Musical trends that defined the 90s


The best thing about the 90s was that you could be a rapper, rocker, or a hip-hop producer, and almost everyone would enjoy your lyrical ability and skills. Back then, as long as everything was authentic and original, you would be respected. That is why you see the likes of Freddy Mercury hitting the charts in almost no time because he never performed with his fans, and interacted with them. Now in a world full of festivals and concerts, Freddy stood out and was admired for his sincere love for the fans. Since the 90s was the era of music, it is worth discussing the musical trends that made it legendary. 

Introducing Grunge

The 90s was an era when people were familiar with genres such as folk, country, and rap music. Hardly anyone was aware of Grunge music. One could say that perhaps the biggest curveball the 90s threw at us was Grunge. Nirvana’s Nevermind was a perfect example of grunge music, and shortly after that, guitar-based music fell roughly into three categories: classic-rock alternative rock and hair metal scene. 

At the time, MTV’s efforts to direct new music to the younger generation could not be denied. It quietly premiered Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ on 120 minutes. The song was cynical, dark, and so squarely in terms of not giving a dime about anyone but only focused on being a harder rock. Perhaps the excellence of Nirvana during the 90s was that their sound was not singular. Instead, it would pick up everything from punk to garage rock, indie pop, country, and blues. 

Furthermore, the heavy metal did not disappear as many people assumed, it had just reconfigured and marketed itself better. The introduction of Guns N’Roses, Metallica, and Aerosmith were some perfect examples. These bands actually became stadium bands, and no doubt were pulling in huge crowds, but the rock fans still seemed to be diverting themselves to grunge music. Additionally, grunge music was mostly male-dominated. Although you could see Hole, which was fronted by Kurt Cobain’s wife Courtney Love, the attention it gained was mostly due to Kurt Cobain. 

Girls taking the front

Even though most female rock bands were not able to create that big of hype as compared to male rock bands, but they definitely dealt in a cultural currency that helped produce a vibrant feminist-rock scene. Hole drew attention to contemporaries of Courtney Love, including Babes in Toyland, Bratmobile, Bikini Bill, and later, Sleater-Kinney. 

Then, there was L7, with its ‘screw you’ lyrics and head-banging music. L7 was the one that helped pioneer grunge music before it broke. And after it broke, the Bricks Are Heavy album by the group in 1992 won critical acclaim for successfully toeing the line between Grunge, riot, and alternative worlds. As the decade was reaching its end, it witnessed a list of female singers that dominated the music scene. This gave birth to multi-platinum singers and songwriters such as Sarah McLachlan, Sheryl Crow, Paula Cole, Alanis Morissette, and many others. 

Counterculture becomes normal

The biggest impact of grunge music on the 90s was that it normalized what was once termed as countercultural. Then all of a sudden, the middle of the road listeners tended towards exploring what the domain of indie-music fans was. For instance, Sonic Youth who happened to be idols to countless punk bands, including Nirvana. Nirvana had organized for opening them in Europe before Nevermind becoming a major hit. It was getting all the attention it could from MTV airplay and radio. Furthermore, R.E.M. and pixies who were already well-respected underground went onto expand their fanbase along with newcomers who were likeminded such as Elliott Smith, Pavement, Weezer, and Beck. 

By this time, heavy metal was out of the scene, and an even louder alternative rock scene had assumed its position. Bands such as Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Smashing Pumpkins and Primus, etc. were some of the well-known brands of the time that took great advantage of the new thirst for angst. 

Although the 90’s music trajectory continued to be reshaped by grunge music, unfortunately, some of the pioneers, including bands and individuals, began to peter out by the middle of the decade. While some bands struggled with substance abuse, others found it hard to remain attached to the establishment they had always been a part of. Those who managed to survive, such as Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, switched their tunes and sounds. 

Handling the rock’n’roll wheel

In the U.S., after the death of Grunge, the music scene shifted its direction and assumed the position of a genre, which was less destructive in the style of brooding through long hairs, and that was rock n roll. The genre was well-played out by the likes of Collective Soul, Goo Goo Dolls, Candlebox, Silverchair, and Incubus. Then it was Blink 182, Rancid, and Green day topping the charts. Finally, the death of Brad Nowell went onto sell more than five million C.D.s by the decade’s end. This would help the bands steer the rock n roll wheel towards longevity for the upcoming decades. 

The Technological Shift

One thing you cannot deny from the 90s is the technological shift that had a pivotal role to play in the development of the music industry. It was something above and beyond Grunge and would shift music tastes. This was the year (talking about 1991) when Billboard was introduced to record and display charts with actual SoundScan sales figures. The introduction of Billboard incurred a huge dent in sales as the top-charting artists drew the younger generation towards themselves. However, there was a positive side to it as well, and that was the music scene had become more genre-diverse. 

Hip-hop touches souls

Then again, Billboard had a huge role to play in defining the growing relationship between R&B and hip-hop. The hip-hop of the 90s kicked off with the likes of 2Pac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. etc. but then it became more soulful once Janet Jackson, Toni Braxton, Mary J Blige, and Usher stepped in. 

However, these artists were bound to face tough competition. It was because rap acts were already dominating the Hot 100 charts and Billboard’s R&B charts. But then Lauryn Hill stepped in; she integrated hip-hop into her music. That was a major breakthrough. In particular, Mariah Carey’s 1995 ‘Fantasy’ collaboration with Ol’ Dirty Bastard became a defining moment for the 90s crossover music period. 

Then there was a time when hip-hop completely took over. Rap acts such as Eazy-E and Ice Cube, along with Dr. Dre came up with monumental albums such as The Chronic. Later, it gave rise to the East Coast-West Coast feud, which is not that fierce today but does exist. By the time Eminem and Snoop Dogg came about, the rap had become more peaceful and profitable.

Final Word

To conclude, the music scene of the 90s took a journey from heavy-metal to Grunge and then to rock n roll and hip-hop. Each of these trends played a crucial role in refining music and the development of the music industry as a whole. The shift in music trends gave rise to even newer trends and, most important, artists and bands. Therefore, there was no denying that the same trends would go on to define the 90s.

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