Firestarter” was more popular and, IMO, more iconic.

    That said, I actually think Scalzi’s aim is true on this one, if we think of pop music in the “pop rock” sense. If we’re to take more general view of popular music in the 90s, one may have to go with “Fly” by Sugar Ray – perfectly bland hip-hop infused pop rock. It’s like flavored water: quenches the thirst, has a mildly pleasing taste, doesn’t pack on the calories, and leaves only a slight aftertaste.

  13. I’m not a huge fan of Beck, but I think his song Loser struck the right chord with me during that era.

    Other songs that define that decade for me are:
    Today / Smashing Pumpkins
    Bittersweet Symphony / Verve
    If I had $1M / BnL
    Creep / Radiohead

  14. Or, now that I think on it, maybe “Steal My Sunshine” by Len would be more representative.

    Maybe. This is a tough one.

  15. Wow, The Verve Pipe. Someone once gave me their titular album as a gift. I listened to it twice, then traded it at a used CD store. Can’t remember it at all, beyond the title.

    If I had to pick a “representative” mid-90’s song by a “representative” mid-90’s group that was *NOT* a pop charter, I’d probably pick this:

    Lamb. “Cotton-Wool.” From their titular release.

    Great song. Great album. Not well known. Very 90’s.

  16. When I think “90s music”, what comes to mind is “Hey Jealousy” by the Gin Blossoms.

  17. Wasn’t “Hey Jealousy” on the radio, like, at least twelve times a day at this point?

  18. The 90s might need to pass further into history before this matter can really be settled. In the 80s pop music thread last week I suggested “Jump” by Van Halen was the most representative song from the 80s, but of course music in the 80s was much to varied to really be represented completely by glam rock.

    In the tradition of disco for the 70s and glam rock for the 80s, we need to find the one trend in music that peaked by about ’95 and fizzled by ’99. I’m not sure what that is.

  19. I totally forgot about this song, but listening to it just now brought back a lot of mid-90s-era memories, so I can’t really disagree.

  20. I guess I didn’t make it clear, but I feel like John’s song is similar to a style that’s still popular, and therefore that style can’t be “owned” by the 90s.

  21. A couple of the ones that have already been mentioned I really liked:
    Bittersweet Symphony- The Verve
    Hey Jealousy- Gin Blossoms

    Another one:
    When I Come Around- Green Day

  22. How about “Down” by 311? 311 was total 90’s. Rap-rock fused with vague pseudospiritualism and kind of a ROW ROW sit and talk about our feelings about THE POWER vibe.

  23. Scalzi’s suggestion of The Verve Pipe is good, but I’ll nominate One Headlight by the Wallflowers. It’s probably just as representative of how music was during the decade I grew up in, and it’s one of those songs that most people liked, but few people thought was truly amazing.

  24. I don’t actually think there can be one. Too many genres, too little time. But if forced to choose:

    Time of Your Life–Green Day

    I certainly don’t think it was the best and, while popular, it wasn’t the MOST popular, but it’s the kind of song where, once someone my generation hears it, they feel compelled to sing it. Metalheads, punks, pop-fans, country, whatever, we all join forces on that song.

  25. @34 I thought about Good Riddance, too. It’s got a sappy sentimentalism belied by its own sarcastic title that feels pretty 90s to me.

    Every other candidate I’ve been thinking of was really, really late 90s. Darn.

  26. PJ @26– That uniquely nineties trend would be grunge, probably. However, most grunge offerings aren’t median-level pop songs.

    I nominate “Here with Me” by Dido.

  27. No way anything from Nirvana was a median song for the 90’s. Scalzi’s choice of “The Freshman” was solid, as was the ones from Alanis Morissette and Oasis.

    I don’t think Green Day was close enough to median. Maybe if they had put out an album like American Idiot in the 90’s they would have been closer to median.

    Basically, find any decently popular band, where a legit arguement can be made for them to be considered a rock, pop, alternative, and a grunge band. Then take their big hit. You now have a potential median/representative song from the 90’s. This means Nirvana and Pearl Jam are out, as they are definitely not pop. Nothing from Janet Jackson coudl be used, as she is definitely not alt or grunge…etc.

