So many things that were big in the 90s are trending now — ripped jeans, combat boots, crop tops, and even oversized scrunchies.
However, it’s 90s music that has consistently stood the test of time, no matter the genre.
Whether it’s pop, rap, or punk, the 90s were filled with hits that still influence our music today. Here are four of them.
1. “Baby One More Time” – Britney Spears
You can’t discuss 90s music without referencing Britney Spears’s iconic 1998 hit “Baby One More Time.” This song was the first of Spears’s string of hits throughout the 90s and 2000s, and its groundbreaking music video and unforgettable melody instantly cemented her as a pop legend. She is definitely one of the most iconic 90s female pop stars.
Countless music videos have been influenced by this memorable hit, from Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl” to Paramore’s “Misery Business.” Though Spears’ video may seem tame by today’s standards, its combination of both innocence and sex appeal was incredibly controversial at the time. Spears proudly stands by the video to this day, naming “Baby One More Time” as a favorite of her own songs.
2. “I Will Always Love You” – Whitney Houston
Whitney Houston’s 1992 cover of “I Will Always Love You” was initially considered a major risk, as the song was originally a 1970s country ballad by Dolly Parton. At this point in music history, very few artists had succeeded in attempting a crossover between country and R&B.
However, with a winning combination of gorgeous production and powerful vocals, Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” was acclaimed by both her existing fans and those of Parton’s original. The difficulty faced by artists attempting to fuse country and R&B persists today, as shown by Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” being controversially removed from the country charts. This issue is a frequent subject of discussion on music courses, as the struggle to fuse genres is often rooted in complex social and political issues.
3. “I Want It That Way” – The Backstreet Boys
Love them or hate them, The Backstreet Boys provided the framework for the pop boy bands we all know today. Their unforgettable 1999 song “I Want It That Way” is the perfect example of the upbeat yet vulnerable love songs that modern boy bands and male solo artists still put out today. A number of songs have been inspired by, or have even directly sampled, “I Want It That Way,” such as Lil Uzi Vert’s 2020 song “That Way.”
The Backstreet Boys, and other boy bands, were targets of major criticism at the time. Their songs were deemed superficial, and as music only fit to be consumed by teenage girls. But the success of “I Want It That Way” at the end of the decade helped secure the upward trajectory of boy bands going into the 21st century.
Despite the somewhat sexist bias our society still has against these groups and their fans, many people have remained unfazed in their love for boy bands. This strong public attachment and acceptance actually started since the appearance of 80s boy bands. And in the present, there’s no better example than the devoted fans of South Korea’s edgier, hip-hop-influenced boy band BTS.
4. “Hypnotize” – The Notorious B.I.G
The Notorious B.I.G.’s 1997 song “Hypnotize” was released merely a week before he was tragically killed at just 24 years old. Despite passing at such a young age, Biggie’s seemingly effortless flow and memorable hooks have influenced some of the industry’s most notable musicians, including Nicki Minaj, Childish Gambino, and Nas.
Rap music has only recently overtaken rock as the most listened to genre in the US. Though this new era in music was ushered in through industry giants like Drake and Kendrick Lamar, the musical and cultural impact of artists like Biggie paved the way to rap becoming mainstream.
Samples of “Hypnotize” can be heard in countless songs, including J. Cole’s “You Got It” and Biggie’s close friend and fellow East Coast rapper Jay-Z’s “Squeeze 1st.”
These are just four of the amazing songs that helped define rap, pop, contemporary, and R&B music in the 90s. We have these hits to thank for their influence on some of the greatest songs of the 21st century. The influence of artists like Biggie Smalls and Whitney Houston is hard to measure, but their impact is sure to reverberate for many decades to come.
Oli is a working mum who has a passion for teaching and all things educational. With a background in marketing, Oli manages the digital channels and content at Courses.com.au.