  28. Okay, now reading some of the comments more thoroughly, I saw “When I Come Around” by Green Day, and I have to nominate that.

    When I was 15 I was in a garage band and we did a lot of cover songs. “When I Come Around” was one of them, and it was insanely popular. When we played it, we’d get applause just because it was that song, not because were were rock gods or anything.

    Most of the songs then were a variation on a handfull of basic chord progressions that you could transpose between keys pretty easily. It can basically be summed up as “play the notes on the frets with the dots in them.” They might still be like that for all I know.

  29. I’m gonna go with something by Prodigy…they were electronic enough to land somewhere in the middle of the “flashy” side of the 90s, while still shocking enough to the whitebread/yuppie set to encompass the “edgy/gritty” side of the 90s.

    I don’t actually care much for them, but they straddle the two of the main pillars of 90s pop: rebellious, your-parents-won’t-like-it music, and dance/rave/electronic/ you-could-hear-it-in-a-club-or-frat-party.

    If they could somehow incorporate rap and Spice Girls-style fluff, they’d have the quadruple crown and the discussion would be over.

  30. I think that Green Day’s “Longview” or “Basket Case” would both be viable candidates. “Dookie” was no “American Idiot”, but those tunes still get a lot of airplay.

    I’d also suggest Live’s “All Over You”, although an arguement can be made for “Lightning Flashes”.

    Good selection w/”Freshman”, though, John.

  31. Actually, scratch that, I’m gonna switch to something off Odelay by Beck. Perhaps Devil’s Haircut, although this would be easier if we were naming median albums.

  32. Scalzi’s nomination is good, as is Champagne Supernova by Oasis, mentioned above. But my nomination is Iris by the Goo Goo Dolls. They played it at my prom (1999)! Wikipedia tells me that it was released in 1998, so that’s a little late for median, but aesthetically and culturally it’s smack dab in the middle.

  33. MH@39: I think Linkin Park is a good mix of rap/adolescent angst/your parents won’t like it/electronic/melodic/you can hear it anywhere stuff. They just didn’t come out until the 00s. Maybe they’re the synthesis of the 90s.

  34. I don’t think it’s as much about what the nineties actually were as about what they’re perceived to be. If, 20 years from now, the 90s is seen as the “age of grunge” in the same way that the 70s is the “age of Disco” then a grunge song will be representative.

    And arguing from that position, I have to consider the possibility that the 90s were actually the age of the ascent of hip hop.

  35. I’m stunned, STUNNED that the representative song of the 90s is not one of the 435786897 different hip hop tunes from Dre/Snoop/No Limit/whoever.

    An example of genre bias, or further evidence that Scalzi and the sci fi cabal are all evil racists?!

    I don’t listen to that kind of music, but I don’t think you could escape California Love or Gangsta’s Paradise.

    My official nomination is Killin Me Softly – Fugees.

  36. Fail on Dido, who didn’t have a hit until 2000, and Limp Bizkit, who aside from not being pop by any definition, had their first hit it 1999.

    However, I just found out that Dido’s full name is Dido Florian Cloud de Bounevialle O’Malley Armstrong–which leaves me gasping for sheer awesome.

  37. I really like “Closing Time” for this, though checking the date for that (1998), I suppose you could argue it’s more of a summation of the music trends of the ’90s, rather than necessarily a representation from the middle.

    I’d also nominate “No Rain” by Blind Melon.

    I feel like “The Freshmen” is too earnest for the 90s, whereas the other two suggestions I’ve made have more of that era’s requisite irony.

  38. “Semi-Charmed Kinda Life” by Third Eye Blind, which came out in 1997.

    For the Wallflowers song, I’d pick “The Difference” not “One Headlight.”

    There’s no sublime, but that’s not *really* pop. Fastball’s “The Way” or something off of Matchbox 20’s first album. Something by Foo Fighters, probably “Learn to Fly” or “Break Out” with an outside shot for “MIA.”

    Wildcard: Guster, “Happier”

  39. Horde,

    Perhaps JS can invite Tempest back over to give us a stern lecture on our musical racism? A list of 50 albums all white people should go buy and listen to in order to prove they’re not musically biased?

    (laughing out loud while I type this)

    Really, the truth is that the 90’s were not about contemporary pop, nor rap, nor hip-hop.

    They were about (gulp) Country music.


    Yes, that’s right. Country music. I think we all forget that Country music is the 800 pound gorilla in the U.S. music market, and actually has a very substantial footprint overseas as well. And not even in the anglo nations. Frickin’ Italy, man. Italy! Whole bars dedicated to U.S country western. Wealthy Italians traveling to the U.S. to spend thousands of Euros on chaps, blue jeans, boots, hats, spurs, saddles and bridles and rodeo shirts…

    Yep. Country. Remember it.

  40. “Median” as it refers to styles. Amalgams and fusions and so forth. Not years. 2000 was a ’90s year.

    My daughter, a child of the ’90s, nominates “Tonight, Tonight” by Smashing Pumpkins.

    I’ve settled on “Alternative Polka,” by Al Yankovic. None dare refute me.

  41. What, no Counting Crows suggestions? “Round Here” and “Mr. Jones” would probably be my top picks, though I definitely agree with Gin Blossoms “Hey Jealousy” or really anything off that album.

    Can I nominate the entire Empire Records soundtrack?

  42. I’d go with Chad @# 37, but take a more analytical approach. The median ’90s pop song would be a song that appeared on at least three of the Billboard Hot 100, Pop 100, Modern Rock, and AAA charts, but no higher than #20 on any of the four.

    I leave the actual research as an exercise to the reader.

  43. Oh no, Sub-Odeon just reminded me of how unbelievably HUGE country music became in the 90s. Shania Twain and Garth Brooks were musical powerhouses, and I dare you to find someone “average” who can’t sing along to “Friends in Low Places” or “Any Man of Mine”.

  44. I’d rather say mean than median, the ’90’s had this bland inoffensive power pop at its core that wasn’t the most popular, certainly wasn’t the edginess you’d find in Nirvana or Beck, but if you wanted the songs that wouldn’t make anybody scream to change the station, it would include

    The above two Verve songs
    Wallflowers: The Difference
    Fastball: The Way
    Vertical Horizon: Take My Picture

    and probably some of the other above songs too.

    Personally, I’d want to put “Black Hole Sun” up there, but it’s got more punch and some folks actuall might not like it.

  45. My intial thought, which has not been mentioned here but is tainted by geographical bias. Marcy Playground’s “Sex and Candy”.

    However, I sort of feel that Horde and Sub-Odeon are onto something with regards to hiphop/country respectively. To much thinking about it makes my brain hurt.

  46. While I agree with most of the songs mentioned above, I’d also like to make the case for practically anything off of the “Romeo + Juliet” soundtrack. Especially Garbage’s “#1 Crush” or “Lovefool” by The Cardigans. They never got as big as, say, anything by the Gin Blossoms–and good god, those guys were never off the radio for a while there–but they were definitely a huge part of my high school experience (1996-2000). The ’90s were a very big time for pop-rock and hard rock girl groups.

  47. I think “Take My Picture” was Filter, wasn’t it? Good suggestion, though. Suzanne @61 reminded me of another movie song that’s worth a mention: Folk Implosion’s “One Natural One”, from “Kids”. That taps into the darker side of the 90s without the earnestness of “Freshman”. And I’m chanting my mantra: wedon’tspeakofcountrywedon’tspeakofcountrywedon’tspeakofcountry

  48. #61 almost helps support an argument that something like the Spice Girls “Wannabe” should be somewhere on the list. There was the dance/pop thing, and reference to (or rip off of; depending on your perspective) the whole “girl power” thing of riotgrrl/Lilith Fair/etc. (Riotgrrl and Lilith Fair were not the same thing; just part of a continuum.)

  49. I vote ‘Walking on the Sun’ by Smashmouth. Feel-good post-punk stoner pop that takes a strong stand for vague goody-goodiness.

  50. Oh, damn. I’d successfully put the existence of the Spice Girls out of my mind, but there they are. And that has reminded me of a host of other atrocities, like Aqua’s “Barbie Girl”, or anything by Ace of Base. Ugh. Ugh.

  51. I’m so so Sorry.

    Uh, I had been going to say Smashmouth or Offspring before that?

  52. After reading Mr. Scalzi’s, and the post of others, I started thinking about if there was some element that might have spanned the entirety of pop music in the 90’s. What “something” might make a song the most “representative” of the era. I think that the era was ravaged by the idea of music a product being taken to the extreme not just in pop, but rock, country, and rap/R&B. Most number ones, on the charts was a derivation of some sort. The explosion of Boy Bands, Sexy female Soloists, college radio alternative Bands, Gangsta Rap, and the Rock Ballad. These types of performers have always been around to some degree or another, but during the 90’s these “clichés” were refined and marketed for maximum profitability despite the actual talent of the artist. This made me think that a good choice for the most “representative” might just be one of the biggest hits of the decade. So here’s my pick (drum role please…),

    I Don’t want to Miss a Thing – Aerosmith/Mark Chesnut

    This song hit number one on both the Top 100 pop and country charts, won a slew of awards, and was drilled into the world’s collective heads for years afterwards. Here comes the part that brings it in line with “the scalzi criterion.” It was Aerosmith’s first number one despite the fact that it’s not their best song. It was written by Diane Warren, who has written scores of hits for scores of different artists. This time though her song was paired with a marketable group (ie. Aerosmith’s Crazy and the other Alicia Silverstone video songs, and was attached to a Hollywood Blockbuster by one of the masters of the Blockbuster (ie Armageddon and Jerry Bruckheimer). It’s not the best. It’s not the worst. It was so middle of the road it just so happened to catch the attention of the whole world which, imho, was what most, if not all, 90’s music was striving for.

  53. Maybe something by Hootie and the Blowfish?

    Only Wanna Be With You?

    You’ve got a huge, mainstream hit by a multi-racial band and it’s a song that gets relatively equal love/hate from music fans as soon as it is played.

    Personally, I’m on the hate side of that equation.

  54. “The Freshman” is a good pick, but I’ll go ahead and nominate Duncan Shiek’s “Barely Breathing,” which hit mid-decade (early ’96), and was fairly ubiquitous, but not overwhelmingly good or era-defining by any means. I’ll still gladly listen to it on the radio, however.

    This sort of thing makes me wonder about the children of the ’00’s, though. How do you pick ‘median’ pop songs out of a decade defined by Nickelback and Linkin’ Park?

  55. When I was in college, I worked at the radio station (1988-1992). Unfortunately it only broadcast to the Quad lounge. However, the one and only time I ever got more than one request for any song _ever_ was “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

  56. Thanks Jeremiah!

    I was also thinking maybe “Crash into Me” by Dave Matthews. Sorry, I love my Dave. (I love you too TS)

    Oooh, what about “I’m Blue” by Eiffel 65! That was a goodie too! lol

  57. I like the nom for “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing.”

    I think in order for a song to hit the sweet spot of median, at least as defined by Scalzi, it has to be utterly mediocre–thus, several of the suggestions on this list might be too *good* to fit that role.

    To that end, I nominate The Rembrandts’ “I’ll Be There For You.”

    Annoyingly catchy, pervasively everywhere, tied into a mediocre but very popular TV show to boot. To me, it screams “median.”

  58. Greg: thanks for getting that annoying song stuck in my head…. however, I agree. Dave is too good to be considered “median”. And Greg, don’t feel old, my boyfriend graduated in 98 too. :-p

  59. Oh! So Happy 30th birthday Rob and Greg! (Potentially.) :)

    Scalzi, at least you aren’t old enough to be my dad, right?

  60. I dunno… but probably the Bloodhound Gang’s “Fire Water Burn.” It had a little of everything. It was PotUSA funny, it was Tripping Daisy inane, it was butthole surfer/chili peppers raptastic…

    Otherwise, Probably ‘Loser’by Beck. Actually more the Beck. It invokes a touch more angst that you get in things like Glycerine by Bush, Lightning Crashes by Live, or, indeed, ‘Freshmen’.

    Though the suggestion of Mr. Jones by the Counting Crows has a great deal of merit.

    or maybe Runaround, by… holy crap, I can’t even remember. It had that great Wizard of Oz at a concert video though.

  61. Runaround was by Blues Traveler.

    I’d say that ‘Lightning Crashes’ or ‘I Alone’ by Live would be 1 and 1A.

  62. “Crazy” by Seal.
    “Hey Jealousy” by Gin Blossoms
    “My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It)” by En Vogue
    “To Be With You” Mr. Big

    I think that even “My Heart Will Go On” could be a strong contender. People may remember the grunge more than the female diva vocal stuff (and with good reason), but this was a decade that was dominated by the likes of Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey and, um, Celine.

    God help us, let it not be “Macarena”

  63. Score one for Scalzi. As an angry young punk rocker, I was always too ashamed to admit to liking this song. Good, but not great, and damned near omnipresent during that decade. Thanks for bringing back some, not necessarily good but appreciated, memories John.

  64. I’m 35 now. HS grad 1992.

    I thought there was a rule that people like me couldn’t get old.

    My wife always joked that I was one of the ‘oldest’ young men she’d ever met, when I was 18 and she was 30.

    So now I suppose I am biologically catching up with my soul?

    (cue: Dana Carvey)

    “..We liked it! (thumps fist on table) We loved it!”

  65. I like several of the previous suggestions. Also:
    “Zombie” by the Cranberries.
    “Come out and play” by the Offspring.
    “Disco 2000” by Pulp.
    “Interstate love song” by the Stone Temple Pilots.
    “Courage” by the Tragically Hip, for the Canadian crowd.

  66. Also, the people suggesting Green Day are missing how important they were to the whole explosion of pop punk into mainstream consciousness. They might have been ubiquitous, but Dookie and its follow-ups were damned good records, as well as being too important to be median.

    Nirvana was a punk band, but was rarely presented that way. They saved rock and roll, but brought in the other “grunge” bands (scare quotes very intentional), which often owed as much to punk’s antithesis arena rock (although I do love me some old Pearl Jam) as to the bands Nirvana seemed most influenced by (Pixies, Melvins, X).

    Green Day was more hugely influential on both mainstream taste and the (ashamed to admit it) punk scene than is usually recognized. Were they doing anything more revolutionary than mixing a Buzzcocks sound with a Ramones approach and a love of the Who? No. But they were doing it really well.

  67. I think this topic has doubled my posts on Scalzi’s blog. Heh.

    Anyway, I think he still hit the nail on the head with The Freshman. I think that for most of us who were alive and remember the 1990’s–I went to elementary, middle and high school during the decade–we immediately think back to the period when we hear it. Not because the song is that important to us, or that good (obviously, I’m generalizing from my own experience). It just belongs so totally to that era. Other stuff I still hear occasionally. Nirvana, Pearl Jam, even Dave Matthews still get played on the radio. But can you imagine someone callig in and requesting the frigging Verve Pipe?

  68. Lots of great suggestions above. I’d add the following to the pile:

    “Truly Madly Deeply” (Savage Garden)
    “Semi-Charmed Life” (Third Eye Blind)
    “Don’t Turn Around” (Ace of Base)
    “Gin and Juice” (Snoop Dogg)
    “Everything Zen” (Bush)
    “Counting Blue Cars” (Dishwalla)
    “I Will Always Love You” (Whitney Houston)
    “To Be With You” (Mr. Bigg)
    “Mr. Jones” (Counting Crows)
    “Waterfalls” (TLC)
    “What’s Up?” (4 Non Blondes)
    “Hold My Hand” (Hootie and the Blowfish)

    …but if I had to pick one song that just screams “mediocre 90’s pop hit” I think it would be:

    “Push” (Matchbox 20)

  69. …ooh, and this discussion would definitely not be complete without a mention of “Two Princes” by the Spin Doctors. Or “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong”…either one works.

  70. I was going to second the nom for “Fly” by Sugar Ray until I read Greg @ 75 and realized that NOTHING is more pervasive than THAT song for the simple reason that it’s tied into the one television show that was so ubiquitous during the 90’s that even my 76 year old grandmother knew what it was; and she hated both television and pop music.

    Medium cross-over is a huge factor in determining popularity during the 90’s when marketing experts perfected the art of the tie-in. Which is why the Aerosmith rec is an apt one, too, but still no match for the Friends theme song.

  71. Sorry for the comment fail.

    And now I have way too many earworms from crappy songs I could go forever without hearing again (I’m looking at you Hootie’s Third-Eye Blossom Traveler Doctors!).

  72. Hahaha! There is no song more representative. Walk off out of the park home run, Scalzi.

    I saw the title of the post, thought of that song, and I can’t even see the YouTube cos it’s blocked at work.

    After all, we can’t be held responsible. We were only freshmen.

  73. Wow, I haven’t thought about that song in a very long time. Although recently I watched the VH1 Greatest Hits of the 90s, so the 1990s is on my mind. I think the 90s is when I really started paying attention to what I was listening to and coming up with opinions about music.

    But now that I’m actually *listening* to the lyrics and stuff…yeah, this really does represent the 90s. Perhaps even more than “Smells like Teen Spirit.”

  74. Having never heard this song or even heard of this artist, I can’t agree that this would be the median piece. Granted, I’m no connoiseur, but shouldn’t the median piece be something that the vast majority of people have heard?

    As soon as I saw Ryan @34, I agreed. Don;t own any Green Day – wasn’t even consciously aware that this was one of their songs until the last year (I know, I’m lame). But I (kinda) know the tune, I (kinda) like it, it crosses a few genres, its’ band crossed a few genres, it’s well known but was never obnoxiously ubiquitous.

    Perfect fit.

  75. If you rode the ferry between France and Ireland in the mid 90’s, it was American Country music the whole trip.

  76. OK, if we’re looking for median songs that represent the whole fusion-of-styles-thing-going-on, I would agree with the Fugees brilliant cover of “Killing me softly…” and also nominate
    “Smooth” – Santana and Rob Thomas
    “One Week” – Barenaked Ladies

    and for the country fans
    “Something to Talk About” – Bonnie Raitt

  77. Wierd Al Yankovic: Amish Paradise.

    On a more serious note, while I think Greg’s pick @75 of the Rembrandt’s “I’ll Be there for you” is a good choice, it strikes me more as the ultimate ear-worm of the ’90s, rather than the representative song of the ’90s. To that end, I think Grand Fromage @25 and LB @92 have a better pick in the Spin Doctors. For one thing, the ’90s were full of one-hit wonders and the Spin Doctors represent that nicely.

    I think a case could also be made for Live’s “Lightning Crashes”, as well (assuming I’ve got the song title right), but for me it’s a little too metallic tasting without enough fizz.

    My personal pick is “Spiderweb” by No Doubt. The 90’s were a breakout decade for female rockers, so the representative song should be by a woman, represent a fusion of musical genres and be reasonably popular.

  78. “Take My Picture” was not Vertical Horizon (title doesn’t sound familiar to me, someone suggested Filter?), and VH didn’t really hit it big until 2000 anyway (though they’d been around since 1992.)

    This post also reminds me of this list I have going: “Best 90s Songs About Abortion.”

    1. Slide – Goo Goo Dolls
    2. Brick – Ben Folds Five
    100. The Freshmen – The Verve Pipe

    I don’t know what #3-99 are, I just know that I hate “The Freshmen”. :P

  79. Marcy Playground – “Sex and Candy”

    It’s halfway between grunge and bubblegum pop.

  80. I hate “Freshmen” with a burning intensity matched only by the heart of … whatever the heart of a really hot star is like.

    It’s pretentious douche-baggery, that may have appealed to people who were in High School or past college … but as college Freshman when it came out, good Fly Spaghetti Monster was it annoying. And I think I was the only person in the dorms (being Oh So Wise and Mature) who recognized what pretentious twaddle it was – everyone else thought it was Really Deep, though I doubt they could have explained why, if they were put under the spot.

  81. If median means “unobjectionable”, “nice to listen to”, and “not horrible”, here are a few more suggestions that all kind of blend together:

    Freedy Johnston, Bad Reputation as in “I know I’ve got a bad reputation/and it isn’t just talk, talk, talk…”

    Jennifer Trynin, Better Than Nothing as in “Maybe we could talk…in the shower/I bet we’d be gone…in an hour.”

    Sixpence None The Richer, Kiss Me as in “Kiss me out of the bearded barley/Nightly, beside the green, green grass.”

    Del Amitri, Roll To Me ahem:”Look around your world, pretty baby/Is it everything you hoped it’d be/the wrong guy, the wrong situation/the right time to roll to me.”

    Put them all together and the winner, of course, is Nine Inch Nails’ Last. But this isn’t about the winner, it’s about the middle-est. And the average of those songs is:

    Toad the Wet Sprocket, All I Want

    You are welcome. Just don’t break my heart, my achey, breaky heart…I just don’t think it’d understand.

  82. A few people have suggeseted that the 90s were the years the female rock came of age. I don’t see that.

    It ignores the influence and success of pre-90s prominent female rockers such as Chrissie Hynde, Souxsie Souxie, Debbie Harry, Joan Jett and the Go-Gos.

  83. No one mentioned The Cranberries here? “Linger” or “Dreams” are very 90ish to my ears.

  84. @ Kurt Montandon

    The Freshman was “pretentious twaddle.” Yeah, that sums up the 90s pretty well.

    I also have to agree about “Mr. Jones” and I feel compelled to toss in Blind Melon’s “No Rain.” None of these are my favorite songs, but I think they are very representative of the era.

  85. I gotta go with the Aerosmith song nomination, I think. Unless you don’t include “country” with “pop”, which you might have a case for but if you’re going to define them that rigidly, “pop” is probably only going to be stuff that comes from the Disney channel stars (and equivalent).

    The Rembrandts and Fastball are good suggestions too.

  86. When I think about the 90s, Green Day’s “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” is the song which springs immediately to mind, and here is why:

    1. It’s edgy, but not too edgy. By a band which wants desperately to be considered “punk,” but released the song as “heartfelt folky acoustic.” It wants to be emo, but it’s too mainstream. It wants to hurt feelings, but with a jaunty bounce. It wants to be everything to everyone, and succeeds only in being irritating and pretentious. Just like the 90s.

    2. It was so successful at this ambition that it was prominently featured in several Very Important TV Episodes. “ER” is the one I can think of off the top of my head, but I know there were others. It was self-consciously fresh and TV-ready, just like the 90s.

    3. Everyone hates it now. Just like the 90s.

    4. There was so much better music around the corner at the time, we could never have known. “Time of your LIfe” is the musical equivalent of Greenspan’s warning against “irrational exuberance.” A warning which was issued in 1996, long before the DotCom boom. Is there anything more 90s than that?

    I rest my case.

  87. My roommate when I was studying in London knew the Verve Pipe guys. (My roommate and the lead singer’s respective girlfriends were best friends). He’d call to speak to my roommate, and if he wasn’t home, we’d end up talking about what was going on in the US.

    Never quite cared for “The Freshman,” but Brian Vander Ark is a really nice guy.

  88. Wait, how does one find a single representative song for the 90’s? This decade saw:

    The fall fo Glam Rock (the unholy marriage Metal and make-up)
    The rise of Hip-Hop (the unholy marrigae of Rap and R&B)
    The rise and fall of Grunge, Alternative, and Boy-bands.

    And thats just the most obvious (to me) trends in the musical landscape.

    One song? How?

  89. I read this somewhere, but it stuck. The median rock and roll song of all time is “and the cradle will rock” by Van Halen. Exactly 1/2 of all rock songs are better than this and 1/2 are worse.

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